The Soldier in later Medieval England

Archers at the battle of Shrewsbury


In the late 1390s Richard II created a special bodyguard of Cheshire archers. [1] It is likely that some fell at Shrewsbury, fighting for Percy.  The physical scar carried by Prince Henry for the rest of his life, after receiving an arrow wound to the face, demonstrates that archers were important in the battle.


Since the thirteenth century the county of Chester had enjoyed a special status as a palatinate earldom directly controlled by the English crown. When there was a Prince of Wales this earldom was traditionally part of his lands and titles. At times when there was no prince – as under Richard II – the earldom remained with the king himself. Richard II was well disposed towards the county, elevating it to a principality in 1397 and deliberately exploiting it to strengthen his position as king over the last few years of his reign, a period which some historians have considered to be a tyranny. On 13 July 1397, he ordered the sheriff of the county of Chester to collect 2,000 archers for royal service. These troops were used to overawe the parliament which met in September. Most were then allowed to return home, but the king kept back others to form his personal bodyguard, receiving wages of 6d per day, which was the standard rate for archers in royal armies in the late fourteenth century. This wage was on a par with that of a skilled craftsman.


By the autumn of 1398, Richard had a bodyguard of over 300 Cheshire archers which was grouped into seven ‘watches’, four containing 44 archers, two with 45 archers, and one with 46 archers. [2] That there were seven groups suggests that each may have been responsible for the watch on one day of the week. Each watch was under the command of a knight or esquire from Cheshire: John del Legh del Boothes; Richard de Cholmondeley of Cholmondeley; Ralph de Davenport; Adam de Bostok; John Donne of Utkinton; Thomas de Beeston; Thomas de Holford.


The participation of some of the bodyguard on the losing side at Shrewsbury is based on two principal sources: a list of forfeitures by Cheshiremen for their support of Percy, [3] and inquisitions post mortem drawn up by the escheator of the county in the months after the battle. [4] Why should they have supported Henry Percy? Maybe they believed rumours that Richard II was still alive and had been spirited to Scotland. Or else they had remained opposed to the new regime (after all they had lost their livelihood when Richard was deposed), and therefore were easily recruited by Percy, who had been appointed justiciar of the palatinate of Chester by Henry IV.


One of the captains of the watch, Thomas Beeston, died at the battle fighting for Percy. [5] Five of the other captains were excluded from the pardon which Henry IV extended to the men of the county of Chester on 27 September 1403 for the support which they had shown to Percy (Legh, Cholmondeley, Bostok, Donne, and Holford). [6] They were instructed to make terms with the prince of Wales. To encourage them to do so, the escheator of the county was ordered to seize their lands. All subsequently made their peace. Their exclusion from the pardon does not necessarily mean, however,  that they were present at the battle fighting for Percy. It may simply be that the king had lingering doubts about their loyalty, given their previous close connections with Richard II.


Sir Richard Cholmondeley had enjoyed substantial patronage from Richard II but he soon made his peace with Henry IV. By the end of 1403 we see him acting as a commissioner of array to raise troops for service in Wales, and he was later used as a collector of the tax levied in the county. [7] Three of those whose inquisitions post mortem date to the months after the battle of Shrewsbury had been archers within Sir Richard’s watch in Richard II’s bodyguard. They were Thomas Huxley, Hugh de Bickerton (or Bykerton), and William Eddesley (or Eggesley). It is tempting to think that they served together in the battle for Percy, perhaps even under Sir Richard if he had indeed fought there against the king.


Other archers from Richard’s bodyguard also seem to have fallen at the battle on Percy’s side. One of these was Thomas Eddesley (or Eggesley) who was probably related to William, although he had served in the watch of Thomas de Holford. [8] Perhaps both were related to David Eddesley who had served as a man-at-arms under Sir Hugh Browe in the naval expedition to France in 1388 commanded by Richard, earl of Arundel. [9]


As Gillespie has pointed out, there was quite a variety in the social status of the archers in the bodyguard. [10] This is well illustrated by the four mentioned above for whom inquisitions post mortem survive showing the lands and moveable goods of value they had at the time of their death. The assumption is that they served as archers at Shrewsbury, although this is solely because of their earlier service as archers in Richard’s bodyguard. For none of them can any other military service be detected but some could have been within Richard’s bodyguard during his campaign to Ireland of 1399. [11] Five hundred archers from Cheshire served on Henry IV’s expedition to Scotland in the summer of 1400. Of these, 20 were under the command of Richard Cholmondeley but we do not know their names. [12]


Thomas de Huxley was a man of some substance. [13] He held three messuages and a water mill in Huxley which was worth £5 per annum. (Huxley lies 7.5 miles to the south east of Chester). In addition, he gained an income of 13 shillings a year from lands and tenements in Munkestopenhale which were rented out to John de Sonde. [14] He also held a messuage in Rowecristleton worth 8 shillings per annum, and another messuage along with 20 acres in Sydenhale close to Tattenhall (a few miles to the south west of Huxley) worth a further 10 shillings per annum. At his death he had four cows worth 5s 8d each (total £1 2s 8d), another two worth 5 shillings each (total 10 shillings), and a horse worth 8 shillings. He had six acres under wheat, which were each worth 40d (3s 4d, hence worth £12 in total), and another six under oats worth one shilling per acre (total 6 shillings). In addition the inquisition reported that he had two beds each worth 5 shillings (total 10 shillings) and a pot and basin for washing worth 6s 8d. In all therefore, he had assets worth £21 14s 4d, which had been committed to David Malpas at the time of the inquisition on 8 September 1403.


Thomas de Huxley had already enjoyed royal favour when on 1 October 1397 he was appointed keeper of Mersley park. [15] On 2 July 1398 he was granted livery of the crown at 6d per day for life, this grant being no doubt linked to his place in the royal bodyguard. [16] Initially he showed antagonism to the new Lancastrian regime, being involved in the Cheshire rebellion of 1400. [17] On the surface he seems to have accepted the new regime, since he served as collector of the tax subsidy in the hundred of Broxton in 1402. [18] Given his wealth, it is possible that by 1403 he had acquired the armour and weaponry (and perhaps social status) required to serve as a man-at-arms. [19]


His companion in the watch of Sir Richard Cholmondeley, Hugh de Bickerton, had received livery of the crown on 2 July 1398, [20] but was a much less substantial landowner. At his death at Shrewsbury he held only one messuage and 12 acres of meadow in Bickerton worth 20 shillings per annum. [21] Half an acre was under oats and peas, and was calculated as being worth 2 shillings. Another three acres were under oats and were worth 6 shillings in total. An acre under wheat was worth a further 3 shillings, and he had three casks of barley each worth 2 shillings (total 6 shillings). He had a good number of livestock, however. Three cows worth 8 shillings each (total 24 shillings), one cow worth 6s 8d, a calf worth 2 shillings, two pigs each worth one shilling (total 2 shillings), six sheep each worth 6d (total 3 shillings), and a horse worth 13s 4d (i.e. more valuable than Thomas de Huxley’s horse, in fact so valuable that it immediately was seized by the vicar of Acton church as the customary mortuary payment). In terms of moveable goods of any value, he had a pot worth 2 shillings and a basin worth one shilling. His total assets were therefore worth £4 1s 0d, and had been committed to John de Golburn of Okeday at the time of the inquisition on 27 August 1403.


Bickerton lay close to Sir Richard’s own landholdings and therefore Hugh was easily recruited to his company as a near neighbour. [22] Only one further thing is known of Hugh, and that is that he was accused with Thomas de Eddeslegh and John de Saughall of being involved in a robbery in Cheshire sometime in 1397-8. [23] Interestingly, Saughall was also an archer in Sir Richard Cholmondeley’s watch, and as we have seen, Thomas de Eddeslegh, although an archer in a different watch, died alongside Hugh de Bickerton at Shrewsbury.


Thomas de Eddesley had received livery of the crown at 6d per annum for life on 3 June 1398. [24] At his death at Shrewsbury he held no land but was described as having various goods and chattels to value of 60 shillings. [25] His one cow, worth 10 shillings, had been taken by the vicar of Acton as mortuary payment, but the rest of the goods were in the hands of Robert Dawson, bailiff of the Hundred of Nantwich. The latter had received a royal order to seize the property of Thomas de Eddesley as part payment of the money which Thomas owed from his own tenure of the post of bailiff. In other words, de Eddesley, like Thomas de Huxley, had been involved in local administration in Cheshire before he rebelled in 1403.


Although William de Eddesley is listed as one of the archers in Sir Richard Cholmondeley’s watch in 1398, there is no evidence that he was ever granted the 6d per day for life which had been awarded to Thomas Eddesley, Thomas de Huxley and Hugh de Bickerton and many other Cheshire archers in 1398. [26] At his death he had no property but only 2 cows worth 16 shillings which were in the hands of the vicar of the church of Acton and of another man whose name is unknown. [27] William must have been renting some agricultural land as his assets included part of an acre of oats and peas worth 8d. Overall, however, his assets totalled only 16s 8d.


These case studies have demonstrated that this was a closely knit group of soldiers who initially joining together in service of Richard II, mostly probably were killed in opposition to Henry IV at the battle of Shrewsbury.  Although we need to be careful when assigning this group of men definitely to a particular side in the battle, or indeed to death at the battle itself – their prior relationships and close connections provide enough evidence to make a very strong case.

 Anne Curry


[1] For full discussion of this bodyguard, see J.L. Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Cheshire Archers’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 125 (1974), 1-39.

[2] TNA E101/42/10. The names on this document have been placed on the searchable website www.medievalsoldier.org. There were other Cheshire archers retained by the crown in addition to this bodyguard (Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Cheshire archers’, p. 11). For a list see D. Biggs, Three Armies in Britain. The Irish Campaign of Richard II and the Usurpation of Henry IV, 1397-99 (Leiden and Boston, 2006), pp. 73-80.

[3] Those used by P. Morgan, War and Society in Medieval Cheshire 1277-1403 (Chetham Society, Manchester, 1987), pp. 207-18, were later transcripts in BL Harleian MS 1988, folio 141v, and Lansdowne MS 644, folios 22v-23r.

[4] TNA CHES 3/21. The inquisitions do not actually say that the deceased died at the battle, nor on which side they fought. Some assumptions have to be made based on the timing of the inquisitions and the sequestration of property.

[5] C(alendar of the) P(atent) R(olls) 1401-1405, p. 312. ‘Calendar of the Cheshire Recognizance Rolls’, Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records vol. 36 (London, 1875) [henceforward DKR 36], pp. 139, 532.

[6] CPR 1401-1405, p. 264, printed in T. Rymer, Foedera etc (The Hague, 1745) IV, i, p. 57.

[7] Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Cheshire archers’, pp. 17-18.

[8] TNA E101/42/10 m. 5.

[9] TNA E101/41/5 m.10d. A David Eddesley was also given a protection on his departure for the coast to serve for the defence of the realm in September 1386 (DKR 36, p. 165).

[10] Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Cheshire archers’, pp. 29-31.

[11] Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Cheshire archers’, p. 3.

[12] TNA E101/42/29, printed in Morgan, War and Society, pp. 209-10. Also serving on this campaign with groups of archers were Sir Richard Venables and Richard Vernon (for discussion of Vernon see: www.medievalsoldier.org/June2008.htm), both of whom fought for Percy at the battle of Shrewsbury.

[13] TNA CHES 3/21 no. 11. His inquisition is the third of sixteen recorded on the same membrane since they were all taken on the same day. That of Sir Hugh Browe, who definitely fought for Percy, is the first entry (for Browe see: www.medievalsoldier.org/June2008.htm).

[14] A John de Sonde served as a man-at-arms in the retinue of Thomas, earl of Arundel in the 1415 campaign (TNA E101/47/1 m.1), but it is difficult to know if it was the same person.

[15] DKR 36, p. 257.

[16] DKR 36, p. 257. The list of Richard’s bodyguard includes a William Huxley in the watch of Ralph de Davenport (TNA E101/42/10 m.2), and another William Huxley, and a Patrick Huxley whose watch is not given (m. 1d), as well as an Ughtred de Huxley serving as a man-at-arms (m.1). Ughtred was given a life grant of 100 shillings per annum by Richard II on 10 October 1397 (DKR 36, p. 257). In 1386 he had taken up the farm of the earl of Chester’s demesne at Overmarsh (ibid). A life grant of 6d per day was made to a William Huxley, dated 30 May 1398 (ibid).

[17] DKR 36, pp. 54, 101; TNA CHES 25/10 m.1, cited in P. McNiven, ‘The men of Cheshire and the rebellion of 1403’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 129 (1980 for 1979), p. 13.

[18] DKR 36, p. 257.

[19] See Robert de Fishlake, another man who seems to have made the transition from archer to man-at-arms: http://www.medievalsoldier.org/February2008.php.

[20] DKR 36, p. 35.

[21] TNA CHES 3/21 no. 7, second entry. A Roger de Bickerton also joined Percy’s rebellion in 1403 (McNiven, ‘Men of Cheshire’, p. 13).

[22] Cholmondeley held two parts of the manor of Cholmondeley (possibly modern day Chorley), and may have acquired more land from his second marriage to their heiress of Richard Henhull (Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Cheshire archers’, p. 18). Sir Richard’s watch included three members of his own family as well as a number of other men from the hundred of Broxton in which his lands, and those of Hugh de Bickerton, lay.

[23] TNA CHES 24/19, cited in Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Cheshire archers’, p. 24. Several Bickertons are known to have served in expeditionary armies in the late fourteenth century but none with the first name Hugh. A Cheshire link is seen in the case of Dankin de Bikerton who served as an archer under Sir Hugh de Calveley in Thomas of Woodstock’s campaign to Brittany in 1380-1 (TNA E101/39/9 m. 3), who is likely the same person as Janekyn Bykerton who served as an archer in the company of Thomas, lord Camoys in the earl of Arundel’s 1388 expedition (TNA E101/41/5 m.7d). For the service of other Bikertons and Bykertons see www.medievalsoldier.org.

[24] DKR 36, p. 165.

[25] TNA CHES 3/21 no. 7, third entry.

[26] Unless an error was made in recording his first name since such a grant was given to John de Eggesley on 3 June 1398 (DKR 36, p. 170).

[27] TNA CHES 3/21 no. 7, fourth entry.


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