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Leather Buckets in London

My friend Helmut has returned from his sojourn in Blighty. On his penultimate day he did a pilgrimage to the Museum of London and finally captured a good photo of the 1660 leather fire bucket that has eluded me for years. In my defence, both times I’ve seen it, it has been tucked in the corner of a temporary exhibit.

Helmut's photo of the 1660 leather bucket in the MoL. Click on the picture to link to his blog

Leather buckets were long used as fire buckets as unlike wood, they didn’t have to be kept wet to stay sealed.  It is supported by a metal wire frame rather than the timber used earlier for added strength and longevity and the inverted shape both conserves wire from around the top and increases stability. This one is a very early example of a riveted bucket, with all seams including the side seam being held closed with rivets on roughly a one inch pitch. Compare this with the sewn buckets from the Mary Rose (1545) and Invincible (1758). By the time of HMS Victory, all ships’ fire buckets were riveted.

Leather bucket from the wreck of HMS Invincible (sank 1758). The pitch lining and metal handle rings can be clearly seen, showing it was intended for use with water rather than gunpowder. My photo from the Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson

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