Exhibit of the Week: Water boots: Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre

Original publicity card giving boot length and sizes.
Original publicity card giving boot length and sizes.

A pair of locally made old leather sea-boots recently dotated to Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre by Mrs Wardman brought back memories for retired local fisherman Allan Roberts, who worked for the business that made them in the 1950s/60s.

He was surprised to find that the boots were dated as being made in April 1955, the year before he started his working life, at T Beanland and Sons in North Street, Scarborough.

Scarborough Maritime Museum''boots

Scarborough Maritime Museum''boots

Water boots are leather sea-boots and were made for mariners. The fishing industry had largely turned to rubber boots by the 1930s but Beanlands continued to produce them until World War Two, mainly for the coal mines, because they were harder wearing than rubber. Judging by the ingrained black grime and hole in the seam on the pair we have we think they came from a coal miner and were beyond repair.

The hides from which the tops (uppers) were made were around 3/16ths of an inch thick, and it was the task of the ‘currier’, Ted Beanland, to apply a dressing of dubbin to the tanned hide, over a period of several days, to make it strong, flexible and waterproof. Once cured the various shapes of the component parts of the boot were cut from the hides using metal templates.

The parts were then passed to the ‘closer’ to be hand sewn together (closed) with waxed hemp cords affixed to hog bristles. The ‘closer’ at Beanlands was John Clayton who left to become the caretaker at St Thomas’ School, and it was John who was called upon to close the last pair of sea-boots made in 1957.

The seams were largely butted together, not overlapped, and were constructed inside out. Once closed the uppers had to be turned right way out and this was done in a ‘gallows’ by attaching a sacrificial tab purposefully left at the toe end to a hook, and attaching the pull-on tabs at the tops of the boot to a rope which went through a block and down to a hand winch. Once turned the toe-end tab was then trimmed off.

The tops were then passed to Angus Bayes who finished the process by attaching the soles and heels first by 5/8ths x 1/8th of an inch brass rivets, followed by hand sewing of the ‘welts’.

Every finished pair was filled with water to check for leaks before having a company stamp and date applied. With proper care and maintenance they would last up to 20 years. Boots were still coming back for repair well into the 1960s. Once the foreman at Beanlands, Angus Bayes, retired, so too did the skill of repairing them.

l The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre was set up and is run entirely by volunteers from the local community with the goal of saving and promoting Scarborough’s amazing history. The Centre, at 45 Eastborough, is free to visit and is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm. New volunteers, with or without skills or knowledge, are always welcome to join us.