The English first encountered the long bow in the hands of the Welsh archers during the reign of Edward I and his war with the Welsh in 1277. The king soon adopted its use and passed a law that every man and boy including the nobility should learn to use it and practice in areas called butts.
The son of Edward III was also called Edward, Earl of Chester. He is often referred to as the Black Prince but this title was not used during his lifetime. The Prince took a personal interest in the recruitment of archers from the Hundred of Macclesfield and Cheshire. He also introduced mounted archers and gave sealed indentures to members of the nobility to recruit their own followers. They each had to raise a specific number and were responsible for them reaching their destination. If any deserted they lost their property and land to the King and their captain also lost his land.
The export of bows and arrows was forbidden and the archers were not allowed to leave England without a royal licence.
In 1336 three hundred men accompanied John Legh and John Ardern amongst other leaders to Gascony.
In 1356 four hundred men accompanied Hamo Massey, Robert Legh, Robert Hyde and John Danyers to Scotland.
In 1400, during the reign of the new King Henry IV, several more hundred men accompanied Richard and Thomas Vernon, William Brereton and Adam Bostock, John and Thomas Massey.
Being away at war was not without its drawbacks. Many estates were pillaged, wives raped and their land was often hard to reclaim. Many soldiers and leaders stayed on the continent to fight for Italian dukes and became mercenaries.
Many who returned to England bought land in another county,
others married widows or bought wardships to obtain lands.
In 1400 John Carrington and Robert Ardern fled to Paris and
shared their spoils of war to avoid King Henry IV. Robert
later died crossing the Alps.
Many who committed crimes or deserted were pardoned
provided they volunteered to fight in France or Scotland.
Prince Edward died in 1376 and his father, King Edward III, died a year later. The heir to the throne was Prince Edward's son Richard II, aged 10.
As Richard grew older he proved an unpopular king, like King John, and had many enemies. He surrounded himself with a personal bodyguard of three hundred archers divided into seven squadrons or watches. Three of these seven squadrons were under the leadership of John Legh, Adam Bostock and Ralph Davenport.
During the last two years of his reign oppressions, raping, flogging and killing by his retinue went unpunished. Eventually Richard was captured and held in Pontefract Castle by his cousin Henry Bollingbroke. Richard died in 1399. Many Cheshire families fought on the side of Richard and their leaders were beheaded as an example to other families. Sir Peter Legh of Lyme, Sir Richard Vernon of Shipbrook and Sir Richard Venables of Kinderton had their heads placed on poles above the gates of Chester Castle.
From the 12th century these main families have been important in the development of society in Stockport and Cheshire.
War and Society in Medieval Cheshire by P. Morgan
Cheshire under the Earls by B.M. Husain
The Origins of Cheshire by N. J. Higham