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Cloak: ante-1100

(1,530 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Male dress Germanic men in Roman art regularly wear, as an outer garment, a short cloak, made of a rectangular piece of cloth, pinned together by a round brooch at one shoulder, usually the right (see brooch: England (history, development and uses)). Male secular figures in late Anglo-Saxon art often wear the same kind of cloak, over tunic and hose, and it is to be presumed that this garment was in use throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, though there is no evidence of it from the cemetery archaeology which provides much information about female dress in the 5th to 7th centuries (see funerals…

Llan-Gors decorated garment

(1,093 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The Llan-Gors fragments, the only early medieval textile so far found in Wales, belong to the most elaborate surviving secular garment of the period yet discovered in the British Isles. The textile was discovered, partly resting on charred wood, in waterlogged silts outside the north palisade of a crannog site on the shore of Llan-gors Lake, near Brecon, south-east Wales, during archaeological excavation in 1990 (see archaeological textiles). The site was possibly the Welsh royal stronghold called Brycheiniog in Welsh, Brecenanmere in English, which, according to the Anglo-Saxon C…


(13 words)

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


(252 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Brocading is worked while a textile is being woven (as opposed to embroidery, which is worked with a needle on cloth which has left the loom). It involves one or more supplementary wefts in addition to the ground weft which is structural to the fabric. The brocading weft passes over selected warp threads at the front of the textile to make a raised surface pattern, and is tied down by passing under some wefts. It floats at the back of the textile in areas where it is not required. It is most usu…


(21 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Also spelled deniseins, denizeins, densyns etc;  merchants who were natives or citizens of England, as opposed to foreigners. Gale R. Owen-Crocker


(615 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Founded in the 9th century by the Vikings, probably as a fort, medieval Dublin expanded into a major port trading with Scandinavia, the British mainland and the Continent, exporting meat, fish and furs. Archaeological excavations of Viking and Hiberno-Norse Dublin were carried out from 1962 to 1981, recovering large quantities of organic material, much of which is still to be studied and published. Numerous wooden objects, many of them decorated, testify to local textile production. They include spindles, one wound round with fine woollen yarn; wooden 'swor…


(52 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Documented from the end of the 14th century, the term ‘alien’ designated a foreigner, and in terms of legal documents a foreign-born merchant or other worker resident in England. Gale R. Owen-CrockerBibliographyKURATH, H., KUHN, S. M., REIDY, J. and LEWIS, R. E. The Middle English Dictionary (Ann Arbor, MI: 1952-2001), s.v. āliē̆n.


(551 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
From the Anglo-Saxon /Anglo-Viking period, when the commonest form of footwear was an ankle-high leather shoe which was secured with a thong or toggle fastening, there co-existed other forms of footwear which could be slipped on and off more easily. Low-cut shoes with a V-shaped heel projecting up the back of the foot survive from York and from Milk Street, London. A low shoe of this kind, with a heel projecting up the back of the foot, is shown on the figure of a man on a sculpture from Codford St Peter, Wiltshire. Most of the London examples, which are 10th -century, are remarkable for being…

Orkney Hood

(1,185 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Preserved by the anaerobic conditions of a peat bog, the Orkney Hood was found in obscure circumstances in 1867 near the farm of Groatsetter, Tankerness, in the parish of St Andrew's, Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. It was long presumed to be Viking, since the Orkney Isles, off the north-west coast of Scotland, were occupied by Norse settlers in the 9th century, becoming a Viking earldom, and remaining in Scandinavian hands until the 15th century. However, radiocarbon dating established prior to conservation of the hood in 1981 (published 2001), demonstrated that it wa…


(628 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The term wulcamb appears as early as the Anglo-Saxon period in a list of tools and materials necessary for making textile, but its exact purpose is not specified. Modern authors occasionally use the term to describe a weaving implement, but mostly it is applied to the tool utilised for untangling and aligning wool fibres prior to spinning. Metal woolcombs were known in Roman Britain, but so far there have been no identifiable medieval examples from the 5th and 6th centuries. However, the smooth appearance of archaeological textiles from this period suggests that the fibre…

Hemming (2)

(311 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
A hemming was a shoe made from untanned animal skin, specifically of hart hide. Its name derives from the germanic word for the skin of the hindlegs of a deer. The rawhide shoe is a type well-known in northern Europe. Made from a single piece of hide, it does not have a separate sole. At best it exploits the shape of the animal skin, so that the baggy skin from the heel part of the animal's leg becomes the toe of the shoe; a more primitive version can be created simply by wrapping a piece of raw…

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…


(9 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
See wood carving: misericords Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Animal Fibre

(267 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
By far the commonest animal fibre in use in medieval Britain was sheep's wool. This would be plucked or sheared from the living animal, and spun into thread for sewing or embroidering (see embroidery); or woven into cloth with a range of thickness, weaving techniques and ultimate functions. The sheep's fleece, unspun, could also be used as clothing or a furnishing fabric, and sheepskin, taken from a dead animal and with the fleece still attached, could be utilised too. Goat hair is less commonly…

St Bees Man

(1,392 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
A fourteenth-century male corpse, wrapped in two well-preserved linen shrouds, and with other associated fibres, was discovered at St Bees Priory, Cumbria. In 1981, a Leicester University archaeological excavation explored the area which was occupied by the South Chancel Aisle of St Bees Priory from c. 1300 to c. 1500. A stone vault was discovered in what must have been the centre of the aisle. It contained the remains of a wooden coffin, within which was a male body wrapped in lead. The lead capsule had been damaged at the foot end, resultin…


(520 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The stole was a long, narrow strip of material worn in different ways by different ranks of clergy. Deacons wore it over the left shoulder, priests round the neck and crossed at the front, bishops round the neck but not crossed. The stole was held down by the girdle of the alb, and it can be seen in artworks hanging down below the dalmatic and chasuble, which were worn over the alb and stole. It often has wedge-shaped ends and fringe. The position of the priest's stole was particularly significant: 10th-century sources show it symbolised the yoke, or responsibility, he undertook for …


(568 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Woollens were made from the highest quality, curly, short-fibred wools. English wools were considered superior to others, the best being from the Welsh Marches (the western counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire); the next best from the adjacent counties of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire; third ranking were wools from the Kesteven and Lindsey districts of Lincolnshire, in the East Midlands. The wool was washed and scoured to remove its natural lanolin, after which i…


(80 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The rath is a well-known form of archaeological site in Ireland. Waterlogged conditions at the rath site of Deer Park Farms, Glenarm, Co. Antrim, occupied AD 600 to 1000, preserved organic material including evidence of farm-buildings constructed of wickerwork inside the earthen enclosure. Finds included textile, also flax seeds and woad pods testifying to textile working on the site. Gale R. Owen-Crocker Bibliography Lynn, C. J., ' Deer Park Farms', Current Archaeology 113 (1989), 193-8.

Weights and measures

(25 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
See bolt; cloth: dimensions and weights; clove; ell; last; nail; piece; sack; sarpler; stone; tod; verge; wey; yard. Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Roof bosses

(11 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
See wood carving: roof bosses Gale R. Owen-Crocker
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