|Night Watches and Bonefires. Midsummer Watch. ||256
special Command against them. For I find the same King Edward III. issuing
Letters against these Malefactors in the tenth Year of his Reign, himself being
Scotland, to the Maior, Sheriffs and Aldermen,
"Concerning many Malefactors in
the City and Disturbers of the Peace, as well of the City, as elsewhere, that
mutual Confederacies, Assemblies and unlawful Conventicles, as well by Day as by
Night; going armed, and carrying Arms, and leading an armed Power, and procuring
them to be led, wandred and ran about, beating and wounding Men, and depriving
some of their Limbs, and spoiling others of their Goods and Properties; and
others and detaining them in Prison privily; until they should make certain
Redemptions according to their Wills; and wresting from some, by Threats and
Death, and other such like Hardships, great Sums of Money. The King therefore
commanded the Maior, &c. to remedy these Transgressions. And if it were
they could do, to certify his Council under the common Seal of the City.
King at St. John's Town.]"
Rot. Scotie, An. 10. E. 3. m.14. dorso.
But for a full Remedy of Enormities in the Night, I read, that in the Year of
1253, Henry the Third commanded Watches in Cities, and Borough Towns to be kept,
for the better observing of Peace and Quietness amongst his People.
And further, by the Advice of them of Savoy, he ordained, that if any Man
be robbed, or by any Means damnified, by any Thief or Robber; he to whom the
Charge of keeping that Country, City or Borough, chiefly appertained, where the
Robbery was done, should competently restore the Loss. And this was after the
Savoy; but yet thought more hard to to be observed here, than in those Parts.
therefore leaving those laborious Watches, I will speak of our Pleasures and
in watching by Night.
In the Months of June and July, on the Vigils of Festival Days, and on the same
Festival Days in the Evenings, after the Sun-setting, there were usually made
in the Streets, every Man bestowing Wood or Labour towards them. The wealthier
also before their Doors, near to the said Bonefires would set out Tables on the
furnished with sweet Bread, and good Drink; and on the Festival Days, with Meat
Drink plentifully; whereunto they would invite their Neighbours and Passengers
sit and be merry with them in great familiarity, praising God for his Benefits
on them. These were called Bonefires, as well of good Amity amongst Neighbours,
that being before at Controversie, were there by the labour of others
made of bitter Enemies loving Friends; as also for the Virtue that a great Fire
purge the Infection of the Air. On the Vigil of Saint John Baptist, and on
and Paul the Apostles, every Man's Door being shadowed with green Birch, long
Fennel, St. Johns Wort, Orpin, white Lillies, and such like, garnished upon with
beautiful Flowers, had also Lamps of Glass, with Oyl burning in them all the
Some hung out Branches of Iron curiously wrought, containg hundreds of Lamps
lighted at once; which made a goodly Shew, namely in new Fishstreet,
Bonefires and banqueting in the Streets.
Standing Watch at Midsummer.
Garnishing of Mens Doors, and furnishing them out.
Besides the standing Watches, all in bright Harness, in every Ward and Street in
City and Suburbs, there was also a marching Watch, that passed through the
Streets thereof; to wit, from the little Conduit by Paul's Gate, through West
the Stocks, through Cornhill, by Leaden-Hall to Aldgate; then back down Fen-
Churchstreet, by Grasse Church, about Grasse Church Conduit, and up Grasse
Churchstreet into Cornhill, and through into West Cheap again, and so broke up.
whole Way ordered for this marching Watch extended to 3200 Taylors Yards of
For the furniture whereof with Lights, there were appointed 700 Cressets, 500 of
being found by the Companies, the other 200 by the Chamber of London. Besides
which Lights, every Constable in London, in number more than 240 had his
the Charge of every Cresset was in light two Shillings Four Pence; and every
had two Men, one to bear or hold it, another to bear a Bag with Light, and to
so that the Poor Men pertaining to the Cressets taking Wages, besides that every
had a strawen Hat, with a Badge painted, and his breakfast, amounted in number
almost 2000. The marching Watch contained in number about 2000 Men; part of
being old Soldiers, of skill to be Captains, Lieutenants, Serjeants, Corporals,
Whifflers, Drummers, and Fifes, Standard and Ensign Bearers, Demilaunces on
Horses, Gunners with hand Guns, or half Hakes, Archers in Coats of White
signed on the breast and back with the Arms of the City, their Bows bent in
Hands, with Sheafs of Arrows by their Sides; Pike Men in bright Corslets,
&c. Halbards, the like the Billmen in Almain Rivets, and Aprons of Mail in
A Marching Watch.
Almost 1000 Cressers light, for the Watch at Midsummer.
More than 240 Constables in London, the one half of them each Night went in the marching Watch, the other half kept their standing Watch in every Street and Lane.
There were also divers Pageants, Morris Dancers, Constables; the one half which
120, on St. John's Eve, the other half on Saint Peter's Eve, in bright Harness,
over Gilt, and every one a Jornet of Scarlet thereupon, and a Chain of Gold, his
Man following him, his Minstrels before him, and his Cresset Light passing by
Waits of the City, the Maiors Officers, for his Guard before him, all in a
Woosted or Sea Jackets, party coloured; the Maior himself well mounted on
Horseback, the Sword Bearer before him in fair Armour, well mounted also; the
Foot Men, and the like Torch Bearers about him; Hench Men twain, upon great
Horses following him. The Sheriffs Watches came one after the other in like
not so large in Number as the Maiors: for where the Maior had, besides his
Pageants, each of the Sheriffs had besides their Giants, but two Pageants; each
Morris Dance, and one Hench Man, their Officers in Jackets of Woosted, or Sea
coloured, differing from the Maiors, and each from other, but having harnessed
great many, &c.
The Maior on the Watch.
This Midsummer Watch was thus accustomed Yearly, time out of Mind, until the
1539, the 31st of Henry the Eighth; in which Year, on the 8th of May, a great
was made by the Citizens at the Miles End, all in bright Harness, with Coats of
Silk or Cloth, and Chains of Gold, in three great Battels to the Number of
which passed thorough London to Westminster, and so through the Sanctuary, and
round about the Park of St. James, and returned home through Oldborn.
A great Muster at London.
King Henry then considering the great Charges of the Citizens, for the Furniture
unusual Muster, forbad the marching Watch provided for at Midsummer for that
which being once laid down; was not raised again till the Year 1548, the Second
Edward the Sixth, Sir John Gresham then being Maior, who caused the Marching
Watch, both on the Eve of St. John Baptist, and of St. Peter the Apostle, to be
and set forth, in as comely order as it had been accustomed; Which Watch was
Beautified by the Number of more than 300 Demilances and light Horse men,
by the Citizens to be sent into
Midsummer Watch renewed.