Honourable Artillery Company - History

History

The HAC can trace its history as far back as 1087, but it received a Royal Charter from Henry VIII on 25 August 1537, when Letters Patent were received by the Overseers of the Fraternity or Guild of St George authorising them to establish a perpetual corporation for the defence of the realm to be known as the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handgonnes. This body was known by a variety of names until 1656, when it was first referred to as the Artillery Company. It was first referred to as the Honourable Artillery Company in 1685 and officially received the name from Queen Victoria in 1860. However, the Archers’ Company of the Honourable Artillery Company was retained into the late 19th century, though as a private club. Founded in 1781 by Sir Ashton Lever, it met at Archers’ Hall, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London. The Archers Company remained a part of the regiment operated from 1784 to the late 1790s, along with Matross, Grenadier (established on 11 August 1686) and Light Infantry companies/divisions, with a Rifle or Yager Company introduced in around 1803.

The regiment has the rare distinction of having fought on the side of both Parliament and the Royalists during the English Civil War 1642 to 1649.

From its formation the company trained at a site it had occupied at the Old Artillery Ground in Spitalfields and at The Merchant Taylors' Company Hall. In 1622 the company built its first Armoury House at the site of the Old Artillery Gardens. In 1638 Sir Maurice Abbot granted the company use of lands at its current site south of Bunhill Fields Burial Ground on City Road, which in 1649 consisted of twelve acres enclosed by a brick wall and pale. In 1657 it sold its old Armoury House in Spitalfield to a Master Gunner Richard Woolaston for £300. It was in this New Artillery Gardens that on 28 October 1664 the body of men that would become The Royal Marines was first formed. James (later James II), the Duke of York and Albany, Lord High Admiral and brother of King Charles II, was Captain-General of Honourable Artillery Company at the time.

Until 1780 captains of the HAC trained the officers of the London Trained Bands.

The Company served in Broadgate during the Gordon Riots of 1780, and in gratitude for its role in restoring order to the City, the Corporation of London presented "two brass field-pieces", which led to the creation of an HAC Artillery Division. (These guns are on display in the entrance hall of Armoury House.)

In 1860, control of the Company moved from the Home Office to the War Office and in 1889 a Royal Warrant gave the Secretary of State for War control of the Company’s military affairs. In 1883 Queen Victoria decreed that the HAC took precedence next after the Regular Forces and therefore before the Militia and Yeomanry in consideration of its antiquity.

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