I’ve been reading the Google-transcribed text of “Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry“, wordily subtitled; “To which is added the Fencible and Provisional Cavalry of the same county, from 1780, to 1908”.
I referenced this work last year in my post on the history of yeomanry cavalry on a north Norfolk estate; Horsemen of Holkham Hall, a stately home which I visited during the summer of 2018. In the post, I was unsure as to what colour uniform the local Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry actually wore and speculated they were likely to have adopted the popular choice in Norfolk of red coats with white or blue breeches.
The only real clue that I could find lay in the words of the Holkham troop’s commandant, Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall, who petitioned the Prince of Wales for permission to raise the troop. The letter, reproduced in Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry, has Coke writing;
“I have to request your Royal Highness’s permission that we may wear the colours of ye loth for our uniform…”
Ye loth? I speculated in my post that it could even be a miss-scanned ‘yellow’. Judging from similar instances of typographical errors appearing in the document, it now becomes clear to me to be “the” (written as ‘ye’ in those days) and “10th” (i.e. that numbered regiment of Light Dragoons). Reading on, makes it blindingly, and embarrassingly, obvious;
“I have to request your Royal Highnesses permission that we may wear the colours of the 10th for our uniform, and that your Royal Highness would have the condescension to order two soldiers from that Regiment to drill us;…”
Furthermore, the Prince Regent was in fact Colonel of that Regiment, the 10th Light Dragoons, an office he held from 1796-1819, so it would make perfect sense for Coke to petition the Prince of Wales in this manner, newly raised yeomanry troops otherwise having permission to wear whatever style uniform they (or their benefactor, in this instance Coke) preferred.
So, if the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry apparently wore a uniform which imitated the 10th Light Dragoons then we might reasonably assume they would have worn a jacket and Tarleton helmet looking something like the Prince of Wales’ own officer’s uniform seen below:
Being Colonel of the 10th (‘The Prince of Wales’s Own’), the Prince took great pride in his regiment. Barred from active service, he ‘…channelled his interest into collecting and into the design of military dress and accoutrements. As Colonel Commandant, and later Colonel, of the 10th Light Dragoons, patterns of uniforms and equipment were submitted to the Prince for approval, many of which he retained at Carlton House‘ (Royal Collection Trust). It is known that he wore the Tarleton above at a review in 1798, which is around the time that Coke was raising his Holkham Yeomanry.
It’s a dark blue jacket with a pale yellow, almost buff, facings, with twenty one lines of silver lacing across the chest. The Tarleton helmet has a black silk turban with silver chains surmounted by a crest of black fur and a white feather plume. I wonder how closely the Holkham Yeomanry troop imitated this arrangement.
The Prince had a number of portraits created depicting him in an earlier version of the uniform around the time of his first appointment to the 10th Light Dragoons in 1793. The turban on the Tarleton is different, a leopardskin, and the braiding can be seen to be a more sparse arrangement.
It has been my intention for a while to create some Holkham Yeomanry in some form or other, preferably in my favourite 1/72 scale as an unusual addition to the Napoleonic Cavalry Project. HaT have been crowdfunding some Peninsular War-era British Light Dragoons which should be issued at some point, so these might well do the trick but progress to production has been slow (a couple of years in the making so far, I think), so I might have to be patient for those for a while longer yet.
For a more immediate fix, there’s always the Strelets issue of British Light Dragoons in Egypt. Their heavyweight horses look like they’ve been out in the fresh springtime pasture for far too long. Also, unavoidably I suppose, some of the riders appear to be in less than ideal poses – either involved in either some wildly vigorous sabre drill or perhaps in the midst of putting down an insanely violent bread riot in Wells-Next-The-Sea!
Well, this is all food for thought in my attempt to bring the Holkham horsemen back to life, in some half-assed way or other! Time to get back to those other cavalry figures that I’m painting.
Following my last post on my trip to The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Notts Yeomanry Museum, I wanted to briefly draw attention to growing evidence of the threat to the UK’s regimental collections (outside London at any rate). This has been brought to our attention in an article today which reveals council culture budgets across the nation have been reduced by a third. The article by Ammar Kalia examines a large disparity between generous funding for London and relative poverty for the regions. It makes specific reference to a council very local to me apparently “removing all four curators at its museums in light of a £320,000 cut in its arts budget.” Elsewhere, a Museum Trust director declares “we hear about smaller cities and shire counties’ museums which are teetering on the brink of closing down if another round of cuts come through.“
This year alone, it’s notable that already two potential visits to local regimental collections that I was considering to make have been stymied for an extended period due to ‘refurbishment’ – is it possible to suspect these temporary closures could even become permanent in such circumstances?
For the military history enthusiast, it’s now vitally important to continue appreciating and supporting such museums while they are still around to be enjoyed. As cuts to budgets bite, it’s sobering to consider that in some cases, my regimental museum reports may sadly become one of the few means then available to appreciate something of these wonderful collections.
This trip was actually a revisit to a museum which I’d last visited some 5 or 6 years ago, prior to this blog’s current incarnation and its series of museum reports. The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum is situated in Thoresby Park, deep in the picturesque Nottinghamshire countryside. Entry is completely free and its displays include the combined collections of:
The Queen’s Royal Lancers and their antecedents, namely;
5th (Royal Irish) Lancers
16th (The Queen’s) Lancers
17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers
21st (Empress of India’s) Lancers
The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry
The South Notts Hussars
On this visit, I was particularly keen to take a closer look at displays connected to the two local yeomanry regiments; the Sherwood Rangers and the South Nottinghamshire Hussars.
Nottinghamshire’s Yeomanry Regiments:
One of the first things that I encountered on entry was a cabinet which included two ancient yeomanry tunics. The first had white facings and was dark blue in colour with tightly packed rows of silver braiding covering the front of the tunic from base to shoulder – 26 rows of loops and buttons (count ’em). The garment was described as belonging to the Worksop Independent Troop, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, c. 1820.
All that silver braiding continues elsewhere on the tunic too, with some Austrian knot detailing on the cuffs and trefoils on the back and even around the sides.
The other tunic in the cabinet dated from 1815 and belonged to the Newark Troop, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry. This coat was red with white facings, having three rows of 18 white metal buttons but without all the lace seen on the Worksop cavalry tunic above.
The shoulder scales were made of metal links, in contrast to the Worksop example’s cord braid on the shoulders.
An illustration of the 1798 uniform of this troop was available for purchase in the shop both as a postcard and notebook cover. It shows men of the Newark Troop in front of their home town’s castle ruin and the River Trent. Although the style of the coat (17 years older than the one displayed) is very different, the scarlet colour remains the same. Facings and turban appear to be a shade of orange or gold.
The above image also shows the guidon which remarkably is still in existence and appeared high up on the wall of the museum. The Royal Standard (below) was “presented on the 14th July 1795 to the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry in the name of Thomas Webb Edge and Mrs Lumley Saville. The needlework was her own. The guidon was re-presented to the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry on the 4th May 1840…[and was] always carried by the Newark Troop”.
Tucked away in an alcove elsewhere in the museum, and partially covered by another display propped up against it, appeared to be a Victorian print of a cavalryman. It reminded me of my own collection of Henry Martens series of Yeomanry illustrations, so I took a closer look.
Frustratingly, my close up photos of the title and artist/engraver didn’t come out at all, so I’m left guessing on those details now but I know it wasn’t a Martens. What I do know is that the artwork was a local production, “Printed for the compilers by Stevenson and Co., Middle Pavement in Nottingham” in 1848. This was just a few years after the Fores’ Yeomanry Costumes by Henry Martens were published. The compositional style is very reminiscent of Martens.
Interestingly, the red shako shown in the print was said to be an exact copy of that worn by the Chasseurs d’Afrique. What makes Yeomanry uniforms particularly interesting to me is this freedom that individual regiments could enjoy to mimic and reference other styles, even colourful and ‘exotic’ foreign ones such as this.
As with my Fores’ prints, this one comes with a dedication; “To Lieut. Colonel Holden, the officers, non comm’nd officers & privates of the Nottinghamshire Cavalry.” A little research informs me that the scarlet shako was adopted in 1847, just one year before the painting was published. The falling plume was black and there are yellow lines of cord on the shako depicted. The hussar uniform is blue, although it appears as a kind of light grey in the faded print. The pouch belt is black and the scabbard suggests a heavy cavalryman’s straight sword rather than a hussar’s curved sabre.
In the same display case as the tunics was this above helmet described as a “Notts Yeomanry Cavalry helmet c. 1837, probably manufactured for the regiment.” This regiment eventually became the Sherwood Rangers. It’s in terrific condition and appears to be made of ‘japanned’ (heavy black lacquered) leather. The horsehair plume is red and there are ventilation bars in the sides of the crest. Under the royal coat of arms gilt badge there is brass bar engraved with the title “Notts Yeomanry Cavalry”. A beautiful object!
The above 1845 shako badge displays the name of the South Notts Yeomanry Cavalry, forerunner to the South Notts Hussars. The hugely informative British Empire blog also has an image of the regiment’s shako with this sunburst design badge in place.
The uniforms shown above were unlabelled. Clearly not lancers, they look to be from the local yeomanry of the late 18th century and being navy must belong to the South Notts Hussars (the Sherwood Rangers wore a striking green hussar uniform). The five braiding loops tunic appears to be Mess Dress with a gold and red waistcoat underneath.
Incidentally, I have lying around a 54mm metal figure of the South Notts Hussars awaiting some paint, although a different order of dress, it’s five braiding loops closely matching the Simkin illustration seen above. Perhaps sometime soon might be a good time to make a start on it?
The 17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers:
The regular lancer regiments in the museum had a varied and dramatic history. The 17th Lancers being particularly well-known for their part in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. I think that they possibly have the most recognisable cap badge in the British Army; the macabre skull and crossbones, sometimes seen with the legend “Or Glory”. Seen on their 1815 Light Dragoon shako, it reminds me much of the headgear of the famous Prussian ‘Death’s Head’ Hussars, although they would have looked at the time more like my 13th Light Dragoon figures from 2015.
Their motto ‘Death or Glory’ was a reference to General Wolfe who fell mortally wounded at Quebec, 1759. I still have a “Death or Glory Boys” coaster taken from a visit I must have made to the 17th Lancers museum as a small child when it was still based in Belvoir Castle – looking pretty good after all these years!
More headdress of the 17th was on display, including one which saw use during the famous charge itself:
There is some controversy surrounding which bugle actually sounded the Charge of the Light Brigade, but the one on display in this museum has a very strong claim. The hole smashed through the end was caused by a Cossack piercing it with a lance, attempting (and failing) to pick it up off the ground and to take away as a trophy. An astonishing object in many ways.
An audio recording of a surviving trumpeter who was present in the charge was played on loop in the museum and you can hear it online, Trumpeter Kenneth Landfried blowing on a Waterloo bugle recorded on wax cylinder in 1890:-
Below: uniforms of the 17th through the ages on display:
a replica of the attractive light blue uniform worn in the American War of Independence;
an officer’s service uniform from the Zulu War (other ranks had white crossbelts without the silver pickers and plate);
a scarlet uniform from the time of George IV, a monarch determined to see all of his cavalry regiments wear red!
The 21st (Empress of India’s) Lancers:
A neat display dedicated to the 21st Lancers concentrated mostly on their famous charge at the battle of Omdurman. This is unsurprising given their relative newness, being formed in 1858 for the East India Company and not brought within the British army until 1862. Three regiments had previously been designated the 21st Regiment.
Being dogged by its lack of battle honours and experience (“thou shalt not kill” was unkindly suggested as the regimental motto), its reckless charge at the Dervish tribesman in 1898 seemed to some to be motivated by a need to restore some honour. Notably attaching himself to this wild charge was a young Winston Churchill of the 4th Hussars.
As a reference to its Indian origins when it was part of the EIC’s Bengal cavalry, the 21st Lancers wore French Grey facings, an example of which could be seen clearly in this late 19th Century Full Dress uniform.
The 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers:
The 16th Lancers were known as ‘The Scarlet Lancers” after successfully petitioning to retain the existing scarlet coatee when in 1840 it was ordered that all the Light Cavalry should revert back to the blue uniforms. An example of their unique scarlet lancer coat can be seen below.
The 16th Lancers famous action at the Battle of Aliwal in the Anglo-Sikh Wars was given due prominence. At this action, the regiment charged a Sikh force many times its own size, dispersed their cavalry and then broke the Sikh infantry squares, taking many casualties in the process but doing much to secure outright victory.
The 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers:
Concluding this report, this magnificent copper kettle drum below was described as being ‘used by the 5th Royal Irish Lancers’. Being that it appeared in a cabinet dedicated to the 18th century, I presume that this instrument is an antique belonging to the original regiment’s guise as the 5th Dragoons.
Notably, the 5th Regiment of Dragoons was disgraced after being infiltrated by Irish rebels during 1798. It was erased from the army list, with nothing existing for many years between the 4th and 6th cavalry regiments. This mark of disgrace lasted until it was reformed as lancers in 1858. An excellent example of the regiment’s pre-1798 uniform was on display; this lovely c.1745 mitre cap and c.1770 jacket of the 5th Royal Dragoons (note the links on the shoulders very similar to the Newark Troop’s example earlier).
The interesting display included a garment of their adversaries, Sudanese jibbahs, coats made of white cotton with additional patches sewn on.
With the exception of a thriving cafe, Thorseby courtyard seemed largely deserted of shops when I visited, so I wonder if the museum would do better in a much more accessible location, particularly so for those without a car. For those who are able to visit, with free entry and a rich collection of history to be found in nicely presented premises, the Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry museum is highly recommended!
What to do when the girls of my household are in London to see a musical leaving me in the capital city with a few hours to kill until they come out of the theatre? Why, visit a military museum, of course!
I decided that I’d walk down to Horse Guards Parade and take a look around the Household Cavalry Museum which is housed within the buildings there. Horse Guards was subject to some redevelopment in 1758 resulting in the Life Guard being based at the site, a tradition that continues to this day. In the 19th Century, the Duke of Wellington as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army used Horse Guards as the British Army HQ. In the 20th century it shamefully was allowed to become an enormous civil service car park, but it reclaimed its dignity and eventually reverted back to its original purpose as a parade and events ground in the 1990s.
The entrance fee is £8 which, though modest enough, is slightly more than many of the other military museums I’ve visited (many of which are free), but for London that’s positively cheap!
On entry, I soon found the display of the modern-day Full Dress uniform for which the Household Cavalry are famous worldwide. The uniforms are based on a 19th century-style heavy dragoon with polished steel cuirasses. The two regiments of the Household Cavalry have distinctively different uniforms; the scarlet tunics and white plumes of the Life Guard and the navy tunics and red plumes of the Blues and Royals. The colours of these regiments are a tradition which goes back a long way. For the Blues and Royals, their uniform harks back to the Horse Guards of the late 17th century.
Also in this contemporary display were the instruments of the mounted band. It was terrific to see the polished kettledrums and drum banners of a regiment which still uses them even today.
The Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) has a lineage that goes back to the distinctly un-royal cuirassiers in the Parliamentarian Army in the Civil War (known as ‘Haselrigge’s lobsters’). An example of this type of armour is on display.
In the early 19th century, Wellington’s Household Brigade performed a famous role in the Battle of Waterloo, comprising both regiments of the Life Guard and the Royal Horse Guards. The Royals (the 1st Dragoons who would later merge with the Blues) took part in the same general charge as part of the Union Brigade, in the process capturing a French Eagle. Helmets from this charge were on display. The images below show a Royals helmet top and a Horse Guards helmet below:
Back in 2016, I posted on a series of cigarette cards featuring British cavalry uniforms, one of which included this trooper below of the Royal Horse Guards in 1815. The same helmet but with the crest and plume in place can be seen.
A life-sized model reproduced the moment that Captain Alexander Kennedy Clark of the Royal Dragoons captured the French Eagle of the 105th Line. An original heavy dragoon helmet with horsehair plume could be viewed close up in a cabinet too. Great for comparison with my own 1st Royal Dragoon figures painted for the Nappy Cavalry Project a few years ago.
After Waterloo, the British Army enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace in which Britain and it’s forces were largely pre-eminent and unchallenged on the world stage. This allowed the army to explore more extravagant uniforms of immense grandeur, often without such indulgence ever being exposed to the proving ground of hard campaigning. With the prestigious Life Guard and the Royal Horse Guard regiments, this trend reached particularly exuberant proportions in the realm of headdress, as can be seen below in this 1832 Life Guards helmet with its outrageous bearskin plume.
The plume can be seen to be protruding slightly further forward on the helmet seen above compared to the design that it succeeded shown below.
This older 1817 design replaced the iconic, though short-lived, Waterloo helmet. The new design’s astonishing plume had its drawbacks, however, and apparently unbalanced the riders who wore it, hence the 1832 redesign. It must have nonetheless been a terrific sight in Full Dress occasions such as parades or reviews.
My aforementioned series of British cavalry uniforms on cigarette cards also pictured this helmet on a trooper of the Horse Guards in 1818.
Another version of this style of bear-crested ‘Romanesque’ headdress was this version worn by the 1st Dragoons, ‘the Royals’. There are notable differences, however. The helmet has been ‘Japanned’ in a black lacquer and has ornate gold-coloured leaf designs featuring on both the sides of the helmet and on the chin scales.
It’s an imposing piece of headgear, though another piece I discovered was arguably even more so. It was a headdress which I had been hoping to see up close for a long time. Described by the museum as a ‘bearskin cap’, this particular specimen was worn by a captain of the Life Guards at the coronation of the Prince Regent in 1821 and reflected the obsession that the would-be King George IV had with Napoleon’s recently defunct Imperial Guard.
The grenadier badge is a direct reference to Napoleon’s grenadiers. The ‘comb-over’ plume is made of swan feathers. Once again, another of those cigarette cards depicts this headdress. In fact, it reproduced the exact same coronation headdress on display in the museum, describing the illustration as “an officer of the Life Guards in the full dress uniform worn at the Coronation of George IV”. Notably, the artist has wrongly envisaged a direct copy of the French version with a shorter swan plume, a front plate and other Imperial Guard details, different to the original shown in the museum.
It would hardly be the Household Cavalry museum without plenty of cuirasses on display. Below is the cuirass worn at the same coronation as the bearskin cap. It’s quite a curious shape, quite elongated, which I suspect may have made being mounted for long periods uncomfortable.
The difference in cuirass shape can be clearly seen when compared to the version below;
For ceremonial occasions, cuirasses could be incredibly ornate. The black lacquered cuirass in the photo below was worn exclusively for the state visit of the Russian Tsar in 1814, no doubt deliberately resembling the Russian cuirassiers’ own black versions. It was interesting for me to discover that cuirasses were therefore being worn by the Life Guard, albeit briefly, pre-dating Waterloo. I’d always assumed that the regiment’s encounter with the French cuirassiers had been the instigator of a relationship between the cuirass and the Household Cavalry.
There was a particularly nice display relating to Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby of the Royal Horse Guards. To the Victorian public, Burnaby was a famously heroic character; the epitome of the recklessly brave Victorian adventurer. Being a member of the Victorian Military Society, he was already familiar to me and I have encountered a number of accounts of the man and his life. Burnaby was larger than life in every sense; being 6ft 4in tall, immensely strong and 20 stone. In the Victorian era such vital statistics was particularly impressive. As sense of the man’s still considerable stature could be gleaned from standing near his uniform, cuirass and boots.
Feats of his astonishing physical strength and endurance was subject to many anecdotes. Most of all, his adventurous and impetuous spirit guided him through many solo adventures across Central Asia, Spain, the Balkans and Russia at a time when being in the Royal Horse Guards meant limited exposure to direct military action.
Finally, desperate to see some combat, Burnaby took an unofficial appointment in the 1884 Sudan campaign. He subsequently died in desperate hand-to-hand fighting at the Battle of Abu Klea. One wonders whether his ceremonial cuirass would have proved of real value in such fighting? The boots displayed above were the same ones he was wearing when he was killed in the act of recklessly engaging the famously fierce Sudanese Hadendoa warriors virtually single-handed. The knife and it’s scabbard seen above are Sudanese weapons found on the field of battle where he lay. The book is a copy of “A Ride to Khiva”, Burnaby’s own popular account of his astonishingly daring trip to the distant silk road city which was then a newly acquired part of the Tsar’s empire.
Nearing the exit, I saw a poignant exhibit from aftermath of the IRA bombing of the Blues and Royals near Hyde Park in 1982. Four soldiers and seven of their horses died in the atrocity. The ornate dragoon helmet on display has been grotesquely damaged and deformed by the blast, a sobering reminder of just how far removed the smartness and beauty of traditional British army ceremonial uniforms are from being appropriate military equipment in the modern era. With the story of the wounded horse Sefton, it was also a reminder of how much appalling suffering cavalry horses must have endured through the ages.
To conclude with, a few more images of uniforms through the ages included in which is Lord Uxbridge’s artificial leg! Uxbridge was Wellington’s 2nd in command at Waterloo and in command of the Allied cavalry (he even recklessly joined the charge of the Heavy Brigade).
Recently, I also encountered another exhibit relating to a member of Wellington’s senior staff when I saw Lt-General Picton’s top hat displayed in the National Army Museum. Just as Picton’s hat reminded me of a famous scene in Dino De Laurentiis’ superb film “Waterloo”, so this leg also made me recall another scene from it; when Uxbridge (played by Terence Alexander) tragically loses his leg to a stray cannonball at the very conclusion of the battle:
Uxbridge: My God sir, I’ve lost my leg.
Wellington: My God sir, so you have!
On exiting, I took a final snap of a statue situated right outside the museum door. The statue commemorates a former colonel of the Horse Guards, the esteemed Victorian Commander-in-Chief, Sir Garnet Wolseley. He is sitting astride his mount and looking out across Horse Guards Parade. Another colossus of Victorian generalship, Lord Roberts, is just yards away, mounted upon his own plinth.
Glancing at my watch, I decided I still had plenty of time before meeting my wife and daughter. So I walked off down to the excellent Guards Toy Soldier Centre which is outside The Guards Museum and just off Birdcage Walk…
I fulfilled a long-standing intention to visit a military collection which, geographically, isn’t all that far away from me but which nonetheless I’d been unable to get to. It is a military collection housed within the Abington Park Museum in Northampton. Entry is free for visitors, entry times being restricted to afternoons on 4 days a week. It brings together collections relating to:
The Northamptonshire Regiment and its preceding regiments;
48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment of Foot,
58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot,
The Northamptonshire Yeomanry, militia and local volunteer units.
In 1970, the Northamptonshire Regiment collection was moved to Abington Park Museum having been previously based at various barracks in and around Northampton.
I have to now admit that in an act of total incompetence I forgot to put a memory card into my digital camera before leaving! All of which meant relying mostly upon my phone’s camera, which is far from the best device for taking decent images. Furthermore, I then later located my missing memory card in my trouser pocket on returning home. Early senility or stupidity?! Nonetheless, I managed to photograph some interesting exhibits, particularly ones relating to that great personal interest of mine – the yeomanry, which I will mostly concentrate on for the purposes of this post.
The Northamptonshire Yeomanry
On locating the military collection in the building, I was soon greeted by the sight of the distinctive uniform of the early Northamptonshire Yeomanry which was first formed in 1794. An example of their ancient Tarleton helmet was on display, looking pretty good for its age (over 200 years old), save for the threadbare comb which had retained a few tufts of its former glory, much like the balding pate of a very old man. The turban was a bright green (to match the uniform’s jacket) with brass chains holding it in place. The words “Northampton” and “Yeomanry” appeared in brass plaques on either side of the crest.
The jacket was green with buff facings. On the shoulders were some distinctive shoulder scales, of a type which I’d previously modelled for the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum figures a couple of years back.
It’s a very distinctive colour (akin to the Norfolk Rangers I mentioned recently) and a pleasing design, which was of course entirely the point, it being important that the Northamptonshire Yeomanry looked impressive. A framed contemporary illustration accompanied the display, not very expertly reproduced below;
Already in my possession prior to the visit was a book on the Northamptonshire Yeomanry; “Yeomen of England” by Ken Tout. It is a warm and lively account of the regiment told by one of its former soldiers. In it, Mr Tout recounts how “one great attraction in [yeomanry] recruitment was the colourful, even gaudy design of the uniform of a troop or a regiment, and poets were already at work writing patriotic songs.” One such early song in 1794 praises the uniform of the newly formed Brackley Troop, part of the NY;
British Yeomen, valiant Yeomen, brave Yeomen for ever Green coats faced with black and in each hat a feather The waistcoats are buff and their trousers are leather With broadswords and pistols and hearts without fear Great Jove must be pleased when these Yeomen appear
They were obviously proud of their green uniforms, although I should have thought that ‘sabres’ would have a better substitute for the word ‘broadswords’ which would have been impractical to wield on a horse! There was no sign of the feather mentioned in the lyrics but a plume was commonly used with Tarleton helmets so it may have simply gone the way of the balding fur crest.
For the great smartness of their first green uniform, the regiment originally had to thank the affluent Earl Spencer whose influence with the King enabled him to secure the use of the King’s emblem, white horse of Hanover, one of only 4 regiments to be so honoured.
There was another uniform on display which I initially took to being an Northamptonshire Regiment infantry officer from the early half of the 19th century. I couldn’t spot an explanatory label and in my limited time in the museum I didn’t go back to confirm. However, Ken Tout’s book suggests that this uniform would have been similar to the mid-19th century Northamptonshire Yeomanry’s uniform. In 1844, the regiment escorted Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Tout describes their dress;
“It was an opportunity for the yeomen to don their finery. immaculate scarlet tunics with dark blue facing. gold epaulettes and plentiful gold lace, and the riders’ heights enhanced by their bell-top shakos.”
On my hurried exit from the museum, I noticed that the final room of the collection housed a wonderful display of model soldiers from the local Northants Military Modelling Club. There were lots of terrific models on display, mostly I’d say 54mm scale, of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry through the ages both mounted and dismounted. One of these looked much like the above Ken Tout description of the Victorian escort, though my blurry phone camera ran out of storage and I ran out of time before I could attempt a photo. Prior to that, I did however discover a curious object stuck randomly underneath a table – it was a section of what appear to be bathroom tiles which had carefully been removed intact. On the times, illustrations of Northants yeomen through the ages on them! I presume some individual had hand-painted them. I think they’re terrific, one of those nice eccentric discoveries that make visiting a museum so enjoyable.
Now that’s my kind of bathroom design, (although possibly not my wife’s)! The ‘scarlet tunic’ mentioned in Tout’s book seems to be shown above (right on bottom row). Curse my blurry camera as the accompanying written descriptions which would have confirmed all aren’t readable. The green uniform seen earlier seems to be top right and the 1910-era version mounted in the middle. If we’re to assume they’re all Northamptonshire Yeomen, then it’s possible they also adopted an extravagant hussar style uniform, seen top left. If so, I assume this was approximately from some time between the 1850s up to 1873 (the year of temporary disbandment).
Tout’s excellent account also describes in detail the nature of the protective formation required by the Northamptonshire Yeomanry to guard the royal carriage from any threat. The fine and glittering sight of the scarlet-coated procession was commemorated in some spirited poetry by a local 17-year old girl, reproduced in the book:-
On Market Hill our great Yeomanry stood
To guard Queen Victoria to Weedon in the Wood
While through the High Street to Ket’ring she rides
With a thousand spectators arrayed on both sides
The Yeomanry in the Northamptonshire existed until the final troop (The Royal Kettering) was disbanded in 1873. As the Anglo-Boer War came to a conclusion, Northamptonshire, which had been without a Yeomanry regiment ever since, had a new regiment established, the Northamptonshire Imperial Yeomanry.
The Full Dress uniform was in the style of Dragoons and is described in “Yeomen of England” by Tout as being;
“…dark blue, with light blue facings and a white metal helmet with a light-blue and white plume. “
The uniform fitting that description was displayed in the collection (see above). It is a 1910 Full Dress tunic and Field Service cap belonging to the then commander of the regiment, Col. H Wickham. The PAOY website has some information on the Service Dress uniform of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry:
The first [Service Dress] uniform of the new regiment was of regulation drab, or khaki, with pale blue collar, cuffs and piping up back, sleeves and down the front of the jacket. Shoulder chains with brass lettering NIY. The Regimental badge, as worn on the collar, side-cap, peaked cap etc., was the “galloping white horse”: the badge used as the centre piece of Maltese Cross on the Shakos of the 1830-45 period.
The emblem of that Hanoverian horse could be seen clearly on the two later NY uniforms were also on display including this below. It is also prominent on the collar of this corporal of the NY. This tunic dates from 1902-1908 and was displayed alongside a pillbox cap. Note the shoulder chains on blue cloth backing.
Again, the Hanover horse appears – on the Full Dress helmet in a dramatic sunburst design…
…and finally on the front of the Field Service cap, below:
Most pleasing to me about this dragoon-style uniform and helmet was the attractive and unusual colour of the facings. Referred to by Tout and the PAOY website as being ‘light-blue’, this is described as being “Cornflower Blue” according to the “The Yeomanry Force at the 1911 Coronation” authors Robert J Smith and Ronald G Harris. Not only does it appear on the sleeves and collar of the tunic, but it can also be seen on both the cap and the helmet. The cap has this colour piped around the brim and also in a band around the middle. Other ranks apparently just had the band without the piping.
Two depictions of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry around the time of the coronation by R.J. Marrion and E.A. Campbell.
The helmet has a falling white over cornflower blue plume on a silver helmet, as can be seen below:
On the eight-pointed star, the garter inscription surrounding the Hanoverian horse says “Northamptonshire Imperial Yeomanry”, which was the name of the regiment on it’s 1902 reincarnation. In 1907, it became simply known as the “Northamptonshire Yeomanry” following the Haldane reforms.
The difference between the two examples of helmets relating to the officers and ranks seems remarkably slight. The plumes have been tied back to better reveal helmet details.
Below: the “Cornflower Blue” is evident on the collars and cuffs as well as the plumes:
Below: close up on the arrow pickers and chain on the officers pouch belt. Note the horse motif appears on the buttons as well.
The most complete collection of NY uniforms came unexpectedly towards the end of the collection. I’ve mentioned in the final room was a sizeable collection of mostly 54mm scale models of the regiment in a wide variety of guises. Close up pictures weren’t really possible but I managed to take a couple of a figure I recognised as already being in my collection, ready to paint. I suppose it highly likely that I’ll try and reproduce the 1910 NY Full Dress using my own figure to match the one below!
I was surprised to learn recently that I have a personal connection with the Northamptonshire Militia going back to a relative who served sometime around the 1770s. This chap had the memorable surname Aldwincle (no, I don’t share this unusual surname) and he would have likely been compelled to serve in the force by ballot. This means of selection was not unsurprisingly often deeply unpopular with the mostly reluctant working class men who served in the Militia’s ranks, and so it may have been with Great, Great, Great Great Grandad Aldwincle.
It was particularly pleasing to see some items relating to the same period and regiment in which my ancestor served. The drum below was presented to the Northamptonshire Militia by Lord Viscount Althorp on the 1st September 1779. So, I feel a sense of connection as it is entirely feasible that my relative would have known and indeed heard this drum. He would also have quite probably having been in attendance during its presentation to the regiment on that day.
Another, larger, militia drum was also on display. This bass drum was presented to the regiment while it was on service in Dublin in 1854, probably taking on duties that other regular infantry would have been doing were they not off serving in the Crimean War. It’s a beautiful object, richly decorated and emblazoned with not only the name of the regiment but also of the name of the drum’s benefactor, the regiment’s own Lt-Colonel Lord Burghley.
With rich colonels such as Lord Burghley, one might expect militia officers to display some ostentation and these 1855 shoulder epaulettes provide some evidence of that. There’s a hunting horn symbol in the wreath, a sign of light infantry.
The Volunteer Corps:
The Northamptonshire Rifle Volunteers were represented by a grey uniform of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment. The name dates it from being after the 1881 Childers Reforms which merged the existing 48th and 58th line regiments into a single Northamptonshire Regiment, also attaching the local volunteer corps and militia as additional battalions.
With its grey uniform and red piping, and Home Service Pattern helmet, it looks much like the Cheshire Greys Rifle Volunteers that I modelled in 28mm scale last year.
Finally, it was interesting to see displayed a cymbal which had been presented in 1876 to the band of the 2nd Northamptonshire Rifle Volunteers, demonstrating that military bands could be as much a feature of the Rifle Volunteers as any other force in the British Army.
And very briefly, The Regulars!
Finally, although my greatest interest these days is on the volunteers, a very brief word on the Regulars. The Northamptonshire Regiment was formed out of the amalgamation of two pre-existing line regiments, the 48th and 58th regiments. It served in a number of theatres including New Zealand, a number of exhibits from which were displayed. There were some interesting watercolours and artworks around the walls, although the artists themselves seemed to be largely unknown.
Some uniforms of a type similar to those depicted above could be found around the museum.
They were lots of very interesting items on display, but some of my favourites included some extravagant 1832 epaulettes from an officer of the 58th Foot and a Pickelhaube and bugle, trophies from the Great War, Pickelhaube war booty always being a popular choice for many British regiments it seems.
Being a collection housed as a part of a wider museum, the Northamptonshire Regimental Collection inevitably suffers from the lack of focus that that entails. To enter into the collection, for example, I walked past a room inexplicably containing a large painting and am Egyptian sarcophagus! When compared to some other more dedicated military museums, the Northants collection felt a little lost and unloved.
At the time of writing, the Northamptonshire County Council has been in the news recently for being the first (of many?) to go effectively bankrupt. In such circumstances, with public services being pared down to a statutory minimum, culture and the arts could suffer greatly in favour of more immediately essential services. The fate of the Regimental Collection of Northampton in such circumstances remains to be seen.
A couple of years ago, I posted a Day Trip report on a visit to Calke Abbey, a stately home which has been deliberately kept in the shabby, part-derelict state that it was in when purchased by the National Trust from the Harpur-Crewe family. This might not be an obvious venue for the military enthusiast, but there are a good number of small historical items of military interest secreted across its wonderfully cluttered rooms, many of which I reported on in my 2016 post. In it, I mentioned a number of these artefacts including a Derbyshire Yeomanry uniform and buckles, a march by Haydn written for that yeomanry regiment, and Russian Crimean War objects.
I’ve just made a return visit and, although I wasn’t expressly looking out for more military artefacts, with my keen eye for military history I nonetheless managed to spot some artworks I thought worthy of a mention. One of these artworks allowed me to uncover a seemingly unknown fact about the Derbyshire Yeomanry. The painting in question was on the opposite wall of one of the many roped off ramshackle rooms. Even at a distance, I could tell that the painting was showing some cavalry force which, from memory, to me looked suspiciously like the local Derbyshire Yeomanry regiment. So, I took a picture on full zoom below:
The National Trust brilliantly makes much of its works available to view online and I set about searching for the painting on my return. Initial search terms like “Yeomanry” didn’t bring up this picture. Eventually, however, I tracked it down amongst the thousands of Calke Abbey objects on-line:
It’s an oil painting called “Entrance of the Procession into Melbourne on the 10th May 1876” by John Gelder of the Bradford Art Society. The description on the NT web page makes no mention of yeomanry, instead mentioning ‘mounted guards’. Presumably, they are unaware of the true nature of these figures as I can confidently state the cavalry leading the procession are not ‘guards’ but distinctly are men of the Derbyshire Yeomanry, very similar to those depicted below by Richard Simkin in the Army & Navy Gazette in 1898.
The white over red plume on the white metal dragoon helmets and the navy blue uniforms are clear enough in Gelder’s painting. Specifically, it is just the mounted band appearing in the parade. It’s a shame that there is no yeomanry kettle drummer or drum banners apparently depicted. Relating to this, in the “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914” book on Yeomanry mounted bands, R.G. Harris states the following about the Derbyshire Yeomanry’s band:
“Whether the band was ever mounted is not known, although a set of drum banners were apparently owned at some time.”
Well, I can say that research by Suburban Militarism has now gone and solved the first part of Harris’ uncertainty! This painting I believe demonstrates conclusively that the Derbyshire Yeomanry certainly didhave a mounted band. I count 16 mounted bandsmen in four ranks of four, with 5 officers riding ahead with their swords drawn. That’s considerably less than the 31 musicians and bandmaster later photographed in 1894. Although the detail isn’t clear enough to be 100% certain, it does very much appear that there are no kettledrums carried in the band.
It appears that the rest of the large procession in the painting is made up of a wide variety of other riders, possibly a mix of civilians and other uniformed riders. As the Harpur family (owners of Calke Abbey) were instrumental in both raising the regiment and providing it’s commanding officers, and also as the town of Melbourne is just down the road from Calke Abbey, there’s no question as to why such a painting might find its way to this ancestral home. However, I’m left clueless but intrigued as to what this jubilant procession into a modest Derbyshire market town, an event significant enough to inspire a painting, was all about!
In one of the other wonderfully shabby and cluttered rooms, also behind a roped off area, I could just about see a small framed print of a cavalryman in a frame peaking out from behind some other artworks (see ringed below):
A little more research on the NT’s excellent on-line library revealed the object to be the one pictured below, an illustration of a rider from the Royal Horse Guards. Close up, I recognised the artist immediately.
It is another Richard Simkin artwork, No.3 from a series which appeared in the Army and Navy Gazette. 3rd March 1888, to be precise! The catalogue lists four more prints of this series in the Calke Abbey collection, including some Dragoon Guards and Life Guard. Interestingly, their appears to be minor differences in the background details to the Army and Navy Gazette version.
Finally, passing by this roped off stairwell, I could see a large painting in an equally grand frame depicting a cavalryman. There was an explanatory note underneath the painting which I was unable to read. The painting clearly depicted a senior officer in the uniform of a hussar.
Once again, the NT’s website comes to the rescue. It is General Sir Lovell Benjamin Lovell, KCB, KH, painted in oils by a T.W. Mackay. Sir Lovell, uncle to the lady of the house, was a veteran and hero of the Napoleonic Peninsular campaign and the plaque underneath the painting carefully lists each of his 10 battles, 40 minor actions and 7 sieges!
He served in the 14th Light Dragoons and, upon retirement, he became colonel of the 12th Lancers. His uniform appears to be clearly that of a hussar, so given his military record I am unsure as to what regiment it represents. He started his career in the Bucks Militia, so I wondered if he retained his links with the local volunteers and this was a Buckinghamshire Hussar yeomanry uniform. Although their are some general similarities the details don’t appear quite correct, however, although such details could have changed over time. The 12th Lancers had been lancers since 1816 and the 14th Light Dragoons didn’t become Hussars until just after his death, so the uniform remains a mystery to me.
There are many other such discoveries to be made in the wonderfully large and sprawling collection of artefacts in Calke Abbey, including an engraved chart called “The view of the volunteer Army of Great Britain in the year 1806” by Henry Richter which I mentioned in a recent post about Holkham Hall. Oh, how I’d love to be let loose on such items currently lying in storage…
A week’s holiday away with the family means a break from the hobby for a while. Sometimes. The Norfolk and Suffolk Yeomanry collection was just down the coast from where we were staying but, having visited last year, I declined a revisit and stuck to spending time with the family. When we decided to visit the magnificent Holkham Hall and its enormous gardens however, it provided me with an opportunity for some military history…
Prior to my trip to the Norfolk and Suffolk Yeomanry collection last year in the Muckleburgh Collection, I did a little background reading. One of the many early incarnations of Yeomanry from Norfolk mentioned in my book was the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry. I seemed to recall that the troop’s standard was on display within the hall, so I kept an eye out for it as we toured around. I’m glad to say that I did indeed find it although, I’ve since been unable to find any reference to it being at the hall whatsoever, so how I knew I simply have no idea!
Norfolk Yeomanry was raised, disbanded and re-raised a number of times between 1782 and 1849. At any one time it consisted of a wide range of troops from all across the county, often equipped and officered by wealthy local landowners at their own expense. The coastal district of Holkham in North Norfolk was no different and the area was dominated by the very grand Holkham Hall. The man who raised Holkham’s first yeomanry force was the hall’s owner Thomas William Coke. One of his portraits was up on the wall in the Manuscript Library.
Underneath this portrait was a seemingly insignificant little banner but I recognised it immediately as being an early yeomanry standard. The HYC initials confirmed it; Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry.
The Yeomanry standard was hung at eye level in the small Manuscript Library room surrounded by many priceless and ancient books. The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force series on the Norfolk Yeomanry contains a monochrome photo of the standard and describes it in the following way: —
“…A standard of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry of 1798 carries the same central device, the three turreted castle on a shieldwith crown above and the letters H and Y left and right of shield and C below, a panel in each of the four corners.”
The 3-turreted castle is a feature on the coat of arms of Norwich, the principal town of Norfolk. The four corners contain two galloping horses and two ostriches with horseshoes held in their beaks (the ostrich being an emblem used within the Coke family coat of arms). The black and white photo looks very similar although notably the horses are reversed in their direction. The black and white photo might simply be the rear view but the fringe on the base of the standard has come away in my photo. So, this might also be a different standard altogether to my photo. I approached the helpful guide in the room to find out more and he suggested to me that the standard may well not be the original version at all but instead a slightly ‘newer’ version created in the 1820s, towards the end of the regiment’s existence.
In my chat with the knowledgeable guide, he also suggested to me that Mr Coke had raised the yeomanry troop partly because other local landowners suspected that he harboured sympathies with the republican revolutionaries of France! This is perhaps surprising for a man with so much wealth, land and influence. Raising a troop of yeomanry could have been a method therefore to forestall any suspicious rumours over his loyalty to the king, and of course did his prestige as a rich landowner no harm at all. Records seem to support the guide’s suggestion that Coke did indeed feel some pressing need to ingratiate himself with the King. In a letter to the Prince of Wales, Coke writes:
”Feeling eager to show my zeal in defence of my King and Country at this alarming crisis… I think the best service I can render is by raising a Squadron of Horse, of the most respectable Yeomanry in this neighbourhood… of which I hope your Royal Highness will have the opportunity of judging by honouring Holkham with your presence in the autumn.” Letter from Thomas William Coke to the Prince of Wales. May 1798. From “Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry” 1908.
Coke was appointed to the rank of Major Commandant of the HYC on the 19th July 1798. The local paper recorded the moment that the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry’s standard was first bestowed upon the new troop. The Mercury recorded that, on October 6th, 1798:
“The two troops of Holkham volunteer cavalry, commanded by Major Coke, received their standard from the hands of Mrs. Coke. At eleven in the morning the troops, proceeded to the chapel, where the standard was consecrated by the Rev Henry Crowe, sen.
The account continues:
At twelve o’clock the troops were drawn up on the South lawn, within a short distance of the house, when with some ceremony, the standard was given into the hands of Captain Edmund Rolfe. After the ceremony, the troops were entertained by their commanding officer, Major Coke, in Holkham House.” From “Records of the NYC”.
Mrs Coke was a committed abolitionist and keen supporter of social welfare. Her portrait also appears up on the wall in library alongside her husband, her face now seemingly looking towards the standard that she’d bestowed upon the regiment just two years before her untimely death.
In 1798, tally returns show the HYC numbering 100 men, double the number that many other corps in Norfolk at the time had raised. Consequently, as suggested above, it was split into two troops. The Holkham Troop’s officers consisted of;
Major Commandant Thomas William Coke
Captain Edmund Rolfe
Lieuts. George Hogg and Martin Folkes-Riston
Cornets Jason Gardner-Bloom and John Ward
I am unsure as to the uniform details of the Holkham Yeomanry. The automated scanned text of Thomas Coke’s letter to the Prince of Wales contained within the “Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry” is garbled: ” …I have to request your Royal Highnesses permission that we may wear the colours of ye loth for our uniform”. Yellow, perhaps? There is in existence an engraved chart entitled “A view of the volunteer army of Great Britain in the year 1806” which listed the colours of all the yeomanry forces but unfortunately omits the Holkham Troop! With the notable exception of the Norfolk Rangers who wore green jackets, the majority of Norfolk’s yeomanry at this time wore red coats, facings which were mostly black and breeches predominantly white or blue. All wore Tarleton helmets. So perhaps we can assume that the Holkham Yeomanry probably looked very similar.
The Peace of Amiens in 1802 led to the disbandment of the yeomanry but this was almost immediately followed by a re-raising of all the cavalry in 1803, when Britain once more declared war on France. Lord Townsend of Fakenham grouped the many disparate corps of yeomanry existing across Norfolk into three regiments to improve efficiency. The Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry troop were attached to the 1st Regiment alongside the Norfolk Rangers, the Lynn & Freebridge, Smithdon & Brothercross, and the Marshland Troops. The newly combined 1st Regiment then numbered 350 in total. Some years later, the entire 1st Regiment was to adopt the Norfolk Rangers green uniform.
Of course, although the threat was very real and persisted for years, Napoleon never did invade and the yeomanry were never called upon to fight him. However, civil disturbances kept many yeomanry forces busy. Indeed on the 16th March 1815, months before the battle of Waterloo, the Holkham Yeomanry’s own commander was subject to an attack by an angry mob:
“Thomas Coke of Holkham was present at a show of prize cattle in Norwich when… a number of persons, acting upon the assumption that he was a supporter of the Corn Bill, proceeded to treat him in a very rough and violent manner…the mob hurled a volley of stones and brickbats at Mr. Coke and friends.” From ‘Records of the NYC’.
It seems that he was besieged in a public house and only barely managed to escape. The riot was quelled by the Brunswick Hussars, then stationed in Norwich, under the command of a Lieut-Col. Von Tempsky. Disparity of wealth between rich and poor was certainly extreme at the time, yet ironically it appears that Coke was one of the more socially conscious of landlords.
Coke’s troop of cavalry, the Holkham Yeomanry, were finally disbanded for good in 1828. Various incarnations of mounted yeomanry from within the county continued to arise intermittently, however, and there were ongoing ties with Holkham Hall. Indeed, nearly 20 years later, on May 22nd, 1847, the Norfolk Chronicle reported on “Prince Albert’s Own Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry” drilling on the grounds of Coke’s Holkham estate:
“The town of Wells is at this time very gay, being honoured by a visit from the gentlemen comprising Prince Albert’s Own corps of Yeomanry cavalry. They entered the town on Saturday last, under the command of Major Loftus, and the lovers of music are day by day enchanted by their splendid brass band… Their practising ground is on the North lawn in Holkham Park.” From ‘Records of the NYC’.
The same newspaper later also documented the activities of this yeomanry regiment at Holkham Hall which is worth quoting at length to provide an overview of yeomanry duties and occupations during camp:
“We mentioned in our last week’s paper, the arrival at Wells, of the 300 Prince Albert’s own corps of Norfolk Yeomanry cavalry, for eight days permanent duty, on Saturday the 15th inst.
”On Monday the 17th, the three squadrons mustered for exercise and marched to Holkham Park, permission having been granted to Major Loftus by the Earl of Leicester, to make any use of the Park for exercise, likewise the stables at the Hall for the accommodation of the horses during his sojourn at Wells, with the corps under his command. At two o’clock the corps were dismounted, and at this period, the Major received a most polite invitation for himself and his brother officers to luncheon at the Hall…
“On Tuesday, at ten o’clock, the corps again marched to the Park, and after going through various evolutions, until 2 p.m. dismounted. The officers received an invitation to the Hall to luncheon, a marquee being erected in the Park for the accommodation of the men, in which refreshments were provided, and at three o’clock they returned to town…
” At an early hour on Wednesday morning, the corps assembled in the Park at Holkham… Precisely at half past five the Earl arrived accompanied by the Hon. and Rev. Thomas Keppel, and were received with all military honours. At eight o’clock the Lord-Lieutenant accompanied by Major Loftus, and the officers proceeded to the concert room which was crowded to excess, and it is but justice to state that owing to the excellent arrangements made by Mr Jonas Wright, the band master, the company assembled enjoyed a musical treat, not often met with in a provincial town.
“On Thursday morning there was a short foot parade, with carbines and side arms, and at twelve o’clock, the officers, non-commissioned officers and several of the private members proceeded to the Park for the purpose of playing a game of cricket with the Earl of Leicester. At four o’clock the officers and players sat down to a most sumptuous entertainment given by the noble Earl, at which every delicacy of the season was provided.” Quoted in Records of the NYC’.
Thomas Coke, having been created 1st Earl of Leicester in 1837, after 20 years a widower shocked all by marrying 18-year old Anne Keppel at the somewhat advanced age of 68(!). They had a son who inherited the title. Thomas Coke died at the age of 88 in 1842. His body was returned to Norfolk from Derbyshire where he’d been out on a visit and on the final leg of the coffin’s journey there were yeomen in attendance.
After the disbandment of the Norfolk Yeomanry in 1849, there were still instances of volunteer cavalry parading at Holkham Hall. In 1861;
“A body of mounted volunteers, the Norwich Mounted Volunteers, took part in the great review of the whole of the volunteers of the county, on Sept 12, 1861, which was held at Holkham Park. Their uniform consists of a scarlet tunic with blue facings, white cross belt, white breeches, and Napoleon boots, the head-dress is a busby with blue bag; the forage cap is blue trimmed with white. ” Norfolk Chronicle, 1861. Quoted in “Records of the NYC”.
It wasn’t until the Anglo-Boer War that the Norfolk Yeomanry was re-raised once again now under the patronage of the King himself. These were men intended to fight out on the South African veldt as part of the Imperial Yeomanry force. The very first parade of the “King’s Own Regiment of Norfolk Imperial Yeomanry” took place at Holkham Hall, on September 10th, 1901. Still awaiting their uniforms, the regiment paraded by squadrons in plain clothes on the cricket ground. On the day of my visit, a cricket match was in progress, the sport still being played right in front of the hall where Norfolk yeomen had once paraded, rode and manoeuvred so often many years ago.
Further on in the hall, I also discovered a small display featuring men of Holkham Hall who had fought in the World War and were recorded on the Roll of Honour or the war memorial which lies within the grounds. The Roll of Honour included two estate workers who respectively served with yeomanry regiments; the Westminster Dragoons and City of London Roughriders. There was also one from the Norfolk Yeomanry, a Walter Hughe. World War 1 had ensured that a Holkham man finally did see action serving with the county’s yeomanry.
Finally. below are some scenes of the Norfolk Yeomanry at Holkham Hall during their Summer Camp in 1911. Equestrian events such as tent-pegging can be seen and the men are watering their horses in Holkham Hall’s lake. The regiment’s C Squadron had a drill station in nearby Wells-Next-The-Sea.
It seems that my visit to the Shropshire Regimental Museum was well-timed, the museum being afforded a full-page review in “Britain at War” magazine’s recent May issue! As a coda to my reports on the museum, I wanted to pay some attention to the regulars: the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. Furthermore, I conclude with some personal thoughts on the museum and the threats it has faced to its existence both past and – regrettably – present…
The castle contains the collection of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) which had its origins in two regiments that amalgamated following the 1881 reforms. These were the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment and the 85th King’s Light Infantry. The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry remained a distinct regiment until 1968.
There were many examples of this regiment’s past uniforms, including yet more realistic reproductions of 18th century versions on their impressive manikins. The collection included a nice example of an infantry officer’s blue patrol jacket below from the time of the 85th regiment’s service in the latter part of the 2nd Afghan War. Headgear included a blue 1860 forage cap and white and khaki Foreign Service helmets.
Men of the 85th regiment would have been on the receiving end of the lengthy weapons below, ornate Afghan Jezails – long, intricately carved muskets belonging to tribesmen. To return fire, the British had the Martini-Henry (far left), a powerful breech-loading single shot rifle.
The KSLI served in Egypt and the Sudan during the 1880s and I took a snap of this leather bandolier, once used by a sergeant at the Battle of Suakin, “one of the last occasions that the British soldier wore scarlet”. The group of medals below belonged to two brothers in the 1st battalion. They include the Egypt medal with “Suakin 1885” clasp and the Khedive’s Star, a campaign medal established by Egyptian Khedive Tewfik Pasha for British troops taking part in the 1882 campaign and the Mahdist Wars.
The 53rd regiment guarded Napoleon during his final exile on the island of St.Helena. Napoleon referred to them as the red soldiers, a reference to the regiment’s combination of scarlet tunic and red facings. A nice little memento was on display, a lock of the great man’s hair, no doubt returned to England in the hands of an officer of the 53rd garrison!
I often seem to come across examples of troop shipwrecks in my visits to regimental museums, underlining just how dangerous travelling the world’s oceans was in centuries past for British soldiers. This museum had its own maritime disaster story, told in the form of a large chapel bell, the earliest ‘war trophy’ in the collection. It came from the Ville de Paris, a captured French ship-of-the-line, taken at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. The ship was carrying men of the 85th regiment when it foundered in a hurricane alongside many others in Admiral Rodney’s fleet. The bell was recovered and is on display in the museum.
In common with other regular infantry regiments, the Shropshire regulars served in an astonishing number of theatres around the globe: in the Sikh Wars, in India and the North West Frontier, in South Africa, Egypt and the Sudan, Hong Kong, the Iberian Peninsular, Holland, Malta and Gibraltar, the West Indies and North America, etc. In the example of the latter, the 85th fought in the American War of Independence and in the War of 1812. It captured the Colour of the 1st Harford Light Dragoons (of Maryland) captured at the Battle of Blandensburg. This remarkable object was on display in surprisingly good condition, and a postcard duly purchased from the shop.
With that brief exposition on the KSLI collection, I wanted to end with some comments about the museum itself. The two previous posts on the museum’s collection can be found below:
From terrorist bombs to endless austerity: Some final thoughts on the Shropshire Regimental Museum:
This was a first-rate regimental museum. One of the aspects of it that I appreciated the most was its emphasis on letting the exhibits and artefacts assume the central importance they deserve. The large glass cases may seem a rather traditional approach to some contemporary museum curators yet with so much information so readily available on-line, it is in museum’s exhibits where we acquire something unique; an up-close personal assessment of actual, real artefacts where even the apparently less significant can spark off a new interest or ignite the imagination.
The Shropshire museum’s display cases were full – never cluttered – with artwork, uniforms and objects. Excellently made manikins gave the visitor an opportunity to take in the sight of full uniforms. Being the sole occupant of the castle allowed the museum to appropriately fill the entire space and allowed the visitor to fully immerse themselves in the museum and understand the subject. Too often today, regimental ‘collections’ are being forced to share building space, shunted off into a side-room and left to compete for the confused attention of the more casual visitor already exposed in the same visit to radically different topics in other collections.
On 25th August 1992, three IRA bombs were planted in Shrewsbury, one of which was placed at Shrewsbury Castle, where the Regimental Museum had been based since 1985. Nobody was killed, thankfully, but the fire which ripped through the museum destroyed many military treasures and it was said many of the relics involved were irreplaceable.
It took three years to repair the damage before re-opening in 1995. Though mercifully no lives were lost, it had a considerable impact on the collection. To my dismay, it appears that as much as 60% of the collections’ earliest material was destroyed. However, like the motto of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry themselves, Aucto Splendore Resurgo (‘I rise again in greater splendour’), the Museum was resurrected to present the wonderful displays we see today. In recent years, the relentless barbarism of public spending cuts has threatened to do what terrorist bombs could not – close the Shropshire Regimental Museum for good. Thank goodness that, for now, it remains open to the public for a very modest £4 entrance fee.
Suburban Militarism urges all those with an interest in history to visit the museum and support its continued existence in our cultural and social landscape. Shropshire Regimental Museum is independent, relying greatly on public support and therefore welcomes donations, however small. You can donate online to the museum here.
The rifle butts – seen in the distance with markers, backstops and a flag flying to indicate direction and warn of the range being in use. The men engaged in shooting appear to screened off, presumably to limit accusations of being distracted!
A vibrant social scene where differently uniformed corps would intermingle (note the different kepis, forage caps, kilts and at least one busby). The competition is well attended with many ladies and children being eagerly entertained by the rifle volunteers.
A nice vignette of a successful rifleman being carried aloft by jubilant comrades after his marksmanship has won his corps glory.
For those taking part in such competitions, success could earn the eternal gratitude of one’s officer and comrades, not to say acquire a little local celebrity. So it was for Sergeant Roberts of the 12th (Wem) Rifle Volunteer Corps whose performance at said Wimbledon Common earned him the epithet “The Champion Shot of England”! It also engendered this effusive ‘illuminated address’ by his grateful Captain and colleagues:
A little further on in the museum, I found an example of what might lie in store for those riflemen who did not pay sufficient “strict attention to drill and rifle practice” with as much diligence as Sgt. Roberts – namely, a wooden spoon! This was “probably a booby prize for the worst shot” in the 2nd Shropshire Rifle Volunteers…
Another of the museum’s fine manikin displays portrayed two local volunteer troops of the Victorian era; specifically men from the two Volunteer Battalions of the Shropshire Regiment. The 2nd Volunteer Battalion wore a grey uniform with black crossbelts and facings. His marksman’s badge of crossed rifles can be seen above his left cuff. His weapon is a Snider-Enfield.
The 1st Volunteer Battalion was represented by its preceding formation, the 1st Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps. The uniform dates from the 1880s, around the time of the Childers Reforms which first linked the Rifle Volunteer Corps more closely with the county infantry regiments. The 1st Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps wore scarlet tunics and white facings, therefore looking much like the regulars.
It was great to see county volunteer forces so carefully and skilfully depicted in this display by the Shropshire Regimental Museum. Rifle Volunteers may not have seen any active service prior to the Anglo-Boer War, but they were a significant part of the military and social history of Shropshire.
In the display below of the local Administrative Battalions, the ‘drab’ dress of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion was complemented by dark green braid and black facings and crossbelts. The 1860s shako features a hunting horn badge with the number 48 (being the order of precedence for the Shropshire Rifle Volunteers). Post-1880, both Volunteer Battalions have adopted the dark green Full-Dress helmets. The other ranks uniform to the left is awash with medals, proficiency stars, etc.
Like the yeomanry, bandsmen would have been a part of self-respective Rifle Volunteer Corps. I spotted this large drum belonging to the second corps below:
The Shropshire Militia:
The national Militia force expanded during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars but, by the time of their conclusion, a single regiment of Shropshire Militia existed. The established system of maintaining the Militia by local ballot was unpopular, poorly enforced and numbers were in decline.
In 1852, service in the Militia became voluntary – closer to the TA of today. The attraction of experiencing army life and wearing the smart uniform must have been attractive to many. Particularly so, as the uniform was very similar to the regulars of the time.
In 1881, as part of sweeping reforms, the Shropshire Militia came under the newly established King’s Shropshire Light Infantry regiment and was designated the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, K.S.L.I. At the same time, control of the Militia was taken from the Lord Lieutenant and appointments and training came under the War Office instead.
The Shropshire Artillery Volunteer Corps
To support the large number of Rifle Volunteer Corps being established in 1860, the importance of mounted infantry and artillery formations to support them was recognised. This wasn’t always easy to achieve as horses and cannons are more complex and expensive formations to maintain. Nevertheless, in Shropshire, the 9th (Shrewsbury) Rifle Volunteer Corps was converted to the Shropshire Artillery Volunteers in July 1860. Initially, there were a formation of ‘heavy artillery’ and performed exercises at Long Mynd, an area of heath and moor in the Shropshire Hills. The site of the battery and magazine is still apparently identifiable even today.
The museum had a number of objects relating to this formation including this Full-Dress pouch:
The Full-Dress uniform of a sergeant of the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery could be seen in its entirety (below). The Shropshire RHA was formed in 1908 as a consequence of the formation of the new Territorial Force. They were one of only six volunteer corps to be designated as being prestigious Horse Artillery.
Below is a portrait held in the museum of the first commander of the Shropshire Artillery Volunteers, Colonel William Field, wearing a fur busby with white plume. In the distant background can be just about seen some gun limbers and horses. The town of Shrewsbury is in the distance. His fine grey charger also featured in the museum. Following its demise, the beloved animal had its hoof converted into an inkwell, now in display!
To encourage proficiency, prizes were awarded to provide an incentive, a common enough concept for volunteer forces. For the SAV, the winning battery each year would take the ”Skill at Arms’ trophy shown below. An image of an artillery team in action can be seen embossed on the front.
The Full-Dress headgear of the 1st Shropshire Artillery Volunteers in the 19th century was this shako. Note the metal ball instead of a spike at the top the helmet, and also the artillery piece appearing under the Royal Coat of Arms.
Complimenting last year’s purchase of the book “Riflemen, Form!” on the Victorian Rifle Volunteer movement, I bought a copy of “A History of the Shropshire Artillery Volunteer Corps”, a newly published and detailed account by Derek Harrison, available in the museum shop online. Perfect bed-time reading for me there!
A (thankfully) short, final post on this exhaustive report to come, in which I include some personal thoughts about the museum.
Last week, on a gloriously sunny day, I finally fulfilled a long-held desire to visit the Shropshire Regimental Museum.
It is picturesquely based in Shrewsbury’s castle and houses collections relating to the following:
The 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment
The 85th King’s Light Infantry
The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI)
The Shropshire Yeomanry
The Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery
The local Militia, Volunteers and Territorial units
The Lords Lieutenant of Shropshire collection
The extensive collection occupies virtually the entire castle, including its impressive Great Hall.
In the first part of my review, I’m taking a look at the displays on the local yeomanry regiments of Shropshire. My copy of the “Blandford Encyclopaedia of Cavalry Uniforms” contains three illustrations of yeomanry regiments in Shropshire by Jack Kassin-Scott, including this illustration of an 1892 mounted trooper.
In comparison, the extent of the gold braid worn by the officer becomes evident. The county of Shropshire was quick to respond to the threat of French invasion during the Revolutionary Wars and raised no less than 11 individual Yeomanry Cavalry troops in the 1790s! Starting with the Market Drayton Troop in early 1795, others localities soon followed suit including Wellington, Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Pimhill, etc. By the time of the war’s cessation in 1815, only three remained in service: the Shrewsbury Yeomanry Cavalry; the South Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry; and the North Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry.
By 1828, these three regiments were reduced further into two as the South Shropshire and Shrewsbury Regiments were amalgamated into the single South Salopian Yeomanry Cavalry. In response, the North Shropshire regiment renamed itself to become the North Salopian Yeomanry Cavalry. Eventually, these two would also merge in 1872, becoming simply the Shropshire Yeomanry. This continuity of service entitled it to be 6th in the Yeomanry order of precedence.
Around the museum were pleasing artworks depicting the local yeomanry force including the two above, both by unknown artists. The oil painting on the left is of Colonel William Cludde of the early Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry, 1795. Middle: Yeomanry Officer in Full Dress, 1910 by W.H. Taylor. To the right is a nice print depicting officers of the South Salopian Yeomanry, 1846. A coloured aquatint after Henry Martens.
On entering the museum, I was first guided upstairs by staff to a small vestibule which housed some excellent yeomanry helmets and guidons. The regimental colours included examples of some of the ephemeral early volunteer cavalry such as the Apley Troop of the Brimstree Loyal Legion which lasted from 1799 to 1802.
I was delighted to see my first post-Waterloo era Royal Horse Guards helmet with its outrageous and enormous black woollen crest. It was displayed in order to demonstrate how it was the model for the North Shropshire Yeomanry’s own dragoon helmet.
A side view of the regiment’s Full-Dress “Roman pattern” helmet (1817-1846) can be seen below. This pattern helmet was used by both the North and South Shropshire Yeomanry.
Also in this display was (below) a South Salopian Yeomanry Full-Dress officer’s helmet which features a black plume, something that was replaced with the red/white plume of the North Salopian Yeomanry was adopted upon amalgamation.
Alongside that was a highly unusual black leather dragoon helmet used by the North Salopian Yeomanry. It too was replaced by the more usual metal helmet upon amalgamation in 1872.
Proceeding on to the Great Hall, my attention was soon drawn to the sight of some extravagant shakos in a glass case:
These extravagant shakos were ‘possibly used’ by officers of the South Shropshire and South Salopian Yeomanry. No evidence existed for either regiment adopting them so I can only speculate that these no-doubt wealthy officers were trialling fancy new headgear simply because they liked them!
The museum was particularly strong in its collection of old Yeomanry uniforms. Their use of manikins was also really effective, I thought, as can be seen in the fine display below of an officer of the North Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry in the mid-19th century. It’s a classic heavy dragoon style uniform and the wonderfully ornate metal helmet at his feet.
A closer view of that style of helmet, alongside another example of the aforementioned unique black leather helmet was afforded in another cabinet, seen below:
The above two North Shropshire 19th century dragoon helmets are amongst the finest examples I’ve seen. The black helmet dates from 1816-36 and the one on the right from 1854-72. The detailed sunburst helmet plates look dramatic against the black leather or white metal and the lion’s face appearing over the crest framed by the red plume is glorious.
Above is an example of a Shrewsbury Yeomanry officer’s helmet and coatee from the period 1817-30. The helmet has a notably different metal crest to the North Shropshire version above. I’m unsure who the metal figure is intended to depict but the sculpted face with wide open mouth appears menacing enough! The black helmet this time is metal (not leather) and appears to have been subject to japanning. It would have had a bearskin crest, now absent.
The amalgamation of the North and South Salopian Yeomanry regiments in 1872 required a new uniform to be designed for it. Some compromise was needed therefore to combine elements of both regiment’s uniforms into a new version. The subsequent uniform featured a dark blue tunic with scarlet facings, red piping and gold lacing (as can be seen on the officer below). Leg wear was dark blue with a red stripe (or seemingly gold for officers). The helmet’s gilt ornamentation was inspired by the South Salopian regiment, while the red and white plume imitated that of its Northern cousin.
This new uniform owed something to the uniform of the Royal Horse Guards which, as we have seen, also inspired the dragoon helmet adopted soon after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
I’ve said it before, I’m always keen to see evidence of mounted bands and musicians and I was particularly pleased to discover both of the Shropshire Yeomanry’s drum banners, placed high up on the castle wall.
The regiment’s drum banners would have surrounded the steel kettle drums carried by a drum horse. No sign of the kettle drums, unfortunately, but it was interesting to see how the banner compared to its depiction in the cigarette card set by John Player and Sons that I own.
As you can see, in comparison with my (admittedly poor quality) photo it looks quite different, featuring a cypher instead of the three ‘loggerheads’ of the Shropshire coat of arms. Furthermore, the scroll underneath reads “Shropshire-Yeomanry-Cavalry” from left to right, and does not have the central word as being ‘Shropshire’. In the 1920s, postcard manufacturer Gale & Polden produced a large poster of Yeomanry drum banners. Their illustration of the Shropshire Yeomanry’s banner agrees with the Player’s illustration showing the loggerheads.
R.G. Harris’ “Yeomanry Drum Banners and Mounted Bands” (#14 in the Ogilby Trust Yeomanry Series) informs me that the wife of the CO, Colonel Wingfield, presented these banners to the regiment on 8th May 1885. They differ slightly in size to each other. There are ‘no known pictures or photographs of the band’, sadly. Furthermore, the versions depicted in the Player’s series and the Gale & Polden poster have never been traced or verified, so may well have simply been erroneous.
The aforementioned Colonel Wingfield’s name also appeared on an invitation to an event hosted by the Shropshire Yeomanry in 1886. It reports that the regimental band will be ‘in attendance’. This card was nicely illustrated with two yeomen; one in Full Dress with sword drawn and the other wearing a stable jacket, with a carbine and an Other Ranks pill box cap. This invitation I was pleased to see reproduced in the museum shop in the form of a postcard (below):
The Imperial Yeomanry’s experience in the Anglo-Boer War marked the Yeomanry force’s first experience of foreign warfare. Stripped of their ostentatious finery worn in the previous century, they learned some valuable lessons about modern warfare ahead of the Great War. Artefacts from their time in South Africa were many including this slouch hat:
…and this photograph below of the yeomen, prior to embarkation to South Africa in 1900.
For the second part of my review of the Shropshire Regimental Museum, I’ll be taking a look at some of the other exhibits.
Rear view of officer’s uniform, Shropshire Yeomanry, 1882.