And what device of harness too indeed, So rich and so outlandish, what a deal, Of goldsmith work, embroidery and steel!
Chaucer - The Knight's Tale
Fig 37. mounts attached to straps by integral cast rivets
The simplest method of suspending pendants from the harness was by small mounts with an integral cast rivet or stud at the back - fig.37 or by mounts with a hole for attachment via a separate rivet - fig.38. Both these types have a separate spindle between two lugs for suspension of the pendant. The spindles (which may be of iron or bronze wire) may be secured on both types either by turning back the lugs of the hanger or by insertion through drilled holes in the sides. There are many different varieties and further examples will be found throughout this article and in the gallery.
Fig 38. mounts attached to straps by separate rivets
The more remarkable harness pendant mounts are elaborate affairs that may have been fitted as a crest to the headstall or as a crest attached to the saddle of draught horses - examples in figs.39-48. Some of them may even have been used on the carriages of the upper classes in later medieval times1 but at the present time the exact location on the harness remains uncertain. Some medieval illustrations do support the existence of elaborate crests on the headstall but as all the known examples have slots for the passage of two transverse straps the saddle theory might seem the more likely. The fittings illustrated in figs.39-46 are all associated with a type of mount that has pendants in various numbers suspended from arms arranged around a central hollow sphere. In the case of the mount from the British Museum illustrated in fig.39 there are four suspension arms on the ball. Another centrally mounted arm between the ball and the crest originally held another 4 pendants – a total of eight in all. A similar mount but with 6 arms on the ball can be seen on the PAS database - SF-5A76E2 (here) and a possible decorative crest in the form of a bird - HAMP2003 (here). On three of the mounts where some of the small pendants have been retained it is noteworthy that they are of the same type - see figs.39-40 below and the PAS link (SF-5A76E2) above. Examples of pendants which may also have been attached to these mounts can be seen in the gallery at figs.3.18-3.20 (here). The mount in fig.43 is unusual in having pendants in the form of acorns - two of which survive in situ and another fitting that seems likely to have been associated with these elaborate mounts can be seen on a metal detecting site (here).
Other fittings have two slots for straps and a central arm either for the suspension of heraldic pendants via side mounts fig.47 and fig.50 or for a small banner with heraldic arms fig.48 and fig.49. The pendants for these mounts can be round, lozengiform or shield shaped. Associated with all these fittings are the items figs.51-54 which consist of 2 slots for the passage of straps. Two of these fig.51 and fig.54 may also have been employed as carriers for pendants as figs.46-48 but the one in fig.52 with its central rivet still in place suggests their primary purpose was for the passage of straps or reins.
click on thumbnails for larger image
click on thumbnails for larger image
A rather elaborate mount with two fleur-de-lis pendants and a central hanger which may have been for another pendant or bell now missing was originally illustrated in Hume 2 and a very similar type of mount can also be seen in the Strong Collection (here). Nick Griffiths 3 has published a similar example with two bells suspended from the central mount, kindly reproduced here in fig.56. Mounts for the suspension of more than one pendant are less common finds but fig.59 is a hanger for no less than three pendants. The pendant and broken hanger - fig.4 on previous page - has an oversize spindle indicating that these multi-hangers would have employed one continuous length of wire to suspend the pendants. Bells could also be suspended from these multi-hangers as seen in fig.57.
Particularly noteworthy, if indeed it is a pendant hanger, is fig.66 top left which could be a very early type - no other parallel has been found. Suspension mounts with decorative features including enamel are increasingly being recognised and examples can be seen in figs.64-65, figs.75-76 and fig.70 lower right, the latter being a particularly fine example of gilt and enamel with two mythical creatures. The reverse has 3 studs for fixing. Two examples of pendants in the form of lions were seen on the previous page and others - either lions, eagles or birds of prey can be seen in the following gallery figs. 2.1-2.5 and in the Portable Antiquities Scheme links on the final page. Matching mounts for these are much rarer finds but fig.70 top right has a lion passant guardant and in Benet's Artefacts on page 184; item M-010708 there is a complete eagle pendant with matching hanger - the pendant much like fig.2.5 in the gallery (here). The example in fig.70 lower left (3.48 in the gallery) has the shield shape pendant suspended from the hanger via small rings, an arrangement that I have not seen elsewhere.
click on thumbnails for larger image
Enough examples of pendants with mounts still in situ have now been discovered to determine that matching sets were not uncommon. Those in figs.71-76 show that they can date from the earliest of types through to the later heraldic varieties. The mounts in figs.77-79 with the very familiar terminals are a particular type of bar mount commonly used for the suspension of harness pendants. The cruciform variety in fig.79 would have been mounted at the junction of two straps and an enamelled example can be seen in fig.78 (top right). An unusual variant of this type complete with pendant can be seen in fig.80. Other items exhibit very similar style and it may be that these were used on harness too, the whole forming a matching decorative set of equipment. There is a mount without provision for suspending a pendant in fig.77 (centre) which must have been for pure decoration whilst the hooks in fig.81 must have served a more practical purpose. The one (to left) in fig.81 was excavated at Seacourt 4 and the other is a metal detector find from Kent. There is a particularly fine example illustrated in Ashley (fig.24:244) 5 that has a central panel decorated with a fleur-de-lis and the hook with a zoomorphic terminal. Read 6 also illustrates examples of both the bar mounts (fig.12:165-166) and of the hooked terminals (fig.13:169-170) all of which he assigns a date of c1230-60.
click on thumbnails for larger image
Finally, in fig.82 and in the same style as the previous pieces, is a buckle that has two pierced lugs for the suspension of a pendant. Although I have not seen another with a mount for a pendant I have since recognised the broken parts of two similar buckles - fig.83 (here) and a complete example is illustrated in Whitehead (page 35: 205) 7 where a general date of c1250-1400 is given. The length of the broken lower example here is 64mm which is broadly consistent with that illustrated in Whitehead. It may be that these buckles were used to attach spurs and if so it is a rare example of pendants being worn on the person. Spurs could be decorated with armorial shields and an example of a rowel spur c1300-1340 decorated with a total of eleven shields of arms can be seen in Alexander and Binski,8 both sides ending in decorated shield shape terminals and another rising on a stem above the junction with neck.
The buckle loop itself may also give a clue to the date of such pieces as it is a fairly well known type. In MOL 'Dress Accessories'9 both fig.46: 316 and fig.46: 319 are similar in style and are given dates from ceramic phase 9 (c1270-1350). Perhaps even closer in form is fig.70: 488 which is a type described as "buckle with two loops and an integral plate between" and "must have had a specialised function that has so far not been recognised". Of the nine examples illustrated only the one cited above is copper-alloy, the others being tinned iron. A suggestion is made that these may have been used on armour or horse equipment, the latter being at least likely given this new evidence. The dating of these pieces is also given as c1270-1350 and an example of the type can be seen by clicking on fig.82 above.
1.   Ward-Perkins J B. 1949 - A medieval harness-mount at Termoli - Antiquaries Journal 29. (pages 1-7 and plates I and II)
2.   Hume Rev. A. 1863 - Ancient Meols; or, some Account of the Antiquities found near Dove Point, on the Sea Coast of Cheshire. (plate 18: 4)
3.   Griffiths N. 1986 – Medieval Harness Pendants - Finds Research Group Datasheet 5.
4.   Biddle M. 1963 - The deserted medieval village of Seacourt, Berkshire. Oxoniensia 26/27. (fig.28:1)
5.   Ashley S. 2002 - Medieval armorial horse furniture in Norfolk - East Anglian Archaeology Report 101.
6.   Read B. 2001 - Metal Artefacts of Antiquity Vol.1.
7.   Whitehead R. 2003 - Buckles 1250-1800
8.   Alexander J. & Binski P. 1987 - Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England 1200-1400 - Royal Academy of Arts, London (page 260: 167 & fig.167)
9.   Egan G. and Pritchard F. 1991 - Dress Accessories c.1150-c.1450 - Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 3
The Interesting Shop Medieval Pendants 1
The Interesting Shop Medieval Pendants 2
The Strong Collection - Horse Items: Harness Mounts & Pendants
The Portable Antiquities Scheme Database Search
My Portable Antiquities Scheme Pendant Links
Many people have assisted in this article by supplying information and pictures. I would like to sincerely thank Anton from ARTEMISSION, Brett Hammond from TIMELINE ORIGINALS, Gary Harland from DETECTORPRO and the many metal detector users listed below:-
Pictures in the text
42 bob C (UKDN username); 44 Nick Pane; 49 Tony Stokes (MineLab forum); 51 Allan Gibbens; 56 based on a drawing by Nick Griffiths; 57 osleset (UKDN username); 58 John Winter; 59 J. Crawford; 60 T. Hemmingway; 62-64 J. Tootell; 69 (top left) Alf Casey; 81 (right) G. Burr; 83 Donald Sherratt.
Pictures in the Gallery
Artemission 2.11; 2.16; 2.18; 2.27; 2.28; 2.45; 2.48
TimeLine Originals 1.15; 1.30; 1.47; 1.51; 2.10; 2.20; 2.22; 2.37; 2.38; 3.25; 3.26; 3.29; 3.39; 3.46; 3.48.
Individuals 1.3 Adrian Oates; 1.6 Gerry Freeman-Smith; 1.21 Alex Lenehan; 1.27 Simon Williams; 1.40 chorley (UKDN username); 1.42 Paul E (Smartgroups username); 1.49 Wayne Bealey; 1.57-58 Chris Kilner; 2.3 Dean Mackness; 2.9 Dave Padgett; 2.19 Craig Slater; 2.23 Richard Lincoln; 2.25 Lynda Winter and Gordon Heritage; 2.30 offa (UKDN username); 2.31 Mark Stubbs (RallyUK); 3.8 Dean Crawford (Metodet); 3.11 Jeff Hatt; 3.16 Chris Chandler; 3.17 Nick Martin; 3.20 John Davis; 3.24 Colin Harland; 3.30 Greg Dyer; 3.37 Russell Fergie; 3.40 Craig Slater; 3.45 Jeff Hatt; 3.47 Ron Hill; 3.49 Barry Ward.