A Covetable Pair of 17th Century English Steel Rowel Spurs


Origin: English
Period: 17th Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1650
Length: 5 inches
Width: 4 inches (at widest point)

The spurs crafted from English steel, the style of the band around the heel is straight and the presence of the button on the terminals indicate that these spurs date to somewhere within the mid to late 17th century. The steel is attractively, yet subtly banded into two segments on each of the four arms terminating on the heel into a final raised segment indicating that the spurrier was a skilled craftsman.

The protective tinning is largely intact and the terminal and terminal plates are in surprisingly good order. The arms are particularly straight on these examples, used to make a horse respond better in battle and the conservative and understated English style of these spurs terminate in six point rowels.

Being a matching pair these spurs represent a very rare find indeed and were perhaps used by a Cromwellian officer during the dissolution of the monasteries. They provide us with a fascinating insight into 17th century life on horseback and thus help paint a picture of skirmishes, seedy taverns, warfare, disease and political gain at a time of real change in England.

The very old word Spur derives from the Anglo-Saxon spura, spora, related to spornan, spurnan, to kick. The spur was used by the Celts in the 5th century BC, and iron or bronze spurs were also used throughout the Roman Empire.

In northern Europe, the spur became less elaborate after the 16th century, as seen in in this pair, particularly following the Stuart Restoration. In England, the rowel spur is shown upon the first seal of Henry III and on monuments of the 13th century, but it does not come into general use until the 14th century.

Just as a medieval knight was said to have "earned his spurs", the awarding of spurs has continued in the modern era as an honour bestowed upon individuals in organisations with a rich military heritage.