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Finds from the Moorfields marsh – cabinet 1

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Many items were recovered from the marshy ground and in particular from the ‘Deep Ditch’. They date to the 15th and 16th centuries.

The earliest objects are three animal bone ice skates [1]. William Fitz Stephen, writing in the late 12th century, described how young men would tie animal bones to their feet and skate on the frozen marsh at Moorfields in winter. The area was also used for practising archery and the spur [2] and mail armour [3] may be military in origin.

The damp conditions also preserved leather items. These shoes [4] date from the 15th and 16th centuries and the changes in fashion can be seen in the shapes of the toes –the earlier pointed, the later rounded. The remains of two large purses [5] and a decorative tassel [6] were also found.

Many small dress accessories were found that would have been used for fastening clothing, such as pins [7], a buckle [8] and small hooked tags [9]. Lace-chapes [10] are small pieces of sheet metal that re-enforced the ends of laces and ribbons used to tie clothing. A small decorative mount depicts two men on horseback [11]. Bells [12] may have been attached to clothing or the larger one to an animal harness.

Pilgrim badges and souvenirs were another form of dress accessory. These small decorative objects, usually made of lead-alloy, were brought back from religious pilgrimages in the medieval period. Examples found include one that may represent St Martin of Tours in France [13], a number of badges which are thought to be of Our Lady of Willesden [14], and copper-alloy examples of the Annunciation [15] and St George and the Dragon [16].