Sword-Belt Fittings (2001 guide)

Please note that this guide has not been fundamentally changed from the original print version of the Finds Recording Guide (Geake 2001), written when the database contained just 8,800 non-numismatic records.

Introduction

Sword-belt fittings proliferated in the 16th and 17th centuries, and consist of plates with suspension loops (to be fitted onto the belt) and plates with hooks (to be fitted onto the scabbard straps) (Read 2008, 219-229). Since the original guide was published (Geake 2001), Read (2008, 208-212) has suggested that further toggling clasps were also sword-belt fittings. Use the term ‘sword belt fitting’ for both; although in theory the hooked plates are part of the scabbard fittings, in practice they can be hard to distinguish and it is better to group them together. The wiggly outlines can be very hard to describe; don’t let that put you off trying! It is particularly important not to use words such as ‘top’ for sword-belt fittings, as they tend to be illustrated with hooks at the bottom but worn with hooks at the top. Some are undecorated, but many have scrolled foliage decoration.

Do not confuse these fittings with Roman ‘tie-loops’ from lorica segmentata – see Bishop and Coulston (1993; fig. 52). Tie-loops are well made and often decorated with concentric circles, and they always have copper-alloy rivets.

PAS object type to be used

Use STRAP FITTING

PAS object classification to be used

Add ‘sword belt fitting’ to the Classification field

Date

Sword-belt fittings proliferated in the 16th and 17th centuries. A fitting from Chelmsford was found in a context dated to a site period of c. 1550-1590 (Cunningham and Drury 1985, 41, 43; fig. 26, no. 7; as Read 2008, 219; no. 790). It was found with a buckle and strap-slide with comparable foliate decoration. In Newcastle, a toggling clasp (as Read no. 754) was found in context dated to the second half of the 16th century (Harbottle and Ellison 1981, 179-180; fig. 39, no. 470), while a foliate hooked plate (as Read no. 793) was found in a late 16th-century context Harbottle and Ellison 1981, 179-180; fig. 39, no. 476). In London a hooked fitting with two attachment plates is dated c. 1630-1650 (Egan 2005, 194; fig. 181, no. 1084). 

Examples

Post-medieval sword-belt fittings: Toggling clasp hook part, as Read nos 753, 754 (top left, HAMP-46B8F1); toggling clasp eye part, as Read nos 753, 755 (centre left, HAMP-D6DAF2); plate with three hanging plates, as Read 793 (bottom left, BERK-D0AB56); plate with two hanging plates (right, see Read no. 790). Copyright: Winchester Museums Service; The Portable Antiquities Scheme; Kent County Council; CC-BY-SA licence)
Post-medieval sword-belt fittings: Toggling clasp hook part, as Read nos 753, 754 (top left, HAMP-46B8F1); toggling clasp eye part, as Read nos 753, 755 (centre left, HAMP-D6DAF2); plate with three hanging plates, as Read 793 (bottom left, BERK-D0AB56); plate with two hanging plates (right, see Read no. 790). Copyright: Winchester Museums Service; The Portable Antiquities Scheme; Kent County Council; CC-BY-SA licence)

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Key references

Read 2008