Clothyard ?

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glyndwr 50
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Clothyard ?

Post by glyndwr 50 »

I often hear the term Clothyard Arrows ,Is there such a thing ?.And is it true that the yard first came about by a king ( can't remember who ) who to settle a dispute over cloth measurement ,as certain merchants were selling cloth of various lenghts ,took the distance from his nose to the tip of his outstreched fingers as the royal yard ?..Thus making the yard a standard measurement ?.

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Merlon.
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Post by Merlon. »

OED definition
The yard by which cloth was measured: chiefly in cloth-yard shaft, applied in ballads to an arrow of the long bow.
This is now the statute yard of 36 inches; according to Act 3 & 4 Edward VI c. 2 §8 ‘cloth was to bee meten and measured by the yard, adding to every yard one inch of the rule’.

c1465 Chevy Chase 93 (MS. 16th c.) An arow, that a cloth yarde was lang, to the harde stele halyde he. [1605 SHAKES. Lear IV. vi. 88 That fellow handles his bow like a Crow~keeper: draw mee a Cloathiers yard.] a1631 DRAYTON Robin Hood, They not an arrow drew but was a cloth-yard long. 1805 SCOTT Last. Minstr. IV. xv. A cloth-yard shaft Whistled from startled Tinlinn's yew. 1857 HUGHES Tom Brown i. (1871) 1 With the yew bow and cloth-yard shaft at Cressy and Agincourt.

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Brother Ranulf
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

The king you are thinking of was Henry I (1100 to 1135). The chronicler William of Malmesbury recorded a large number of measures taken by the king to set right various injustices during his reign, including setting the standard for the "ell" or clothyard.

This was firmly established as the length of king Henry's arm (his nose is not mentioned and is a later fabrication) : ". . . he made that arm the standard for all England". Since we know that Henry was a man of no more than average height for the time ("neither unduly short or tall" according to Malmesbury) or about 5 feet 9 inches , he is extremely unlikely to have had arms 36 inches long - I am 6 feet tall myself and my arms (including outstretched hands) are 26 inches to the shoulder or about 28.5 inches to the neck. 36 inch arms would have been more appropriate to a gorilla than a human.

In applying this measurement to arrows, imagine attempting to draw a 36-inch arrow to the head and you will find it involves some contortions of both arms which are next to impossible. An arrow of about 28 - 29 inches makes more sense and pretty much all of it can be drawn.

I always explain the term "clothyard" in this way: imagine holding a bolt of cloth upright in front of you. Now imagine grasping the edge of the cloth in your left hand, steadying the bolt with your right. Now imagine pulling out the cloth to the limit of your left arm - that's a clothyard and it's exactly the same distance as you would draw an arrow (about 29 inches).

I have no doubt at all that the ell or clothyard measurement varied over time and from one country to another; but I am absolutely certain it was nothing like 36 inches for most of its history.
Brother Ranulf

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Marcus Woodhouse
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I assumed the clothyard arrow to be a Victorian medievalisim, I didn't realise they actually existed.
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glyndwr 50
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clothyard arrows

Post by glyndwr 50 »

Brother Ranulf.That's a very imformative reply.Could there be another explaination,I have been to many archery shoots and have seen longbowmen pulling 120 lbs plus bows back to there shoulders .When I asked why they told me that in warfair it was common pratice to get as much distance as possible to hit an advancing enemy before they came into normal arrow range .This meant that to pull the bow back to the shoulder you needed an extra long arrow ,which funny enough is around 36 " give or take an 1" .is there any truth in this or are the lads just pulling my leg ...

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Brother Ranulf
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Speaking for my own period of interest (the 12th century), such a draw would have been unlikely. I have catalogued and studied every known image of archers from the period, in manuscripts, wood- and stone-carvings, stained glass, gaming pieces and so on. The evidence is universally consistent across the whole of England and throughout the entire century: without exception they all use a two-finger draw and all the bows are shorter than the height of a man - many are considerably shorter.

It is significant that the term "longbow" is not used until the 13th century; everything prior to that time must be called a bow, not a longbow.

The two-finger draw I mentioned indicates bows of only light or moderate draw weight, certainly not the 120 to 180 lb weapons suggested by some people for the post-medieval Mary Rose bows, for example.

Another point to mention is that it is a general rule of archery that draw length should never be more than half the height of the bow - even half the height could equate to an overdraw. So in order to draw an arrow 36 inches, the bow would need to be more than 6 feet in height. [I read that the average length of the Mary Rose arrows is just 30 inches, despite most of the bows being in the 73 to 78 inches range].

I am not qualified to comment on later medieval and Tudor bows or how they were used (I am sure there are plenty of people on here who are), but my point is that bow size and shape developed only gradually through the medieval period, there are huge gaps in our knowledge of the subject due to an almost complete lack of surviving examples and we are obstructed by post-medieval fantasy and guesswork. There are also some surprises, puzzles and mysteries around some of the available illustrations - 12th century English selfwood bows are often shown with recurved tips, for example, which is difficult to explain or replicate today.
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Post by Ranger Smith »

Have you accounted for artistic licence in early medieval illustrations as to prevelence of shorter bows? The estimated sizes for the Mere and Ashcot Heath bows comes out fairly close to the smaller Mary Rose bows. The bow belonging to the Bronze age Ice man found in Italy is of a size and estimated draw weight comparable with the larger Mary Rose Bows. Then there are discriptions of Welsh archers fixing their Norman Counter parts with arrows through maile, padding and the sadle to their mounts from the 11th Centuary.

IMHO it seems strange that Neolithic man would use larger heavier bows and it would apppear that 11thC Welsh archers were using the same yet in the 12th and 13thC only smaller lighter bows were being used. Looking at some of the earlier illustrations there is a lot of artistic licence in the stance of the archers especialy in the positioning of the hands so as not to obscure faces. Some of the images around do show some very short thick bows if you scaled them up they would be nearly impossible to draw. Unfortunatly without finding a surviving datable bow we will never realy know. But taking what we do know of earlier finds, discriptions and some illustrations I would tend to favour the premise that we always used heavier bows (100lbs+) just not in the large numbers of later centuries.
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Post by Ranger Smith »

Sorry forgot to add I have shot heavy poundage bows with a two finger release which has more to do with reducing pinch on the arrow as the longer arrow entails an ancor point further back than in modern archery. I can't say I got on well shooting with a two finger release but this is more down to the fact that I came into archery late in life and was taught the three finger or Mediterainian loose right from the off.

The average length for the Mary Rose arrows as far as I am aware is 31inches to the back of the head.

Also to recurve the tips on self bows just takes a little heat or it can occur naturaly depending on where you select the timber from the tree.
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

I have produced a study paper on 12th century archery and yes I took into account the possible reduction in scale (which also applies in the case of spears, shields and other long objects). I showed that bows, unlike spears, are short even where there is plenty of space to depict a much longer bow - as in the case of a hunter shooting magpies out of a tree using blunts - so "fitting into the available space" is clearly not the deciding factor.

I have also looked very closely at the "Welsh longbow" idea and dismissed it as myth - much of the evidence quoted for it is deliberately invented or misrepresented, or based on the extremely faulty pre-1978 translations of Gerald of Wales [all based on the incorrect 1806 translation by Richard Colt Hoare, itself based on the faulty 1602 edition of Gerald's writings] and much-faked translations of texts in the earlier Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. When you look at those texts as written, bows are either absent from the account or their performance is grossly exaggerated by people supporting the Welsh longbow idea.

They ignore the fact that we do not know the ranges involved, the precise size of Welsh bows, the draw length, what heads were being used and where the bow timber was sourced. Gerald is very specific about Welsh bow wood - it was from dwarf elm trees, which will not provide anything like a stave long enough for a longbow [Lewis Thorpe's definitive and reliable 1978 translation and my own study of the text].

Anyone quoting the Stone Age and Bronze Age longbows as evidence needs to show a clear, direct and unbroken longbow connection from then to England in the 13th century, otherwise the premise collapses (there is no reliable connection of any kind. Linking the bow in this way also involves linking parallel factors such as the cultures, languages, other weapons and traditions of the people involved, which is clearly impossible). It is like saying that the native Japanese word "so" and the English word "so" are identical in meaning, therefore the languages must be related - but basing such a theory one just one piece of evidence is absurd. Each word (and bow) developed with an entirely different history, isolated from each other, but with an identical result.

Native Americans (no, I am not suggesting a link!!!) using shortbows of 48 inches and less to hunt buffalo could shoot an arrow entirely through an adult animal at close range - by no means all such hunting bows were sinew backed and the majority relied entirely on the strength of the timber, which was most often ash on the northern Plains (the much stronger Osage Orangewood is only available further south). [Encylopedia of Native american Bows, Arrows and Quivers, Vol. 2]

Gerald's genuine feats of Welsh archery are certainly not impossible for a powerful shortbow at short ranges - he does not mention the ranges involved so we can not use this performance as definitive evidence either way.

As I have stated many times, our knowledge of medieval archery has huge gaps due to the lack of surviving evidence, so we can really only speculate (and be entirely honest about that speculation).
Brother Ranulf

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Dave Key
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Post by Dave Key »

Couple of points here ...

1. Cloth yard
Brother Ranulf wrote:I always explain the term "clothyard" in this way: imagine holding a bolt of cloth upright in front of you. Now imagine grasping the edge of the cloth in your left hand, steadying the bolt with your right. Now imagine pulling out the cloth to the limit of your left arm - that's a clothyard and it's exactly the same distance as you would draw an arrow (about 29 inches).

"To measure cloth yardage you take the corner of the cloth in your left hand, extend your left arm until it is straight and where the cloth reaches your nose (looking straight forward) ... that is a yard."

That was what I was always taught ... I'm 5ft 6" tall ( not a gorilla ) and that is almost exactly what it measured ... 34"-36".

(BTW for youngsters look right and the extra 3" = 1 metre)

So a cloth yard (hand to nose) is easy to measure with a simple draw of the arm ... now whether that is either a medieval meaure, medieval term or applies to arrows ... that is a very different subject!

2. Ells & yards
Brother Ranulf wrote:I have no doubt at all that the ell or clothyard measurement varied over time and from one country to another; but I am absolutely certain it was nothing like 36 inches for most of its history.

An ell is not a yard

The ell varied widely over time and locale. Generally it was roughly 27" to 29" in early medieval England and the Continent (37" in Scotland!). By the C15th in England it had transformed into the "modern" 45" (5 quarters of a yard), but the 27" measure remained in Flanders and France and was the standard width of Linen based cloths, as opposed to yards (1 for a straits, e.g. a worsted, 2 for a broadcloth) for English woollen cloths.

Whilst there would be minor variations in length, the yard was a relatively static measure throughout the medieval period.


However, if I get the chance I'll take another quick look through some of the old statutes and see what I can find asby the C15th they were regulating measurement s a fair amount.

Worthnoting, when I have seen arrrows listed in inventories they tend to refer to the flecthing size rather than the arrow length.

Cheers
Dave

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Post by Colin Middleton »

Brother Ranulf wrote:It is like saying that the native Japanese word "so" and the English word "so" are identical in meaning, therefore the languages must be related - but basing such a theory one just one piece of evidence is absurd. Each word (and bow) developed with an entirely different history, isolated from each other, but with an identical result.
That's an awful example. The language is missing much of the external influences that play on teh engineering issues. A better example would be to compare German Martial Arts with Japanese Martial Arts. If you do that, you find that there are many similarities. This is because they are using the same tool (a human body) to acheive the same objective (break another human body). If you apply this logic to the bows, you'll find that in all cases, you're trying to propel a wooden projectile, with stored energy from a bent (wooden?) stave. Given this similarity, you can draw a distant connection with the Iron Age bows and draw GUIDANCE from them (no it's not good evidence, but it does provide some information). However, you must also consider input from crossbows, Japanese Bows, Chinese Bows, Native American Bows, etc to get a balanced picture. Otherwise you are working in the realms of fantasy.
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