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watch and ward


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The system developed in 13th century England to preserve the peace in local communities. Guards were appointed and the duties of the constables at night (watch) and in daytime (ward) were defined. Town gates remained closed from dusk to dawn, strangers had to produce sureties to prove their identity and business, up to 16 men maintained the watch in cities, twelve in boroughs, and four in smaller communities. Modifications to the system were eventually incorporated in the Statute of Winchester of 1285, a collection of regulations aimed at keeping the peace.

Subjects: History.


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