23 February-1 March 1415: The Safeguard of the Sea, the Construction of Bows and the Defence of Calais, Gascony and the North of England

Roxburgh Castle

By Dan Spencer

This week saw numerous payments made for the safeguard of the sea, the construction of bows, as well as for the defence of Calais, Gascony and the north of England.

On 26 February 1415, a payment of £66 13s 4d was issued to Sir Robert Umfraville, Keeper of Roxburgh Castle, for the wages of soldiers stationed there. Roxburgh was a one of three places permanently garrisoned by the English on the Scottish border, the others being Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was therefore an important location which was considered crucial to the defence of the north of England. The number of soldiers in the garrison varied over time, consisting of eighty-eight men in 1381-2 and 132 men in 1401. An inventory of 1410-1411, reveals that the stockpile of weaponry at the castle included four guns, nine basinets (helmets), four ventailles (mail attached to a helmet to protect the neck), three bows, four garbs of arrows and four crossbows. A survey of 1416 did serious defects in the defences of the castle, which were considered in urgent need of repair, but the garrison was able to beat off a Scottish attack the following year.

The next day nine payments totalling £1761 3s were handed over for the wages of sailors and soldiers hired for the safeguard of the sea. It is unclear whether this activity was a result of, or pre-dated the decision to employ twelve ships for naval defence in the council meeting which occurred earlier in the same month. This included payments issued to John Burgh, esquire, for 10 men-at-arms and twenty archers, Hugh Standish for twenty men-at-arms and sixty archers, and to Gilbert, Lord Talbot, for the wages of 120 men-at-arms and 240 archers. In addition to this, eighty sailors, fifty men-at-arms and 100 archers were retained at the port of Kingston-upon-Hull. A Peter and six other masters of ships, were also paid for the wages of 234 sailors in seven ships. These ships were hired to transport the retinues of Sir Thomas Carew, John Clifford, esquire and Robert Rothington, esquire, comprising ninety-seven men-at-arms and two hundred archers, which were gathered at Dartmouth in Devon. Some of these men later took part in the Agincourt campaign, such as Thomas Carew, who indented to serve with eleven men-at-arms and twenty-four archers. None of the men in his retinue fought in the battle, however, as they were stationed in Harfleur after its capture.

A payment was also made at this time to William Clifford, Keeper of Fronsac Castle, for the wages of £666 13s 4d. This was a strategic castle in the Duchy of Gascony which, unlike most fortifications in the territory, had an English garrison receiving wages directly from the Exchequer. A Henry Bower and other unspecified bowyers were also paid £10 for making bows.

An additional sum of £2,000 was also given to a Richard Clitherowe, esquire, for the hire of ships from Holland and Zealand. These vessels were necessary to supplement the English ships already being collected in the ports, which would transport the royal army to France later the same year. The defence of Calais was also provided for on this day, with £300 given to the treasurer, Roger Salvayn, for the wages of the garrison of Guínes Castle. A further £133 6s 8d was also handed over for the purchase of victuals, in addition to £8 19s 4d for a Hans Gunner retained by the king by indenture to look after the royal guns at Calais. The following day, Salvayn received the evener larger sum of £1,682 3s 9d for the wages of soldiers. For more information on the Calais garrison click here.

This information came from The National Archives, E403/619 m. 12, 13; E101/45/5 m.8; E101/47/15; Dan Spencer, ‘Adapting to New Technology: Roxburgh Castle and the Scottish Marches’, Emergence, 6 (2014), pp. 1-4, available from https://www.academia.edu/8598431/Adapting_to_New_Technology_Roxburgh_Castle_and_the_Scottish_Marches

Image of Roxburgh Castle, taken from Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, author Steve Kent, www.geograph.org.uk/photo/163364