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Greave: HEN.M.152-1933

Object information

Current Location: Gallery 31 (Armoury)


Unknown (Production)


Front plate of a greave with sabaton for the left leg and foot, for heavy cavalry or tournament use, with bands of etched and gilt decoration. Formed of the front plate of a full-length, tubular greave and an integral sabaton of ten lames. The front plate of the greave is medially ridged and closely shaped to the contours of the lower leg. Its lower edge has a roped, inward turn at each side, and an arched cut-out for the foot at the front. Its upper edge is pierced at either side with a hole for a missing turning-pin and stud to engage keyhole slots in the lower edge of a poleyn. A pair of later holes at the centre of the upper edge are now occupied by externally-flush rivets, the left of which retains a fragment of leather under its flat, internal head. The upper inner corner of the front plate of the greave is broken away. The outer edge of the plate is pierced with a rivet-hole near its upper end, another, occupied by the remains of a rivet, a short distance below it, and yet another at its lower end. The lowest two of these holes probably served to retain the hinges that connected the front and back plates of the greaves to one another. The inner edge of the front plate is pierced with a pair of holes at its upper end, a single hole a short distance below it, and three holes at its lower end. The outer of the pair of holes at the top and the outer of the three holes at the bottom probably served to engage studs on the rear plate of the greave. The remaining holes are mostly, or all, later. The sabaton, which fits within the arched lower edge of the front plate of the greave, is formed of ten lames that overlap inwards towards the fifth which is considerably longer than the rest. The tenth lame constitutes the toe-cap, which is of narrow, slightly square form with bulbous corners. All lames of the sabaton are medially ridged and have plain, partial inward turns at their lower edges. The lames are connected to one another and to the greave at their outer ends by modern round-headed rivets with square internal washers, except in the case of the rivets connecting the first lame to the greave, where the washers are octagonal. The lames were further connected to one another and to the sabaton at their centres by a pair of internal leathers secured to each lame by an externally-flush rivet, except on the toe-cap where the rivets are modern and round-headed. The rivet-hole for the inner leather on the seventh lame remains vacant. Both leathers have been deliberately severed between each lame. A single, externally-flush rivet at either side of the toe-cap and a pair of such rivets on its underside retain a broad leather strap beneath the toes. The centre of the front edge of the fourth lame of the sabaton has been repaired with a riveted internal patch. The lateral edges of the front plate of the greave, the centre of the front plate of the greave and sabaton, and the front end of the toe-cap of the sabaton are decorated with bands of scrolling foliage and flowerheads on a stippled ground. The bands are enclosed by narrow borderlines from which alternating hatched, tri-radiate leaves and tendril-like volutes issue diagonally upwards and outwards. The bands and their borderlines retain substantial traces of gilding, while the projecting leaves and volutes are blackened.


History note: Mr James Stewart Henderson of 'Abbotsford', Down Road, St Helen's Park, Hastings, Sussex.

Legal notes

J.S. Henderson Bequest

Measurements and weight

Depth: 22.2 cm
Height: 46.6 cm
Weight: 1.08 kg
Width: 11.8 cm

Relative size of this object

11.8 cm46.6 cm22.2 cm What does this represent?

Relative size of this object is displayed using code inspired by Good Form and Spectacle's work on the British Museum's Waddeson Bequest website and their dimension drawer. They chose a tennis ball to represent a universally sized object, from which you could envisage the size of an object.

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1933-03-16) by Henderson, James Stewart


Mid-16th Century
Circa 1550 CE - 1560 CE


Armour for the lower legs was not common – it appears that most soldiers preferred just to have the tops of their legs protected and wore leather boots. The greave has very subtle and slow curves that closely fit the muscles of the leg, making it one of the hardest pieces of armour to make – getting the curves in three dimensions just right was a major feat of the armourers art.

South German, probably Innsbruck

The greave and sabaton is bright with light to medium patination, most severe on the sabaton.

Components of the work

Decoration composed of gilt Internal Leathers composed of leather Ground Parts Projecting Volutes Sabaton Lames

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Hammered : Formed of the front plate of a full-length, tubular greave and an integral sabaton of ten lames; hammered, shaped, riveted, with bands of etched and gilt decoration on a stippled and blackened ground

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: HEN.M.152-1933
Primary reference Number: 18654
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 13 April 2021 Last processed: Wednesday 14 April 2021

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2022) "Greave" Web page available at: Accessed: 2022-08-09 08:39:42

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{{cite web|url= |title=Greave |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2022-08-09 08:39:42|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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