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Half-shaffron: HEN.M.160-1933

Object information

Current Location: Gallery 31 (Armoury)






Half-shaffron, for field use. Formed of a main plate, a pair of ear-defences and a later decorative roundel and spike. The transversely curved main plate is shaped to the brow. It is medially ridged and boxed at either side with ridges that diverge from the centre of the brow to the eyes. The rounded lower edge of the main plate, which extends a short distance below the level of the eyes, has a file-roped, partial inward turn bordered by a plain raised rib. The sides of the main plate have large, semi-circular cut-outs for the eyes. The edges of the eye-openings are flanged outwards and decorated with file-roped, partial inward turns. The upper corners of the main plate are cut away in concave curves to receive the medially-ridged, gutter-shaped ear defences that narrow to their rounded upper ends. The lateral and upper edges of the ear-defences have file-roped, partial inward turns accompanied by narrow grooves. The ear-defences have flanged lower edges that fit over the edge of the main plate and are in each case secured to it by four brass-capped, round-headed rivets. Secured at the upper edge of the main plate, between the ear defences, by single brass-capped, round-headed rivets with external brass rosette-washers, are a pair of hinges for the attachment of a missing poll-plate. The lateral edges of the hinges are shaped around the rivets. The distal end of the right hinge is missing. The distal end of the left hinge is fitted with a later externally-flush rivet with an octagonal external washer. Two brass-capped, round-headed rivets with circular, internal washers located at each side of the main plate, between the ear-defences and eye-openings, may have served to attach missing side-plates or straps. The lower rivet at the right side retains a buff-leather tab. The upper rivet at the left side lacks the greater part of its internal washer. Attached by a single rivet at each side of the main plate, just below the eye-opening, is the remains of a later strap to fasten the shaffron around the horse's head. The rivet at the left side is of brass-capped, round-headed form with an external brass-rosette washer. The rivet at the right side is of externally-flush form with an octagonal external washer showing traces of simple incised decoration. Each side of the side-plate is fitted with a series of seven brass-capped, round-headed rivets with circular internal washers. The lines of rivets diverge from the brow to the eye openings, run around the centres of the eye-openings and then converge just below the level of the eye-openings. The upper rivets retain the remains of fabric lining-bands. Riveted at the centre of the main-plate, between the upper ends of the eye-openings, is a modern, spirally-fluted, tapering spike of circular section, which passes through the centre of a decorative modern roundel externally, and a thick rectangular plate and a circular washer internally. The circular roundel is decorated with nine radiating, spiralling flutes. The edge of the roundel is cusped at the ends of the flutes, and bordered by nine brass-capped, round-headed rivets with square internal washers that retain a buff-leather lining-band. The main plate of the shaffron is pierced both above and below the spike with three holes in triangular formation. The top pair of holes appear from their uneven placing to be modern additions. The remaining holes may at some time have served to attach a plume-holder or escutcheon. The edges of the shaffron show some cracking and denting, most notably at the eye-openings and the tops of the ear-defences. The brass caps of most of the rivets, with the exception of those in the roundel, have worn through.


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

Legal notes

J.S. Henderson Bequest

Measurements and weight

Depth: 16.5 cm
Height: 11 cm
Weight: 0.31 kg
Width: 20 cm

Relative size of this object

20 cm11 cm16.5 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


Late 16th Century
Production date: circa AD 1580


North Italian

The shaffron is bright with a mottled medium patination overall.

This plate covered the top part of a horse’s head. The roundel and spike are modern replacements but it was common for shaffrons to have a small disc or shield with a decorative spike. The remains of the hinges at the top would have secured the shaffron to the neck defence, the crinet.

Components of the work

Lining-bands composed of cloth ( fragments)
Rivet Caps composed of brass (alloy)
Rosette Washers composed of brass (alloy)
Lining-band composed of leather
Tab composed of leather
Main Plate

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Hammered : Formed of a medially-ridged main plate, a pair of ear-defences and a later decorative roundel and spike; hammered, shaped, riveted, with file-roped, incised and fluted decoration

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: HEN.M.160-1933
Primary reference Number: 18662
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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