A sword chape

It is always good to learn a new word and we learned the word chape when given some metal detector finds recently.

The dictionary defines chape as the metal point of a scabbard.

A scabbard, of course, is that special pocket, usually of leather, which hangs from a belt. It is designed to hold a sword or a dagger.

By their very nature, swords and daggers have sharp points and these points would tend to wear through a leather scabbard, so the base of the scabbard, where the point of the sword goes is reinforced with metal. That metal reinforcement is the chape.

Now if you were a person of status, then your chape could help to mark you out. It could be highly decorative and made in suitably strong metal. Even in base metal, a chape could be well decorated – like this one.

17th century chape found in Market Lavington

17th century chape found in Market Lavington

This chape is reckoned to date from the 17th century so is up to 400 years old. It could even have been in use in the English civil war.

Now we are no experts at metal work, but it is clearly carefully and intricately marked. A metal smith has spent much time getting this item to be as beautiful as that. It would have added quite a bit to the cost of the scabbard. We guess the decoration was produced by careful beating with quite specialist tools.

What a very pretty item to be worn into battle!

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