Wilton dyptych arrow replica  

When tested from a 100lb wych elm warbow fitted with a hemp string, the arrow flew very true, seemingly from the moment it left the bow with no apparent barrelling or fish-tailing.  This was partly due to the large fletching area but also from the clean loose facilitated by the bulbous nock.  A distance of 160 yards was achieved in reasonable flight shooting conditions.  

With the large arrows fletching area being so large coupled with the labour-intensive nature of the stele's design, it is clear that the Wilton Diptych arrow was designed for close range shooting and multiple use, perhaps as a hunting arrow.  The fletching pattern is very reminiscent of many Native American arrows.   The length of the arrow was arrived at by scaling from the painting, a distance of 28” from the shoulder of the arrowhead to the valley of the nock seems probable.

The fletchings are obviously handsome cinnamon coloured peacock wing feathers, often reserved for best arrows.  In this case it is St. Edmund's arrow, presumably one of the arrows he was martyred with. Chaucer gives us rich and often allegorical imagery in his Canterbury Tales and peacock fletched arrows are carried by his yeoman.

The arrowhead is not depicted in the painting as the Saints fingers obscure it but it must be compact head otherwise it would be possible to see part of it.  It is also possible that the arrow is un-armed as a visual metaphor that is now lost to us.  A common arrowhead contemporary to the image is a forged bodkin, nowadays called a Tudor bodkin, although it was used in the late medieval period as well.  This type, beautifully forged by John Marshall, was used for the reconstruction.

The bindings to secure the fletches to the shaftment are of fine silk and covered with a compound that has verdigris in it, accounting for the dark green colour.  The tread depicted on the painting is very fine and silk is really the only period material which is likely.  Fine thread was important so as to not part the feathers and minimise drag.  

It is to be expected that the shaft depicted is ½” in diameter at the head, tapering to 3/8” just before the bulbous nock reinforcement and comparison with the thickness of St. Edmund’s fingers would bear this out.  This is a common late medieval and Tudor arrow design and is called a bob-tailed or rush-grown stele.  It gives plenty of support to the arrowhead in the event that it hits its target at an oblique angle yet saves weight and improves the harmonics of the arrow as it rounds the bow.  No further reinforcement from a horn sliver is needed with such a nock.  Anthony, bastard of Burgundy is shown holding an arrow with a similar, albeit slimmer, nock in a painting by Rogier van der Weyden dated to 1463, some 64 years later than the Wilton version.  The Wilton Diptych’s depiction shows a creamy wood with no apparent grain so Ascham’s wood of choice, ash, can is discounted.  Poplar or aspe is a possibility but may be too soft to use so birch was used as it is strong, stiff and visually fits the paintings depiction.  It is also a commonly known medieval arrow wood.  The total weight of the replica arrow was 56g.





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