top of page

Warbow Wales shoots 3 types of approximation war arrows, two based upon extant arrows and the BL-BS Standard arrow.  Below tells you a little about their history.  (Above) A reproduction of Mary Rose Arrow AZ472/19  by Jeremy Spencer.

The Warbow Wales ‘Lyverye Arrowe’,

The Lyvery arrowe, (meaning army issued) as it is listed in the Anthony Roll, is a reproduction of Mary Rose arrow number AZ472/19.  


Warbow Wales will be introducing a new arrow that will join the shooting line from the spring of 2015. It will be as faithful a representation as possible of an actual arrow found aboard the Tudor warship the Mary Rose.   Arrow AZ472/19 is one of 1,054 shafts that have survived almost 500 years of immersion in the murky waters of the Solent.


A background of the Mary Rose arrows

A contemporary inventory of the Mary Rose, The Anthony Roll, lists the ship as containing 400 sheaves of livery arrows.2  A sheaf contains 24 arrows, so some 9,600 arrows were potentially part of her stores.   The Mary Rose Trust has examined and recorded 609 of 1,054 of its recovered arrows.  

The findings are as follows.


The steele, or shaft


A number different shaft designs were discovered but of the profile of the bob-tailed arrow is statistically the most prevalent at 268 of the sample total (43.1%).  This is a design whereby the shaft taperis from the arrowhead end, or some distance after, to the nock. For comparison, the next common profile (28.5%) was parallel this being 168 of the shafts. 114 barrelled, 32 were saddled (this being a slight hourglass shape) and 27 were breasted.3  


Wood type

Aspen or poplar was by far the most common arrow wood found with birch was being the next.  Aspen was a prized arrow wood and also used extensively used for clog production throughout the Middle Ages.  Henry V issued a proclamation (4 Henry V c.3 of 1416) restricting its use to military arrow production due to concerns about its supply. Those convicted of violating the law were subject to a hundred shilling (£5) fine, half of which was paid to the fletchers guild.4  As its use was legally controlled, aspen was clearly considered a premium military arrow wood for over a century before the Mary Rose sank.  By contrast, of the 609 arrows that have currently been analysed in detail, only one was of ash (perhaps to Ascham’s chagrin as he preferred ash for war arrow shafts).



Approximate diameters of 1/2” and 3/8” for the shoulder and nock respectively are a common feature with the aspen arrow shafts (although the Mary rose's arrows were very disparate in design and many were considerably thinner).  The Mary Rose Trust, in its authoritative publication, Weapons of Warre, suggests an overall weight of a typical arrow (that is, of aspen and of 30” draw length) as 45 grams without the arrowhead.5  

Although a broad spread of arrow lengths was recorded for her arrows, most lie in the range 715-854mm in a bimodal (double peaked) distribution of 740mm (yielding an approximate draw length of 30”) and 790mm (yielding an approximate draw length of 28”).  When the median nock depth (6mm) and the median tip (cone for the arrowhead) length (22mm) are subtracted from the two modal values it gives estimated draw lengths of 712mm (28.03in) and 762mm (30 in) respectively.

Of all of the 1,054 arrows of The Mary Rose Trust, 841 were 31", 190 were 29", 9 were 32.5", 8 were 28" and 6 were only 27.5" in length.6   These measurements are given for the total length of the arrow (including the arrowhead cone and not subtracting the nock valley).  Only 9 could have even been drawn to 31” at the shoulder.  Clearly it is a modern custom to consider the standard draw length for warbows as 32”.

The arrows no longer show any trace of a protective finish but it it is possible they were proofed in some way, especially given their maritime setting.  Sir John Smyth, in 1590, writes of archers heating a mixture of bees’ wax, tallow and rosin to make a rubbing paste (applied via a woollen cloth) as a bow's protection against the elements. This mix is also recommended for the string.  Ascham's guidance for bows is similar but interestingly makes no mention of treating arrows in the same manner.  He advises using a...


“wullen cloth waxed wherwith euery day you must rubbe and chafe your bowe tyll it shyne”. 8 



The Mary Rose arrows are all reinforced with a sliver of cow horn approximately 50mm long set in at 90 degrees to the arrow nock.  Interestingly, the Tudor fletches did not seem to worry about the grain orientation to any great degree as modern one would.  This could be what Ascham refers to as ‘double nocking’.  “And double nocking is used for double surety of the shaft.”

As stated, the median depth of the Mary Rose arrows in 6mm which gives a generous fit upon the string and mitigates against potentially catastrophic dry loosing of the bow in the heat of battle.  Ascham again has advice for both military and recreational shooting.

“The deep and long nock is good in war for sure keeping in of the string. The shallow and round nock is best for our purpose in pricking for clean deliverance of a shot”9

The arrows show no sign of binding below the nock to reinforce the area.  No trace of protective finish remains on the shaft other than the verdigris compound on the shaftment.

The median nock width dimension is just less than 3mm wide.10  With a high quality natural fibre string this will provides a good fit that is not too tight.  An overly large string with a narrow nock can split the shaft upon loosing as it acts like a slipping wedge thus endangering the bow. 

(Below left) The variation between the bottom two Mary Rose arrow nock widths is clear but all have a good depth of around 1/4", "for surer nocking" as Ascham writes.  (Below right) Four reproduction Lyverye Arrowes  by Jeremy Spencer.















The Fletchings

The original height and shape of the fletchings of the arrow is uncertain as none have survived but practical experimentation has shown 5/8" at the highest point provides adequate steerage yet allows decent range.  Near contemporary carvings on Prince Arthur’s Chantry Chapel in Worcester Cathedral (below), shows a triangular fletch with a forward raked end.  Ascham also states in ‘Toxophilus’  “the triangle fashion which is much used now-a-days both be good”.  Practical experimentation found that an angled rear edge creates unnecessary drag due to flapping and this action reduces range.  As trimming the rear edge straight takes seconds it also makes this shape more likely.  Some arrows still have traces of rachis attached to the shaftment that have been identified as either swan or goose.  The median fletching length of the fletches, as shown via the witness marks is 181mm (7 1/8 inches).11   It is difficult to cut longer fletches from goose primaries although swan pinions will accommodate far longer.  It is very unlikely that Turkey feathers were used.. the first Turkey was brought back from Newfoundland in 1497. The fowl was an expensive oddity during the reign of Henry VIII although he's reputed to have eaten them.12

The binding and feathers are of fine silk.18  Interestingly records survive of Henry V ordering silk for this purpose for his Agincourt campaign.  Given the delicate size of the binding's witness marks on the verdigris compound it is easy to see that fine thread was used.  This does not separate the vanes unduly and thus reduces drag.  The radiused corners of the fletchings and swept-back tail edge are clear.  (Centre) Shards of an arrow in a reliquary thought to date to 1497.  These are the only Medieval/Tudor bindings Warbow Wales believes still to be in existence.
































The Arrowhead

It is likely that Mary Rose arrow number AZ472/19 was armed with an arrowhead commonly known as a ‘Tudor bodkin’ or M2 according to Jessop’s taxonomy of arrowheads.13 This type of arrowhead is also depicted in the Worcester Cathedral carving but it is possible another type of head was used.  It is likely that any head would have to have been able to pass through the ½” diameter holes in the leather spacers of an arrow bag. The M2 is a type of head found in the archaeological record for the late medieval and Tudor period.  The heads used to make reproductions for the Mary Rose Trust were of M2 type made by the master arrowsmith Hector Cole MBE weighs around 93 grains (6 grams). The Mary Rose Trust has also suggested a closely barbed arrowhead called a Type 16 but evidence suggests this is less likely to have been the arrowhead the arrows were armed with.  The M2 arrowhead is a progression of the Type 16 and is easier to produce and less likely to snag on the leather arrow spacers of the arrow bags that were found.14  

However, the Type 16 cannot be discounted.  Ascham refers to the arrowheads with “little barbs” of the narrow diameter heads designed to maximise penetration for “when a man shooteth at his enemy, he desireth rather that it should enter far, than stick fast.”15  

As no heads have survived in any reasonable state of preservation the matter is conjectural.  The Anthony Roll offers no contextual clues either.  It is likely the heads were glued onto the shafts as given the reference in the Calais armoury to “Glewe for bowes and arrows”.  This would suggest that fletching glue was used to attach the feathers prior to binding and possibly the arrowheads as well.16  Gluing on the arrowhead aids in penetration as it reduces the tendency for the momentum of the shaft upon impact opening out the cone of the arrowhead, thus dissipating energy.17  

There is no evidence of the arrowheads being pinned as the cone of the shafts does not exhibit holes.
























(Left)  A reproduction hand forged reproduction M2 arrowhead by Jeremy Spencer. 

This is commonly called a Tudor bodkin but the design dates from the late medieval period. 

(Right) Carvings also from the chantry chapel.





(Right) Withypool Triptych, Saint Ursula (triptych, right panel) painted by Antonio Solario (active 1502–1518).  Note the M2 arrowhead similar to the famous Towton arrowhead. (Right) A detail of the Wilton Diptych showing St. Edmund holding a war arrow.  Of particular note are the bulbous peacock feather fletchings, nocks, reminiscent of those shown on the Luttrell Psalter’s depiction.  Also of note is the dark green compound that is covering the fine bindings on the shaftment which indicates verdigris in the makeup.   The painting is by an unattributed French or English painter and dates from around 1395-9. 

























































The Warbow Wales ‘Lyverye Arrowe’ Specification - Mary Rose Arrow AZ472/19


In choosing a reproduction arrow to shoot, Warbow Wales has been very fortunate that The Mary Rose Trust’s has kindly suggested an exemplar arrow.  Therefore, Arrow AZ472/19 is an eminently suitable arrow to base a Mary Rose reproduction arrow upon.


The design dimensions and materials of the original must be faithfully followed  


The shaft must be of aspen (poplar) and have an effective draw length, which is from nock valley to the shoulder of arrowhead, of 758mm (29.84 inches).


The fletches of feather (goose or swan for preference).  Arrow AZ472/19 has fletches of 174mm (6.85 inches) as evidenced by the witness marks left on the bees wax/animal fat/verdigris binding compound.


The bindings for the fletches must be of natural thread (silk for preference) at 6 turns per inch and laid out as per the illustration (either wound clockwise or anti-clockwise).  The compound is optional but suggested as good practice.


The arrowhead must be a hand forged M2 (Tudor bodkin) or Type 16 small broadhead  


Due to the varying densities and vagaries of handmade objects, especially of natural materials, it is sensible to impose no weight limits.  As long as the original materials and dimensions are followed the weight will be representative.


The shaft dimensions must be as according to the original as laid out in the following diagram

The Warbow Wales ‘Lyverye Arrowe’


The Warbow Wales ‘Lyverye Arrowe’ will be shot concurrently with Warbow Wales existing Mary Rose Livery Arrow Warbow Wales is indebted to The Mary Rose Trust for kindly supplying the arrow data

NB.  The current distance achievements set with the Mary Rose Livery arrow will still be recorded unless bettered over time.  In this event only the Lyvery Arrowe will be recorded




1  Hildred, A (Edit) Weapons of Warre, The Mary Rose Trust  2010, p. 665.

2 Stirland, A Raising the Dead: The Skeleton Crew of Henry VIII's Great Ship, the Mary Rose, Wiley 2000, p.122

3  Soar, H Straight and True, a Select History of the Arrow, Westholme Publishing 2012, p.100

4 Grew, F & De Neergaard, M., Shoes and Pattens: Finds from Medieval Excavations in London,  Paul Meekins Military & History Books 2004, p99

5 Hildred, Ibid. p. 686

6 Soar, Ibid, p.101

7 Roberts, T & Wood, W The English Bowman: Or, Tracts on Archery, C. Rowworth, 1801,p. 29

8 Ascham, Ibid,  P. 181

9 Ascham, R The English Works of Roger Ascham: Preceptor to Queen Elizabeth, White, Cochrane and Co., 1815, p.140

10 Hildred, Ibid. p. 686

11 Hildred, A (Edit), p. 688.  

12 McPherson, D Annals of Commerce, Manufactures Fisheries and Navigation, Mundell and Son, 1803, p. 170

13 Jessop, O  A New Artefact Typology for the Study of Medieval Arrowheads, University of Durham, 1996,

14 Cole, H The Type 16, Arrowhead (news pamphlet of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries) 2015

15  Ascham, Ibid,  P. 131

16 Davies, J Military Archery & the Inventory of King Henry VIII, Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries (Volume 44), 2001, p.31

17  Article for The Glade with M. Stretton who had experimented with the penetrative qualities of unglued and epoxy resin bonded arrowheads

18 13 Soar, H Secrets of the English War Bow, Westholme Publishing (2006), Pg 82


War Arrows - The Lyverye Arrowe

bottom of page