There was great excitement in the Abbey Museum office last week; in fact, it felt a little like Christmas, as the Director unwrapped a group of medieval artefacts that had been donated to the Museum. We always endeavour to grow the medieval collections because of the association with the very popular Abbey Medieval Festival which tells one of the stories of this museum.

The first object to be revealed was a small but deadly collection of nine iron medieval arrow heads. They possibly come from Scandinavia as most are tanged, a form which was more common in northern Europe than Britain, and date to the 9th to 11th centuries.

The second object to be unwrapped was a very small but delightful pilgrim’s badge of a fighting cock. The bronze badge is in the shape of a running cockerel with textures detail to the body, wings and comb, spurs to the rear of the feet and dates to the 13 – 14th century. It is said that cockfighting was originally introduced into Britain by the Romans. It was popular with all classes of society and most villages featured a ‘cockpit’. These fights were a huge attraction with spectators often coming from great distances to view the fight, most commonly betting on the outcome. Possibly something NOT to include in our Festival!

With excitement mounting the third and final parcel to be opened revealed a medieval billhook. What may you ask is a billhook. I had to look it up myself. A billhook was originally a farming tool used for cutting brush or grains. However, it developed into a weapon used by the peasant foot soldier. Also known as a “Bill” this tool-come-weapon could inflict tremendous injury on an opponent wearing plate armour and also on a horse. The weapon could be used as a grappling or cutting weapon and I am told was capable of cutting off the limbs of an enemy in one stroke. I preferred not to think about it too much as I examined our new acquisition.

These new medieval artefacts will be photographed and researched further before going on display… so stay tuned. The Museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 10.00 am – 4.00 pm. Visit us soon!