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Spurs and Rowels
Spur rowels

 

Rowels probably originated in France or Spain in the 10th Century A.D., they are first recorded in Britain in Henry III's reign - two seals from 1240 depict the king - on one he wears prick spurs, and on the other rowelled.

In the following centuries spurs became associated with rank and chivalry. We speak of "earning one's spurs" - a disgraced knight would have his spurs and sword broken as part of his punishment. A knight would wear gold or gilt spurs and an esquire silver .
Through the fifteenth Century rowels became smaller and spur necks became longer. This was so that the spur could reach around the flanchards ( horse armour or barding ) The mediaeval horseman who rode with legs extended forwards also needed spurs with longer necks which could still reach their horse's sides. Over the following centuries, rowels changed shape and size, some developed "jingle-bobs". In seventeenth Century Germany spurs developed multiple necks and rowels, but these were probably for ceremonial or dress use only.

Detached rowels vary a great deal in shape and size, and many types are long-lived, so without the rest of the spur they are difficult to date. Rowel spurs begin in the early 13th century and are ubiquitous from the early 14th century to at least the 17th century. There is a suspicion that larger rowels are more likely to be medieval, and small ‘star’ rowels more likely to be post-medieval. Lozenge-shaped points were popular during the late 14th and 15th centuries

AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 Cast copper alloy Medieval spur rowel probably dating from about 1350 - 1400. A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century. The rowel is a five pointed star shape, with each point oval in cross section.
AD 1500-1700 A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
AD 1500-1700 Cast copper alloy Medieval spur rowel probably dating from about 1350 - 1400. AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
Cast copper alloy Medieval spur rowel probably dating from about 1350 - 1400. AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century Cast copper alloy Medieval spur rowel probably dating from about 1350 - 1400. AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
AD 1500-1700 Unknown AD 1500-1700
  AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century. The rowel is a five pointed star shape, with each point oval in cross section. Cast copper alloy Medieval spur rowel probably dating from about 1350 - 1400. A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century. The rowel is a five pointed star shape, with each point oval in cross section. A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century. The rowel is a five pointed star shape, with each point oval in cross section.
A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century. The rowel is a five pointed star shape, with each point oval in cross section. Cast copper alloy Medieval spur rowel probably dating from about 1350 - 1400. A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century. The rowel is a five pointed star shape, with each point oval in cross section. AD 1500-1700
AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 A copper alloy medieval to post medieval rowel spur, dating to the c.14th- 17th century AD 1500-1700
AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 Cast copper alloy Medieval spur rowel probably dating from about 1350 - 1400.
AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700 AD 1500-1700
       

Roman prick spur

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval prickSpur

 

Pyramidal goads appear on spurs in the mid 11th century (Ellis in Clark (ed) 1995, 127) and continue, with conical and ribbed variants, until prick spurs decline in popularity in England at the end of the 13th century (Ellis 2002, 4). Pyramidal goads appear to get larger over time and can develop into double-pyramids or octahedrons.

Complete spurs with pyramidal goads can be made all of iron (WILT-587DE2) or all of copper alloy (KENT-C9D76A, LEIC-595916), but detached goads are much more common, often with a copper-alloy sleeve and an iron core.

Rowel spurs

Rowel spurs were introduced in the early 13th century (Ellis in Saunders and Saunders (eds) 1991, 58; Ellis in Clark (ed) 1995, 128). Rowel spurs and prick spurs co-existed for a century or so, but from the early 14th century rowel spurs were the only form used.

A rowel is a rotating wheel or disc with teeth, in place of the goad; a rowel with many small teeth is milder than one with a few larger teeth.  Rowels are held in place with bars, usually of iron, which pass through the two pierced projections of a rowel box.

Spur sides had already begun to curve under the ankle by the time that rowels were introduced. By the middle of the 13th century, most spur sides were deeply curved, and this situation lasted for about a century.

 

15th to 16th C Spurs

 

17th/18th C Spurs

 

 

17th/18th spur fittings

 

17th Century spur with buckle.

AD 1500- 1700

 

 

 

Figure-of-eight terminals dominate from the 14th to the 18th century.