linen webbing for girths/surcingales

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phil ainsley
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linen webbing for girths/surcingales

Post by phil ainsley »

a friend is making a 13th century saddle for me. having looked through the mac bible and some other peroid images it looks likes the girths and surcingales could be made of cloth/webbing rather than leather.

im wondering if any of the horsey people out there can give me advice regarding using linen/flax webbing for this. does it stretch? or is it suitable material for this kind of purpose. any other advice around this querry appreciated.


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Re: linen webbing for girths/surcingales

Post by Thalion »


I don't re-enact a horseman, but I'm pretty sure they just use modern saddles. Anyhow, I think you'd need a strong material like leather for the girth as that's the thing that stops you (And saddle) from falling off. I wouldn't risk using something like linen or fabric such as that as it's not in my opinion durable enough. This is speculation from a Modern Horse Rider, not a re-enactment horse riding expert or anything.

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: linen webbing for girths/surcingales

Post by Brother Ranulf »

The most detailed study of medieval horse furniture is the Museum of London's book on the subject, now available online here: ... ipment.pdf

You will see that girths are hardly mentioned, simply because no examples have survived - only the metal buckles. Leather is rarely found in archaeological contexts and the recent discovery of a 13th century leather peytrel complete with harness pendants in Ireland was seen as a unique, spectacular and outstanding discovery:

Looking at all the available chess pieces, stained glass windows, stone and ivory carvings, manuscript illustrations and other visual sources from the time it is impossible to tell what material was used for girths; where there is an apparent texture (which might be interpreted by some as webbing) this could simply be elaborately tooled leather, which was certainly used in other elements of harness as well as leather scabbards and sheaths. Without an actual surviving example all we can do is speculate.

My own view is that a wide range of different girths was used - the double girths of the 12th century still continued in some cases alongside single girths. Some are decorated, others plain and I suspect that leather was the main material used (based on the surviving buckles shown in the MoL book), but that a tentative but unproven case could be put forward for some woven girths as well.
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John Waller
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Re: linen webbing for girths/surcingales

Post by John Waller »

Think of it as experimental archeology. If your saddle does a 180 something is probably wrong :D
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Re: linen webbing for girths/surcingales

Post by 40/- freeholder »

I would avoid linen, it stretches when dry and shrinks when wet. Look at ethnographic horse, mule/donkey and camel accoutrements. Lots of wool, particularly split ply braid. Tablet weave probably good too.

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Re: linen webbing for girths/surcingales

Post by Nigel »

Track down Timothy Dawson he has at least two medieval saddles and rides a lot so would probably be able to help you
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Re: linen webbing for girths/surcingales

Post by Mark Griffin »

No, the webbing girths and surcingles are totally fine and in use even now. Military saddles use them still too. Not many historical riders out there use 'modern' saddles, and if they do they are in a foolish minority. That goes for all periods I'd have thought. If you want to know where to get web strapping drop me an email. I use them all the time, no issues at all, apart from they are a wee bit harder to keep clean. A delicious decadent historical trifle. Thick performance jelly topped with lashings of imaginative creamy custard. You may also get a soggy event management sponge finger but it won't cost you hundreds and thousands.

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