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Tim Harris
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Mar, 2019 8:35 pm    Post subject: Jedburgh Axes         Reply with quote

Despite searches here and elsewhere, I'm unable to find much on Jedburgh/Jeddart axes/staves, apart from a couple of reproductions, and one possible original from an older forum thread.

Does anyone know of any other source material?

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Mar, 2019 8:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What kind of sources are you looking for? I doubt that there is anything much worthwhile written on Jedburgh axes.
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Tim Harris
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PostPosted: Wed 13 Mar, 2019 6:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
What kind of sources are you looking for? I doubt that there is anything much worthwhile written on Jedburgh axes.


Good clear pictures of originals would be a bonus Stephen, but if nothing shows up in searches of Royal Armouries and National Museum of Scotland sites, I'd be expecting a struggle. However, I've been pointed here: http://fallingangelslosthighways.blogspot.com/, where there is one example. I'd forgotten that site - should have looked there first.

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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Mar, 2019 9:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is some information on Jedburgh Staves/ Jeddart staff/ Jedwart axe in the book Scottish Weapons and Fortifications 1100-1800 (1981), in the chapter "Some Notes on Scottish Axes and Long Shafted Weapons" by David H. Caldwell, including a few drawings of the type. Caldwell is also the editor of the book.

Possibly the first mention of the staves seems to be from John Major's History of Great Britain, from 1521. From Caldwell, page 291:
Quote:

Form D Axes

Major gives a description of a long-shafted weapon in his History of 1521 which was then known as a Jedwart (Jedburgh) staff, after the town of that name in Roxburghshire. The weapons were iron-shod shafts, and the smiths of Jedburgh are said to have been able to make steel blades four feet (1.22m) long on the end of oak staffs. There survives a small group of weapons in Scotland with long narrow blades of the sort of length indicated by Major which may be considered to be Jedburgh staffs. Three from Murthly Castle in Perthshire (fig. 160), formerly in the Noel Paton Collection but now in the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh (nos. 1905.1081-3) may be considered typical examples. Others are at Cawdor Castle in Nairn and one illustrated by Drummond as belonging tho the Earl of Seafield (fig. 161).

The blades in all of them are only a few centemetres wide and stretched into a sharp point beyond the top of the shaft. The upper portions of the blades are double-edged and all are provided with metal roundels--small discs fitted over the shafts a bit below the blades as a protection for the hand and to prevent it slipping. Such devices are often associated with shafted weapons for use on horseback, and if this group of weapons can be identified as Jedwart staves there is good reason to think that they may so have been used at least some of the time. They may date to the sixteenth or seventeenth century.


The chapter continues and makes a possible connection with the Lochaber axe form. Caldwell seems to associate the two as a similar type because of the haft attachment: wrapped around the haft like a European bardiche. I'll try to photo the plates from the book. There is also some information about Jeddart axes in two other books, but scanty.
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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Mar, 2019 6:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Trying to find the actual examples in the online database of the National Museums of Scotland (which entity absorbed the Royal Scottish Museum) was not successful. They may not be digitized yet, or they may not exist in that museum, or at all despite the accession number Caldwell provides. Here are the plates from Caldwells book.


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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Mar, 2019 6:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a small chapter in Hafted Weapons in Medieval and Renaissance Europe by John Waldman (2005) on "The Jedburgh Staff and Lochaber Axe". Despite the later publishing date and the excellent quality overall of the book, Waldman seems unaware of Caldwell's work and shows a very different Jedburgh Staff. He does seem to agree that the Jedburgh/Jeddart stave is related in type to, if not a precursor of the Lochaber axe, but his description of the Jedburgh staff is very different:

Quote:
These weapons are not of continental European origin or use and were deployed almost exclusively in Scotland. A typical Jedburgh axe, or staff, stave, Jeddart axe, (all synonyms) is shown in fig. 158. It bears a remarkable resemblance to the continental Swiss halberd of the late fourteenth century, but has instead of the beak, a downward curved hook welded to the back of the superior eye, and being either quadrangular or round in section. Wagner calls it a Scottish Halberd. The lower half of the blade's cutting edge is drawn in to form a concavity, and the base of the blade is stamped twice with a crowned "S" mark, reminiscent of Milanese marks of the fourteenth century. The eyes are, as in other forms, welded on, the lower being of larger diameter than the upper, and the pole is modified to fit these differing diameters much the same way as in the early halberd in fig 37. They are nailed to the round shaft with lateral nails. The medium-length spike is quadrangular and again, like halberds, has a sharp edge facing forward. The weapon appears to have been in use between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. A reference to the arming of troops with this weapon occurs in 1642, in the Scottish Ats of Charles I that provides "that they be furnisched with halbert, lochwaber axes or Jedburgh staffes and swordis." Interestingly enough the weapon never made the transition from eye-fastenings to socket fastenings. There is not a general consensus as to the use and significance of the rear-facing hook, nor is there a contemporary reference to it. It is variously claimed to assist in scaling walls, hooking an opponent, mounted or on foot, or even the horse itself. It seems questionable, however that such a relatively small hook would be used against a horse or an armored rider, unless the armor were mail. Using this weapon for hooking and pulling, would put the attacking soldier within reach of the rider's sword, or a foot soldiers weapon, during the relatively slow motion of a pull. It has even been suggested that the hook was to hang the weapon on a pole while in a guardroom, or in storage. The question is not answered.
p. 195

Waldman continues to describe the Lochaber axe in the chapter in a few more paragraphs and provides a plate with an example of the Jedburgh staff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art .



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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Mar, 2019 7:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's very interesting to me that Brian Moffat's example is completely unlike the examples of Caldwell and Waldman. The first, most obviously, is the socket construction of Moffat's, versus the eye-attachment of the other two. I'm not sure why Moffat believes his is the one true Jeddart stave, when it is the only one in existence and goes completely against the descriptions supplied by the others. Perhaps I'll find his book and learn why. Here is a better link to his page on the Jeddart axe. http://fallingangelslosthighways.blogspot.com...-axe.html.

There is a brief paragraph but no description or picture of the Jedburgh axe in The Halberd and Other European Polearms 1300-1650 by George Snook M.D.. This is a really handy pamphlet despite its small size. Snook writes

Quote:
The Jedburgh axe is somewhat of a mystery. In the early 17th century they were known as Jedburgh staves. The only published picture that this author is aware of is of the one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York which was described by Dr. Bashford Deane and illustrated in 'Stone's Glossary'
P. 17

George Cameron Stone's A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times is an interesting book, but not the most authoritative or comprehensive resource. His description of the Jedburgh Axe:
Quote:
JEDBURG AXE, JEDDART AXE. A kind of pole axe about nine feet long with a hook-like gaff, or one with a cutting edge, opposite the blade. (Campbell 96) A Scotch weapon used from the 15th to the 18th century. Fig. 405
P. 302 Dover edition.

The figure 405 is as Snook says, from the collection of Bashford Deane and is the same example as Waldmans above. Notice the 9 foot length, that's quite a bit longer than Caldwell's Jeddart. The reference to Campbell 96 is to Lord Archibald Campbell, Highland Dress, Arms and Ornament. London, 1899. I don't have this Happy.

The Osprey Publications book, Border Reiver 1513-1603 (Warrior 154) by Keith Durham (2011) is actually one of the better Osprey offerings and has several interesting photos of antiques. No Jeddart stave antique, however, it does show a reenactor with a reproduction of a Jeddart stave which essentially looks like Caldwell's type. I wish I knew who the reenactment company was, they could be contacted to see who built their reproduction and from what examples. The photo caption is as follows:
Quote:
The wicked-looking polearm carried by this 'foot loon' was known as a Jeddart staff'. In 1596, Lord Scrope reported that Buccleuch had armed his followers with 'more muskettes, calivours, horsemens staves, and shorte Jedburgh staves for footemen, than betokens quietness...I suspect the worst.' Note the shield or vamplate, attached to the shaft, which gave protection to the hands.
p37.

Actually the word Durham should use is rondel instead of shield, and this again is a feature of Caldwell but not Waldman. And the shorter length mentioned by Scrope is also consistent with Caldwell.

So there you have it, three possible types, all different, to choose from. Good luck.
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Tim Harris
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PostPosted: Sun 17 Mar, 2019 8:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the excellent information, J. Nicolaysen.

This has certainly given me more perspective than I had before, and now I know what the Wolflund reproductions are based on.
If anyone asked me, I would have called Brian Moffat's example a glaive, but terminology, as we know, is a slippery beast. I think I'll follow up further with the book.

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Brian Moffatt




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Mar, 2019 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim contacted me regarding Jeddart Axes.
I append my reply...
Hello Tim…
Just seen the discussion on myArmoury on Jeddart axes..
Real pity that no-one there has actually read my wee book. David Caldwell simply misinterpreted Majors “Ferrum chalybeum quator pedibus longum in robust lingi extremo.”
Which is open to at least two translations …
Morton’s Monastic Annals of Teviotdale describes the Jeddart Staff as “a stout stake, shod with iron, the iron being four feet in length."
Note that this is Morton speaking of the the Jeddart Staff…. and not the axe.
Morton believed that the Jeddart Axe was an entirely different weapon.
David in 1981, using Morton as his source… stated the at the Jedwart (Jedburgh) staff (note “staff” ) or staves were Iron shod shafts, and the smiths of Jedburgh
are said to have been able to make steel blades four feet long on the end of oak staffs.
He goes on to associate this description with a particular form of weapon, some examples of which have been found in Scotland,

And he could be right.. but personally I doubt it… and when I spoke to him about the matter some years ago he was willing to admit that he may have been wrong.
The problem lies with the word Ferrum, which translates as either “iron,” or “sword.”
“Chalybeum” appears to translate as “steel grey.” And the translation appears to refer to a stout staff, shod with four feet of steel grey iron, but whether this was all
(or indeed any of it,) in the form of a blade is open to question.
My own opinion is that the Jeddart staff is just that… a staff shod and reinforced with four feet of iron.
The axe was totally different weapon. Said to be good for both cutting and thrusting, and that limits the type of blade.
My book gives (and illustrates) five expert opinions as to the form of the “axe”… David Caldwell, Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick (1820’s) Drummond (1881) Sir Guy Laking (1922)
And Stone / Campbell (1934). All are totally different.. and none are exactly convincing.
The only “axe" example I know of from “the Borders” was found in the moat of the Keep at Newcastle. It disappeared from the Society of Antiquaries, and may
be identical with the one now in the Royal Armouries, from the collection of Peter Gwynn. Another is in Cotehele house.
In my opinion these weapons are developments of the French Glaive… (see the Scots bodyguard of Charles V11 of France circa 1450.)
These also appear to have iron langets down the shafts
Border Scots returning from France, simply brought either weapons, or at the very least knowledge of them back, and had “replicas" (sic) made by local smiths.
The secret of the thing though is in the shaft… neither the Gwynn example, of the Cotehele one has it’s original wood work.
Ours has, and it has a double curve in it. (which he French glaive does not.) It’s by far the best European pole arm I have handled in close on 60 yrs.
As for the Jeddart staff.. well a stout oak staff shod with four feet of iron is one hell of a weapon.
Of course it is still all open to speculation, until that is someone finds a contemporary illustration.
But I’m as certain as one can be that the weapon I describe in that book.. is the "most likely" form of the Jeddart axe.
If you need any more… you must refer to my book.
Pity that after all of these years.. no-one associated with “myArmoury” has actually read it.
No wonder I’m so often skint!
But just as a matter of interest… how many decent four foot long blades of Scottish (or indeed English manufacture) dating within the period late 15th to early 17th centuries have you ever seen?
And the Smiths of Jedburgh were churning Jeddart axes out in quantity.
Surprised David didn’t ask himself the same question.
The standard Jeddart axe was a utilitarian weapon intended for heavy use… and those are the ones which simply don’t survive.
The other question would be… If as David claimed, Jeddart could turn out four foot blades… then where are all of those 16th century swords with “Border blades.”
Good question… and I’m still seeking the answer.
There is more on my blog on “Old Jeddart” the “missing" town which predates Jedburgh, and the possible site of manufacture of the Jeddart axes, and "staffs."
All the Best,
Brian.
I’m off for a beer.
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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Mar, 2019 7:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Brian, thanks for coming here and talking with us. I found an old thread of yours where you announced your book, but I hadn't gotten it then and I now look forward to reading it.

Your Jeddart axe certainly looks like a really nice/nasty weapon and I think it looks like in great shape.

Your thought about two separate weapons--Jeddart stave and jeddart axe--would clarify a lot of the confusion on the weapon whatever form the axe actually took. It's an interesting idea since the stave at least seems to be consistently described.

Mainly I was trying to compile the written words about the Jeddart axe/stave in the sources I had at hand, I hesitate to make many conclusions about the actual form.

But I still question why your axe has a socket construction while the other two forms are wrap-around eye, and it would be interesting to find out if one of these types of construction was used more often in the Borders at the time, if that is answerable. The development of the halberd in Europe for example moved from the wrap-around eye to the socket construction, so in those cases, we can judge the sockets to be a later construction.

Finally, I had wondered as you do, throughout my small amount of research, just why the jeddart axes were so prevalent, we do not have any definitive surviving examples.

What would you call the polearms that Caldwell describes as jeddart axes? They certainly have a unique construction as well. Have you been able to see them? I'm a long ways from Scotland, so I could not track them down.

All the best,
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Brian Moffatt




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Mar, 2019 3:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Mr Nicolayson,

I’m considering posting the entire Jeddart business on the blog… It won’t be immediate because I’ll have to dig it out of storage..
And it may cost me in sales of the book…
But the entire “Jeddart” subject has to remain in the realms of conjecture. (The Royal Commission, even doubted the existence of “Old Jeddart”… Unbelievable since you
can see it on maps as late as 1780, and on Google Earth, it is clear as a bell.)
There was a Smithy there for certain, and excavation would be very interesting.

My own opinion is that the Jeddart Axe" we have is the correct version… but until someone comes up with another from a known location, then who can tell for certain.
The double curve shaft is a unique feature, just like a modern felling axe. I handled the one from Peter Gwynn’s collection and pushed the Royal Armouries on it... but I'm not rich, and so they just outbid me. Cotehele house kindly sent me decent photos of theirs, but that and the Gwynn one are cutlers work, whereas ours is more a blacksmiths job.
What is interesting is that the blade is of concave diamond section, very like the Lowland Scots daggers, but without a really defined central ridge,
Plus it appears to always have been “rough from the hammer.” Which would account for that reference to "steel grey.”
The high profile local smiths from the Borders simply moved up Edinburgh, and made fancy goods for the nobility. The others made good fighting weapons for the “Reivers.”
I suspect that there are more of these about, hiding in the basement of our major museums, or lying in the lofts of the local "big houses," but museum basements are uncharted territory,
and the current generation of so called “curators” appear to be allergic to arms and armour.
We (our little group) hope to display Arms and Armour once again here at Teviothead, sometime in the next year to 18 months, and it ought to be the best display of “Reiving Era”
weapons yet attempted. Everything from daggers to light artillery. But it is a private venture, and the current Government are, in my own opinion (and experience ) none to keen, on the subject.
We are just not PC… plus I don’t think the SNP like the Borderer too much… want to put us on kilts, and turn us all into “Highlanders.” (Me Dads side were Borderers on the Scottish Side ,
Me Mum’s were MacDonalds of Kinlochmoidart, (Jacobites) crossed with Northumbrian North Tyne Charltons.)


It was mostly due to “Political interference” that our Museum of Border Arms and Armour closed back around 1998.
What we can do between our group now… is far ahead of anything currently available in the UK, and will cover much more than the “Reivers.” If you’ve read the blog you will be aware of the inseparable link between the Arms and Armour and folk belief… and that is a near untouched subject.

If you are making Border weapons… then the last British Basket Hilt I put up one line is about as good as it gets… David Baxter considered it one of the most important in his collection. It’s one Hell of a pity that he "passed on” before he managed to publish all of his information. Lord knows where some of his pieces have ended up.
In terms of “expert opinion” It’s getting to be a matter of “last man” (or Lady) standing. My Maureen was very good, and never got credit for it, but she died last August.
So now... Lady experts are in my opinion just about extinct.
As they say over here "Gey few, and their all Deid"
In the Museum world over here it is hard to even get a reply from anyone that means much at all...

The socket construction.... there was most likely a sleeve over that with a circular hand guard.. for certain something is missing.. but how can one be certain of the form, when it is not there.? I cover it in my book...
As I say above I may publish the entire business on the blog...
I would not like to classify David Caldwell's version of the Jeddart Axe... it is what it is... a polearm probably /possibly used in
Scotland, but more likely of central Northern European origin.
Why do few Jeddart axes survive... Same as most munition weapons... they weren't pretty, and so they never were hung up on the wall for decoration, quite likely were downgraded for agricultural use, or re-forged into something else. Just like the common everyday swords... break one make the bits into daggers, or even kitchen knives. These folk here had now't, or very little, and threw now't away.
Significantly.. the other two that do survive are upper end productions for "Sir``" and his buddies... But do not look quite as efficient as ours...

Oh, and a word of warning... I've seen photos of one other... which I have not handled but looks just slightly questionable.
So.. Please.... you guys who make such very good things... put your personal mark on them, so that no-one can rust, mucky them up and then pass them off as old? Because life for some can get very confusing...
I blogged one piece a while back, and saw a probable fake of it up on line three months later.
If that keeps up, then guys like me will have to stop blogging detail, which would be a Hell of a pity.
Already some people are uneasy about it, saying that weight and point of balance ought to be left off....
I don't agree... I think we should all just act together, and come up with a code of conduct perhaps?
There are far too many "funny" pieces about...
The thoughts of you all would be most welcome....

If you are into armour… the munitions breastplate on the blog is a rare one… looked for one of those for many many years.. and found that one in an auction of mostly Nazi stuff,
something I avoid.
The thing that worries me about the modern arms and armour scene is that most folk never get to handle the "real thing.”
These objects have presence.. and you need to be alone with them to experience it properly.
I’m very lucky in that on occasion when I photograph pieces I get the opportunity to do just that.
“Digital"… is killing it all… digital only uses two of your senses… Antiques require all six.
I’m still looking for the Jeddart Staff…. to go with the axe. But then they have probably all just rotted away. Never know though, my daughter stuck her had into an umbrella stand in an Scottish antique shop last year and pulled out the only medieval “waster” (or "single stick”) I have ever heard of. I’ll blog on that when I have time to make a replica.
All the Best,
Brian.

P.S. Watch out for my next blog posting... the most important sword to come to light for very many years...and one I doubt anyone will ever make a replica of!
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Mar, 2019 3:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems that my doubts were unfounded. So there is some good information out there on Jedburgh axes.
Éirinn go Brách
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Mar, 2019 6:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice shaping of the axes, never ever knew something alike. They were just used in Scotland?
“Burn old wood, read old books, drink old wines, have old friends.”
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Brian Moffatt




Location: Scotland
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Mar, 2019 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Pedro,
Made in Scotland, at either Jedburgh or "Old Jeddart" (see my blog.) classy ones migrated to Edinburgh.. but like the Border Scots.. they probably ended up all over the place...
Cheers,
Brian.
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