Cheekpieces

Introduction

Cheekpieces are separate components of snaffle bits from bridles; they were used in pairs, one at each end of the bit. They either had a hole through which a bit’s mouthpiece travelled and a loop for attaching the cheek strap of a bridle (in the late early-medieval period), or they were looped through the end-loops of a mouthpiece link of a bit (in the other periods). For cheekpieces from helmets see Helmet.

PAS object type to be used

Use BRIDLE BIT (this is a change from the FRG (Geake coord. 2001, 55) where they were previously ‘Bridle Fittings’)

PAS object classifications and sub-classifications to be used

Use cheekpiece in the Classification field for all periods. For late early-medieval and medieval cheekpieces the Sub-classification field can be completed according to details in the individual sub-sections below.

Date

Cheekpieces are known from the Iron Age, Roman, early early-medieval period, late early-medieval/medieval period, medieval period and the post-medieval period.

Iron Age cheekpieces

Iron Age cheekpieces are integral to the bit, rather than being separate, as in later periods (see below).  Effectively large rings, they are often described as side-rings.

For object sometimes described as Iron Age ‘cheekpieces’ that look rather like guards from daggers, see Harness Fittings.

Roman cheekpieces

Roman cheekpieces are sometimes called ‘side plates’ in the literature, but functioned like cheekpieces from other periods. They are broadly circular with a central perforation for the mouthpiece links, and a trapezoidal loop for attachment to the cheek strap (Nicolay 2007, 363; pl. 52, no. 291.43). They can also feature a circular loop set at somewhere around 90 degrees to the trapezoidal loop, for attachment to the reins.

Roman bridle cheekpiece (WMID-F11707). Copyright: Birmingham Museums Trust; CC-BY licence)
Roman bridle cheekpiece (WMID-F11707). Copyright: Birmingham Museums Trust; CC-BY licence)

Early Early-medieval cheekpieces

These are very rare compared to later examples from the 11th century. They take a ‘bar’ form and feature loops, with opposing projections, to which the mouthpiece link was connected (Fern 2005). The reins and cheek strap were attached to the bar bits by terminal riveted loops.

Late Early-medieval cheekpieces

Late early-medieval cheekpieces are distinctive because they are mostly made in copper alloy and decorated. Williams (2007), has identified three types.

PAS object classifications and sub-classifications to be used

Use ‘cheekpiece’ in the Classification field, as usual.

Williams types can be used for cheekpieces of this period (Williams 2007).  Use in the Sub-classification field in this format: Williams Type 1

Terms to use in the description

Late early-medieval cheekpieces have flat plates and central projecting arms.  The arms terminate in a loop that can be knobbed (with three knobs) or plain.  They are often decorated in versions of the Late Viking art style of Ringerike (regarding which see Kershaw 2010).

Measurements

Widths are taken across the plates; lengths are taken at right angles to this, including along the arms and loops.  Some fragments will be difficult to orientate, in which case the length is the longest extant dimension.

Date

Use appears to have been confined to the late early-medieval period, with continuation into the medieval period (11th century AD).  The appropriate Broad Period is EARLY MEDIEVAL based on predominant Ringerike-style decoration (Williams 2007, 1).

Examples

Williams Type 1 cheekpiece
Williams Type 1 cheekpiece (copyright: Sussex Archaeological Society; CC-BY licence)

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Medieval cheekpieces

These occur in a variety of forms based on a ring, or loop, with extensions, depending on type. They were retained in the terminal loops of mouthpieces on snaffle bits. Few examples have been recorded by the PAS as most were made of iron. Furthermore, simple rings (Ward Perkins Type A) are undiagnostic when not found in association with mouthpieces. Only cheekpieces of Ward Perkins Type D had been traced in copper alloy (Ward Perkins 1993, 83; fig. 20.2; Clark 2004, 48; fig. 33), but a developed form of Type C now has in addition. Type C seems to be the most common form (Goodall 2011, 365).

PAS object classifications and sub-classifications to be used

Use cheekpiece in the Classification field, as usual

Ward Perkins’s typology remains useful (Ward Perkins 1993 (1940), 80; fig. 19a; reproduced in Clark 2004 (1995), 47; fig. 30; and Goodall 2011, 365; fig. 13.2). Use in the Sub-classification field in this format: Ward Perkins Type C

Date

For detailed dating please consult the references

Examples

Ward Perkins Type D cheekpiece
Ward Perkins Type D cheekpiece (Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service; CC-BY licence)

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Post-medieval cheekpieces

Some copper-alloy cheekpieces of Irish association are known, previously thought to be of early-medieval date; dating is uncertain but seems centred on the 16th century. They represent an animal in openwork, or a floriate design (Wheeler 1935).

Occasionally fragments of recent ‘Liverpool’ curb bits get recorded.

Examples

Post-medieval bridle cheekpiece
Post-medieval bridle cheekpiece (copyright: Birmingham Museums Trust; CC-BY licence)

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Key references

Williams 2007

Ward Perkins 1993

Clark 2004