Celebrating 200 years of Wellies

Karen Henry

2015 marks 200 years since the first Wellington Boot was designed by the Duke of Wellington in 1815.  The Duke of Wellington was one of the UK's greatest war heroes.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte, (born 1769 - died 1821), was a military French leader.  He was Emperor of the French from 1804 - 1815 and key antagonist in the history of the welly.

Peninsular War

Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807. Soon after this, he invaded Spain, taking control of the Iberian Peninsula.  Austria threatened to invade France and Napoleon returned leaving his best troops in Spain and Portugal.  Meanwhile, British forces under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington fought the French off the Peninsula. In his memoirs, Napoleon described the Peninsular War as central to his defeat.

Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium. The French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated by the armies under the command of the Duke of Wellington.

Victory for Duke of Wellington

After his victory over Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington served as prime minister of Great Britain between 1828 and 1830 and, briefly, in 1834.  The Duke of  Wellington is often attributed with the invention of the Wellington boot.

The Duke of Wellington - who's civilian name was Arthur Wellesley commissioned a local shoe-maker in London to design a new boot to be worn in battle by the British troops fighting Napoleon.  The new boot was fabricated in soft calfskin leather, not rubber as this had not been invented yet. The design was based on the popular boot design of the time - the Hessian Boot. The main changes in the design of boot had the trim and tassels removed and fitted more closely around the leg. 

From Leather to Rubber

The transition from leather to rubber occurred in 1852 when Hiram Hutchinson was granted manufacturing rights by Charles Goodyear to create Wellington Boots in rubber using Goodyear's vulcanisation process. Hutchinson formed the Aigle company in France to manufacture the first rubber wellies. 

Apsley House 

Apsley House Museum presents the Wellington Collection. This is highly recommended for schools and families. Apsley House is a grade 1 listed building located in the south-east corner of Hyde Park in central London.

If you have some spare time then we highly recommend a visit to Apsley House located at 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London - W1J 7NT. Here you will find rare collectable antiques from the Waterloo battles and historic photos and items, including Wellington's boots - a must see!


Full List of Events

Here is a list of Wellington Boot historical events:

When Description
1700's - 1800's Hessian boot, initially used by the military, and adopted as men's fashion. The Hessian boot will later evolve into the rubber work boots known as "wellies" and the cowboy boot.
1736 Charles Marie de La Condamine brings samples of rubber to the Académie Royale des Sciences of France
1751 First scientific paper on rubber presented by François Fresneau to the Académie Royale des Sciences of France. He is the first person to propose wearing rubber as a waterproof material.
1756 - 1763 Seven Years' War
1 May 1769 Arthur Wesley born in Ireland
15 August 1769 Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815, was born in Corsica
1775 - 1783 American War of Independence
4th July 1776 Independence Day in the United States. English armies return to England.
1787 Arthur Wesley joins the Army
1789 - 1799 French Revolution
1793 Arthur Wesley becomes Major in the 33rd Regiment in charge of a Battalion.
1796 Richard Wesley (Arthur's brother) becomes Governor-General of India
1798 Wesley family changes surname to Wellesley
1803 - 1815 Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815) 

Peninsular War (1807 - 1814) - guerilla wars in Iberian peninsula against Napoleonic forces led by Arthur Wellesley
1805 Arthur Wellesley knighted by the King George III
11 May 1814 Title of 1st Duke of Wellington created and bestowed upon Arthur Wellesley
Sunday 18 June 1815 Battle of Waterloo; Emperor Napoleon was defeated by an Anglo-Allied army led by the Duke of Wellington
1815 The Duke of Wellington instructs his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James's Street, London, to modify the 18th-century soldier's Hessian boot to create the "Wellington Boot" style. Hard wearing in battle yet comfortable and elegant in the drawing room.

Wellington Boot first appears. See the original pair of Wellington Boots at Apsley House.

1817 Foundation laid for Wellington Monument, Somerset. Completed in 1854.
1817 - 1850 Wellington Boot fashionable amongst the British aristocracy
5 May 1821 Napoleon Bonaparte dies
1821 First raincoat made by G Fox of London. The raincoat was made of Gambroon - a fabric made with mohair.
18 June 1822 Wellington Monument, London, Hyde Park
1823 Charles Macintosh patents "Macintosh Coat" - a rubberised waterproof raincoat. Early models of the raincoat included a "brush on rubber" called rubber-naphtha. Early adopters of these raincoats were the military.
1827 Johann Nepomuk Reithoffer makes his first impermeable rubber boots. He starts Europe's oldest rubber factory.
1828 - 1830 Arthur Wellesley becomes prime minister of England
1839 Goodyear claims discovery of vulcanization by the addition of sulphur to rubber. This invention will allow rubber products including rubber rain boots to last longer. "Vulcanised Rubber" was a rubber material that was less affected by changes in temperature.
1840 Wellington, Cape Town, South Africa founded. Named in honour of the Duke of Wellington.
21 Nov 1843 Thomas Hancock (1786-1865), a scientist and engineer, patents the vulcanisation process in the UK
15 June 1844 Goodyear patents vulcanisation process in the USA.
1840 - 1860 Wellington Boot is the main fashion boot for men. The Wellington boot was popular with cowboys in the USA until the 1860's.
1850 - 1880 The Full Wellington Boot becomes standard issue to military officers in the USA.
1850 Hiram Hutchinson meets Charles Goodyear to discuss patent rights for the Vulcanisation process Goodyear has invented.
1850 - 1860 Cowboy boots (topstitching, cutouts of geometric or other natural elements and underslung heel) replaces The Wellington boot as fashion boot for men in the USA.
1851 Alexander Parkes invents man-made plastic called Parkesine. Parkesine could be heated, moulded, and retain its shape when cooled.
1852 Hiram Hutchinson buys vulcanisation of rubber patent from Charles Goodyear
14 September 1852 Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington dies at Walmer Castle aged 83
1853 - 1856 Crimean War
1853 Hiram Hutchinson starts L'Aigle in France and starts manufacturing rubber boots for farming activities in Europe.
1854 Wellington Monument in Somerset, Completed
1856 Two Frenchmen Albert and Louis Cohen set up a rubber factory in Harburg, near Hamburg. They hired 280 workers who started manufacturing rubber boots and rubberised fabrics 24 hours a day. The company is called Gummiwarenfabrik Albert & Louis Cohen, later to become Phoenix AG.
September 1856 Henry Lee Norris starts North British Rubber Company in Scotland (later to be known as Hunter Boot Ltd, makers of Hunter Wellington Boots)
1861 - 1865 American Civil War
1864 The Phoenix boot brand is introduced by Phoenix AG.
1865 Wellington becomes the capital city of New Zealand. Wellington named in honour of The Duke of Wellington.
1868 American inventor John Wesley Hyatt developed the first industrial plastic material he named Celluloid. Plastics will become important in the manufacture of low-cost boots in future years.
1869 Charles Goodyear, Jr. the son of Charles Goodyear invents the "welt" - lengthening the life of a high-quality shoe to 20 years. The welt prevents water seeping into the boot or shoe. Future Wellington Boots will incorporate this feature.
1872 Polyvinyl chloride or PVC was first created by the German chemist Eugen Baumann. PVC or Vinyl (a type of plastic) becomes a popular material for low-cost rain boots.
1872 In Germany, J.N. Reithoffer merge with Albert and Louis Cohen to form the successful company 'Vereinigte Gummiwaaren-Fabriken Harburg-Wien'
1872 Hyatt patented the first injection moulding machine.
1876 Sir Henry Wickham shipped 70,000 seeds from the Wild Rubber Tree to England from Brazil. Those that survived the long journey were planted in Kew Gardens and later shipped to Malaysia and other hot countries in South-East Asia.
1888 Henry Nicholas Ridley was appointed the director of the Singapore botanic gardens and encouraged the planting of rubber crops throughout Asia.
1898 Eduard Polón creates Nokian Footwear brand as part of the company called Finnish Rubber Works Ltd originally in Helsinki, Finland. Later, the parent company Nokia becomes a major telecommunications company.
1887 John Boyd Dunlop invents first inflatable rubber tyre.
1891 The Washington Shoe Company is founded. The company sells boots for the Alaska Gold Rush. Later their "Western Chief" brand will become a popular make of children's rain boot.
1905 George Oenslager discovered that a derivative of aniline called thiocarbanilide accelerated the action of sulphur to rubber, leading to shorter cure times and reducing energy consumption.
1910 Henry Ford founds the "Ford Motor Company" and invents the "Model T" mass produced motorcar. Demand for rubber for use in rubber tyres increases exponentially for many years.
1914 - 1918 World War I 

Millions of pairs of rubber trench boots ordered for war by The War Office. 

Hunter Boot Ltd produced 1,185,036 pairs of wellies for British soldiers in the trenches
1920 Peter Mathias establishes Askim Gummivarefabrikk later to become Viking Shoes, makers of fine rubber boots.
1924 Dunlop Rubber Factory starts making shoes.
1925 Dunlop Rubber merges with Macintosh and Co.
1927 Dunlop Wellington boot is born
1927 Claude Chamot hand-crafted the first pair of Le Chameau boots in his factory in Northern France. By 2010 Le Chameau will be producing over 350,000 high-quality boots per year.
1930 First research into rubber additives for road surface materials.
1930 Neoprene was invented by DuPont scientists on April 17, 1930. Neoprene will become a popular alternative to rubber.
1937 Dubarry of Ireland founded. Dubarry will produce some of the worlds most elegant boot designs the world has ever seen.
1939 - 1945 World War II. See here for a photo of the Dunlop Rubber Co Ltd factory floor manufacturing rubber Wellington boots during WWII
1946 American inventor James Watson Hendry built the first screw injection machine improving quality of injection moulded products.
1966 Uniroyal Ltd purchases North British Rubber.
19th September 1970 The first Glastonbury Festival was held on the day after Jimi Hendrix died. Glastonbury will later lead to popular fashion wellington boot production. The festival is held every year in June.
1974 Scottish comedian Billy Connolly adopted a comical ode to the boot called "The Welly Boot Song" as his theme tune.
1980's Phoenix SA stops production of rubber boots - starting spin-off company Palladium SA.
1981 Lady Diana Spencer wears Hunter Wellington boots in engagement photo. 
1986 Uniroyal purchased by Gates Rubber Company
1991 Dunlop Boot makes first Wellington Boot made from recycled polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
1994 L'Aigle IPO at Paris Stock Exchange
25 October 1994 William's Wish Wellingtons an animated BBC children's television series made by Hibbert Ralph Entertainment. William could wish himself anywhere in the world or ask for anything he wanted - which sometimes got him into a spot of bother.
1986 Gates Rubber Company purchased by Tomkins PLC
1997 Liping Yang and Jonathan Domsky start the Kidorable brand in Chicago, making children's apparel and accessories. Kidorable becomes a leading children's Wellington boot distributor. By 2015 Kidorable will generate $15 million in sales of raingear for children per annum.
1999 The Original Muck Boot Company starts with the purpose of building comfortable, high performance, waterproof footwear.
2000 Daniel Dunko, MD of Mackintosh Ltd launches new partnerships with fashion labels Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Liberty, making the Mackintosh a highly sought after item of clothing.
2004 Management buy out of Hunter Ltd
2005 Angelina Jolie stars in Mr and Mrs Smith wearing red hunter wellies.
2008 Kate Moss wears wellies to Glastonbury.
2009 Jimmy Choo releases crocodile print, gold rivetted, leopard-print lined, £250 fashion Wellington Boots.
2000 - 2010 Globalisation trends lead many rubber boot manufactures to relocate manufacturing to the APAC region, including China, India, and the Philippines.
2010 Fashion Trends in Wellington Boots continue. Two examples of modern Wellington fashions are wedge welly and the cardi welly.
2012 Reminiscent of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, wearing Hunters, in 1981, Kate Middleton the Duchess of Cambridge, wears French 'Le Chameau' wellies.




Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment