MEDIEVAL HARNESS PENDANTS |
His helm of latoun bright, His sadel was of rewel bone, His bridel as the sonne shone, Or as the moon light
Chaucer - Rime of Sire Thopas
The first two pages of this article are based on my series published in Treasure Hunting magazine during 1986-7. The gallery that follows is comprised of pictures that I have collected since that time. Much of this new information is spread across the internet and wherever possible links have been provided to make this information more easily accessible. I would be pleased to see any other pendants and fittings particularly those that are not already featured but please note I do not have the reference material to answer questions on heraldry and genealogy.
During the Medieval period the various leather straps that make up the harness of horses were often elaborately decorated with bells, studs, bosses and pendants. Our evidence for this is contained in various illuminated manuscripts from the 12thC onwards, on cast bronze medieval representations of horses and in contemporary document sources. It is clear from the writings of Chaucer and from manuscript illustrations of the time that medieval horse harness was often copiously studded with colourful and glittering decoration. Thus we have in the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales writing of a Monk in the 1380's:-
The five main forms of the pendants were published in the London Museum Medieval Catalogue in 1940 and to those we can now add many more that have been discovered due to the activities of metal detectors. In the heraldic varieties the devices or charges are cut into the ground and filled with coloured enamels. The ground or field is then gilded or tinned to represent the metals Or (gold) and Argent (silver). These true heraldic pendants are believed to date mainly from the late-13thC and through the 14thC. The non-heraldic varieties some of which will certainly precede this date are often gilded or tinned too and can vary from highly decorated to plain. Some have punched or tooled decoration, some with a separate decorative stud through the centre. The pendant and hanger in 1 below and another 1.2 in the gallery ((here) appear to have particularly early decorative features in common with such items as 11thC stirrup-strap mounts. These could be pushing the accepted dating horizon and may well be of 11th-12thC date. Archaeologically dated specimens of scallop shell and openwork lozenge design have been dated as early as mid-to-late 12th century at Castle Acre Castle.4 Some square, rectangular and lozenge forms have the same clustered circle or ring decoration that is also used on base-metal jewellery. A ring-brooch with similar decoration found in Coventry was dated on numismatic evidence to c1298. Although this may have been an heirloom the possibility of the decorative style being in vogue for a long period must be considered. An example of the scallop shell type with this decoration can be seen in the gallery - number 1.15 (here). Pictured in the gallery fig.3.17 (here) is a small lead lozengiform pendant (30mm across the flats). The purpose of this piece is uncertain but it seems sensible to flag this piece up here as Ashley 5 (quoting Egan) illustrates a lead shield-shaped piece that may have been "a trial piece or 'patron', a durable master form which would have been pressed into still-damp clay moulds for multiple production". .
Another form that has now been recognised is the figural zoomorphic and in these the lion 35 & 36 below, eagle (here) and boar (here) have been noted. Other examples on the PAS database are listed on the links page (here). A rare example of an eagle pendant complete with matching hanger can be seen in Benet's Artefacts. 6 The lion amongst the heraldic pendants is a common device but this representation on a rectangular pendant certainly pre-dates the true heraldic varieties (here). Pendants that are suspended within a separate frame are also now well known. Some of the most interesting are those with legends around in the style of a seal matrix (though on these pendants the letters are raised). A detector find posted on the UKDetectorNet forum 28 below is interesting evidence that this type was designed to swing within an outer frame. 7 Although the legend is too worn to be deciphered there are four examples known to me in which a reading has been possible. PAS database NARC-199 (here) has a clear legend of religious sentiment +AVE MARIA GRACIA PLENA and another on the same database YORYMB969 (not illustrated) has the same legend. Nick Griffiths also mentions one that has the legend IESVICIENLUIDAMI (Of. - 'I am here in place of a friend').8 Another example with the same loyal legend and a central eagle device can be seen in the gallery figs.2.27-28 (here). Number 28 below (though not read) does appear to be yet another different legend. With this new evidence that these small pendants with legends were attached to frames in the manner of many other harness pendants, the suggestion that they may have been worn on the person is now probably less likely. Two other examples may be seen on the Interesting Shop site (link at bottom of page 2) or (here).
Two unusual quatrefoil pendants with crowned initial letters, a device familiar from a well-known type of late-medieval seal ring, are pictured in fig.15 below and in the gallery fig.3.16 (here). These seal rings are usually given a 15thC date although their wax impressions have been found on documents from the late-14thC onward. Sometimes the letter on the seal tallies with the Christian name on the document but this is not always the case and so their meaning is not always entirely certain. An example of this type of seal or signet ring can be seen (here). This harness pendant is likely therefore to be a late example of the enamelled type. Two published pendants one a crowned 'M' and the other a crowned 'I' can be seen in Griffiths (fig.49:62-63 op. cit.8). Similar letters appear on enamelled mounts with stud fixings some of which may also have been used on harness. Published examples include another crowned 'R' (Ashley fig.191 op. cit.5) and in Cherry (fig.4:22)9 a crowned 'M'. The example in the gallery here (3.16) also has a small dragon-like beast under the letter that is very similar to that on a mount in Ashley’s catalogue - fig.223. There he suggests that beasts and monsters used to fill the space around the central shield would later evolve into true heraldic supporters.
Quite a few French pendants parallel those found in England and others said to be mainly Spanish were exhibited in New York in 1955. Since that time some of those listed in the exhibition catalogue have been found in England. This may be due to cultural exchange during the Crusades to the Holy Land when knights from many European countries joined together to halt the Muslim advance. It has also been suggested that the military campaigns of Edward I may in part be responsible for the increase in use of the enamelled heraldic types from the late-13thC onward.10
Pendants - All are copper-alloy.
1. Openwork hanger and pendant. Anglo-Scandinavian decorative elements may suggest this is a very early pendant – 11th-12thC??
For similar decoration see Williams Type A stirrup-strap mounts etc.
2. Small round pendant with punched circle decoration hanging within a tear drop shape frame. Traces of gilt. This may be another early pendant.
Author - Lincolnshire DMV.
3. Plain circular (dished) pendant and hanger with turned over suspension lugs - may originally have been gilt. This type appears in a wide range of sizes.
B. Gibson, Wiltshire.
4. Rectangular pendant with six horizontal divisions. The broken hanger has an excessively long spindle and may be from a multiple hanger.
A. Casey, Lincolnshire.
5. Shield-shape pendant - a winged horse in blue enamel, the wing outlined in red enamel with three red enamel ribs (marks of cadency?), the field originally gilt.
6. Shield-shape heraldic pendant. Per pale gules, two water bougets argent, and barry of six, argent and gules - Roos (Ross) and Grey.11 Author - Lincs. DMV
7. Shield-shape pendant mount in situ. Six rosettes in red enamel on a silver field enclosing a silver crescent in shield-shape escutcheon - the enamelled field lost.
8. Shield-shape pendant with raised equal-armed cross. No traces of enamel or plating remain. Author - Lincolnshire DMV.
9. Small shield shape pendant with chequered field and complete with hanger. The suspension lugs are turned over to secure the spindle. A. Casey, Lincolnshire.
10. Shield shape pendant charged with rampant lion.
11. Small shield shape pendant charged with a rampant lion. Gilt but no enamel remains in the field. J. M. Tootell, Lincolnshire.
12. Shield shape pendant with hanger. Gilt cross potance with five red mullets on a red field. These arms have been attributed to Sir Thomas Ughtred who bore them at the siege of Calais (1345-8). A. Gibbens, Yorkshire.
13. Quatrefoil pendant with four silver fleur-de-lis on a blue field enclosing a silver lion passant on a red field within a square silver escutcheon.
This appears to be a stock type- similar pendants exist from Writtle12 and Goltho.13
14. Sexfoil (?) pendant with lion rampant- enamelling lost. Traces of gilt in field. Author - Lincolnshire DMV.
15. Quatrefoil pendant with crowned letter ‘H’ and complete with stud hanger. The crown of red enamel - the 'H' now appears white. J. Hancocks, Sussex.
16. Quatrefoil pendant with shield shape escutcheon of red enamel charged with two crossed (?) gilt keys. These arms are attributed to a member of the Chamberlain family in the Dering Roll from the reign of Henry III (1216-72). J. Barron, Sussex.
17. Sexfoil pendant with separate central stud, suspended inside a similarly lobed frame - the whole tinned silver. Author - Lincolnshire DMV.
18. Six compartments enclosing floral ornament with six hatched rays around. Hole in centre for decorative stud. P. Crookes, Lincolnshire
19. Circular pendant with six lobes around and central boss with six radiating ribs. The compartments may have been enamelled. A. Casey, Lincolnshire.
20. Lozenge shape pendant with quartered arms – France quartering England.
21. Circular sheet metal pendant with separate dome-headed stud. No decoration or traces of plating.
22. Fleur-de-lis pendant with matching hanger, both heavily gilt. The hanger retains one separate rivet and has a hole for another. Pendant also holed.
Sheet metal or very finely cast with turned-over suspension lugs on hanger. Author - Lincolnshire DMV.
23. Small rectangular pendant with separate central stud on a raised boss. The centre may once have been enamelled. Author - Lincolnshire DMV.
24. An equal-armed Greek cross with heavy gilt plating. A. Casey, Lincolnshire.
25. Decorative gilt pendant frame with glass or crystal bead suspended within.
26. Hexafoil gilt pendant frame with crystal bead suspended within. Complete with hanger.
27. Circular pendant with legend around. Central shield with cross (red enamel). Frame has traces of gilt. Lynda Winter and Gordon Heritage, Buckinghamshire.
28. Circular gilt pendant with central heater shield with red enamel in cross. Legend around not deciphered.
29. Quatrefoil gilt pendant frame with four ball-ended rays within which swings a quatrefoil gilt pendant. Hadleigh Castle, Essex in early-14th century context.
30. Sexfoil pendant frame within which swings a six-lobed pendant with human face. After a drawing supplied by R. Tarrant, Kent.
31. Unusual pendant and hanger, probably based on a fleur-de-lis design with ring decoration and central human face.
After a drawing in 'Ancient Meols .. .' by Reverend A. Hume (1863).
32. Lozenge shape gilt pendant with four lobes around. Domed centre with ring clustered decoration around.
Kidwelly Castle, Carmarthenshire said to be in a context of 1275-1320.
33. Cinquefoil pendant with central shield charged with a cross flory between five martlets - to the left a key, to the right a sword. From Newark Priory, Sussex.
34. Circular pendant with six lobes around that represent scallop shells. Central roundel of red enamel bordered by pellets and charged with a scallop shell.
From Brooklands, Surrey in a context of 1200-1325.
35. Lion passant with hanger.
36. Rampant lion pendant complete with hanger. Animal pendants are quite rare - this example is drawn from a photograph in 'Detecting - the End Results' by R A Green (Treasure Hunting, October 1984). A pendant depicting an eagle from Northolt Manor may also be from harness.
1.   Coghill N. 1958 - Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales. - Penguin modern translation. Revised edition.
2a. Brass Amulets For Harness
2b. Legend Of Gems
3.   Read B. 2001 - Metal Artefacts of Antiquity Vol.1. (page 48 and fig.34: item 435).
4.   Coad J G and Streeten A D F. 1982 - Excavations at Castle Acre Castle, Norfolk 1972-7. - Archaeological Journal 139. (fig.44: no's 35-37).
5.   Ashley S. 2002 - Medieval Armorial Horse Furniture in Norfolk. - East Anglian Archaeology Report 101. (page 4 and fig.3).
6.   Murawski P. 2000 - Benet's Artefacts. (1st edition). (page 184: M08-0108).
7.   My thanks to Lynda Winter and Gordon Heritage for this information.
8.   Griffiths N. 1995 - Harness Pendants and Associated Fittings. - in Clark (ed) The Medieval Horse and it's Equipment. (p.63).
9.   Cherry J. 1991 - Harness Pendants. - in Saunders (ed) Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum Medieval Catalogue. (p.23 and fig.4:22).
10. Griffiths N. 1986 – Medieval Harness Pendants. - Finds Research Group Datasheet 5.
11. Mills N. 1999 - Medieval Artefacts. (page 66: NM.180).
12. Rahn P. 1969 - Excavations at King John's Hunting Lodge, Writtle. - Society Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series 3. (fig 49: no.106).
13. Beresford G. 1975 - Goltho and Barton Blount. - Society Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series 6. (fig 44: no 33).
Copyright © January 2005, C J's Metal Detecting Pages, All Rights Reserved.