The Savernake Horn

Medieval, AD 1325-50
England and Scotland

The horn is made from elephant ivory which has been faceted and decorated with silver gilt mounts adapted to its shape. The ivory is the oldest part, likely to date to the twelfth or thirteenth century. The most recent additions are the mouthpiece and the adjacent engraved silver band which date to the early eighteenth century. The earliest mounts, arranged in two parallel bands close to the mouth of the horn, were made in the second quarter of the fourteenth century. Each contains sixteen separate compartments to reflect the number of carved facets on the horn. The internal rim of the upper band depicts sixteen hawks preening themselves. The outward faces of both bands show engravings of animals of the chase, including the mythical unicorn and a lion. Central to the upper band is a representation of a king seemingly in conversation with a bishop, with a forester alongside.

The three figures may indicate a forestry agreement between a king and a bishop, the terms of which remain unknown to us. The horn has been associated with Savernake Forest in Wiltshire since Elizabethan times when it was noted by the chronicler William Camden (1551-1623). He recorded the horn as belonging to the Seymours, descendants of the Sturmy family who had been guardians of the forest since the time of Henry II (reigned 1154-89). Another family association with the horn comes from the leather baldric (belt) which is decorated with the arms of the earldom of Moray (1312-47). How the two came together is unknown but it was at some point before the early seventeenth century. The horn was last sounded officially in 1940 by King George VI when he visited Savernake Forest.

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More information


R. Camber and J. Cherry, 'The Savernake Horn', British Museum Yearbook-3, No. 2: Collectors and Collections (1977), pp. 201-211

J. Cherry, Medieval decorative art (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)


Length: 63.500 cm (along line of horn)
Length: 63.500 cm (along line of horn)
Length: 63.500 cm (along line of horn)
Length: 63.500 cm (along line of horn)

Museum number

M&ME 1975.4-1,1



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