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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(525 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Lambskin was categorised as a type of fur in the Middle Ages. Lambskin or sheepskin (sometime referred to as pellura) is the tanned hide of the domesticated lamb or sheep ( ovis aries). The skin is tanned as a pelt with the fleece intact and the resulting fur is very warm. Lambskins are available in a range of naturally occurring shades including white, cream, reddish-brown (also known as sheep's colour) and black. The legs of lambskins could be used to make furs known as shanks. It is possible that the term 'avortons' was app…


(318 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The term is used of a figured weave in which a pattern, composed of weft floats bound by a binding warp (i.e. a secondary warp employed for this purpose), is added to a ground weave formed by a main warp and main weft. The weft threads forming the pattern may be main, pattern or brocading wefts, which float on the surface as required by the pattern. A detailed discussion of lampas weaves from excavations in London covers the early history (from the 10th century) and spread to Western Europe, together with the many combinations of weaves and weights of silk cloth covered by th…

Langland, William: Piers Plowman

(1,273 words)

Author(s): Roger Ladd
William Langland's life is essentially undocumented aside from first-person material in the different versions of Piers Plowman, all believed to share an author. The name William Langland seems to appear in the B-version: '"I haue lyued in londe", quod I, "my name is Longe Wille"' (B.XV.152). The B-version further informs us that he had a wife, Kytte, and a daughter, Calote, and from the C-version we gather that he had a clerical education, may well have been in minor orders, but was not a beneficed priest or o…


(201 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
Zupko gave this as a measure of capacity for dry and liquid products and suggested that, for wool, 12 sacks equated to one last. His earliest reference was to 1243. The Middle English Dictionary gives no reference relating to wool earlier than 1350, from the Ipswich Domesday of 1350 ( a calendar of the customs and usages of the town), published by Twiss: ' Item, de chescun lest des leynes [ ID(2): of every last of wulle] ... .viij d'. It also offers one from 1500 which specifies that 20 sacks equated to one last. Elizabeth Coatsworth Bibliography Hall, H. and Nicholas, F. J., 'Select tracts …


(531 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Latten is a term found in medieval documents.It referred to a mixed copper alloy. For example, in 1321 the London Girdlers' Guild issued a charter in an attempt to regulate which metals could be used for buckles and mounts, with latten, copper, iron and steel being approved, while 'lead, pewter and tin' were forbidden, along with 'other false things'. In rare instances it is possible to link a document describing a latten object with the artefact and for the composition of that artefact to then be analysed. For instance, the mid-15th-century contract ordering the tomb for Richard Bea…


(1,118 words)

Author(s): Drea Leed
The laundering process was performed both in the home and professionally during the Middle Ages. Laundering was among the most strongly-gendered of activities and professions, being performed almost exclusively by women. References to the professional laundress (French lavandiere,Italian lavatrice, Latin lavatrix, Middle English lavender) describe her laundering church linens (towels, albs, surplices and altar cloths), laundering linens for single men in all-male establishments, and performing laundry services for large noble households.…


(208 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The cloth name 'lawn' derived fron Old French Laon, the city of Laon. The phrase 'a plit (of / de) lawn' signified a piece of lawn or fine linen. Linen has a long history, but its appearance in the archaeological record varies greatly, depending on the conditions in which it was deposited, and the relatively few remains in areas where sometimes considerable quantities of wool fragments have been found is sometimes disappointing, as in the excavations from London. It is not always possible to know which of those su…

Laws and prohibitions: cloth regulations

(1,216 words)

Author(s): John Oldland
The regulation of the English cloth industry steadily increased from the 12th to the 15th centuries as broad and narrow heavy woollens replaced light and cheaper worsteds; as woollens production became specialized and organized within urban guilds (see guilds: London) of weavers, fullers, shearmen and dyers; and as cloth exports became more important to the economy. A thicket of laws and ordinances intertwined at the national, town and individual guild levels. The crown was primarily interested to organize an…

Laws and prohibitions: ecclesiastical

(1,377 words)

Author(s): Thomas Izbicki
There is little evidence of efforts to regulate clerical clothing in the Anglo-Saxon Church in the earliest surviving records. The tonsure cut out of a priest's hair apparently was regarded as setting the clergy apart. Only a papal legate's synod in 787 decreed that bishops should see that canons and canonesses, monks and nuns conduct themselves properly in dress. They were forbidden rich clothing, including that dyed 'with colours of India'. A century later, Pope John VIII warned the English cl…

Laws and prohibitions: sumptuary

(1,154 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward | Stephen Church
Sumptuary legislation takes its name from sumptus, the Latin word for expense. The English laws concerned with clothing were also known as Acts of Apparel. The acts sought to regulate expenditure on luxury goods. They were not an innovation of the late Middle Ages, having developed in classical Greece. Luxury in itself was not a problem for the social élite because it was a useful way of defining the social order. However, uncontrolled access to luxury goods could result in the blurring of social boun…

Laȝamon: The Brut

(1,261 words)

Author(s): Lucy Perry
The only known work of Laʒamon, priest at Areley (now Areley Kings, Worcestershire), is The Brut (possibly written 1199-1225). Its prologue provides all the biographical information we have on the writer. The portrait of a figure in the habit of a Benedictine monk that illuminates the capital A of the prologue in a manuscript ( c. 1275), now in the British Library, might represent the author or the scribe.The only other manuscript ( c. 1300) is also in the British Library. Laʒamon translated Wace's Roman de Brut (1155), a Norman-French version of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Brit…

Leather: cuir bouilli

(324 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The term cuir bouilli literally means boiled leather but there is some debate over how it was made. It was usually made from thick leather, possibly vegetable tanned leather. It was probably made by soaking the leather in cold water until saturated. The pliable leather was then moulded into shape using formers of a range of materials including wood, metal or plaster. The surface of the leather could be decorated while it was still wet and a range of techniques were used, including cutting and in…

Leather: garments and footwear

(1,233 words)

Author(s): Esther Cameron
The earliest evidence of Anglo-Saxon leather clothing consists of fragments of shoes and belts in richly furnished burials of the late 6th and early 7th centuries. The footwear comprises two pairs of finely-stitched turnshoes (the sole and upper stitched together and then turned inside out) with decorated vamps from the royal cemetery at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk; and a belt fragment of similar date, decorated with tooled parallel lines, found at Buttermarket, Ipswich, Suffolk. Traces of leather belts are relatively common f…


(115 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The Leathersellers' Company is a still-existing Livery Company of the City of London, founded by royal charter in 1444 with authority to control the sale of leather within the City. The Company no longer has this regulatory role, but it still supports the British leather trade, as well as charity and education. Its archive contains material going back to 1250. During the course of the 15th and early 16th centuries, it absorbed related guilds: Whitawyers, Glovers, Pursers and Pouchmakers. See guilds: London. Elizabeth Coatsworth Bibliography Kurath, H., Kuhn, S. M., Reidy, J. and…

Lebor na Cert

(11 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See Book of Rights . Elizabeth Coatsworth

Lebuin, St, relic of

(319 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
St Lebuin was an Anglo-Saxon missionary who served in what is now the Netherlands, in the area of the River Yssel (Ijssel), on the borders between the Franks and the Saxons, at Deventer, from c. 754 to c. 775. A silk cloth, a loosely woven, weft-faced compound twill, reputed to have wrapped his relics, is preserved in the Het Catharijneconvent Museum, Utrecht. It is ornamented with one complete and two part figures in a head-to-toe row between plant forms: the complete figure is of a squat man with trousers or a skirted garment wit…

Leg wrap

(7 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See garter. Elizabeth Coatsworth


(33 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
In the later medieval period the leopard was used as a source of fur. It was also a royal heraldic device. See ailette; cat fur; fur;heraldryhorse trapper; seal bag. Maria Hayward


(233 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Lettice (letus, letuse, lettews, laitice) was the term used to describe the white fur of the snow weasel. This term can be applied to a number of species of weasel, such as the least weasel ( Mustela nivalis), that has a white winter coat. Its coat consists of short, fine under-hairs and longer guard hairs. Most lettice was imported into England from the Baltic, as indicated by the Great Wardrobe account of Richard II from 1390 that included a number of lettice skins imported by merchants of the Hanse. It was in use at the court of…