Hello, Giusy here again from the Museum’s Visitor Services Team, with more on the workshops you can enjoy developed and run by your hosts (hope you enjoyed my last update on my own Roman mosiac workshops which you can read here).
My colleague Ed has a true mania for mail making. He has always been fascinated and he has been doing it for nearly five years now. If you walk to the galleries you will never find him without a small piece in his hands. I am not joking.
He wrote a dissertation on the topic and discovered that despite the fact mail was used for nearly two thousand years, very little work has been done on it. As an archaeologist it is his belief that the best way to understand an ancient technology is to have a go at making or using it. So now he runs the workshop at the Museum of London demonstrating to the public how mail was made and sharing the secrets that are locked within it.
He told me that in the past weapons and armour were not viewed the way they are now, they were integral to society, they had magical powers, names and were status symbols.
Mail armour was one of the most expensive armours around; it is very labour intensive, taking him around 7 months to make a complete shirt alone. It involves linking each ring through four others, and if made properly, riveting them shut to prevent them opening. In a complete mail shirt there can be as many as 28,000 rings, each one formed and riveted by hand.
His research into mail and its manufacture has brought to light a number of interesting new facts: such as how was mail made to fit the wearer? What sort of quality is the metal that mail is made from? What do these facts then tell us about the people making and wearing mail? When Ed does his workshop the public gets the chance to see and touch complete mail garments as well as have a go at riveting a ring or two.
The hope is that through this the public gain some new understanding of this interesting aspect of history, plus its fun! As the workshops progress visitors will see how the rings they have riveted become part of the weave of a new mail coif, a form of head protection that will be put in one of our gallery prop boxes for future visitors to try on.
Be sure to visit our Medieval Gallery to find out more.
Why not Join Ed for his next workshop this Sunday (7 August)!