The shoehorn that never was – Jane Ayres, 1595

 

It all began with a letter to the society… then an email from a PhD candidate and ended with the 1595 shoe horn evaporating in a cloud of logic.

Let’s go back to where the confusion began, in early 1921.

An Elizabethan Shoe Horn: Jane Ayres
—This shoeing horn is inscribed as follows: —

“This is Jane Ayres shoeine Horne made by the hands of Robert Mindum 1595”
Can any reader by any chance give me any information regarding Jane Ayres?

Percival D Griffiths, FSA.
Sandbridgebury, St Albans

Notes & Queries Series 12, VIII (26 February 1921), p168

A deal of Mindum folklore hangs on this letter. Several authors, myself included, entertained romantic notions around two shoe horns for the same person in such a short period of time. We felt we were on a real winner when the “JANE HIS WIFE…1613” shoe horn appeared in the first decade of this century.

Griffiths amassed a large collection of English oak and walnut furniture and seventeenth-century needlework and is known to have owned two Mindum shoe horns. One was loaned to the Exhibition of late Elizabethan Art in conjunction with the tercentenary of Francis Bacon at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in June 1926. That turned out to be the 1597 shoe horn with the obliterated name, originally from the Drane collection, and sold in 1916 as part of Drane’s estate.  

He loaned the other shoehorn on two occasions, in 1931 and 1933, with the inscription published in full in the first catalogue, and a brief summary in the later one.

In the section on the objects on loan from Percival D Griffiths, FSA in 1931, we have:

No. 766, p. 97: An Elizabethan Shoehorn engraved with a conventional design and a lady who represents ‘Justice,’ inscribed ‘This is Jane Ayers Shoeing (horn made by the hands) of Robert Mindum 1593.’

A loan exhibition of works of art being held in aid of the East London hospital for children at Dorchester Hotel in London organised by the V&A Museum from May 28 to June 18, 1931, ex cat. (London, 1931)

The other has a similar section for Griffiths’ objects.

450a Shoe-horn, inscribed and dated 1593.

A Loan Exhibition Depicting the Reign of Queen Elizabeth at Grosvenor Place in January-March 1933, ex. cat. (London: Battley Brothers, 1933), p63

This makes it fairly clear that Griffiths’ other shoe horn was the 1593 Jane Ayres one, now in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum collection.

What went wrong?

There’s a couple of transcription errors obvious in the quoted Notes and Queries letter: the use of the letter J rather than I in the name “Jane”; the word “shoeine” used in place of “shoeing”; “Horne made by the hands” is an interpolation of text missing from the shoe horn, but matches the text on the other shoe horn in his collection, and; the incorrect year. I’m unable to tell whether the error was Griffiths’ or made by the publication. He may just have had illegible handwriting.

After the 1933 exhibition, we lose track of the shoe horns. They don’t appear in any of the articles or books on Griffiths’s collection, in his auctions through the major houses in the 1920s, the  posthumous 1939 sales, nor in the scrapbook recording a portion of his needlework and snuffbox collection, now held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art library. He did frequently sell items privately to other collectors and had a period of financial hardship in 1931/32 when he liquidated a portion of his collection.

The Salisbury object record notes the donation of the 1593 Ayres shoe horn by Lieut. Col. Frederick George Glyn Bailey (d. 1951) of Lake House, Salisbury in 1947. (Personal correspondence with Salisbury Museum’s Museum Assistant Valerie Goodrich, 18-25 September 2017).  We have no information about how Bailey acquired the shoe horn, he maintained a residence at 4 Audley Square, London W1 in addition to Lake House and is likely to have encountered it while in London.

I’ve passed this information on to the Salisbury Museum, they’ve added it to the object record. There’s still a few holes in the provenance but we have pushed it back from 1947 to at least 1926. 

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A much more modern bucket

We went on the Japanese mini submarine tour around Sydney Harbour last week, run by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The tour included a visit to Fort Denison, in the Fort museum was this bucket.

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Bucket, leather, c1858
Made by the Royal Gun Factory, Woolwich, England


The Fort Denison collection has three surviving leather buckets, which arrives in the Martello Tower at the same time as the leather canisters. The buckets played an important role in the firing of the guns, as they held the water needed by the spongeman.

To reload the gun after a round had been fired the spongeman took his long spongestaff, wetted the sponge which was on the end of it with water from the bucket, and thrust it down the bore of the gun. This was done to quence any smouldering fragments of power which might have remained in the bore.

Acc Number 2008.54

Firmly dated to the middle of the 19th century, it is almost indistinguishable from the 18th century riveted buckets in Cawdor Castle, Cotehele House and HMS Victory The sewn buckets seem to have stopped in the middle of the 18th century, for example the bucket from the wreck of HMS Invincible (1801) dated 1758.

The main innovation seems to be the use of buckles on the handle to provide some additional flexibility. Here’s some other angles, click on them to embiggen.

In case anyone’s wondering what I’ve been up to…

… there’s an account over on the National Leather Collection blog.

Too good to not share…

The Museum of London leather jerkin in close up photographs.

Thanks to the Archaeological Leather Group for pointing it out.

Hedeby quiver – part the second

Sorry about the delay between updates. That’s my workshop, right in the middle of the purple bit to the west of Sydney. We took the thermometer out there in the last heatwave and it got to 57°.

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It’s been like this since December, we get 3-5 hot days followed by two relatively cooler days in the low 30s. Rinse, repeat, rinse a couple more times.

Progress has been slow, because the embossed and moulded parts need me in the workshop making the moulds.  Here’s the progress so far.

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Transfer the patterns to the leather and cut out the shapes. The triangular bit of waste at the bottom right is used to make one layer of the suspension lugs. The stringy bits will get used too.

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Mould the bottom bits. This is the front, it took about 20 minutes to get it to shape, I just used hand pressure to hold the leather in place while it set. The embossing (copied from the original) helped it sit the way it was supposed to.

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The back comes further around to the front. Another 20 minutes in stupid heat with hand pressure. I used my thumbs to work out any small ripples in the surface. The front piece is drying in the background.

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The account in Die Lederfunde Von Haithabu shows narrow folded bits of calf-skin and suggests that they may have been used to edge the larger pieces. I’m going with 1mm calf-skin and using 3mm diameter cotton piping cord inside to help give it shape. While there’s no trace of fibre inside the folded fragments on the originals, there is leather filling the top roll. It’s what I would have done had I been making the original. Dipping the ends of the cord in beeswax stops them fraying.

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To help hold everything together and avoid puckering or bagging, I used basting stitches to hold the piping in place before attaching the multiple layers together. In this case, on the lower front piece.

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The mounting lugs are made from two layers, with a moulded ridge so they sit further back on the hip than would otherwise be the case.

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The front is complete, I’m about to attach the suspension and then attach the back. Basting stitches again hold the piping in place until I can get the parts all stitched together.

I’m now a bit further along than shown in the picture, but I haven’t yet got to the point of splashing dye around. I’ll do another update when I get there.

Another brilliant idea

I had a great idea, but not one so great that my foot fell off. Why not make a copy of the bracer in the British Museum?, I thought. It will be easy, I thought. I have the report with a nice clear drawing.

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Dalton, Antiquities Journal, Volume 2, 1922 p209

It looks fine, right up to the point where you compare it with the photograph of the real thing…

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Bracer in the british Museum. My photo. That is an awful lot of gold.

When you try to use the published drawing, you find out there’s all these little fiddles like changing the size of the spots to make it work. The height of the decorated panel is okay but the two narrow ones above it are compressed. The lettering is all over the place as well and the sides of each panel don’t line up with each other in the same way they do on the original. Oh well, I’ll have to redraw it for the next one. The photo also shows how the gilding runs.

The process is simple enough. Transfer your design to the leather – because this one is to be gilt and painted, I just used plain old office carbon paper.

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Straight off one of the problems becomes apparent. The pockles on the right have considerably more room than those on the left. I cut the outlines with a small straight blade as we’re predating swivel knives by several hundred years.

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Empockelate appropriately with a 1.6mm nail punch, using kitchen utensils and home made punches as appropriate. Punch the holes for the strap, realising that they are too close to the edges and are the reason all the other holes were put in later for thong. Also realise that one hole in the drawing is too far to the right when compared to the other three. I tried swearing at this point, but it didn’t move the hole, so you can skip that if you like.

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DieDye.

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Enstrap and buckle. I either have to get faster at buckle making or give it up and buy them, I spend far too much time making the wretched things. I’ve gone with a copper alloy double oval loop buckle with moulded pin rests, making it date to between 1550 and 1650. [Whitehead, R., Buckles 1250-1800, Greenlight Publishing, Chelmsford 1996]

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Painted bracer, it’s still a work in progress, I’ve since changed the colour of the crown.

Paint. The BM says some trace of pigment remains, having contacted them, it’s just a possible hint of red on the letters but they couldn’t tell me what the pigment was and if it was colour or bole (primer for the gilding). I’m going with colour, mainly from an ostentation point of view. Minium (red lead) substitute, rather than iron red in this case because it will be the same as on the rose. I also think the gilding is shell gold rather than leaf due to the way it sits down into the background rings and the narrow strips along the top and back would just be way too fiddly. There’s no evidence of the use of size under the gold in this case, either.

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The painting on the other side is restricted to just lining.

I’m doing a Tudor rose, contemporary with the text, rather than a Yorkist white rose to match the tradition. It’s slipped and crowned (which may make it as late as Henry VIII or even Elizabeth) which didn’t happen with York white roses and I’m doing brown and ochre oak leaves and acorns, just because.

Yeah, it’s acrylic paint. Yes, I know I’ll have to apologise to Jesus, but I’ve been lead to understand that he’s fairly forgiving.

So I think I’ve finished it, it’s gone well as a fair copy of the reported illustration but I’m largely unsatisfied with it. I’ll have to have another go later.


While we’re on the subject, I need to vent a bit. The report begins on p208 of the Antiquities Journal with the sentence, “THE archer’s bracer illustrated in the fig. on p. 209 is of cuir bouilli, …” The BM repeat the assertion in their online catalogue.

I’m not sure what the fascination of antiquaries/archaeologists of this period is with cuir bouilli, they see it everywhere. Cuir bouilli, as the name implies, is a heat curing process that by its nature precludes tooling of the finished article. If you’re after more information on the subject, have a look at Marc Carlson’s Hardened Leather which also has some experiments on different methods.

International Museum of Leather Craft

IMOLC have recently discovered that they don’t own the collection of jacks, bombards and bottels that they’ve had on display in the old museum for the past 70 years. They have until the start of March to crowdfund £33000 otherwise the collection will be broken up and sold off.   For details, see IMOLC’s blog post.

blackjacks

A small part of the collection