Object Title

Jack of plate

Jack of plate



Object Number



Purchased 6 June 1985. The seller had acquired the jack and its plate sleeves from the English dealer, Mr Geoffrey P. Jenkinson, who had in turn acquired them from the private collection of Mr. Sidney Pavier, Curator of the Harris Art Galleries, Preston, Lancashire

Physical Description

It takes the form of a sleeveless doublet opening down the front. The right side of the breast overlaps the left side by about 3 in., and is pierced along it margin with six pairs of lace-holes (five down the vertical edge and one at the bottom). The holes are reinforced with wire rings sewn around with button-hole stitches. The laces which passed through them were apparently of leather and sewn through the left breast panel in such a way as to align their ends with the corresponding pairs of lace-holes in the breast panel. A fragment of the (original?) top lace is preserved. The jack possesses a short skirt which is divided at the sides and the rear; an upstanding collar which is divided at the sides; and short extensions over the points of the shoulder which are divided at the tops. The Jack is composed throughout of small overlapping iron plates sewn, between layers of fabric with crossbow twine. The plates are more or less square in shape, with sides measuring anything from about 1.15 in. to 1.4 in. they have cropped corners and are each drilled through their centres with a single hole to receive stitches. The outer fabric consists of a thick layer of woven wool faced with canvas. The inner fabric consists of two layers of a coarser grade of canvas, except at the front of the collar where a single layer of the coarse canvas overlays a layer of the thick woven wool. All the edges of the jack are sewn with a binding of the finer grade of canvas. Each plate is secured by anything from four to six stitches: the latter being the most typical. Vertical lines of stitches are present virtually throughout the trunk, accompanied by either a horizontal and a diagonal line of stitches or else two diagonal lines of stitches running counter to one another. On the collar, only vertical and horizontal stitches are employed, whereas on the skirt mainly horizontal and diagonal lines of stitches are found. The intersections of the stitches, at the centre of each plate, are decorated with tufts of green silk throughout. The jack lacks several of its plates and some portions of its outer canvas.


Dimensions: Height (in flat state): 762 mm (30 in.); width (in flat state): 485 mm (19 in.) Weight: 20 lb

Inscriptions and Marks



Places England

Bibliographic References

Ian Eaves, 'On the Remains of a Jack of Plate Excavated from Beeston Castle in Cheshire', The Journal of The Arms and Armour Society, vol.XIII, no.2, September 1989, pp.81-154, p.85.


The jack is probably one of a group of three such defences that had been in the collection of the Farington sisters at Worden Hall, Lancashire, in the 19th century. They are mentioned in a contemporary (but undated) inventory of the collection in the possession of Mr. John Forrester at Maudsley Hall, Lancashire: '3 Brigandine jackets (for Bowmen. (Eliz-h) sleeve of d (o) (in frame))'. One of these jacks, possibly the one now belonging to the Armouries, was lent together with its plate sleeves to the Exhibition of Helmets and Mail, held in the rooms of the Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland from 3-16 June 1880. It was described in detail in the catalogue of the exhibition published by A F de Cosson and W Burges, 'Catalogue of the Exhibition of Ancient Helmets and Examples of Mail', The Archaeological journal, Vol. XXXVII, 1881: 591, no. 49, fig 220. The farrington collection was dispersed by auction in 1948. A considerable number of its objects were purchased by the former manager of the Worden Hall Estate, Mr John Forrester, from whom they passed to his son of the same name, in the 1980s living at Maudsley hall, Lancashire. According to the latter, his father lent some things to Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire, and these presumably included the two jacks now in the care of the North Weston Museum and Art gallery Service at Blackburn, Lancashire, which were obtained from Rufford Old Hall. They are of exactly the same type as the example now belonging to the Armouries, except that one of them is fastened down the right, rather than the left, side of the chest. The other is furnished with an odd pair of plate sleeves, the right of which exactly matches the pair acquired with the Armouries jack, suggesting that all these pieces once formed a group. The Farington collection was drawn from all parts of the world and there is consequently no reason to suppose that the jacks had originally formed a part of the indigenous armoury of the Faringtons at Worden Hall, which had been confiscated from the family by the Parliamentary sequestors on 2 September 1643. At the time of the Royal Archaeological Institute exhibition in 1880, Miss Farington wrote 'one of the three coats now at Worden has done duty at a heraldic funeral, as if it had belonged to a Gentleman and was removed from Farington in consequence of some alterations in the year 1816'. This was conceivably the odd, sleeveless example now at Blackburn. (De Cosson and Burges, 1880: 59). The three jacks from Worden hall form a distinctive group in that they are all fastened down on one side of the chest, rather than down the centre of it., as on most other surviving jacks (cf II.26-7, III.44-6, III.1277-8). The only other recorded example of this type of jack, resembling III.1884 in all its respects, is preserved in the Schweizerishes Landesmuseum, Zurich (E A Gessler, Schweizerisches Landesmuseum: Fuhrer durch die Waffensammlung, Zurich, 1928: 145, pl. 28). A description and illustration of a further example, fastening down the left of the chest, occurs in a manuscript catalogue of arms and armour recorded by the Manchester antiquary, Thomas Barrit, in his own possession and in other collections which he visited in the North of England. He described the jack as 'A brigantine jacket quilted within, with square pieces of iron and about an inch in diameter and sliding over each other like the scales of fishes, and covered over with strong linen'. (Manchester City Library, Ancient Armour and Weapons in the Possession of Thom Barrit, 1973, pl. LVI:2). It is conceivable that the jack noticed by Barrit was one of those subsequently recorded at Worden Hall: either the example now belonging to the Armouries, or that now at Blackburn which fastens down the left of the chest. Jacks of the type represented by III.1884 were commonly worn by the ordinary soldier in England and Scotland from the middle to the end of the 16th century. William Harrison, in his description of England, first published in 1577, observed that 'Our armour.consisteth of corselets, almaine riverets, shirtes of kayle, Jackes quilted ouer wyth leather, fustian or canuas ouer thicke plates of yron that are sowed in the same, and of which there is no towne or village that hath not hir conuenient furniture' (R Holinshead, the Fist Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland - London, 1577, f.86v).