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Medieval Harness Pendants

My third blog post has advanced forward to the Medieval period (AD 1066 – 1509). The Medieval period has the second largest group of finds recorded from Rutland, totalling at 628. This segment is going to focus on horse harness pendants.

“Harness pendants are decorative items hung from the harness of horses, primarily from the breast band. They were mainly used in the Roman, early-medieval and medieval periods and usually have no function other than as decoration.”[1]

Rutland currently has 19 harness pendants recorded on the PAS database, the majority of these are shield shaped. The shield shaped harness pendants often displayed heraldic arms which would display the household crest, but also could be decorated with animals or geometric shapes. LEIC-F6561C seen below is an example of a heraldic harness pendant and dates to AD 1200 -1400. The mount possibly shows the House of Chichester’s crest. This pendant is decorated with small rectangular enamel squares, the upper two rows in blue, the remaining four red (azure and gules).

Figure 1 LEIC-F6561C
Figure 1 LEIC-F6561C (Leicestershire County Council licence CCBy2.0)

LEIC-2B63F5 is another harness pendant found in Rutland, this pendant is circular and has seven remaining projecting flat sub-circular arms, originally there were eight but one has broken off, these are evenly spaced around its outer edge. One of the arms is pierced to enable the pendant to be suspended.

The pendant has retained traces of blue and red enamel. The complete design is hard to determine, the outer edge of the main body appears to have blue enamel and an inner circle of red, any decoration on the arms is hard to establish due to the pendant being worn and corroded.

Figure 2 LEIC-076CDB
Figure 2 LEIC-076CDB (Leicestershire County Council licence CCBy2.0)

The final pendant I would like to discuss is LEIC-076CDB, what makes this pendant slightly more unique is that it is still attached to its mount. Horse harness pendants are not uncommon finds. 6,336 to date have been recorded on the database, very few of these though are recorded still attached to their mounts.

This mount would have originally had two harness pendants attached but one has broken off. It is decorated with: a red back ground with three gold lions on it, (gules three lions passant guardant or). The decoration on this pendant are associated with the arms of England, and were used between AD 1998 – 1340.

Figure 3 LEIC-076CDB
Figure 3 LEIC-076CDB (Derby Museums Trust licence CCBy2.0)

If you are interested in all the harness pendants found in Rutland, they can be viewed here.

All Medieval finds from Rutland can be viewed here.

Megan Gard

Finds Liaison Officer for Rutland and Leicestershire.


[1] Helen Geake and Rob Webley https://finds.org.uk/counties/findsrecordingguides/harness-pendant/

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