In a bastide the Watch was ensured by members of the community, on a rota basis. Chosen from among the citizens, they kept watch at the gates of the town from the highest points of the ramparts, as well as making nocturnal patrols. They alerted the village of any danger by means of a loud rattle.
In the Middle Ages, mounting the Watch to keep the town safe or the Landord’s fields guarded was a military service. This service was recorded as early as the Year 800, in Boulogne. Only citizens, notably those from the bourgeoisie aged between 14 and 60 years, had the right to be part of the Watch or to mount the Guard: respectively called « Guet des Métiers » and « Garde Bourgeoise », and it was at their demand that the « Guet Royal » was formed in Paris as early as 1254 «for the safety of persons and property, to put an end to the wrongs done every night in the town, whether fire, theft, larceny, violence, rape of women, moonlight flits by tenants to frustrate proprietors».
The Watch was an essential function in crime and fire prevention within an urban space where wood was a dominant material. Furthermore the Watch had to ensure surveillance from the summits of the fortifications. Other sentries were posted at the main entrances to the town and provided night patrols in the streets.
A few sergeants at arms, permanent soldiers, ensured training in archery. The existence of a garrison of ten men or so, or more often, a brotherhood of guards chosen from the townspeople could be seen in all the bastide towns that were in need of means of defence.
In the absence of a garrison, militia were formed, commanded by the councillors and leading citizens. They ensured the night patrols and the protection of the town in times of insecurity or conflict. They had strong reason to do this, as much for perspectives of peace and safeguarding of property, which motivated them in ways that would not move mercenaries. Everyone was prepared to fight to protect home and privilege.
THE BASTIDE’S SECRET
The sentry: « In the early days of the bastide, at night, we had to open one of the town gates, especially the Flaran gate, at least once each week, to monks who wished to enter, or to councillors who wished to leave. For some time now that doesn’t happen ! They must at last have understood that the cover of night attracts danger ! Or perhaps they’ve discovered another way... » Word 6/11 : awaits you.
The mason is in front of his house, on your left !