Info Favorites Register Log in Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Castillon Swords and Oakeshott's, Records Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Roger Hooper

Location: Northern California
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 4
Posts: 4,389

PostPosted: Fri 27 Feb, 2004 11:54 am    Post subject: Castillon Swords and Oakeshott's, Records         Reply with quote

Swords from the Castillon (or Castillion) find have been mentioned from time to time in the various sword forums. Eighty swords were dredged up from the Dordogne River near Castillon in France in 1973. I’ve heard it said that many of them subsequently dispersed into private collections and aren’t available for study. I was surprised, when going through Ewart Oakeshott’s,Records of the Medieval Sword, to find descriptions of eleven of them.

Oakeshott uses the Castillon find (Records pages 10 and 11) to make a point about Medieval sword ownership and distribution. He says that, although we often think that the Medieval soldier had a personal relationship with his blade, many times they were issued to men from a central store.

Oakeshott writes, “That part of the Dordogne was the principal supply-route from the great English base at Bordeaux to the up-river castles which in the 1420s and 1440s were still precariously held by the English during the closing years of the Hundred Years’ War. They were evidently (or at least presumably) in a barge, which in some way was sunk, going up to Bergerac or Castillon with supplies.

“These were all fine-quality swords, but they were not new when they reached the mud of the river. All the good ones (most of which I have seen and handled) show unmistakeable signs of wear – considerable wear, nicks in the edges and the irregularities caused by honing. The only assumption one can make upon the evidence so far examined is that they were used blades re-hilted by a contractor, maybe in England or perhaps in the Burgundian low countries.” (Records page 11)

There was no evidence of scabbards in the find, which reinforces the idea of issue swords. The swords are mostly type XVs and XVAs, with a few XVIIIs and XXAs. The hilt furniture is very similar in many of them.

Oakeshott’s, Records has sections for six XVs, three XVAs, one XVIII, and one XXA.

The pommels are usually types J and K (deep wheels with a recessed central boss), type T or type V, which are variants of fish tale or pear shapes.. The crosses are typically type 8 or type 11

The XVs:

Blade length: 36”
Pommel type: V.2
Guard type: 11, straight

Blade length: 32”
Pommel type: K, recessed
Guard type: 8

Blade length: 30.25”
Pommel type: K, recessed
Guard type: 8
Good looking sword

Blade length: 28”
Pommel type: a form of J.1
Guard type: 8

XV. Unclassified 1 (page 231)
Blade length: 39.25”
Pommel type: T2
Guard type: 11, straight

XV. Unclassified 2 (page 231)
Blade length: not specified, but close to Unclassified 1
Pommel type: J1
Guard type: 11, straight

Why are these two XVs placed in the Unclassified section? I don’t know, but there they are.

the XVAs

Blade length: 37”
Pommel type: T.5
Guard type:11, straight

Blade length: 34”
Pommel type: a variant of V
Guard type:11, straight and short

Blade length: 33”
Pommel type:V.2
Guard type:11, straight and short


Blade length: 27”
Pommel type: J.1
Guard type: 8


Blade length: 36.25”
Pommel type:Unclassified - strange pear shape, like an upside-down type T
Guard type:11, straight

The above data seems to indicate that the Castillon swords were put together by a cutler with a limited variety of furniture types.

I had made the assumption (and I believe others have, as well) that this barrel of swords had been picked up off the field of the Battle of Castillon in 1453 by the victorious French, who then shipped them off to some storage location, the barge sinking during the journey. It was certainly common to sweep the battlefield for weapons and armor, keep what was useful and melt down the scrap. The sword blades do show signs of use. Oakeshott indicates that these are “used-car” type swords going in the other direction, up to the English occupying Castillon. If that is the case, that barge could just as well have sunk in 1425 or 1445 as in 1453. What do you folks think?
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Johnson
Industry Professional

Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
Likes: 16 pages
Reading list: 20 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,401

PostPosted: Fri 27 Feb, 2004 6:42 pm    Post subject: Swords         Reply with quote

Hello Roger

Yes, I think the battle spoils theory has been a bit misleading in the full extent of the find was not known when it was first put forth and the actual location of the find is still unknown by all but a few. It has been a great irony that such an important find has leaked out in such a piece meal way and what little context that has been revealed is second or third hand and almost always in the contents of a sales pitch.

The swords are quite interesting and clearly indicative of the arms industry of that period. One only wished more could have been learned by a detailed cataloging before the items were sold on. It may have happened I suppose, but it does little good to increase the body of knowledge if it is kept by a few.

View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website

Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Castillon Swords and Oakeshott's, Records
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
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 2003-2021 — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum