Wandering the streets of an old town or village, we tend to look upwards far too rarely. Equally, anything below knee level often passes us by which is a pity, because there is often much to be seen.
Take Newport, the capital town of the Isle of Wight. It has ancient roots, Medieval, in fact. While much has been wiped away to the chagrin of many locals, there is still plenty to remind us of that past. The boot scraper is a case in point.
There’s a lot to be said for tarmacked roads. There’s quite a lot to be said for cars, as well. Fumes and fatalities apart, they do have one huge advantage over horse-drawn traffic – they don’t decorate the highway with dung.
The 18th/19th century was not a good time to wander around the streets wearing your silken slippers, particularly if it happens to be raining. While trailing mud across the Axminster is undesirable, depositing steaming dollops of horse manure is definitely to be avoided.
Our ancestors had a remedy, of course. Before taking your boots off inside the door, you gave them a good scrape along the bar outside so thoughtfully provided.
Lots of boot scrapers remain. They came in various styles and while some were purely functional, the desire for artistic expression often came into play.
This is probably another example of disappearing crafts and trades. Once part of the repertoire of the blacksmith, it would no doubt be an unusual request today. Having checked the global marketplace, however, I see that you can still buy a nice original cast iron job – but I wouldn’t like to have to carry it home!