18th Century Pattens

Last updated: Jan 5, 2024

Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language defines a “patten” as

A ſhoe of wood with an iron ring, worn under the common ſhoe by women.

The V&A provides some additional context:

Pattens were worn to lift the shoe out of the dirt and damp. Being somewhat heavy and clumsy, they were mainly used by working-class or country women.

Pehr Kalm remarks on the use of pattens in 1748 in his Account of His Visit to England:

English women generally have the character of keeping floors, steps, and such things very clean. They are not particularly pleased if anyone comes in with dirty shoes, and soils their clean floors, but he ought first to rub his shoes and feet very clean, if he would be at peace with them in other things. Hence it is that outside every door there stands a fixed iron, on which the men scrape the mould, and other dirt off their shoes before they step in. The women leave in the passage their pattins, this is, a kind of wooden shoes which stand on a high iron ring. Into these wooden shoes they thrust their ordinary leather, or stuff, shoes (when they go out) and so go by that means quite free from all dirt into the room. In the hall or passage, and afterwards at every door, though there were ever so many one within the other, there lies a mat, or something else, to still more carefully rub the soil off the shoes, so that it is never, in short, sufficiently rubbed off.

Several of the depictions of women wearing pattens (also linked below) are of maids who are using mops.