The 1542 Muster Rolls

 

 

HENRY VIII, in order to be better prepared for any war in which he might have become involved, decided to carry out a census of all the able bodied men in England who could be called upon in such an eventuality. For this purpose, reliable men in each locality were required to compile musters or lists of the men in each parish, stating the weapons they possessed (or lacked) and their ability to use them. Most were either billmen or archers, and if the latter, they were compelled to practice regularly at the `butts.'

Where the cultivated strips of the old open fields ran parallel to the con-ours of a steep slope, centuries of ploughing in the same direction resulted in the formation of a series of terraces with banks between, known as butts, and where these lay
conveniently close to a village they were doubtless used at this time for archery practice. Such a case occurs at Bere Regis where a tongue of the large open middle field reached down to Tower Hill, and where the terracing and butts can still be
clearly seen in the small field immediately west of Barrow Hill. Coupled with the fact that Butt Lane, to which this field originally extended, is so-called, there seems little doubt that this was the site of the 16th century archery butts. Many other towns and villages have streets or other localities where the word butts figures in the name-Butt Close, Puddletown; Lower Butt Street, Poole; Hillbutts, Wimborne; and Butts Pond, Sturmrnster Newton to name but four in Dorset.

The Bere Regis muster roil was compiled in 1542, and commences with a lengthy loyal auctress to tine king, together with a rather obscure expranatron of the way in which the abilities of the archers and billmen have been set down :

Every person being an able archer and very good, thes too lrs aA and upon the name of evy pson being of the sede sorte and yt wyll serve a time this letter A nut a pricke and lykewyse upon the names of them yt be able bylrnen, thes too lrs ab uppon the names or them that bythe of ye sede sorte and wyl syrve, tnis rr b with a prycke.

It is interesting to note that several of the surnames on the roll still survive in Bere Regis after more than 400 years, although the spelling has usually undergone changes over the course of the years. In addition, other names appear on the roll, which occur in other connections with the parish - John Daw, wnose
name is carved on one of the old church bench ends; Roger Gye named as bailiff of the Bere manor in an account of 1535; and Nicholas Grout, John Sargent and George Hart who signed the inventory of church goods in 1552.

Some of the terms and abbreviations used in the roll should perhaps be explained (harnise = armour; most pvid = must provide; di'S. off arr = two sheafs of arrows; a byll = a bill, a Kind of spear on a wooden shaft; sallett = helmet; a p of spiets = a pair of splents, small pieces of armour to protect the arms.) The following list includes portions of the roll for Bere Hundred and Barrow Hundred relating to Bere Regis itself and Shitterton, other tythings within these two hundreds, Milbourne Stileham, Winterbourne Kingston and Turnerspuddle etc, being omitted:

The hundredd off Bere Regis

The Tething of Bere.

George Turberffeld, gent. horses & harnise for ij men ij bowis ij shefis or arrowis ij swerds & ij daggars & narnise for a bylma. Jonn Galton most p vid a bow & di'S. on arr. (aA) George Frome hathe a bow & a S. of arr. Alis Dyott wydow hathe harnise for a ma a bow & S. off arr swerd & dagr. John Welsted hathe a Sallet & a p of splets a bow & di'S. off arr. (b) Roger Gardynr hathe a byll a bow & a S. of arr. John Lokear hathe a bow & a S. of arr. Jonn Daw most p vid a bow & di'S. of arr. Nichos Growte hathe a byll a bow & vj arr. Roger Gye hathe a byll a bow & di'S. of arr. Thorns Howlett hathe a bille. Thomas Frye hathe a bow & di'S. of arr. (ab) John Gye hathe a byll. Henri Golde hathe a bylle. (aA) Thomas Georke. (b) Wyllm Lokear hathe a byll. (ab) Thoms Godwyn. (b) John Tratell hathe a byll. John Knappe hathe a byll. Wyllum Eylis hathe a byll. (aA) John Dyott hathe a bow. (b) Thomas Burdon hathe a bow. John Clothear alyn. most delyvr a S. of arr to the Costabull. (ab) Wyllum Pleyer. (b) Thoms Wolfrey. Wyllum Meriwether hathe a byll a sallett & a p of splents. (b) John Meriwether hathe a bowe, (b) Roger George Smithe most p vide a bow & vj arr. Jonn Golde hath a bow & most p vide vj arr. George Harte hathe a bow & vi arr. Edward Gerard hathe a bow. Robt Holm most p vid a byll. (aA) Richard Blundell most p vid a bowe. John Sergeantt hathe a byll. (b) Richard Matte hathe a byll, (A) Henri Holmr. (aA) Robt Galton. (b) Hew Serrell. (Alyn) Wyllum Gresell most p vid a bow di'S of arr delyv the to ye costabull. Robt Dyott hathe a byll, (b) Henri Bolte hathe a byll. Jaffer Harrice hathe a byll. (aA) Thomas Medar hathe a bow. (b) Thoms Gwye hathe a bow & most p vide vj arr. (b) Thoms Golde. Peter Saunder hathe a bow & vj arr. (ab) Rowland Seland most p vide di'S. of arr. (b) Raff George hathe a byll. (ab) Wyllum Humte hathe a bill. John Swale hathe a bylle. (b) John Pope hathe a byll. Sylvester Harice hathe a bow & vj arr. (ab) Thomas Valey hathe a byll. John Maunsell hathe a bill, Nichos Bucke hathe a bill. John Hayne hathe a byll.

The Tething of the p sons Tething of Bere: (aA) Nichos Humte Tethingma hathe a byll. John Tylley hathe a byll. Henri Lambard hathe a bille. Robt Maundsell hathe a byll. (aa) Robt Donston hathe a byll. Thoms Hechyns hathe a byll, (b) George Chyld hathe a byll. Xpofer Bragge hathe a bow & vj arr. John Osye hathe a byll. Thes too Tethings above most p vid a comon harnise a bow & a S. of arr. a swerd & a dagger.

The hundred of Hundredds barowe; The Tething of Sheterton - (aA) Thorns Gye hathe a bow & most p vid vj arr. Thorns Clemet hathe a byll, (aA) Richard Besaunt most p vid a bow & di'S of arr. (A) Robt Besaunt. (b) Richard Gerard hathe a byll. Nichos Dycke alyn, hathe a bow & di'S. of arr delyvid dec. Richard Zeborne hathe a bow & di'S. of arr & a byll. (b) John Besaunt hathe a bylle. John Brounde hathe a bow & most p vid iij arr. Hewght Lucas hathe a byll. Alyn Thomas Byshoppe hathe a bow & xvj arr delyvid dec This Tething & the Tething of Trnrspudell her next folowing most p vid a comon harnise a bow a S. off arr a swerd & a daggar.

 

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