Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsANNE CURRY: Well here I am on Southampton Common, this is a large open area to the north of the City of Southampton. In the middle ages, it also stretched quite a way to the east as well. And it was on this area that quite a large number of troops gathered for the expedition of 1415, camped in anticipation of setting out for that expedition. Today, we have large trees. In the middle ages, there would have been much more undergrowth, perhaps coppicing as well, ample water supply, but we've got to imagine a sort of sea of tents, because that's where the soldiers would have been.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsWe know that tents were purchased for the campaign, and the King's pavilioner was present on the campaign. They were arriving in early July. The campaign was to start on the 8th of July, that's when the pay records start. But some of the men were still arriving a week or so later. And they were to be camped here for over a month, the campaign did not set sail until the 11th of August, 1415. So a lot of hanging around here, a lot of difficulties in getting food supplies and also in dealing with the local population. Quite a challenge, even before the expedition set off. So who would it been on the heath of Southampton camping?

Skip to 1 minute and 28 secondsWell from muster rolls that survived in the National Archives, we know that they were mainly members of the household of the King, men very close him such as Sir Thomas Erpingham and Sir William Porter. But was the King himself here? No, it doesn't seem as though Henry was keen to be camping or, indeed, to be staying in draughty castles like Portchester or Southampton. We can reconstruct his itinerary in July and August 1415 quite accurately from the issue of documents at different places. And what we find is that he much preferred to stay in monastic establishments or in bishops' palaces.

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 secondsSo we find him at Bishop's Waltham, and Wolvesey, the palaces of the Bishop of Winchester, we also find him at Titchfield Abbey. How many men, then, would there have been here? Well, the army as a whole was well over 11,000, but of course, that was a huge number of men to muster in one location, so we find that the other commanders of the army were told to muster their troops in different locations. The Duke of Clarence, who had a very large retinue of about 960 men for the campaign, was mustering at Christchurch. We know also that the Duke of Gloucester was mustering in the area known as Wallopforth, at Micheldever, around there, those areas north of Southampton.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 secondsWe find others at Romsey, we find other men at Swanwick and on Portsdown Hill. So they were distributed across the area so that they wouldn't cause too much trouble for the local population, so that it was easier to feed them too. So here perhaps we had 3 or 4,000 men, the men closest to Henry himself. So the troops that were on the heath here were of two kinds. Men-at-arms, and of course, people like Sir Thomas Erpingham essentially were just well paid men-at-arms, paid two shillings a day, as opposed to the standard one shilling a day. Men-at-arms were from a relatively high social elite in England, but we also had three times as many archers.

Skip to 3 minutes and 37 secondsAll of these men would have come with their equipment. The men-at-arms certainly would have had servants with them. This was an entirely male assembly, we've no evidence of women accompanying the army, in fact, that's the sort of thing that didn't happen until the middle of the 16th century. Women didn't have the sorts of caring roles that we associate them with in later centuries and later armies. The army did have with it doctors, surgeons, assistants. We have all sorts of blacksmiths and carpenters and other people of that sort, but we don't have women performing any of these roles, not even in providing foodstuffs.

Skip to 4 minutes and 16 secondsAnd they were all told, a few days before the campaign set sail, to take with them to France three months' food. So there must have been a lot of organising by vittlers in providing this kind of food stuff, and also storage, barrels, bags, all of those kinds of things, let alone the difficulty of loading all of this stuff on to the ships. In loading the horses onto the ships, it's quite interesting. We have evidence of them using sort of planks to get the horses up there, and then to hang the horses in a kind of girdle suspended from the ceiling so that the horses didn't move around in the ship.

Skip to 4 minutes and 53 secondsSo essentially their hooves were off the deck in order to avoid that problem. So why were the troops hanging around here for so long in July and August, 1415? Well, one problem was getting all of the ships here, of course. They all had to come to the ports in order to transport the soldiers to France. But the other was Henry's discovery at the end of July that there was a plot against him, which has become known as the Southampton plot. And we're going to hear quite a lot about that later.

The gathering of the army at Southampton

A significant section of Henry V’s army mustered, or gathered, at Southampton Common prior to setting sail for France. In this video, Anne talks about the troops who we know mustered here.

She outlines how the troops were housed, fed and prepared for invasion.

Southampton Common is still a popular green space to the north of the city of Southampton. In 1415, it was here that the commander of the king’s archers, Sir Thomas Erpingham, gathered his troops prior to embarking for France.

In a previous step, we saw Sir Thomas’s muster rolls, now held at the National Archives. It was here on Southampton Common that he would have had the bag containing his muster rolls and would have checked off the names of his men.


What surprises you about how Henry’s army prepared to travel to war?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Agincourt 1415: Myth and Reality

University of Southampton

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: