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Thanks to Tony for all the work to improve the Guard's uniforms!


- The York Waits

York Guard

York Guard and Waits

The York Free Fencers Guild have close ties with the York Guard with several of us being members of both groups. Free Fencers tend to have an interest in historical activities and the opportunity to go around York in early Tudor costume armed with a Halberd is too good to miss!

We plan to research the history of the original York Guard so the people of York are able to know more of the history of this fair city, but for the moment we are grateful to Charles Kightly for the history of the latest incarnation of Guard.


Unconfirmed rumours hold that halberd-carriers sometimes accompanied the Sheriff's Riding from its revival at an uncertain date in the 1970s, and a costumed 'Guard' of some kind certainly accompanied the official visits to York by the Jurade de St.Emilion in 1980 and 1981. A city standard bearer has headed the Sheriff's Riding from at least 1980, when it first became an official occasion incorporating the Civic Party.

But the York Guard in its present form dates from 1987, when it was formed at the request of the then York City Council as a 'guard of honour' for the Duke and Duchess of York at the time of their first official visit to the city. This guard was inspected by the Duke when he visited the Castle Museum.

There were then 22 halberdiers plus a drummer. They wore the same c.1520s red coats and quartered caps which are still worn. Originally they wore red and white stockings [red on the right, white on the left leg] and curious 'Tudor' slippers, but these accessories are now quite laid aside.

There is no particular reason why clothing of this period was chosen: it was simply a period the organisers were interested in at the time. The red coats however were intended to complement the red coats already worn by the York Waits [re-formed 1977], with whom the Guard has always been closely associated. For some years now the Guard coats have been adorned with an embroidered badge of the city arms.

The early guard carried period halberds borrowed from the Castle Museum. When these were no longer available, the guard acquired its own halberds (1989, with additions in 2013). In some years longbow archers have accompanied the halberdiers. The Guard's longbow archery team [alias 'the Company of St.Edmund'] beat all comers at Lincoln Castle in 1990, and many took part in a shoot at Haxey, Lincs, in 1991. Membership of the Guard was also for a long time virtually co-extensive with membership of the York Gentlemen's Longsword Dance team.

As far as anyone can remember, members of the Guard began to accompany the Sheriff's Riding in 1987, and have done so ever since. The Guard escorted the Jurade of St.Emilion during their visits to York and (with flaming torches) Lincoln in 1989. They turned out for the Queen's visit in 2000, and for the Millenium Yorkshire Day procession that year.

In recent years they have also accompanied the Lord Mayor and Sheriff on other ceremonial occasions, notably from 2010 the Mayor Making procession in May, and on Charter Day 2012. By 2013 they were regarded as an integral part of the 'Civic Party' on important ceremonial occasions. Ten guards plus standard bearer accompanied the Sheriff's Riding in 2013, the largest number for some time. The then Sheriff presented us with small metal badges of the city arms, which we took to be a final seal of approval.

The first 'commander' of the Guard was Charles Kightly, succeeded by Robert Jenkinson in 1994. Standard-bearers have included Neville Hobson, Jef Maytom and Charles Kightly.

Recent Guard Events

This year, for the first time the Guard attended "R U Taking The P", an event to raise money for research towards Prostate Cancer. A rather warm day, but a very good one. If asked we will definately do another!

At the end of R U Taking The P.