A Worcester! A Worcester! - Blood for the Butcher!

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Alis Hammel

There is evidence that women did fight in the 15th Century, and in fact at all times throughout history. Some famous women warriors immediately spring to mind such as Boudicca of the Iceni who laid waste to the Roman garrison at Colchester, and Joan of Arc who commanded a revitalized French army in the hundred years war. Other famous fighting women that many know about include the Amazons of Greek myth and the camp followers or "Hures" who often accompanied the feared German Landsknecht's in the early 16th century.

However, what of normal medieval women? How many, if any, took part in battle? Perhaps they needed to fight to avenge a fallen loved one, or to protect their livelihood in times of utmost need? Actual accounts of women fighting on the battle field are few and mainly unreliable, however there are some documents that clearly indicate women of this era were called to defend their towns or homes.

Alis Hammel is one such woman. Nothing is know of her save from a mention in the Bridport Muster Roll of 1457. This is a roll of the able bodied people who would be called upon to defend the city or be required to give their services to fight for their king. 174 names are legible and 5 of these are women, it reads....

"Alis Hammel has her own jack, sword, buckler, salet, bow and arrows. Alis Gare has a bow and a coat of plates."Condefer Wife" has bow, arrows, sword and buckler."

Two other women, Margaret Athyn and Sally Pens have no equipment listed, but niether do a third of the names on the list.

It is intriguing that women were obviously used as archers, as the longbow had a huge draw weight. However, it has been suggested that many women would actually be competent with a bow for hunting purposes, so perhaps it is not that suprising that they would also use them in battle. And where did other equipment come from? Dead husbands or relatives perhaps? There is much we do not know of this period, but it leaves a little more licence for us as re-enactors to weave such things into our historical re-creation, without being overtly inaccurate.

Thus we have included Alis Hammel in our household, as she was clearly an archer she is portrayed as such and will fight alongside the Earl of Worcester and his retinue against the Lancastrian forces.


Contact info
Peter Moore: p1415moore@hotmail.com
John Horgan: john@worcesterhousehold.co.uk