Rules of the Watch
Rules of the Watch 1st November 1755 to 25th March following
Printed by James Stokes in High Street
A set of rules, orders and directions to control the operation of the Night Watchmen whose duty was to patrol the streets of Kilkenny in order to protect the citizens from annoyance or disturbance of any kind.
The watch hours shall be from 10 oclock at night to the ringing of the bell at 6 oclock in the morning.
The Watch shall consist of a constable and 16 watchmen of the same parish, 8 watchmen to patrol by turns about the whole city and suburbs, the Constable and remaining watchmen to remain at the guardhouse.
The constable who has watched at night shall in the morning deliver to the constable for the following night a printed notice of his turn to watch and in which shall be inserted the names of the persons whose turn it is to watch and at 12 oclock at noon the constable whose turn it is to watch shall leave a printed summons at each named person’s house.
If any person summoned is not at the watch house or send a substitute approved by the Constable at 10 oclock at night then the constable shall send for a substitute appointed by the Mayor. This substitute shall be paid for so doing and the money to be levied on the defaulter.
Any constable who fails to notify his successor, or who fails to notify the persons whose turn it is to watch, or who neglects coming in due time to the watch, or who shall misbehave during the watch or fail to return the watch bills or lanterns as directed shall be punished with the utmost severity of the law.
The Watchmen are to challenge and examine all persons whom they shall find walking the streets after 12 oclock at night and shall stop and arrest all suspected persons and any that are riotous and any servants or apprentices who are out without written leave and they shall be detained in custody till next morning to be carried before the Mayor to be dealt with according to the law.
No Constable or watchman shall on any pretence whatsoever discharge out of custody any person taken up until such person is brought before the mayor in the morning.
Rule IX If the patrol of the watch shall observe any house to have a light in it or hear the noise of a company within they shall knock loudly at the door and let the inhabitants know that they are the watch and if they find any strangers or suspected persons they shall be carried to the Watch House to appear before the mayor in the morning. If the householder refuses to open the door they shall keep watch until the morning when the mayor shall decide what action shall be taken.
The patrol shall detain all liquors and other excisable goods together with horses, carts, brewing equipment and men and also all material brought in to forestall the market or to avoid paying customs duty.
No constable or watchman is allowed to come on the watch drunk or get drunk or go to the alehouse during watch hours under penalty of being set in the stocks for 2 hours or paying 5 shillings.
No constable shall permit persons not of the watch to remain in the guardhouse during watch hours or permit any cards, dice pitch and toss or any games whatever.
No constable shall take any money, liquor, or any gratuity from any person detained the penalty being twice the gratuity or 2 hours in the stocks.
If any inhabitant be out late he may call to the watch house and ask for the lend of a watchman who shall accompany that person with lantern and candle safe home to his house. No gratuity shall be paid on the night but the watchman may call to that persons house in the morning and may accept any gratuity that is offered.
If any riot or disturbance break out beyond the control of the watch they shall call on the assistance of the commanding officer of his majesties forces stationed in the city.
Finally if the watch come on any traitor burglar or felon who shall be capitally convicted ie hang for his crimes, they shall be entitled to a reward of 10 pounds sterling to be divided equally between them over and above any other reward which may be payable.
A question for this generation – Isn’t it about time to bring back the rules of the watch for the better governance of the streets of Kilkenny at night?