|DEFENCE AND SECURITY|
|Subject:||A muster of the Norwich militia|
|Original source:||Norfolk Record Office, Norwich city records, NCR Case 5c/6 (Rolls of view of arms)|
|Transcription in:||William Hudson, "Norwich Militia in the Fourteenth Century," Norfolk Archaeology, vol.14 (1901), 295-301.|
View of arms in the leet of Conesford in the city of Norwich, carried out before J[ohn] Bardolf of Wormegay and his associates, the king's Justices of the Peace in Norfolk, on 27 July 1355.
Constables fully armed
Fully armed men
John Mounfort, centenar, armed as above, with spear and banner.
Walter Smith, vintenar, armed as above, with spear and pennon.
John Latimer, hosteler, vintenar, armed as above, with spear and pennon.
Conesford leet continued
William de Bliburgh, vintenar, armed [as above],
with spear and pennon.
John Rokele, vintenar, armed, with spear and pennon.
View of arms of men rated for arms in the Berstrete [sub-]leet.
Thomas de Trows, centenar, armed, and with spear and banner.
John de Boyland, vintenar, armed as above, and with lance with pennon.
Bartholomew de Reppes, vintenar, armed as above, with lance and pennon.
Francis Spicer, vintenar, armed as above, with lance and pennon.
[View of arms for Mancroft leet, ca.1365]
Hugh de Holand, centenar, pourpoint for harness,
mail shirt, pisane, [breast]plate, bascinet
with aventail, vambrace and rerebrace, iron couters, red coat of arms, sword
and dagger, [...] spear with a banner.
Fully armed men
These extracts from rolls listing those who were expected to turn out for a view of arms suffice to give the flavour of that class of record, while at the same time hinting at some changes in practice. Such records reflect the obligation of all free men to be prepared to answer a call to arms in times of need. Henry II re-established this focus on the national (as opposed to feudal) basis of military service, in the Assize of Arms of 1181, which explicitly identified burgesses as among those to whom it applied. Not only did it require service, it tried to make sure such service was effective, by specifying the kind of equipment each member of the militia was expected to own, maintain, and keep close to hand (in their homes); the type of equipment was determined by the wealth level of each individual.
That these regulations were taken seriously by the towns is suggested by evidence from London. Ordinances said to date from the reign of John required each ward alderman to levy a tax on moveables and rents of residents, as well as seek voluntary contributions from non-citizen merchants in the ward, to finance the defence of the city. The alderman was also responsible for view of arms of all ward residents, reporting to the mayor anyone unable to show possession of the necessary equipment. Each parish was to have a pennon for its contingent and the alderman himself a banner, which he would use to lead the militia of his ward, comprising the parish contingents, to its appointed station on the defensive perimeter.
From 1205, militia were put under the supervision of constables. In 1252 Henry III reiterated and extended the obligation, as did Edward I in 1285 through the Statute of Winchester. The last required that the militiamen and their equipment be inspected in each hundred twice a year. This then was the system that gave rise to the type of record exemplified above. Relatively few of these are known to survive today. A handful exist within the Norwich archives from the third quarter of the fourteenth century.
The roll for the view of arms in 1355 was evidently compiled from an earlier list, and then updated as the roll-call was carried out at the view. Evidence for this are the marginalia identifying individuals who had died since the previous view. In the case of John Mounfort, Hudson was aware of a deed of March 1354 referring to the executors of a man so-named. In the roll, after the first occurrence of Mounfort's name a hand different from that of the compiler of the main list had added "in his place, Robert Papyngay", while after the second the name of James de Blickling is added; from this it would seem that Papyngay filled the gap within the fully-armed men, while Blickling took over Mounfort's role as centenar. Papyngay's name was also added as (apparently) a substitute for vintenar Walter Smith. The purpose of the list then was not to describe with what equipment the soldiers had turned out, but to identify the equipment that each man was obliged to maintain and ensure he appeared thus equipped. The goal of the whole exercise was not to drill the militia, but partly to ensure the full complement of militia and its command structure existed, and partly to ensure that the designated members of the militia were meeting their obligations under national legislation to be in possession of the kinds of arms and armour prescribed, according to their means. The latter purpose seems to have involved reassigning a few men from one category to another, as reflected in some of the marginalia.
The fourteenth century view of arms documents that have survived from Norwich show that the jurisdictional divisions leets (later called wards) developed for policing and related judicial administration, as well as for other administrative purposes (e.g. taxation), were also used to organize the local muster. Each of the four main divisions, which had the status of a hundred, was further sub-divided. The roll of 1355 shows there to have been two companies in Conesford, one raised per sub-division. The Conesford contingent was under the supervision of two constables, as required by the Statute of Winchester; they were responsible for identifying any defects in personnel or equipment. The constables were among those required to be armed, but a company was under the command of a centenar and divided up into sections each under a vintenar. The titles of these captains and sergeants, as we might now call them, indicate that a company was intended to comprise one hundred men organized into five groups (predecessor of the modern platoon) of twenty men each. The actual Conesford figures approximate this: the less populous area of Berstrete was able to raise only four platoons, but these platoons, together with those of the Conesford sub-leet, compensated partially by being slightly over quota; the total calculated by Hudson was 191 men.
In addition to listing the militia per platoon, the names of those falling into the categories of fully armed, half-armed, and archer are repeated in separate listings, doubtless intended for purposes of checking that the right equipment was presented for inspection. The centenars were chosen from the fully-armed men, and the vintenars from the same or the half-armed who seem in fact only slightly less well-equipped than the fully armed. Whether they were chosen because they were better equipped, or because among the wealthier residents to whom the citizens naturally looked for leadership, or because of demonstrated military prowess, we cannot say; but it is likely there was an expectation or perception that the three qualifications went hand in hand to some degree. In circumstances of serious local threat, it is conceivable the city authorities may have sought militia leadership from gentry ranks, as the Londoners did at one time. The fully-armed and half-armed men of the Norwich militia were dispersed among the platoons; this was prudent, but whether deliberate or just the happenstance of place of residence is unknown.
The Mancroft roll of ca.1365, from which only a small extract is given above, confirms the general principles revealed by the earlier Conesford roll, although much of the roll is now illegible. Mancroft also had two subdivisions, and so two companies, each commanded by a centenar, with eleven vintenars in charge of platoons. No constables are in evidence. The contingent comprised 213 men in total. A larger number of them were among the fully armed or half-armed than in Conesford; this should not surprise us since Mancroft was the commercial centre of the town, with a larger proportion of the wealthier citizens among its residents. More notable is that there were 57 archers, although whether this is significant (e.g. reflecting increased demand for this type of combatant) is hard to say.
A third roll is for Wymer and probably dates to 1359/60. Neither centenars or vintenars are distinguished, although four constables are named in the roll's heading, representing the four sub-divisions of that leet. The contingent numbers close to the 400 men one would expect, although the fully armed men (57) well outnumber the half-armed (14); several of the former group are described as accompanied by other unnamed militiamen the extreme cases being John de Hevingham who brought with him three other fully armed men and three archers, and Simon de Blickling who brought two other fully armed men and 4 archers. Again there is a large number of archers overall (69).
Other rolls were known to, and described by, the eighteenth-century antiquarian John Kirkpatrick. One, concerned with the Ultra Aquam (formerly Coselany) leet, seems to show the same feature as the Wymer roll, in regard to some of the leading citizens being associated with unnamed others. Kirkpatrick assumed these unnamed persons were being sent in lieu of the named individuals. Hudson too [p.266] suspected that rolls later than that of Conesford evidenced a change in practice, in the form of substitutions; that is, of men sending someone to serve in their place. However, I find the evidence for this ambiguous. In the fully armed category of the Wymer roll the repeated use of cum implies that where named individuals are associated with unnamed others, these were cases of accompaniment rather than substitution. The Mancroft roll describes some two dozen of the militiamen as servants, but again many of their masters were also present. In the case of the Wymer roll almost all the 88 servants are listed in a way that suggests they were accompanying their masters rather than standing in for them; the exception being two serving mistresses. Were such men selected for service on the basis of physical attributes, prowess, by lot or on some other basis, there would be no compelling reason to qualify them as servants.
Furthermore, the concept of substitution was not an innovation. The Assize of Arms allowed for substitutions in the cases of underage heirs of those due to provide service. The five cases of servants identified in the Conesford roll may represent some kind of substitution, even though two of the masters appear in the muster; on the other hands they may reflect an obligation to provide more than one recruit. Leticia King's servant seems a likely candidate as a substitute. The case of Petronilla de Bokenham is more explicit about the need for a male substitute.
If these views of arms were simply routine inspections, leading citizens of Norwich may not have felt any reluctance to show up in the accoutrement that legislation required them to own; some might have relished the opportunity for a conspicuous show of their superiority. In the cases of arrays summoned for the purpose of recruiting for an armed expedition, however, we might expect to see at least some of the leading citizens preferring to evade personal obligations. A few records of arrays for recruitment were known to Kirkpatrick and two survived to Hudson's day. One of the former includes a date of 1359, while the two latter were written on the same roll and were clearly close in date, which may be estimated by a ballival name as sometime between 1359 and 1375.
The terminology of these rolls more clearly supports a practice of substitution. Thus, for example, in a roll for Wymer, we have the entry "John de Hevingham: 1 man armed with pourpoint, [breast]plate or haubergion, bascinet with aventail, and gauntlets, sword and dagger", and others similarly phrased, in some cases ending with a second name, apparently of the person substituted. A couple of entries are more explicit. For example: "Reginald Herle de Huntyngdon: 1 armed man; Edmund Pilcrowe is designated to carry the arms of Reginald, because Reginald is incapable." And again "John Lothal, Thomas Skip and Thomas Stannard: 1 armed man; William Stannard in their place." On the other hand the commissioners were also prepared to pronounce others up to the challenge of bearing their own arms, e.g.: "John Gernoun, Robert de Metton, Thomas Fourbour, John de Upton: 1 armed man; the same John is physically able to bear arms." In another roll for Wymer there is clearer evidence in the Hevingham case: "John de Hevingham is arrayed and assessed at one man on foot, armed with purpoint [and] plate, or aketon with haubergeon, bascinet with aventail, and plated gauntlets, sword and dagger. Because John is incapable of the effort involved in carrying arms, there is to be designated in his place [...]." A number of the citizens sent a servant in their place. In fact the impression from the array rolls, in contrast to the view of arms records, is that substitution was quite common among the wealthier citizens, whose better equipment made them more likely to be among the recruits selected by the commissioners of array.
The practice of designating substitutes could explain other records which assess the value of arms and armour belonging to particular citizens. Where the citizens turned over the arms and armour to others to bear, they would need some record of their value, in case some or all of the equipment did not make it back from the wars. This record would help for purposes of replacement. That substitution seems to have been restricted to the wealthier citizens suggests they would have provided some inducement, possibly financial, for those willing to serve in their place.
Evidence from the handful of surviving rolls supports the interpretation that each sub-leet was to raise a company of about 100 men, so that the total force at a view of arms (with 10 sub-leets in the city) would have been approximately 1,000. The artificial number suggests that the militia was not intended to be the complete adult male population. It was presumably a force considered large enough for:
Hudson is probably right in thinking that this more organized and effective approach to mobilization, easier to administer, had superseded the legislated requirement of a more general assembly of the adult male population that no longer met needs if indeed the legislation was ever interpreted literally at Norwich. By ca.1457, however, it appears that the size of the force available to a muster had reduced to about 660 men, from whom 200 were chosen to go to Yarmouth to protect the coast against a feared invasion.
The four categories of soldier into which the Norwich militiamen were divided correspond well to those specified in the Statute of Winchester. This prescribed the kind of equipment to be maintained by those possessing property worth £26.13s.4d, those whose property was worth only half that, those whose property was worth less than £13.6s.8d , and those even poorer (a reference to a specification in 1252 to a group who property was worth only between 40s and 10s.). The last were to have bows and arrows. Although the archers were, at in the thirteenth century, envisaged as the poorest class, the growing importance of archers during the course of the Hundred Years War is reflected in that a number of archers listed in the Norwich rolls had servants, while one was identified as a goldsmith and another a mercer, and most of them owned swords as well.
Although Hudson sought to identify the militiamen as exclusively citizens, there seems no a priori reason to do so; Hudson seems to have confused "freeman" as used in national legislation with "freeman" in the technical sense of a townsman with certain rights. Further study would be needed to see if the militiamen were predominantly citizens in the technical sense, and it is doubtful whether the surviving records would permit a definitive answer. The inclusion of servants among the militia casts doubt on any co-identification although it is not clear why servants are among the ranks at all, unless the militiamen were chosen on some selective basis (whose criteria we lack) across all levels of society. The Wymer roll identifies the occupations of a large minority of the men and reflects a fairly wide range of crafts, but there are too many of unknown occupation to allow any confident conclusions. The latter could include labourers, although the need to possess at least a knife or staff makes it less likely that the poorest ranks of society were participants.
The equipment of the militia is described only in sufficient detail to allow for correspondence with the requirements of national legislation. Underneath mail or plate armour, the militiaman wore a doublet (1355) or pourpoint (ca.1365); the latter was described as p[u]rpynt brac' (the technical translation being pourpoint to arm), to distinguish it from another type of pourpoint for non-military use. The pourpoint and doublet were undergarments intended to provide some protection from attack ("soft armour"), padding against the abrasive and somewhat sharp-edged metal worn on top, and something to which to attach other body armour. An aketon was a similar type of garment. They were all usually, but not invariably, padded in a quilt style. In the Norwich documents this soft armour was normally supplemented by plate armour usually only a breastplate, although there was one mention of a backplate too or a haubergeon, a mail shirt that extended to the hips or just below (being a shorter version of the hauberk). The centenar of Mancroft had both a mail shirt and a breastplate.
The head protection worn by Norwich militia was always the bascinet, the most common form of head protection in this period; it could take various shapes but was essentially like a skull cap (either cone-shaped or globular) with an extended back and sides. The aventail was an optional addition of chain mail attached to the bascinet, and hanging down like a hood to provide extended protection to the lower part of the face as well as the neck, and sometimes even the upper shoulders; it was not a visor, as Hudson thought. The pisan (or pusane, pesane) was according to Webster's (1913) an addition to, or reinforcement of, the breastplate; but in the present context it was clearly associated with the bascinet, and was probably intended to protect the part of the body between the breastplate and the aventail.
The arms were protected by a "bratz" or "bras'" (a brassart, from the French word for "arm"), which comprised the vambrace (from avant-bras) protecting the forearm and the rerebrace protecting the upper arm. These could be of mail or plate. By ca.1365 there is reference to the elbow joints (couters) connecting the two pieces, although this piece may have been implicit in 1355. The rerebrace was held in position by lacing it to the doublet. The separate mention ca.1365 of brassart from vembrace and rerebrace may indicate a more elaborate arm harness than was used ten years earlier.
Although the Mancroft roll is unique in mentioning a red coat of arms, as a kind of uniform, we have a reference in 1385 suggesting that this was more than the initiative of a single leet. At that time, in response to a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury requesting the city provide six naval vessels each equipped with a contingent of soldiers and archers, the city assembly ordered that not only the soldiers and archers but also the sailors should have hoods and surcoats of red-and-white design. The banners and pennons carried by unit leaders may have had the same kind of design, or perhaps something distinctive to each leet.
In terms of weaponry, we can have only a general idea, as the description is mediated by clerical intent to indicate conformity with the law. Thus the consistent use of cutell', a generic word for knife, may disguise variations in type of knife from individual to individual; in translating, I have made the assumption that a knife used for military purposes would have had an offensive character (although a dagger would, strictly speaking, have been a little upscale for many of the militiamen), but in many cases it may have been a multi-purpose implement. Similarly the baculus which was so common may have been a long pole, like a staff, or a shorter one more like a cudgel, again probably varying from person to person. Hudson believed that some of the weapons, perhaps particularly the axes and knives, may have been primarily craftsmen's tools. Others may have been for personal defence. On the other hand, the gisarms and spears would seem to have a primarily military purpose. The spear was not a short one for throwing, but a long one used for thrusting and repelling, more like a lance or pike. The roll uses both hasta and (less commonly) lancea, though whether the distinction is just clerical inconsistency or intended to differentiate between two types of weapon is hard to say.
The Mancroft roll makes an early mention of a weapon that would take on greater importance as the Middle Ages wound to a close. Two of the men listed under the category of possessing only sword, dagger and staff brought along with them each a gunner with ammunition. Such guns at this period were likely akin to very small cannon. Measures taken in the first half of the fourteenth century for civic defence included the insertion of artillery loops in a few places along the city wall and the provision of springalds (a predecessor of cannon) for the principal towers, while at the same period the London authorities had in storage both springalds and guns. In the Norwich treasurers' accounts for 1384/85 an unknown number of guns were purchased in London and transported overland to Lynn and then by water to Norwich, and ingredients for gunpowder were also purchased; after their arrival, artillery practice was held. This was a time of general military preparations, due to a threat of invasion by the French: work was underway to put finishing touches to the city defences; we hear of two commissions of array, one for defensive and one for offensive purposes; as mentioned above, a naval force was to be put together; a new city banner was prepared. Later in the year additional equipment was bought for the guns, and work was done in improving the ditches outside the city wall.
Whether such were the type of guns used by the Mancroft gunners we cannot say for certain. Richard Howlett argued that the guns obtained from London were probably small cannon of 20" or 24" lengths, which, unlike hand-guns, would have been too heavy for an individual to carry ["Norwich artillery in the fourteenth century," Norfolk Archaeology, vol.16 (1906), 53-58]. However, the Mancroft roll does not specify that the gunners brought guns to the muster, and it is not impossible they were simply men experienced in preparing gunpowder from the raw materials and firing cannon owned by the community. Perhaps not coincidentally, a list dateable (by the names of two city bailiffs mentioned) to 1384/85 is an apportionment of responsibilities among residents individuals or small groups of the four leets for the provision of no less than 52 guns ranging between 16" and 24" in length. Howlett probably correctly inferred from a second list of the same or slightly later date, allocating much the same groups or individuals to particular gates or towers, that the guns were intended to be distributed along the walls.
That Norwich could produce a quantity of men considered to be "fully armed" for war, or nearly so, is a reflection on the wealth of the community. By contrast, Guilding [Reading Records: Diary of the Corporation, vol.1, London, 1892, xii] listed among the records of the much smaller town of Reading an assize of arms roll of 1311/12 which identified 8 men equipped with sword, dagger, bow and arrows, 33 other archers also in possession of daggers, and 235 men armed only with hatchets and daggers; one suspects this represented the greater part of the adult male population. In 1457, a muster at the modest Dorset town of Bridport listed over 180 men and, in most cases, their equipment.
The evidence from Norwich suggests that by the latter part of Edward III's reign the strict letter of the law was no longer being enforced. The aim was rather to uphold the spirit of the law, in terms of assuring an adequate force available for defensive or offensive actions, with suitable equipment for the latter at least. The commutation of knight service in return for a cash payment (scutage) had become widely accepted and was efficient, insofar as it weeded out many of those unsuitable for service in return for the funding that would allow better troops to be hired, or existing troops to be better supported. In the case of urban communities, the king's expectation was not that every man serve, but that a sufficient number be arrayable, while the remainder contribute to the costs of keeping them in the field. The view of arms records maintained a current list of those arrayable, and were presumably reference tools for commissioners of array, whose own records reveal more about who actually served in the army.
"John de Causton"
"(dead), (armed) etc."
"Hugh Curszoun ... archer"
"Hugh de Holand"
"William de Dunston"
"Thomas de Bumpstede"
"John de Welbourn"
"Walter de Multon"
"John de Elyngham"
"Peter de Blickling"
"William de Blakeneye"
"John de Tilneye"
"[...] de Attilburgh"
"William de Blickling"
"John de Gnateshale"
"William de Worstede"
"James de Blickling"
"Simon de Blickling"
"John de Hevingham"
"Reginald Herle de Huntyngdon"
|Created: December 31, 2007. Last update: December 13, 2010||© Stephen Alsford, 2007-2010|