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SETTING THE WATCH IN LONDON
extraordinary virtues are attributed, Here deprivation, it is said, marks the sense of and there are heaps of stones, around some a dignitary of the church respecting this of which appear great numbers of people annual ceremony.* running with as much speed as possible ; around
others, crowds of worshippers kneel with bare legs and feet as an indispensable
Ancient Custom of part of the penance. The men, without coats, with handkerchiefs on their heads
on St. John's Eve. instead of hats, having gone seven times round each heap, kiss the ground, cross
The curfew-bell, commanded by Wilthemselves, and proceed to the hill; here liam Conquerour to be nightly rưng at they ascend on their bare knees, by a path eight of the clock, as a warning, or comso steep and rugged that it would be diffi- mand, that all people should then put out cult to walk up: many hold their hands their fires and lights, was continued clasped at the back of their necks, and se
throughout the realm till the time of veral carry large stones on their heads. Henry the First, when Stow says, that Having repeated this ceremony seven
it followed, “ by reason of warres within times, they go to what is called St. the realme, that many men gave themPatrick's chair, which are two great flat selves to robbery and murders in the stones fixed upright in the hill; here they night.” Stow then recites from an ancient cross and bless themselves as they step in chronicler, Roger Hoveden, that in the between these stones, and while repeating yeare 1175, during the time of a council prayers, an old man, seated for the
held at Nottingham, a brother of the earle pose, turns them round on their feet three Ferrers, was in the night privily slaine times, for which he is paid ; the devotee at London, and thrown out of his inne then goes to conclude his penance at a
into the durty street; when the king unpile of stones named the altar. While derstood thereof he sware that he would this busy scene of superstition is continued be revenged on the citizens. It was then by the multitude, the wells, and streams a common practice in this city, that a issuing from them, are thronged by crowds hundred or more in a company, young of halt, maimed, and blind, pressing to
and old, would make nightly invasions wash away their infirmities with water upon houses of the wealthy, to the intent consecrated by their patron saint; and so
to rob them; and if they found any man powerful is the impression of its efficacy stirring in the city within the night, that on their minds, that many of those who go were not of their crue, they would preto be healed, and who are not totally sently murder him: insomuch, that when blind, or altogether crippled, really believe night was come, no man durst adventure for a time that they are by means of its to walk in the streets. When this had miraculous virtues perfectly restored. continued long, it fortuned, that a crue These effects of a heated imagination are
of young and wealthy citizens assembling received as unquestionable miracles, and together in the night, assaulted a stone are propagated with abundant exaggera- house of a certaine rich man, and breaktion.*
ing through the wall, the good man of The annual resort of the ignorant por- other in a corner, when hee perceived one
that house having prepared himself with tion of our Roman Catholic countrymen, of the theeves, named Andrew Bucquint, was never so numerously attended as iš
to lead the way, with a burning brand in has been during the late anniversary of the one hand, and a pot of coles in the this festival, in 1825. The extent of the other, which hee assaied to kindle with number of strangers from very remote the brand, he flew upon him, and smote parts of the country was unprecedented. off his right hand, and then with a loud The usual ablutions, penances, and mi
voyce cryed theeves.' At the hearing raculous results, were performed, and whereof, the theeves took their flight, ali atiested by the devotees, who experienced saving he that had lost his hand, whom some disappointment in not having the the good man (in the next morning) accustomed arch-officiater to consummate delivered to Richard de Lucie, the king's the observances by thrice revolving the
ustice. This theefe, upon warrant of his votary in the chair of St. Patrick. This
* Bellasi Chro:.icle.
* Hibernian Magazine, July, 1817. No. 27.
life, appeached his confederates, of whom flowers, had also lamps of glasse, with many were taken, and many were fled. oyle burning in them all the night; some Among the rest that were apprehended, a hung out branches of iron curiously certaine citizen of great countenance, wrought, containing hurdreds of lamps credit, and wealth, named John Senex, lighted at once, which made a goodly who for as much he could not acquit shew, narnely in new Fish-street, Thameshimselfe by the water-doome (as that law street, &c. was then tearmed) hee offered to the king “ Then had ye, besides the standing five hundred pounds of silver for his life. watches, all in bright harnesse, in every But forasmuch as he was condemned by ward and street of this city and suburbs, a judgement of the water, the king would marching watch, that passed through the not take the offer, but commanded him to principall streets thereof, to wit, from the be hanged on the gallowes, which was
little conduit by Paul's gate, through done, and then the city became more West Cheape, by the Stocks, through quiet for a long time after.”
Cornehill, by Leadenhall to Aldgate, then It appears that the city of London was backe down Fen-church-street, by Grassesubject to these disorders till 1253, when church, about Grasse-church conduit, and Henry III. commanded watches to be up Grasse-church-street into Cornhill, and kept in the cities, and borough towns, through it into West Cheape again, and for the preservation of the peace; and
so broke up. this king further ordained “ that if any “ The whole way ordered for this marchman chanced to be robbed, or by any ing watch, extended to three thousand means damnified, by any theefe or robber, two hundred taylors' yards of assize ; for he to whom the charge of keeping that the furniture whereof with lights, there county, city, or borough, chiefly apper- were appointed seven hundred cressets, tained, where the robbery was done, five hundred of them being found by the should competently restore the losse.” companies, the other two hundred by the
This origin of the present nightly watch chamber of London. Besides the which in London was preceded by other popular lights, every constable in London, in customs, or they rather, it may be said, number more than two hundred and forty, assisted in its formation." In the months had his cresset : the charge of every of June and July, on the vigils of festivall cresset was in light two shillings foure dayes, and on the same festivall dayes in pence, and every cresset had two men, the evenings, after the sun-setting, there one to beare or hold it, another to beare a were usually made bone-fires in the bag with light, and to serve it: so that the streets, every man bestowing wood or poore men pertaining to the cressets, labour towards them. The wealthier sort taking wages, (besides that every one had also before their doores, neere to the said a strawen hat, with a badge painted, and bone-fires, would set out tables on the his breakfast in the morning,) amounted vigils, furnished with sweete bread, and in number to almost two thousand. good drinke, and on the festivall dayes “ The marching watch contained in with meats and drinkes plentifully, number two thousand men, part of them whereunto they would invite their neigh- being old souldiers, of skill to bee capbours and passengers also to sit, and be taines, lieutenants, serjeants, corporals, &c. merry with them in great familiarity, wifflers, drummers, and fifes, standard praysing God for his benefits bestowed on and ensigne-bearers, sword-players, trumthem. These were called bone-fires, as peters on horsebacke, demilaunces on well of amity amongst neighbours, that great horses, gunners with hand-guns, or being before at controversie, were there by halfe hakes, archers in cotes of white fusthe labour of others reconciled, and made tian, signed on the breste and backe with of bitter enemies, loving friends; as also the armes of the city, their bowes bent in for the vertue that a great fire hath, to their hands, with sheafes of arrowes by purge the infection of the ayre.
their sides, pike-men in bright corslets, “On the vigil of St. John Baptist, burganets, &c., holbards, the like billand on Sts. Peter and Paul the apostles, men in almaine rivets, and aperns of every man's doore being shaddowed with mayle in great number. greene birch, long fennel, St. John's « There were also divers pageants, and wort, orpin, white lilies, and such like, morris dancers attendant on the setting of garnished upon with garlands of beautifull this marching watch.
were divided into two parties; one halfe 1585, “ a booke was drawne by a grave consisting of one hundred and twenty, citizen, (John Mountgomery,) and by were appointed on St. John's eve, the him dedicated to sir Tho. Pullison, then other halfe on St. Peter's eve.” They 1. maior, and his brethren the aldermen, were “in bright harnesse, some over-gilt, containing the manner and order of á and every one a jornet of scarlet there- marching watch in the citie, upon the upon and a chaine of gold, his hench-man accustomed; in commendation following him, his minstrels before him, whereof, namely, in times of peace to be and his cresset light passing by him.” In used, he hath words to this effect : ' The the procession were the waytes of the artificers of sundry sorts were thereby city, the maiors officers, for his guard well set aworke, none but rich men before bim, all in a livery of wosted, or charged, poor men helped, old souldiers, say jackets, party coloured; the maior trumpeters, drummers, fifes, and enginehimselfe well mounted on horseback, the bearers, with such like men meet for the sword-bearer before him in faire armour, prince's service, kept in use, wherein the well mounted also, the maiors foot-men, safety and defence of every common-weale and the like torch-bearers about him; consisteth. Armour and weapons being hench-men twaine, upon great stirring yeerely occupied in this wise, the citizens horses following him. The sheriffes had of their owne readily prepared for watches came one after the other in like any neede, whereas, by intermission order, but not so large in number as the hereof, armorers are out of worke, soulmaiors : for whereas the maior had, diers out of use, weapons overgrowne besides his giant, three pageants, each of with foulnesse, few or none good being the sheriffes had, besides their giants, but provided,'” &c. Notwithstanding these two pageants; each their morris-dance, plausible grounds, the practice was disand one hench-man, their officers in continued. jackets of wosted, or say, party-coloured, There can be little doubt that so great differing from the maiors, and each from an array of armed citizens, was not only other, but having harnessed men a great viewed with distrust by the government, many, &c. This Midsummer watch was but had become of so great charge to the thus accustomed yeerely, time out of corporation, that it was found mutually minde, untill the yeere 1539, the thirty- convenient to substitute a less expensive first of Henry the Eighth, in which yeere, and less warlike body to watch and ward on the eighth of May, a great muster was the city's safety. The splendour wherein made by the citizens at the Miles end, all it was annually set forth was, however, a in bright harnesse, with coats of white goodly sight, and attracted the curiosity silke or cloth, and chaines of gold, in of royalty itself, for we find that on St. three great battels, to the number of John's eve, in 1510, king Henry VIII. fifteen thousand, which passed thorow came to the King's-head, in Cheap, in London to Westminster, and so through the livery of a yeoman of the guard, with the sanctuary, and round about the parke a halbert on his shoulder, and there, in of St. James, and returned home thorow that disguise, beheld the watch till it had Oldborne."
passed, and was so gratified with the In that year, 1539, king Henry VIII. show, that “on St. Peter's night next forbid this muster of armed men, and following, he and the queen came royally prohibited the marching watch altogether, riding to the sayd place, and there, with and it was disused “til the yeere 1548.” their nobles, beheld the watch of the city, When sir John Gresham, then lord and returned in the morning."*
In 1519, mayor, revived the marching watch, both Christern, king of Denmark, and his on the eve of St. John the baptist, and of queen, being then in England, were conSt. Peter the apostle, and set it forth, in ducted to the King's-head, in Cheap, order as before had been accustomed; there to see the watch. “ which watch was also beautified by the On taking leave of the old London the number of more than three hundred watch, on St. John's eve, a remark or demilances and light-horsemen, prepared two may be made respecting their lights. by the citizens to be sent into Scotland, for the rescue of the town of Haddington.” After that time the marching watch again fell into disuse; yet, in the year
or it was a light from combustibles, in a Cüncerning the cressets or lights of the hollow pan. It was rendered portable by watch, this may be observed by way of being placed on a pole, and so carried explanation.
from place to place. Mr. Douce, in his The cresset light was formed of a “ Illustrations of Shakspeare,” gives the wreathed rope smeared with pitch, and following four representations from old placed in a cage of iron, like a trivet prints and drawings of suspended on pivots, in a kind of fork;
Marching Watch of London. Mr. Douce imagines the word cresset “ Watch Wart, and keepe thy Garments to have been derived from the French
tight, word croiset, a cruet or earthen pot.
For I come thiefe-like at Midnight." When the cresset light was stationary Whereto Ward answers the injunction, to it served as a beacon, or answered the watch, in the lines following :purpose of a fixed lamp, and in this way our ancestors illuminated or lighted up
All-seeing, never-slumbering LORD; their streets. There is a volume of ser
Be thou my Watch, Ile be thy WARD. mons, by Samuel Ward, printed 1617-24, Ward's “ lamp, or beacon,” is transwith a wood-cut frontispiece, representing ferred from his frontispiece to the next two of these fixed cressets or street-lamps, column, in order to show wherein our with verses between them, in relation to ancient standing lamps differed from the his name and character, as a faithful present. watchman. In the first lines old Ward is addressed thus :
as they have; some pit os, some muskets, calivers, or other guns, some partisans, holberts, and such as have armour send their servants in their armour. The number of these are yearly almost two hundred, who, at sun-setting, meet oo the Row, the most open part of the town, where the mayor's serjeant at mace gives them an oath, the tenor whereof followeth, in these words : “They shall well and truly keep this town till to-morrow at the sun-rising; you shall come into no house without license, or cause reasonable. Of all manner of casualties, of fire, of crying of children, you shall due warning make to the parties, as the case shall require you. You shall due search make of all manner of affrays, bloud-sheds, outcrys, and of all other things that be suspected,' &c.
Which done, they all march in orderly array through the principal parts of the town, and then they are sorted into several companies, and designed to several parts of the town, where they are to keep the watch until the sun dismiss them in the morning. In this business the fashion is for
every watchman to wear a garland, made in the fashion of a crown imperial, bedeck'u with flowers of various kinds, some natural, some artificial, bought and kept for that purpose; as also ribbans, jewels, and, for the better garnishing whereof, the townsmen use the day before to ransack the gardens of all the gentlemen
within six or seven miles about NottingAn Old Beacon,
ham, besides what the town itself affords
them, their greatest ambition being to Standing Lamp. outdo one another in the bravery of their It will be seen from this engraving garlands."* So pleasant a sight must that the person, whose business it was to have been reluctantly parted with; and “ watch and trim the lamp, did not accordingly in another place we find that
this Midsummer show was held at a much ascend for that purpose by a ladder, as the gas-lighters do our gas-lamps, or as
later period than at Nottingham, and the lamp-lighter did the oil-lamps which with more pageantry in the procession. they superseded, but by climbing the
St. John's Eve Watch at Chester. pole, hand and foot, by means of the projections on each side.
The annual setting of the watch on St
John's eve, in the city of Chester, was an St. John's Eve Watch at Nottingham.
affair of great moment. By an ordinance The practice of setting the watch, at of the mayor, aldermen, and common Nottingham; on St. John's eve, was main- councilmen of that corporation, dated in tained until the reign of Charles I., the the year 1564, and preserved among the the manner whereof is thus described :
Harleian MSS, in the British Museum, a “ In Nottingham, by an ancient custom, pageant which is expressly said to be they keep yearly a general watch every dained to consist of four giants, one uni
according to ancient custom,” is orMidsummer eve at night, to which every inhabitant of any ability sets forth a man, corn, one dromedary, one camel, one as well voluntaries as those who are luce, one dragon, and six hobby-horses charged with arms, with such munition
* Deering's Nottingham