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(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…


(7 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
See badges; heraldry. Maria Hayward


(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…


(731 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Saddles were usually provided for use on horses but mule saddles could also be made, especially for high ranking clergy. The medieval saddle consisted of a wooden saddle tree with bows at the front and back that were known as the pommel or bow (arçon) and cantle. The saddle tree was usually covered with leather or hide and the wooden frame could be reinforced with a steel plate called a gullet. A quilted, padded seat was placed in the middle of the saddle and padded or quilted panels were often …

Squirrel robe of Queen Philippa

(667 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
A robe or a suit of clothes consisting of five garments was made for Philippa of Hainault, queen of Edward III, in July 1330 to wear when she was churched after the birth of her first son, Edward of Woodstock, later known as the Black Prince. The garments were made from purplevelvet by her tailor William de London and they were described as being ' faciendum cum squirrell aureis', 'made with squirrels of gold'. As Stella Mary Newton has observed, the wording indicates that the robe was embroidered with squirrels in gold thread (see gold and silver metal thread),…

Horse armour

(689 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
A bard is the correct term for horse armour that could be made from mail, plate or cuir bouilli (see leather: cuir bouilli). It should be contrasted with the trapper which is a full covering for a horse including its head, that could be made from metal, leather or textile. It could be decorative (e.g. displaying the rider's coat of arms or heraldic badges during a tournament) or for protection. While it was not permitted to strike an opponent's horse during a tournament, horse armour could provid…


(708 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
From the 7th century there is archaeological evidence indicating that short, ankle-length boots were being worn. A pair of short, loose-fitting boots were found in a grave at Banstead Down and the right boot indicates that they were probably wrapped round and fastened with a strap. There is more evidence from the 12th century when boots were either short (ankle height) or longer (to the knee or mid-calf). Later 12th century finds in London include some fragments of ankle shoes or boots. The most complete of these have a wrap-round construction and another has par…


(7 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
See squirrel fur. Maria Hayward


(542 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The European rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus) was widespread across medieval Europe. Its fur can be short or long and in a range of shades including brown, grey and a reddish brown. Rabbit skins have long, fine guard hairs that would be shorn by the skinner. The average pelt size is about 25 cm (10 inches) long. Although rabbit remains were found from the Hoxnian interglacial at Swanscombe, Kent, there are few traces in the archaeological record until rabbits were reintroduced by the Normans. There ar…

Squirrel fur

(756 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The European red squirrel ( Sciurus vulgaris) is an omnivorous rodent. The quality of its fur was directly related to the climate where it lived. Low quality fur was produced by squirrels native to the British Isles, and southern and central Europe. In contrast, the fur of squirrels living in Scandinavia, Russia, Poland and Bulgaria was highly prized and exported to western Europe via the Baltic: consequently they are often referred to as Baltic squirrel. The colour of the squirrel's coat varies with …


(19 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
See chapemakers; point. Maria Hayward

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…


(154 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Fitch was the name given to the fur of the European polecat ( Mustela putorius). The polecat has a dark brown coat with paler, creamy-yellow fur on the belly and around its eyes and nose. It is smaller than an otter but bigger than most members of the weasel family. Furs could be pieced together from the creamy throat fur or heads to make furs of 'focche polles'. During the second half of the 14th century a small group of Fellmongers exported English furs such as fox and coney and imported fitch, foynes and squirrel. It was popular in the 14th and 15th centuries. Maria Hayward Bibliography Burton, M.…


(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…


(264 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Cote, coote or coat is a difficult term to define because the word can refer to several different types of garment depending on the date, the language and by association, the spelling. The word cote in French and cotta in Italian both refer to an under-tunic, often but not exclusively for women. Conversely the related terms cotehardie (Fr) and cottardita (It) describe a loose over garment for men worn in the 14th and 15th centuries. Another interpretation of the term suggests that the word cote was an alternative term for the super-tunic in the 13th to 15th centuries. In the 13th century the s…


(152 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Poots (potes, poughtes) was the term used to describe furs made from the feet or paws of animal skins. The feet of various animals could be made into furs such as 'focche fete' (fitch feet) but squirrel poots were most commonly used in London. Fur linings or strips made from paws were among the cheaper furs, along with those made from heads, scarps or throats. Consequently furs made from poots were generally worn by the lower social groups. By 1500 the cost of such furs was regulated in York as follows: for cutting, sewing and casing a fur of poots, 4d; for shaping and sewing together 100 poots, 6d. Ma…

Royal regalia: post-1100

(2,035 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The English medieval regalia post-1100 was closely associated with Edward the Confessor and in c. 1450 it was listed by Sporley, a monk at Westminster Abbey. It consisted of the crown, sceptre, rod, orb, bracelets, sword, ring, spurs and a mantle. In the 1130s the Prior of Westminster Abbey, Osbert of Clare, forged documents asserting that the cathedral was the place of coronation for English monarchs and that Edward the Confessor had left his regalia to the cathedral for this purpose. The signi…


(836 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The term doublet started to be used in the second half of the 14th century referring to a garment that had developed from the jupon or gipon. It was a close fitting, padded garment with a round neck and fitted sleeves. It gradually replaced the tunic as the main body garment for men. Evolving as it did from the jupon, it had military origins and the link with jousting and military activity continued once the garment was adopted for everyday wear. The accounts of Edward III for the years 1345 to 1349 included…


(743 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Miniver ( menuvair) was the term used to describe the dressed furs made from the white bellies of Baltic squirrels in their grey winter coats. These furs could be prepared in two different ways: 'miniver gross' referred to the white belly fur trimmed with some grey fur; 'miniver pure' described the white belly fur with no grey fur. Miniver skins were very small and so large numbers were required for lining sets of robes or trimming coverlets and counterpanes. Its high cost and desirability meant t…

Rothwell Jack

(978 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The Rothwell Jack belongs to Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, which is on the outskirts of Leeds. It is made from multiple layers of plain weave linen and carded wool (see cards and carding of wool) that have been hand-stitched together with linen thread. Locally, it is known as the coat of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (1362-99). This association is repeated on a label attached to a group of forty-five square metal plates belonging to the Royal Armouries at Leeds [III.1917]. The label states t…
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