|DEFENCE AND SECURITY|
|Subject:||The administration of defence|
|Original source:||1a. Bristol Record Office, MS. 04718 (Little Red Book), f.20; 1b. Worcestershire Record Office, Worcester City Collection, BA 9360 / x496.5 / C2 - Box 1, volume of ordinances; 1c, 2, 3. York City Archives, Memorandum Book A/Y, f.348; House Book, volume 1, ff. 81, 118, 130; 4. Norfolk Record Office, Norwich records, Treasurers' Account Roll|
|Transcription in:||1a. Francis Bickley, ed. The Little Red Book of Bristol, Bristol, 1900, vol.1, 53; 1b. Toulmin Smith, ed. English Gilds, Early English Text Society, old series, vol.40 (1870), 397; 1c. Maud Sellers, ed. York Memorandum Book, part II (1388-1493), Surtees Society, vol.125 (1914), 261; ; 2, 3. Lorraine Attreed, ed. The York House Books (1461-1490), Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1991, 139, 307, 617 ; 4. William Hudson and John Cottingham Tingey, eds. The Records of the City of Norwich, vol.2 Norwich: Jarrold, 1910, 48.|
|Original language:||1a,1c. French; 1b, 2, 3. Middle English; 4. Latin (translation by Tingey)|
|Location:||Bristol, Worcester, York, Norwich|
|Date:||14th and 15th centuries|
[1a. gatekeepers - Bristol, mid-14th century]
Oath of the gatekeepers
I will be faithful and loyal to our lord the king and his heirs and to the mayor and community of Bristol. And I will loyally keep watch over the gate assigned to my care and will open and close that same gate at the set times. And after curfew has been sounded I will allow no man to enter or leave without a good reason, if he is not a burgess of the town or the servant of one.
[1b. gatekeeping and wall repair - Worcester, 1460s]
Also that Frog Mill Gate be properly repaired by next All Hallows [1 November], lest the city and the citizens residing there be exposed to grave danger [for failure to do so]. The same applies to the gate that gives entrance to the castle, because of various consequences that might [otherwise] befall. The keys and the keeping of those gates are to be assigned to whomever is then the porter of Sidbury Gate; he is to take proper care of them, upon penalty of forfeiting a noble, one half [paid] to the bailiffs, and the other half into the communal treasury. the chamberlains, as custodians of the goods of the gild, are to keep an eye on the city walls, so that if any section falls into disrepair, its stones are not carried off by anyone; and if they are advised of any who do so, those are to be punished and fined once they have been proven guilty through true evidence the fines for which are to be collected for the profit of the community. In order that the city be safeguarded, the chamberlains are each year to repair defects in those walls, out of the communal revenues, if they will stretch that far.
[1c. gatekeepers - York, 1470s]
Custodians of the keys of the gates
It has been the usage and custom to elect one or two reputable men, who will take an oath and their names be recorded, to have custody of the keys of each of the city gates; they must be ready on any day to do whatever may be commanded of them by the mayor and community.
[2. Mason - York]
On that day [3 February 1478], with the agreement and consent of all the above-named venerable men, it was agreed that Robert Davyson, mason, shall from this day forward inspect and oversee the walls of this city throughout the year, and all defects in the same shall report to the mayor and chamberlains then in office. He and his assistants who work on [repairing] the defects shall at all times have and receive the daily wage that a mason ought to be paid. Furthermore, it is agreed that Robert Davyson should freely hold of the community a house in Walmgate, of which Robert Caup mason was recently the tenant, without paying to the Foss Bridge bridgemasters any rent or lease towards the community coffers. And also that Robert Davyson is to have each year a gown (called the mayor's livery) at the costs of the city, to be supplied by the city chamberlains then in office every Whit Sunday during the term that Robert shall occupy [the post] and continue in his inspection and supervision of the walls.
[3. Ordnance master - York]
3a. 29 April 1484
On this day [was reviewed] the contract by which John Craven is due the fee of 20s. and 3 yards of cloth, for custodianship and supervision of the guns, the gun chambers, gunpowder, and other artillery for war. Because John has not done what he agreed to under the terms of the contract, the matter is to be brought to the attention of the commons. That same day it was read publicly before the commons and the commons unanimously agreed that since John has not taken care of the ordnance, but has allowed them to rust and be lost, he is to forfeit his fee.
3b. 17 June 1488
The same day was read out to those present the copy of a contract for an annual fee to be paid to John Craven etc.. That same day it was decided that he should be interrogated concerning the artillery for war which at an earlier time had been placed in his custody, and also whether he had done his duty according to the terms of the contract. If, being thus interrogated by the mayor and two aldermen, no negligence is found on his part, he is to receive his fee and other [compensation] specified in that contract. But if he has not [done his duty], and that can be proved in a court of law, John Craven is to be discharged of being paid any fee or other [compensation] henceforth.
[4. Preparations for mounting a defence, Norwich, 1384/85]
To William Appilyerd for a commission for arraying the gates and walls of the city, and for another commission for arraying and apportioning men at arms and archers, and for the supersedeas of the Justices for the said array, £4.113s.4d. To Nicholas Hubert for saltpeter and quick sulphur, £14.11s.0d. [Spent] about erecting the walls near Iron Doors, £19.3s.4d. To Nicholas Hubert for a gunne bought by William Spycer, £11. To the clerk sent by the Mayor of London and Sir Robert Knoll for having a navy, 40s. To a messenger of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury for the said navy, 6s.8d. For painting 30 paneyers, 23s.4d. To Nicholas de Corpsty for the impairment of the cloths bought for the said navy, 30s. To William Spycer for earnest money given for gunnes, 20s. To the master of the gunnes for carriage from London to Cambridge, and from Cambridge to Lenn, 10s. For the carriage of the gunnes from Lenn to Norwich, 6s. For a carpenter and the repair of 30 paneyers, 18d. For linen cloth to the standard, 7d. For painting the same, 18d. For the carriage of the gunnes to the field, 14d.
Sergeants, constables, wardens of the watch, and centenars, were all officials who might have some role in local military administration. But responsibility for the safekeeping of a town lay with its overlord's bailiff, or other executive officer. This, might be specified in the oath of office, either in a general sense (e.g. Ipswich) or extended to specific duties such as keeping the town gates. As for example at Winchester, where the ballival oath (ca.1472) included the following clauses:
"You shall well, truly, and lawfully serve the king ... under the mayor, to keep the city secure and safe for the use of our sovereign lord, the king of England and his heirs ... and also to keep the gates of the city according to the proclamation, or to see them duly kept." [ W.H.B. Bird, ed. The Black Book of Winchester, Winchester, 1925, 108; my modernization.]
Royal writs on matters of defence, local or national, were invariably addressed to the borough executive, and it was the executive, in consultation with town council, who made policy decisions on such matters. Similarly, the executive took the lead in periodic inspections of fortifications and authorizing repairs or upgrades.
However, as the Winchester gatekeeper's oath intimates, borough governments were likely to delegate custody of the gates to officers who were known variously as keepers, porters, or janitors. This was part of a larger and natural trend towards bureaucratization as the responsibilities of local government expanded. The same trend that saw at least some of the financial administration of military affairs transferred to borough treasurers (or like officers) and sometimes muragers.
gatekeepers are the officials most commonly found in association with the administration of defence. This should not surprise us. The principal routes into a town were the means by which an attacking force might be expected to approach, traders would enter and exit, and visiting dignitaries would arrive. It was important that the gateways across those routes the symbolic if not always the actual threshold separating the town and the rest of the world convey a strong impression of defensibility (and correspondingly the value of what needed to be defended), authority (in terms of entry to a jurisdiction where rules would be enforced, while the display of royal coats of arms on the gates would point to the source of civic authority), and of the dignity of the community and its governmental representatives. Gateways were the points where aggressors would be rebuffed, traders would be obliged to pay tolls, and dignitaries would be ceremoniously welcomed into the town. York's main gates were also points where the presence of stocks and whipping-post, as well as the displayed heads or other body parts of executed traitors, gave the message to criminals that they were not welcome within.
If they were to perform their functions, gates needed to be left neither open nor closed. The administration of opening and closing was not always properly implemented, due sometimes to negligence, and sometimes to circumstances outside of the control of borough authorities. At Oxford in 1373 an inquisition jury stated, before a king's justice and the mayor, "that all the gates of the town of Oxford are usually left standing open at night, which is injurious to the entire town and the countryside." [H.E. Salter, ed. Munimenta Civitatis Oxonie. Devizes: George Simpson, 1920, 150; my translation]. This was a period when the city walls were in visibly poor condition, and it may be that some of the jurors could still recall the St. Scholastica's Day riot less than twenty years before, although closed gates had not helped on that occasion any more than they had in 1264, when rioting students broke down Smith Gate (in the university's custody), which had been kept closed because of the presence in the area of forces involved in the civil war, or in 1285 when Smith Gate suffered the same fate once more. The concern of the jurors, however, was probably more that criminal elements could come and go as they please if the gates were not administered properly. The bailiffs were responsible for maintenance of order in Oxford, but no reference to gatekeepers has yet been noticed.
At Winchester the administration of the defences was complicated by control of two of the gates being in the hands of the Prior of St. Swithuns; who in 1266, following the fall of the city the previous year to De Montfort's forces, gave assurances that the priory would henceforth keep the gates in good repair, would have them opened and closed at the orders of the mayor or bailiffs, and would assist the citizens in their defence when danger threatened. A third gate was under the control of the Abbot of St. Mary's; when, in 1551, it was complained that the post of porter there had been leased out and sub-leased, with the sub-lessee charging excessive tolls in order to make a profit on his lease, the city authorities bought out the lease, so that they could thereafter appoint porters answerable to the city.
The opening and closing of the gates must have been the core duty of gatekeepers; thus, for example, although at Coventry in 1450 it was ordered that that the town gates be managed by a committee in every ward, each committee's duty was to appoint a custodian of the key to the gate in its ward. In some instances assuring the cleanliness and upkeep of the gateways, including perhaps a small area of land around them, may also have been a duty; since there is no indication gatekeepers had a budget, needs for repairs must have been reported to other officers who would arrange the work. It is conceivable that in some places gatekeepers might also have collected tolls there; such a pairing of duties might appear logical, but there may have been a concern about conflict of interest. At Winchester tolls due from non-freemen were collected at the gates, but the bailiffs were stated to be responsible for that, even though we cannot imagine they undertook the collection personally. The recorded oaths of Bristol officials show that gatekeepers there were not collecting tolls, as there were separate officials for that. Nor was it the role of gatekeepers to guard the gates while they were closed; the watch was responsible for that.
Whether the construction of gateways was accompanied by the appointment of keepers, or the assignment to existing officers of duties later associated with gatekeepers, would depend on local policy regarding access through them. The situation probably varied from town to town. The period when gateways originated is also a period of when local records were sparse and not given to addressing such subjects.
Gate custodians at Worcester are referred to in a book of ordinances whose compilation was apparently begun in 1467, although at least some of them must have been of earlier date. Saxon burh fortifications at Worcester were replaced by the medieval walls of sandstone in the thirteenth century, although some of the gateways, in their early forms, were older.
The intent of the ordinance given above, as regards Worcester gates, was to assign responsibility for some of the minor gates to the custodian of that one of the major gates in the same sector of the city. We may infer from this that each of the major gates probably had its own keeper, and there is no reason to think the office a recent institution. The main gates were:
There were a few other lesser gates and posterns. The only gateway still standing is one that provided access to the cathedral precinct, known as St. Mary's Gate or the Great Gate (now Edgar Tower); indeed, little has survived of the medieval fortifications generally.
By contrast with the late-date reference at Worcester, the earliest surviving chamberlains' account at Lynn (1319/20) included payments to custodians of two of the gates. At Leicester there is an even earlier mention: about 1279 keepers of the four compass-point gates there received, between them, 7s. as their fee; in 1321/22 6d. each was paid to the keeper of the South gate and two men who jointly kept the East Gate, the apparently reduced fee possibly explicable by the fact they carried out their duties only "when necessary". The absence of later references to gatekeepers may indicate the office was dispensed with entirely, or its part-time duties reassigned to some other official. Similarly, at Leicester in 1321/22, at a time when tensions may occasionally have been high, for the town's lord was leading a civil war against Edward II, three men were paid 6d. each for custodianship of the south and east gates "when necessary".
At York too gatekeeping was a part-time job. The duties associated with the role were apparently added on to those already performed by city sergeants. In several of the published chamberlains' accounts from the second half of the fifteenth century there are payments for their custody of the gates; the recipients are named but not dignified with official titles, and the impression is not one of salaried gatekeepers. The few pence paid five such men in 1453/54 would have been a meagre salary compared to that of the keepers of the two main gates at Lynn, one of whom received 20s. and the other 13s.4d in 1388/89 (the fees were at the same level a decade later) amounts that look more typical as annual salaries for minor bureaucratic officials. The York payments were described as "rewards", a term used for payments distinct from feoda or salaria and more in the nature of bonuses for good performance, or salary supplements for extra duties. One of the five men, Richard Morton, was described as a sergeant when he became a freeman in 1417 and, as a former sergeant-at-mace of the city, he was receiving a life pension from the city in 1454 (he had been retired since about the mid-1440s).
More generous payments were made the following year to the keepers (if so we may name them, reservedly) of three of the gates, although only one was the same man as in the previous year; two keepers received 3s.4d and 2s.6d, while the payment to the third was only 20d., explained as remuneration for 6 days of work during a popular disturbance and other times in the year, as required. There is no mention of custodians in the 1462/63 account, but in that of 1468/69 they reappear, with four gates (Micklegate, Walmgate, Bootham Bar and Monk Bar) being staffed. Of that set of keepers, Thomas Pilly. a tiler, was in the same year collecting or farming stallage on Foss Bridge, while Thomas Fynch continued as keeper of Walmgate until about 1479, and was also acting as a sergeant-at-mace from at least 1475 until his retirement in 1487. In 1470/71 the reward was at the 20d. level for all four custodians. The undated text above (1b) suggests that the key-keepers were expected to be on call.
The practice was acknowledged in the 1475/76 account, where stated that it was four (of the six) sergeants-at-mace who had custody of the keys and who opened and closed the four main gates of the city, "as customary", for the usual reward of 20d. each. This was made even more explicit in November 1482, when the corporation declared it the responsibility of the sergeants in each ward to ensure that main and postern gates were barred closed at 9 o'clock each night and opened up at 5 o'clock each morning. The 1478/79 account added that the opening and closing of the gates would occur at agreed-upon and suitable times, while the 1486/87 account elaborated the janitorial services as including keeping the gates clean. The gatekeepers may also have had some responsibility for lesser gates in the vicinity of those for which they were primarily responsible, for in 1478/79, Fynch was reimbursed for repairs to a small gate at the Foss Bridge. We should not think, however, that the gatekeepers' duties extended to guarding the gates. The small rewards paid them suggest that locking and unlocking may have been about the extent of their duties in normal circumstances. A civic order in April 1463 required there to be two watchmen, tall but unarmed, at each main gate throughout the day, to supervise who was entering and enquire of any strangers why they had come, from where, and where they were heading; once the gates were locked (at 9 p.m.), their keys were to be delivered to the mayor.
The use of the sergeants can be traced back into the late fourteenth century. A memorandum of 1399 associates the names of six individuals with York locations, of which four were the main city gates; the nature of the association is not stated, but two of the individuals were described as sergeant when they became freemen (one in 1386, the other in 1401). A third is identified as a sergeant in a memorandum of 1396, recording the delivery of gate keys to four men, three of whom were among the (presumed) keepers of 1399, while the appointment of the fourth as sergeant was recorded in 1380 (and he was so described at his entrance to the franchise in 1391). Immediately following this memorandum a similar but later (1404) one was recorded, indicating that the posts of claviger (key-keeper) for two main gates and one postern were given to a tapestry-maker, a weaver, and a shoemaker; we have to assume this was a deviation from the norm. The earliest known disposition of the gates took place in 1380, when the clavigers of main gates were the mayor of that year, another the city bailiff, a third a former bailiff, and the fourth one of the constables (and a future mayor). Here again we cannot draw broad conclusions from this evidence, because it comes in the context of a general array for the defence of the city, with responsibility for guarding the various stretches of the walls assigned to constables, deputy constables and parishes, and assignment of keepers of the boom-chains protecting the Ouse. This was at a time of tension, with the city divided by political factionalism and perhaps an intuition of the impending national disturbances; so the arrangements cannot be taken as typical. The most we are able to say is that there was likely some experimentation with the staffing of the gatekeeper posts, but in the second half of the fifteenth century it became an established practice for them to be assigned to some of the city sergeants.
Reliance on the sergeants to keep the gates secure was not a foolproof solution, as an event in February 1486 showed. The mayor despatched one of his sergeants, John Sponer, to close the main gates at Bootham Bar, but open the wicket gates for pedestrian passage; shortly after this was effected Thomas Wandesford, who had formerly served for many years as a mayor's esquire and mace-bearer, came to the gate with other supporters, took possession of the keys (which had apparently been left lying about by Sponer), and opened the gate. For which offence he was summoned before the mayor and subsequently gaoled.
If the office of gatekeeper at York was part-time, and remunerated correspondingly, the higher salary of Lynn's gatekeepers might then reflect more regular attendance at the gates. A duty of toll collection would have necessitated this, but tolls were in the hands of the town's seigneurs. Yet perhaps gatekeepers were expected to be present at the gates, during opening hours as a check on the collectors who themselves were not answerable to borough authorities.
From about the middle of the fifteenth century, York was employing a master mason to look after the city walls. The first known holder of the post was Robert Couper. He became a freeman in 1443, when described as a mason; three years later he was given the important role of (in essence) design architect of a new city hall, overseeing the early phase of what was a significant enlargement of an earlier structure; in 1446/47, for example, he was working on the gateway to the site. His summer wages were 3s.4d a week, reduced to 3s. a week in winter, when the days were shorter. It seems likely his work on the guildhall continued to 1453, when construction materials were moved to Walmgate Bar. By that date he had a city contract to look after the walls; his previous efforts for the city had evidently been satisfactory. His assistant Patrick, who had worked with him on the guildhall, continued to do so on the walls. Robert's son was also working with him by the mid-1450s. Other projects he is known to have supervised are the rebuilding of a house in Feasegate in 1449 and work on the King's Staith in 1453/54. In a record that is undated but probably ca.1457, Robert is referred to as "master mason of the city of York"; although this is ambiguous, the context a list of arbitrators in a property dispute, whose other members were the cathedral's master mason and the wardens of the carpenters' gild suggests it to be an official title. Couper is listed in the bridgemasters accounts of 1454/55 and 1457/58 as owing 7s.6d a year as rent of a house in Walmgate, apparently under a multi-year lease, and in the latter as tenant of a second community property for which the rent was 4s. Couper died in 1459, bequeathing the lease on the Walmgate tenement to his wife Marjorie; but either she died soon after or disposed of the remainder of the lease, for it was said to be in the hands of Elizabeth Morton until almost 1468.
The next person known to be in the post of city mason was Robert Davyson. He, described as a mason, had become a freeman in 1464/65. By 1477 he had become sufficiently prominent among his colleagues to serve as warden of the masons' gild, and this was presumably a factor in his selection for the city job. His contract of employment with the city is seen in action through the chamberlains' account of 1478/79, which records a payment of 10s. for his uniform, and wages and 6d. a day as wages (more if he had assistants) for work on city projects, such as repairs to the community crane on the quayside. In 1458/59 and the following year a man of that name (there being more than one in York) was renting from the city the right to mow hay from land alongside the stretch of wall between Fishergate Bar and Talkan Tower. In 1486 a city-owned garden in the vicinity of Walmgate was said to have been "lately" in the tenure of Robert Davyson. He is referred to as recently deceased in February 1485, when Thomas Brigges was appointed (for life) his successor as city mason, on the same financial terms. The following month, the corporation granted his widow a kind of pension in the form of a community-owned house, rent-free, for as long as she might remain unmarried, and the bridgemasters account for 1488/89 shows her as the tenant of such a property, although not the house she had presumably inhabited with her late husband. A relocation may have been necessitated if Davyson's house was reallocated to his successor; certainly in 1486 Brigges was the tenant of a community property in Walmgate. Davyson had also held of the city a tenement in Monkgate, close to another held by one-time city sergeant and gatekeeper Thomas Fynch.
Although the institution of a "common mason" to be responsible for maintenance of the city walls might seem a progressive move, it was more likely an attempt at cost-effectiveness. The second half of the fourteenth century was a period when the corporation was having financial difficulties and was unable to afford more than the bare minimum on its fortifications. In 1487, when Henry VII was facing the first challenge to his hold on the throne, from rebels putting forward the pretender Lambert Simnel, the mayor and council took the opportunity to try to persuade the king to reduce York's financial obligations to the crown, using the argument that:
"your city has fallen into so much decay, due to its walls falling down and to the demolition of your castle there by King Richard, ... and is unlikely to be held against your enemies and rebels.... and also your city is not as well provided with artillery and ordnance for its defence as it has been in the past."
As events transpired, however, the city forces were able to repulse without great difficulty the rebels' attempt to gain entrance into the city at Bootham Bar.
It seems to have been around this time that responsibility for maintenance of the walls, via administration of the modest and doubtless inadequate budget (typically between £10-20 annually) was assigned to a pair of officials called muremasters. They are first heard of in 1487, when the mayor threatened with a heavy fine two men elected but refusing to serve; evidently the post had been in existence long enough for it to be unpopular, perhaps because financially burdensome medieval officials sometimes having to pay costs out of their own pocket and seek reimbursement when submitting their annual account or perhaps it entailed collecting revenues (a thankless job) allocated to wall maintenance. That same year, retiring sergeant Thomas Fynch was assigned to serve the muremasters (in return for a pension granted him). the number of muremasters was later increased to four, presumably to spread the burden, and it was expected that anyone aspiring to high office (shrievalty or mayoralty) in the city would have served as muremaster. The holders of this office were not, then, trained in the construction trades; the earliest known muremasters included weavers, a fletcher, tailor, draper, butcher, and a notary.
By the close of the sixteenth century, the duties of muremasters and city mason had been transferred to a salaried bureaucrat, precursor of the city surveyors and engineers of modern times; Norwich had four overseers of the walls and towers whose function may have been similar. Common masons continued to be engaged at York to conduct the actual repairs, but that practice ceased early in the seventeenth century.
The above extract from the letter to Henry VII illustrates that the corporation's attention to defence shifted somewhat in the late fifteenth century, away from the fortifications to the artillery needed to drive off an attacking force. It was not oblivious to the changes in military technology that were going on, but its financial constraints prevented it from upgrading the walls and towers to better withstand artillery assault, and instead it looked to fight fire with fire.
A record from the early 1460s indicates that the city had been in possession of guns for long enough for them to be in need of repair and a new supply of gunpowder, and in 1468/69, masons were paid for making gun-stones. It is hard to imagine that the city would not at an earlier period have possessed more traditional forms of artillery of the catapult type, and that they continued to make use of such is indicated by repairs required in 1468/69 to the ballista at Micklegate, and by the purchase, in 1470/71, of four new ones and one crossbow. In 1475/76 the city paid for wooden covers to be made for 4 of the ballista stationed at various gates.
There was perhaps a growing concern about the deterioration of the in situ artillery, and the office of balistarius was created around this time for the administration of city ordnance. In the list of city officials who were paid a salary and received a livery, in the chamberlains' account of 1475/76, John Craven received 20s. in the new office and 11s.4d was paid for his livery (an amount lower than that for the town clerk, but higher than for a sergeant-at-mace). He had in fact received a city livery in 1470/71, when he was described as "esquire", but his office was not specified; this may reflect a trial period, with the post subsequently being made permanent as the artillery came to occupy an increasingly important part in the city's defence policy. Although various towns had been, since the late fourteenth century, incorporating in their fortifications gunports and other accommodation for cannon (e.g. Southampton) and from about the same period we have increasing evidence of acquisitions of cannon (e.g. Norwich and Coventry), the appointment of an official responsible for artillery was uncommon; even the post of master of the king's ordnance had been instituted only in 1456, the first holder a London merchant who took responsibility for the ordnance kept in the Tower. At the same period, the gunner in Southampton's employ had similar responsibilities. The York account that reveals the existence of an ordnance master there also shows him in action: purchasing supplies of gunpowder and commissioning the manufacture of various hardware items and a cart for the guns; these may have related either to securing pieces in the locations at the gates where they were stationed, or of constructing gun carriages that would help with problems in aiming and absorbing recoil. A year or two later, Craven was given a 20-year lease of a community-owned property adjacent to Bootham Bar, although we cannot be certain whether this was in relation to his office.
The surname Craven, derived from a Yorkshire locality, is fairly common in the records of entrants to the franchise. The likeliest candidate is the "gentleman" who became freeman in 1450 when apparently still a young man, since his father, also described as gentleman, is identified. In 1483 the chamberlains had a barrel of gunpowder delivered into the keeping of John Craven gentleman. This designation could indicate a military bent and suggest he might possibly have been supervising the city ordnance as early as 1450. Be that as it may, evidently by 1475 he had a written service contract with the city, for his tenure of the office was described as being for life.
However, the relationship soured. In 1478 some of the ordnance had been placed in the safekeeping of a different man, but his office is not indicated and the situation may have been exceptional, rather than a reflection on Craven. But in 1484 the corporation refused to pay his salary, on the grounds he had let the guns rust and had lost some of the ordnance in his care. Historians have assumed this meant his dismissal; but his salary and livery allowance was accounted for again in 1486/87. It seems more likely that a dispute process started. The contract of employment doubtless specified the duties of the office, but perhaps was not sufficiently explicit on the city's options in the event of unsatisfactory performance. In 1485, Craven turned over to others the remaining period of his lease on the property by Bootham Bar (although we cannot be sure this was associated with his disgrace). The threat to the city by Simnel's forces, in 1487, showed the seriousness of Craven's negligence; the corporation advised the king that it was short of (functioning) artillery, and he had to order twelve cannon transferred from Scarborough for York's defence. Perhaps this affair brought both sides to their senses. A settlement of differences was arrived later that year. Craven put up a bond for future good behaviour according to terms to be dictated by mayor and council, in regard to unspecified offences he had committed against his oath (of office?); in return the corporation must have agreed that he could resume his post. But it had learned its lesson. The following year, it insisted on a performance review and/or inspection of the artillery, on the basis of the contractual agreement, with payment or dismissal the possible outcomes.
In having functionaries dedicated to maintaining fortifications or ordnance York was atypical. although not unique, among medieval English towns. A more common system was for borough executives, in consultation with their councils, to address defensive needs strategically and for financial officers to make provision for them operationally, in both cases on a largely ad hoc basis. In so doing they would often be acting independently, but perhaps more often be responding to directions from the king (or his ministers), for whom the matter of national defence was a primary concern.
The direction of military affairs at these levels is reflected in the extracts from the Norwich treasurers' account of 1384/85. In the first half of 1385 a warning was received from Calais that the French were planning to launch a coastal attack or even an invasion from Flanders, which had recently come under French influence. With the king being out of the country, his ministers and the London authorities prepared to resist any such threat. It was decided to put together a naval force, under the command of Sir Robert Knolles, to intercept any invasion fleet. The Norwich account identifies arrangements made there to provide for defence of the city and to assist with the offensive counter-measures. It will be noted that authorization from the king was considered necessary for initiating preparations (lest the mustering of troops be misinterpreted as rebellion), and that consultation with other external authorities was naturally a part of the arrangements to contribute to the Knolles expedition.
Plans for arraying the Norwich militia seem to have been launched by a city assembly meeting on11 April 1385, when a committee was appointed for each of the wards (comprising a bailiff and four citizens) to organize it; a little later London's aldermen were ordered to array the men of their wards. In early May instructions from the king (dated 20 April) were received at Norwich commissioning Walter Appleyard, his three fellow bailiffs, and Thomas Spynk to inspect and clean out the city ditches, and to make whatever repairs to the walls were needed to make them capable of resisting attack; they were further ordered to construct either ditch or wall beside the river, where no defence had previously been erected (although it is unclear whether anything was actually done in that regard). They were authorized to compel residents who owned land in the city, or who made a living there from trade or crafts, to contribute towards the costs, and to arrange for labourers and transportation for the work items apparently to be charged to the king. Again a committee was appointed to oversee the work. Later that month was received the royal commission of array (dated15 May), addressed to the same men. A similar commission had been sent a week earlier to Lynn, addressed to mayor John Waryn and four of the town's most senior councillors. The commissions ordered that all men between sixteen and sixty capable of fighting be mustered, armed, and kept in readiness to resist any French invasion; the commissioners were empowered to oblige those too weak to fight to make a financial contribution towards the cost of arming the militia, and to arrest and imprison anyone who tried to evade call-up.
At London, representatives of all the wards were summoned to a special meeting on 17 July, for discussing how to protect the realm, and it was agreed to levy a tax to cover the costs of necessary measures, presumably including the Knolles expedition; two aldermen were assigned to oversee the collection and expenditure of the tax, with a comptroller appointed to supervise the aldermen. In preparation for the expedition, which was to assemble at Sandwich, a summons was issued for all Londoners capable of bearing arms to proceed to the Guildhall to receive wages in advance (12d. a day for soldiers properly equipped, and 6d. a day for archers); any qualified person failing to enlist could be subject to arrest as a traitor. The issue of the call-up was accompanied by orders that no freeman leave London without explicit permission from the authorities, that no-one who made armour or weapons should raise their prices to take advantage of the current situation, that no foreigners go about armed, and that everyone respect a 9 o'clock curfew.
On 23 August 1385 the Norwich Assembly discussed a letter received from Sir Robert Knolles and Nicholas Brembre, mayor of London, concerning the naval force to head for the Flemish coast; the Assembly decided to impose a special tax to finance the equipping and despatch of 40 soldiers, 40 archers, and 40 sailors, with tax assessors being chosen immediately so that the money could be raised as quickly as possible. A few days later, a letter was received from the Archbishop of Canterbury, requesting that Norwich contribute to the expedition 3 ships, each with 40 soldiers and 40 archers, and 3 barges, each with 30 soldiers and 30 archers; the Assembly approved this request and specified the style of uniform their contingent of soldiers and sailors should wear. From this year there survives a list of 125 citizens assessed for the cost of providing a large number of guns of a relatively portable type. A second document of about the same date, identifies which citizens were responsible for defending particular city gates or towers, and indicates the allocation of guns to those placements. The sense of imminent threat continued into 1386; Norwich's treasurers for the 1385/86 fiscal year spent money on making sure gates and ditches were in a fit state, on outfitting warships, and on the purchase of 7 stoppers (tompions) for cannon. There was a discussion by the assembly, on 25 July 1386, whether additional artillery was needed. In the event, however, no French invasion was forthcoming.
York provides documentary evidence of urban military arrangements a century later. Whereas Norwich and London had to deal with the French threat, York had long been viewed as a base and a source of manpower and supplies for defensive and offensive operations against the Scots. York's records suggest that the main preoccupation of the city authorities was with how to finance military efforts, and this was probably the case for all towns obliged to provide troops. Efforts to reduce the size of contingents sent were essentially attempts to reduce costs.
The Scottish campaigns of 1480-82, aimed at discouraging cross-border raiding by the Scots, were initially led by Richard of Gloucester, who had proven himself a good friend to York, and the city reciprocated with a greater willingness than it had been wont to show in providing military support beyond its borders. On 15 August 1480 the city council decided to pay for a uniform for all soldiers who would participate in the forthcoming expedition, and that a tax would be levied on the parishes to pay the wages of the contingent, which was to be recruited not only in the city but also in the Ainsty. Two weeks later, the contingent had returned to York and a letter had been received from the duke presumably reporting favourably on their performance, for the short campaign had been very successful. City council consequently approved additional expenses, such as bonuses (beyond the parish-paid wages) for the contingent's standard bearer and the man who was probably its captain, and the cost of horses for the city sheriffs and others. The captain was given a sum of money to distribute among the soldiers, as a reward for service beyond their wages, but was ordered to account for the funds advanced him before the contingent set out, and to turn over to the chamberlains any spoils of war that had come his way.
Later in the year, the Earl of Northumberland, fearing a resurgence of Scottish raids, requested soldiers from York, but the city authorities balked at supporting a lord in whom they had less faith. King Edward was planning to lead a new campaign personally, although this was not to come off until 1482. Meanwhile Gloucester and Northumberland were organizing the 1481 campaign. In March of that year we find the York council deciding to contribute 120 archers (half from the Ainsty) for two months; in April a committee was chosen to supervise the selection of suitable men and alderman Wrangwish was named their captain, with the mayor's mace-bearer, John Brackenbury, and two city sergeants (John Sponer being one) in attendance. May saw provisions for financing this contingent, through a parish tax, collected by the constables of each parish and handed over to the wardens of the city wards, who were to pass it along to the mayor; he would then to deliver it to the captain and his assistants, who would disburse it in the form of an advance on wages, 10s. per soldier on the day they set off; any surplus after wages were fully paid was to be returned, by the same circuitous route, to the parishes. By the beginning of July there remained some matters to be resolved: the Ainsty participants were to be supplied with jackets as quickly as possible. But there was a delay in fielding the contingent, probably because King Edward had not been able to come north to take command of the army; there was talking of returning the proceeds of taxation to those who had been assessed, until such time as the money might be needed. There had already been expenditure on a standard, a pavilion for the captain, uniforms and equipment, and it was decided to cover this through the chamberlains' account, rather than taxation.
It is not clear whether the York contingent ever saw action during the summer campaign. September, however, brought new reports of Scottish forces about to invade and York was requested to send troops. These were hastily selected and Brackenbury was appointed their captain and authorized to purvey anything the force would need, with one of the sergeants assigned as his second-in-command. Again, it is not clear whether any military actions ensued.
King Edward again expressed his intent to take charge of the fight in 1482, but it continued to fall to Gloucester to direct the campaigning of that year. York sent Brackenbury with 80 men to support him in May, at the private cost of the city councillors. At the end of the month, Gloucester requested 120 archers, mounted, for the continuing effort, but when he visited the city in June, he was persuaded to make do with 100 men. Again the force was put together hurriedly, with the wardens selecting the men and ensuring they were equipped; Brackenbury was once more to be their captain, again attended by a city sergeant; the city's deputy town clerk, Thomas Davyson, was subsequently associated with Brackenbury in the command, his wages to be covered from the city budget. The soldiers were to receive 6d. a day in wages, for 28 days, half paid in advance (with the remainder in Brackenbury's possession, to dole out as required), and 2d. each towards their cost in hiring horses. They set off in mid-July.
However, the financial arrangements broke down. Before the soldiers would set out, three of them demanded payment in full and persuaded the remainder to follow their lead; the ringleaders were gaoled but, in order to avoid the embarrassment of a delay, the mayor gave in to the demand. But on 5 August (before the 28 days wages were due to run out) council, having learned that the York contingent, now in Scotland, had run out of money, ordered that the parishes be taxed to raise enough to cover wages for seven further days. After their return, Brackenbury and Davyson were called to account for the funds; but it seems they acquitted themselves well enough, for the auditors recommended that council approve 42 days wages for each, at 20d. a day for Brackenbury, 8d. a day for the sergeant who accompanied him, and 18d. a day for Davyson, in each case less any wages that they would have earned in their capacity as city officials during that period. The auditors also approved wages and a food allowance for two carters for 35 days and 3d. a day for each horse used; the carts were apparently transporting victuals and ordnance. The hire of the archers' mounts was also to be covered, at 2d. a day, with provision for reimbursement of the value of any horse that died during the expedition. It was later decided, apparently after Gloucester commended the performance of Brackenbury and Davyson, that any surplus remaining from the money delivered to them for the expedition they could keep as a reward for good service. Ironically, shortly afterwards, rumours began to spread in the city that the contingent had in fact seen no action, but remained idle. We know that Gloucester had retaken Berwick and then advanced into Scotland and captured Edinburgh. Possibly the York contingent had been left behind to guard the supply route or recaptured Berwick, or perhaps the rumours were exaggerated and malicious.
The next time Gloucester would have need of military support from York was due to the death of his brother and the crisis of succession that would bring him to the throne. On 15 June 1483 it was decided to send 200 men to accompany a delegation of two aldermen and four councillors (acting as captains of the six wards) to attend Gloucester on his way to London to participate, so it was believed, in the coronation of Edward V. The following day an additional 100 men were assigned, to come from the Ainsty; 4 assessors and 4 collectors were to be chosen per parish, to levy a tax to cover costs and assist the constables in putting together the troops, their horses and equipment. Each soldier was to receive 12d. a day in wages, but had to pay for his own jacket (uniform). On the 17th arrangements were made for mustering the troops for the mayor's review, the men of each ward appearing at different times in Toft Green; decisions were also taken on the wages, apparel and mounts of the captains. On 21 June debate was still going on in council about some of these points: the parishioners of St. Saviour's having plead poverty, the number of men they were assessed to raise was reduced from four to two; the distribution of advance wages was discussed; it was decided to give the standard bearer 6d. per day more than a regular soldier's wages; and it was ordered that the troops wear a badge of the city until they had reached Pontefract, when the captains were to decide at their discretion whether the badge of the Duke of Gloucester would also be displayed. Presumably the contingent departed soon after.
The call for a general muster issued by Henry VIII and provisions for defence of the realm during his absence on an expedition to France in 1544, a copy of which was forwarded to the York authorities [transcribed by Angelo Raine in York Civic Records, vol.4, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, vol.108 (1945), 113-115] , and doubtless to many other towns, provide an indication of the Crown's expectations of local government duties in the matter of defence at the close of the Middle Ages:
"Frog Mill Gate"
"entrance to the castle"
"above-named venerable men"
"hold of the community"
"forfeit his fee"
"William Appilyerd. Thomas Spynk"
"saltpetre and quick sulphur"
"to the field"
"small gate at the Foss Bridge"
"first known holder"
"demolition of your castle"
"first heard of"
"Sir Robert Knolles"
"results of the array"
|Created: December 31, 2007. Last update: March 22, 2016||© Stephen Alsford, 2007-2016|