The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 2

Allen, Thomas


The Honourable Artillery Company.


The artillery company of London had its origin in the reign of Henry VIII. This monarch, who was fond of archery, and saw with much pleasure that it was a favourite exercise with the citizens, thought that if the archers were organized into a regular company, they might be rendered much more effective. With this view, and in order to encourage archery, he issued his royal letters patent for the formation of the honourable artillery company.

This royal ordinance, which is dated the , grants to

Sir Crystofer Morres, knt. master of the ordnance, Anthony Knevett and Peter Mewtes, gentlemen of the privy chamber, and overseers of the fraternity or guild of St. George, that they shall be overseers of the science of artillery, namely, of long bows, cross-bows, and hand guns; and that the said Sir Crystofer Morres, Cornelys Johnson, Anthony Knevett, and Henry Johnson, shall be masters and rulers of the said science of artillery, during their lives.

The patent grants authority to them and their successors, being Englishmen or denizens,

to begyn, founde, edefye, make, ordeygn, gadre, knytte, and establyshe, a certeyn perpetuall fraternytye of Saint George.

Power was given


them to admit all manner of honest persons, strangers as well as others, into a body corporate, having perpertual succession, by the name of the

maysters, and rulers, and commynaltye, of the fraternytye or guylde of artyllary, of long bowes, cross bowes, and hand gonnes.

The society might elect under masters or rulers, either English or strangers, of good character, to oversee and govern the company, and to have the custody of their property, real and personal, and had the usual power granted to corporations, that of purchasing lands and using a common seal, with some peculiar privileges.

The fraternity was empowered to form their own laws for their governance, and change them at their pleasure. They were authorized to exercise themselves with shooting at all manner of marks and butts, and at the game of the popynjaye, an artificial parrot, frequently set up as a mark to be shot at; nor did their privileges terminate here. The fraternity of St. George had a full letterof licence to shoot at the fowl or fowls in the city of London and its suburbs, and in all other places in England, Ireland, Calais, and the marches of Wales, with the exception of the royal forests, chases, and parks. They were also precluded from shooting at herons and pheasants, within a circuit of miles of the royal residence for the time being.

The privileges of this fraternity afforded a great protection for bad marksmen, for if any of them, shooting at a known and accustomed butt, should kill any passenger, he should not be impeached, or troubled for it, if he had, previous to his shooting, spoken the usual word


The fraternity were exempted from the usual laws for regulating costume, and might use any sort of embroidery, or any cognizance of silver they should think properon their gowns and jackets, coats, or doublets, and to use them in any kind of silk or velvet, satin or damask, of any colour except scarlet and purple; all sorts of furs, not above that of martyns, were also free for their use. The masters and wardens were exempted from serving on any inquest within the city of London, or any where else within the realm, their servants were allowed to carry their weapons, but were deprived of the privilege of their masters, that of shooting at the fowl.

The old Artillery-ground, which, in the time of the Romans, was their , and had long been used by the London archers to exercise their skill in arms, had become a part of the land attached to the convent of St. Mary Spital, and on the suppression of the monasteries, William Major, the last prior, on , leased it to the

fraternity of artillery in great and small ordnance,

(or gunners of the Tower,) who erected a mound of earth for a butt, and every Thursday practised in firing brass cannon.

of the most important advantages derived from the


establishment of the artillery company, was, that it formed a sort of school where military exercises were taught.

Stow says,



years before, (


) certaine gallant, active, and forward citizens, having had experience both abroad and at home, voluntarily exercised themselves, and trayned uppe others, for the ready use of warre, so as within


years there was almost


hundreth marchants, and others of like quality, very sufficient and skilfull to traine and teach common souldiers the managing of their peeces, pikes, and holbards, to march, countermarch, and ring; which said marchants, for their owne perfection in military affayres and discipline, met every Tuesday in the year, practicing all usuall poynts of warre, and every man by turn bare orderly office, from the corporal to the captain; some of them this yeare had charge of men in the great Campe [at Tilbury] and were generally called

captaines of the Artillery Garden.

The whole number of soldiers funished by the city to repel the invasion in was ; and it is somewhat remarkable, that -tenths of that body, together with men that had been supplied by the county, were all included in the army appointed to guard her majesty's person; the other of the city troops were sent to the camp at Tilbury.

In the subsequent reign, the Artillery-ground became still more a military academy, where an armoury was erected, in which stand of arms of beautiful workmanship were deposited, which were all lost, during the civil wars. Their captain, during a part of those affrighted times, was a Mr. Manby, who irrecoverably detained, for his own purposes, the arms, plate, money, books, and other goods of the company. The protector was in vain solicited to enforce their being restored. Citizens unconnected with the artillery company, repaired to this place, to learn how to defend themselves and their country: and several country gentlemen, as already stated, here learnt the rudiments of the military art, in order to qualify themselves to train the levies in the country.

The artillery company, though acting under a patent of Henry the , had now become more regularly incorporated by a charter of James the , dated the , in which he states, that the artillery company

had not only bred and increased a great force and strength, towards the maintenance, defence and safety of the realm,

but also

a fear and terror to all other realms and foreign enemies, in times of war and hostility.

The principal object of the charter of king James, was to protect to the company the free exercise of arms, in the grounds appointed for that purpose, which had been invaded, and even the shooting


marks removed. A commission was therefore appointed to inquire into the subject, and to give to the company the privileges they had formerly enjoyed. The charter of James was long enforced, even so late as the year it was in operation, when a cowkeeper of the name of Pitfield, who had removed of the shooting marks, was compelled to replace it; and the company, in order to perpetuate the circumstance, had

Pitfield's Repentance

inscribed on the stone.

When the Artillery Garden was found too small for exercising the numerous bands of citizens who resorted there, a plot of ground was selected near , which Mr Leate, of the officers of the company, prepared for the purpose; and towards the close of the reign of James . it was determined that the artillery company, which now amounted to men, should remove to the New Artillery-garden, as it was called, and now known by the name of the Artillery-ground, where the company have for centuries mustered.

Charles . who in his youth had frequently honoured the artillery-company with joining in its exercises, appointed a commission, in , similar to that of his father, which was to prevent the fields from being so inclosed as to interrupt the

necessary and profitable exercise of shooting.

The corporation of the city of London seconded the patronage of his majesty; and in , after the artillery company had performed their exercises in Merchant-taylors' hall, before the lord mayor and aldermen, presented them with the Artillery-ground, as a field for their exercise; to which, years afterwards, was added, on a long lease, for the rent of and eightpence, acres of Bunhill Field.

Charles, whose early attachment to the company never forsook him, caused his sons to become members; and, in , the prince of Wales and duke of York, together with the count Palatine, enlisted into the honourable artillery company, without assuming any share of its government.

During the civil wars, the artillery company was much disorganized; but on a petition to Cromwell, in , it was revived, and for several years a festival was held at of the city halls, to celebrate its restoration. On these occasions the company had a field day, and then marched in procession to , where divine service was performed, and a sermon preached. These field days and festivals were kept up after the restoration, and frequently attended by the duke of York, who, in , was appointed captain-general of the company.

The Artillery Company was frequently augmented, and sometimes large numbers of the trained bands, the city auxiliaries, and the Tower-hamlets militia, were admitted without paying any fine; the society of archers was incorporated with the archers' division of the artillery company.



In the political dissensions which took place during the latter part of the reign of Charles . and the reign of James II. the artillery company could not entirely keep aloof, but they refused to abet the arbitrary designs of the monarch, and maintained the honour of the corps.

During the reign of William III. this company declined considerably, although the king honoured them with filling the office of captain-general himself; but the clamour at that time raised against standing armies, made the party even jealous of the artillery company.

From this period they have always enjoyed the favour of the sovereign, from their unshaken loyalty, and alacrity in lending their services on all occasions. His late majesty manifested a strong partiality to the company, and in ordered the commissioned officers of the trained bands to be incorporated with it, appointing at the same time the young prince of Wales captain-general, a rank which his majesty still continues to hold.

In all the momentary ebullitions of popular feeling during the late reign, the hon. artillery company were always found at their post, ready to maintain the peace of the metropolis; and although some misunderstanding at time occurred with the London militia, relative to the right of the latter to exercise in the Artillery-ground, yet it was soon settled by an honourable arrangement. In all the military preparations which have been noticed in a preceding article, the hon. artillery company took the lead; and in all reviews of volunteers by his majesty or his staff officers, the company takes the place on the right of the line.

The honourable artillery company is governed by a court of assistants, consisting of a president, vice-president, treasurer, colonel, lieutenant-colonel, and major; the lord mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs, for the time being, with elective assistants.

The company possesses the power of censuring, fining, or expelling members for gaming, swearing, being refractory, or for any offence which may be deemed derogatory to their character as citizens and soldiers. A register is kept of the acts and proceedings of the company; and the entry on record of a member being expelled is that of James Coney, for the singular and

unmanly action of biting off his wife's nose.

The costume of the artillery company has frequently varied, as well as their armour; but until the last years the pioneers carried a singular weapon, which it is probable was used by them from their establishment, and much resembled the

morning star,

which was much in use in Italy and in Wales in the century.

This company, at present, forms a regular battalion of infantry, consisting of a grenadier, light infantry, and hat divisions;


together with the matross division for the use of field pieces, presented in the year , by the city.

The of the ARTILLERY COMPANY are on a cross a lion passant guardant ; on a chief , a portcullis of the , between ostrich feathers of the . . A dexter arm in armour, embowed, , garnished , holding in a gauntlet a trailing pike, or leading , tasselled ; all between dragons wings expanded ar. each charged with a cross SUP- PORTERS. The dexter, a , his head and body in armour, his arms habited in , breeches stockings, shoes , holding in his dexter hand a pike; the sinister, a man , habited as the dexter, except the armour on the body; this having acoat of ; over his left shoulder, and under his right arm, a belt strung with cartouches in his sinister hand a musket erect, a resting-staff and match-rope, and at his side a scimitar, all .

Arma pacis fulcra.


[] Towards this, the chamber of London gave them £ 300.

[] Ellis's History of Shoreditch, p. 349.

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 Title Page
 CHAPTER I: History of London, from the Accession of William and Mary, to the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER II: History of London during the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER III: History of London from the Accession of George the Third, to the year 1780
 CHAPTER IV: History of London continued to the Union
 CHAPTER V: History of London from the Union to the Jubilee, 1809
 CHAPTER VI: History of London from the Jubilee to the Peace of 1814
 CHAPTER VII: History of London continued to the accession of George the Fourth
 CHAPTER VIII: Account of the Civil Government of the City by Portreves, Bailiffs, and Mayors, with a list of the latter...
 CHAPTER IX: An account of the Aldermen and Sheriffs, with a list of the latter
CHAPTER X: Lists and brief Accounts of the various Officers and Courts within the City
CHAPTER XI: Some account of the Ecclesiastical Government of the city of London, with a List and Biographical Notices of the Bishops of the see
CHAPTER XII: Some Account of the Military Government of London, and the Artillery Company
CHAPTER XIII: An Account of the twelve principal Companies of the City of London
CHAPTER XIV: An Account of the Companies of the City of London, alphabetically arranged
 CHAPTER XV: An Account of the River Thames
CHAPTER XVI: Historical and topographical account of London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and the Thames Tunnel
CHAPTER XVII: Topographical and Historical Account of the Tower of London