Medieval armouring – the 15th century Italian breastplate with Graham Ashford

Blacksmithing and metalworking

Ref: S5D11968

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About this course

Learn how to form a mid 15th century, Italian style breastplate and fauld with triangular edged hems and a wire reinforced neck.

Course Description

The protection of the vital organs in the abdomen has been central to all forms of armoured defence throughout history. From early padded garments and maille through to modern Kevlar and ceramics the abdomen’s protection has been vital.

Throughout the late medieval period this protection frequently took the form of an all steel breastplate. The look and form of breastplates varies wildly and can be used, with fair accuracy, to identify when and where it was built (and sometimes by whom). However, they all follow the same basic rules to be able to fit and work with the human body.

Over this course, you will learn how to form a breastplate’s deep shape using raising, dishing and planishing. Additionally, you will learn the rules needed to be followed by all abdomen defence as well as how to make simple buckles and carry out simple leather work. Special attention will be given to the hemming of the breastplate at the sides of the chest and neckline. Lastly the simple fauld that falls from the bottom of the breastle will introduce riveting and leather straps to the piece.

The breastplate will be left rough from the forge, a common technique of the period.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course the tutor will supply some of the materials including the leather straps and metal wire. The College will supply most of the materials including the 1.5mm and 1.2mm mild steel and fuel costs tools and metal that is stocked by the College.

What students need to bring

  • Working clothes
  • Steel toe capped boots
  • Plenty of water
  • You will need to wear clothing suitable for workshop use, together with steel toe capped boots. Please note that cotton or wool clothing is preferable to nylon or other synthetics. A pair of cotton jeans is far more protective than a pair of nylon trousers. Shorts do not provide necessary protection.
  • For your safety it is mandatory to wear steel toe capped safety boots when undertaking a course in the Forge. You must provide your own footwear and bring them with you to wear on the course. If you fail to bring suitable footwear, you will not be able to take part in the course. Safety boots can be purchased from most tool hire shops and builders’ merchants as well as online.
  • Protective Clothing Supplied:
  • Leather aprons, work gloves, safety spectacles and ear defenders are provided in the Forge, and suitable protective clothing must be worn.
  • You may wish to bring any of the above, if you have them. If for example you have particularly large or small hands, your own work gloves are likely to be a better fit.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A variety of general drawing equipment and paper, paints and other general art and craft materials.
Please note: Your workshop will be in the Forge which is a 10 minute walk from the main house through the walled garden, or can be accessed by car. As this course is held in the Forge, morning coffee and afternoon tea will be held in the nearby Carrington Studio. You will return to the main house for lunch. Please note that tutor supervision is always required when you are working in the Forge. The tutor’s instruction on health and safety will include access to and use of the power hammer. Evening working – the Forge is not open in the evening.


Graham Ashford

A professional armourer since 2008. Graham won a QEST Scholarship apprenticing with Master Armourer David Hewitt at White Rose Armouries for 3 years. Working principally for reenactors, museums and collectors across the world. I have written pieces for historical periodicals and now work from my workshop in Fareham.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

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Our Foundation Degree in Metalwork will enhance your employment prospects, give you the skills to set up as a self-employed craftsperson or allow you to continue to higher education. Encompassing both silversmithing and blacksmithing, you will learn practical skills, material properties, placing your work in a broader context and historic metalworking techniques. Find out more

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