1279. A three-year grant of murage, with the toll rates specified for
particular types of merchandize; the amounts ranged from ½d. payable
on a thousand herring or a hundredweight of the spice cumin, to 1s.6d payable
on a truss of cloth.
1287. the Letter-Book entry specifies which wards were responsible for each gate.
It is not clear whether the reference to two guards means that each ward should
provide that number, or whether there would be several two-man watches during
the day. The term "wait" could be used to refer to the watch as a whole. But
in this context it more likely refers to a specific watchman who would take
principal responsibility for keeping a lookout at night, and sound the alarm
in the event of trouble, the sergeant being close at hand. The sergeant
was expected to pay the wages of the watchman out of his own salary,
a not uncommon approach to the employment of minor officials.
1297 (July) A revised list of which wards were responsible for each gate.
1297 (August?). Those summoned by the beadle were to report for duty
before sundown, and were to be off-duty at sunrise; each was to be equipped
with body armour: an aketon (a padded doublet) supplemented by gambeson
(another type of padded doublet), cuirass, or breastplate; As in the case
of default of appearance, failing to come with the requisite armour meant
the beadle should hire a substitute at the cost of the man summoned. Similarly,
anyone failing to answer a summons to participate in the street patrol would
be fined 3d. for the cost of a substitute. The beadle was essentially an
alderman's sergeant and his role in preserving the peace and upholding city
by-laws was to discover infringements and report them to higher authorities;
the duties must have necessitated patrolling the ward to some degree.
1297 (September). These are among several requirements, the others being
for the walls to be put in repair, and for ships to moor only on the
north bank of the Thames. The Friars Preacher is now remembered as the
Thames-side railway station, Blackfriars. Again we find a list of
which wards would take responsibility for each gate; the London-based merchants
of the German Hanse were now included (as in 1287, when referred to as "Danes"),
subsequent to their agreement with the city authorities, in 1282,
to contribute to the maintenance and defence of Bishopsgate, in return
for concessions such as exemption from paying murage.
1294. A rotational division of responsibilities over the Christmas season.
The first night the city warden (the mayoralty being suspended during
a seizure of the liberties), sheriffs and their staffs were to perform the duty,
providing horses and arms. On the other four nights the duty was assigned
to specific aldermen and their wards.
1295. The London ships, which were to join others provided by
the Cinque Ports, were to be financed via a tax on moveables of 2d. per 20s.
value. They were to serve for three weeks at London's expense (and
presumably at the king's expense if required for longer). The service
related to the defence of the English coast, and harrying of the French coast,
following the outbreak of war with France.
1226. A written assurance from Henry III, following a financial contribution
towards his campaign in France. It may be significant that this document
was copied into the Letter-Book at a much later date, when Edward I was
making greater demands on Londoners to help resource his wars.
1306. As the only instance of a royal writ to this effect copied into
the Letter-Books, it was perhaps the earliest example that the London authorities
received following the statute's enactment in 1285.
1307 (July). Again a division of responsibility was specified, on
a six-night rotation basis; on this occasion a sheriff and his staff
were required to be involved every night. Possibly the extra concern was
for a peaceful transition of power, following the death earlier that
month of Edward I.
Ca. 1313? Not found at the location given. The context of this order is
suggested by a later ordinance.
Letter-Book G f.2 (ca.1352) has a similar prohibition of masks, or any kind
of face covering, not restricted to Christmas time, in association with prohibitions
of certain post-curfew activities: wandering the streets (except in the case
of persons of known good character who carried a light), keeping taverns open,
and going to private houses for purposes of gambling. Such activities were
clearly prone to lead to infringements of the peace. The prohibition against
masks had to be reissued periodically; it was evidently a hard habit to break.
In 1311 Thomas de Bologne junior was convicted of an assault on the watchmen
of Billingsgate ward during Christmas week 1310; this may have been the type
of (possibly drunken?) brawling by young troublemakers that the prohibitions
sought to prevent.
1321. Edward II's demand came in the context of active baronial opposition
to his rule, discussed above.
April 1338. On this occasion the defensive measures were precautionary,
there being no immediate threat, it was simply a case that Edward III was
going overseas and he wanted to leave his capital safely provided for.
Arrangements were less elaborate than they had been in 1321: there was
repetition of the provisions for aldermen and their households to be armed,
and regarding hostelries. With costs covered by a levy on all residents,
a force to patrol the streets was to be put together, calling on six to twelve men
from each ward; the names of those chosen was subsequently entered into
the Letter-Book, the total number being 221. Names of anyone believed to be
conspiring against the peace were to be reported to the authorities; anyone
helping conspirators could face confiscation of property, and whoever raised
a hubbub with a view to starting a riot would be subject to corporal or
capital punishment. No-one other than those authorized was to go about armed
in the city. Two members of the watch assigned to each gate were to hold
the keys to the gate and be responsible for closing them at night, the hours
of opening and closing of the main gates and wicket gates being as in 1321.
The following month, the city raised a force of 40 men-at-arms and 60 archers
to accompany the king on his foreign campaign.
May 1338. The new murage grant from the king was for five years. London being
such a important centre for commerce, visiting merchants' resentment at having
to pay this among other local tolls must have been correspondingly more vocal.
In 1319 the king had ordered, apparently at the request of city authorities,
a cessation of collection of murage, on the grounds that it had an adverse effect
on commerce, importers taking their goods elsewhere. But the desirability of
the revenue must have made this a short-lived policy. A more permanent solution
had to originate with other towns seeking exemptions from paying murage elsewhere.
Clauses in charters granting exemption from local tolls appeared several
decades before the first murage grant was made to any town; exemptions
specifically from murage appeared from the 1260s, and were held by
several towns long before there is evidence of them having claimed the exemption
at London. Whether an inevitable gradual decline in the income from murage
was offset by an increase in the amount of commerce is hard to say.
It may be that London resisted honouring claims of exemption, or that there
was an issue with evidential proof. We cannot imagine that so precious
a document as a royal charter of liberties would be loaned to every merchant
each time he travelled; possibly the pursuit of a claim of exemption was
sometimes assigned to parliamentary representatives, who were more likely
to be entrusted with important documents (e.g. Lynn's claim in April 1340
was argued by Thomas de Melcheburne,
representing the town at the parliament sitting at that time, and using
a writ obtained two months earlier. On the other hand, Norwich's claim,
presented at the same time, was made by two of the city bailiffs then in
office (but not known to be attending parliament) and two others not known
to have been in any official capacity. In the same month that the king
granted London its renewal of murage in 1338, he supported with a confirming
writ Coventry's claim that its merchants were exempt from paying the murage toll
anywhere in England. Salisbury citizens, also backed up by the king's writ,
successfully had asserted their exemption from London murage in July 1328, yet
found it necessary to do so again in February 1339. Those of Exeter had done
so in 1330, those of Cambridge in 1331, Ipswich in 1332, Rochester in 1333,
and the men of Hereford followed suit in 1334 as soon as they obtained from
the king a charter granting them exemption throughout the realm. On the other
hand, Shrewsbury had an exemption from murage in its 1265 charter, yet did not
force the issue at London until 1330; and Bristol, which had obtained its
chartered exemption in 1300, succeeded in having this officially recognized
at London not until 1337. More towns would do the same in coming years. During
the same period the king was granting similar exemptions to towns under his
sway in France of those of Flemish and Spanish allies. Just two days after
conceding the Coventry exemption the Corporation decided to
farm out the collection point
at West Smithfield to a private citizen, for one year, for the sum of £8.
A more extensive experiment with this had taken place in 1308 [See
C 94] and it appears that in 1338 the Corporation was expecting
to earn the same kind of income it had thirty years previously; or at least
the profit-or-loss risk was transferred to the farmer. That no other
collection points were farmed out in 1338 may suggest that the authorities
could find no other takers willing to gamble. In 1332, the farm of murage proceeds
was made under the condition that if, during the course of the lease, any groups
of foreign merchants should be conceded exemption from murage, the amount payable
by the farmer would be reduced from the £126.13s.4d originally negotiated.
The chamberlain's account of 1339 indicates an income of £29.3s.8d. from
murage, though whether this was from farmed or non-farmed sources is not stated.
1340. Letters patent reciting the writ of summons in 1338 (See F 14),
accompanied by a new writ requiring the London authorities to make arrangements for
the city while the king was overseas. This was a time of strong dissatisfaction
within London caused by the taxation burden to support the costs of Edward III's wars,
and violence erupted in the streets.
1352: The reason for the muster was fear that a French invasion was imminent.
1359: No specific reason was given for this muster, but it doubtless related
to the king's imminent departure for France.
1363. A writ of June 1363, requiring the authorities to have public announcement
made of an updated set of regulations concerning the preservation of the peace
in London (See discussion above). The final clause of
the regulations, enjoining alderman to take seriously their responsibility for
organizing watches, was the inspiration for the wording of the index entry.
The folio reference is to ordinances concerning aldermannic responsibility for
investigating and judging infringements of the peace (with criticism of punishments
that are too light to be a deterrent), but there is no mention of the watch.
1284. Renewal of murage for two years, on condition that the proceeds be used
to work on the section of Thames-side wall near the Friars Preacher. In 1276,
shortly after the Friars relocated close to the Thames, the king ordered the
city authorities to allocate part of the murage proceeds to the wall there;
the same stipulation applied when the murage was renewed in 1279 [See
A 132] and into the early fourteenth century
[See E 50] .
1308. The murage on bread, poultry, cheese and timber, and that collected
at Stratford at Bow (a vill outside the city) was farmed out to two London
poulterers for a year, for 4-weekly payments totalling £14.13s.4d.
Various other collection points were also farmed out: those in the vicinity
of Candlewick Street, eastwards to the Tower postern, to a citizen for a year
for £10; those at Smithfield (with exclusions) to another for £8 for
the year; those at four of the city gates and in several streets in the
northern half of the city were farmed to a third(possibly one of the city sergeants)
for £36.13s.4d for the year; yet other points, in the south-western sector
of the city, on either side of Ludgate, stretching from Dowgate to the New Temple
was let to an individual for £10.13s.4d.; that in the vicinity of West
Cheap and Cornmarket (possibly restricted to the toll on grain) went for
£16.13s.4d the year; finally, the murage collected in the Frippery
(around Cornhill) was farmed to a fripperer (dealer in second-hand clothes
and furnishings and in trifles) for a year for a modest 13s.4d.
Not found at this reference. But possibly an error for f. 93 (1308) where there is
a list of the gates, and the number of armed men each ward was to raise to guard them.
The number varied from 4 to 10 per ward; Aldgate and the Tower postern were assigned
24 guards, Bishopsgate 24 guards, Cripplegate 20, Aldersgate 20, Newgate 26, Ludgate 24,
and the gate at the entrance to London Bridge was also to have 24 guards.
"D 142, 143"
1312. In January the king sent three messages to the Corporation to this effect.
It was a time of disturbance at both national and local levels. [See
1311 (August). These provisions were made at a time when the Ordainers had
the upper hand and were encamped at London with the intent of having Parliament
approve their reforms. The provisions, however, largely restricted themselves
to identifying how many men would guard each gate and the Thames bank, and
which wards would raise those men; the only atypical arrangement was for a chain
to be placed across the entrance to Baynardís Castle, to block access to it
during the night. The castle, along with nearby Montfichet Castle (which together
had once provided defence and access control on the west side of the city,
as the Tower did in the east), had long since ceased to be in private hands,
but the king did not wish them to come into the hands of city authorities;
in 1275 he had the Friars Preacher relocate their house to the site where
the castles had stood, they having been demolished or fallen into ruin.
The friars undertook to maintain the adjacent stretch of city wall. By 1311,
however, Baynard's had been rebuilt on a more modest scale, to the east
of the friary, on the Thames bank.
Not found at this reference. But possibly an error for f. 150 (July 1312),
where Edward advises of his intent to come to London.
1312 (June). Two weeks before the above item, Edward, then in the north of England,
was in the process of reasserting himself against his enemies. In addition
to ordering the mayor to turn over city government to the king, he instructed
that all armour and war-horses that could be found should be seized, and held for his use.
1312 (October). Hereford was one of the leading Ordainers. The king allowed
that Londoners could sell victuals and other necessaries to the earl's servants,
but not arms or horses, nor might the earl be permitted to stay in the city.
1315. The grant itself had been made earlier that year, with the intent that
the proceeds be applied to the wall around Newgate and to repairing Newgate prison.
This purpose of the document indexed was to extend the term of that grant (one year)
by a further year (but no longer), on condition the money be used to complete
the stretch of wall between the Fleet river and the Friars Preacher, together with
a new tower begun there, and that the citizens ceased collecting pontage on goods
passing over or under London Bridge; a long list of the goods on which murage
could be collected was appended. In March 1316 the king ordered that work on
the tower be postponed, in favour of repairs to Newgate, and in May 1317
the murage was extended by two years so that work on the tower could resume.
1319. This year marked the end for a while of the murage grants to London.
The reason given for the cancellation was that the citizens had complained that
collecting the toll was discouraging merchants from coming to London. However,
it was more likely associated with the political struggle within the city:
a royal commission of investigation into city administration, following widespread
public complaints, led to significant reforms to the city constitution, and gave
the excuse for the eyre of 1321.
"E 127 and 128"
1321 (November-December) This exchange illustrates how London was prepared
to defy even the king, in a diplomatic fashion, and to a point. Following his
success at Leeds Castle, the king decided to move against the main Contrariant
forces. Edward's letter ordering the arrest of Contrariants in London complains
he had not yet received a response to instructions conveyed orally by the
Earl of Pembroke; these apparently included a demand that London draw up
a written guarantee, sealed with the Common Seal, committing them to hold
the city for him (probably upon penalty of a large financial payment,
should they default). The king also asked for the return of the sum
of £20 12s. given by one of his sergeants to a London contingent
sent to join the royal army at the successful siege of Leeds Castle (Kent).
The mayor wrote back that they had searched for the Contrariants whom
the king believed to be staying in London, and could not find them.
Should they find them at any time in the future, they would deal with
them as the king wished, but they would prefer to have a royal commission
issued empowering the mayor to arrest any such enemies. As for the money
given to the London soldiers, it had been understood that this was
a reward from the king (perhaps to compensate the city for its expenses,
but equally probably assumed to be wages payable by the king), but
it would be returned if that was what the king wanted. Concerning
the matter of a guarantee, the community would respond via an
official letter. That official letter (i.e. one sealed with
the Common Seal) stated that the undertaking to safeguard the city,
previously given orally to the king in person, should suffice, and
they asked to be excused having to provide a written one. The king's
response was to issue the mandate requested empowering the mayor
to punish anyone contravening arrangements made for the safekeeping
of the city, to insist on the written guarantee, and to confirm his
wish for repayment of the money; at the same time, he ordered
the arrest of persons circulating documents slandering him.
Mayor Chigwell replied by reiterating the opinion (attributed
to the community), that the promise already made the king should
be sufficient and no further security should be necessary. This
sequence of communications was followed in December by another on
the matter of how many soldiers London would send to Edward's aid
[See discussion above]. The city resented that
the king was expecting aid as a matter of right, rather than at the
discretion of the city. The mayor's tone again seems measuredly
defiant, although probably Chigwell was simply trying to protect
London from royal anger, in a situation where the Londoners were
themselves at odds with one another. Chigwell replied that he hoped
the king would be satisfied with the number of men the city had decided,
out of goodwill, to send; he asked for a written assurance that neither
this support, nor that provided at Leeds Castle, be considered
a precedent nor to the prejudice of the city liberties, adding
a request that the king look favourably on an earlier request
to restore those liberties (taken into the king's hand after
the eyre). The king took a threatening tone in his response,
and Chigwell decided it was safer to increase the contingent
to 400, with a promise to try to raise it to 500, the city
paying the costs of this contingent for 40 days of service.
The mayor was not so cowed, however, as to omit to repeat
the request for written assurance that this would be no precedent,
and a reminder about restoring the city liberties. The king
replied that an assurance would be issued, but left the issue
of the liberties dangling.
1309 (November). The order was issued to the sheriffs, they being required
to supervise the watches in person. The duty would normally have fallen
to the aldermen, but this was a time of political factionalism in London,
just before Refham and his reformers took power.
1309 (October). On this occasion the arrangements went no further
than designating which wards would be responsible for guarding
each gate and the Thames.
1314. The crossbowmen were to be sent to defend Berwick, this
being a few months after the defeat at Bannockburn. The list of
names divides them into five groups of 20 and one of 22, each unit
under the command of a vintenar, with overall command of the contingent
apparently given to an agent of the king. The occupations of a very
few are given: dyer, baker, and skinner; if we may rely on surname
evidence, the presence of two bowyers and an archer is interesting,
but statistically not very significant. The equipment to be sent with
them comprised 120 aketons, 120 bascinets (helmets) with collarettes
(to protect the throat), 120 crossbows, 120 quivers and baldrics
(straps for the quivers), and 4,000 quarrels. The city also provided wages
to cover the march to Berwick (reckoned as 28 days), at 4d. a day per person,
except for the vintenars, who received 6d. a day. The equipment was
to be transported in casks and packs aboard three carts, each with
two carters; it was thought they would need 18 days to reach Berwick.
The total cost to the city, in wages of soldiers and carters, value
of the armaments, provender and shoeing of four horses, was estimated
1321 (November). The item concerning the Earl of Lancaster,
the leading Contrariant, found at that reference does not quite
tally with the index description. the writ registered there prohibited
anyone attending a meeting of the earl's supporters that was to take
place at Doncaster. Although clearly a copy was sent to the
London authorities, it is unlikely they would have sent representatives
to such a meeting. The other documents indexed continued from what
has been discussed above [E 127 and 128], with regard to the London contingent
to join the king, and in relation to Edward reasserting himself by
recalling the Despensers and seeking to lay hands on Badlesmere (lord
of Leeds Castle). It is not evident why the compiler of the
finding-aid thought these documents might need to be referenced in
1321 (December). The writs were addressed to the sheriffs of London,
and so applied to property within their jurisdiction.
1322. The sheriffs were ordered to proclaim a general muster, the Scots
having invaded, although the Scottish threat had been used shortly before
by Thomas of Lancaster to try to raise troops to oppose Edward II.
It was probably in response to this call-up that London offered
the king the choice of 500 soldiers whose expenses the city would cover
for 40 days, or £1,333.6s.8d in cash or supplies. The king preferred
the money, but asked for a 100-man bodyguard as well, to be provided at
1322. These writs ordered the arrest of Contrariants or their supporters
found in London or Middlesex, authorizing the sheriffs to implement
hue and cry, or to raise a posse,
1330. The earl, the brother of the late Edward II, had been manoeuvred
by Roger Mortimer into a misguided plot, so as to obtain his execution
and strengthen Mortimer's hold over the young Edward III. The writ
to London's sheriffs concerned a list of named supporters of the earl,
some of them Londoners.
1344/ It is hard to see why the compiler thought this document should be
included under the military category in the finding-aid. The matter of
Papal interference in English affairs could, however, be considered
a security issue, with the
Avignon papacy allied with
the French king.
1346. The writ asked that the good news to be proclaimed publicly,
and ordered that the city prepare to send reinforcements.
1347. Possibly an error for a writ actually registered on f.137, being
an order to the sheriffs to prohibit wool exports until Edward III had
received the 20,000 sacks granted him by a Council towards the costs
of continuing the war in France. f.139 contains a commission to collectors
to raise part of that amount. It is curious that the compiler focuses on
this aspect of London's obligations towards military support, but overlooks
or ignores adjacent documents ordering men-at-arms, archers, supplies,
and a fast ship with 80 armed men, to be sent to Edward III at Calais,
in anticipation of an attempt by French forces to break the siege.
Although town clerk John Carpenter likely oversaw the compilation of
the finding-aid, much of the work must have been done by subordinate clerks,
and inter-indexer inconsistency may have been the result. However, there
do appear to be some sub-themes within the organization, which may explain
some of the seeming anomalies.
1355. The writ required public proclamation to be made in London of
a settlement following a notorious riot
in Oxford over jurisdictional disputes. London was the "mother-town"
(constitutional model) for Oxford, but that fact seems to have no part
in the rationale for including this entry in the finding-aid. Perhaps
it was because London was itself no stranger to disturbances, as the
next item shows.
1355: Actually an assurance that a recent appointment of commissioners
of enquiry into seditious and conspiratorial meetings in London would not
be a precedent prejudicial to London's liberties.
1359. These two items are related. Whenever the Hundred Years War
heated up, it was natural for any citizens of the enemy nation
to be expelled; they were prohibited from taking with them any bows,
arrows, horses or armour (since such would prove useful to English forces).
At the same time, the king did not want Flemings conducting business
in London to suffer because of the hostilities with France; Flemings
were common targets of English xenophobia. The Londoners objected to
them, as to other foreigners working in the city, because the king had
encouraged them to establish themselves in London, yet did not require
them to contribute to communal expenses such as the furnishing of
military aid. At times of war, the hostility towards foreigners was
1315. At this time a treaty had been signed between England and France,
and the French king demanded the expulsion of the Flemings as part
of the agreement.
1302. It was necessary to keep Londoners advised of the status of
relations between England and France, as (for one thing) English merchants
travelling overseas were subject to particular risks and dangers in times
The letter of the book is not specified. However, Letter-book C ff..131
and 138 give the terms of the treaty signed in 1274. Flanders was
an important trading partner with England, and so English-Flemish relations
would have been a matter of concern to the Londoners.
1292. The letter confirmed that a treaty had been signed, and asked
for the fact to be proclaimed.
1313. The instructions to the mayor and sheriffs were to detain ships
and goods of Flemings, rather than the Flemings themselves.
1318. The writ specified that the soldiers should be equipped with
aketons, helmets and gauntlets. Wishing to preserve its independence
of decision in regard to military service, the Corporation decided it
could send 200 men, financing it by having the wealthier citizens
provided one foot-soldier each. The contingent was sent as two companies,
each commanded by a centenar, each company divided into sections under
vintenars. The two centenars were probably men with some military
capability (relative to most Londoners): Roger atte Water was one of
the city sergeants in 1311 and continued in later years undertaking
enforcement work for the city; in 1321 he is described as a king's sergeant,
when in some supervisory role related to the London forces sent to
the Leeds Castle siege. Hanekyn le Heaumer's surname suggests he was
an armourer. A list of the soldiers is recorded, but their daily occupations
are not indicated.
1318. The letter provided by the king seems to have focused on the fact
that the city had paid the costs of the soldiers, rather than that they
furnished them at all. An earlier exchange of letters had the king thanking
the city for the aid and commending the performance of the officers and men,
while the city's response confirmed that the contingent had arrived back
in London and had been paid by the king's clerk for the period of
the return journey from York.
Undated, but Riley thought ca.1337. The same royal proclamation included
other provisions for keeping the peace: curfew, prohibition of anyone trying
to draw Londoners into any conspiracy, and encouragement of law-abiding
Londoners be ready to assist city officials in arresting troublemakers,
or, in absence of such officials, to make citizens' arrests themselves.
Deals with items already covered in the index. [see D 142, 143]
Undated, but according to Riley, precautionary measures prompted by
French attacks on several south coastal towns (and their seizure of
the Isle of Wight) and fears of a broader invasion, to take advantage of
the death of Edward III. As in 1312, it was to be ensured that city gates
had portcullises, chains and barbicans, and that quays between the Tower
and London Bridge had battlements. Guards were to be posted at gates, and
the keys to the gates were to be in the hands of two persons living close
to each gate. The aldermen were to keep lists of hostelers in their wards,
and to levy from them and their lodgers (excepting servants and apprentices)
a contribution towards defensive costs. Aldermen were to have each resident
swear to be ready to come equipped if summoned to maintain the peace, and
they were to muster their wards. and be prepared to lead the ward contingent
behind their pennants (bearing each alderman's arms) to wherever required
for defending the city. Specific alderman were assigned particular sectors
of the city to guard, four of them being required to assemble their forces in
the city centre (at the Cheapside standard).
The sheriffs were to have six mounted sergeants to act as messengers to the mayor.
No-one was to carry any arms other than a baselard during the day, although
knights could have their swords carried by servants. Pursuant to these decisions,
orders were issued to the aldermen to provide, per ward, lists of hostelers and of
the number of men who would be available armed by 24 June, along with those who
could contribute a weekly payment towards defensive costs and/or contribute labour
(one day every three weeks). A subsequent order was issued to array
the ward militia and provide shields for those not able to afford
other weapons (they were to serve by protecting other defenders from
1370. These preparations were prompted by a report that ships holding
armed men had been sighted close to the mouth of the Thames, and the fear
that a raid on London was imminent. To protect the city and English ships
anchored along the Thames banks, it was decided to have a nightly watch
between the Tower and Billingsgate, comprising 40 men-at-arms and 60 archers;
these men were to be supplied by different crafts, in rotation, each night.
1296. This had been a contentious issue in the city, which had already,
the previous year, agreed to finance three ships for naval service [see C 20],
and this at a time when the city liberties had been seized into the king's hand
and a royal warden appointed to govern the city. In March the king ordered
London to despatch a force of horsemen to help Prince Edward guard the
south coast against French attack (the king being in the north fighting
the Scots). Several citizens spoke out against providing this aid, but
were persuaded (perhaps by threats, as the king apparently had to convey
his wishes more forcefully through intermediaries) to withdraw their
opposition and participate in person in the contingent. The objection
raised may have had something to do with local concern that the city itself
might be subject to attack. In its initial reply to the king's insistence,
the citizen gave the excuse that it needed to have sufficient force to defend
London, particularly since they distrusted what action might be taken by
foreigners (presumably Frenchmen) then in the city. Nonetheless, they
reported that they had raised forty horsemen, fifty crossbowmen and an
unspecified number of foot-soldiers to accompany the Prince into Kent,
and that they would try to send additional men. It was decided to send
twenty more horsemen for four weeks, financed (the cost being estimated
at £266.13s.4d) by levying a tax in the wards.
1336. The force being raised by the king was said to be for defensive
purposes, and must have been intended to deploy against the Scots.
Another writ, dated one day earlier, required London's sheriffs
to proclaim an embargo on exports, and to divert provisions and
arms to Berwick, Stirling, Perth, and elsewhere for the king's use.
Unfortunately we do not know whether the city was able, and if so
with what difficulty, to raise such a large force, or whether they
felt that doing so left the city weakened in its defensive capabilities.
1338. The instructions were to muster the contingent chosen to accompany
the king to France, and to send it to Ipswich with the week (the king
then being at Bury St. Edmunds). The city authorities were dilatory,
and Edward had to send a further message ordering them to hurry up and
to make sure the men were suitable for soldiering.. 40 foot-soldiers
and 60 archers were quickly identified and despatched, the authorities
making the usual request that this not be considered a precedent.
Each unit under a vintenar comprised a 7:12 mix of soldiers and archers.
Two of the vintenars (one of whom doubled as the centenar) had been
delegated by the mayor to make the selection of men for the company,
and they received 40s. for performing this task. The costs of
£137.11s.7d were assessed on the wards. Expenses included the purchase
of red and green cloth for hooded uniforms, and of a standard, flag and
trumpet, as well as transport for the weapons.
1338. A royal confirmation that the contingent recently sent to the king
would not be treated as a precedent was followed in early 1339 by a demand
the city send, to join up with the Cinque Ports fleet at Winchelsea,
four ships with 300 armed men and four barges with 160 men, together
with enough food for three months. The fleet was to defend the coast
against French attack. The city authorities requested a reduction in
the demand, and a compromise was reached at two ships for two months.
The armed force sent in them comprised 160 men considered fully armed
(aketon, breastplate, bascinet with visor, and plated gauntlets), while
60 others made do with aketon and bascinet; in addition there were
20 unarmoured grooms. Each was to receive 3d. a day as wages. The aldermen
were ordered to impress the quota of men assigned each ward and to levy
the corresponding costs.
1339: The request to mayor and sheriffs was for three or four ship-owners
who could advise the Council on matters of naval defence, and was followed
by orders to prepare all ships of 40 tons or more (the capacity of the hold
in terms of tuns of wine) for crossing the Channel to serve the king.
"F 6 and F 7"
1337: The request in March was for foot-soldiers who would go via Bristol
to Gascony to fight the French; they were to be at Portsmouth by 8 June.
In April the deadline was extended by a week, and then extended again later
in the month. Despite this, the new deadline was not met, the city authorities
having raised some objections (presumably the usual ones), although they had
already levied a tax to cover anticipated costs, and the delay may have been
a pressure tactic, as the authorities were also trying to obtain a royal
confirmation of city liberties. The king sent back a letter complaining of
the delay and of the poor physique of the recruits (though it is not clear
any had been selected, let alone inspected), with orders that 200 of the
strongest and healthiest Londoners, capable of serving as archers, be sent
by early July, but postponing indefinitely the provision of the remainder;
furthermore, he sent a separate document assuring that this military aid
would not be considered a precedent. Notwithstanding, yet another reminder
from the king was needed in August before the archers were sent. As usual,
the force was divided into units of 20 under vintenars and centenars;
their names are all given, but once more only a few are identified by
their occupation. One of the vintenars was an armourer, and the force
included one physician, but we should not read anything into this, as it
may simply have been the luck of the draw. The expenses of the expedition
included flags, and the lances from which to fly them, for each of the vintenars,
and cloth (red) for uniforms.
1340. The commissioners were to fit out for war any ships of 40 tons or more
they could lay hands on. Two related messages were sent to the London authorities,
one requiring them to prevent any ships leaving port there, and the other advising
them that the king's messengers would convey further instructions regarding
naval service, soldiers and supplies. As a result of which it was decided
to provide 300 armed men at the king's expense; a committee was appointed
to raise the force and arrange its transportation.
1342. Both writs issued the same day. The first required two of the city's
best seamen to attend a Council discussion on naval defence. The second
ordered the city authorities to supply the admiral of the western fleet
with victuals and archers.
1346. The men in question, not only hoblers (lightly armed mounted men,
used for reconnoitring, carrying messages, and pursuing fugitives) but
archers, were not just Londoners. The purpose of the writ was to order
the sheriffs to make public proclamation that anyone who had been recruited
for the king's service should now set off for Portsmouth.
1347. The only item at this reference to approximate the index description
was an order to send four citizens to a Council meeting to discuss the state
of the navy.
Not found at this reference. But perhaps the items on f.133 (1347),
the first for arresting ships in London's port, and the second ordering
the city to prepare two large ships, each with 60 armed seamen and 20 archers,
and send them to join a fleet at Sandwich; the costs of the ships were
to be covered from proceeds from a subsidy on wool and other goods.
"F 139 to 141"
1347. The urgent requests were prompted by the approach of a French army,
aiming at breaking the siege. The French, however, did not attack, but
instead withdrew, and by the time the request for the ship (with 80
armed men) was made (August), Calais had already surrendered.
The capture of Calais was one of the main accomplishments of this
campaign. It had followed the victory at Crecy a year earlier, which
is not noticed much in London records, although the city had
contributed £2,000 towards the costs of the campaign, one-third
gift and two-thirds loan. Crecy had depleted the royal army, as did
desertion (prompted usually by a failure to pay wages), and so it was
for the lengthy siege that the king needed to request additional
forces and supplies, and the round-up and return of deserters. After
Calais surrendered, Edward sent some of his forces home on leave, but
recalled them upon intelligence that French forces were regrouping with
the intent of retaking Calais; again, the attack never happened.
A truce followed.
1348: As the truce was nearing its end, Edward called for volunteers
to go to France, probably in anticipation that the French would try
to retake Calais. Whether anything came of this we may doubt,
since English society was soon after contending with the onset
"F 170, 176"
1350. Two items seem to be mixed up by the compiler. With the
worst of the plague over, the king again called on London to send
100 soldiers to Sandwich, to accompany him to France. The second entry
related to an enquiry (also 1350) about London's provision in 1328
of 120 men-at arms and 160 archers, for the Scottish war, and
the question of who paid them; the city authorities replied that
they had paid the wages of 100 of the men-at-arms.
(error for F 108) 1345. The Statute of Winchester had prescribed
the age range for military service as between 15 and 60 (and 15 was
the age of majority for participation in London wardmoots). The order
was applicable to those of the status of esquire or higher, and essentially
a call for volunteers to go to France.
1345. The city authorities were instructed to assist two of the king's sergeants,
to whom naval affairs on the Thames had been committed, pending resolution
of the dispute between the Admiral of the West and Admiral of the North as
to which of them had command of naval forces raised at London or elsewhere
on the river.
1345 (September. This was to urge haste in response to an earlier request
(see F 101).
1346. The thrust of the first writ was to instruct the city authorities
not to send to Portsmouth until a later date the soldiers previously
requested presumably via the writ recorded at F 110 (see above),
a writ later in September 1345 having already once put a hold on
the despatch of the troops, as the sailing date of the fleet had been
put off. The second writ at F 115 increased the scope of the demand
to all able-bodied males between the ages of 16 and 60.
(properly, 187) 1350. The enemy on this occasion was Spain, believed
to be assembling a fleet off the Flanders coast for an attack on England.
London was asked to contribute towards a naval defensive force two ships
with soldiers and archers and with supplies and pay for at least
a month. With the usual tax levied across the wards to pay the costs,
ships belonging to Andrew Turk (a fishmonger, which suggests the type
of vessel he owned) and Goscelin de Cleve were chosen to be sent;
Turk's ship was to carry 40 armed men and 60 archers, while Cleve's
30 armed men and 40 archers, all the men chosen being identified
by name and ward. Just before the ships set sail (15 August),
their masters were given money to cover the wages of themselves,
a constable (to command the troops), and a carpenter, and 56
bucklers. The force
they joined later defeated the Spanish fleet, putting Edward III
in a position to be able to negotiate a twenty-year truce with Spain.
1351. For foreign service.
A repeat of an entry already listed above.
1345. Deals with the hold put on despatching troops to Portsmouth,
mentioned above. (See F 115)
1345 (June). For a contingent to accompany the Earl of Northampton
(as the king's lieutenant in France) to Brittany.
1345. This was the commission to the king's sergeant,
related to the dispute between the admirals. (See above
1345. The archers were to be sent to Sandwich. The first writ
(20 March) called for 160, but a day later the command to the aldermen
to assist in raising them specified 100. By the time of the final
message (8 April), the demand had been lowered to 80. It was not
until 23 April that the mayor issued orders to the aldermen to select
an assigned quota of men from each of their wards and muster them on
9 May (the embarkation deadline specified by the king being 14 May.
On 13 May (further writs having postponed the departure for Sandwich)
the authorities appointed a committee to buy uniforms for the archers,
which comprised surcoat, short cloak and hoods of red and white stripes.
On 11 June the Common Sergeant of the city marched the contingent,
divided into four sections headed by vintenars, out of London; upon
arrival at Sandwich they were rewarded (or paid) by the division
among them of £4 from the city coffers.
1345: A writ postponing the departure of the archers bound for Sandwich.
1345: The sheriffs were to proclaim that, the Earl of Derby being
about to set out for Gascony, all soldiers and archers who were
to accompany him should proceed to Southampton. Whether London
was contributing men to this contingent is not clear. The
Earl of Northampton's forces had already set out for Brittany.
1352. A royal writ having been received, calling for
a general muster in expectation of a possible invasion by
the French, orders were sent by the mayor to the aldermen to
array the men of their wards.
1353: The sheriffs were to announce that all ships in the port of London
that were intending to sail to Gascony were to trade for wine were
first to go to Chalk (a Kentish port on the Thames) to assist with a convoy.
"G 38, 39"
1355. The force to assemble at Sandwich was bound for Calais;
two writs requiring public announcement of the order to assemble
were issued a few days apart. In relation to raising the costs of
these archers, a Florentine merchant complained he had been compelled
to contribute, when he should have been exempted (and could produce
a royal writ to that effect). After an enquiry, the city authorities
reported to the king that, since the merchant was a full-time
resident of London, and conducted his business there, he should
contribute along with other Londoners.
1356. On this occasion the justification for the muster was,
rather than anticipation of an invasion, the notion that if the French
knew southern England was not ready to defend, they would take
advantage of the fact to attack.
1356. For an overseas campaign.
1369. The writ prohibited any harassment of French hostages
then living in London. The proclamation was against arms and victuals
being sold at excessive prices.
1369: This announcement was a recruitment incentive, Edward III
being about to resume his attempt to conquer France.
1372. That is, deserters.
"G 297-299, 303 (properly, 304)"
1372. The barges were to be eighty feet long by twenty wide, and
fully equipped to defend against French or Spanish navies; a deadline of
1 April 1373 was given. Nothing having been done by the city authorities
after they received the first writ to this effect, sent on 3 November,
the king sent another on 28 November. In the days or weeks that followed,
they ordered several levies across the wards, the first for constructing
a barge, a second for completing it and constructing a small boat
to serve it, and the third for outfitting the barge and buying arms and
uniforms for its crew. In August the two citizens to whom the management
of the construction project had been delegated submitted their account
to a committee of auditors. Construction costs totalled
£261.3s.2¾d. (less £10.17s. worth of surplus lumber)
There remained to be spent £8.10s. on 80 bows and 60 sheaves of arrows,
while 10s. was still due to workmen. In February 1373 the king advanced
to 1 March the date when the barges needed to be at Sandwich. He was
still expecting two, and possibly the second was to have been built
out of revenues from a special subsidy granted by parliament with
the intent the income be spent on making the seas safe for merchant shipping.
Whether the second was ever built is not clear. It was not until July
that a formal document marked the handover of a fully equipped barge to
the mariner who was to serve as its master and take it into royal service;
the main purpose of this indenture was to list the rigging and equipment,
for which the master would be accountable upon the barge's return.
The barge was powered both by sail and oars. Atop the single mast was
a fenced platform ('topcastle') on which defenders were stationed;
the barge carried three such platforms, but whether the other two were
held as replacements or were in use (perhaps lower down the mast, or
placed at bow and stern as in a warship) is not specified. Our
understanding of what medieval naval vessels looked like is still hazy; see the
site for an illustration of a warship of about this period, which has
many similarities to a barge. The barge's equipment included: a grapnel
with a 96-foot chain and a windlass, (used for closing with an enemy ship,
naval battles relying largely on hand-to-hand combat between their crews),
a box in which 60 bows and 500 spare bowstrings were stored, 400 sheaves
of arrows stored in a tun; 200 darts, 30 lances, and 4,000 crossbow quarrels;
80 shields, which would have been strung along the sides of the barge
to protect its crew; an ensign (flown above the mast's topcastle), 3 standards,
and 16 banners; and for boarding enemy ships there were a scaling-ladder
1373. Not mentioned in the list of equipment in the indenture between
the mayor and the barge's master were anchors and their cables.
The single-masted boat servicing the barge had an anchor, but of the
barge's own nothing is said. The king complained that the barge could
not be sent out to sea because of this deficiency and ordered London
to correct it. At the same time the master offered to the mayor
the explanation (or excuse) that the barge had lost its two anchors
and cables (whether en route for Sandwich or on some previous voyage
is unclear). The city chamberlain handed over money for the purchase
1307. It is not evident how this item (stemming from a personal vendetta
of Edward II against the bishop) fits with the theme of this section of
1308. The proclamation urged the keeping of the peace during the coronation.
1344. For the war in France. Over six weeks later, the king had
to send a reminder, instructing the city authorities to hurry up,
as he was about to set sail.
Not found at this reference. This Letter-Book contained several instructions
from the king (e.g. 1345) prohibiting offences against Spaniards, but
perhaps what is intended is a document on f.203 (1351), requiring
Spanish merchants to be treated favourably, consequent to the recent truce
signed between England and Spain.
1345. To be sent to Portsmouth for embarkation; a separate writ of
the same date called for an unspecified number of capable soldiers
between 16 and 60. Once more, a follow-up notice was sent three weeks
later, to hurry the process of raising the archers and soldiers.
1366. The instructions were to the aldermen concerning the city watch
over Christmas, to be organized along customary lines, and for
the watch after Epiphany, when the arrangements were for a different
group of wards to take responsibility on a rota system (the cycle
being repeated every four nights). The ward residents summoned to man
the watch were to appear suitably armed; anyone failing in his duty
was to be fined 12d. for each of the first two defaults, and for
the third to pay the fine and suffer imprisonment.
1372. The king prohibited armourers, vintners and victuallers from
capitalizing on the raising of an army (to assemble at Sandwich) by
increasing the prices of their goods.
1376: The city authorities had seized various items of armour made
by a Scot for the Earl of Dunbar and March; the king ordered them
to surrender the items.
A repeat entry.
1377. The instructions were sent to the masters of the armourers' craft gild,
to pass along.
1377. On a six-day rotation system, a force of 100 armed men
provided daily by four of the wards, with their aldermen in charge,
was to guard the Thames from midday to midday, to protect shipping there.
1378. The orders (without specifics) for keeping a proper watch applied
to Christmas-time, not wartime as the index entry suggests. The payment
to the earl (Thomas of Woodstock) was an out-of-court settlement
to placate and compensate him for an alleged assault on his servants
by a group of Londoners, who pursued the servants to the hostelry where
the earl was himself staying, and used axes to break down its door.
This entry was perhaps included in this section of the finding-aid
insofar as the affair was a serious breach of the peace, leading to.
the earl complaining to parliament that mayor Brembre, through negligence,
had failed to counter the assault. However, the affair had wider significance
to Londoners, being part of a broader assault by John of Gaunt on
London's liberties; Gaunt and Woodstock, along with others of the nobility,
resented the involvement of various London capitalists in
the financial administration of the war with France. Brembre defended
himself but, the earl remaining dissatisfied, felt it politic to appease
him with the monetary compensation, which the Corporation tried
to recoup from the guilty Londoners. The earl nonetheless harboured
a grudge, and he played a role in Brembre's downfall
ten years later.
ca. 1379. This concerned the watch on the night before the festival
of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (24 June), the time of
communal celebrations in the streets, involving bonfires, torchlight parades,
and entertainments. The occasion must have been viewed by city authorities
as a potential risk to public order and property (it being a dry season,
there was increased risk of fires); hence the need for the streets
to be patrolled. Traditionally, this was the time of year when one of
the three major communal gatherings, or folkmoots, was called;
the particular task of the Midsummer meeting was to make arrangements
for the city watch to keep an eye out for fires; By the Late Middle Ages,
the responsibility had devolved to the aldermen's wardmoots.
The aldermen were instructed to gather a sufficient number of men
from their wards armed with bascinets, gauntlets, and axes
(to demolish burning structures?), and in red-and-white uniforms
(over their armour). These were to assemble at Smithfield at
nine o'clock on the evening, bearing three or four iron cressets
(metal fire-containers fixed atop, or suspended from, poles), lit.
Led by mayor and aldermen (wearing the same colours), these watchmen
would proceed on their patrol, for the honour of the city and the king.
In 1378 a similar order had been issued in regard both to Midsummer Eve
and the eve of the feast of SS. Peter and Paul (when midsummer celebrations
were repeated) a few days later; the reason given included reference
to keeping the peace and to protecting the honour of the city (which
might be damaged by unruly public behaviour). The parade was divided
into groups of wards, with the aldermen leading each group, and the poles
supporting the cressets differently decorated for each group of wards.
This was the earliest known reference to the Midsummer Watch that may
have begun as early as the thirteenth century, in the form of
an armed muster of the populace who then marched through the city,
and was to develop into an elaborate tradition at London and several
other towns (e.g.
by the close of the Middle Ages, although it was abandoned or suppressed
in most places during the Tudor period. The next references
in London records to night-watch were in June 1386, a period of
political discontent in London. The first,
on 2 June, mentioned taking the usual steps to prevent fires. The second,
probably a week or so later, concerned itself specifically with
the two festival eves and designated St. Paul's churchyard as
the assembly point; the aldermen were to wear red, and their contingents
(whom they were to choose from their households or other good people of
the wards) white with a red stripe. It was intimated that the purpose
of the march was to display the citizens' military might and/or solidarity
to outsiders, particularly those from countries at war with England.
But it was probably as much with a view to avoiding a large ;unsupervised,
armed public assembly turning, or being turned, to violent expression
of political dissatisfaction or demand for reform, that the Corporation
brought it under control by having the aldermen take the lead and
substituting for torches the somewhat safer cressets. The conversion,
or subversion, into civic pageantry continued in later years, with
the city gilds brought into the ritual.
1381 (November). Each alderman was instructed which gate
he would help to guard and how many armed men he should recruit.
Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate, and Aldgate
each had 50 guards assigned to them, while the postern gate by
the Tower was felt to need only two guards (compare to the quotas
in 1308 [see C 53]). Three of the aldermen
were assigned to guarding London Bridge, with a total of 50 men.
This was a daytime guard, in effect from 6 o'clock in the morning
to 6 o'clock in the evening, after which time the alderman of the ward
in which the gate was situated, who had possession of the keys to
the gate, was to lock it, and place the keys in safekeeping. At 8 o'clock
the usual night-watch was to be set. The alderman of Candlewick Street ward
was given the special task of mustering armed men to keep guard at times
when the mayor and sheriffs passed through the city streets. The reason
for these special arrangements was that a parliament about to be convened
at Westminster, and the Peasants' Revolt was still very fresh
in everyone's minds. The arrangements were to remain in place
while parliament was in session. They were made in anticipation
of a royal command (which arrived a day or two later) to take steps
to ensure the peace was preserved during the session. Parliamentary sessions
typically saw an influx of outsiders into the city (some bringing with
them enmities and grudges), and this now posed a particular threat
at a time when the country was so disturbed. The concerns were
also addressed by proclamations that those in temporary lodgings
should not leave them between 6 in the evening and 6 in the morning,
nor at any time go about armed or armoured in the city, unless in
the king's service, upon pain of imprisonment and forfeiture of
any arms or armour borne. Hostelers were to inform their guests
of these requirements and would be held accountable for
the behaviour of their lodgers. Other orders at this time
were directed at preventing price-gouging by those selling alcohol
or feed for travellers' horses. The level of nervousness is
reflected in the quick trial of a Sussex man arrested in London
for spreading rumours. His story was that a killing had taken place
in Wood Street and the killer, who had taken sanctuary in a church,
had been rescued by others and made an escape from London after
his friends skirmished with the guards at Cripplegate, who thereby
failed in their duty. Whether the story was true or just an attempt
to stir up trouble, we cannot know; but certainly it was in
the interest of the city authorities to suppress it, and the
rumour-monger was condemned to the pillory for an hour, to show
publicly he was a liar, and thereafter sequestered in Newgate prison
A repeat entry.
A repeat entry.
In 1322 a jury of seven London armourers, examining transactions
by two royal commissioners charged with raising and equipping
500 foot-soldiers, identified a range of prices for armour sold
to the commissioners. One member of the jury had sold sets
comprising aketon, bascinet and gauntlets for 16s. a set, while
another member (described as a merchant, perhaps meaning that he
was a middleman rather than a maker) sold bascinets for 3s.6d each
but had apparently given a discount for a volume purchase, and
a third member of the jury reported selling gauntlets at 12d. a pair.
Two other members had sold aketon-bascinet combinations, one of them
for 15s. each, the other for 12s. The introduction of plate armour
can only have pushed prices up. The king was a major buyer and it
was in his interest, and the interest of others whose service he was
seeking (particularly when expeditions were being assembled), to order
periodically for proclamation be made that armourers, bowyers,
fletchers and other makers of weapons should sell at un-inflated
prices and should not demand excessive additional amounts under
the rubric of labour costs. Other ways of making larger profit from
armour are suggested in reforms of the armourers' trade enacted
in 1322 (a few months earlier than the enquiry mentioned above).
One was to use old or lower-quality cloths to pad quilted body-armour;
another, to refurbish battered second-hand helmets in such a way as
to disguise their defects, and then take them off o sell in
the countryside, where there were none of the quality-control inspectors
such as were found in London. In the fifteenth century armour and weapons
were fairly common items mentioned in wills of wealthier townsmen,
but their bequest to heirs does not mean they were for any more than show.