I know, I know, I shouldn't be in the office -- it's Sunday, which in our household means all computers are meant to be switched off. But I've fallen behind in work so here I am, with the pup cuddled up beside me, wet and happy after a long tramp through the woods. We were out very early in the morning -- and as we squelched our way through mud and muck, climbing up rain-slick paths punctuated with steaming dung and fresh fox poo (the latter a particular favorite of Tilly's, I'm sorry to say), I suddenly felt enormously grateful to the inventor of the Wellington boot.
They are actually named after the 1st Lord Wellington (1769-1852), as it turns out, who asked his bootmakers to create a modified version of the 18th-century Hessian boot. Originally made from soft leather, the Wellington (as it was soon known) proved equally practical on the battlefield, in the stableyard, and in the drawing room, and quickly caught on in aristocratic circles -- where even dandies like Beau Brummell were eager to ape the style of a much-decorated war hero.
In the 19th century, an Englishman named Hiram Hutchinson set up a company in France to manufacture a rubber version of the now-classic Wellington. These inexpensive, waterproof Wellies caught on with farmers all across Europe, who switched from their traditional wooden clogs; and in the next century, they were the boot of choice for soldiers in both World Wars.
Around here, in the rain-sodden hills of Dartmoor, Wellies are a ubiquitous sight, worn by farmers and shop-keepers and postmen and school kids and wood-wandering writers alike.
The photo at the top of this post shows the household Wellies here at Bumblehill, drying at the old stove in our kitchen hearth. (Victoria's are the fancy black ones with red bows. The girl has style.) Below: Wearing my trusty old Wellies as I run with Tilly on the north Devon coast.
Who says that Wellies have to be boring?
Below are Wellies in a William Morris print, a vintage floral print, and a Libertys of London print. I covet them all.
And last, go here for Scottish comedian Billy Connolly's ode to the Wellington boot.