Bridle Bosses


Bridle bosses are bossed mounts most of which would have been attached to curb bits.  They can usually be distinguished from other bossed mounts that would have decorated harnesses, particularly when considerable iron corrosion product is present, but qualifiers can be employed when recording such objects as necessary.

PAS object type(s) to be used

Use BRIDLE BIT for bridle bosses (they were formerly categorised under Harness Mount in the FRG (2001, 54))

PAS object classifications and sub-classifications to be used

Use ‘boss’ in the Classification field

Terms to use in the description

Use domed when describing the centre, and rim for the edge.


Bridle bosses are known from the medieval period, but are most common from the post-medieval period.

Medieval bridle bosses

Medieval bridle bosses are rare; they occur both in copper alloy and in iron.  They can be discoidal, sometimes dished (slightly concave), with a single attachment holes at their centre.  Alternatively, they can be bossed (domed, convex) at their centre, around which is a flat rim perforated for multiple rivets, usually three or four.  Sometimes the rivets can have heads in the form of flowers (e.g. Goodall in Saunders ed. 2012, 142; fig. 35).


Dished examples are known from London from ceramic phases 11 and 12 and can thus be tentatively dated c. 1350-1450 (Clark 2004, 49; no. 2; Egan in Clark 2004, 54; nos 9, 12), with examples known from paintings of the mid 15th century. Domed examples, in iron, have wide date ranges encompassing c. 1250-1400 or later (Goodall 2011, 379; refs L80-L82); although elsewhere non-ferrous examples tend to be dated from the late 15th century onwards (Ward Perkins 1940; 1993, 85) – see also post-medieval bridle bosses (below).


Medieval bridle boss

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Post-medieval bridle bosses

It can be hard to distinguish certain post-medieval bridle bosses as they are a continuum with late medieval forms (e.g. Egan 2005). They were generally fixed with two rivets, occasionally more. Read (1995, 148) attributes elaborate, often multifoil examples in openwork in both copper alloys and lead/tin alloy, to the 17th century. One example from Exeter depicting a horse and rider comes from a context dated c. 1620-1650 (Goodall in Allan 1984, 343; no. 158); it is identical to YORYM-E8B8C5. In the 18th century such bosses were far plainer, decorated only with concentric grooves; they can also be identified by the presence of two projecting tabs for the rivets (Hume 1978, 23).


As noted, there is broad continuity of form from the late medieval period.  Some of the pointers above can be used to refine date. Dating given in Bailey (1992) should be treated with caution.


Post-medieval bridle boss, SUSS-025985 (copyright: Sussex Archaeological Society; CC-BY licence)
Post-medieval bridle boss, SUSS-025985 (copyright: Sussex Archaeological Society; CC-BY licence)

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Key references

Clark 2004

Hume 1978

Read 1995