WMID-050787: Medieval Iron woodman's axe

Rights Holder: Birmingham Museums Trust
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Unique ID: WMID-050787

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

A large and fairly well preserved wrought iron axe head of probable medieval date, almost certainly a woodman's axe. Iron axes are notoriously difficult to date when discovered outside of a dated archaeological context as the general form of axes has continued from at least as early as the Roman period (Manning 1976, 3). However, it has been suggested that as a general rule medieval axes are larger than those of earlier date, and normally had a simple socket, lacking the projecting hammer-end seen in many Roman examples (Ward-Perkins 1940, 56). This example has a blade which is almost triangular in plan, flaring towards the tip of the blade. The butt is heavy and is almost circular in plan, with curved wings projecting above and below the socket. The butt terminates in a flat edge, presumably to enable the axe to be struck with a mallet during woodcutting if neccesary. The socket is simple and oval in shape, measuring 52 mm long by 41 mm wide. The axe itself measures 247 mm in length with a blade which measures approximately 85 mm across at the tip. The butt measures 67 mm from top to bottom and the axe is 51 mm thick at the flat rear of the butt. The axe head is largely complete, although it has suffered some damage at the tip of the blade, probably a result of the metal becoming brittle through ferrous corrosion rather than through use in the past.

The present example bears comparison with an example illustrated in the London Museum Catalogue (Ward-Perkins 1940, 57; Fig 12.4), which has a similar shaped butt with curved projecting wings, although it lacks the dramatic flare seen in the blade of this example. Nonetheless, the example supports a likely medieval date for this axe. Unfortunately it is difficult to suggest a more precise date.

Class: Woodman's

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: MEDIEVAL
Period from: MEDIEVAL
Period to: MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1100
Date to: Circa AD 1500

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 247 mm
Width: 85 mm
Thickness: 51 mm

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 1st October 2000 - Wednesday 31st October 2001

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Dr Tom Brindle
Identified by: Dr Tom Brindle

Materials and construction

Primary material: Iron
Manufacture method: Hand made
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

County or Unitary authority: Dudley (Metropolitan District)
District: Dudley (Metropolitan District)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SO9189
Four figure Latitude: 52.498828
Four figure longitude: -2.134003
1:25K map: SO9189
1:10K map: SO98NW
Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Other chance find
General landuse: Grassland, Heathland
Specific landuse: Character undetermined

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: WMID
Created: 8 years ago
Updated: 8 years ago

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