Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles

Get access Subject: History
Edited by: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth & Maria Hayward
The single volume Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 is a unique work that intends to bring together in 582 signed articles the latest research from across the range of disciplines which contribute to our knowledge of medieval dress and textiles.

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(940 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward | Geoff Egan †
During the Middle Ages, a badge was a symbol or device that was used to denote membership of a family group, membership of an affinity, a specific rank within a household or that the individual had been on pilgrimage. Heraldic (see heraldry) badges or livery (see livery (uniform)) badges were part of a person's cognizance but they were not necessarily taken from the individual's coat of arms. Quite often the badge was a supporter of the coat of arms or taken from the crest to the coat of arms. T…


(13 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See Girdle ante-1100; Girdle post-1100; Tablet weave; Passementerie. Elizabeth Coatsworth


(8 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See vegetable fibre. Elizabeth Coatsworth


(411 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth | Mark Chambers
Baudekyn was an oriental cloth woven of silk, shot through with gold (or silver) thread, or possibly one that was brocaded, or a brocade popular in England in the 14th century. The word sometimes occurs in the phrase 'baudekyn cloth'. The term is also used for a rug or drape of this cloth. The baudekyn could be of various colours: black, blue, green and red are all mentioned in texts. It could also be of several colours: 'motly Baudekyn'; or ornamented in other colours: 'A frontell of blew and grene bawdkyn wt flowers of wh…

Bayeux Tapestry

(3,737 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The largest non-architectural artefact surviving from the Middle Ages, the Bayeux Tapestry is now 68.38 metres long (224 feet 4 inches); an unknown quantity is missing from the end, and probably something from the beginning. It is about 50cm wide (19.7 inches). It consists of nine pieces of linen joined by barely visible seams, decorated in coloured wools (see wool). Known as 'Tapestry' from the French tapisserie, it is technically not a tapestry but an embroidery. Apart from short periods during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte and World War II, the Tapestry has been at…

Bayeux Tapestry: evidence of arms and armour

(881 words)

Author(s): Karen Watts
There are 201 armed men in the Bayeux Tapestry, of whom 79 are wearing armour. The helmet, popularly called 'Norman' is of a style known as spangenhelm. A group of such helmets is clearly shown being transported on a cart. Each comprises a conical head-defence made of four triangular segments meeting at the apex and retained by four riveted bands with a fifth round the lower rim from which descends a nasal bar. William lifts up his helmet at the battle revealing that it is worn over a mail coif. For lesser knights the co…

Beads in early Anglo-Saxon England

(526 words)

Author(s): Birte Brugmann
Beads made of amber or glass are common finds in graves dated to the early Anglo-Saxon period. A very few beads consist of other materials, mostly shell, jet, rock crystal, amethyst or metal. Most beads were worn by females in the area of the neck or chest, and numbers vary from a single bead to several hundred, in the latter case including 'miniature' glass beads with a diameter of c. 2mm. Large glass or rock crystal objects ( c. 4cm or more in diameter) with a central perforation tend to be published as 'whorls' (see spindle whorl), in particular if they are single find…

Beaver Fur

(527 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The European beaver ( castor fiber) is a semi-aquatic rodent; it was the largest rodent known in medieval Europe. The average pelt length is 90 cm (35 inches) excluding the tail. However, the regulations of the London Skinners Company of 1438 stated that beaver skins were to be worked a length of 35 cm (14 inches). The guard hairs are black or reddish brown and approximately 7.5 cm (3 inches) long, while the under-hairs are blue-brown and approximately 2.5 cm (one inch) long. The fur could be used in…

Becket, St Thomas: life and textile relics

(2,771 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
Life Thomas Becket ( c. 1118-1170; Archbishop of Canterbury 1162-70) is venerated as a saint and martyr in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches: initially a reaction to the circumstances of his death and its immediately preceding controversy. His early life was not controversial: he was born in Cheapside, London, the son of Gilbert Beket of Thierville, a mercer who also lived on the rents of various London properties, and his wife Matilda of Mondeville. The family had some standing and were well connected, and Thomas was edu…

Beds: ante-1100

(1,088 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The sources of evidence for beds and bedding from England in the pre-Conquest period are not contemporary. Archaeology provides evidence only for the period when graves were furnished: although this source does not dry up immediately with the coming of Christianity, it does peter out and cannot take us further than the early 8th century. Documentary sources have a longer span, but the most useful belong to the 10th and 11th centuries; and the same can be said of the few visual representations. The most interesting archaeological survivals are the 'bed burials', in which a comp…

Beds: post-1100

(13 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See soft furnishings and textiles post-1100. Elizabeth Coatsworth


(426 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
There were two main types of bell that were used as dress accessories in medieval England: the rumbler bell (a closed sphere with a loose pea inside) and the clapper bell (an open bell with a fixed clapper). Bells were used to ornament clothes and accessories, especially hoods associated with jesters, in the 14th and 15th centuries. Jesters wearing bells of this type can be seen on fol. 85v of The Romance of Alexander. However, they were also used for fashionable dress. In the Great Wardrobe account for 1393-4, there was a payment of 16d made to a goldsmith for two r…


(13 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
See girdle ante-1100; girdle post-1100; also buckle. Gale R. Owen-Crocker


(207 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
A bend was a band of fabric worn with or over clothing and more specifically, it was used in two main ways. First, it could be a strip of fabric used to decorate clothing, most commonly as a means of marking troops. In 1455 Coventry mustered a hundred men to support Henry VI and spent 38s 7½d on 'xxv yerdes quarter & half quarter of grene & rede clothe … to make bendes to the foreside C menne'. There is little definitive evidence but it is possible that the bend or strip of cloth was worn diagon…


(14 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See wills and inventories ante-1100; wills and inventories post-1100. Elizabeth Coatsworth


(155 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Named from a Byzantine gold coin, a bezant was a small ornament, stamped out of thin gold or silver gilt, which was stitched loosely to the clothing so that it dangled and caught the light. Bezants could be scattered ('powdered', see powdering) over a garment or hat, or they could be integral to areas of embroidery. Middle English literature lists bezants, along with brooches, rings and gold ribbons, as part of the highly-decorated, upper class costume which was popularly portrayed in Romance. B…