Wray’s illustrious clog-making history

Sawing alder trees near the River Roeburn, Bridge End, Wray, around 1930. Richard Stephenson (left) and Harry Chesters are cutting alder trees into boules. This is the first stage in the making of a clog block.
Sawing alder trees near the River Roeburn, Bridge End, Wray, around 1930. Richard Stephenson (left) and Harry Chesters are cutting alder trees into boules. This is the first stage in the making of a clog block.
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Wray historian David Kenyon looks back at the history behind the local trade of clog-making in Wray.

Clog block-making in Wray lasted for more than 150 years with blocks from Wray supplying most clog makers in North Lancashire, ensuring that the county’s miners, mill workers, agricultural and school children had comfortable footwear.

The timber used for clog sole-making was the wood from the alder tree. The alder tree is generally found growing near riverbanks or areas where there is plenty of moisture. This timber was used because it was easy to work and, most importantly, it absorbed the sweat from the wearer’s foot.

The tree was cut into lengths with the two handed crosscut saw: 13-inch lengths for men’s soles; 11-inches for women’s; eight inches for older boys and six inches for children’s.

The logs or boules were then split into the required sizes.

One man places a short felling axe on the boule. His helper then struck the axe head with the long handled mel (mallet). This was made of apple tree wood.

The split pieces were then cut into the rough shape of a clog sole with the stock knife; this had a hook at one end, which fitted into a ring on the stock bench. The blade was 14 inches in length and four inches wide and was kept razor sharp. It was joined to a long handle, which gave plenty of leverage.

The completed blocks were then stacked outside to dry. The stacks were sometimes square but more often were circular and conical in shape, five or six feet in diameter at the base and up to nine feet high.

The blocks would take six to nine months to season. They were then sold to a clog sole wholesaler who would then sell them to small clog making workshops.

There were three different knives used for making the clog sole. The hollower was used to hollow out the upper part of the sole.

The gripper put a rebate around the outside of the sole.

Lastly was the finishing knife, which was a smaller version of the clog block making knife.

After the clog sole had been cut to the shape of the foot and the top hollowed out, the gripper was used to put a rebate around the edge of the sole.

The leather upper was then nailed to the rebated sole.

This was then finished off by nailing a narrow strip of leather over the joint between the leather upper and the wooden sole.

Often decorative nails were used for this purpose.

To complete the clog, a metal toe-cap was mailed on to protect the front of the clog.

Lastly, the caulkers (clog-irons) were nailed on to the bottom of the wooden sole. Iron nails were used, seven in the front and five in the heel.

If a clog-iron came off the wooden sole would wear out very quickly.

Both my father Stephen Kenyon and grandfather William were clog block-makers in Wray during their early working years.

Grandfather had a shop in the village where he also sold groceries.

Many clog block-makers like my dad and grandfather could make the block into a c log sole, but just seemed to make them for family members.

As children my brothers, sisters and I had to stand in our stockinged feet for over an hour while our father made the soles to fit each foot then leather uppers from old clogs would be nailed to the new soles.