Index to Stow's original Survey of London written in 1598
William Conqueror commanded that in every town and village, a bell should be nightly rung at eight o’clock, 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 reign, and the reign of William Rufus. But Henry I., restoring to his subjects the use of fire and lights, as afore; it followeth, by reason of wars within the realm, that many men also gave themselves to robbery and murders in the night; for example whereof in this city Roger Hoveden writeth thus:—“In the year 1175, council was kept at Nottingham; in time of which council a brother of the Earl Ferrers being in the night privily slain at London, and thrown out of his inn into the dirty street, when the king understood thereof, he swore that he would be avenged on the citizens. For it was then (saith mine author) a common practice in the city, that a hundred 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 crew, 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 crew of young and wealthy citizens, assembling together in the night, assaulted a stone house of a certain rich man, and breaking through the wall, the good man of that house, having prepared himself with others in a corner, when he perceived one of the thieves named Andrew Bucquint to lead the way, with a burning brand in the one hand, and a pot of coals in the other, which he essayed to kindle with the brand, he flew upon him, and smote off his right hand, and then with a loud voice cried ‘Thieves!’ at the hearing whereof the thieves took their flight, all saving he that had lost his hand, whom the good man in the next morning delivered to Richard de Lucie, the king’s justice. This thief, upon warrant of his life, appeached his confederates, of whom many were taken, and many were fled. Among the rest that were apprehended, a certain citizen of great countenance, credit, and wealth, named John Senex, who forasmuch as he could not acquit himself by the water dome, as that law was then, he offered to the king five hundred pounds of silver for his life; but forasmuch as he was condemned by judgment of the water, the king would not take the offer, but commanded him to be hanged on the gallows, 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 year 1253, Henry III. commanded watches in the 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 chanced to 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 use of Savoy, but yet thought more hard to be observed here than in those parts; and, therefore, leaving those laborious watches, I will speak of our pleasures and pastimes 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 bonfires in the streets, every man bestowing wood or labour towards them; the wealthier sort also, before their doors near to the said bonfires, would set out tables on the vigils, furnished with sweet bread and good drink, and on the festival days with meats and drinks plentifully, whereunto they would invite their neighbours and passengers also to sit and be merry with them in great familiarity, praising God for his benefits bestowed on them. These were called bonfires as well of good amity amongst neighbours that being before at controversy, were there, by the labour of others, reconciled, and made of bitter enemies loving friends; and also for the virtue that a great fire hath to purge the infection of the air. On the vigil of St. John the Baptist, and on St. Peter and Paul the apostles, every man’s door being shadowed with green birch, long fennel, St. John’s wort, orpin, white lilies, and such like, garnished upon with garlands of beautiful flowers, had also lamps of glass, with oil burning in them all the night; some hung out branches of iron curiously wrought, containing hundreds of lamps alight at once, which made a goodly show, namely in New Fish street, Thames street, etc. Then had ye besides the standing watches all in bright harness, in every ward and street of this city and suburbs, a marching watch, that passed through the principal streets thereof, to wit, from the little conduit by Paule’s gate to West Cheape, by the stocks through Cornhill, by Leaden hall to Aldgate, then back down Fenchurch street, by Grasse church, about Grasse church conduit, and up Grasse church street into Cornhill, and through it into West Cheape again. The whole way for this marching watch extendeth to three thousand two hundred tailor’s yards of assize; for the furniture whereof with lights, there were appointed seven hundred cressets, five hundred of them being found by the companies, the other two hundred by the chamber of London. Besides the which lights every constable in London, in number more than two hundred and forty, had his cresset: the charge of every cresset was in light two shillings and four pence, and every cresset had two men, one to bear or hold it, another to bear a bag with light, and to serve it, so that the poor men pertaining to the cressets, taking wages, besides that every one had a straw hat, with a badge painted, and his breakfast in the mornings amounted in number to almost two thousand. The marching watch contained in number about two thousand men, part of them being old soldiers of skill, to be captains, lieutenants, serjeants, corporals, etc., wiflers, drummers, and fifes, standard and ensign bearers, sword players, trumpeters on horseback, demilances on great horses, gunners with hand guns, or half hakes, archers in coats of white fustian, signed on the breast and back with the arms of the city, their bows bent in their hands, with sheaves of arrows by their sides, pike-men in bright corslets, burganets, etc., halberds, the like bill-men in almaine rivets, and apernes of mail in great number; there were also divers pageants, morris dancers, constables, the one-half, which was one hundred and twenty, on St. John’s eve, the other half on St. Peter’s eve, in bright harness, some overgilt, and every one a jornet of scarlet thereupon, and a chain of gold, his henchman following him, his minstrels before him, and his cresset light passing by him, the waits of the city, the mayor’s officers for his guard before him, all in a livery of worsted, or say jackets party-coloured, the mayor himself well mounted on horseback, the swordbearer before him in fair armour well mounted also, the mayor’s footmen, and the like torch bearers about him, henchmen twain upon great stirring horses, following him. The sheriffs’ watches came one after the other in like order, but not so large in number as the mayor’s; for where the mayor had besides his giant three pageants, each of the sheriffs had besides their giants but two pageants, each their morris dance, and one henchman, their officers in jackets of worsted or say, party-coloured, differing from the mayor’s, and each from other, but having harnessed men a great many, etc.
This midsummer watch was thus accustomed yearly, time out of mind, until the year 1539, the 31st of Henry VIII., in which year, on the 8th of May, a great muster was made by the citizens at the Mile’s end, all in bright harness, with coats of white silk, or cloth and chains of gold, in three great battles, to the number of fifteen thousand, which passed through London to Westminster, and so through the Sanctuary, and round about the park of St. James, and returned home through Oldborne. King Henry, then considering the great charges of the citizens for the furniture of this unusual muster, forbad the marching watch provided for at Midsummer for that year, which being once laid down, was not raised again till the year 1548, the 2nd of Edward VI., Sir John Gresham then being mayor, who caused the marching watch, both on the eve of St. John the Baptist and of St. Peter the Apostle, to be revived and set forth in as comely order as it hath been accustomed, which watch was also beautified by the number of more than three hundred demilances and light horsemen, prepared by the citizens to be sent into Scotland for the rescue of the town of Hadington, and others kept by the Englishmen. Since this mayor’s time, the like marching watch in this city hath not been used, though some attempts have been made thereunto; as in the year 1585, a book was drawn by a grave citizen, and by him dedicated to Sir Thomas Pullison, then lord mayor, and his brethren the aldermen, containing the manner and order of a marching watch in the city 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 thereby well set a-work, none but rich men charged, poor men helped, old soldiers, trumpeters, drummers, fifes, and ensign-bearers, with such like men, meet for princes’ service, kept in ure, wherein the safety and defence of every common weal consisteth. Armour and weapon being yearly occupied in this wise, the citizens had of their own readily prepared for any need; whereas by intermission hereof, armourers are out of work, soldiers out of pay, weapons overgrown with foulness, few or none good being provided,” etc.
In the month of August, about the feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, before the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs of London, placed in a large tent near unto Clarkenwell, of old time, were divers days spent in the pastime of wrestling, where the officers of the city, namely, the sheriffs, sergeants, and yeomen, the porters of the king’s beam or weigh-house, now no such men, and other of the city, were challengers of all men in the suburbs, to wrestle for games appointed, and on other days, before the said mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs, in Fensburie field, to shoot the standard, broad arrow, and flight, for games; but now of late years the wrestling is only practised on Bartholomew’s day in the afternoon, and the shooting some three or four days after, in one afternoon, and no more. What should I speak of the ancient daily exercises in the long bow by citizens of this city, now almost clean left off and forsaken?—I overpass it; for by the mean of closing in the common grounds, our archers, for want of room to shoot abroad, creep into bowling alleys, and ordinary dicing houses, nearer home, where they have room enough to hazard their money at unlawful games; and there I leave them to take their pleasures.