Yes, crossbows in England date back to the Norman Conquest - William the Conqueror's chaplain, William of Poitiers, mentions their use at the Battle of Hastings, as does William of Malmesbury (whose evidence has to be taken with a pinch of salt as he hadn't been born when the battle happened, but on the other hand, he is an English resident familiar with crossbows in the 12th century). There is a mention of Hugo the arbalestier in the Domesday Book of 1086 as well as his son Odo in 1140 (see http://www.angelfire.com/fl/larbalestier/).William of Otterton wrote:Crossbows in England?
I'm very much wanting to keep developing my portrayal of someone in Devon during the wars between Stephen and Matilda during the early-mid 12C. However, I'm wanting to use a crossbow for my target archery as my shoulder just can't take the strain of a more typical bow any more. Am I right out to lunch on this idea? I've bounced off a few comments online that Henry I had a number of crossbowmen but some of that may be coming from Payne-Gallwey, and I can't verify the sources.
Also, if that works would padded gambeon and a Norman conical be suitable with it?
The evidence for gambesons as early as the Stephen/Matilda civil war is almost non-existent - it's very difficult to stretch them that far back with any certainty. Conical 'Norman' helmets were still in use. Crossbowmen shown in the late 12th century Liber adHonorem Augusti of Peter of Eboli (the guys in the bottom row) wear civilian clothes, but two of them are wearin g helmets. Note, by the way, how simple - even primitive - these crossbows are.