The Jack of Plate, sometimes referred to in contemporary documents as a ‘steel coat’, a ‘plate coat’ or a ‘coat of plate’, was a uniquely British defence first recognisably mentioned in English and Scottish records of the second quarter of the 16th century.
The item is among a vast range of objects from all corners of the globe spanning 2,000 years of history being offered in Thomas Del Mar Ltd’s auction of antique arms, armour and militaria in London.
Thomas Del Mar noted: “These are extremely rare and I believe none have been offered at auction in the last hundred years.
“Only sixteen complete examples are preserved worldwide.” The three in the sale – dating from 1580-90 and carrying estimates ranging £8,000-12,000 through to £12,000-18,000 - along with an example in the Royal Armouries in Leeds, formed part of a collection assembled at Worden Hall, which was sold by a local auctioneer in 1948.
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Thomas Del Mar added: “There has been considerable interest from within this country and from outside, but we’re hoping to find the most caring buyer for them.
“No other one has never been sold at auction - these were sold at auction in 1948, but no others.”
The item is described as being “formed of small overlapping square plates of iron with cropped corners secured by lines of diagonal vertical or in some cases horizontal stitches of crossbow twine through holes at their centres between the inner and outer layers of a fabric doublet of peascod fashion with a frontal opening situated slightly to the right of centre and originally closed by laces passing through pairs of reinforced holes an upstanding collar devoid like the edges of the arm-openings of plates and a short skirt.
“The whole enclosed between two outer layers of fine linen canvas overlying felted woven wool on the outside and a coarser canvas on the inside of the garment and decorated with green (perhaps originally white) woollen tufts at the intersections of the stitches.
“The outer fabric is discoloured, worn through at points and split at the shoulders and some points of the waist and the base of the collar). Size is 75.5 cm; 293⁄4 in.”
It is documented that although defences of this kind ceased to be manufactured towards the end of the 16th century their use persisted into the early years of the following century.
Today only 16 more or less complete Jacks of Plate are preserved worldwide.
Thomas Del Mar Ltd was founded in 2005 and has been holding sales biannually entitled in association with Sotheby.
Thomas was formerly head of Sotheby’s worldwide department of arms, armour and militaria and assisted Sotheby’s with sales in London, New York, Denmark, Zurich and Hanover.
The sale of works of art from the Royal House of Hanover included arms and armour which sold for £4,764,004 which continues to stand as a world auction record for an ancestral collection in this field.