Metal detectors over the last few years have been responsible for locating very many buckles of the Medieval period. Although in common use at this time they had no great intrinsic value and therefore over the course of time they must have been melted down for scrap, discarded or simply lost. For the most part nobody bothered to save them and they thus became rare objects. Now that we have the means of relocating them again, comes the problem of identification. In particular, the dating of Medieval artefacts is still no easy task despite our knowledge of written records, manuscripts, brasses, and even bequests in Wills of buckles in precious metals.
So much attention in the past had been focused on the earlier annals of our history, particularly the Roman period, that we had in some instances more knowledge of Roman artefacts than their Medieval counterparts. I use the past tense as since the publication of The London Museum Medieval Catalogue in 1940 that imbalance has been redressed considerably. This publication still remains the artefact 'bible' for the period but due to the much larger corpus of material now available for study it is long overdue for some revision. Metal detectives have of course contributed to this increase of material in recent years and some of those finds are reflected in these articles. There must be many more types yet to be recorded and it is hoped that people will respond and have them recorded for the benefit of all.
As in my previous article I have attempted to place the buckles together in types with the addition here that each type now has a dating guide. I have also tried where possible to introduce a certain amount of chronology between the groups and to the buckles within each group. However I must stress that these dates can only be approximate as much work is still to be done if we are to attempt to use buckles as a dating guide in the manner of coins. The typology from here onwards is continuous through to the post-Medieval period.
TYPE IB - decorative single loop (no's 4-16). Date range 1250-1350AD.
A large group of buckles of small module many of which are reasonably common on Medieval sites. Number 12 has a thin sheet-bronze revolving cylinder on the loop. A distinctive feature on examples 15 and 16 are the two little projections on each side of the loop.
TYPE IC - 'crested' single loop (no's 17-22). Date range 1250-1350AD.
These are unusual buckles that are not so commonly found, no. 22 being the least rare of the type and is probably slightly later in the date range. Number 17 is not far removed from the zoomorphic style of the late-Saxon period. They are usually of a larger module than the preceding group.
TYPE ID - single loop and plate in one piece (no's 23-29). Date range 1250-1400AD.
Generally of small to medium size, these buckles were riveted directly onto a belt or strap. They may have served, amongst other uses, as spur buckles. Number 23 is early and may have originated in the later Saxon period. Number 26 has an openwork plate with a trefoil terminal, a feature that it shares with number 27.
TYPE IE - circular single loop (no's 30-33). Date range 1275-1425AD
Surprisingly these are not all that common. Numbers 30 and 31 are of iron with hooked terminals and are therefore spur buckles. Number 33 from my own collection is an interesting example. These have been mistaken for buckle brooches in the past but the finding of this specimen with a buckle-plate still attached to the central bar has disproved that theory. The tongue is unusual in having a flat circular section, the centre of which is filled with a white substance that may have been paste or the setting for a 'paste' jewel.
TYPE IF - semi-circular or 'D' shaped single loop (no's 34-48). Date range 1250-1500AD+
A large group with sizes varying from small to large which would probably benefit from further analysis into sub-types in the future to allow for closer dating. Number 34 is the largest and earliest (13thc) of this group and is of iron with engraving on the loop. Number 35 has a small buckle-plate with two rivets forming the centre of an engraved floral design - both buckle and plate are gilded. Number 36 was found in a context of 1330-1360AD - it is also gilded. Number 39 has a similar loop with the addition of a revolving cylinder. Number 37 is of an elongated shape and is from a context of 1300-1350AD. Number 38 is difficult to date as the type had a long life but this example came from a context of 1275-1400AD. Numbers 40 and 41 have broader loops with rectangular plates and two rivets and no. 41 has a design cast in the loop. Number 42 comes from a 14thc context. Numbers 44 and 45 have decorative loops that have been engraved or punched and the style is believed to be 14thc. Example 46 is also of the 14thc and has characteristic spurs on the ends of the bar. Numbers 47 and 48 have similar loops but no. 47 has a revolving cylinder similar to no. 39 - they are believed to date to the 1450-1500AD period.
TYPE IG - pointed single loop and forked spacer-plate (no's 49-51). Date range 1350-1400AD.
A common type of small to medium module in which the forked extensions of the loop form the base to which the separate top and bottom buckle-plates are soldered. The forks and backs of the plates are roughly filed to key the solder, traces of which may often be seen on examples that are parted. Number 51 shows the basic structure with 49 and 50 showing the plates attached. The 'rocker' or zigzag engraving on 49 is a common decorative tool on buckle-plates of this period.
TYPE IH - pointed single loop without forked spacer (no's 52-58). Date range 1300-1450AD.
Many of these are contemporary with the preceding group. Number 52 is larger than most and has a notch on the loop to locate the tongue as in examples 53 and 54. Number 55 has the normal plate in which the strap is inserted and secured by rivets and both this and the loop are 'tinned' with a white-metal coating. Numbers 56 and 57 are the standard type but number 58 is broader with a decorative edge and dates to the 15th century. Examples of Type IH buckles have been found in an early-mid 14thc context.1
TYPE IJ - trapezium shape single loop (no's 59-67). Date range 1350-1500AD.
This is quite a large group although they are not so commonly found. They vary from small to very large in size. Number 59 is early for this group and is quite rare. Number 60 is also early and has been gilded. Numbers 61-63 have decorated loops that have been punched in dot, circular and triangular designs. All three have a concave leading edge to the loop - a very distinctive feature. The buckle-plate of example 62 is engraved all over with various geometric designs. Number 65 can be dated to the late 15thc from a context of 1485AD. Number 66 is dated 1400-1425AD and number 67 is from a context of 1450-1500AD.
1. CBA Research Report 35 - The Austin Friars, Leicester; 1981