Elastic-sided boots worn by Queen Victoria

Made by Sparkes Hall, Joseph in England, 1837.

In 1837 Queen Victoria was presented with this pair of dainty ‘elastic’ sided boots, the first to be invented, made by Englishman Joseph Sparkes Hall.

Boots were popular with men during the 1800s and they were soon adopted by women. By the mid 1800s they had become the most common form of footwear for both sexes in all social classes. Ankle-length boots without heels, known as high-lows, were fashionable for women. The boot was the most popular form of footwear for both sexes by the mid 1800s....


Object No.


Physical Description

Pair of 'elastic' sided boots featuring flat leather sole, natural coloured linen upper, centre front seaming, straight black leather square toe cap and gussets either side of ankle composed of metal coils covered in natural covered cotton. Tab at back of ankle. Label inside front of ankle boots '......Sparkes Hall....London'


Silk label sewn inside front of each shoe with black printed lettering. The labels have deteriorated and are largely illegible. "...sparkes Hall...London"



135 mm


65 mm



Joseph Sparkes Hall was experimenting with ways of making a boot with expanding side gussets that would allow the wearer to easily pull them on and off. In this first pair he used metal coils covered in ruched cotton. By 1840 he had patented a boot using rubber in the gussets.

Note on file says "Englishman Joseph Sparkes Hall is said to have invented the elastic sided boot and it is believed that this pair of boots is his prototype in 1837. Earlier boots had featured lace up fastenings. This first "elastic" sided boots feature gussets of expanding metal coils covered in ruched cotton which gave the necessary elasticity to allow the boots to be pulled on and off. In J Sparkes Hall's "The Book of Feet" written in 1846 he expounded the virtues of elastic sided boots, noting the advantage of being able to pull them on and off quickly and not having to worry about buttons falling off, laces breaking or the eyelet holes wearing out. He notes that his first experiments were a failure and presumably this refers to the use of the coiled metal gusset. By 1840 he was using rubber in the gusset and notes that the subsequent improvements in materials and workmanship have "combined to make the elastic boot the most perfect thing of its kind".

By the mid 19th century the majority of footwear worn by women was some form of boot with the elastic sided boot the most popular. For evening wear a cream satin version was developed of which there are several examples in the Museums collection.

A person wanting to buy shoes in the 1800s could get them direct from a shoemaker who worked alone or in a shared workshop with traditional tools and techniques. Factories were also producing ready-made shoes by hand, which could be bought from the premises or from warehouses or peddlers. Gradually, mechanisation took over from handwork and by the end of the century most shoes were machine-made in factories and sold through specialist shoe shops.

With vulcanised rubber not coming into use until 1840, the 'elastic' sided gussets of these boots were made of tightly coiled wire covered in cotton. In Joseph Sparkes Hall's 'The Book of Feet' written in 1846, Hall notes that his first experiments in producing the elastic sided boots were a failure and presumably this refers to the use of the coiled metal gussets, replaced in 1840 by the use of rubber.


Sparkes Hall, Joseph 1837


Sparkes Hall, Joseph null



Englishman Joseph Sparkes Hall is said to have invented the elastic sided boot and it is believed that this pair of boots is his prototype patented in 1837. Hall records in his 1846 book, 'The Book of Feet', that he presented his first pair of elastic sided boots to Queen Victoria in 1837 and notes that "Her Majesty has been pleased to honour the invention with the most marked and continued patronage: it has been my privilege for some years to make her boots...".

This accords with the family provenance on the shoes. A calling card located in one of the shoes is printed with the name "Miss H.D.Butcher" and a handwritten note "This shoe was worn by a Lady in Waiting to Princess Christian when we were at Windsor 1880-1900". Donor Mrs Downes's grandfather was a doctor and often attended patients at Windsor Castle.


Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901 1837


Credit Line

Purchased 1994

Acquisition Date

7 April 1994

Cite this Object


Elastic-sided boots worn by Queen Victoria 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 17 November 2018, <https://ma.as/141906>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/141906 |title=Elastic-sided boots worn by Queen Victoria |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=17 November 2018 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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