Survey of London (1633): Watches

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Of Watches in this Citie, and other matters com
manded, and the cause why.
WIlliam Conquerour com
Curfew Bel at 8. of the clocke comman
ded fire & candle to be quen
that in every
Towne and Village, a
Bell should be night
ly rung at eight of the
clocke, and that all
people should then put out their fire,
and candle, and take their rest. Which
order was observed through this Realm
during his reigne, and the reigne of
William Rufus: but Henry the first, re
storing to his Subjects the use of fire
and lights, as afore, it followeth (by
reason of Warres within the Realme)
that many men also gave themselves to
robbery and murders in the night: for
example whereof in this City, Roger
writeth thus:
In the yeere 1175. a councell was kept
at Nottingham,
Roger Hove
den manu
in time of which Coun
cell, a brother of the Earle Ferrers, being
in the night privily slaine at London, and
thrown out of his Inne into the durty street
when the King understood thereof he sware
that he would be revenged on the Citizens.
For it was then (saith mine Author) a
common practice in this City; that a hun
dred or more in a company, young and old,
would make nightly invasions upon houses
of the wealthy, to the intent to rob them,
and if they found any man stirring in the
City within the night, that were not of their
kers mur
thered all they met.
they would presently murder him:
insomuch, that when night was come, no
man durst adventure to walk in the streets.
When this had continued long, it fortuned,
that as a crue of yong and wealthy Citizens
assembling together in the night, assaulted
a stone house of a certaine rich man, and
breaking through the wall, the good man
of that house, having prepared himselfe
with other in a corner, when hee percei
ved one of the theeves, named Andrew
, to lead the way, with a burning
brand in the one hand, and a pot of coles in
the other, which hee assaied to kindle with
the brand, he flew upon him, and smote off
his right hand, and then with a loud voyce
cryed theeves. At the hearing whereof, the
theeves tooke their flight, all saving he that
had lost his hand, whom the good man (in
the next morning) delivered to Richard
de Lucie
the Kings Iustice.
Rich theeves most wor
thy to bee hanged.
This theefe,
upon warrant of his life, appeached his con
federates, of whom many were taken, and
many were fled. Among the rest that were
The judg
ment of fire and water cal
led Ordalii, was con
demned by Pope Innocent the third 1205. De
cretal. lib. 5.
a certaine Citizen of great
countenance, credit, and wealth, named
Iohn Senex, who for as much he could not
acquit himselfe by the Water-doome (as
that law was then tearmed) hee offered to
the King five hundred pounds of silver for
his life. But forasmuch as he was condem
ned by judgement of the Water, the King
would not take the offer, but commanded
him to be hanged on the Gallowes,
Cause why watches in the night were com
manded and when.
which was
done, and then the City became more quiet
for a long time after.
But for a full remedy of enormities
in the night, I read, that in the yeere of
Christ 1253. Henry the third comman
ded Watches in Cities, and Borough
Townes to be kept, for the better obser
ving of peace and quietnesse amongst
his people.
And further, by the advice of them

Of Watches inLONDON.

of Savoy, hee ordained, that if any man
chanced to be robbed, or by any means
damnified, by any theese or robber; he
to whom the charge of keeping that
Country, City or Borough chiefly ap
pertained, where the robbery was done,
should competently restore the losse.
And this was after the use of Savoy; but
yet thought more hard to bee observed
here, than in those parts: and therefore
leaving those laborious Watches, I will
speake of our Pleasures and Pastimes in
watching by night.
In the Months of Iune and Iuly,
Bonefires and ban
queting in the streets
on the
Vigils of Festivall dayes, and on the
same Festivall dayes in the Evenings,
after the Sun-setting, there were usually
made Bone-fires in the streets, every
man bestowing wood or labour towards
them. The wealthier sort also before
their doores, neere to the said Bonefires
would set out Tables on the Vigils, fur
nished with sweete bread, and good
drinke, and on the Festivall dayes with
meats and drinkes plentifully, where
unto they would invite their neigh
bours and passengers also to sit, and
be merry with them in great familiarity,
praysing God for his benefits bestowed
on them. These were called Bonefires,
as well of amity amongst neighbours,
that being before at controversie, were
there by the labour of others reconciled,
and made of bitter enemies, loving
friends; as also for the vertue that a great
fire hath, to purge the infection of the
ayre. On the Vigill of Saint Iohn Bap
Marching watch at Midsum

and on Saint Peter and Paul the A
postles, every mans doore being shad
dowed with greene Birch, long Fennel,
Saint Iohns wort, Orpin, white Lilies,
and such like, garnished upon with
Garlands of beautifull flowers,
shing of mens doores, & furnishing them out.
had also
Lamps of glasse, with Oyle burning in
them all the night; some hung out bran
ches of Iron curiously wrought, contai
ning hundreds of Lamps lighted at once,
which made a goodly shew, namely in
new Fish street, Thames-street, &c. Then
had ye besides the standing watches, all
in bright harnesse, in every Ward and
street of this City and Suburbs, a mar
ching watch, that passed through the
principall streets thereof, to wit, from
the little Conduit by Pauls gate, through
West Cheape, by the Stocks, through
Cornehill, by Leaden hall to Aldgate, then
backe down Fen-Church street, by Grasse-Church,
about Grasse-Church Conduit,
and up Grasse-Church street into Cornhil,
and through it into West Cheape again,
and so broke up.
Almost 1000. cres
sets light, for the watch at Midsum
The whole way orde
red for this marching watch, extended
to 3200. Taylors yards of assize, for the
furniture whereof with lights, there
were appointed 700. Cressers, 500. of
them being found by the Companies,
the other 200. by the Chamber of Lon
. Besides the which lights,
More than 240. Con
stables in London, the one halfe of them each night went in the mar
ching watch, the otherhalfe kept their standing watch in every street and lane.
Constable in London, in number more
than 240. had his Cresset: the charge
of every Cresset was in light two shil
lings foure pence, and every Cresset had
2. men, one to beare or hold it, another
to beare a bag with light, and to serve it:
so that the poore men pertaining to the
Cressets, taking wages, besides that eve
ry one had a strawen hat, with a badge
painted, & his break fast in the morning,
amounted in number to almost 2000.
The marching watch contained in num
ber 2000. men, part of them being old
Souldiers, of skill to bee Captaines,
Licutenants, Serjeants, Corporals, &c.
Wiffers, Drummers, and Fifes, Stan
dard and Ensigne-bearers, Sword-play
ers, Trumpeters on horsebacke, Demi
launces on great horses, Gunners with
hand-guns, or halfe hakes, Archers in
cotes of white fustian, signed on the
brest and backe with the Armes of the
City, their bowes bent in their hands,
with sheafes of arrowes by their sides,
Pike-men in bright Corslets, Burganets
&c. Holbards, the like Billmen in Al
maine Rivets, and Aperns of Mayle in
great number.
There were also divers Pageants,
Morris dancers, Constables, the one
halfe which was 120. on St. Iohns Eve,
the other halfe on Saint Peters Eve in
bright harnesse, some over-gilt, and
every one a Jornet of Scarlet thereupon
and a chaine of Gold, his Hench-man
following him, his Ministrels before
him, and his Cresset light passing by
him: the Waytes of the City, the Ma
iors Officers, for his guard before him,
all in a Livery of Wosted or Say Iac
kets, party coloured, the Maior himselfe
wel mounted on horseback, the Sword-bearer
before him in faire Armour, well

Of Watches inLONDON.

mounted also, the Maiors foot-men, and
the like Torch-bearers about him;
Hench-men twaine, upon great stirring
horses following him. The Sheriffes
Watches came one after the other in
like order, but not so large in number
as the Maiors: for where the Maior had
besides his Giant three Pageants, each
of the Sheriffes had besides their Gi
ants, but two Pageants; each their mor
rīs-dance, and one Hench-man, their
Officers in Jackets of Wosted, or Say,
party-coloured, differing from the Mai
ors, and each from other, but having
harnessed men a great many, &c.
This Midsummer Watch was thus
accustomed yeerely, time out of minde,
untill the yeere 1539. the 31. of Henry
the eighth, in which yeere, on the S. of
A great Muster at London.
a great Muster was made by the
Citizens at the Miles end, all in bright
harnesse, with coats of white silke or
cloth, and chaines of gold, in three great
battels, to the number of 15000. which
passed thorow London to Westminister, and
so through the Sanctuary, and round
about the Parke of S. Iames, and retur
ned home thorow Oldborne.
King Henry then considering the great
charges of the Citizens, for the furni
ture of this unusuall Muster, forbad the
marching Watch provided for at Mid
for that yeere; which being
once laid downe, was not raised againe
till the yeere 1548. the second of Ed
the sixth, Sir Iohn Gresham then
being Maior, who caused the marching
Watch, both on the Eve of Saint Iohn
, and of S. Peter the Apostle, to
be revived and set forth, in as comely
order as it had been accustomed; which
Watch was also beautified by the num
ber of more than 300. Demilances and
light-horsemen, prepared by the Citi
zens to be sent into Scotland, for the re
scue of the Towne of Haddington, and
others, kept by the Englishmen since
this Maiors time.
The like marching Watch in this
Citie hath not beene used, though some
attempts have been made thereunto,
as in the yeere 1585. a Booke was
drawne by a grave Citizen,
Iohn Moūt
and by him
dedicated to Sir Tho. Pullison, then L.
Maior, and his brethren the Aldermen,
containing the manner and order of a
marching Watch in the Citie upon the
Evens accustomed, in commendation
whereof, namely, in times of peace to
be used, he hath words to this effect:
The Artificers of sundry sorts were there
by well set aworke,
dities of the watch at Midsū
mer, in the time of peace.
none but rich men char
ged, poore men helped, old Souldiers, Trum
peters, Drummers, Fifes, and Ensigne-bea
rers, with such like men, meet for the Prin
ces service, kept in ure, wherein the safety
and defence of every Common-weale consi
steth. Armour and Weapons being yeerely
occupied in this wise, the Citizens had of
their owne readily prepared for any neede,
whereas by intermission hereof, armorers are
out of worke, Souldiers out of ure, weapons
overgrowne with foulenesse, few or none
good being provided, &c.
In the Moneth of August,
Wrestling at Skin
ners well, neere un
to Clerks wel before the Maior.
about the
Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle,
before the Lord Maior, Aldermen, and
Sheriffes of London, placed in a large
Tentneere unto Clarkenwell, of old time
were divers dayes spent in the pastime
of wrestling; where the Officers of the
Citie, namely the Sheriffes, Serjeants,
and Yeomen, the Porters of the Kings
Beame, or weigh-house, (now no such
men) and other of the Citie, were chal
lengers of all men in the Suburbs, to
wrestle for games appointed. And on
other dayes, before the said Maior,
Shooting the stan
dard, broad ar
row and flight be
fore the Maior.
dermen and Sheriffes, in Fensbury
field, to shoot the standard, broad-ar
row and flight, for games. But now of
late yeeres, the wrestling is onely pra
ctised on Bartholomew day in the after
noone, and the shooting some three or
foure dayes after, in one afternoone and
no more. What should I speake of the
ancient daily exercises in the long Bow
by Citizens of this Citie,
Shooting in the long bow suppressed Bowling
alleys ere
cted and frequēted.
now almost
cleane left off and forsaken? Lover-passe
it: for by the meanes of closing in of
Common grounds, our Archers, for
want of roome to shoot abroad, creepe
into Bowling-Alleys, and ordinarie
Dicing-houses, neerer home, where
they have roome enough to hazzard
their money at unlawfull Games, and
there I leave them to take their plea

Cite this page

MLA citation

Stow, John, Anthony Munday, Anthony Munday, and Humphrey Dyson. Survey of London (1633): Watches. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 30 Jun. 2021, Draft.

Chicago citation

Stow, John, Anthony Munday, Anthony Munday, and Humphrey Dyson. Survey of London (1633): Watches. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed June 30, 2021. Draft.

APA citation

Stow, J., Munday, A., Munday, A., & Dyson, H. 2021. Survey of London (1633): Watches. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 6.6). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from Draft.

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Stow, John
A1  - Munday, Anthony
A1  - Munday, Anthony
A1  - Dyson, Humphrey
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Survey of London (1633): Watches
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 6.6
PY  - 2021
DA  - 2021/06/30
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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