Famous helmet which became a bowler. | blog of our store

Famous helmet which became a bowler.

Kettle hat, of iron, made of one piece with a narrow, even brim and a section of comb at the apex. Round the upper part of the brim is a series of lining rivet holes, some still retaining rivets. Low at either side of the skull is a set of two rivet holes, one at least containing a rivet, which would have been used for the attachment of cheekpieces or a chin strap. The edge is damaged and cracked, and there are large dents and corroded losses on the skull. The helmet has been subsequently fitted with an iron handle and a long iron suspension chain, for potential use as a cooking pot, although the surviving traces of red vermillion pigment on the outer surface suggest that the helmet was not used for this purpose.


Height: 195 millimetres
Weight: 1660 grammes
Width: 240 millimetres
Length: 295 millimetres

Curator's comments

The damage to the skull must post-date the helmet's conversion to a cooking pot, and therefore cannot be seen as battle damage.Recent analysis by the conservation team here at the British Museum has yielded a number of insights in the nature and purpose of this object. For example, taking an x-radiograph of the helmet revealed sets of two rivet holes on either side of the lower skull. Microscopic inspection of the helmet's outer surface and inner edge of the brim also revealed traces of the decorative red pigment vermillion in the front proper-left and back proper-right quarters. This evidence corresponds with illustrations of coloured armour in medieval illuminated manuscripts. In particular, some French manuscripts show kettle hats with painted quarters or halves, as this object may have once appeared.

The survival of the red vermillion pigment indicates that the cooking function of this helmet was rarely used since vermillion generally turns black and disintegrates when burned, depending on the severity of the heat applied. In this instance, therefore, the helmet may have been modified into a cooking pot but was not actually used for this purpose.

Further microscopic inspection revealed green deposits overlapping the red vermillion pigments. Chemical analysis of these deposits identified them as iron silicate. This corresponds with the burial of the helmet in a waterlogged marine-silt rich environment and matches the typical conditions of the helmet's findspot within the Thames estuary.

Thanks to Thom Richardson, Keeper of Armour and Oriental Collections, Royal Armouries Leeds, for providing additional background information on this object.For additional information please see the following article:
Hood, J., Dyer, J., Lang, J., & Ambers, J., ‘Defence and Decoration: New findings on a fourteenth century kettle-hat helmet found in London’, in The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin, Volume 5, ed. Saunders, D., Archetype Publications, (2011), pp.73-80.



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