Silver bodkins for your hair,
bobs that maidens love to wear
The Pedlar’s Song, from ‘The Triumphant Widow’ 1677
I love looking at what people have found under our feet by metal detecting or digging in their garden. The past is buried so close to the surface! Here’s an Elizabethan pin found by Don Sherratt of Taynton Metal Detecting Club in a field on the outskirts of Newent in 2006. The pin is very small but decorated with coils of gold wire and raised heads – such exquisite workmanship! The loop was probably for the attachment of a chain to help prevent such a valuable item from being lost. It could have been used to pin a dress, or more likely, the hair.
During the Elizabethan period gold hair decorations were very fashionable with wealthy women, as you can see from these portraits . These ornate gold and silver pins were worn in the hair, often with dangling pearls, or droplets made of gold wire. Sometimes the decorated finial would protrude over the centre of the forehead, and sometimes the decoration would be set off-centre wound into the hair. Hair was sometimes padded out with horsehair or false hair to give the required bulk. Several Tudor hair pins have been found by metal detectorists during recent years, and most have the pin deliberately bent. You can imagine the lady twisting the pin into the hair to encourage it to stay put, but on this occasion the twisting obviously didn’t work as it was there for someone to find, all these years later.
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