This 15th Century War Hammer is a replica of a French weapon crafted around 1450; It now resides in the London Wallace Collection. By the mid 15th Century, well-crafted and extensive plate armor was being worn not only by the knightly class, but also by professional men-at-arms, well-equipped levies and wealthier town militias . Even archers are shown wearing some plate pieces in contemporary iconography. By the last half of the 15th century, plate or partial-plate armor was becoming common on the field, and the design and preference of weapons in turn altered to counter this democratization of advanced defense.
The typical medieval sword, wide-bladed with a slight taper, was forced to adapt from a primarily cutting blade, to a more strongly tapered profile, transforming it into a stabbing spike intended to find gaps in armor or even penetrate thinner plates. This, naturally, requires finesse and technique to overcome the defense of armor by finding its weak points.
Other warriors however, preferred a more direct approach to dealing with armor. Weapons such as the mace and hammer were modified to have sharper angles and diamond-sectioned spikes to defeat armor directly by pounding and puncturing it like a metal can. Little finesse is required when a stout armor-defeating weapon, such as the war hammer, can pound a dent into even a breastplate, breaking ribs beneath, or at least winding his opponent and leaving the struck man dazed whilst a fatal and full-force strike from a spiked point punctured a plate in the armor or helmet.
These weapons may have lacked the noble image of the knight and his sword, but a pragmatic knight may have relegated his sword to a secondary weapon, and used a hammer such as this in the thick chaos of the melee, where time and room for finesse can be restricted in a combat with multiple opponents. Such a knight is depicted in the foreground of one of Paulo Uccellos paintings of the Battle of San Romano. In the clash between mounted warriors a knight can be seen deflecting the flat of an opponents blade with his plated arm, which holds a war hammer similar to the one here, its back spike ready to fall upon his foe. A sword with a tapered profile, a symbol of his knighthood, lies within its scabbard at his waist.
This warhammer would have been called the martel de fer, the Hammer of Iron, by the medieval warrior who wielded it. This replica is crafted with high carbon steel, riveted to a haft of ashwood.