Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search


Please help our efforts with a donation. This site requires ongoing funding and your donations are crucial to our future.
Last 10 Donors: Neil Eddiford, Chad Arnow, Jean Thibodeau, Robert Morgan, Adam Rose, Jerry Otahal, Michael P. Smith, Mikko Kuusirati, Eric Bergeron, Daniel Staberg (View All Donors)

Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > the english bill Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Gabriele Becattini





Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 710

PostPosted: Mon 13 May, 2013 1:18 pm    Post subject: the english bill         Reply with quote

is there a form of this polearm tipically english?

or where the so called brown,black or forest bill merely a local name for the standard continental bill?

from what i have understand the english bill was considered a simple if not crudely made weapon, but i was wondering if there is a form strongly associated with england as for example the lochaber axe is with scotalnd

also, taking in account the huge variety in form and size, there are some measurements that can be considered "standard" for a bill's head?
View user's profile Send private message
Nicholas A. Gaese




Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 100

PostPosted: Mon 13 May, 2013 4:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure how well I can answer your questions, but I'll give it a go.

If I were to compare an English bill to an Italian one, I'd say the English is more halberd-like, with a more pronounced axe blade and sometimes less exaggerated bill. The Italian bill tends to be more spear-like with all the bill features.

And I wouldn't say English bills were crude, but perhaps compared to Italian bills they were not decorative or embellished.

The brown bill or forest bill was described by later writers as a militia or town guard weapon, made from poorer quality materials and often of simpler form (like missing a spear point or the like.).

I have two images to better show what I mean. They're not my photo's as they were taken from threads in this forum so all credit goes where it's due. Hope this helps.


regards.



 Attachment: 67.96 KB
snhhg99r.jpg
An English bill (left)

 Attachment: 72.44 KB
31.JPG
Italian bills
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
Joined: 28 Dec 2006

Posts: 801

PostPosted: Tue 14 May, 2013 2:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

but what period? The way we classify these items now is to satisfy collectors. The middle bill in the collection of Italian ones is also pretty identical to ones used by HVIII personal guard.

I'd say its pretty impossible to nail down a style that can be defined as English. Any old farm implement used for hedging and pruning etc was pressed into service early on, they then got larger and more specific.

Most domestic bills have a curved blade but also a straight back blade, enlarge that, add the odd spike or fluke (scythes are adapted in the same way) and hey presto, a military bill. But the form is pretty variable and thus tricky to identify, let alone define. The RA has one found in a barn in a town near me called Horsham, pretty simple but clearly a weapon, not a tool.

The weapon of choice for the Englishman was the longbow, no pole weapon achieved any kind of national association like the Lochaber Axe or halberd. Although I'm not even sure the lochaber was that widely recognised as anything culturally definative until the late 18th cent and the romanitic ideal of olden days Scotland. Mainly as its not really a game changer, or used to any great effect. It was just another nasty tool in the inventory.
View user's profile Send private message
Gabriele Becattini





Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 710

PostPosted: Tue 14 May, 2013 6:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i have asked because i have seen on the market some models that are labelled like "english"

that are of a very distinctive form compared to the standard italian bill

most notably the A&A model posted by Nicholas, if i'm not wrong it is modelled after an example in the Pitt Rivers museum of Oxford

i'm mostly interested in the elizabethan period but i don't know if the A&A model belong to that period
View user's profile Send private message
Nicholas A. Gaese




Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 100

PostPosted: Tue 14 May, 2013 6:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes period is very important and so too is knowing cultural tastes. When I posted those images above I should had dated them also.

The weapon in the first image would probably be better described as an English military bill. It's the most popular form of bill in art depicting the English at war from the 15th century to the end of Henry VIII's days. Henry spent a lot of effort later in his life trying to "modernize" his army by adopting more guns, pikes, and halberds, basically adopting continental styles of fighting. Before then the common man fought mainly with bows and bills (mixed with other pole arms too).

The second batch of bills are from the second half of the 16th century, and probably represent the style used across many cultures at that period for its more artistic style. At this point it would be a bit difficult to distinguish one from another but like I said period is important. The Italians used a similar form for a while before, but I'm not sure how popular it was as a weapon of war. To them it may well had been another spear-like pole arm in their already vast repertoire.

And of course your right about the common form of the more simpler bills across cultures. This is what would probably describe the forest or brown bill, a weapon that was more adapted from the farm implement and was common with many militias that used bills and in more places then just England. The forms above are generally military weapons made with a form and materials suited for their role in war. A fighting man may well invest in a more complex style then what was needed by a farmer.

I hope that clarifies what I said earlier.

Regards.
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Joined: 01 Oct 2003
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 2,256

PostPosted: Tue 14 May, 2013 7:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

FWIW....GetDressedForBattle sells a nice reproduction, blunted with pole langettes. I just saw it at Therion Arms for $50. They call it a halberd, but it looks very similar to the one in the photo posted. I guess the langettes could be removed, if one wished to do so. Just my two coppers.....McM
View user's profile Send private message
David Gaál




Location: Hungary
Joined: 26 Mar 2011

Posts: 104

PostPosted: Tue 14 May, 2013 11:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would a bit agree with Nicholas A. Gaese. I would recommend Waldman's book: Hafted weapons in medieval and renaissance Europe. There is a chapter titled: BILLS.
Something from it, which might be interesting:

"According to Laking, who concludes that the bill was the most popular staff weapon in England, the common bill was, in the late Middle-Ages, predominantly an English weapon. He cites the Royal Armouries’ inventory as recording the presence of 6,700 bills in the mid-sixteenth century."

"A typical English bill is pictured in the exhibition catalog “Treasures from the Tower of London," ..."
This is the "fully developed form" of English bill like that in the first picture of Nicholas A. Gaese on the left side. Although what on the right is I would not call a bill more likely an early type of halberd maybe dating it after style to the XIV.th century.

The bill is most of the time called "ronca" or "roncone" in Italian. And in their "fully developed form" they are like those on the second picture posted by Nicholas.

Dávid

http://energie-fenster.at/
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Sean Flynt
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Joined: 21 Aug 2003
Likes: 10 pages
Reading list: 13 books

Spotlight topics: 7
Posts: 5,900

PostPosted: Tue 14 May, 2013 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If English arms of this period are your thing, save the money on Waldman and get Weapons of Warre instead. It's worth the price just for the section on the Mary Rose bills, including a step-by-step illustrated reconstruction of the type represented in the artifacts. Every detail is covered. You could just photocopy that section and give it to a competent blacksmith.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Gabriele Becattini





Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 710

PostPosted: Wed 15 May, 2013 5:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

so looks like if there is a distinctive pattern of the so called english bill, less "italian" and more halberd like

Weapons of Warre it is in my list for a near future!

i have taken also a look to the halberd head offered by Therion Arms, it could be a nice option but problably i'll go for a full custom one,

the GDFB example has a cutting edge of about 22 cm with a top spike of 20 cm and a rear spike of 6 cm (according to my approximate translation) sounds good for you?
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Joined: 01 Oct 2003
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 2,256

PostPosted: Wed 15 May, 2013 7:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The GDFB halberd head is indeed an option. A full-on custom might set you back a good bit in the pocketbook, though. If I were looking for one custom made---me, now----I would be inclined to contact Baltimore Knife and Sword. They make seriously awesome polearm heads, mounted or unmounted, and will make you ANYTHING you want...to your exact specs. Plus, Matt and Kerry are a hoot to deal with. Happy ...........McM
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,189

PostPosted: Wed 15 May, 2013 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Judging by sixteenth-century English military texts, the bill was a distinctively English weapon associated rural life. Humphrey Barwick, for example, wrote how simple country folk didn't know how to use the long thrusting halberds popular on the Continent and thus required bills capable of powerful cutting blows. While the bill didn't have the same cultural cachet as the bow, it was important nonetheless. Sixteenth-century military writers like Sir John Smythe, Sir Roger Williams, and George Silver considered bills and halberds functionally equivalent. Consistent with traditional English success at using such weapons alongside bows, Smythe desired halberdiers in great numbers and insisted on their efficacy in the melee.

I see no reason to classify the forest bill as an inferior design. Silver considered it the most effective of all weapons for single combat in the open.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
Joined: 28 Dec 2006

Posts: 801

PostPosted: Wed 15 May, 2013 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Forgot this Bill snippet. That the English soldiers under Essex in Ireland were selling 'brown bills' to the locals as they were considered inferior. One assumes they were going over to pike instead.

Much like the many thousands of brigandines issued from the tower at the same time and were lost overboard mid-channel as they were considered useless and obsolete. Certainly against the Spanish calivers anyway.

Somewhere in Irish farms there may well be a few knocking about!
View user's profile Send private message
Gabriele Becattini





Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 710

PostPosted: Wed 15 May, 2013 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

the english weaponry is so fascinating for me just for the retention of old fashioned stuff like the bill and bow!


consideration about is effectiveness on the battlefield aside, i badly need one,

Baltimore's polearms are gorgeous, but unfortunately i'm european based and the custom fees are too much for me,

probaly i'll ask an eastern european Smith like Viktor berbekucz, he has already made for me a very nice spear.

any advice about the heads measurements?
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Flynt
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Joined: 21 Aug 2003
Likes: 10 pages
Reading list: 13 books

Spotlight topics: 7
Posts: 5,900

PostPosted: Wed 15 May, 2013 6:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's measurement info in some of these sample pages from Weapons of Warre. It's a vast collection of information.


 Attachment: 212.66 KB
bill.gif


 Attachment: 171.7 KB
bill2.gif


 Attachment: 232.71 KB
bill3.gif


 Attachment: 219.44 KB
bill4.gif


-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Gabriele Becattini





Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 710

PostPosted: Thu 16 May, 2013 3:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

that's very helpful Sean, thank you very much,

i have already made a cardboard model following some of the measurements that you have provided, i'll ask your opinion again on the result
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
Joined: 28 Dec 2006

Posts: 801

PostPosted: Thu 16 May, 2013 9:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Three items forged over here by Andy Kirkham. One on left is based on one from Leeds Armoury don't know about the other two, they were swapsies!

I do have a tracing of the Henry VIII guards bills i took at the RA a while ago somewhere if anyone is desperate for a copy. Its just like the one in the picture, but a wee bit smaller.



 Attachment: 204.26 KB
[ Download ]
View user's profile Send private message
Gabriele Becattini





Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 710

PostPosted: Fri 17 May, 2013 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice pic Mark, even if i'm not a fan of the open socket, i like much more the close version

i'm trying to figured oue if there is a geometric proportion for the heads, looks like if the socket is long or slightly shorter as the blade main body (minus the curved beak) and as the top spike,
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,189

PostPosted: Thu 23 May, 2013 12:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's interesting that the Mary Rose bills apparently had such think hafts (1.5-2in diameter). The reconstructed billhead weighed 2.9kg and they mounted it on a 2-x-2in pole! Based on my A&A English bill and the weight of its 1.125in ash haft, the Weapons of Warre reconstruction must weigh 9-10lbs in all. That strikes me as quite heavy. I know Sliver thought bills weights of weight, but it's my understanding halberds tended to weight around 7lbs. And a surviving English bill from the late fifteenth century only weighs a bit over 5lbs.
Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Sean Flynt
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Joined: 21 Aug 2003
Likes: 10 pages
Reading list: 13 books

Spotlight topics: 7
Posts: 5,900

PostPosted: Thu 23 May, 2013 1:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
It's interesting that the Mary Rose bills apparently had such think hafts (1.5-2in diameter). The reconstructed billhead weighed 2.9kg and they mounted it on a 2-x-2in pole! Based on my A&A English bill and the weight of its 1.125in ash haft, the Weapons of Warre reconstruction must weigh 9-10lbs in all. That strikes me as quite heavy. I know Sliver thought bills weights of weight, but it's my understanding halberds tended to weight around 7lbs. And a surviving English bill from the late fifteenth century only weighs a bit over 5lbs.


The Mary Rose top darts also have extremely thick hafts. I wonder if naval arms were hafted differently since they would not be carried in the field.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,189

PostPosted: Fri 24 May, 2013 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
The Mary Rose top darts also have extremely thick hafts. I wonder if naval arms were hafted differently since they would not be carried in the field.


But the pikes are quite thin (20-30mm) and the suspected halberd haft reasonably so. Assuming the recovered items match their original state, perhaps bills had such thick hafts near the head to make them more resistant to cuts - they don't appear to have had langets - and/or to increase the impact of swinging strokes.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > the english bill
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum