Archive for August, 2019

August 15, 2019

Fifer

IMG_9806Yet another of the figures carved by an unknown craftsman in (we think) 1636 or 37 and preserved in plaster in the Royal Armouries museum. This appears to be a young lad playing the fife, though part of his instrument has disappeared. He wears a short coat with plain shoulder wings, plain linen cuffs and a small linen band on his shirt. He’s also wearing a brimmed felt hat on his head.

IMG_9807From the front we can see his coat is unbuttoned at the bottom and that he has pulled his shirt out in a fashion you can see in some high status portraits from the time. He’s been given a plain shoulder belt for his sword and some latchet shoes tied with a ribbon

IMG_9808IMG_9809From the rear you can see the decorative knot that he’s tied in his garters.

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On the right hand side you can see the case for his fife, the feather plume in his hat and what looks like a regimental favour in his upturned brim.

 

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Here is the lad, photographed when the staircase and the figures were still in their rightful place in Cromwell House in Highgate, London

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August 13, 2019

Musketeer

IMG_9774Continuing the series of figures that used to adorn the staircase of the house that was once known at Cromwell house in Highgate in London we have this fellow, carved we presume like the stairs in 1636 or 37. The original carvings have disappeared, but they live on as plaster casts in the Royal Armouries stores where I was given access to take photos. Hitherto they have only been visible from one or at most two angles but as we have seen so far, viewing the whole figure throws up all sorts of interesting details, not least this chap. He is quite sad now, having lost grip of his musket (and some of his fingers), but the gun still survives. The front view shows his plain soldier’s coat, linen falling band, breeches, hose and latchet shoes. He is also accoutred as a musketeer with a bandolier of ‘boxes’ that carry the gunpowder charges for his musket, a sword belt and a morion helmet which we shall return to presently.

 

IMG_9775On his left hip hangs a simple cross hilted sword suspended on a simple shoulder belt.

IMG_9776Now this is interesting. In the small of his back is what would appear to be a hank of cord, neatly coiled or twisted in a pear drop shape, hanging from his bandolier. This must represent the match-cord that was used to fire his musket. As we shall see the match on his musket is represented as quite thick cord. We have wondered if the shape represents a ball that pulls easily if you need another piece to replace a burned down match in the heat of battle?

 

IMG_9777On his left side you can see the bullet bag on his bandolier and nice detail of his shoe ties, which are just plain laces unlike the fancy rosettes on the drummer we looked at earlier.

 

Here are three views of his musket. It’s quite short so we can either see it as a short carbine type musket or maybe the carver thought it would be more practical for a staircase not to have it sticking up too much.

 

Three views of his head. Originally this was thought to represent a soldier wearing a montero cap, but looking closely we can see that it’s actually a morion helmet (or maybe a domed felt hat) and that the brim has broken off. The nice feather plume on his gives him a jaunty air, though he doesn’t look terribly happy does he?

 

And here is a photo of our man in situ from Phillip Norman’s monograph of London that shows him carrying his musket at the shoulder.

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August 12, 2019

Pikeman with Shield

IMG_9801Continuing the series of figures that originally adorned the staircase at Cromwell House in Highgate, here’s an interesting fellow. I’m presuming he was a pikeman as his polearm was probably snapped off early in his life as a newel post, but you can see where it would originally have fitted into his right hand gauntlet. He carries a shield in his left hand and is wearing a morion on his head, adorned with a jaunty feather.

 

IMG_9802He also has what looks like a high, but simple linen falling band at his neck and what would appear to be the tassets that form the upper leg protection of a pikeman’s corselet peeping out from below his shield. He is wearing a tightly cut pair of breeches, fine hose and over hose on his calves and a pair of latchet shoes with generous side cut outs.

 

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On his left side you can see his pikeman’s tuck hanging from a simple shoulder belt or baldrick and the tails of his coat peeping out from beneath the back plate of his armour. Nice rosettes on his breeches at the knee too.

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The rear view.

IMG_9805Left hand side. You can clearly see the hinges that hold the tassets to his armour. Again, decorative rosettes, this time tying his latchets decoratively.

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This last image shows our man in situ, the photo was taken in the 1930s and culled from the website “Staircases of Old London”. It looks like the original feather on his morion was quite tall!

August 4, 2019

Drummer Statue

Although they can’t be accurately dated as they have disappeared, the statuettes that formed the newel posts of the carved staircase inside what is known as Cromwell House in Highgate, London are generally assumed to have been originally placed there at or shorty after the time the house was built in 1637/8. As I said the original wood carvings have now disappeared, (presumed stolen whilst the house was derelict), but their ghosts are still extant. They can be seen as plaster casts kept in the National Armouries’ store in Leeds I was lucky enough to photograph them last week and here is the drummer of this little trained band ready for action.

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He is wearing a thigh length coat and tightly cut breeches under which is his linen shirt and presumably the attached collar and darted linen cuffs. Possibly his coat has some fine lace decoration around the edges; it’s not easy to work out from the carving style but it does have some smallish shoulder wings. The shoes have worn away so we can’t really deduce anything about his footwear, but was can see some nice detail in his drum which seems to hang from a leather strap.

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Here’s his back. Nice rosette ties on his garters.

 

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Right hand side view and some nice details.

 

 

 

Finally, two more pictures, a photo from the 1930s that I found on a website called Staircases of Old London that shows our man in his original habitat, and a drummer that the 1642 Tailor helped to dress that I was reminded of when I first saw the statue. Thanks to Matthew D Crosby for his permission to use the colour image.

 

 

Here’s the link to Matthew’s page which is recommended.