by Peter Badham

Most of us in the United Kingdom that remember any of the years of World War 2 enjoyed the television programme of the title. This was in part because the depiction of the Home Guard, although humorous, was close enough to remind us of that random body of men who, in fact, did a sterling job on the Home Front. It was many years later I realised there was considerable historical precedent for this kind of activity.

By the Tudor period the militia was controlled nominally by the lord lieutenant of the county but in practice often by his deputy. Men between 16 and 60 were liable for service although infirmity was a recognised excuse. There were various requirements for individuals to attend musters and provide arms and protective armour. The relevance of the militia to family historians lies in the bureaucratic records of this activity. Surviving in various record repositories are militia assessments which record, parish by parish, amounts individuals were liable to pay for militia purposes. The Hereford militia assessments for 1663 were printed and edited under the auspices of the Royal Historical Society in 1972. This was an earlier example of the work of Michael Faraday whom I have mentioned before.1 Another form of document is the muster roll and the surviving Tudor rolls for 1539 and 1542 for Herefordshire have been published by the Woolhope Society, again the work of Michael Faraday. Unfortunately out of the eleven Hundreds, three are missing from the earlier return and these are Broxash, Greytree and Wormelow which all have a Badham presence. Nevertheless, we can see quite clearly the contribution that Badham males made to the militia numbers in 1539 and more fully in 1542. The year 1539 saw an invasion scare because it was reported that the Scots were collaborating with Spain and France and, of course, this was the unsettled period after the break with Rome in 1531 and then, in 1549, Henry VIII declared war on France.

Over in the west of the county, close to the recently defined (1536) border with Wales, the Eardisley family is represented by Thomas Abadham who was recorded as a billman of Bollinghill. This is the place where we had our 2001 Conference. In 1539 Thomas is recorded as possessing gleif or gloves according to Faraday, but in 1542 the return is different, listing instead what the Eardisley community could provide, that is 17 gleif, 6 pairs of harnesses, 1 bow and a sheaf of arrows which was normally 20 to 24 in number. Although I have an enormous respect for Faraday’s work I do wonder about the attribution of glove for gleif. It seems odd to me that Eardisley is carefully listing 17 gloves and no bills?According to Wikipedia2 a glaive was a pole weapon and you can see from the descriptions below and in the endnote, very like a bill. For me, this is an alternative which makes sense, but are there any experts in Tudor weaponry amongst you or your friends? Over the river in 1539 at Bradwardyn (Bredwardine) was Hoell (Howell) Abadam listed as billman. The billmen seem to have been the basic infantry men and the bill was a staff with a spearhead at the end and just below it an axe-like blade with a concave cutting edge and a point sticking out opposite something like the sketch, but they varied a lot.

South of Hereford at Owere Bollingobe, as it was called in 1539 but would now be Upper Bullingham, were John and William Badam, both listed as archers and having a bow and sheaf of arrows each. By 1542, however, John doesn’t appear and William is listed simply as billman. I should say that in view of the closeness in the dates of the listings I have assumed that a man of the same name is the same person. It is of course possible that a new young man became 16 and an older relative of the same name dropped out of the listing having reached 60 or dying. Further south at Linton in 1542 Henry Badham appears and with three others can provide a pair of harnesses.

The remaining members of the tribe in 1542 were all in the Lower Frome valley although Stoke Lacy is actually on a tributary called the Loden. The distribution is very similar to that of the taxation returns I described in the November 2004 issue of the Newsletter. It very much confirms this established community of Badham families in this location. (The map in the article B1NS and DNA: a Pandora’s Box? is relevant to the area described.)

At Stoke Lacy we find Roger ap Adam a billman whilst a second Roger is at Western Beggard or possibly at Yarkhill and is also a billman. This Roger sports more armour, having a salet which was a light helmet as in the sketch, and a pair of splints which were plates of armour used to protect the inside of the arms. However, his main weapon was only a staff. His neighbours or relatives were Thomas and Lewys who, with Thomas Wynnyatt, were able to provide a pair of harnesses but were otherwise not allocated a role. Three years earlier, however, the group was little different, made up of four men, John a Badam senior, Roger, John junior and Thomas and they were better armed or more detail is recorded. John senior had a salet, gleif and dagger and Roger had a gleif and dagger only. It seems, therefore, that John senior had died between the return of 1539 and that of 1542 and Roger had inherited the helmet. This is made more likely because John senior is listed as non-combatant. Going back to 1539, John junior has a sword and dagger and we guess that he is Roger’s brother. Roger, John junior and Thomas are all listed as billmen but Thomas is unable to provide anything, perhaps the youngest brother? Across the valley, perhaps a mile away at Bartestree and Dormington, were two John a Badhams. Presumably it was father who was equipped with salet, splints and staff and his son who made do with a staff? Another John was up the valley about four miles at Ashperton, listed as a billman but here, as at Eardisley, the township is able to provide a pair of harnesses. The Frome valley contingent is completed by Thomas at Castle or Halmonds Frome, a billman and in 1542 equipped only with a staff, although in 1539 he has a sword, dagger, bow and a sheaf of arrows. Perhaps he lost them in some conflict?.

Although the eight men of the Frome valley Badhams were all listed in 1542 as billmen, it is apparent from the earlier return that they had other skills, with at least one archer and a couple with swords and presumably some skill to use them. I imagine that once combat became close quarters a bow would be an encumbrance but you couldn’t carry both bow and bill so would fall back on the use of your sword. Thomas and Lewys at Yarkhill or Western Beggard, who are linked to the provision of harness, are not listed with a role and the same is true for Henry Badham at Linton, so possibly these individuals were used to work the supply carts or to move cannon. Not a great army then, but we could have fielded a small troop of ten or so with a range of skills.


  1. Early 16th Century distribution of ap Adam derived surnames in Herefordshire B1NS Newsletter 8 Nov 2007, p.6 and Badham Delvings, Ch. 2.
  2. A glave is a polearm consisting of a single-edged blade on the end of a pole… However, instead of having a tang like a sword or naginata, the blade is affixed in a socket-shaft configuration similar to an axe head. Typically, the blade was around 18 inches (55 cm) long, on the end of a pole 6 or 7 feet (180–210 cm) long. Occasionally glaive blades were created with a small hook on the reverse side to better catch riders. Such blades are called glaive-guisarmes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pole_weapon#Glaive, 27 August 2008. [PDF URLs will take you to Wikipedia. (Ed.)]