English Heritage Reveals Pickering Castle's Fearsome Artefacts

By 24 Hour Museum | 15 April 2008
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a photo of woman holding an arrow head

Susan Harrison, English Heritage Curator, with a hunting arrowhead recovered from Pickering Castle. © Tony Bartholomew

Fearsome arrow heads capable of penetrating plate armour or ripping through chain mail are being displayed for the first time by English Heritage.

The objects were found at Pickering Castle in the 1920s, along with other specimens used for hunting wild boar and deer in the surrounding forest.

Now they are amongst 800,000 artefacts kept under lock and key by English Heritage at its main archaeological store for the north in Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

an illustration of a medieval castle complex with mott and bailey design and outer castle walls

An artist's impression of Pickering Castle in its heyday. © English Heritage

Normally the facility is off limits to the public, but a series of free tours starting on Wednesday April 23 2008 will give people a unique glimpse behind the scenes.

During its heyday from the 12th century Pickering Castle was a royal lodge, owned by the crown, and used as a base for hunting expeditions.

The arrows were amongst the most striking finds recovered from the site after the first world war when many of Yorkshire’s historic monuments were cleared of rubble and debris by ex-servicemen.

a photo of a woman holding a manacle

Susan Harrison with medieval manacles also recovered at Pickering Castle. © Tony Bartholomew

Each was designed for a specific purpose. Armour piercing rounds are multi-sided, converging to a point to punch their way through metal. Those meant to break through chain mail are longer and slimmer, while others on display have long barbs to inflict injury on wild animals, or possibly even game birds in flight.

“They are fascinating and well preserved objects, each carefully shaped to fulfil a different function," said English Heritage curator, Susan Harrison.

"They are evocative reminders of life at the castle hundreds of years ago and examining them at close quarters really does help to turn back the clock and make a connection with the past.”

The darker side of medieval life is also being portrayed. Exceptionally well-preserved medieval manacles from Pickering are going on display, a token of the treatment meted out to those who transgressed the King’s Law.

a photo of a set of rusted keys

Medieval keys uncovered at the castle. © Tony Bartholomew

Trespassers or poachers in the Royal Forest of Pickering were hauled back to the castle and could have their eyes gouged out and their foreheads branded.

Other relics on show from the castle include keys and spurs, along with selected objects from other sites, such as a Cistercian drinking vessel from Mount Grace Priory. Free tours take place on the following Wednesdays:

April 23 2008
May 28 2008
July 30 2008
August 27 2008
September 24 2008

To join you must book in advance through the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) at Helmsley Castle Visitor Centre, telephone 01439 770173. Tours take place at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. The tours are wheelchair accessible and take place over flat and even ground with wide access entrances.

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