(Above) A replica Westminster Abbey was constructed that faithfully followed the dimensions and materials with the possible exception of the shaftment mix. The original is likely to have had more iron oxide or rust added which potentially gives it its richer ox-blood colour. The weight was 733 grains (47.5g), slightly heavier than the Mary Rose Trust's prediction of 43.5 grams. Warbow Wales commissioned Master Arrowsmith Hector Cole to produce a Westminster Abbey arrowhead. Notice how close to the socket the barbs are to reduce drag yet would still agonisingly cling to its target. The nock is also finer than many Mary Rose arrows as this would also reduce distance robbing drag. Greylag goose pinions and silk thread seemed suitably authentic materials for its Westminster Abbey provenance. The bindings are covered in the above agent but not as thickly as the original. Medieval heads head may have used isinglass, hide glue, pitch or beeswax to secure it to the shaft but modern adhesives were used. The head is far too beautiful an object to lose to the ground.
The Warbow Wales specifications for a reproduction of the Westminster Abbey Arrow
Some of the detail is left to the discretion of the archer, like the shaft wood and the fletching height/cut as these are unknown at present.
With the Westminster Abbey Arrow as a guiding model, the specifications are as follows: -
A straight or bob-tailed shaft must be a minimum of 3/8" (or 10mm) at the shoulder of the arrowhead and midpoint of the shaft. It must be constructed of a wood available to the medieval Welsh fletcher (aspen/poplar or birch is suggested) and be fitted with a horn (for preference) reinforcement at the nock running with the grain. The length from the base of the nock to the arrowhead socket must be 28 7/8" (as the Westminster Abbey Arrow).
The cut of the feather fletchings are left to the archer’s discretion but must be at least 7 1/4” in length and bound on in silk or linen to a minimum of 4 turns per inch (either wound clockwise or anti-clockwise). A low triangle cut is the most likely fletching shape, based on contemporary images; however a hog-back or oil-line cut may also have been possible. Ascham was not convinced of its suitability for war arrows as writes, “ The swine backed fashion maketh the shaft deader for it gathereth more air”. A low fletching area is necessary to reduce drag for effective long range shots. Distance shooting arrows do not need a large fletching action to quickly straighten up unlike point blank shots. Goose, peacock or swan feathers are encouraged
Any small barbed hand-forged steel/iron type 16 head is acceptable, no less than 3/8" at the base of the socket.
NB Hector Cole makes a specific Westminster Abbey Arrow reproduction
There is no minimum weight as the above specification will ensure an effective long-range missile.
The Standard Arrow
With respect to the work of Hugh Soar and the late Chris Boyton in reintroducing flight shooting with the military arrow, Warbow Wales will now record the Standard Arrow. This is an inclusive event to increase participation in strong shooting. Unlike the other arrows, the arrow may be shot from any longbow, laminated or otherwise as per the rules of the long-time custodians, the BL-BS. This can also be shot with synthetic strings.
The specification for the arrow may be found
The Warbow Wales ‘Lyvery Arrowe’,
The Lyvery arrowe, (meaning army issued) as it is listed in the Anthony Roll, is a reproduction of Mary Rose arrow number AZ472/19.
Warbow Wales will be introducing a new arrow that will join the shooting line from the spring of 2015. It will be as faithful a representation as possible of an actual arrow found aboard the Tudor warship the Mary Rose. Arrow AZ472/19 is one of 1,054 shafts that have survived almost 500 years of immersion in the murky waters of the Solent.
A background of the Mary Rose arrows
A contemporary inventory of the Mary Rose, The Anthony Roll, lists the ship as containing 400 sheaves of livery arrows.2 A sheaf contains 24 arrows, so some 9,600 arrows were potentially part of her stores. The Mary Rose Trust has examined and recorded 609 of 1,054 of its recovered arrows.
The findings are as follows.
The steele, or shaft
A number different shaft designs were discovered but of the profile of the bob-tailed arrow is statistically the most prevalent at 268 of the sample total (43.1%). This is a design whereby the shaft taperis from the arrowhead end, or some distance after, to the nock. For comparison, the next common profile (28.5%) was parallel this being 168 of the shafts. 114 barrelled, 32 were saddled (this being a slight hourglass shape) and 27 were breasted.3
Aspen or poplar was by far the most common arrow wood found with birch was being the next. Aspen was a prized arrow wood and also used extensively used for clog production throughout the Middle Ages. Henry V issued a proclamation (4 Henry V c.3 of 1416) restricting its use to military arrow production due to concerns about its supply. Those convicted of violating the law were subject to a hundred shilling (£5) fine, half of which was paid to the fletchers guild.4 As its use was legally controlled, aspen was clearly considered a premium military arrow wood for over a century before the Mary Rose sank. By contrast, of the 609 arrows that have currently been analysed in detail, only one was of ash (perhaps to Ascham’s chagrin as he preferred ash for war arrow shafts).
Approximate diameters of 1/2” and 3/8” for the shoulder and nock respectively are a very common feature with the aspen arrow shafts. The Mary Rose Trust, in its authoritative publication, Weapons of Warre, suggests an overall weight of a typical arrow (that is, of aspen and of 30” draw length) as 45 grams without the arrowhead.5
Although a broad spread of arrow lengths was recorded for her arrows, most lie in the range 715-854mm in a bimodal (double peaked) distribution of 740mm (yielding an approximate draw length of 30”) and 790mm (yielding an approximate draw length of 28”). When the median nock depth (6mm) and the median tip (cone for the arrowhead) length (22mm) are subtracted from the two modal values it gives estimated draw lengths of 712mm (28.03in) and 762mm (30 in) respectively.
Of all of the 1,054 arrows of The Mary Rose Trust, 841 were 31", 190 were 29", 9 were 32.5", 8 were 28" and 6 were only 27.5" in length.6 These measurements are given for the total length of the arrow (including the arrowhead cone and not subtracting the nock valley). Only 9 could have even been drawn to 31” at the shoulder. Clearly it is a modern custom to consider the standard draw length for warbows as 32”.
The arrows no longer show any trace of a protective finish but it it is possible they were proofed in some way, especially given their maritime setting. Sir John Smyth, in 1590, writes of archers heating a mixture of bees’ wax, tallow and rosin to make a rubbing paste (applied via a woollen cloth) as a bow's protection against the elements. This mix is also recommended for the string. Ascham's guidance for bows is similar but interestingly makes no mention of treating arrows in the same manner. He advises using a...
“wullen cloth waxed wherwith euery day you must rubbe and chafe your bowe tyll it shyne”.8
The Mary Rose arrows are all reinforced with a sliver of cow horn approximately 50mm long set in at 90 degrees to the arrow nock. Interestingly, the Tudor fletches did not seem to worry about the grain orientation to any great degree as modern one would. This could be what Ascham refers to as ‘double nocking’. “And double nocking is used for double surety of the shaft.”
As stated, the median depth of the Mary Rose arrows in 6mm which gives a generous fit upon the string and mitigates against potentially catastrophic dry loosing of the bow in the heat of battle. Ascham again has advice for both military and recreational shooting.
“The deep and long nock is good in war for sure keeping in of the string. The shallow and round nock is best for our purpose in pricking for clean deliverance of a shot”9
The arrows show no sign of binding below the nock to reinforce the area. No trace of protective finish remains on the shaft other than the verdigris compound on the shaftment.
The median nock width dimension is just less than 3mm wide.10 With a high quality natural fibre string this will provides a good fit that is not too tight. An overly large string with a narrow nock can split the shaft upon loosing as it acts like a slipping wedge thus endangering the bow.
The original height and shape of the fletchings of the arrow is uncertain as none have survived but practical experimentation has shown 5/8" at the highest point provides adequate steerage yet allows decent range. Near contemporary carvings on Prince Arthur’s Chantry Chapel in Worcester Cathedral, shows a triangular fletch with a forward raked end. Ascham also states in ‘Toxophilus’ “the triangle fashion which is much used now-a-days both be good”. Practical experimentation found that an angled rear edge creates unnecessary drag due to flapping and this action reduces range. As trimming the rear edge straight takes seconds it also makes this shape more likely. Some arrows still have traces of rachis attached to the shaftment that have been identified as either swan or goose. The median fletching length of the fletches, as shown via the witness marks is 181mm (7 1/8 inches).11 It is difficult to cut longer fletches from goose primaries although swan pinions will accommodate far longer. It is very unlikely that Turkey feathers were used.. the first Turkey was brought back from Newfoundland in 1497. The fowl was an expensive oddity during the reign of Henry VIII although he reputed to have eaten them.12
The fletches of the Mary Rose arrows are bound on with red silk at around a median average of 6 turns per 1”, as defined via the witness marks on the verdigris compound on the shaftment. The bindings were covered with an animal fat/beeswax and verdigris compound applied in layers. the outer layer had the highest verdigris concentration and accounts for the green hue. It has been suggested that colour is only due to their long emersion in salt water. However, the arrow depicted in the Wilton Dyptic of 1395 shows a distinct green hue also and the painting demonstartes no signs of age related colour distortion as the flesh tones are clearly unaltered. As arrows were usually stockpiled for long periods before an imminent campaign or battle and the necessity for the compound becomes apparent. The following is from an inventory of Henry VIII’s goods held within the Crossbowe Chambre at Calais.
Packe threde: Glewe for bows and arrows: Petir Oyle di gallon: Salarmoniac oone lib di: Quick silver iii lb: Grene coporas (verdigris) oone lib: Rosalgare iij lb: Camphere (camphor for moth proofing) oone lb.
The list also contains insect a number of fungicidal and insect repellents to help preserve the vulnerable feathers. These promotes longevity of the binding and feathers.18 Interestingly records survive of Henry V ordering silk for this purpose for his Agincourt campaign. Given the delicate size of the binding's witness marks on the verdigris compound it is easy to see that fine thread was used. This does not separate the vanes unduly and thus reduces drag.
It is likely that Mary Rose arrow number AZ472/19 was armed with an arrowhead commonly known as a ‘Tudor bodkin’ or M2 according to Jessop’s taxonomy of arrowheads.13 This type of arrowhead is also depicted in the Worcester Cathedral carving but it is possible another type of head was used. It is likely that any head would have to have been able to pass through the ½” diameter holes in the leather spacers of an arrow bag. The M2 is a type of head found in the archaeological record for the late medieval and Tudor period. The heads used to make reproductions for the Mary Rose Trust were of M2 type made by the master arrowsmith Hector Cole MBE weighs around 93 grains (6 grams). The Mary Rose Trust has also suggested a closely barbed arrowhead called a Type 16 but evidence suggests this is less likely to have been the arrowhead the arrows were armed with. The M2 arrowhead is a progression of the Type 16 and is easier to produce and less likely to snag on the leather arrow spacers of the arrow bags that were found.14
However, the Type 16 cannot be discounted. Ascham refers to the arrowheads with “little barbs” of the narrow diameter heads designed to maximise penetration for “when a man shooteth at his enemy, he desireth rather that it should enter far, than stick fast.”15
As no heads have survived in any reasonable state of preservation the matter is conjectural. The Anthony Roll offers no contextual clues either. It is likely the heads were glued onto the shafts as given the reference in the Calais armoury to “Glewe for bowes and arrows”. This would suggest that fletching glue was used to attach the feathers prior to binding and possibly the arrowheads as well.16 Gluing on the arrowhead aids in penetration as it reduces the tendency for the momentum of the shaft upon impact opening out the cone of the arrowhead, thus dissipating energy.17
There is no evidence of the arrowheads being pinned as the cone of the shafts does not exhibit holes.
The Warbow Wales ‘Lyverye Arrowe’ Specification - Mary Rose Arrow AZ472/19
In choosing a reproduction arrow to shoot, Warbow Wales has been very fortunate that The Mary Rose Trust’s has kindly suggested an exemplar arrow. Therefore, Arrow AZ472/19 is an eminently suitable arrow to base a Mary Rose reproduction arrow upon.
The design dimensions and materials of the original must be faithfully followed
The shaft must be of aspen (poplar) and have an effective draw length, which is from nock valley to the shoulder of arrowhead, of 758mm (29.84 inches).
The fletches of feather (goose or swan for preference). Arrow AZ472/19 has fletches of 174mm (6.85 inches) as evidenced by the witness marks left on the bees wax/animal fat/verdigris binding compound.
The bindings for the fletches must be of natural thread (silk for preference) at 6 turns per inch and laid out as per the illustration (either wound clockwise or anti-clockwise). The compound is optional but suggested as good practice.
The arrowhead must be a hand forged M2 (Tudor bodkin) or Type 16 small broadhead
Due to the varying densities and vagaries of handmade objects, especially of natural materials, it is sensible to impose no weight limits. As long as the original materials and dimensions are followed the weight will be representative.
The shaft dimensions must be as according to the original as laid out in the following diagram
The Warbow Wales ‘Lyverye Arrowe’
The Warbow Wales ‘Lyverye Arrowe’ will be shot concurrently with Warbow Wales existing Mary Rose Livery Arrow Warbow Wales is indebted to The Mary Rose Trust for kindly supplying the arrow data
NB. The current distance achievements set with the Mary Rose Livery arrow will still be recorded unless bettered over time. In this event only the Lyvery Arrowe will be recorded
1 Hildred, A (Edit) Weapons of Warre, The Mary Rose Trust 2010, p. 665.
2 Stirland, A Raising the Dead: The Skeleton Crew of Henry VIII's Great Ship, the Mary Rose, Wiley 2000, p.122
3 Soar, H Straight and True, a Select History of the Arrow, Westholme Publishing 2012, p.100
4 Grew, F & De Neergaard, M., Shoes and Pattens: Finds from Medieval Excavations in London, Paul Meekins Military & History Books 2004, p99
5 Hildred, Ibid. p. 686
6 Soar, Ibid, p.101
7 Roberts, T & Wood, W The English Bowman: Or, Tracts on Archery, C. Rowworth, 1801,p. 29
8 Ascham, Ibid, P. 181
9 Ascham, R The English Works of Roger Ascham: Preceptor to Queen Elizabeth, White, Cochrane and Co., 1815, p.140
10 Hildred, Ibid. p. 686
11 Hildred, A (Edit), p. 688.
12 McPherson, D Annals of Commerce, Manufactures Fisheries and Navigation, Mundell and Son, 1803, p. 170
13 Jessop, O A New Artefact Typology for the Study of Medieval Arrowheads, University of Durham, 1996,
14 Cole, H The Type 16, Arrowhead (news pamphlet of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries) 2015
15 Ascham, Ibid, P. 131
16 Davies, J Military Archery & the Inventory of King Henry VIII, Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries (Volume 44), 2001, p.31
17 Article for The Glade with M. Stretton who had experimented with the penetrative qualities of unglued and epoxy resin bonded arrowheads
18 13 Soar, H Secrets of the English War Bow, Westholme Publishing (2006), Pg 82
The Westminster Abbey Arrow
The first phase of most medieval battles was a missile bombardment from both sides in order to soften-up or provoke the enemy to attack. These arrowstorms could be devastating as at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 where many of indentured Welsh archers would have fought.
A contemporary chronicler wrote of the arrowstorm from Hotspur’s archers...
“The men on the King’s (Henry IV) side fell as fast as leaves fall in autumn after a hoar-frost”
Initially arrows designed to travel as far as possible (whilst still being effective) were shot, these were called bearing arrows. An arrow that was discovered in the roof of Westminster Abbey during maintenance over a century ago was likely to have been of this type. This arrow is medieval, not Tudor (as the Mary Rose arrows are but share many similarities). The nock is reinforced with a delicate sliver of horn and a similar compound has been applied over the feather bindings like so many of the Mary Rose arrows. The 29” (approx) shaft has been tapered to a slim nock and perhaps made of aspen although Dr. Hardy and Dr. Pratt were unable to definitively identify the wood when they carried out the most in-depth investigation of the arrow to date. Warbow Wales' first-hand observation of the arrow showed that no discernable annual growth rings are apparent, as with ash (which is surprising as Hardy and Strickland, in The Great Warbow, suggest it is indeed of ash?). This made birch another a possible candidate. To ensure enough forward of centre the widest part of the shaft, 11.2mm starts 1/3rd of the way back from the base of the arrowhead. This tapers to a little over 7.5 mm at the base of the nock. The arrow head socket is 11 mm in diameter. The witness marks on the shaft shows the feathers were a little over 7" and bound on by fine tread, likely to have been silk, at around 1/4" a turn. The overall weight is a tad over 43g but an amount must be added for the feathers, damaged arrowhead and possible desiccation over time.
Images Copyright of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey
(Left) A hand forged M2 or Tudor bodkin, the head which potentially armed most of the general Mary Rose arrows, made by Jeremy Spencer. The stone carvings of Tudor bodkin arrowheads seen on Prince Arthur's Chantry Chapel in Worcester Cathedral. The livery or issued arrow was part of his heraldic device. Warbow Wales uses these as the reference for the Mary Rose Military Arrow. (Below) Withypool Triptych, Saint Ursula (triptych, right panel) painted by Antonio Solario (active 1502–1518). Note the M2 arrowhead similar to the famous Towton arrowhead.
(Above)The radiused corners of the fletchings and swept-back tail edge are clear.
(Above) Shards of an arrow in a reliquary thought to date to 1497. These are the only Medieval/Tudor bindings Warbow Wales believes to be in existence. (Left) A detail of the Wilton Diptych showing St. Edmund holding a war arrow. Of particular note are the bulbous peacock feather fletchings, nocks, reminiscent of those shown on the Luttrell Psalter’s depiction. Also of note is the dark green compound that is covering the fine bindings on the shaftment which indicates verdigris in the makeup. The painting is by an unattributed French or English painter and dates from around 1395-9.
The Westminster Abbey arrowhead. At some point it has hit something hard. It was found placed up in the turret of Henry V's Chantry over a century ago during renovation work. It precise date is unknown but it cannot be later than 1437 as that was the completion date of its location. Hector Cole has stated the head was made without quickly, resulting in un-even barbs that are, no doubt just as effective.
Traces of the thick compound on the shaftment can be seen with it's distinctive ox-blood colour. The horn sliver is gone and the shaft has started to split along the grain. This may indicate that the place for the horn sliver was cut and not sawn in manufacture.
The precise age of the arrow is not known as no carbon dating has been undertaken to date.