An array of Arms before the Constable 1355

NANMA have recently developed a new Living History portrayal based around the View of Arms in the City of Norwich, dated to 1355. This 'View of Arms' document, written in latin, dating to the 27th July 1355, in the 29th year of Kind Edward III’s reign, shows men of Norwich assembling in armour and with weapons, before the Justices of the lord King, headed by Sir John Bardolf of Wermegeie.

The men were reviewed in 4 distinct groups based on the leets where they lived. [A modern equivalent would be the wards understood from voting at elections.] These districts were Conesford, Wymer, Mancroft and Over the Water, with Conesford being further subdivided into a 'sub' leet called Berstrete.

Each leet was expected to provide 100 men under a captain, subdivided into groups of 20. These were led by a junior ‘officer’ called a vintenar. There are few archers, most ordinary men having just staff and dagger, the minimum requirement. Even the staff might mean a bill, or spiked club, or simple spear – the scribe who wrote the roll had little time for accurate description.

We are able to reconstruct these men [and women] down to such fine detail as their names , equipment, and colour of clothing issued. Later rolls show the men being issued with coats and hoods of red and white cloth; we infer that this was 50/50 split vertically.

These Rolls bring to light some interesting facts from the period just after the Black Death, and prior to the Peasants Revolt of 1381.

William Skie was the Constable, and was armed with a Coat of Plates [body armour], a bascinet [helmet], with visor and aventail [collar of mail], arms and gauntlets [type unknown – could be maille or plate protection.

Some of the more fanciful names of the men arrayed include the pungent Hamo Garlicman, the Midday brothers, Peter Dull, Elyas & Semman Botman, and Benedict Ankersmith. There is also a lady present, Petronilla de Bokenham who is widowed and takes her husbands place, armed with knife and staff.

Two leading citizens of Norwich, Adam of Poryglond and John Spicer both are accompanied by gunners with powder. This was certainly new technology at the time, gunpowder weaponry only making an appearance in 1328 into England.