Wandering around the town of Cheddar, not up the Gorge, not on a ramble round the country walks in the area, or the nearby Axbridge reservoir, but just ambling about the actual town, we spotted this by the door into a shop… And we wondered how many young people would know straight away what it was. They might guess what it is, the proximity to the door might help…
It is a boot scraper; I guess there are boot-scrapers still in use on farms and in country areas, and maybe at sports fields – a simple wrought or cast iron implement, fixed firmly to the ground, on which you can scrape mud from the bottoms of your shoes and boots. In the old days in towns, rubbish was often just thrown into the streets, and with horses being used everywhere to transport people and goods, there would be an awful lot of dung for people to try their best to avoid. A minor but memorable character in Dickens’ Bleak House is poor little orphaned Jo the crossing sweeper… what was he sweeping? Horse muck and rubbish!
Even once streets were properly paved, there would have still been mud and dung which might attach to one’s shoes; as architecture changed and town houses were built directly onto the street, boots scrapers might be fitted into a niche in the wall beside the door… and as I write this, I have a sudden memory of streets in Cambridge with terraced housing and adjacent to the doormat would be a small bot scraper, cemented in. The ones I remember were very basic, but some of them in ‘posher’ houses would have been decorative and very fancy.
Have a look at this site for some interesting photos:
… and here for some other information: