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Zach H.

Joined: 26 Oct 2009

Posts: 33

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 8:57 am    Post subject: Town Watch/City Gaurd Kit?         Reply with quote

Hi everyone,
I've really gotten into late medieval and renaissance cities and how they were governed. Something that has really piqued my interest is the idea of the town watch/city guard during the 1500s and I've been interested in portraying a town watchman. If anyone has any info our sources that would be great, my research hasn't brought up much.
Zach H
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Josh MacNeil

Location: Massachusetts, USA
Joined: 23 Jul 2008

Posts: 197

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Zach. This is a neat idea for a kit. It gives you a lot of different avenues to explore. And therein lies the problem; there are so many choices that putting together a cohesive kit will be difficult without more specific parameters. Happy I'd say narrow a few things down, such as what country, and even what town you may be guarding. A town watchman from London would look somewhat different from a watchman from Rome. Also, a larger city with more wealth may also have its city guard better equipped than a smaller town from a more remote province. So narrowing down a location would be a good place to start. From there I'd look at period artwork, preferably from the region you've chosen.

My knowledge of the specifics of town watchmen in different regions is limited, so I'm hoping somebody more knowledgeable about the specifics will chime in and provide more info; or correct me if I'm wrong. Wink I believe that in some cases, town watchmen would be levies from the local populace, and in other cases were professional soldiers that served as guards when not on campaign.

I hope this gives you something to work with. Good luck with your kit!
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Randall Moffett

Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 1:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From English towns they tend to be a paid body by the 15th century in many of the Larger towns. Take a look on The Archive for The Southampton Steward Books, Oak Books and Black Books. They are full of interesting accounts of town organization, including town watch.

HEre is an example from the Oak Book
Town Ordinances related to Town Defence in the Oak Book of Southampton, c. 1473

Article 45- the alderman, wardens of the streets of the town, ought for two swear, that they shall truly to keep the Kings peace, and that they shall to enroll the names of them that they have in their ward, and they shall make a search, every month at the least, to see that the points and stablementes made of their ward the well held. And if they find anything that is against the stablementes Of the guild of the town in their ward, they shall do it to with to the chief alderman and to the bailiffs of the town, and that they shall not letin any man, as they will enjoy the franchise of the town.
Article. 46- It is provided, by the common council of the town, that from the north gate on to the east gate, and to the corner that was Richard de la Price, and the chief house that was to John bolehouse, of that one party, and of that other of that street, with all the parish of our lady in east street, there shall be to alderman, chosen wardens to take keep of the peace, that it be well kept, within the foresaid bounds: and they shall do to set in roll The names of all those that be dwelling in their ward, And they shall find pledges sufficient to be at the Kings peace, and other pledges shall be entered in the roll. Also, they shall take keep that no man shall dwell in their ward past a night, but if he find pledges as aforesaid, if he should be a dweller in the town, that skath not hurt by him should fall to the town. And the two aldermen shall make every 8 days, or 15 days, at the most, a search through their ward, and oversee that no man do against the man aforesaid within their ward. And if they find any in their ward, that shall trespass and will not suffer th be attached by the serjeants sworn to the town,the Alderman and all the ward shall go with their full power, and sew the malefactors, till they be taken; And if the Alderman will not do so, the town shall lay the charge to the said alderman.
Article 47-the alderman shall take good keep, that the watches of the town be well kept and wisely, and every man in his ward.
Article. 48-from the corner that was Richard de la price and the chief house that was John de la belehouse, into the sea, with all the street of Newtown, shall be two alderman and form aforesaid.
Article 49-of all the French street, that is to wite, from the corner that was Richard de la price and Henry Bryan, on the other party, on the other side of the said street, into the sea, there shall be two alderman, as is aforesaid.
Article 50- from Simnel Street, with the fish market, and all the bull street, with all the west hithe, Onto the castle, there shall be two Alderman, as is aforesaid.
Article 51- without the Northgate, one every side, with the street of full flood, the stronde and boole barre strete, there shall be three aldermen, in form aforesaid.


Town Ordinances related to Town Defence in the Oak Book of Southampton, c. 1478

‘There shall nightly be six men watching within the town, where of always two to keep the walls, and the other four to walk within the town, and half times to walk up to the castle hill, and there to have good respect to the sea and every part of the town, for fire and other dangers. And that every man, when the watch, to his house, be ready at the walls in proper person, the or a sufficient person, being no alien, for him, up on pain to lose twelve pence for every time making default. And from all Halloween day to Candlemass, it is agreed that every watch man shall have for every night 3 pence; and afterward, till the feast of all saints, 2 pence. And then no watchmen depart from the watch, before Candlemas day, before six of the clock in the morning, up on pain of imprisonment and further punishment, as shall be thought good for his dessert. And from Candlemas to the feast of all saints, before five of the clock.
Item, that there shall be for watchmen nightly Above Bar and saint Mary’s, keeping their walks to our lady of grace, and by the seaside to god’s house gate, and so a to the post against Arundel’s Tower, and the other two to walk about bar and up to the cross by hither Rokesden lane, and sometime down goslinge lane to hilbridge, and so by the seaside up to bar gate.
Item, The Tethinge of Portiswoode to keep nightly two men watching, and this to endure as long as shall be thought necessary; every watchmen to keep his watch, and have like wages, as abovesaid.’

From what I have seen in England it is very unusual to have non-English and even non-local watches. I could not say about other places but the feeling in England is alien watchers are more likely to betray the town to enemies.

As far as the gear goes you could be in any arms or armour depending on social group. In Southampton, York and London the civic leadership was in charge of the watch and usually were the most wealthy townsmen.

I am working on an article for next year on this topic actually, though 1300-1500, not a Tudor fan really in fashion, warfare or politics but have done a great deal of research on the period, having read most of Henry VIII and his childrens regnal records. Let me know if you'd rather do 16th over 15th.

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Timo Nieminen

Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 3:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From Tlusty, "The Martial Ethic in Early Modern Germany":

"According to Nördlingen and Memmingen ordinances of the seventeenth century, guard duty might come around to each household about once every three weeks or so. As we know, any able-bodied adult male could perform the task, although in periods of tension decrees could request that the household head appear in person. Usually, however, guard duty would be performed by a young member of the household, perhaps the householder’s son or one of his journeymen.

Our young man would have received instructions on where to appear from his neighborhood Quarter or Lane Captain or from the city bailiff. Notification allowed little time to prepare, often coming only the day before, or possibly even as late as the morning of the watch. The young guard’s duty would begin at or shortly before the evening bell, which rang at 7 or 8 p.m. in winter - well after dark - and at 9 in summer. He would be expected to appear sober and outfitted with the proper equipment, normally a breastplate, a helmet, a sword, and either a pole arm or functioning firearm."

Tlusty covers the more general case of armed citizenry; guard duty was just one arms-related task/duty/thing for citizens. Carrying halberds and/or other polearms around town was often banned, except for the guard - they functioned as a badge of office.

As well as halberd/polearm (and other arms), you will want a lantern for night duty.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Zach H.

Joined: 26 Oct 2009

Posts: 33

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for all the information! I think I'm going to try to portray a guardsman from either Elizabethan London, York or Leeds. I'm going to make a new soft kit, since I'm fairly sure my Irish Gaelic kit wouldn't work for it. Laughing Out Loud

I'm going to go with a simple doublet and possibly Venetian breeches. Hopefully in the colors mandated by the sumptuary laws of the middle class at the time. After this I plan on getting a helmet and a more "gaurd-ish" sword.
Since money is tight I won't be able to afford a high end breast plate, so I have a couple of ideas that may work.
1st choice:
The breast plate would be that last part of the kit I would get because of cost.
2nd choice:
The price sounds great, but I'm not sure about the fit and accuracy.

I wouldn't be able to start the project until late August/early September and I will keep people updated on the progress of it as well. I would also like input and information as this keeps going as well.

Thanks everyone,

Zach H
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David Lewis Smith

Location: NC
Joined: 26 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zach, i do not want to steer you from a forum but as myArmoury deals mostly with swords I would like to suggest for your armour needs. There is no reason why you can not learn to and then make your self fine armor. It is not that hard. the folks at Armourarchive will be more than happy to help. There are also downloadable pattterns and a forum called "I want to be a....."


David L Smith
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Randall Moffett

Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 5:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


If you are looking at England take a look here-

You can search by region.


That is interesting as I had thought Germany was more advanced than England during that point in history and it seems they moved away from simple civic obligation in many English towns quite a bit earlier. May be they were just thinking it was cheaper in Germany. Interesting though.

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J. Hargis

Location: Pacific Palisades, California
Joined: 06 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jun, 2012 6:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


I'm in complete agreement, this is a very clever idea.

Not only will you acquire some nice reproductions, but in the process you'll learn a lot about the period and specifics of your chosen town. Looking through the local codes will be a real step back in time. The research itself will probably be as interesting as the final kit you compile, if not more so.

By all means, keeps us advised.

Thanks, Jon

A poorly maintained weapon is likely to belong to an unsafe and careless fighter.
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Ryan S.

Location: Germany
Joined: 04 May 2012

Posts: 345

PostPosted: Sat 09 Jun, 2012 2:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I recently saw some armor in the Amsterdam Museum that was suppose to belong to the town guard. Unfortunately, it didn't have much information on it (they had more on the guild's silver). Basically it consisted of etched Morian and curiass with arm armor. Additionally they had halberds, partisans and swords. It may be probable that other cities have armor from the city guard in museums.
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