What items might a Medieval castle guard keep in their purse

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Stuart Quayle
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What items might a Medieval castle guard keep in their purse

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Hi folks

I am hoping some of you knowledgable souls can help me please:

As the title says, I am wondering what items, if any - (as they were probably poorly or infrequently paid or not paid at all in monetary terms) would a 14th century castle garrison soldier keep in thier waist purse?

Some obvious things which spring to mind are:

Simple rosary;
Wooden or bone dice for gambling/gaming;
Fire steel and flint;
Bone comb for picking out the fleas?!
Maybe the odd coin or two?

Is there anything obvious I have missed? Very grateful for any help.

Oh, and for future reference only - are there any good suppiers of the above type of assessories for Medieval military livinghistory?

Many thanks in advance for any/all help :)

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Stuart Q

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Post by davetmoneyer »

Hi ammount of coin dependends upon which part of 13th century black death inflation etc but in any case I can supply all of your coinage needs
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Post by Sir_John_Thomas »

maybe also a bit of leather thong, a couple of wooden buttons, and a small eating knife or horn spoon.
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Medieval possessions.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Dave and St. John, many thanks for the info.

Dave I am sending you an email, I want to buy some coins please.

All the best
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St. John?!

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Hee hee, just re-read my reply - "St. John"?! :shock: :? ... well you probably are a saint, but of course I meant Sir John :lol:

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Post by paul bennett »

you could always sit outside your house with a bill for 12 hours a night for a week and see what you need.
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Medieval purse items

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Hee hee, now that is a very logical suggestion Paul. Although the 'men in white coats' might pay me a visit if they saw me :wink:

The modern answer to that senario would probably be something like: mobile phone, MP3 player and Nintendo DS.

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Post by Sir_John_Thomas »

Now that Paul, is a bloody good idea, I would go with that idea :D

And you are more than welcome Master Quayle

And I would certainly recommend Dave the moneyer for the coins
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Post by Colin Middleton »

What kind of a castle garison are we talking about here? Garisoning Calais was a bit different from looking after Connisbrough Castle, sat quietly in the middle of England. Date could make quite a difference too, before the Black Death, you'll be getting more knights doing their fee work and after that, you're more-likley looking at the Household servants, who're just going about their daily business, probably on a skeleton staff.

Finding out who you'd be playing in that setting is a pretty difficult challenge, and I'm not getting very far with it!

Assuming 15th C, staffing a castle somewhere quiet in England, you're bastically looking at a Constable and a few household staff to keep him comfortable (these numbers shoot up if the lord comes to visit).

So, if we assume all the above and that you're a simple member of staff, you've got a weapon not too far away, should you need it, possibly a jack and sallet for you there too. You're waring your normal clothes and you'll have your purse with it's normal things in it. Most of the things that you listed are about right. You may have other odds and ends associated with your job, depending on what it is. The comb may be made of wood instead of bone (or maybe not) and you might not carry a flint and steel (they're close enough to fetch if you need them). You migh have a keep-sake from home (you're away from your family for a period).

As to money, the typical household servant (male) was paid around 6/- a year, plus food, accomodation and clothing. They may get 2d per day when working away from the house, in place of food and accomodation. They may also only be at that house for a few months at a time.

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

If you are "on duty" and in armour I don't think you would even carry a purse.
I don't know why they get taken onto battlefields as they are not a feature in contemporary illustraions.
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Post by Malvoisin »

Keys might be useful. :roll:
Money too, but how often did these people get paid? Not daily surely possibly not even weekly and even when they did get paid it may not even touch the purse but be passed straight onto the money lender! (as in my real life :( )

Oh and a bucket to wee in. :wink:
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I have a LH bag and a personal pouch, one with stuff I can show people the other with things like car keys and credit cards in it.
If I was portraying someone on guard (and i make a lovely camp guard dearie) I would carry neither.
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Post by Colin Middleton »

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:If you are "on duty" and in armour I don't think you would even carry a purse.
I don't know why they get taken onto battlefields as they are not a feature in contemporary illustraions.
That's one thing that's always puzzled me. Surely people on campaign carried money. If so, where did they leave it if they didn't carry a purse?

We get all these 'stories' of looting the dead, which presumes portable weath as well as armour, or people throwing their cash at pursuers to buy their safety. Also there seems to be a presumption of coins being found on battlefileds.

While these might all be re-enactorisms, it's also possible, that the artists just forgot to draw the purses. It's not like modern artists don't make dumb mistakes like that!

Malvoisin, I don't think that most people would have keys. Generally they would be held by the Constable or possibly by a 'Bon Gate' if you had one.
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Castle Guard.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Hi folks

Many thanks indeed for your contributions to my question, good thought provoking answers.

I say that because I had never considered a 'family keepsake' as a potential possession, until I realised that the garrison at Castle Rushen in the Isle of Man (which is the garrison I had in mind when I posed my question - sorry should have made that clear), after 1405 would have consisted of mainly of Lancastrian soldiers in the service of Sir John Stanley.

It then makes sense that they serving away from home and family, might possibly carry a keep-sake, but what might that typically be I wonder?

The Fire-stryker answer makes sense also, why carry one around with you when another servant is setting the castle kitchen fire or the Dining Hall fire.

With medieval men's purses haven't a few extant purses been excavated around the London area? If they were an item of men's civilian clothing wouldn't it be logical that a garrison soldier might carry one also? Just a thought. Interesting that they don't appear in contemporary illustrations much.

Talking of wages: I have been doing a bit of research into the wages of the garrison of Castle Rushen.

Unfortunatey, there are no records of the castle garrison strength or wages during the Late Medieval 15th century, but later in 1575 during the Tudor/Elizabethan reign the wages of the garrison are recorded as:

A Captain of the Guard – who received £11 wages per year;

A Master Gunner – who was paid £8 per year;

And forty soldiers of the castle garrison – whose annual pay together totalled £40 18s 8d – so roughly speaking each castle guard received 2 old pennies per week in wages, or £1 4d per year - assuming each guard received the same wage.

Another interesting thing is - 200 years later in 1775 the castle guard's wages had risen significantly to 8 pennies per week whilst the master Gunner's wages was still the same as back in 1575!

Many thanks again
Stuart

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Post by Merlon. »

Stuart Quayle wrote: received 2 old pennies per week in wages, or £1 4d per year
Don't forget there were 240 old pennies in a pound.
if they were all paid the same money thats £1 5d per year or just under 4 3/4 old pence per week before stoppages

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I think that the misers style pouch that you could easily tie around your neck and keep hidden under clothing/armour would be the solution Colin, but they don't look that cool and it would be bloody uncomfortable to store your janglies in there at an event as a think we carry much more than our forebearers would.
If I was stationed in a castle I still think I'd carry very little as I would have a cot somewhere to store my gear or a wife to look after it for me.
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Post by Colin Middleton »

You could be onto something there Marcus.

Stuart, thanks for asking the question, this is becomming thought provoking.

Keepsakes could be anything. Something that a family member made for you, a letter from home, a token, badge or piece of jewelery, a lock of hair, what kind of things remind you of the people that you love?

If you're working out 2d per day, how many people were they getting for their £40 18s 8d?
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Think of the fun you could have making a game of it "What do you keep in your pouch?" "I keep...hang on some theiving shites had away with me pouch now!"
End of problem just do that everytime someone asks.
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Post by Merlon. »

Colin Middleton wrote:If you're working out 2d per day, how many people were they getting for their £40 18s 8d?
Stuart Quayle wrote: And forty soldiers of the castle garrison – whose annual pay together totalled £40 18s 8d – so roughly speaking each castle guard received 2 old pennies per week in wages, or £1 4d per year - assuming each guard received the same wage.
£40 18s 8d is 9824 old pennies which would average to 245.6 old pennies per man per year or 4.72 old pennies per man per week. The fact it does not divide out equally indicates different people were paid different amounts, or -just as likely- the compiler of the accounts got his maths wrong

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Castle garrison in 1422.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

I have found one little snippet of very interesting info about the Castle Rushen garrison in 1422 AD.

In 1422 it had been laid down that " the Lieutenant have one loafe Bread, one gallon of ale, two candles in Somer and three in Winter, and reasonable of fuell every night from Allhollowday till Easter".

It was further ordained that " noe souldier hould continually a Leman within a mile of the castle".

I asked a very well respected scholar of Manx history what the last order meant and he explained that it meant no soldier of the castle garrison was to be found away from his post within a mile of Castle Rushen. The Lemon would be held to the nose to freshen the air from all the vile odours eminating from the vicinity of the Castle Town. The town is today called Castletown (surprise surprise!).

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Post by Colin Middleton »

Oh! It was in WORDS. :oops: That explanes why I couldn't find the numbers when I skimmed through the text.

4d per week. That's quite a generous rate of pay (assuming that you're fed and clothed too).
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Post by Merlon. »

Stuart Quayle wrote:It was further ordained that " noe souldier hould continually a Leman within a mile of the castle".

I asked a very well respected scholar of Manx history what the last order meant and he explained that it meant no soldier of the castle garrison was to be found away from his post within a mile of Castle Rushen. The Lemon would be held to the nose to freshen the air from all the vile odours eminating from the vicinity of the Castle Town. The town is today called Castletown (surprise surprise!).
Errm...
Per OED definition of a Leman is:-
1. A person beloved by one of the opposite sex; a lover or sweetheart; occas. a husband or wife.
2. In bad sense (cf. paramour): One who is loved unlawfully; an unlawful lover or mistress. In later archaistic use chiefly applied to the female sex.

I think your scholar needs to reconsider their thoughts.
Colin Middleton wrote: 4d per week. That's quite a generous rate of pay (assuming that you're fed and clothed too).
In my experience that would be a gross wage before stoppages for food etc.

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Leman

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Whoops! :oops: Don't I feel a bit of a lemon now!

Hee hee, Sorry about that Merlon and thanks for putting the records straight with the meaning of 'Leman' I did look for the meaning of the word but couldn't find it. That makes more sense now you explain it.

Hopefully it still makes for a very interesting topic of discussion about late medieval castle garrison regulations.

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Post by Brother Ranulf »

I'm surprised no one has mentioned dice. Back in 1997 Geoff Egan of the Museum of London wrote a very informative paper on the many archaeological finds of dice from Roman times to the 1600s and beyond.
Normally of ivory or bone in the medieval period, they include not a few from castle sites. One such is a dice from Beeston Castle and of 13th to 14th century date, so very relevant to the period mentioned in the original post.

It must be remembered that castle guard duty was generally extremely boring, monotonous and by no means entirely spent standing sentry in some gateway - a great deal of time would be spent in a guardroom or somewhere similar, passing the time as best you could.

Anyone owning loaded dice (there were plenty around) might expect to increase their income . . .
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Loaded dice.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

A medieval 'loaded dice' was excavated at Peel castle in the Isle of Man, back in the 1980's I think. Also the soldiers had been scrawling bawdy pictures of a lady of high status on roof slates, and broken roof slates with mysterious dancing images were also found.

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Post by Karen Larsdatter »

Brother Ranulf wrote:I'm surprised no one has mentioned dice.
Well, it was the second item listed in the original posting above ... :P
Stuart Quayle wrote:A medieval 'loaded dice' was excavated at Peel castle in the Isle of Man, back in the 1980's I think.
I suppose this is a different set of loaded dice, but see http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Englis ... &id=515184 too.

(For more links relating to dice & dice games, see http://larsdatter.com/games-dice.htm -- I think the 14th century is much earlier than when we tend to see playing-cards in England.)

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Post by Colin Middleton »

Stuart Quayle wrote:It was further ordained that " noe souldier hould continually a Leman within a mile of the castle".
With Merlon's explanation, that makes sense. No guardsfraternising with women within a mile of the castle. That way they're loyal to the castle and not the local people.
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Colin Middleton wrote: 4d per week. That's quite a generous rate of pay (assuming that you're fed and clothed too).
In my experience that would be a gross wage before stoppages for food etc.
I disagree. Based on The Great Household, typical pay for household having to find their own food and lodgings was normally 2d a day. If that were the case, 4d per day wouldn't go far enough.
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Post by loyal servant »

personally id have a iron loop on my belt to tie through some thonging and a sharpening ston in my pouch, along with flint and steel and a tinder bag, id also have some hard tack and a small water/small-ale bottle on or near my person and a 1 legged high stool to look bored on.
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What to spend your money on?

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Thank you to all of the posters, some really interesting observations and things to ponder. I particularly liked the link to Medieval London - great reference material thanks Karen and the 'Fulhams' (loaded dice). Thank you also Colin and Merlon for the kind clarification ref. the loose women 'Leman' and Loyal Servant a Costrel sounds like a very good idea.

Marcus I hadn't considered a Miser's pouch but now that you mention it, what a nice economical way of showing off your guard duty earnings (and thanks to Dave the Moneyer I now have a very nice selection of 14th century replica coins to put in my pouch).

Brother Ranulf some very good mention of the loaded dice and very true - most probably castle guard was extremely boring and alot of gaming would have gone on.

Ok, could any of you kind souls now answer my next question please?

"What could a Lancastrian castle guard serving at Castle Rushen in Lord Stanley's retinue have spent his 4 pennies per week on?"

Some immediate things which 'spring to mind' are: Ale, Bread, Cheese, Fish etc.

BTW - Excavations of a late Medieval midden heap at Peel Castle in the Isle of Man some 30 years ago revealed that servants at the castle were eating what they could catch and harvest from both land and sea surrounding the castle e.g. rabbit; heron birds; seagull; song birds; Mackrel; crab; queenies - a high fish diet.

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

How much of your wages would you have to spend after "bed and board". If your four pennies are what's left then it may well be more like wine, whores and gambling or feeding the wife and kids (whatever your background may be). The average garrison soldier ate a 5000 calaries a day so you might not need that much more food.
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