Late 14th Century Archer’s Bracer
Description of Piece:
This is a replica of an archer’s bracer found in a large rectangular pit in
Coppergate, York. The pit was used for leatherworking waste (Mould, 3197). The
original bracer, designated archeological find 15748, is dated to the late 14th Century. Its
purpose is to protect an archer’s forearm from the string of their longbow as they are
shooting. Arrowheads found at Coppergate dating from the 12th to mid-late 15th
Centuries evidences the prevalence of archery in York during this time and, therefore, the
necessity of bracers (Mould, 3405). The original bracer consisted of a piece of leather,
two leather straps, and a buckle.
During the Late 14th Century in Coppergate, York, most archer’s bracers were
constructed from used shoe parts (Mould, 3405). Typically, the type of leather used to
make shoes during this time was cow skin, evidenced by fragments of bovine leather
being found at Coppergate (Mould, 3256). The sole from a leather poulaine shoe, or a
shoe with an exaggeratedly pointed toe, was cut down to a size proportionate to a
person’s forearm, creating the largest section of the piece. This type of shoe, dubbed
Style 11b by the York Archaeological Trust for Excavation and Research, also afforded
two ready made straps, one with a buckle, to hold the former shoe sole to the forearm.
The straps were originally a single piece of leather as a part of the shoe, however,
the leather was cut down into two separate pieces. This differed from the bracers found
in Skeldergate, York which were made from a single piece of leather (Mould, 3405). The
straps of the Coppergate bracer were tapered to form toggles on one end and a point on
the other end. The toggles were made wide enough not to slip through the slits made in
the shoe sole to attach the sole and the straps together. See appendix for diagrams and
My Process and Explanation for Any Differences:
Since I did not have an old, worn out poulaine shoe lying around the house, I
constructed my archer’s bracer out of never-before-used Veg-tanned cow leather. First, I
traced the sole-shaped pattern onto the rough side of a piece of 8-9 oz Veg-tanned leather
with a No. 2 pencil. I then cut the piece that would form the basis for my bracer out of
the leather with a utility blade. Next, I cut a long, tapered strap out of 4-5 oz Veg-tanned
leather. I chose to make one continuous strap rather than 2 straps toggled on the ends to
insure the strength and stability of the strap. I then used an awl to make a line of holes
across the width of the strap approximately 2 inches from the widest end of the strap and
at the edge of the widest end. After placing a brass buckle in the loop made at the wide
end of the strap, I used waxed linen and 2 needles to sew the loop together with a double
running stitch, securing the buckle in place.
After cutting two slits at the edges of the “sole” with a utility blade, the “sole”
was then wetted and formed around my forearm, making the bracer more contoured to
my arm, more comfortable, and more snugly fit. Before assembling the two pieces, the
“sole” and the buckled strap, I rubbed both pieces of leather with Neatsfoot oil to protect
the leather and give it a richer color. Finally, I slid the strap through the slits in the
Mould, Quita et al. Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Leather and Leatherworking in
Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York. Yorkshire: Council for British
Front view of excavated archer’s bracer 15748 (Mould, 3404).
Drawn diagrams of the back and front views of archer’s bracer 15748 (Mould, 3404)..
Drawn diagram of shoe style used to make archer’s bracer 15748 (Mould, 3335)..