Our sister organisation – the Derbyshire Record Society – has now fully published the Derbyshire Musters of 1638-9. All are fully indexed by person and place and prefaced by a detailed introduction. For case of handling, the introduction and indexes form one volume (part 1) and the texts another (part 2). The musters were edited by the late Victor Rosewarne.
Between the early sixteenth century and the mid seventeenth the Privy Council instructed local officials in each county to hold regular musters of able-bodied men who could be called upon to defend the kingdom in time of war. Men from every town and village had to assemble, usually in the early autumn, at a specified meeting place and show that they possessed suitable arms and armour. Gentry families had to provide horsemen. The musters were ordered by the lord lieutenant, summoned by the deputy lieutenants, and organised locally by the high constable of each hundred.
In 1638 the young 3rd earl of Devonshire had just become lord lieutenant of Derbyshire. Keen to impress the Council, the earl ordered the constables to compile lists of all men aged between 16 and 60 in each town and village, which he had copied into a volume to be sent up to London. The book, containing some 17,300 names, survives among the records of the State Paper Office. It provides a uniquely full record of the inhabitants of every community in Derbyshire on the eve of the Civil War.
In part 2, the text of the 1638 muster book is printed in full, alongside a shorter roll of 1639 and some ancillary documents.
Publication of the musters should be an indispensable source for the study of family history in Derbyshire, as well as the demography of the county, and also sheds new light on local administration in the early seventeenth century.
The two parts retail at £33 each, but members of the record society can obtain them at £20 for each part. For further details contact the society’s treasurer – firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the on-line order form.