Sometimes inpenetrable and often overlooked, the medieval period is never-the-less the most essential in understanding our world today. Our concepts of love, family, governance and religion were all forged in this fascinating and often violent world. Our artefacts seek to explore aspects of many different lives, from the most regal to the most humble.
Hammered Silver Coins (12th - 17th Century)
Struck by hand on a blank piece of silver, hammered coinage changed in England only subtley until the Tudor dynasty redesigned them. Coniderable problems arise with identification therefore, as the legends often remain the same over many different rulers. Even RIchard I and John I used 'Henricus' on their issues. This selection covers the entire period and features some coins cut in half and quarter. This was done to provide small change.
Lead Cruet Bottle
The markings on this item place it at the Norfolk shrine of Walsingham, and it was probably dropped by a pilgrim on his way back from the shrine. It may have contained holy water. The shield and cross motif is fairly crudely executed and there is a floral pattern on the reverse. This item tells of the journey of the pilgrim, an important rite of passage for medieval people, and one famously covered by Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales.
Arms and Armour
Armour in the Medieval period was a craft as well as a science. Many aristocrats spent fortunes on highly fashionable sets of armour of dubious practical use. Henry VIII was a famous parton and owned many different sets. You can see part of our replica chainmail set below, which was designed to deflect sword blows. The bodkin arrowhead was invented to pierce this type of armour and was widely used, most notably by English longbowmen.
Among premodern drinking games, this one ranks as an international favourite! It's a puzzle jug, or fuddling cup. There were many examples in use during the 18th
and 19th century, although the earliest known examples are late medieval.
As you can see, the rim is full of holes which makes drinking from it impossible. Instead there is a concealed tube which you have to drink from instead. To make it
more interesting, that tube is in turn perforated. You have to find the holes and cover them before you can drink. There are also false holes...
They would have been passed around in taverns or at parties and filled with ale or wine, a messy but hilarious pass time!
This example is from Hungary and we are currently trying to date it. At the moment, it looks like a modern replica of a 19th C example, so we'll be filling it up and letting people try it out. Although probably not with ale...