Strap-Slides

Introduction

Strap-slides are looped metal fittings that were set at right angles to a strap to hold down the free end. They often have apertures that are greater than double the strap thickness to allow objects mounted to straps such as bar mounts and strap-ends to pass through them; the arched top on certain medieval examples of pentagonal form particularly facilitated this.

You may see them referred to as ‘strap loops’ (for example, medieval examples in Egan and Pritchard 2002, 229-335). ‘Strap loop’ is a term already in use for a different kind of strap fitting, one with a penannular loop ending in plates to attach to the strap. Examples are known of early-medieval  date, where they are sometimes decorated with transverse grooves (e.g. KENT-3AB096 and SF5246); these are known both from 7th-century graves (Geake 1997, fig. 4.17) and from mid 9th-century contexts (Evans and Loveluck 2009, 23-4, nos. 138-9). Others are stylistically of medieval date, with dome-headed rivets and gilding (e.g.  SUSS-155187 and PUBLIC-07E575).

PAS object type to be used

Use STRAP FITTING.

PAS object classification to be used

Use ‘strap slide’.

Date

Strap-slides are known from the Roman, early-medieval and medieval periods.  Their use tended to be as harness fittings in the Roman period, spur and belt fittings in the early-medieval period, and as general dress accessories in the medieval period.

Roman strap-slides

Strap-slides from this period tend to have a widened plate above a central angular loop.  The plates can take many forms, a large selection of which are illustrated by Nicolay (2007, 392-395; pl. 81-84): rectangular, square, even phallic.

Date

Examples range from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD, depending on form.  Certain examples might be dated more precisely by having plate forms comparable to other object types, such as button-and-loop fasteners.

Examples

Roman strap-slide (YORYM-6773CC)
Roman strap-slide (YORYM-6773CC) Copyright: All rights reserved; CC-BY licence)
Roman strap-slide (BH-3B14CB)
Roman strap-slide (BH-3B14CB) Copyright: All rights reserved; CC-BY licence)

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Early-medieval strap-slides

Strap-slides from this period tend to have a widened plate above a central angular loop.  Such plates can be square, rectangular or oval, and tend to have moulded decoration which aids their dating.  Some are known to have been from spur straps having been found in association with spurs and strap-ends at the burial at Balladoole, Isle of Man, for example (Bersu and Wilson 1966, 7), although they could have been from garters, boots, or belts in the case of the largest.

Date

Such strap-slides are known from the (late) middle or late early-medieval period.  They tend to be defined from the decorative style of their plate, which can be culturally Carolingian or Viking.  In respect of the latter, strap slides are known decorated in the Borre style of the late 9th and 10th centuries (Kershaw 2015, 89-90; fig. 6.2).  Others are too plain to enable such attribution, such as the lozengiform pair found in the otherwise eminently stylistically distinctive Trewhiddle hoard of c. 872-875 (Wilson 1964, 190/Pl. XXXVII; nos 101, 102), or iron examples such as those known from Coppergate, York.

Examples

Late early-medieval strap-slide with Borre-style decoration (HAMP-767FD8)
Late early-medieval strap-slide with Borre-style decoration (HAMP-767FD8) Copyright: Winchester Museums Service; CC-BY licence)

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Medieval strap-slides

In the literature the medieval types currently known have been divided by form and by construction.  Here it is suggested that division by construction is the more useful as it seems to have implications for dating.

The internal length of a strap-slide, if particularly long, might imply that it was for use on a strap embellished with mounts.  The internal width, measured at the base of the loop, give an indication of the width of the strap for which it was used.  The strap widths estimated from the internal widths across the corpus found at Meols ranged from c. 8 mm at the narrowest to c. 35 mm at the widest (Egan in Griffiths et al. 2007, 127-132), varying somewhat across the different forms of strap-slide.  The narrowest could conceivably have been used on spur leathers, as with an example illustrated in Egan and Pritchard (2002, 107; fig. 69); wider examples need not have been used on girdles, as a strap-slide surviving on an archer’s wrist guard shows (Egan and Pritchard (2002, 229; fig. 143).  Note that occasionally strap-slides were converted into buckles, through the addition of a pin, and sometimes plate; these are to be recorded under BUCKLE.

Terms to use in the description

The main division is into those with pairs of internal projections (dating to the late 12th to late 14th century), those with an integral rivet (thought at present to be always external), on which a separate rove sometimes survives, and those with a separate rivet (thought at present to be always internal).

Those with internal projections would have been looped onto the strap in the smaller gap between the projections and the base.  These strap-slides can be trapezoidal, rectangular, rectilinear with a curved top, or have an oval upper loop.  Trapezoidal examples can have embellishing knops, mainly at the centre, in the way of bar mounts.

Medieval strap-slide of trapezoidal form with internal projections. Note the top is decorated in resemblance of a bar mount (LIN-3AF3E1)
Medieval strap-slide of trapezoidal form with internal projections. Note the top is decorated in resemblance of a bar mount (LIN-3AF3E1) Copyright: Lincolnshire County Council; CC-BY licence)

Strap-slides with an integral rivet can be oval, D-shaped, rectangular, trapezoidal or pentagonal.  Certain D-shaped examples have a collared knop in the middle of their upper side, and were presumably en suite with buckles (of Cassels Type 1.5C) and pendent loops with the same decoration.  An unusual example features a crowned bust on its upper edge, while another has a shield-shaped plate on the top (Griffiths 1989, 4; no. 11); this latter was probably used on horse-harness.

Medieval strap-slide of trapezoidal form with external rivet (YORYM-38A6A4)
Medieval strap-slide of trapezoidal form with external rivet (YORYM-38A6A4) Copyright: York Museums Trust; CC-BY licence)

The type with a separate internal rivet can be oval, D-shaped (including the form with collared knop), rectangular, trapezoidal or pentagonal.  In the absence of the rivet look for the hole around the centre of the bottom side.

Medieval strap-slide of pentagonal form with separate internal rivet (SUR-DC1092)
Medieval strap-slide of pentagonal form with separate internal rivet (SUR-DC1092) Copyright: Surrey County Council; CC-BY licence)

A final type of probable strap-slide features an integral bar close to its bottom side, between the two of which the strap would have passed, and a zoomorphic or anthropomorphic projection, sometimes showing a crowned king, on it upper edge (see Mills in Ivens et al. 1995, 356; fig. 156.112, Egan in Griffiths et al. 2007, 95; pl. 15, nos 637-641), catalogued as buckles).

Medieval strap-slide of double-looped form depicting crowned king (BH-948960)
Medieval strap-slide of double-looped form depicting crowned king (BH-948960) Copyright: St. Albans District Council; CC-BY licence)

Date

Of the types, those with internal projections have the earliest start date, with trapezoidal examples found in London from phases beginning c. 1150; this type of construction appears to endure until the 14th century.  Based on dating evidence from London, examples both with an integral rivet and a separate rivet tend to be found in later 13th- and 14th-century contexts. 

Examples

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Key references

Egan and Pritchard 2002

Egan in Griffiths et al. 2007