Wednesday, 6 May 2015

City of Coventry Handgone Contingent, Perry Miniatures

These figures represent a small contingent of medieval handgonners equipped by the City of Coventry. These are the first complete unit I have finished for my Wars of the Roses (WoTR) project and which may seem an odd initial choice. Regular readers will already probably be aware of my rather haphazard approach to projects, my main focus will eventually be on Lord Dudley's retinue, but I had the chance to create a unit that was both interesting and had a local west midlands connection, something I try to achieve with as many of my projects as is practical. 
I've been visiting Coventry for a number of years and it has been interesting to note its redevelopment even over such a relative short time. The city is often overlooked in terms of history (the infamous 1940 Blitz is of course the notable exception) but it still contains a surprisingly fair number of medieval buildings which probably deserve a post of it's own. During the middle age Coventry was often used by the king as the main gathering point for the various local lords and nobles. One of the flashpoints of the feud between the Stafford's of Grafton and Harcourt families that occurred during the Wars of the Roses was triggered when the Stafford's were on their way to their Coventry townhouse/inn and ran in to the Harcourts. 
The idea to make this unit was partially inspired by a series of fascinating posts by Jim Hale (his blog can be found here) and one in particular detailing urban contingents (which can be seen here) which details the men and equipment supplied by the city of Coventry. The prime source of information for this period is the Coventry Leet Book which is available to download as a PDF (you can also see it 'in the flesh' in Coventry if you book an appointment). 
The Leet book is basically a record of the mayor and council's accounts throughout the middle ages. For the mid C15th it details such things as military equipment bought and upkeep of the town defenses. For instance we know that Coventry supplied soldiers for the King and they must have been archers as they were equipped with "bowes and arowes..." and they were..."jakked and saletted" i.e. provided with padded jacks and helmets (this will probably result in future contingent of Coventry archers for my collection). 

The Leet book also says that the city watch were provided with various forms of firearms so I used this as a excuse to give my particular group of handgonners a local flavour. 

It is probably more appropriate to say that these figures represent men wielding various forms of the matchlock arquebus (and an older style of handgonne). I couldn't resist having one to represent an older style handgonne so I whittled away most of the detail for a standard piece to make the simple barrel version of the early examples of handgonne. 
Handgone (left) & arquebus (right) 
I intentionally made the outfits of the figures more varied and colourful than I normally would for run of the mill soldiers because they represent a city militia i.e. they're are wearing their own clothes. The sashes are in the city's colours of red and green as it is recorded that the city bought cloth to make them a standard and bends, a heraldic term which would indicate a shoulder sash in the city's colours. I've modelled the sash from right shoulder to left hip as this in heraldry terms is proper and not sinister (in the opposite direction) which is from the Latin for left and usually indicated that the wearer was illegitimate. I've noted that it is also how military sashes are worn.

With the pavise patterns I deliberately made the designs similar but not identical as I wanted to portray that the decoration was not the result of a modern style standardised industrial process (such as printing) but were hand painted by various individuals. It's a small detail but one I think makes the figures more interesting. The 'elephant and castle' symbol has been in use by Coventry since at least 1441.
Elephant & Castle symbol, Coventry
Elephant & Castle symbol, Coventry
The images shown above are both taken in the Holy Trinity church in Coventry, the only surviving medieval church left in the city centre. The original medieval cathedral, St. Mary's, was demolished after the Dissolution and very little remains to be seen above ground today. This should also not be confused with the blitz cathedral, St Michael's, This was originally only a parish church (made into a cathedral in 1918) built by the Earls of Chester which was destroyed as a result of German bombing in 1940.