The Double-armed Man

The Double-armed Man

I saw someone poking around on my Big Blog of Leather looking for information on the Double Armed Man. That prompted me to lightly rework this article from 2003, that was supposed to be the basis for the first chapter of a book I was writing but never finished as work, life and health got in the way. I believe I know how Neade’s device worked and have built a model, now to find a blacksmith that will build one for me in iron. My seventeenth century re-enactment has all been based on getting an accurate representation of the people in the woodcuts. I’ll do the quiver at some point on the other blog.

The incongruous mix of bucket-top boots with spurs worn with the pike armour by the soldiers probably marks them as being members of the Gentlemen of the Artillery Garden, an organisation that was to later become the Honourable Artillery Company.

Now read on…

Way back in the mists of time, when I was a member of a certain numerical club [1] and the Routiers were off fighting the Thirty Years War, I approached the then Captain with a proposal to re-enact a double-armed man based on one picture in Koch’s Medieval Warfare.[2] Upon discussion, it was decided to let the project drop as 1625 was too late for the Routiers at the time and while Neade’s book had been published; the Double Armed man had probably never been put to use. Anyway, there was only one picture and no other information available anywhere.

Neade: The Pikeman stands sloapt, and shooting. 
This portraiture is properly used for shooting, with this observation, the Butt end of the Pike be fast in the ground at the right foot.
The words of command for this posture, are as followeth:
Sloape your pike
Unfasten your bow
Draw out your arrow
Nocke your arrow
Shoot wholly together

That was probably a Good Thing [3] as I would have made a right balls-up of the whole thing at the time.  I’ve done a bit of research since then and found we were both wrong about how much service the Double-armed man had seen…


In the arms race arising from the wars between Spain and Holland, a number of options were tried to make the pikeman something other than simply a target for artillery. Combinations of weapons to provide offensive and defensive capabilities in one soldier were tried, as well as different ratios of pike and shot within the ranks. These experiments were watched with interest from across the pond in Blighty, where a number of the combinations were tried with middling results. One combination, unique to England, seems to have caught the imagination of some of the people in positions in power within the military.

This combination was the bow and pike, made possible by the use of a device to connect and articulate the two, was invented by William Neade, described by no less a person than the King as an “ancient archer”.[4]

Neade envisaged the entire pike block being armed with bow and pike, all shooting, the front rank “breast high, then are the followers to bear their Bow hand even with the top of his Leaders head”. Shooting started at the long range of up to 20 score yards with light flight or livery arrows, changing to the heavier sheaf arrows at closer range, until “about sixscore yards”, the maximum range for the muskets [5], the front ranks would fasten the bow to the pike, close to the order and come to the charge. The middle and rear ranks could “shoot their volleys of Arrows and doe good service, whereas without their Bowes thay can doe nothing but stand with their pikes sloapt, or ported”.

He developed sixteen postures for drill, five of which were specific to the bow; the others were fundamentally unchanged from the normal pike drill.  Neade recommended the combination for guarding convoys, a task normally given to men armed with wheel lock carbines with an aim of keeping burning slowmatch away from flammable horse fodder or bulk gunpowder.

Neade produced a book in 1625 [6] arguing at some length in favour of his invention and showing the drill; a letter answering criticisms of the device [7] and held a patent [8] and monopoly on the manufacture for 14 years, from 1634 until 1648.

Neade: The Pikeman stands ordered.
Note the small shaft connecting the bow and pike near the top of the woodcut.

In one plate of his book, The Double Armed Man, Neade shows the soldier with the pike at the order, with a short bar joining the pike and bow. This illustration is shown above. Ward (p261) also shows a bow and pike joined together, with a little more detail on the mounting on the pike. These, as far as I have been able to find, are the only graphical depictions of the device. The other plates in Neade show the relative positions of the pike and bow for different postures, and allow the degrees of movement to be inferred but do not show any detail of the device itself. It can be seen that the bow is completely free to rotate in one plane only about the axis of the device, with a small amount of play in the other planes.

Neade’s book implies that he manufactured the devices, but may be that he directed the manufacture by one or more artisans. The implication of the patent awarded in 1634 to them is that they were either making the devices themselves, or owned the company that did and were having trouble with imitations.

Neade also invented and patented a grinder for manufacturing the device [10]. [My original article claimed a “quiver” at this point, based on an assertion in Roberts, K., A New Combination that there was a repeated error using the word used in the patent, I’ve changed my mind as I’ve made my own prototypes and resorted to grinders to do particular tasks. Roberts never qualified the reasons for his claim.]

Bow and Pike together

Very little is known about William Neade, or his son William Neade, named as co-inventors and owners of the invention, but they obviously had some influence with members of the Artillery Garden and (apparently, reluctantly) the King.

Neade was involved in training the London Trained Bands, after demonstrating his invention before the king at St James Park in 1625; he equipped one soldier in each of the London and Westminster Artillery Gardens. The Artillery Garden in London practised with the combination for a period of twelve months. During this period it was seen and commented on by the Scottish author, Sir Thomas Kellie. [11]

The King finally gave a Royal Commission to encourage the use of the invention in England and Wales[12] in 1633. This specified use by

“all who are to exercise arms in the use of weapons especially the chiefe officers and all others of our Trayned-Bands”.

In 1635 and again in 1637 Neade petitioned the King claiming that he had expended his whole estate of £600 in the process and no one was using the device. [13] The request was that “the Lord Mayor may be ordered to direct the trained bands to furnish themselves with such ammunition, … and that delinquents who refuse may be proceeded against”. [14]

The petition had some success as in 1637, 300 members of the Artillery Company armed with bow and pike paraded and performed drill before his Majesty. [15]

Neade managed to get himself noticed by those whose opinion counted. He cites Captain Bingham of the Honourable Artillery Company, and the “approbation of many other honourable commanders”. [16] An anonymous author [17] made the comment:

“Meane while the practice of the bow may be received; though we retain the use of the Corslet; for if the one be small incumbrance on the body, and the other will be little burden at the back, and if to rest the left hand on the pike, enable men to draw a stronger bowe, that ingenious device of scruing both together will be best”.

Illustration from Ward’s Animadversions of Warre (1639)
The top pike is fitted with musket barrels, the lower with a bow.

Robert Ward in 1631 [18] said “This invention of joyning the Bowe to the Pike, may bee of excellent use in the Warres…”

Even after the start of the Civil Wars, notable individuals were still passing comment: Captain William Bariffe remarked:

“And if by frequent practice they were inured to the use of the long bow fastened to their pikes… they would not only be a terrour to their enemies, by the continual showers of arrows which they will send amongst them; but also they would be a greate meanes to rout their Battalions, and utterly break theyr order…

… and questionlesse in the time of stormie wet weather, these Bowes would do great service, when the Musquet cannot be discharged for wet…” [19]

He goes on to suggest that the pike drill should be leaned well first, before complicating things with both bow and pike. Bariffe included the double armed man in his otherwise normal manoeuvres in chapters 76 and 77 noting” the pikes, after ‘sending their showers of arrows come to the shock, and so try the fortune of the day’.

It wasn’t just theory and practising in the park (however satisfying that may be). The Earl of Bedford (fighting in 1642 on the side of Parliament) encountered a body of troops on the approaches to Hertford: “…at the entry of the town stood the whole Trained band as a full body placed in a warlike equipage… he was by them conducted to the second watch, being a company of Pikes with Bowes and Arrowes…”. [20] [My emphasis].

Thomas Venn was still talking about the combination nearly 50 years later:

“I could therefore say much for the long-bow to be joyned with the Pike how their showers of Arrows will gaul and terrife the horse, wound and hurt the Souldiers, both on horse and on foot …”. [21]

Archery before and during the Civil Wars

In 1600 an entry appears on February 9, “payment made to Rd. Bowlte Master Bowyer of £4/18/4 for repairing & straightening 295 liverie Bows beeing before unserviceable”, showing that bows were still thought of sufficient consequence to be repaired. These bows were stored in the Tower and were likely to have been in the order placed under Elizabeth.

In 1621, a committee advised the Lord Mayor of London that four regiments or companies of archers should be formed, but nothing appears to have been done.  The same year the lord lieutenants of counties were directed to see that of the newly levied men twelve out of every fifty were archers. [22]

Gervase Markham, in just about the only original section his wonderfully plagiarised The Art of Archerie, [23] discusses the psychological effect of a rain of arrows on an enemy that is still 200 yards outside effective musket range. Markham addresses his (ha!) book to the Masters and Wardens of the Guilds within London (these bodies fought in the defence of London under their own banners). [24] Markham also promoted as a useful practice for the Untrained Bands and Auxiliaries in London for the support of the Trained Bands. [25]

Neade: The Pikeman stands coucht and charged for the horse, with his sword drawne.
This portraiture of charging to horse, is to shew, that the bow is very materiall for this service; for the five of sixe first rankes standing coucht at this charge, the middle and the reare may shoot their volleyes of arrows, and therewith both gaule, wound, disorder, and kill the enemy, both man and horse.
The words of command are;
Five first Rankes draw your Swords close to your pouldrons.
Charge at the foot, and couch low.
Middle and Reare, port and come up to your order, and shoote your Arrows.

The Honourable Artillery Company practised archery in and around London in the early 17th century. Patents were granted by James I in 1605, and Charles I in 1633, to restore the Finsbury Fields to the state they were in during the reign of Henry VIII. [26] The owners had put up fences, which interfered with the archers’ marks.

The King issued a commission in 1638, ordering the statute of Henry VIII for the maintenance of archery[27], and two other statutes of Edward IV and Elizabeth [28] respecting the importation of bow-staves by merchant strangers, to be enforced.

As the Civil Wars started, archery again was given a boost.  A party of the king’s troops in 1642 are said to have been met armed with bows, and archery is mentioned as having been used at the sieges of Devizes and Lyme. [29] Archers were also present in 1644 in Ireland at the battle of Tippermnir. [30]

In 1643 a company of archers was raised within London, being based at Bowyers-Hall within Cripplegate and a nearby church. The archers met on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while the Trained Band met on one Sunday a month and holy days.

This fell within the catchment area for the Green Band and neatly segues to the present day. Given the evidence above, and a great deal more I have collected, I believe that archers are under-represented in our Band (some sources go as high as twelve men in every fifty had been trained as archers). Having learnt pike drill to an adequate level, as recommended by Barriffe, I propose to complicate things by lugging around a bow and some arrows and at some point will have a crack at Mr Neade’s invention. Then I should really be able to make a real balls-up of pike drill.


Anon., Objections to the use of the Bow with the Pike: And the Answers thereunto, London, 1636(?)

Anon., A New Invention for Shooting Fireshafts in Longbowes, London 1628

Bariffe, W., Military Discipline or The Young Artilleryman, London, 1643

Beaufort, Duke of (Ed), The Badminton Library of SPORTS AND PASTIMES — Archery, London, 1894

Charles R., Patent AD 1635, No 69. Affixing the Bow and Pike Together, London, 1635

Charles R., 9.Car.1 A Proclamation for the use of the Bowe and Pike together in Military Discipline, London, 1633

Charles R., 10.Car.1 De Concessione Privilegii Willielmo Neadee, London, 1634

Credland, A. G., Bow and Pike, Journal of Archer-Antiquaries Vol 29-1986

Markham, G., The Art of Archerie, London, 1634

Neade, W., Archer, The Double-armed Man, By the New Invention, London, 1625

Roberts, K., A New Combination – English Experiments in Infantry Equipment, 1620-40, Military Illustrated 90

Roberts, K., London and Liberty, Partizan Press, London, 1987

Venn, T., Military and Maritine Discipline, London, 1672

Ward, R., Animadversions of Warre, or a Militaire Magazine of the Truest Rules and Ablest Instruction For the Managing of Warre, London 1639

[1] 1066 The Medieval Society, not to be confused by 1066 And All That

[2] Koch, H. W., Medieval Warfare, Bison Books, London, 1978

[3] Sellar, W.C. & Yateman, R.J., 1066 And All That, Methuen Books, Suffolk, 1984

[4] 9. Car. 1

[5] Roberts, A New Combination

[6] The Double-armed Man, By the New Invention

[7] Anon, but attributed to Neade

[8] AD 1643 No 69 Affixing the Bow and Pike together.

[9] Animadversions of Warre, London, 1639, p261

[10] Called a “grinder” repeatedly in the patent.

[11] Kellie, T., Pallas Armata or Militarie Instructions, Edinburgh, 1627, pp 108-109

[12] 9. Car. 1

[13] See Dictionary of National Biography; William Neade

[14] State Papers, Dom. vol. cccx (cited in the Badminton Library)

[15] State Papers Dom. vol. ccclvi (cited in the Badminton Library)

[16] Neade, The Double-Armed Man

[17] A New Invention for Shooting Fireshafts in Longbowes, Anon, London 1628, p5

[18] Animadversions of Warre, London, 1639, p391 (cited in Credland)

[19] Military Discipline or The Young Artilleryman, London, 1643.

[20] A Perfect Diurnal of the Proceedings in Hartfordshire from the 15th of August to the 29. Printed for W M, September 1, 1642  (cited in Credland)

[21] Venn, p39

[22] State Papers, Dom. vol. lxxiv. (cited in the Badminton Library)

[23] The rest of the book is pretty much a word-for-word rip-off of Ascham’s Toxophilus (1545)

[24]Roberts, London and Liberty

[25] Roberts, A New Combination, p42

[26] State Papers, Dom. vol. cxxv. (cited in the Badminton Library)

[27] 33 Henry VIII. c. 9. The statute stated that all above the age of twenty-four were forbidden to shoot at less than eleven score yards, under a penalty of 6s. 8d

[28] 12 Ed. IV. and 13 Eliz. c. 14

[29] Badminton Library, Chapter IX

[30] ibid.


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