This is a copper-alloy strap fitting in the shape of a jester’s head. It was recently found by a metal-detectorist near Warrington in Cheshire. Although the exact date is uncertain, the late Geoff Egan, in his assessment of a similar example found near the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, suggested that it most likely dated from c.1400-1600. He noted: ‘Jesters seems to have got into the repertoire of general motifs around that time – on ceramic whistles and knife handles.’ This may have been due to the popularity of the book The Ship of Fools, which was first published in 1494 by the Swiss theologian Sebastian Brant but did not appear in English until 1509.
It was also noted by Robert Webley, former PASt Explorers Project Officer at the British Museum and current post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Exeter, that, to date, seven similar objects have been found in England (and four in France), and it is generally understood that they functioned as a suspender (châtelaine, clavendier) for keys and/or other accoutrements.
While the face of this jester is a bit worn, you can still make out oval eyes, a triangular nose, and a small horizontal groove representing the mouth. The pointed ears protruding from either side of the head and the collar around the neck with three arms – two of which end in a circular ball – suggest he is wearing a typical jester’s hood with donkeys’ ears and bells. The central arm of the ‘collar’ ends in a loop, indicating it may have been suspended from or affixed to something.
For more information on this strap fitting, see https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/1073907 or search for LVPL-AA61D3 on the PAS database.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of over 1.5 million finds, visit www.finds.org.uk. Information for this find was provided by Heather Beeton, Finds Liaison Officer – Cheshire, Greater Manchester & Merseyside.