Object Title

Helm - Great Helm

Helm - Great Helm



Object Number



Sold at Sotheby's sale, 21 May 1974, lot 185 (said to have been put into Sotheby's auction rooms by a dealer who had purchased it with a close helmet c. 1580 and a mid 17th century triple-bar pot, all in similar condition, somewhere in the Midlands)

Physical Description

Constructed from three plates of plain steel; the low conical crown-plate being overlapped by the truncated cone of the skull-plate which is itself overlapped by the side- plate and joined with brass capped nails. This last, forming the wall of the helm, is a one-piece tube and is pierced on the right side at the front only by numerous circular breaths, and at the front near the lower edge on each side by a cross-shaped opening for the attachment of a toggle-ended chain, by which the helm was secured to the breastplate. The lower edge of the helmet is turned over to strengthen it. The sight is formed by a gap between the skull and the side plate, the edges of which are turned out to form a glancing surface away from the eyes. It is spanned at the centre front by an upward extension of the side-plate. The front of the helm has a marked vertical keel running up the centre and over the crown. It is much less pronounced down the centre of the back.The helm is pierced at twenty-one places with pairs of holes for the attachment of the lining, mantling and crest. Three holes arranged in a triangle at the nape of the neck presumably originally secured the strap by which the helm was attached to the backplate. The small dome-headed rivets are of steel, with pointed shanks clinched over the inside. Several of the rivets along the top of the side-plate have diamond-shaped iron washers inside to secure the lining. Three of the six rivets over the brow have similar washers. The centre of the crown-plate has been roughly pierced, presumably for the spike on which a funerary crest could be fixed when the helm became part of a funerary achievement. A lining was attached inside the cone of the skull by washers on every second rivet around the circumference of the join at the level of the sights.

Featured in

Hundred Years War



OverallDepth306 mm
OverallHeight365 mm
OverallWidth226 mm

Inscriptions and Marks



Bibliographic References

Howard Curtis 'The Great Helm', Arms Gazette, 2.8, April 1978, p.42 (with b&w photo).

Derek Spaulding, 'An unrecorded English helm of c. 1370' Journal of the Arms and Armour Society Vol. IX, No.1 June 1977, pp.6-9, pl. iv-vii.

Howard Curtis 2,500 years of European helmets, 800 B.C.-1700 A.D.Beinfeld Publishing, 1978, p 48, 49 (b&w photo), 'It has been suggested it was the helm of Sir John Chandos'.

A V B Norman and G M Wilson, Treasures from the Tower of London, Norwich, 1982: cat no.7, pp. 40-41, pl.VI.

Dorling Kindersley, Weapon. A visual history of arms & armour, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 2006, p. 86

C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011, volume 1


This helm was made in the same workshop as that from the tomb of Sir Richard Pembridge K.G. in Hereford Cathedral and now in the Royal Scottish Museum (Reg. no. 1905.489). They are structurally identical except that the Pembridge helm is pierced on both sides for ventiation. The only other comparable helm is that of the Black Prince (died 1376) which still forms part of the funeral achievements in Canterbuy Cathedral.

The origin of this helm is unknown but it has obviously been used in the late 15th or early 16th century as part of a funeral achievement in a church as the cap-plate has been crudely pierced for a crest spike.