St Ives boot scrapers

In the early 1900s, 3,000 livestock came into St Ives market every Monday. Then, the town's population was 3,000. Doesn't take much imagination to consider the difficulties facing the casual ambler. To learn about the history of boot scrapers and those dotted around St Ives, read on.

The Broadway, St Ives late 1800s

Our weekly livestock market was one of the biggest in England, even bigger before the advent of the railway in the mid 1800s. Cattle were wall to wall in The Broadway, as shown in the above photograph from the late 1800s. No doubt there was a pretty efficient clean up operation afterwards. In fact, the Town Council sold a licence for collecting manure.

When admiring St Ives, the tendency is to look up and around at the charming buildings, tall church spires and beautiful riverside scenery. But for once, keep your gaze at floor level and take in the wonderful collection of boot scrapers around the town centre.

The poor of our towns and cities have always walked, and got their boots (or feet, as they often couldn't afford footwear) dirty. Considering the main mode of transport up to the 20th century was by horse, dirty meant, well... yuk!

It wasn't until the late 1700s that the better off got a taste for promenading. Having discovered the pleasure of walking, money ensured that paved walkways, tree-lined avenues and public spaces followed and became popular. But when one returned home, what was to be done?

Boot scrapers started to appear in major cities such as London, Paris and New York. The French called them 'decrottoir', meaning to remove excrement. And it appears the street were so filled with horse manure and mud that every decent house required a boot scraper.

No wonder St Ives followed the trend with its own interesting collection. And boy, were they needed after a busy Monday market! See below a map showing locations of boot scrapers in the town centre, and photographs of a selection.

Map of boot scrapers, St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire Boot scraper, St Ives, Cambridgeshire

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