January blog: Wrapping up warm

Richard Acland's wellingtons.

As a protective cover envelops the mansion ahead of the works, we’ll be wrapping up warm ourselves to enjoy our regular walks around the estate in the coldest months. The fashion collection includes many examples of warm and waterproof clothing worn to protect people against the elements when outdoors.

Wellie, wellie, wellie

Wellies and walking boots are a must-wear on the estate during much of the year. In recent years the classic green Hunters first sold in 1955 have been joined by a huge variety of styles in every colour and pattern of PVC or natural rubber possible.

Green wellies became synonymous with country clothing during the 1980s, popularised by Princess Diana. Sir Richard and Lady Anne Acland donated a small number of things from their own wardrobes to the collection, including Sir Richard’s green rubber wellington boots. 

Wellingtons were named for Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. The original wellie was a kind of top boot with a small heel known as a hessian.

Why not take a look at an example of these 20th century cavalry officer's boots:

20th century cavalry officer's boots.
20th century cavalry officer's boots.

The Duke commissioned Hoby of St. James's Street, London, to modify the style to fit more closely around the leg to mid-calf.  A feature of the boots was the high cut over the knee, intended to protect mounted cavalrymen from leg wounds during battle. These soft calfskin leather boots quickly became a popular sporting and outdoor choice, yet smart enough for informal evening wear.  

Jumping puddles

A new product, a completely waterproof rubber boot made in a similar style to the Duke’s leather boots was a success for patentee and manufacturer Hiram Hutchinson who established Aigle in 1853. Hutchinson purchased the right to make rubber footwear while the inventor of the vulcanisation process for natural rubber, Charles Goodyear, turned to tyre manufacture.

Demand increased during WWI. Hunter Boot Ltd (then known as The North British Rubber Company) made a boot to withstand the muddy conditions of the trenches. 1,185,036 pairs were produced for the British Army at the time. WWII also saw a boost in production, and by the late 1940s wellies were available to everyone.

The soft tread of rubber wellingtons eventually replaced the familiar clink and clatter of clogs and pattens, wooden overshoes mounted on iron rings to left the feet out of the wet and muck in both town and country. The collection also includes a nice pair of practical black galoshes. These are neat and shiny black rubber half-boots, designed to be worn in wet weather. Spats and gaiters offered a smart splashproof alternative to wellies and galoshes. They were worn by men, women and children throughout the inter-war years.

See an example of men's formal footwear with the effect of spats:

Men's formal footwear.
Men's formal footwear.
Portrait of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 7th Baronet, of Killerton House
A painting of Thomas 7 bt at Killerton, Devon

Killerton's collection

Find photographs and details of thousands of items, from dress patterns to ballgowns to underwear and shawls.