Did you know that you could once buy little boots for sheep, to protect their hooves? It was two shillings and eleven pence for a pair – or (for the more fashion-conscious sheep) three and six for a pair with on-trend zips.
And the little tan numbers are ceremonial boots for goats – so chic! I hope you like them as much as I do – the world seems a brighter place now I know sheep and goats once tripped about so well-shod.
They are from the Waterperry Rural Museum, in an old barn near Oxford. In a museum like this, the past seems a room of infinite corners. Each of these tools once solved a problem or simplified a task; each was precisely shaped to answer a need which is now forgotten or remote.
The collector himself picked out his favourite pieces. Leather over-shoes for horses mowing tennis courts – a device which distributed seeds evenly when bowed like a violin – giant wooden beads for shaping plumbing pipes – a contraption with whirling mirrors which attracted insects – bronze moulds for creating felt flowers and leaves to go on hats (pictured below).
It is good, every once in a while, to be reminded of the importance of craftsmanship and detail. And it is good, too, to remember that sheep once wore little zipped boots.