Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1851 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Morley, W. H. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Machine-knitted wool and cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the maker

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type

W. H. Morley showed a group of socks at the Great Exhibition of 1851. They demonstrate the varied patterns and colours which an industrial process could easily produce. The plaids and tartans were in keeping with the current fashion for all things Scottish, which the Royal family helped to make popular.

Materials & Making

The feet are joined to the rest of the sock by stitching, instead of knitting in one continuous piece. This method makes the stockings last longer because the construction is stronger, and the stitches are less likely to unravel. Some years later the London department store Debenham & Freebody developed a range of stockings made in this way which they claimed were twice as strong as those made by other methods.


During the 19th century there was some argument about whether children should wear socks or stockings. Some adults thought that socks were more practical and easier to keep clean. Others thought that stockings were smarter and warmer. Socks with elasticated tops like these would certainly have been more comfortable than wearing stockings with a garter (a strip of fabric) tied around the leg.

Physical description

Of machine knitted wool with a chequered pattern of black, red and yellow plaid. It has a horizontally striped welt. The toe is white.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1851 (made)


Morley, W. H. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Machine-knitted wool and cotton


Height: 27.2 cm maximum, Width: 13 cm maximum, Length: 18.9 cm Foot, Length: 32.2 cm Maximum, Width: 14.5 cm Maximum

Descriptive line


Labels and date

British Galleries:

Morley's showed these machine-knitted socks to illustrate features such as elasticated tops and the variety of colourful patterns that they could produce. [27/03/2003]




Clothing; Children & Childhood; British Galleries; Great Exhibition; Europeana Fashion Project


Museum of Childhood

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.