Object Title

Pollaxe

The pollaxe was a two-handed infantry weapon designed to hack, crush, and pierce armour plates, as well as flesh and bone. It combined the reach of a staff weapon with the crushing capabilities of the axe.

Development

The pollaxe developed in the late-14th century. It was mentioned by Chaucer in the 1380s in his book, The Knight's Tale.

The name pollaxe probably derives from the old English poll, meaning head, and has nothing to do with the wooden pole or stave on which the head is mounted.

The distinctive head of the pollaxe was made up of three elements: an axe-blade, an opposing rear hammerhead (which could be flat or cusped), and a top-spike. It would have been fastened to a long wooden haft.

Use and effect

Aristocrats and officers used the pollaxe, not only on the battlefield but also in the tournament. Thomas Montague (fourth Earl of Salisbury), who fought at the Battle of Agincourt, is depicted in a contemporary illustration carrying a pollaxe.

Some were highly decorated to demonstrate the elevated status of the carrier.

As the pollaxe head was made up of three parts, the weapon was multi-purpose. The axe blade could deliver cutting blows, the rear hammerhead crushing ones, and the top-spike could deliver penetrating thrusts.

The haft often had two disc-shaped hand-guards, and the end of the haft also may have had a spike; this meant that both ends of the weapon could be used in combat.

Statistics

Length of blade 25.3 cm (10 ins.)
Length of hammer: 10.1 cm (4 ins.)
Length of langets: 73.6 cm (29 ins)
Length of spike: 21 cm (8 ¼ ins.)
Overall length 1.85 m (73 ins.)
Weight 2.67 kg (5 lb. 13 ½ oz.)

Associations

Author

Bob Woosnam-Savage