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Civil War Armour and Helmet

Civil War Armour - acc 2768

This is typical of the armour worn by a harquebusier (horse soldier) in the English Civil Wars: helmet, breastplate and backplate. He would also have worn a leather jacket and thick leather riding boots.

Though it seems to be genuine (the Royal Armouries curator has inspected it) we don't know who it belonged to, or even which side - Royalist or Parliamentarian - he was on. One of the problems soldiers had in the 1640s was telling friend from foe.

The helmet is known as a 'three-barred pott'. This was a cheap version; its neckguard is a single piece made to look like the lames found on better-quality helmets. The cheek pieces are missing, and so is the original padded hessian and leather lining.

The armour would have cost about 20s in the 1640s - the cost of two horses, or a servant girl's wage for a year. Soldiers usually had to pay for their equipment, though sometimes the regiment supplied armour.

In theory a horse regiment consisted of 600 men. It was divided into six troops of 100 men. However, the cost of maintaining a horse regiment meant that regiments were frequently no greater than 100 men. Those who did have a horse were armed with a heavy sword and possibly two pistols, and were issued with a back and breastplates and a buff coat. They would be commanded by a local member of the gentry.

In Chichester the local gentry and clergy like Bishop Henry King supported the Royalists while the citizens and merchants, led locally by MP William Cawley, supported Parliament.

In November 1642 Chichester was taken by the Royalists, but within a month Parliamentarian forces led by Sir William Waller were sent to regain control. After the Royalists refused to surrender, Waller's men captured the St Pancras and St Bartholomew suburbs outside the city walls, then launched an attack on the city.

The siege of Chichester

Waller based himself in the almshouses built by William Cawley on the Broyle Road. From here he wrote about capturing the city."The next day we drew our cannon nearer into the towne, and then we attempted the Westgate suburbs and at last possessed it ourselves." The Royalists soon surrendered.

After Chichester was captured the most important Royalists were sent to London as prisoners and supporters faced heavy fines. However, the damage to Chichester was mostly done not in the eight-day siege but in the months that followed. Waller's soldiers, already disillusioned with fighting away from home, were angry that the month's pay they were promised for capturing Chichester did not appear. They were said to have attacked the cathedral, smashing and defacing tombs. Then they stole anything valuable, distributing some of the booty amongst local towns and villages.

Given by Capt. G. E. Taylor.

Helmet (Lobster Tail) Helmet (Lobster Tail)
Breastplate Breastplate
Thumbnail image of Helmet Side
Thumbnail image of Helmet (Lobster Tail)
Thumbnail image of Breastplate
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Further Reading

Fletcher, Anthony. 1975. A County Community in Peace and War: Sussex 1600-1660. Longman.

Frampton D. 1996. The Siege of Chichester. Academic Artisan.

Tincey, John and McBride, Angus. 1990. Soldiers of the English Civil War: Cavalry. Osprey.