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Jacks at Warwick

That’s not eighteenth century leatherwork

Glenda and I had planned to spend half a day in Warwick Castle. We’d been told that it was expensive but as entry was covered on the Great British Heritage Pass, we didn’t have to worry about the cost.

We entered the castle about 5 minutes before a guided tour started, so joined the crowd and waited. The tour started in the Chapel, wandered down to the dining room, then went back to the Great Hall. We sashayed past the wax Lady Di, everyone else started to admire the sideboard made for Vickie and Albert.  Not me. There on the floor were two of the largest bombards I’d ever seen. Yum. Glenda dragged me along with the group as we investigated the wing of the castle [knowing we could go back again – honest! G.] At the conclusion we collared the guide and played “20 Questions”. She humoured me for nearly 20 minutes, then ducked off and found a copy of the guide manual.


Warwick Castle

The Great Hall of Warwick Castle. From the left: A wax Lady Di; the real Wayne (or possibly the other way around) looking at rivet patterns on 17th century pikemen’s armour and; on the floor, several leather vessels they didn’t know where else to put.

Until the late 17th century jacks and bombards as a rule have triangular shaped handles attaching at the top of the body and are flat near the top of the vessel and have a smaller mouth. After the 17th century, the handles become more curved and attach lower down the body. The mouth of the vessel is wider from the 18th century onwards. These two show reinforcing attached to the top, one in leather and the other in metal (possibly pewter), probably done at different times. There was some evidence of a metal handle being added to the top of leather reinforced one at some stage, but it has long gone. The leather was about 3mm thick, with three additional layers in the handle and one gasket strip in the base. Stitching is heavy linen, six stitches to the inch. Height is about 20”; diameter at the neck is 5” and 12” at the base.

The guide’s manual states that the bombards belonged to the Grevilles, who were made Earls of Warwick in 1759. Based on the Greville crest being shown with a coronet, they had decided that the bombards were made for the occasion and therefore dated to 1759. I pointed out the coronet was in obviously newer paint to the crest and stylistically, these bombards belong to the 17th century! Unfortunately, no one could provide any more help but they did recommend other parts of the castle that we may be interested in.

Once home, I dug out my copy of Baker, just in case the author had made any mention of the bombards. On page 120, I found what I was looking for. Following a visit some time prior to 1921, Baker wrote:



The smaller bombard. Note how the coronet is in relatively good condition when compared with the device below which is mostly illegible. The leather bucket in the background bears the date 1766. The larger bombard. The Warwick badge is in similar condition to the coronet. This is consistent with both being applied in 1759, the year the Grevilles were made earls of Warwick.

“In Warwick Castle, … there are two huge bombards of unusual shape, huge size and considerable age. They are painted with arms and crests, but are somewhat injured by wear and tear. … The smaller one is 19 inches high. It has been strengthened by a deep band of leather at the top and has a thick brass handle added to enable it to be carried bucket-wise. … The larger jack is of a peculiar shape, tapering from a broad and sloping base to an unusually narrow mouth. It has been repaired by the addition of wide bands of metal apparently pewter, at the top and bottom, attached with rivets. This jack is very tall, being 21 inches high, 32 inches round the base and only 16½ round the mouth. On the front an earl’s coronet surmounted by a swan is painted, on each side is a coronet with the Warwick badge, the bear and ragged staff. The general character of the jacks suggests that they belong to the later half of the 17th century. The fact that the shorter jack has a brass handle across the top, on which is engraved the name of the man who placed it there (Spicer 1823, maker), shows that in the 19th century it was still being used.”



Top view of the smaller bombard. The rule shows 3mm leather for the body, a single 4mm gasket strip down the back seam and four layers in the handle. The repair around the mouth is in 1mm leather.


Intersection of the handle and body on the smaller bombard. Note the irregularity in the stitch lines. The angle of the cut on the inside of the handle leads me to believe that the handle is cut after the stitching was done.




The base of the smaller bombard. Two rows of parallel stitches are shown, about 4mm apart at a pitch of 6 stitches to the inch.


Detail of the neck reinforcement on the smaller bombard. The larger one has a metal collar of later date.



Baker, O., Black Jacks and Leather Bottells, privately printed for W.J. Fieldhouse, Cheltenham Spa 1921

Warwick Castle, http://www.warwick-castle.co.uk/, January 2004

4 thoughts on “Jacks at Warwick

  1. Pingback: That’s not from armour. « The Reverend's Big Blog of Leather

  2. I’m really stoked to see someone researching the very things that I am. I agree with you that no one has given much attention to the mundane practice of the finishing of leather vessels. I very much appreciate the time you put into your research and the effort that you go to to share with the rest of us.

    I have some enquiries out to some contacts I made on a visit to the UK. I hope to get some real answers over the next few weeks. If I learn anything interesting I’ll be sure to share.


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