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Object Title

Horse armour (bargustawan)

Horse armour (bargustawan)

Date

17th - 18th century

Object Number

XXVIH.18

Provenance

Purchased for the displays at the Tower Armouries from a private buyer following the sale of the Gwennap collection at Laing's Shooting Gallery in June 1833. On display at the Tower by 1834. Acquired by William Bullock for his London Museum and Pantherion, 1809; sold in 1816 to Mr Gwennap for the Oplotheca in London and subsequently shown at the Gothic Hall, Pall Mall in 1820 and at the ‘Royal Armoury’ show at Haymarket circa 1821.

Physical Description

The armour comprises three separate elements including a shaffron (head defence), crinet (neck defence) and a body armour combining peytral, flanchard and crupper armour (chest, flank and rump defences) in one piece with the opening at the front. The armour is of mail and plate construction, with a mixture of brass and steel plates in the shaffron and the rest being mainly steel plates. The edges of the small plates are cusped and scalloped, which lends a geometric patterned appearance to the armour. Rows of plates are connected by panels of mail formed from alternating rows of solid and riveted links. At the shoulders, flanks and neck areas of the armour these rows of mail and plate are arranged to accommodate plates placed in a close-set radiating pattern around large circular plates or bosses which are edged with a brass border. The shaffron has a large plate shaped to cover the front of the horse's face, with a slight medial ridge and decorated with a scalloped brass border and applied metal bosses. Attached to this plate are cheek guards and a lower nose defence constructed from rows of scalloped iron and brass plates connected by mail, shaped to follow the countours of the head. The textile lining of the armour is probably later in date.

Featured in

Dimensions

OverallHeight1800 mm
OverallLength2240 mm
OverallWidth750 mm

Component parts

Inscriptions and Marks

None.

Bibliographic References

W. Bullock, A companion to Mr Bullock's London Museum and Pantherion, London, 1812, p. 23.

Catalogue of a most splendid and instructive collection of antient armour, exhibiting at the Oplotheca, London, 1816, p. 22.

Gothic Hall, Pall Mall, Catalogue of the splendid collection of antient armour, London, 1818, p. 14, no. 31, as 'armour of a Crusader...being of the time of King Stephen'.

Royal Armoury, Haymarket, Descriptive catalogue of a very costly and superb collection of military antiquities, London, n.d. (c.1820), no. 2, 'the armour of a Norman Crusader and his barbed horse...'.

A new and improved history and description of the Tower of London, London, 1834, pp. 26-7.

J. Hewitt, The Tower, its history, armouries and antiquities, London, 1834, p. 50 and fp.; idem 1845, pp. 74-5; idem 1854, pp. 63-4.

J. Hewitt, Official catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859, no. xv.389, p. 110.

Viscount Dillon, Illustrated guide to the Armouries, London, 1910, no. xv.15, p. 29.

H.R. Robinson, Oriental armour, London, 1967, pl. xix.c.

A. Borg, 'A Crusader in borrowed armour', Country Life, 18 July 1974.

T. Richardson, 'The Tong Crusader', Country Life, 2 April 1987, pp. 98-9.

C. Bayly, The Raj, London, 1990, no. 13, p. 45.

D, Nicolle, Mughul India 1504-1761, Osprey Men-at-Arms 263, London, 1993, p. 21.

: 120-5

Indian Arms and Armour

Islamic Arms and Armour

Notes

As the Mughal Empire expanded between the 16th and 18th centuries, heavy cavalry troops across northern and central India fought in body armour constructed from mail and steel plate. Horses were also clad in metal armour, formed from panels of the same mail and plate shaped to cover their heads, necks and bodies. The overlapping plates made these defences resilient but they were also flexible thanks to strong mail built from alternate rows of solid, hammer-welded links and riveted links. This structure was intended to deflect weapons including arrows, swords, lances, maces and saddle axes. Surviving components are now extremely rare, but such armours were illustrated in large numbers in contemporary sources, often covered in rich textile caparisons.

This South Asian horse armour dates to the period of Mughal rule, and is seemingly the most complete remaining example of the type. It also has a remarkably lengthy provenance as a collection object, although we do not know how it originally arrived in Britain. Before coming to the Tower, it had already featured in numerous public displays across London. It was partnered with a mail and plate helmet (XXVIA.16) and coat (no longer identifiable within the collection) by William Bullock and first presented as a set in the companion guide to his ‘Liverpool Museum’ which he transported to London for show in 1809. The armour was then shown as part of Mr Gwennap’s collection at the London Oplotheca from 1816, the Gothic Hall, Pall Mall in 1820 and at the ‘Royal Armoury’ show at Haymarket circa 1821. The armour was not correctly identified in any of these displays though; successive catalogues inferred that the assembled equipment consisted of rare pieces of great antiquity, which together represented the characteristic armour of a Norman knight and his horse as they would have appeared in the time of King Stephen. (These suggestions were probably drawn from fables that had grown up around the provenance of the coat and helmet. Before these pieces were matched with the horse armour, they had resided in Dr Greene’s museum in Lichfield during the later 18th century. He reputedly obtained them from Tong Castle in Shropshire, where romantic family legend associated them with Sir Fulk Pembrugge, a lord of Tong during the Crusades era.) Both the horse armour and the armour for the rider were South Asian and dated to around the 17th century, but this was not realised for a long time because scholarship of arms and armour was in its infancy in Britain. The mail and plate structure of the pieces prompted an assumption of a medieval date, and conveniently accommodated the need to plug gaps in the historical narrative of contemporary displays, which lacked 'ancient' examples. (Although the Oplotheca catalogue did speculate that the horse armour at least could be ‘Eastern’, this observation was brushed aside from subsequent descriptions for some time.) For this reason the acquisition of the horse armour by the Armouries at the Tower following the sale of the Gwennap collection was advised in Ordnance Office correspondence in June 1833 in the following terms: ‘recommending the purchase partly by money and partly by barter of the armour of a Norman Crusader and of that of his horse’, (A letter from R. Porrett, Chief Clerk under the Principal Storekeeper to the Secretary to the Board). It was first recorded as being on show at the Tower of London in 1834 in the guidebook printed that year, which enthusiastically described it as a ‘Norman Crusader’. It took until the 1840s for the first published acknowledgements that the armours for both horse and rider were Asian, and even then the horse armour was generally thought to be Persian until the 20th century, when the similarities with other Indian mail and plate defences must have encouraged its reattribution.

Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18
Thumbnail image of horse armour (bargustawan)
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) A suit of mail and plate horse armour which is dated to the period of the Mughal Empire. It is formed from three separate parts,  including a shaffron (head defence), crinet (neck defence) and combined peytral and crupper (chest and flank defences).
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) A suit of mail and plate horse armour which is dated to the period of the Mughal Empire. It is formed from three separate parts,  including a shaffron (head defence), crinet (neck defence) and combined peytral and crupper (chest and flank defences).
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) A suit of mail and plate horse armour which is dated to the period of the Mughal Empire. It is formed from three separate parts,  including a shaffron (head defence), crinet (neck defence) and combined peytral and crupper (chest and flank defences).
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) A suit of mail and plate horse armour which is dated to the period of the Mughal Empire. It is formed from three separate parts,  including a shaffron (head defence), crinet (neck defence) and combined peytral and crupper (chest and flank defences).
Thumbnail image of Horse armour (bargustawan) early 17th century. XXVIH.18