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
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Stately Home Sleuth: Investigating Calke Abbey’s Military Artworks

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.

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Part of the Derbyshire Yeomanry uniform on display at Calke.

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:

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A painting hangs on the grimy, faded and torn wallpaper in the “unstately home” of the National Trust’s Calke Abbey.

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:

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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.

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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 did have 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.

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Drum banner of the Derbyshire Yeomanry depicted in a Player’s cigarette card from the 1920s.

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):

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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.

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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.3_-_Royal_Horse_Guards.jpg

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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

Military Treasures in an Unstately Home

A brief visit to Calke Abbey and gardens in Derbyshire today offered up some pleasant surprises relating to military history. Calke Abbey is billed by the National Trust as “the unstately home”, being left in the somewhat run-down state that it was found in when transferred to the charity. The house was owned by the Harpur family for nearly 300 years until it was passed to the Trust in 1985 in lieu of millions of pounds of death duties.

Consequently, a tour of the house reveals a delightfully cluttered and eccentric collection of hidden treasures gathered over past centuries, scattered across its gloomy rooms with peeling paintwork. It was in amongst all this that a number of military items came to my attention.

In one room was a huge collection of rocks, fossils, ancient artefacts and other ephemera. In amongst all these cabinets I spied some Crimean War medals presumably taken from a Russian soldier, and also a button from the Russian 22nd line infantry regiment. Also in this room were a couple of brass buckles from the early incarnation of the Derbyshire Yeomanry, a regiment I’d seen displayed in a visit to Derby last year.

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Buckle of the Derbyshire Volunteer Cavalry c.1794.

I suspect that the local yeomanry had been officered by the Baronet whose family seat was at Calke Abbey. Command of the yeomanry regiments at the time of the Napoleonic wars were often given to the aristocracy. Indeed, the wonderful old library contains a number of tomes relating to the operation of yeomanry forces, all but confirming the commanding of the regiment by the Harpur family heirs. The online catalogue includes:

  • Instructions for the use of yeomanry and volunteer corps of cavalry. (1803)
  • By His Majesty’s command. Just published, Rules and regulations for the sword exercise of the cavalry. (1796)
  • List of the officers of the several regiments and corps of fencible cavalry and infantry of the officers of the militia; of the corps and troops of gentlemen and yeomanry; and of the corps and companies of volunteer infantry. With an index. (1796)
  • An elucidation of several parts of His Majesty’s regulations for the formations and movements of cavalry. (1808)
  • An elucidation of several parts of His Majesty’s regulations for the formations and movements of cavalry. (1824)
  • A manual for volunteer corps of cavalry. (1808)

Upstairs in the sprawling mansion, I located part of the uniform of the Derbyshire Yeomanry Cavalry, a jacket I believe from the late 19th century;

Made from blue wool cloth with scarlet trimmings by Stokes and Co of Derby, the gilt metal buttons are cast with the Derbyshire Yeomanry crest. The remaining red-striped dark blue trousers and black boots were due to be also displayed sometime later this year. I suspect that the uniform is similar to this one, a heavy dragoon-style, depicted in my wonderful yeomanry regiments book with plates by Richard Simkin;

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Derbyshire Yeomanry c.1900 by Richard Simkin.

Displayed alongside the uniform was this fascinating artefact; a musical score of marches written for the Derbyshire Yeomanry by famous composer Joseph Haydn, no less, for Sir Henry Harpur the Baronet and his “Volunteer Cavalry of Derbyshire embodied in the year 1794”. The very pleasant piece of baroque classical music is on youtube.

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Haydn’s marches for the Derbyshire Yeomanry!

And that wasn’t all. In a child’s playroom, of all places, I found another piece of exotic weaponry. Behind some marbles and beside a cot was a shield. To me, it was an unmistakable design which was commonly seen during the Victorian army’s campaigns in the Sudan during the 1880s and 1890s. I asked the helpful assistant in the room who admitted that she wasn’t sure about the object, but on checking the catalogue found that it was only listed as being a “Round primitive shield made of thick, light-coloured animal hide. Possibly elephant hide.” Furthermore, the assistant showed me some spears in the same room which may have been associated with the shield. To me, they looked more like assegais than the examples of the broad bladed spears I’ve seen from the Sudan. But if that shield wasn’t from the Sudan campaign, I’ll eat my hat! I do wonder how this war booty may have ended up in an aristocratic child’s playroom in Calke Abbey, Derbyshire.

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The Calke Abbey elephant-hide shield.

So, some interesting nuggets of militaria made for a pleasant surprise. Suburban Militarism has taken a particular interest in Yeomanry Cavalry regiments of late, so to find some items related to the Derbyshire Yeomanry was a real boon. I’ve not been idle on the painting front, however. Evidence of my modelling activities to come soon.