You learn something new every day – today I learned that leather slipper stirrups were also known as “Devon” stirrups and I learned rather too much about Basil leather.

Leather slipper stirrup

This is a rather worn leather slipper stirrup – it was an early form of sidesaddle safety stirrup, the rider’s foot could not get caught in it in the event of a fall.

Slipper stirrup in catalogue

Slipper stirrup in catalogue

This illustration comes from a 1901 Bliss & Co Catalogue which gives various safety stirrup options

Catalogue listing

Various options are offered for the metal stirrups : “Malleable” (which sounds faintly alarming – who wants a bendy stirrup iron ? Maybe they mean something else), this could be polished or nickel plated, or else Steel, Nickel Plated Steel or Nickel.

The leather covered options could use Hogskin (today we’d probably say pigskin) or “Basil”.

I had no idea what Basil was, but found an excellent French website (www.basane.fr) that gave an excellent explanation & history. It is a leather made from small hides such as sheep, tanned using plant based agents. Its reputation deteriorated from the mid 19th Century when the wool was removed from the skins by using bacteria, which also affected the quality of the hides. For this reason Basil was a cheaper option than Hogskin