A HIGHLY RARE AND IMPORTANT ENGLISH JACK OF PLATE, CIRCA 1580-90
formed of small overlapping square plates of iron with cropped corners, secured by lines of diagonal, vertical, or in some cases horizontal, stitches of crossbow twine through holes at their centres between the inner and outer layers of a fabric doublet of 'peascod' fashion with a frontal opening situated slightly to the left of centre and originally closed by laces passing through pairs of reinforced holes, an upstanding collar devoid, like the edges of the arm-openings, of plates, and a short skirt, the whole enclose between two outer layers of fine linen canvas covered with modern nylon netting and overlying felted woven wool on the outside and a coarser canvas on the inside of the garment, and decorated with white woollen tufts at the intersections of the stitches (the outer fabric partly discoloured, worn through at points and split at the shoulders and some other points; and the plates in some cases patinated to a green colour)
72.0 cm; 28⅜? in
Sir William ffarindon, Worden Hall, Lancashire (sold by auction 1948)
A private English collection
Alexander de Cosson & William Burgess, 'Catalogue of the Exhibition of Ancient Helmets and Examples of Mail', Archaeological Journal, Vol. XXXVII, 1881, p. 591.
Ian Eaves, 'On the Remains of a Jack of Plate Excavated from Beeston Castle in Cheshire', Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, Vo. XIII, no. 2, September 1989, p. 137, n. 29)
The jack of plate - sometimes referred to in contemporary documents as a 'steel coat', a 'plate coat' or a 'coat of plate' - was a uniquely British defence first recognisably mentioned in English and Scottish records of the second quarter of the 16th century (Eaves 1989, pp. 85-6 & 144, n. 48), p. 145, n. 52). The inventory of the holdings of the Office of the Armouries taken on the death of Henry VIII in 1547 mentions 'a Northerne Jack covered with lynnen' and three 'Northern Jackes made of Canvas and plate' (Harold A. Dillon, 'Arms and Armour at Westminster, the Tower and Greenwich', Archaeologia, Vol. LI, 1888, pp. 52 & 57).
Although defences of this kind ceased to be manufactured towards the end of the 16th century (Eaves 1989, p.86 & 148, n. 60), their use persisted into the early years of the following century. In 1622 some forty examples were issued from the Armouries of the Tower of London for use in America by the Virginia Company (Eaves 1986, p. 86 & 148, n. 61).
William Harrison in his description of England first published in 1577, observed that 'Our armour …consisteth of corselets, almaine riverets, shirtes of mayle, Jacke quilted over wyth leather, fustian or canuas ouer thicke plates of yron that are sewed into the same, and of which there is no towne or village that hath not hir conuenient furniture (in Ralph Holinshead, The First Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, London, 1557, f. 86v).
Today, however, only sixteen more or less complete jacks of plate are preserved worldwide. Aside from the example offered here, eight (only five of which are complete) can be recorded in the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, one in the British Museum, London, one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one in the Royal Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, one in Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, one in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, and one in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zurich (Eaves 1989, pp. 135-7, n. 22-6 & 2). Of these, only the last two along one of those in the Royal Armouries and that recently acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Thomas Del Mar Ltd, 7 Dec. 2016, lot 51), have their frontal openings offset to one side of centre as on the present lot.
The present lot together with the examples now in the Royal Armouries and the Victoria and Albert Museum formed part of a collection assembled at Worden Hall, Lancashire, by Sir William ffarington (c. 1704-81) sometime after 1765. They are unlikely to have formed part of the Hall's indigenous armoury which was sequestered by Parliament in 1643 (Susan Maria ffarington, The ffarington Papers, Chetham Society, 1856, p. 93), although it was said that one of the three did service, together with a helmet and other pieces, as part of a funeral achievement eventually removed from the ffarington Chapel in Leyland Church in 1816 (De Cosson & Burgess 1881, p. 591). The collection was in due course added to by Miss Susan ffarington in the 19th century. An 18th century inventory of it is preserved in New Zealand while three 19th century ones, dating from 1846 to circa 1870 are privately preserved in England, and refer to '3 Brigandine Jackets (for Bowmen. (Elizn'.
A drawing of what is almost certainly one of these jacks is preserved in a manuscript catalogue prepared by the late 18th century Manchester antiquary Thomas Barritt and now preserved in the Manchester City Library (Ancient Armour and Weapons in the Possession of Thos Barrit 1793). The catalogue shows objects both in his own collection and of others that he visited in the north of England. He describes the jack as 'A Bigantine jacket quilted within with square pieces of iron about an inch in diameter and sliding over each other like the scales of fishes, and covered over with strong linen'.
One of the Worden jacks (probably that now in the Royal Armouries Museum, inv. No. III.1884) was lent by Miss ffarington to the Exhibition of Ancient Helmets and Examples of Mail held in the rooms of the British Archaeological Association in 1881 (De Cosson & Burgess 1881, cat. no. 49, p.591)
The collection was sold by a local auctioneer in 1948. The purchaser of the three jacks subsequently lent them to Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire. One of them in due course passed to a private collection in the USA but was in 1982 acquired by the Royal Armouries, H.M. Tower of London, while that now in the Victoria and Albert Museum and that offered here had from some time before 1981 been sent for conservation to the North Western Museum and Art Gallery Service at Blackburn, Lancashire."
At some time before 1981 it was sent for conservation to the North Western Museum and Art Gallery Service at Blackburn, Lancashire, where it was enclosed within protective nylon netting.
£5000 - 7000 Click here for details of BP and other fees payable on this lot.