HAMP-A7E5D1: Medieval composite strap-end

Rights Holder: Winchester Museums Service
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Rights Holder: Winchester Museums Service
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Unique ID: HAMP-A7E5D1

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

A slightly corroded but complete copper-alloy late medieval composite strap-end (c. 15th century). It is a highly elaborate piece depicting a kneeling figure in an arched niche, with few parallels (see below for a discussion). The object is formed of a rectangular body and attachment end that expands to a circular base above a zoomorphic terminal knop.

It is a composite artefact formed of four main plates, two sheet plates of the form noted above, a spacer plate between, of comparable form but shorter (up to c. 70mm), not reaching the attachment end, and a plate showing a kneeling figure in a niche attached to the front; there are also smaller applied pieces at the terminal. At the attachment end the sheet plates have a central trifoliate removal (W.: 10.4mm, L.: c. 7mm). On the upper surface of the upper plate this is bounded by a double border formed of curved incisions, possibly produced by a roulette, creating an ogival (pointed) arch. The whole effect is like a Gothic window with tracery - there are hints of removals in the spandrels - and it echoes the arched niche in which the figure kneels. Both plates are perforated for a pair of rivets at the attachment end. These holes impinge on the outer of the incisions forming the arch shape on the upper surface. Below, the outer sheets are connected by further rivets which are flush to the sheets. They are chiefly visible on the lower surface of the lower sheet. There is a row of three rivets around halfway down the rectangular body with the middle rivet higher than the others. A second row of three are found around halfway down the circular element the middle rivet lower than the others.

Below the circular element (W.: 35.5mm) is a narrow, waisted protrusion (W.: 4.7mm) that expands into a zoomorphic terminal broadly triangular in plan with rounded corners (max. Th.: 6.2mm). To the lower sheet a separate piece has been applied to thicken the terminal; this is echoed on the upper surface by a more elaborate applied piece. The end of the spacer plate has been slightly truncated to give the effect of gaping jaws in profile. The upper surface has grooves and mouldings that delineate the eyes, brow, ears and snout. This is part of an applied piece that curves out from each upper point of the terminal to abut the lower bar of the applied niche.

This applied plate in the form of a moulded niche is elaborate. It is openwork, consisting of a main rectangular element with a triangular top surmounted by a transverse bar with a fleur-de-lis emerging from it. The lower bar is corroded but appears to be decorated with rectangular engravings. At each end of the lower bar is an upright with narrowed central spine forming the sides of the rectangle. From these springs the triangular pediment with horseshoe shaped internal recess. The sides of the pediment are parallel to the uprights for a short distance, before angling up, more or less in line with the top of the main circular body. The sides of the pediment are bevelled and decorated with rectangles separated by grooves with small nicked removals to one side of the outer edge. Above the arch is an incised six-pointed star. The transverse bar above is the shape of an elongated oval. The trefoil above has a low pointed central fleur and expanded side fleurs with points at each end on the upper edge. These latter nearly attain the width of the niche itself. The lis' upper surface is decorated with incised swirls.

The upper sheet is openwork within the centre of the moulded niche providing a deep field right down the the upper surface of the lower sheet. A subtle exception is a five-centred arch formed of the upper sheet and protruding just beyond the horseshoe arch mentioned giving the effect of elaborated tracery. Almost filling the open rectangular field in the centre of the moulded niche is a moulded human male figure kneeling left. The figure is well rendered and has his hands clasped and raised in an attitude of prayer. His hair is brushed up slightly at the back; an eye, nose and mouth are all delineated. His is wearing full length robes with collar delineated by a transverse incisions and folds by longitudinal ones; these perhaps include a hood. His sleeve even hangs at the elbow, and his foot is shown bent slightly. The figure is attached by a rivet around one third of the way up the body, the lowermost rivet of the group of three described above. This posture is common of images of donors in religious art, or the owners of many clerical seal matrices seen lowermost in the field kneeling in prayer before a saint above.

The upper surface of the main front plate of strap-end is further decorated at its edge with a double incised border around the circular element and sides of the rectangular part, stopping level with the top of the niche. On the lower part of the rectangular element the field is very finely incised with cross-hatching. The rounded segments of the circular element, to each side of the niche, are divided in two by a central double transverse line. Within each of the four areas thus created is a four-petalled flower in saltire with each petal formed of two incised lines with fine transverse incisions between; one of the petals is highly truncated. Between each petal and the border are generally two pairs of short double incisions. The lower surface is flat and plain.

This strap-end has corroded to a dark-green patina over a red-brown metal with areas of off-white corrosion product all over, in the most recessed areas in particular. Although there are no obvious traces of a white-metal coating or gilding this seems a plausible method of decoration for such a piece. The strap-end has suffered some damage at the attachment end with splayed and bent terminals and some abrasion and cracking. There is also a crack in the right hand upright on the moulded niche.

This artefact is difficult to parallel in the literature, with the closest examples found to date on this database - ESS-6BF5F4 (www.finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/227642), WMID2440 (http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/25096), WILT-839F07 (https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/117605) - the first striking in the similar treatment of the terminal. This is not to deny a tradition of composite strap-ends with this general form. Other strap-ends feature a niche within which is commonly found an acorn motif (see Egan and Pritchard 1991, 149; fig. 97), or even a saint (ibid., 153; ref. 717). The saint depicted on the published example and the strap-end quoted from this database may provide part of the key to this piece. People kneeling in donor like poses are commonly found on seal matrices of the 14th and 15th centuries, below saintly figures. It might be that this piece was a counterpart to an associated strap-fitting depicting a saint. A similar published example can be found illustrated in Fingerlin (1971, 430; ref. 376).


The recorder is indebted to Mr Alan Cracknell for his illustration of this artefact

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Include in MedArch

Class: composite

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: MEDIEVAL
Period to: MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1400
Date to: Circa AD 1500

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 81.2 mm
Width: 35.5 mm
Thickness: 4.2 mm
Weight: 30.65 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 29th August 2010

Personal details

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Other reference numbers

Other reference: E2902

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: South East (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: West Sussex (County)
District: Chichester (District)
To be known as: Sutton CP

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: GPS (from the finder)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

Author Publication Year Title Publication Place Publisher Pages Reference
Egan, G. and Pritchard, F. 2002 Dress Accessories, c.1150-c.1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London) (2002) London HMSO 149, 153 97, 717
Fingerlin, I. 1971 Gurtel des hohen und spaten Mittelalters Deutscher Kunstverlag 430 376

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: HAMP
Created: 11 years ago
Updated: 4 years ago

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