DEVON-L ArchivesArchiver > DEVON > 2008-09 > 1221579863
From: "Tompkins, M.L.L." <>
Subject: Re: [DEV] seventeenth century muster roll Barnstaple
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 16:44:23 +0100
<<I have just been reading over the genuki transcription of a seventeenth century muster roll from Barnstaple - and have a question. Does the 'at halfs' imply that the musket in question was owned jointly by two persons, or perhaps that two people jointly chipped in for a musket for the militia? I don't quite understand how this would work out in practice - who would get to use the thing!>>
The early 17th-century militia was run under a system established by the 1577 Trained Bands Act (described in great detail in L. Boynton, The Elizabethan Militia 1558-1638 (London, 1967)). The trained band system required the wealthier residents of each parish to provide equipment pro rata to their wealth - thus the squire might have to provide two or three fully equipped cavalrymen, while the middling sort might provide a foot soldier each, or combine to provide one soldier between two or three of them. These wealthier residents would not usually serve in the militia, however - it would often be the parish's sturdy poor who marched off wearing the equipment provided by their wealthier neighbours.
The militia lists of the period varied in what they recorded. Some were muster rolls, listing the men who were actually in the militia and the equipment issued to them, but others were more in the nature of tax rolls, listing the wealthy, who might be of any age, health or sex, and the arms they were obliged to provide - the Barnstaple roll seems to be one of the second category. It was common for two or more individuals to be ordered to combine to provide an item or set of equipment, and this must be the meaning of the fractions mentioned in the Barnstaple roll.
Incidentally, the obligation would have been to provide not merely a musket or pike, but all the armour and other accoutrements needed by a fully-equipped musketeer or pikeman.
The arms and equipment might be stored by the individuals responsible for providing them - which is how some modern stately homes can display entire armouries of 17th-century arms and armour - or might be kept centrally by the parish, often in the room over the parish church's porch. When civil war came in the middle of the century the first armies to be raised were largely armed and equipped from these trained band armouries.