Since well into ' BC', man has
fashioned horn and bone into tools, household ware, jewellery and
As far back as 18000 BC man apparently
busied himself carving ivory - presumably after he had chased, captured
and eaten the host animal. After all that excitement a bit of carving
was probably quite relaxing - after all, he wouldn't have had a TV to
watch or papers to read!
Later on in the course of man's
development he would use antlers as knives, arrow heads as well as pick
axes and jewelers then, somewhere along the line, he discovered that,
by heating horn from cattle and sheep, he could mould it and from there
on in there was no looking back - well not much anyway!
It was also discovered that horn could
be de-laminated and, having done that, the thin pieces were found to be
clear-ish, at least clear enough to almost see through, so these were
used to make the 'glass' for lanterns (or more properly 'lant-horns'.
This thin horn was also used for filling in the holes in the sides of
their houses - not exactly double glazing but better than cold air! In
fact the invention of mass- production techniques for glass almost
scuppered the horners business back in the 16th century- apparently some
of the small panes of glass inside the Guildhall in London are still of
However, to go back the way a little
it seems the Romans were used to trading horn and contemporary writings
refer to horn drinking vessels being quite commonplace - a little later
on we would have found horners making chalices for churches around the
9th century and, according to the booklet of the Worshipful Company of
Horners, horns were used in medical matters including, interestingly
enough, the administration of enemas. Heady stuff -eh?
||Certainly horn working has had its ups
and downs over the centuries much like any other kind of business but,
over the years, horners have made book pages , walking sticks, shoe
lifts ( or more properly shoe horns), window panes, lantern panes,
spoons, knife handles, sword and dagger handles, tobacco jars, hunting
horns, powder horns, drinking horns, snuff mulls, ink wells, cupping
horns (medical), bow ends for longbowmen as well as needlework tools,
lacemaking tools, condiment holders and combs - to mention but a few
items from their range.
Here in Scotland, much horn work was
undertaken by itinerant travelling folk or 'tinkers', so called because
they were tinsmiths primarily - they would travel from farm to farm and
village to village often carrying their home on their backs or, if they
were prosperous, pushing it in a hand cart. These guys lived a hard life
with short life expectancy - sleeping under bow tents on the grass or
heather moor and there, gathered around the fire they would make spoons
and beakers and weapon handles as well as plying their other trades.
They were very skilled and some examples of their work exist and are on
show at the Highland Folk Museum in Kingussie not far from where we have
our own workshops - if you're ever in town it's a place well worth
visiting ( after you've been to see us that is !)
There's mountains more we could tell
you about the history of horn but - well frankly - you might get bored -
but if you really want to know call us or email us and we'll see what we
can do to fill you in a bit more.