Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
The provision of ships from port towns such as Southampton is a well-known aspect of urban military obligation to the crown in late medieval England. This ancient right was imperative to the king in his wars. In all but one decade in two hundred years between 1300 and 1500 Southampton provided ships to the king for transportation of troops or naval activity. Less well studied is the military equipment which such towns held, and its deployment to serve both urban and royal needs. The crown, the civic government and individual townsmen all played a role in the provision of equipment used in a town to fulfil its obligations to the crown and to sustain its own military organization.
Southampton is a good example to use for a study of military equipment. From the Anglo-Saxon period onwards the town grew in importance in maritime activity – trade and transportation – because it possessed a deep and well-protected harbour as well as a double tide daily, allowing extra departures. Its proximity to the continent made it a frequent point of departure for English armies but also a target for French raids. The most famous occurred in 1338 and triggered subsequent royal orders for the building of a complete circuit of stone walls as well as a temporary transfer of the town to direct royal control over a keeper in order to ensure its defence.