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(459 words)

Author(s): Owen-Crocker, Gale R.
I would like to thank all the authors who have contributed their expertise to this book, with special appreciation of those who have agreed to write on additional topics or answered, with grace and efficiency, editors’ anxious queries on topics unrelated to what they had been commissioned to write. Subject editors Elizabeth Coatsworth and Maria Hayward deserve particular thanks. They have been tireless in commissioning and checking articles, and have both authored far more than originally conceived as the project developed. The planning of the…


(413 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Evolving from a secular cloth used to wipe away perspiration, or an ornamental handkerchief, the maniple had become a non-functional band by the late Anglo-Saxon period. Carried in the left hand until the 11th century, it was later draped over the left forearm. It was particularly the insignia of the subdeacon, but was also worn by the deacon, priest and bishop. A 15th-century text attributes a symbolic meaning to it: 'The maniple or phanone in the lefte hande be-tokenez pacyence in aduersite, that es betokende by the lyfte syde...'. Often made in sets with stoles, maniples were usu…


(223 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The Speaker of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, sits on a woolsack. This tradition goes back to King Edward III (1327-77). It was introduced as a tribute to the English wool trade which had brought wealth to the country. Originally stuffed with English wool, but now symbolically stuffed with wool from the countries of the British Commonwealth, this ceremonial seat takes the form of a cushion covered in red material. Until 2006 the Lord Chancellor presided in the upper house and sat on the woolsack, which has throughout history been associated with the chancery. A …


(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

Wood carving: Roof bosses

(406 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Roof bosses were originally coloured: they were probably coated with glue and plaster, then gesso, and finally painted and sometimes gilded. Their subject matter includes plants and animals, and figure scuptures, both biblical and secular, the latter including hybrid monsters -- which may have naturalistic human heads -- as well as figures carrying out activities from daily life. The oak roof bosses in the cloisters of Lincoln Cathedral are particularly fine, though reduced in number from the original 100 to 60 and in many cases damaged. Originally the…


(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…

Painted and stamped cloth

(928 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Painting devices onto shields, banners and cloth street decorations, and even on to ecclesiastical textiles (see Maaseik) was a technique that was probably practised well before the 11th century. Painted cloths hanging in the streets for a royal baptism are mentioned by Gregory of Tours ( c. 576) and coloured cloths ornamented with images mentioned by the English ecclesiastic, Aldhelm, in the 7th to 8th century, may also have been painted. However, the practice of cloth painting is only well documented from the 14th century when the commissioning of designers and painters was …


(13 words)

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


(9 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
See pouches and purses Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Naming of garments in Old English

(2,210 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Old English clothing vocabulary is extensive, containing synonyms and overlaps, and suggesting a much greater range of garments than contemporary art implies. Pairs of words can sometimes be found: a compound may exist alongside a simplex word, such as sceanc-bend and wining, both names for garters, and native compounds alongside synonymous Latin loans. Some such compounds may have been scholarly coinages, nonce words found only in glossaries, but some of them manifestly are not: when Bishop Theodred bequeathed vestments which he had bought in Pavia, he called them by the name mæsse-h…


(518 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Textiles described as 'powdered' ( poudrata, pulverizato) were usually of rich cloth which was further augmented by decorative motifs worked by embroiderers. The decorations were often complex, requiring draughtsmen to design as well as embroiderers and other craftsmen to make them, such as the gold roses, each of eight petals, bordered with white pearls, each with a central S worked in pearls, which powdered a brown garment of the expensive wool cloth called scarlet made for Queen Philippa in 1350-2.…


(1,195 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Buckles which are unmistakably dress accessories are found as grave-goods in cemeteries of the early Anglo-Saxon period. They are usually, judging from their position, belt buckles, and are found with both sexes, but not in every burial by any means; they are less common than brooches. Some small buckles evidently attached straps to the girdle (see girdle: ante-1100), and there are a very few shoe buckles attested from Kent (see shoes). Occupation sites of the later Middle Ages have yielded many…


(2,481 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The warp-weighted loom Known from antiquity, the warp-weighted loom is a vertical loom, on which warp threads are suspended from a horizontal beam and attached to loomweights at the bottom. The loom consists of two wooden uprights, to the top of which a vertical wooden cloth beam is attached. The beam may be made to rotate so that finished cloth can be wound onto it. Brackets on the uprights support one or more heddle rods. As a preliminary to weaving, the warp threads may be attached to a cord which is in turn attached to the cloth beam. Alternatively, a tablet-woven…

Maternity and nursing garments

(640 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The Germanic female folk costume worn by Anglo-Saxon women in the 5th and 6th centuries, and later by Viking women, is so well-suited to the changing shape and function of the reproductive female body that it probably evolved for that purpose. The tubular 'peplos'-type gown, clasped at each shoulder by brooches, could easily be lowered at one side for breastfeeding, and indeed this is shown on a 5th-century continental ivory, the Halberstadt Diptych. The gown itself was straight, and by adjusting the position of the girdle or removing it altogether, the woman c…


(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…


(71 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The word thong derives from Old English þwang. Thongs were used for fastening shoes, at least in the early medieval period, by wrapping the strips of leather round the ankles. They could also be utilised for securing packages of goods to be transported, for fastening items together and for securing dress accessories to the belt or girdle (see girdle: ante-1100) Gale R. Owen-Crocker

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…

Roof bosses

(11 words)

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

Body Garments: ante-1100

(2,166 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Women's garments The vast majority of evidence is from Anglo-Saxon England, from cemetery excavation and manuscript illuminations. Archaeological evidence indicates that in most regions of Anglo-Saxon England in the 5th and 6th centuries women wore a tubular garment (often described today by the Greek term peplos), which was clasped together on the shoulders. This female costume, with minor variations, has appeared at various eras from Scandinavia in the north to as far south as Algeria, from Greece, Austria and Hungary in the east to Engl…


(389 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The cope is a semi-circular, or D-shaped, outer garment. The straight side is draped round the neck and hangs open down the front where it is clasped by a short strip of embroidery or a metal brooch called a morse. By the 13th century the most elaborate morses were of silver or gold and jewelled. At this period copes were also decorated with tasselli , decorative tassels, which might take the form of gold or silver plates set with gemstones, which could be worn in pairs, each bearing associated images (such as St Stephen and St Thomas Becket, who were regula…
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