Of watches in London.
And therefore to speake of watches
Watches in the
night com
and shewes
in the nightes: First I reade that in the yeare of Christ, 1253.
watches in Cities and Borough towns were commanded by king
Henry the thirde
, for the better obseruing of peace and quietnesse
amongst his people: And farther by the aduice of them of Sauoy:
hee ordayned that if any man chanced to bee robbed, or by any
meanes damnified, by any theefe or robber, hee to whome the
charge of keeping that country, Citie or Borough chifely apper
tained where the robbery was don, should competently restore the
losse: And this was after the vse of Sauoy, but yet thought more
harde to bee obserued, here, then in those partes: and therefore lea
uing those laborious watches, I will speake of our pleasures and
pastimes in watching by night. In the monethes of Iune, and Iu
ly, on the Uigiles or Festiuall daies, and on the same Festiuall
daies in the eueninges, after the Sunne
Bonefiers and
banqueting in
the streetes.
setting, there were vsually
made Bonefiers in the streetes, euery man bestowing wood or
labour towardes them: the welthier sorte also before their dores
neare to the saide Bonefires would, set out tables on the Uigiles
furnished with sweete breade, and good drinke, and on the Fe
stiuall daies with meates and drinkes plentifully, whereunto they
woulde inuite their neighboures and Passengers also to sit, and be
merry with them in greate familiarity, praising God for his be
nefites bestowed on them: These were called Bonefires aswell of
good amity amongst neighbours that being before at contro
uersie, (were there by the labour of others) reconciled, and made
of bitter enemies, louing frendes: as also for the vertue that a

Of watches in London.
greate firehath to purge
Watches at
the infection of the aire. On the vigils
of S. Iohn Baptist, and of S. Peter, and Paul the Apostles, besides
the standing watches all in bright harnesse in euery warde, and
streete of this Citie, there was also a marching watch, that passed
through the principall streetes thereof, to wit from the little Con
duite by Paules gate
through west Cheape, by the Stocks, throgh
Cornhill, by Leaden hall to Aldegate, then backe downe Fen
, by Grasse church, aboute Grasse church Con
, and vp Grasse church streete into Cornhill, and through
it into west Cheape, againe, and so broke vp, the whole way or
dered for this marching watch, extended to 3200. Taylors yards
of assize, for the furniture whereof with lightes there were appoin
ted 700. Cressetes, 500. of them being founde by the Compani
es, the other 200. by the Chamber of London: besides the which
lights euery Constable in London) in number more then 240.
had his Cresset: the charge of euery Cresset was in light two shil
linges foure pence, and euery Cresset had two men, one to beare or
hold it, an other to beare a bag with light, and to serue it, so that the
poore men perteyning to the Cressets, taking wages, besides that
euery one had a strawne hat, with a badge painted, and his break
fast amounted in number to almost 2000. The marching watch
conteyned in number aboute 2000. men, parte of them being olde
souldiers, of skill to bee captaines, Lieutenantes, Sergeantes,
Corporals, &c. Wiflers, Drommers, and Fifes, Standard and
Ensigne bearers, Sworde players, Trompiters on Horsebacke,
Demilaunces on greate horses, Gunners with hand Guns, or
halfe hakes Archers in coates of white sustian signed on the brest
and backe with the armes of the citie, their bowes bent in their
handes, with sheafes of arrowes by their sides, Pike men in bright
corslets, Burganets, &c. Holbarders, like the Bilmen, in Almaine
Riuetes, and Aperns of Mayle in greate number, there were
also diuers Pageantes, Morris dancers, Constables the one halfe
(which was 120. on S. Iohns Eue,1 the other halfe on S. Peters
2 in bright harnesse some ouergilte, and euery one a Iornet of
Scarlet thereupon, and his hench man following him, his min
strels before him, and his cresset light passing by him, the Wayts
of the citie, the Mayors Officers, for his guarde before him, all

Of watches in London.
in a Liuery of wolsted or Say Iacquetes party coloured, the
Mayor him selfe well mounted on horsebacke, the Sword bearer
before him in fayre Armour well mounted also, the Mayors foot
men, and the like Torch bearers aboute him, Hench men twaine,
vpon great stirring horses following him. The Shiriffes watches
came one after the other in like order, but not so large in number
as the Mayors: for where the Mayor had besides his Giant thrée
Pageantes, each of the Shiriffes had besides their Giantes but
two Pageants, ech their Morris Dance, and one hench man, their
Officers in Iacquetes of wolsted, or Say, party coloured, diffe
ring from the Mayors and each from other, but hauing harnised
men a greate many, &c.
This Midsommer watch was thus accustomed yearely,
time out of minde, vntill the yeare 1539. the 31. of Henry the
. in which yere on the eight of May, a great muster was made
by the Citizens, at the Miles ende, all in bright harnesse, with
coates of white silke,
A greate mu
ster at Londō.
or cloth, and chaynes of gold, in three great
battailes, to the number of 15000. which passed through London
to Westminster, and so through the Sanctuarie, and round about
the Parke of S. Iames, and returned home through Oldbourne.
King Henry then considering the greate charges of the Citizens
for the furniture of this vnusuall Muster, forbad the marching
watch prouided for, at Midsommer, for that yeare, which being
once laide downe, was not raised againe till the yeare 1548. the
ſecond of Edwarde the ſixt, Sir Iohn Gresham, then being Mai
or, who caused the marching watch, both on the Eue of S.
Iohn Baptist
,3 and of S. Peter the Apostle,4 to bee reuiued and set
foorth, in as comely order as it had beene accustomed, which
watch was also beutified by the number of more then 300. De
milances, and light horsemen, prepared by the Citizens to bee
sent into Scotland for the rescue of the towne of Hadington, and
others kept by the English men, since this Maiors time, the like
marching watch in this Citie hath not been vsed, though some at
tempts haue beene made thereunto, as in the yere 1585. a booke
was drawn by a graue Citizen, & by him dedicated to Sir Thomas
, then Lord Maior and his Brethren the Aldermen: con
teyning the manner and order of a marching watch in the cittie

Of Watches in London.
vpon the Euens accustomed, in commendation whereof (namely
in time of peace to be vsed) he hath wordes to this effect. The Arti
ficers of sondrie sortes were thereby well set a worke, none but
rich men charged: poore men helped: olde Souldiers, Trompiters,
Drommers, Fifes, and ensigne bearers, with such like men, meet
for Princes seruice kept in vre, wherein the safety and defence of
euery common weale consisteth. ArmoThis text is the corrected text. The original is n (SM)ur and Weapon being
yearely occupied in this wise: the Citizens had of their owne redi
ly prepared for any neede, whereas by intermission hereof, Armo
rers are out of worke, Souldiers out of vre, weapons ouergrown
with foulenes, few or none good being prouided. &c.
In the moneth of August aboute the feast of S. Bartlemew
the Apostle,5 before the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Shiriffes of
London placed in a large Tent neare vnto Clarken well, of old
time were diuers daies spent in the pastime of wrestling, where
the Officers of the Citie: namely the Shiriffes, Serieantes and
Yeomen, the Portars of the kinges beame, or weigh house, and
other of the Citie were challengers of all men, in the suburbes ʿto
wrestle for games appointed: and on other daies, before the saide
Maior, Aldermen and Shiriffes, in Fensbery fielde, to shoote the
Standarde, broade arrow, and flight, for games: but now of late
yeares the wrestling is onely practised on Bartilmew day6 in the
after noone, and the shooting some three or foure dayes after, in
one after noone and no more. What shoulde I speake of the
auncient dayly exercises in the long bow by Citizens of this cittie,
now almost cleane left of and forsaken. I ouer passe it: for by
the meane of closing in the common groundes, our Archers for
want of roome to shoote abroade, creepe into bowling Allies, and
ordinary dicing houses, nearer home, where they haue roome e
nough to hazard their money at vnlawfull games: where I leaue
them to take their pleasures.


  1. Celebrated on 23 June. (KL)
  2. Celebrated on 29 June. (KL)
  3. Celebrated on 23 June. (KL)
  4. Celebrated on 29 June. (KL)
  5. Celebrated on 24 August. (KL)
  6. Celebrated on 24 August. (KL)

Cite this page

MLA citation

Stow, John, and William fitz-Stephen. Survey of London: Watches. The Map of Early Modern London, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 15 Sep. 2020, mapoflondon.uvic.ca/stow_1598_watches.htm.

Chicago citation

Stow, John, and William fitz-Stephen. Survey of London: Watches. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed September 15, 2020. https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/stow_1598_watches.htm.

APA citation

Stow, J., & fitz-Stephen, W. 2020. Survey of London: Watches. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London. Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/stow_1598_watches.htm.

RIS file (for RefMan, EndNote etc.)

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

A1  - Stow, John
A1  - fitz-Stephen, William
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Survey of London: Watches
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
PY  - 2020
DA  - 2020/09/15
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/stow_1598_watches.htm
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/xml/standalone/stow_1598_watches.xml
ER  - 


RT Web Page
SR Electronic(1)
A1 Stow, John
A1 fitz-Stephen, William
A6 Jenstad, Janelle
T1 Survey of London: Watches
T2 The Map of Early Modern London
WP 2020
FD 2020/09/15
RD 2020/09/15
PP Victoria
PB University of Victoria
LA English
OL English
LK https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/stow_1598_watches.htm

TEI citation

<bibl type="mla"><author><name ref="#STOW6"><surname>Stow</surname>, <forename>John</forename></name></author>, and <author><name ref="#FITZ1"><forename>William</forename> <surname>fitz-Stephen</surname></name></author>. <title level="a">Survey of London: Watches</title>. <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2020-09-15">15 Sep. 2020</date>, <ref target="https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/stow_1598_watches.htm">mapoflondon.uvic.ca/stow_1598_watches.htm</ref>.</bibl>