These slippers are made of the delicate mesh inner bark of the lace-bark tree, Lagetta lagetto, with soles of "cocoa nut" bark and India rubber fibre.
The beautiful natural lace of the lace-bark tree was widely used by black Jamaicans for clothing and crafts, both during the era of slavery (as observed by Sir Hans Sloane in the 17th century), and after emancipation. However, what appears to have been a thriving rural industry had virtually died out by the 1950s.
Kew's extensive collection of Jamaican lacebark objects includes fans, doilies and bonnets. It eloquently documents the local knowledge and skills of a distinctively Jamaican material culture.
These slippers, and an example of raw lace-bark, are on permanent display at the Plants+People exhibition at Kew Gardens.
Catalogue No. EBC 67770, given by Dr Lewis Bowerbank, c. 1872.