Royal Armouries

Endoscopy and the Wooden Horses of the Line of Kings

Images

Interior of wooden horse

Endoscope image showing the materials and construction details visible inside the body cavity of horse. (XVII.14)

  • Interior of wooden horse

    Endoscope image showing the materials and construction details visible inside the body cavity of horse. (XVII.14)

  • colour photo of wooden blocks and peg inside a wooden horse

    Endoscopic photo inside a carved wooden horse (XVII.7)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. (XVII.7)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse against a stone wall

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. (XVII.10)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.11)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.12)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.14)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.16)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1865-90 (XVII.17)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.18)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse against a stone wall

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. British, 19th century (XVII.20)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.30)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. (XVII.7)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.8)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

  • Photo of strips of different colours annotated to explain different paint layers

    Paint analysis of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings.( XVII.7)

  • Interior view of wooden horse

    Endoscope image showing the materials and construction details visible inside the body cavity of horse. (XVII.9)

  • sandpaper fragment inscribed ‘Repaired August 1893 by W Buckingham, Carpenter’.

    The sandpaper fragment found inside Horse XVII.12 and inscribed ‘Repaired August 1893 by W Buckingham, Carpenter’.

Endoscopy and the Wooden Horses of the Line of Kings

Description

Most of the Tower’s historic wooden horses are constructed in such a way that their tails are easily removable by extracting a small dowel and pulling the rectangular wooden block adjoining the top of the tail out of its socket. The pegged mortise and tenon joint in many cases leads into an aperture, sometimes very narrow but in other cases large enough to see clearly inside the body cavity with the aid of a torch. By introducing an endoscopic camera into the void it was possible to obtain images not only inside the body but in many cases also revealing details of the neck and head construction.

During 2012 several days of intensive examination inside the horses were undertaken using a high-powered endoscope, revealing both similarities and differences in construction methods and use of tools and materials. In some horses the maximum extension of the cable and camera was not long enough to allow images to be captured at the furthest extremities of the horses’ necks and heads but good images have been obtained of the body cavities in all the horses except XVII.13 and 20.

The main findings are summarised below:

THE HORSES’ INTERIOR FEATURES

XVII.7

Barrel type construction, illustrated during 1970s restoration by Borg, similar only to Horse XVII.14. No neck aperture & probably a solid head. Both oak and softwood were used in a composite construction. Some new wood and PVA glue is visible from the late 20th century restoration.

XVII.8

‘Battenberg’ type 4-block construction. The neck is hollow but the head is probably solid. Mainly oak which had been carved out, forming two cavities separated by a ridge possibly for extra strength. There is a block from the head extending into the neck cavity which probably helped to hold the head securely in position. There are dowels that were probably aids during construction and for strength. An extra dowel in the centre of the back where the saddle would have been was possibly added to give more rigidity to the rider. A hole in the lower right section of torso seems to have been filled with molten metal, probably lead.

XVII.9

‘Battenberg’ type 4-block construction but set at a distinctive 45° angle. The neck and probably the head are hollowed out. Mostly oak with dowels for ease of construction and for strength. Another dowel runs through the head and neck for holding the head in place, similar to Horse XVII.11. It was thoroughly restored in 1987, when a time capsule was left inside, and it has two modern staples across the joints.

XVII.10

‘Battenberg’ type 4-block construction. Neck and probably head deeply hollowed out . Material soaked in animal glue has been stuffed in some of the bigger joints between the pieces of wood. Mostly oak with dowels used for ease of construction and for strength. It stands out from the rest because of the way that the leg tenons come through into the body in all four corners.

XVII.11

‘Battenberg’ type 4-block construction. Head and neck hollowed out. Mostly of oak with packing in the larger gaps between the pieces of wood. There are dowels for ease of construction and for strength and also a dowel between the head and neck like Horse 9.

XVII.12

‘Battenberg’ type 4-block construction, hollowed like canoes. The neck is hollowed out and probably the head. Mostly oak with dowels for ease of construction and for strength. A piece of sandpaper found inside the cavity recorded restoration in 1893 by William Buckingham of the Tower Armouries.

XVII.13

Body cavity not yet examined: there is no hole into its cavity. Probably a later horse.

XVII.14

Barrel type body construction, which is blocky and similar only to Horse XVII.7. There is no neck aperture in the body so the head is probably solid. Mostly oak with some dowels for ease of construction and for strength.

XVII.16

‘Battenberg’ type 4-block construction. The neck is hollowed out and probably much of the head too. Mostly of oak, it has dowels probably as constructional aids and for strength. Fabric soaked in animal glue has been used to fill large gaps between the pieces of wood. There is also a metal bracket, possibly re-used from a door, over one of the joints.

XVII.17

‘Battenberg’ type 4-block construction. Mostly oak hollowed like a canoe with clear gouge marks visible. The head and neck are probably solid. There is evidence of the animal glue used to stick together the blocks, and of dowels that were possibly constructional but at least one at the end may have been for strength as it has a block attached. Some of the oak baulks from this horse provided the cores which were dated by tree-ring analysis to suggest felling of the tree between 1675 and 1691.

XVII.18

Thick, boxy type body construction using four pieces of elm wood. The elm surfaces of the interior have a smooth finish showing no signs of saw or gouge marks. There is a badly deteriorated area within the interior surface of one of the planks. Head and neck probably solid.

XVII.20

Thick, boxy block body construction using softwood. It was not possible to insert the endoscope and carry out a detailed examination inside this horse as there is no hole into its cavity. Head and neck probably solid. Thought to be 19th century.

XVII.30

Unique 3-block construction with only a 2/3-length body cavity and the rest solid. It appears to be mainly oak, with the head and neck probably solid, but examination of fragments removed from inside seems also to indicate Scots Pine, Pinus Silvestris, a widely used timber.

On the basis of their internal construction as revealed by the endoscope we can propose:

The ‘Main Group’: Horses XVII.8, 10, 11, 12, 16 & 17 are the six horses which are most similar in terms of their ‘Battenberg’ internal structure and materials. However, some also have unique features in their construction, like Horse XVII.8’s internal ridge creating two cavities, and Horse XVII.10’s leg jointing. This could reflect variations in the working methods of different craftsmen with a workshop, or the products of two or more workshops.

The ‘Sub-group’: Horses XVII.7 and 14 are the only two horses which have the distinctive barrel construction and they are also similar with respect to other features.

The ‘Outlier’: Horse XVII.9 is unusual because of the 45° angled use of its four ‘Battenberg’ blocks. However, the latter could in reality be an outlier from either the main ‘Battenberg’ group or the group below.

The ‘Exceptions’

On the basis of their dimensions and materials, it is again the case that Horses XVII.18, 20 and 30 are the three that stand out because features of their construction differ types differ from the main ‘Battenberg’ group – and each other. Horse XVII.20 is almost certainly much later than the other eleven, but at present there appears no reason to regard Horse XVII.18 as other than late 17th century so it is hard to explain why it so atypical of the rest on every count. Horse XVII.30 is an oddity because of its internal construction, its dimensions, paintwork and other features, suggesting it may have originated from a different source than the remainder.

However, if we still had the full complement of 19 horses from 1685-91 there might have been other survivors that would have altered this suggested division into sub-groups and solos. Like the other methods of investigation, the endoscope images of the horses’ interiors provide useful clues but no easy answers. The important factor to bear in mind is that the craftsmen would not have expected that the body cavities ever to be seen again, so there is no reason to regard the internal evidence at anything other than face value. Unlike the horses’ poses, carved details and paint schemes, which were meant to be seen, the horses’ interiors give us an unintended insight into the similarities and differences. It seems likely that the different construction types, materials and tool-marks are the horses’ most revealing clues to the variations in working methods at the different workshops involved.

Setting aside the later horses, it is clearly significant that six of the eleven horses share the ‘Battenberg’ construction type, while another has the 45° angle version of this structure. There are also two ‘barrels’, one box and one 3-block type and it is tempting to suggest the pair and the odd ones may be survivors from the four workshops which each made one or two horses, while the ‘Battenbergs’ are the products of the two workshops that respectively supplied six and seven. This hypothesis could be entirely mistaken and it leaves unexplained why the six plus one ‘Battenbergs’ should have come from the two suppliers of the large orders, Morgan and Nost. However, there could be various other explanations and the evidence from the endoscope must be recognised as adding greatly to our knowledge without being a conclusive explanation and method of attribution.

Nevertheless, it is apparent that the patterns we can recognise are highly unlikely to be random: it is improbable in the extreme that the various carvers would have produced each of their horses using a different construction method. Unfortunately, our interpretation of precisely what the similarities and differences mean in terms of makers cannot yet be pushed beyond concluding that certain horses almost definitely came from different workshops while we can now identify some others very probably made by the same groups of craftsmen.

Related Objects

Wooden Horse - Black stallion - XVII.8 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.8

Wooden Horse - Black stallion - XVII.12 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1685 | Object number: XVII.12

Wooden Horse - Black stallion-XVII.20 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.20

Wooden Horse - Black stallion-XVII.30 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.30

Wooden Horse - Buff stallion with brown mane - XVII.18 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.18

Wooden Horse - Dark brown stallion - XVII.14 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.14

Wooden Horse - Grey stallion - XVII.17 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.17

Wooden Horse - Light brown stallion - XVII.16 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.16

Wooden Horse - Orangey-brown stallion - XVII.11 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.11

Paint Analysis and the Wooden Horses and Heads of the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Wooden Horse - Dark brown stallion - XVII.9 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1685 | Object number: XVII.9

Wooden Horse - Yellow stallion - XVII.7 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.7

Wooden Horse - Dark grey stallion - XVII.10 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1685 | Object number: XVII.10

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