Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

November 15, 2019

Alcester Benefaction Board part 2

The second panel from the benefaction board from Alcester Church that has been sent for conservation, and tweeted by @DrClaringtons. Thanks again to Claire for permission to use her photos. The board has been dated to 1632.


This board represents a verse from Proverbs:19:17 ‘He that hath pittie upon the poore lendeth unto the Lord’ and shows a blind man and a cripple receiving food, drink and clothing. The poor cripple doesn’t even have a shirt on his back and has covered himself partially with some sort of tatty cloak. On his one good leg he’s wearing one of those heel-less boots that shepherds and other agricultural chaps seem to favour. The advantage in the 17th century would be that he could buy a pair of boots and get twice the wear as left and right sided footwear was a thing of the future!  The blind man however seems a lot more well to do with a decent doublet and falling band, over the top of which he wears a gown with hanging sleeves. Maybe he’s a lawyer who can’t practice now he’s lost his sight?

The benefactors look a rather smug lot, and they seem to be offering drinks rather than clothes. Our poor cripple doesn’t look like a shirt will be forthcoming  for a while yet!

November 13, 2019

Alcester Church Benefaction Board


The benefaction board from Alcester Church has been sent for conservation and Dr Clare Strachan has tweeted about it. Go to @DrClaringtons to see more details about the piece and its origins. Here I will look at the four paintings which caught my eye. There aren’t many primitive portraits from the period with nice clothing details so I wanted to put them up and add my thoughts. It’s dated to 1632 and looking at the clothes I think it’s about right, though its quite likely to be slightly earlier. Definitely no later.


The first panel is based on Psalm 41: ‘Blessed is he that considereth the poore and needy’ Here we have donors handing out aid to a barber, a carpenter & a butcher.

The workmen are holding the tools of their trade and wearing doublets and generously cut breeches, hose and latchet shoes. They both have linen aprons to keep their clothes clean. Notice the apron overlaps the tabs of the doublet. The butcher has a wide stiff collar and the carpenter a ruff at the neck. The barber is wearing a long buttoned coat (or maybe cloak) over his doublet, holding scissors and a comb and sporting what looks like a longish, rather ‘blinged up’ apron.

The benefactors are dressed similarly The guy with the money bags on the left is the only person that isn’t bareheaded, not sure why but he’s wearing a felt brimmed hat and a ruff collar.

Thanks to Dr Clare for permission to use the photos. There’s more stuff on her excellent twitter feed. Here’s a picture of the whole thing. More to follow.


August 15, 2019


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.


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.



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

August 13, 2019


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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




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.

February 9, 2017

Thomas Edgar

British (English) School; Thomas Edgar (1594-1657)

I can find no biographical information about Thomas, but his portrait (by an unknown artist) hangs in the collection of the Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service. He’s an oddly modern looking cove staring out at us with his raffish moustache and short hair, but his clothes are straight out of the late 1630s, early 1640s. His doublet is nicely figured black velvet and he has the kind of decorative point decorations around his waistband that were a remnant of the old fashioned method of tying your breeches to your doublet with ribbon points. I wouldn’t mind betting that underneath his tailor has sewn the more modern hooks and eyes. The sleeve seam is open to show off his shirt linen and the other visible linen, falling band and cuffs is superb.


The lace on his band is exquisite and the tassels of his band-strings are just magnificent in the detail. Also not the fineness of the linen of his cuffs and the tiny darts that shape them to his sleeve.

This detail is lovely too, the crispness of the linen is obvious and the work on the darts around his neck show this was made by an expert seamstress. You can also see where the artist has tried to show the gathers of the lace around the right angle of the band on his right hand side so it lays nice and flat.




November 17, 2015

The Humerous Tricks and Conceits

of Prince Roberts malignant she-monkey, discovered to the world before her marriage. Also the manner of her marriage to a cavaleer and how within three dayes space, she called him cuckold to his face, London 1643

One of those anti-royalist pamphlets referring to Prince Rupert’s selection of pets. His poodle Boye was also the subject of some derision but here is his monkey, presumably about the blow smoke cheekily in the face of her cuckolded husband.

She is wearing a hood tied beneath her chin, a short petticoat effort hiding her simian modesty (this is not standard 1640s fashion as far as I can tell) and a shoulder belt for her sword. The cavalier is wearing a long buttoned coat with turn back sleeves over a short doublet and tapered breeches. His linen band is smart with a modest lace edge and his riding boots (spot the spurs) are folded in the common style to show off his boot hose.


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November 16, 2015

Dorothy Bonham

And an unknown boy, painted by an unknown artist around 1638-41. Dorothy, or more correctly Dame Dorothy may or may not have been Lady in Waiting to Elizabeth I in her youth and was also rumoured to have played a part in foiling the Gunpowder Plot, though later investigation revealed that her part was choosing the story as the subject of a tapestry that she made after the event! Dorothy died in 1641 apparently from being pricked by an infected needle (though this may have been fabricated too to attract visitors to the Hall) shortly after this portrait was completed. A popular story has her body walled up and her ghost walking the corridors of Ightham Mote. Sadly also not true, the grand Dame was safely interred in the local churchyard, but why let the facts get in the way of a cracking story?

Anyway, this picture caught my eye because Dorothy is not dressed in the latest fashion unlike the rather sad little boy in pink stood next to her. She is wearing a black petticoat and bodice over which she seems to have a red partlet or (perhaps a sleeveless waistcoat) covering her body and a large starched ruff around her neck. She’s keeping her head warm with a black hood and possibly a lace coif underneath. The boy is in a fashionable pink suit; matching doublet (slashed sleeves to show his shirt), breeches (trimmed with ribbon) and short cloak with a laced linen falling band and cuffs with matching ribbons on his shoes and pink hose.

Dorothy Bonham

Dorothy was some looker, forty years earlier. Both paintings are at Ightham Mote House  in Kent.

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October 5, 2015

Richard Pierce

The royalist mayor of Devizes who kept the Swan in the town was painted by an unnamed artist in 1643 He’s wearing a tall crowned felt hat and what looks like (from the cuffs) a brown coat over a black doublet. On top of the whole layered ensemble is a paler brown cloak and a neat linen falling band. The portrait is in the Wiltshire Museum collection

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