Relics of the Norfolk Light Horse

“The mounted Volunteers, who mustered very strongly on this occasion were conspicuous in their scarlet coats and showy helmets…” The Norfolk Chronicle, 14th March, 1863.
Caption reads: “Review of the Norfolk Volunteers on Mousehold Heath…”. The Norfolk Light Horse are mounted wearing white plumes left and right of the engraving.

During my visit to the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry Collection at Muckleburgh in 2017, I discovered something that would have been very easy to overlook. In a case very high up on a wall, almost touching the ceiling was this:

The nearby ceiling light reflects off the glass case and from the floor the sign inside was barely visible to the (shorter than average height) visitor, but thanks to holding my camera high up to take the photo, I could confirm that it reads “Norfolk Light Horse Volunteers“. It contains a Full Dress sabretache and a pouch.

Nothing particularly remarkable here, perhaps. The reason I’m posting about this obscure object is because I’ve been lately furthering my knowledge of Victorian military volunteers by reading W.Y. Carman’s Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers 1860-1901“. This is an interesting guide to the short-lived phenomenon of Victorian mounted volunteers; not part of the yeomanry as such, but an adjunct to the wider Rifle Volunteer Movement which began in 1859. In 1862, it is thought that approximately 1218 mounted volunteers comprised up to 28 troops of both Light Horse and Mounted Rifles. By 1881, the demands, costs and complexities of maintaining these forces had seen them dwindle away, leaving only 5 units remaining totalling 530 men.

The Norfolk Light Horse, whose sabretache was up on the wall in the Muckleburgh Collection, lasted only 5 years, forming in September 1862 but disappearing well before the end of the decade (August 1867). They had their genesis in the newly formed Norfolk Mounted Rifles and, after evolving into a Light Horse formation, went on to number up to 60 men in total.


”The 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. A number of the troop have daily appeared in the city during the week, on their way to drill ; they are exceedingly well mounted and certainly present a very imposing appearance… The Norfolk Chronicle, 6th April, 1861.


Initially wearing the busby described above, this troop soon adopted a dark blue / black dragoon helmet with a white plume and an unusual triangular leopardskin patch on the front. By 1863, although still wearing the red tunic, the white breeches had gone and the men are depicted wearing blue overalls with side stripes.

Contemporary prints of the Norfolk Light Horse from W.Y. Carman’s “Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers”.

The painting below dates from 1862 and depicts the local 1st City of Norwich Rifle Volunteers in their grey uniforms but also shows some men of the “Norwich Light Horse Volunteers” (as they were known locally for a while), easily noticeable in their scarlet-coloured undress uniforms. Officers Captain Gurney and Cornet Grimmer are said to be amongst them. It’s a nice scene and great impression of volunteer soldiering in the Victorian era.

Particularly interesting to me is the view in the background of a rifle range, a topic I posted on back in 2017. The backstop, the targets and the flag can all be made out and also a very high second embankment on the hillside above, no doubt to stop badly aimed rounds from ricocheting up high off the rising ground. I think it’s also just possible to see the rest of the red-coated Light Horse troop mounted on the hill in the far distant skyline.

The rifle range on Mousehold Health, Norwich. © Norfolk Museums Service.

Mousehold Heath seemed to be a popular location for activities relating to Norfolk volunteer activity, so it’s perhaps no surprise to discover pictorial evidence of a rifle range. Part of this heath still exists today, albeit surrounded by new development on the outskirts of Norwich. The area is the opposite side of the city centre to where I used to live, so I am not particularly familiar with it. I wonder if there’s evidence of the range still to be found there?

© Norfolk Museums Service.

In it’s brief existence, the Norfolk Light Horse played a colourful part in a number of local events and occasions. The Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry describes something of the unit’s brief existence, including the review on Mousehold Heath seen in the newspaper illustration at the top of this post and reported enthusiastically by the local paper. Examples of their appearances at local events include;

  • 1861 – (As the ‘Norwich Mounted Rifle Volunteers’), a volunteer review at Holkham Park.
  • 1862 – A volunteer fete at Crown Point.
  • 1863 – A ‘grand military parade’ in Norwich in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales.
  • 1863 – Annual volunteer review at Mousehold Heath.
  • 1864 – A volunteer review at Gunton Park, notably with the “band of the 1st Norwich Light Horse” in attendance.
  • 1866 – Escort duty for the Prince of Princess of Wales visiting Norwich – particularly prestigious for the NLHV as the King’s Dragoon Guards were reduced to merely lining the streets!

The Chronicle’s reports on such occasions could be warmly evocative:


‘The 1st Norwich Light Horse, commanded by Capt Hay Gurney, marched with the Lancers from the Cavalry Barracks… As soon as the cavalry had reached Tombland, the other troops fell in and the entire body moved off amid the cheers of the spectators, who by this time were numerous… Every window was filled with lookers on, for the most part ladies, whose bright smiles and cheerful faces, betokened the delight they took in the spectacle.” The Norfolk Chronicle, 14th March, 1863.


Returning to the sabretache and pouch I’d seen in the Muckleburgh collection, I wonder whether W.Y. Carman had access to these original objects when he published the book in 1991. In the passage on the Norfolk Light Horse, he writes;

“A Full Dress sabretache is known. It measured 10 and a half inches high and 9 and a quarter inches at the base. The ground was bright blue or ultramarine with silver lace around the sides and base showing a red outer edge. The regulation crown was set over a ‘VR’ cypher and a three-part scroll. The latter was of red cloth and had silver letters and edging, reading ‘Norfolk / Light / Horse’. W.Y. Carman

A drawing of the sabretache reproduced in W.Y. Carman’s book, presumably the author’s own work. There are notable differences (the shape, the dimensions reported, the crown appears larger and filled with a cream colour in reality, etc.) but is otherwise broadly similar. From W.Y. Carman,”Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers”.

Smith and Harris’ “The Yeomanry Cavalry of Norfolk”, gives the dimensions as below, distinctly different to Carman’s measurements, and are surprised by the sabretache being the “smallest on record” with a pouch for holding papers, maps, etc as broad as the sabretache. This is perhaps explained by the sabretache being of such small dimensions whilst the need for a pouch large enough to provide utility still remained.

“The sabretache is of particular interest as it is the smallest specimen on record, the width of no more than 7 inches at the top and 8 inches at the bottom, overall depth 9 inches…strangely the pouch is almost as broad as the sabretache.” Smith and Harris.

The clear differences in dimensions, not to say other minor differences in the size and shape of the crown, cypher and other details, make me wonder if they really aren’t two completely different sabretaches. I feel the shape of Carman’s ‘tache further confirms this suspicion.

Carman also describes the pouch:

At the same time a Full Dress pouch was seen, the flap being black velvet edged with silver lace and the embroidered crown with a crimson lining was over N L H V in silver letters. The precise date of these items is not known. Another pouch had an ultramarine flap.” W.Y. Carman

“NLHV”; another drawing, this time of the Full Dress pouch and clearly the same as that held in the Muckleburgh case. The crown is noticeably larger on the Muckleburgh example than in the watercolour. From W.Y. Carman,”Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers”.

Military artist Bob Marrion probably got a first-hand look at the Muckleburgh sabretache (even though his illustration was published around the same time as Carman’s work) as his sabretache on the cover of Vol.12 of the Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force book seems to match the one in the collection very closely.

Detail of the cover of Vol.12: The Yeomanry Cavalry of Norfolk. Illustration by R.J. Marrion.

So, the items I saw in the Muckleburgh Collection in 2017 are either;

  • different to the ones written about by W.Y. Carman
  • or the pouch and sabretache which he reports as ‘last seen in 1958’ are one and the same with the Muckleburgh Collection’s and must have somehow resurfaced to find their way there.

Either way, it’s a shame that these relics, some of the few remaining items relating to the existence of this short-lived local mounted force, should be positioned so discreetly in the collection. Over 150 years ago, that humble sabretache would have once been a small part of the grand reviews and colourful parades which brought pleasure to many across the county.


The Royal carriages, escorted by a detachment of the Norwich Light Horse, appeared in sight. The autumnal tints of the trees, the bright uniforms of the Volunteers, the genial sunshine, and the hill and dale of the road, these with the long train of carriages contributed to form a delightful picture…” The Norfolk Chronicle, 3rd November, 1866.


Postscript! – Also high up on the same wall as the Norfolk Light Horse sabretache was another but from a different yeomanry regiment which has also thrown up something of interest. More on that in another post…

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #8

8. The Coldstream Guards

“The Coldstream Guards Regiment was formed in 1650 as a unit of the Commonwealth Army. It was the only Regiment of the Parliamentary Army that was not disbanded at the Restoration in 1660. The illustration shows the uniform worn by Sergeants in 1832.”

Number 8 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

A little more on the Derbyshire Yeomanry Mounted Band

Last year, I posted on my discovery of a painting hung on the wall of the ‘unstately home’ Calke Abbey. I realised that the scene depicted the band of the Derbyshire Yeomanry whose existence my guide to mounted bands suggested was unproven. At the time, I wondered what the parade could possibly have been for. Thankfully, some enquiries I made with the Melbourne Historical Research Group bore fruit thanks to the informative reply by a Mr Philip Heath.

Entrance of the Procession into Melbourne on the 10th May 1876 by John Gelder (1816 – 1885) ©National Trust Images

Mr Heath informed me that;

“The location of this scene is Derby Road, Melbourne. The house on the right is Conery House , formerly known as the Poplars (as seen in the painting), built in the 1830s. The people in the windows may well be the Robinson family who lived there at the time. The house is still there, on the corner of Queensway opposite Sainsbury’s.”

The scene of the parade today, the house then known as “The Poplars” just visible through the trees to the right.

Mr Heath continues:

“I first saw this painting when it was reproduced in Howard Colvin’s “Calke Abbey; A Hidden House Revealed” (1985), page 97. The caption in the book suggests that it shows the recent wedding of Sir Vauncey and Isabel Adderley being feted at Melbourne. As they were married on 20/4/1876, I’ve never doubted that interpretation. Although the Calke estate had few tenants in the parish of Melbourne, there was a connection with Calke and Melbourne through all the Melbourne tradesmen that found work at Calke, and there are framed “loyal addresses” from the people at Melbourne, given to the family on landmark occasions.”

So there you have it. The Derbyshire Yeomanry’s mounted band was leading a procession which was celebrating the marriage of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe of Calke Abbey and Isabel Adderley. A natural consequence given the regiment’s close association with the Harpur family and the Derbyshire Yeomanry.

A 1794 musical score that I found in Calke of “Two marches composed by Joseph Haydn for Henry Harpur Bart. and presented by him to the Volunteer Cavalry of Derbyshire”.

However, it seems any excessive pride I may have had in my sleuthing is somewhat misplaced. I now realise that other conclusive evidence of the mounted band must have since come to light since R.G. Harris’ wrote his words on the Derbyshire Yeomanry band. The DYC’s own website actually includes photographic evidence (although no reference is made to the
painting of the procession). Furthermore, the image also shows kettledrums and drum banners included, which I’ve circled below. All this information must have been unavailable to Ronald G. Harris at the time.

Blurred and indistinct; a ghostly image of the Mounted Derbyshire Yeomanry at Aston Camp in 1890. Photo: The Derbyshire Yeomanry Association.

The DYC Drum banners were crimson with a rose in gold under a crown and is shown in the Players cigarette card series with a wreath and a scroll.

I want to thank Mr Heath and the Melbourne Historical Research Group and also end with a few words about the now sadly deceased Ronald G. Harris, who authored that yeomanry mounted band book in the 1980s. Currently up for sale on eBay are some of his extensive research material and archive (most being well out of my modest budget unfortunately). Much of his archive material is completely unique and remarkable, a throwback to an era when research had to be carried out without easy reference to the internet by committed military history enthusiasts like Mr Harris.

Calke Abbey © National Trust / Ian Buxton, David Midgelow, Brian Birch

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #7

7. The King’s Regiment (Liverpool)

When this Regiment was raised in 1685, it was designated “Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment”. The title was changed when George I came to the throne, this time to “The 8th Foot”. The drawing shows a Sergeant wearing the uniform of 1828.

Number 7 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #6

6. The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment

The 16th Regiment of Foot, of which we show a private in 1828, was raised in 1688. In 1782, the regiment received the county title of “The Buckinghamshire Regt”. The Hertford Militia became a battalion in 1881 when the regiment became known by its present title.

Number 6 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #5

5. The East Lancashire Regiment

The first Battalion became the 30th Foot (Cambridgeshire) Regiment in 1782 and it was amalgamated with the 59th Foot (Nottinghamshire) Regiment in 1881 to form The East Lancashire Regiment. The drawing shows a Private of the old 30th Foot in 1815.

Number 5 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #4

4. The Royal Fusiliers

“Fuzileer 1815. 7th Royal Fuzileers. Raised in 1685, this regiment was added to the army during the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion. First titled “Our Royal Regiment of Fuzileers” and “Our Ordnance Regiment”, it was to become the famous “Royal Fusiliers” (City of London Regiment).”

Number 4 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #2

2. The Rifle Brigade

“A rifleman, 1808. This famous corps was formed in the year 1800 from men selected from fourteen regiments. In 1802 it was brought into line as the 85th (Rifles) Regiment. After Waterloo, for its brilliant service, it was given the title of ‘The Rifle Brigade’.”

Number 2 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #3

3. The Scots Guards

“Guardsman, Scots Fusilier Guards, 1814. Formed in 1660 from Scottish Foot Guards. It was originally called by its present title, but this fell into disuse and it became the ‘Scots Fusilier Guards’ and the ‘3rd Regiment of Foot Guards’. In 1877, the title was restored to The Scots Guards.”

Number 3 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #1

1. The Suffolk Regiment

“The drawing shows a private of the 12th Regiment of Foot in 1806. The regiment was raised in 1685 by James II at the time of the Monmouth Rebellion. It was numbered 12th Foot in 1782 and received the title of ‘The Suffolk Regiment’ in 1881.”

Number 1 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).