Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

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Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby admin » 17 Apr 2012 16:38

Henry de Kerswall of co. Stafford appeared in Court and complained, that whereas he had come into Court to execute a certain fine, one Ralph de Stafford Chivaler, Humfrey Hastang, William de Burton, Simon le Budel of Maydenele and Adam de Whylok, with malice aforethought, had insulted, beaten and ill-treated him in the Court in the presence of the Justices, and the Criers of the Court were immediately ordered to attach them, and the said Simon was taken by the criers and apprentices of the Court, (per proclamatores et apprenticios de Curiâ), when attempting to escape, and was brought to the bar of the Court armed with an aketun and a sword in a scabbard and a buckler. And the said Henry stated that when he had come to the Court to execute a certain fine, the said Simon, with others, on this instant, viz., on the Monday the Feast of St. Martin in the Great Hall of Westminster in the presence of the Justices sitting there, vi et armis, viz., with swords and daggers drawn, and with bucklers taken up and extended (et cum boclariis arreptis et extentis) had beaten, wounded and maltreated him, in manifest contempt of the King and his Court, and to the damage to the said Henry of £2,000. Simon denied the trespass and injury and appealed to a jury, and a jury elected by consent of the parties stated on oath that the said Simon was guilty and assessed the damages of Henry at £100. The said Simon was therefore committed to gaol and was delivered to Richard de Kenbrok, the locum tenens of the Constable of the Tower of London to be detained there in irons, at the will of the King, and his aketun, sword and buckler were forfeited to the King and were appraised at 3s. 4d. And upon this Luke de Burgh, the King's attorney, stated that certain other malefactors had committed the same transgression and he stated that one Hugh de Whitchurch of co. Salop, deputed by Edmund the custos of this Palace and others unknown, knowing that the said Simon and others had committed the above transgression, and with the intent to help the said Ralph and the others so that they might escape, had opened with their keys the doors of the Palace and had admitted them into chambers from which they had subsequently escaped, and he prayed that the matter might be enquired into by a jury, and a jury being sworn presented that the said Ralph Humfrey, William de Burton and Adam had committed the above transgression together with the said Simon, and that the said Hugh de Whitchurch, the deputy of the custos of the Palace, had knowingly opened the doors of a chamber in the Palace and shut them up in it, so that they might escape and the said Hugh being present in Court and questioned, etc., stated he was not guilty and appealed to a jury, and a jury elected by consent of both parties, stated on their oath that the sald Hugh was not guilty. He was therefore acquitted and the Sheriff of co. Stafford was commanded to attach the said Ralph, Humfrey, William, and Adam, and produce them at the Octaves of Hillary to answer to the King for the said contempt. m. 348.


From: 'Plea Rolls for Staffordshire: 5 Edward III', Staffordshire Historical Collections, vol. 11 (1890), pp. 21-35.

3 shillings and 4 pence = 40 pence.

An archer was paid 3 or 6 pence a day whilst on campaign at this time, depending on whether they were on foot or mounted. Later in the Hundred Years War archers were more frequently paid 6 pence per day.

Obviously the quality and condition of the sword, buckler and aketon in question would change the value, but I think this is an interesting example anyway and shows that the arms and armour of a soldier like an English archer was not necessarily what we would consider cheap, but it was not very expenive either - say a couple of week's pay.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby admin » 17 Apr 2012 16:51

14 Nov. 1393

Robert Durham brought a bill of complaint against Thomas Adam for detinue of certain goods to the value of £54 3s 2d contained in a schedule, which he had committed to his charge by the hands of John Mapulton in the parish of St Lawrence Jewry, and which the defendant refused to return to him, to his damage £10.
Schedule: 4 beds, each with coverlet and tester, 5 marks; another coverlet, 13s 4d; 4 blankets, 6s 8d; 2 pairs of sheets, 10s; another pair of sheets, 4s; one new celour de carde with 3 curtains, 15s; 4 pairs of jet beads with the gaudees, silvergilt and one furmaille, silvergilt, 26s 8d; 2 gold rings, one with a sapphire and the other with a diamond, 30s; 2 silvergilt rings, 3s 4d; 2 forcerez and 2 bursez of cloth of gold, 6s 8d; one hauberk, 40s; one baselard harnessed with silver, 13s 4d; four bows with one trusse of setes , 20s; one dozen pewter vessels garnish , 16s; 3 pewter pots, i.e., one pottle, one quart and one pint, 2s 6d; 2 pewter saltcellars, 8d; 3 candlesticks of laton, 2s; one large cofre, 10s; divers colours: azure, cynopre etc., 100s; divers books belonging to the trade of a painter, 40s; 40 quaiers of paper real and other paper, 16s 8d; another coifer, 2s; 4 piers of marble with 8 molours, 13s 4d; one pair of matyns, 6s 8d; one sautere , 13s 4d; 2 bordclothes, 13s 4d; 2 tuaills, 6s 8d; 2 savenapes, 2s; one basenet with aventaille, 40s; one long gown of baudekyn, 40s; one materas, 6s 8d; one long sword and buckler, 10s; one silver girdle, 20s; 2 mazeres, 18s; one half-dozen silver spoons, 12s; 2 chaperouns of scarlet, 8s; 2 of green cloth, 3s 4d; one of blue, 2s 6d; 2 of ray, 6s 8d; one pair of silk poynettez, 3s; 2 pairs of poignets of red cloth, 2s; 2 pairs of scarlet shoes (chaux), 13s 4d; 2 pairs of hose (chauz) of red cloth, 6s; 5 yds. of black cloth, 13s 4d; 6 yds. of cloth linee , 6s; 4½ yds. of the same, 4s 6d; 7 yds. of russet, 23s 4d; 11 yds. of blanket, 22s; 2 wardecorsez , 5s; one doublet of fustian, 5s; one gown of green, the lynyng of blanket, 13s 4d; one gown of blue, 10s; one long (gown) of ray plonket and one chaperoun of the same, us 6d; one sloppe of fustian, 6s 8d; 4 banners of the arms of the Prince batuz, 26s 8d; sandel, taffata and satin to the value of 10s; sanguin with brimyngstone to the value of £10; 2 hachettz, 2s; 2 planes, 2s; 6 cheselz and 4 fournours, 3s 4d; one half-dozen hokes, 2s; pots, platters (esquelez) and lead belonging to the trade of a painter, 5s; 5 yards of russet, 16s 8d.

From: 'Roll A 33: 1393-94', Calendar of the plea and memoranda rolls of the city of London: volume 3: 1381-1412 (1932), pp. 205-227.

This is an interesting contrast, because a lot of the things on this list are very high status.
The bascinet with aventail is priced at 40 shillings – 480 pence! Theoretically 80 days service by an archer or about 40 by a common man-at-arms. That may be an entire campaign, not including overhead costs.
The ‘long sword and buckler’ make an interesting contrast to the last source, as these are valued at 10 shillings – 120 pence. These were presumably much better quality than the previous example and would equal 20 days service by an archer or about 10 days by a common man-at-arms.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby bigdummy » 17 Apr 2012 17:17

I have some data on costs of gear in Central Europe if you are interested.

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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby admin » 17 Apr 2012 17:27

Yes please - especially primary source translations if you have them.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby bigdummy » 17 Apr 2012 21:19

I don't have the direct primary source translations here but I can post the sources later. I have the following, all of this is from the first half of the 15th Century in Danzig (Prussia), Wroclaw (Silesia), or Krakow (Poland), or in Saxony near Bremen:

Wages
Days wage for a Carpenter in Klosternaubourg 20 deniers in the summer (23 Kreuzer per month) 16 in the winter (18 Kreuzer per month)
Day wage for a Carpenter or a mason in Saxony 2 groschen and 4 dinari, plus two jugs of ‘hornet’ beer, 3 groschen per week as bath money. Monthly wage = 29 Kreuzer per month (assuming a 6 day work week and not counting the beer)

Miscelaneous
A sheep, 56 dinari
Bushel of wheat 84 dinari

Weapons
Sword 1/2 Mark or 20 Kreuzer
Crossbow (not sure what specific type) 1 Mark or 40 Kreuzer

Armor
Coat of plates (platendienst) 12 Kreuzer
Cuirass with pauldrons, 39 Kreuzer
Mail Haubergeon 2-7 Marks or 10 marks for a ‘special’ Haubergeon (possibly tempered or fine links)
Half-Armor ‘of Proof’ 90 Kreuzer
Milanese Harness 4 Florins
Milanese Harness ‘of Proof’ 7 Florins, 4 Kreuzer
"Equipment for a mounted crossbowman", 11 florins**, "equipment for a lancer" 30 florins**

Mercenaries pay:
Gunner or Arbalestier 3 Florin per month (180 Kreuzer per month)
Leutzule (guide) 2 Florin per month (120 Kreuzer per month)
Lancer (with horse and armor) 10 Florin per month (600 Kreuzer per month)
Knight (‘Lance’)* 20 Florin per month (1200 Kreuzer per month)

* this also includes pay for the retinue of the "Lance", including usually one demi-lancer and one crossbowman

** I have this listed in another source as 22 Grivna for equipment for 2 crossbowmen, and 30 Grivna for equipment for 1 lancer (this is from tax rolls, as in certain size properties are required to provide the kit for certain types of troops). It doesn't specify if this includes the horse but the implication is that it does not. A Grivna is a silver bar which fluctuated in value but seems to have normally been worth the equivalent of 1 mark or 12 or 12 and a half ounces of silver.

The exact values of the coins are confusing though because currencies fluctuated in value enormously during this period in Prussia and Poland, due to currency devaluation by the towns after the Battle of Grunwald. Also there are different types of groschen, the Kutna Hora or Prague groschen is usually listed as 18 Dinari and the Prussian at 12 Dinari.

The (secondary) source for a bunch of this is Uzbrojenie w Polsce średniowiecznej 1350-1450, “Armaments in Medieval Poland 1350-1450”, Andrzej Nadolski, Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Historii Kultury Materialnej, (1990), page 471, and Geschichte des deutschen Volkes seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters, “History of the German People at the close of the Middle Ages”, Johannes Janssen, 1896, page 49
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby Ariella Elema » 23 Apr 2012 21:52

Norfolk, Suffolk - Ralph of Swinderland claims that Henry le Claver, Thomas of Sottford, Henry Bardele, Henry son of Leofwin, Robert Ruffun and Geoffry le Co, and others with them, came to the house of the said Ralph in Benhall on the day after Saint Hillary at midnight and assaulted his house and broke into it in a robbery and stole one quilt pointed with silk worth twenty shillings and ten green ulnas (?) worth twenty-five shillings. And Ralph offers to prove that Henry did this wrongly and feloniously, either by his body (i.e. by a judicial duel) or as the court shall consider, because he had not returned to the house at the time nor did he see the robbery. And if that does not suffice, Ralph's servant Serlo Goldenfoot, to whom he had entrusted custody of his house, appeals the same Henry concerning the same matter and says that he (Henry) stole in the robbery one hood worth three shillings and one sword worth two shillings. And this he offers to prove, etc.


-Trinity term, 1225. Curia Regis Rolls, vol. XII (London: HMSO, 1957), p. 130, no. 651.

Devonshire - Ada Forester appeals Galfrid le Hostiller and Walter of Dureville that, although he was within the king's peace on the road between the bridge of Plime and Rugeborough (Rugeburg'), as he was returning from the service of the lord king at on the Thursday after the feast of Saint Martin, those men came and insulted him within the peace of the lord king and stole from him in robbery nine shillings in pennies and one rouncy with harness worth nine shillings and one sword (ensem) worth twelve pence, and they seized him and imprisoned him there while the sheriff was consulted; and this he offers to prove as the court shall consider. On the same day and at the same time, Ralph Bucket appeals Thomas Splot that in the same place on the same day he seized him by force and stole from him in robbery eight shillings, one axe and one knife... (The defendants claim that Ada and Ralph were criminals and that they themselves were making an arrest. The parties go on to argue about which of them are bandits and which are vigilantes.)


Easter term, 1228. Curia Regis Rolls, vol. XIII (London: HMSO, 1959), p. 120, no. 518.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby bigdummy » 23 Apr 2012 21:59

the hood is worth more than the sword? That is interesting...

The currencies continue to confuse and confound me. Did the value of a shilling fluctuate in this period? Was it worth roughly 12 pence?

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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby Ariella Elema » 23 Apr 2012 23:54

At the time, shillings and pounds were constant values used in accounting, but silver pennies were really the only English coins in circulation. Coins were usually accepted at face value, but if the edges of yours were badly clipped, a vendor or creditor might insist that your coins be valued by their weight rather than their number. On paper there were 240 pence in a pound, but in practice if you had to make a payment of a pound in pennies, you might have to pay 241 or 242 coins, or more.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby bigdummy » 24 Apr 2012 15:17

In the Baltic most of the currency was weighed, and could be from any number of sources, from local mints to as far away as Western Europe, the Med, Central Asia, the Middle East or as far away as China.

The Baltic towns were constantly devaluing their coinage by adulterating the metal, which further complicated matters. They did this severely for example after the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, when they were forced to pay the costs of ransoming the Teutonic Knights and their Crusader "guests", the Prussian cities made up the losses by cutting their currency with lead and copper and they paid their tithes, taxes and rents with these nearly worthless coins for several decades. This sort of thing was still a problem in Copernicus' time and he wrote a treatise about how to regulate currency (that nobody listened to).

In Central Europe a Mark or a Grivna (silver bar of equivalent worth) was supposed to be roughly 241 pence like a pound, but could range in actual value from 10 ounces to 16 ounces of silver, with 12 ounces being very roughly average from what I've been able to determine. New forms of currency kept appearing and their value changed dramatically over the years, some like the Mark mostly a book-keeping unit, others as everyday coinage or used for major business deals. The groschen started out as a cheap coin but increased in value (and size), ranging from 3 pennies to 12 pennies in value (the Prague groschen with silver derived from the enormously productive Kutna Hora mine was much more valuable), same with the thaeller (humble precursor to the dollar) which gradually became a very large silver coin eventually worth as much as a gold florin or more.

So a shilling is 12 pence? Was the word shilling in use in the 13th Century in England?

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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby Ariella Elema » 28 Apr 2012 02:37

In the high Middle Ages, yes. Twelve pence to a shilling, twenty shillings to a pound. The word shilling goes back to Old English, and further back than that to various Germanic languages. In Latin, it was translated with the word solidus, which originally meant a denomination of Roman coins.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby admin » 14 May 2012 21:06

Thanks for the info Ariella and BD.
Minor note - I'd like to keep this thread on sword values please.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby bigdummy » 16 May 2012 15:41

Ok... though I just read the price of some helmets in a Polish book on the Teutonic Order....

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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby admin » 16 May 2012 16:05

Please post more.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby Ariella Elema » 16 May 2012 21:18

A couple more cases from the Curia Regis Rolls.

Northamptonshire - Henry Engaine appeals Robert de Waterville because he came wrongfully into his fief of Siberton and robbed him of his grain, worth one mark, and his sword, worth twelve pennies, and seven shillings of silver. And Robert comes and defends the felony; and he seeks an official view of the land in which the robbery was supposed to have happened. Let him have it. A day is given to him on the fifteenth day after the feast of Saint Michael.

- Trinity term, 1205. Curia Regis Rolls, vol. 4, p. 37.

Hertfordshire - Adam son of Richard, the servant of Simon de Stiuecle, appeals Hugh Hairun because he wrongfully, in insulting premeditation and by night came to the house of his [Adam's] lord Simon in the village of Periton and with a group of men broke into the house and wrongfully entered into the chamber of his lord and robbed him of forty marks in pennies from the lord king's collection for the forest, which he had in his keeping. And when he [Adam] wished to raise a cry, he [Hugh] seized him with force and imprisoned him, so that he was in prison for two days and could not raise the hue and cry. And in that prison he [Hugh] robbed him of five shillings of his own property and one sword worth twelve pennies; and later he wrongfully broke the walls of the house where the grain was and threshed it and carried off the value of ten marks. And this he [Adam] offers to prove against him by his body as the court shall consider

- Easter term, 1206. Curia Regis Rolls, vol. 4, p. 147.

Twelve pence seems to have been the usual value of a sword in the early thirteenth century.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby Payson » 17 May 2012 10:37

On an average building construction/employed craftsperson (not self emoloyed) daily rate of 80-100 £ that's 4-5 days pay to buy a cheaper Albion. That kind of equates with the archers and man at arms pay already quoted. Good luck convincing a wife, then or now to spend it on a sword!
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby admin » 17 May 2012 11:18

Very interesting that the sword price to salary ratio compares so closely. I suppose that the price of swords, or any commodity, is always in part dictated by the seller aiming to make as much profit as possible, in the ever present proft-margin-per-unit to volume-sold ratio. Presumably the price of swords was dictated by demand as much as by cost to produce.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby Payson » 17 May 2012 12:58

This was a really interesting question to ask Matt. :) It helps us question the commonly held assumtion among, for example, reenactors that the sword was an elite weapon. I will try to get links to some York inventories and wills that I have come across before as they list swords in with other possessions as well as sometimes a bit of description if its something fancy. They also list the assessed value as well as info about the owner (craft or job etc.) of course as you know.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby admin » 17 May 2012 14:05

I think the important part to emphasise when talk about sword values is that they ranged in value massively. It's like asking how much a car costs... You can get an old knackered one for £100 or spend up to any amount you like. Swords were much the same IMO.
What is evident from the sources though is that swords were incredibly common. Anybody from a farmer to a tradesman and above could own one, and frequently did. This is also supported by the various 13th-14th century laws in England banning 'vagabonds' (naughty people) walking the streets at night after curfew with swords and bucklers and without lanterns.
A related point to ponder is how often people updated their swords - were there people wandering around in the 14thC with 11thC swords? Or did they get 'recycled' into 'modern' looking designs? This we will probably never know - at least outsdie of exceptional examples.
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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby bigdummy » 17 May 2012 15:48

The relative cost of swords went down dramatically though from the early Medieval period to the late. Around 700 AD a sword was a very expensive item, by the 1400's they were cheap. A lot of this had to do with the growth of the overall economy, but also the spread of very specific technologies like the overshot water wheel, spread far and wide by the Cistercians especially in the 11th-12th Centuries, (and this is the reason so many towns were founded at the one-time site of Cistercian abbeys) and a bit later, the Barcelona Hammer, Catalan Forge and other associated automation technologies, all of which increased the production of iron by leaps and bounds. The bloomery forge also got bigger through the middle ages and by the 15th Century was supplemented with the blast furnace (which were not used to make swords necessarily but made the cost of many other iron artifacts much lower and thereby lowered the cost of iron in general even further.

Check out some iron forging technology from circa 1495, Hausbuch von Schloss Wolfegg

This is a bloomery forge with an automated bellows (on the right) probably run by a water wheel
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9e/Hausbuch_Wolfegg_35v_H%C3%BCttenwerk.jpg/800px-Hausbuch_Wolfegg_35v_H%C3%BCttenwerk.jpg

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Forge & tools

This is I think a stamping mill for processing paper or grain but you can see how the water wheel powers it

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d5/Hausbuch_Wolfegg_36v_Stampfwerk.jpg/800px-Hausbuch_Wolfegg_36v_Stampfwerk.jpg

detail of an automated bellows

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Hausbuch_Wolfegg_37r_Doppelgebl%C3%A4se.jpg

In this little garden party you can see the water wheel over to the right

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/da/Hausbuch_Wolfegg_24v_25r_Liebesgarten.jpg/800px-Hausbuch_Wolfegg_24v_25r_Liebesgarten.jpg


I don't think most swords had that long of a lifetime when actually used. You can see a lot of antiques which have dramatically changed in shape due to continued sharpening. I suspect though that part of the reason so many swords were donated to churches and so on after big battles is that they were a bit too banged up and needed to be replaced. Edges got badly knicked and so on. But I suspect a lot of them were also either reforged or just ground down into smaller blades, this seems to be the case with a lot of Scottish blades if I understand correctly, two handed swords were ground down into single handers, which were in turn ground down into dirks which were eventually ground down into skein dubhs. But of course the Scots were notoriously poor and thrifty ;)

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Re: Value of medieval English swords, bucklers etc

Postby bigdummy » 17 May 2012 15:52

Payson wrote:On an average building construction/employed craftsperson (not self emoloyed) daily rate of 80-100 £ that's 4-5 days pay to buy a cheaper Albion. That kind of equates with the archers and man at arms pay already quoted. Good luck convincing a wife, then or now to spend it on a sword!


Good point, but consider for example in the US how many people spend at least that much on a gun or guns... which these days is thought of as the more appropriate self-defense weapon.

For us today that Albion is only a toy.

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