12-18 January 1415: Guns, Shipbuilding, Calais and the North of England


By Dan Spencer

This week saw multiple payments relating to guns, shipbuilding, victuals for Calais and the defence of the north of England given out on 17 January.

Work continued apace on the royal artillery for the expedition, with Master William Gunner paid £14 13s 4d for constructing a gun. It is likely that the piece constructed by William was a large iron gun, later known as a bombard, which would have been used to fire heavy gunstones to break down walls. These types of weapons were used at the siege of Harfleur later this year. A further £5 14s 4d was paid to William Woodward, founder of the city of London, for purchasing gunpowder for the stores of the king. Gunpowder (nowadays referred to as black powder) was made from mixing saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal. Charcoal was in abundance in England, but saltpetre had to be imported from abroad from as far afield as India, whereas sulphur was often sourced from Sicily.

At Southampton, construction work was ongoing on a new ship of the king called the Holy Ghost of the Tower, which was supervised by William Soper. This included an unspecified payment to a Richard Smith for 13s 4d, as well as £4 13s 4d paid for the purchase of wood and for the painting of swans, antelopes and coats of arms on the ship. The Holy Ghost of the Tower did not take part in the 1415 expedition as it was not completed until the following year.

In addition to this, payments were made for supplying Calais with victuals, with £93 6s 8d allocated for that purpose. The arable land in the Pale of Calais was too small to fully provide for the needs of the large garrison, which meant that supplies of food and drink had to be provided by merchants, mostly from the south-east of England such as Kent. A further £10 13s 4d was given to Roger Salvayn, treasurer of Calais, for the purchase of gunstones for the artillery of the town.

Attention was also paid to meeting the expenses of the defence of the border with Scotland. John Neville, keeper of Carlisle, was given £312 10s for the wages of the soldiers stationed there, whereas Edward, Duke of York, was paid £423 6s 8d for the wages of the garrison of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

This information came from The National Archives, E403/619 m.10, 11; David Grummitt, The Calais Garrison: War and Military Service in England, 1436-1558 (Woodbridge:  The Boydell Press, 2008), pp. 157-9; Richmond, C., F., ‘The Keeping of the Seas during the Hundred Years War:  1422-1440’, History, 49 (1964), p. 286

Image of wrought iron gun, taken from Wikipedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike licence, author PHGCOM