Friday, 4 February 2011


Coat of Arms of the Pattenmakers
A past Master of the Pattenmakers, Tim Watts, is an old friend of some four decades' standing.  He very kindly invited me to the Company's Mansion House livery dinner on Thursday 27 January.

The patten, a now completely disappeared form of footwear in England thanks to cleaner and better drained streets - although I have seen similar in India and South East Asia.  The pattens were slipped over normal shoes.  They must have required quite a skill to wear and one can imagine a degree of tottering, especially after a good livery dinner.  I now know where these pattens come from: see afternote below.
The Pattenmakers bear the title of an extinct trade.  The patten, a wooden platform slipped over shoes for walking on the streets, ceased to be an item of footwear by the late nineteenth century.  Apparently the last working pattenmaker in London hung up his clogs, so to speak, by 1900.

Today the company supports the footwear trade through education and support of young managers and also sponsors orthopaedic activity.  For more details go to

Theresa May MP

Photographed at Conservative Party Conference.  Theresa May's signature leopard print shoes interestingly juxtaposed with Ken Clarke's scuffed Hush Puppies

But back to the Mansion House.  It was a great evening much enlivened by some excellent speakers.  The guest of honour was the Home Secretary, Theresa May. There were some nice symmetries about her speaking.  The first is that in the current Cabinet she is the one almost certainly most focused on footwear, she made reference to her well known interest in designer shoes.  The second is that her husband, Philip May, is a Liveryman of the Company.  The last piece of the pattern is that one of the Wardens, John Timpson - Chairman of Timpson shoe repair chain, who has extremely sensible ideas about good management and leadership that appear in the Daily Telegraph and on the company's website , has a son Edward  He is MP for Crewe and Nantwich and is also Theresa May's parliamentary private secretary.

The Master, Stuart Lamb and Warden John Timpson also spoke giving a good account of the Company and the guests of the evening respectively.

An interesting and stimulating evening and yet another indication of the diversity of the Livery movement.


The illustration of the pattens worried me a bit as they do not look modern.  I now know they are one of the many enigmatic objects scattered round the fringes of Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding. Quite what they mean is anyone's guess.  What is certain is that they would, in real life, not have got so far in to the house.  As a consequence art historians can have a field day postulating any sort of meaning.
Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding the pattens illustrated further up the blog are at the bottom left of the picture.

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