As Valentine's Day approaches how about a decorated hoof to show your love for a special one

By Deborah Price - Local Democracy Reporter

13th Feb 2024 | Local News

William Longland's decorated hoof for his love Bessie
William Longland's decorated hoof for his love Bessie

As Valentine's Day approaches, the most common gifts may now be flowers or chocolates . . .

But turn the clock back 100 years and for shoemaker William Longland, it was a decorated hoof.

William would have taken hours to painstakingly craft the item for wife Hannah Elizabeth, know as Bessie.

And it's just one of the many gifts he made for her from horns and hooves during their 48-year marriage, now on display at Watford Museum.

But whether the hidden story behind this extraordinary item will inspire others to think beyond the shelves of the supermarket, as they countdown to February 14 is another question.

The museum's collections officer Olivia Main says these sorts of quirky items would have appealed to the Victorians.

And for William – who would have made them in his workshop while making shoes – she says they were clearly 'a labour of love'.

"This one is quite precise with pins and needles – a labour of love for sure," said Olivia.

"He seems to have been very much in love with his wife."

Many of the items made by William Longland feature the couple's initials, W and B – and are known to have been made for anniversaries and Christmas.

And it's an item that has caught the attention of Hertfordshire County Council's executive member for education and life-long learning Cllr Caroline Clapper.

"While flowers, chocolates or a fancy dinner are likely to be the gifts of choice for a loved one this Valentines day, more than a hundred years ago a hoof decorated with velvet and beads was exactly the thing to say 'I love you' with," she said.

"It's extraordinary to look back at the items on display in Hertfordshire's museums, a hidden story behind each one highlighting a rich culture and historic traditions; some which have continued through to the modern day and some which are best left in the past!"

  • The Longland's Love Token is one of 20 items on show at museums across the county in the running to be named as the Hertfordshire's Museum Object of the Year 2024.

Voting has now closed (midnight February 5) and the winner will be announced on Thursday, February 15.


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