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Experiments with an arrow spacer

I’m not sure how I missed this one, regular viewers will remember back in 2009, I posted a gallery of leatherwork from the Museum of London. One of the odd inclusions was a 15th century leather arrow spacer. Here it is again for those who missed it the first time.

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Arrow spacer with 25 holes in the Museum of London

There are similar spacers in the Mary Rose museum, roughly contemporary with this one. The Mary Rose spacers have 24 round holes and a slightly smaller (110-130mm diameter) but are otherwise similar. The small holes left by the stitching can be seen, the holes go from the skin side and come out the edge. This disc also has two small holes for carrying. The theory is that the disc was sewn inside a fabric or leather bag to protect the arrows that were put in it, the bag helping to stop the arrows going through far enough to rest on the fletching.

What was probably one of these bags with a leather top and straps was found on the Mary Rose, find 81A0116. Taking the dimensions from that one and adding the triangular cut-outs from the MoL example, we made and tested an arrowbag.

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Arrow bag, top view. The stitching mirrors the MoL’s example and the strings are for slinging from a waist belt.

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The base is stuffed with wood shavings from some project or other to protect the bottom of the bag from the arrow points. The Canterbury arrowbag had hay for the same reason. The linen ties allow the bottom of the bag to be tied up or opened as needed.

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Partially filled with arrows, with the top rolled down.

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Filled with arrows and the top up and tied.

My arrows are 30 inches in the old measure, the arrow bag functions well at this length. One thing we found was that the small triangles allowed the use of small swept broadheads of the Jessop type M4/ MoL catalogue type 16 and of the wider Tudor bodkins that won’tt work with plain circular holes that are just a bit bigger than the arrow shafts.

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