Cotton Socks

The phrase ‘bless their cotton socks’ is quite common, often said as a ‘thank you’ and often ironically or patronisingly, but it appears to have an interesting historical origin.

George Edward Lynch Cotton who lived between 1813 and 1866 was a clergyman and educator. He spent a number of years at Rugby School and Marlborough College before becoming Bishop of Calcutta in 1858, performing missionary work and founding the famous ‘Cotton’s Schools’.


Cotton, as a religious man, was known to bless all the equipment used in his schools.

Seeing the abject poverty in Calcutta he regularly requested donations of warm socks for the children of the slums; and socks by the thousand were dutifully knitted and sent to Calcutta labelled  “Cotton’s socks for blessing”.

This soon became abbreviated to ‘cotton socks’ and the phrase ‘bless their little cotton socks’ entered into the language.

Cotton died in October 1866, when he slipped into the river Ganges at Kushtea after consecrating a cemetery. His body was never found, but the schools he founded in Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta and Shimla continue to this day.