During the late 18th Century and early 19th Century Limerick gloves, also referred to as ‘chicken skin gloves’ became a popular style of glove. Towards the early 19th Century they had a fashion about them, and ladies in society desired to be adorned in them.
They originated in Limerick, Ireland and were later manufactured in other cities throughout Ireland and York, England.
The gloves were constructed from very thin, but strong leather. Unfortunately, this was derived from the skin of unborn calves, known as slinks or morts. It would seem that perhaps they were admired for their craftsmanship and the quality of leather used.
The colours of these gloves tended to be pale shades of cream, yellow and white. These gloves were then carefully encased in a walnut shell, perhaps to make a charming gift for a loved one?
They were so thin that they represented one day’s wear, probably worn during the morning to help keep a ladies hand soft and white. It is said Queen Victoria bought and used these gloves.
The Museum has a pair of Limerick gloves on display:
The gloves in the walnut shell that I gave were made by a man named Barke who lived in George Street, Limerick. He would have made a fortune but was lazy and did not attend orders. After his death his sons were unable to carry on the business through want of knowledge. The Queen sent an order every year for a number of pairs. The cost 5/- per pair, but only one days wear. They were made of the skin of an unborn calf, the cow having to be killed at a certain time.
The real question is, do you ever wear something once and then discard it?
Sarah, Museum Curator