Vervels

Introduction

Small, generally circular rings known as ‘vervels’ connected the leather jesses or thongs, attached to a hunting bird’s legs, to its leash, which was used to tie the bird to its perch or block. Some may have been attached directly to the bird’s leg. The main function of the vervel was to denote the ownership of the bird, in case it was lost. Vervels can be associated with different levels of social elite through time; the majority seem to have been of precious metal, mostly silver, with only a few in copper alloy.  As such, most should be reported as items of Treasure.

PAS object type(s) to be used

Use VERVEL

PAS object classification to be used

Reserve the classification field for the term ‘heraldic’, as applicable (especially for Type C examples).  Use the sub-classification field to add the type as given by Lewis and Richardson (2017).  For example, Type C.iii

Terms to use in the description

Vervels are often of simple washer form, flat and with a sub-rectangular cross-section (Type A).  Taller, ring-like vervels are of Type B; these bear an external inscription.  Type C vervels feature a shield.  This may be separately made and attached to the loop, either horizontally (Type C.i) or vertically (Type C.ii).  On Type C.iii vervels the shield is cast integrally with the ring, set below it. Type D vervels are very rare and of hinged construction.

Date

Most of the vervels found by metal-detecting date from the late 16th and 17th centuries, though medieval examples have been recorded (Lewis and Richardson 2017, 194). Type D was a novelty of the early 17th century. The popularity of firearms, new breeds of hunting dogs and other rural pursuits saw a rapid decline in the sport of falconry from the early 18th century (Lewis and Richardson 2017, 194).

Medieval vervels

Medieval vervels are rare and can be identified by reference to the black-letter script used for their inscriptions.

Examples

Medieval vervel (WMID-1738A6)
Medieval vervel of Type A (WMID-1738A6) Copyright: Birmingham Museums Trust; CC-BY licence)

Post-medieval vervels

Post-medieval vervels tend to have inscriptions engraved in Roman capital letters or a lowercase non cursive seriffed script. Their date can potentially be established through identifying their former owner.

Examples

Post-medieval vervel of Type A (BH-64FD13)
Post-medieval vervel of Type A (BH-64FD13) Copyright: St. Albans District Council; CC-BY licence)
Post-medieval vervel of Type B (BH-0FB1A8)
Post-medieval vervel of Type B (BH-0FB1A8) Copyright: St. Albans District Council; CC-BY licence)
Post-medieval vervel of Type C.iii attributed to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (NMS-F2EEC6)
Post-medieval vervel of Type C.iii attributed to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (NMS-F2EEC6) Copyright: Norfolk County Council; CC-BY licence)

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Key references

Lewis and Richardson 2017