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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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…
When I was in my teens, my uncle would occasionally take me along to a ‘cigarette card fair’ which took place in a church hall. From the late 19th century up until the 1940s, cigarette packets would come with collectible cards. Card series topics could be anything from Household Hints, to Birds, to Association Footballers, or (of course) on military topics. Amongst the very earliest series was a set on the then ongoing conflict of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904.
Naturally, my interest in military history burning bright even in my teens, I chose to collect card series on military topics. Such sets as my meagre financial resources would stretch to included the following (years of issue in brackets);
Military Headdress (1931)
Regimental Colours and Cap Badges (1910)
Drum Banners and Cap Badges (1924)
Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas (1938)
Uniforms of the Territorial Army (1939)
Colonial & Indian Army Badges (1917)
Infantry Training (1915)
War Decorations and Medals (1927)
I’m not sure whether these are particularly collectible today, if at all, but for me they are an interesting source of information, often with beautiful illustrations, on a variety of military-related topics. After reviewing some of these sets, I’ve decided to use this blog to start showcasing some of the best military ones I’ve discovered in storage.
To begin with, some Yeomanry and Volunteer regiments. I’ve mentioned in the last post how Yeomanry regiments have captured my interest of late, particularly with the installation of some of my figures in the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum last month. Player’s 1924 “Drum Banners and Cap Badges” series depicts a good number of Yeomanry regiments. My selection of cards from the series include:
Sherwood Rangers (Hussars)
Dorset Yeomanry (Royal Field Artillery)
Queen’s Own Royal Staffordshire Yeomanry (Hussars)
Derbyshire Yeomanry (Armoured Car Company)
The Derbyshire Yeomanry is a regiment I mentioned in my previous post. In fact, I’m surprised to realise that in recent years I’ve visited the collections of all of these regiments!
Being all hand-drawn, the detail and skill in each card is impressive and must have taken some time to produce. It is interesting to note the variety of colours and designs used in just these four examples. The Staffordshire knot in the cap badge is an iconic symbol of that county and the Sherwood Rangers make use of oak leaves and acorns as a connection to the forest after which they are named. Two of the regiments have been converted from mounted cavalry after the First World War to alternative arms. The 14 most senior Yeomanry regiments had the honour of remaining mounted on horses as traditional cavalry, but the Dorsets have (by the time of the release of this 1924 set) been converted to Royal Field Artillery and the Derbyshire Yeomanry are shown as being an Armoured Car Company in the Tank Corps.
More references to Yeomanry regiments by Players could be found in their similar “Regimental Colours and Cap Badges” series of 1910, including this one of the Norfolk Yeomanry. As with the “Drum Banners…” series, note the excellent quality of the very detailed illustrations.
And finally, continuing the volunteer regiments theme, Players also produced this set in 1939, depicting “Uniforms of the Territorial Army“. Once again, I think the illustrations here are excellent, and the line drawings of related buildings or architectural features compliments the image and subject perfectly.
The Castlemartin Yeomanry were from Pembrokeshire and famously helped secure the capture and surrender of a French invasion force in 1797 gaining the first ever yeomanry battle honour “Fishguard”, quickly ending the last invasion of the British mainland. Shown in the splendid 1797 uniform, Pembroke Castle is sketched in the background.
The Sherwood Rangers uniforms I’d also seen at the The Queen’s Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum, the ancient Major Oak of Sherwood Forest is shown in the background.
Likewise, the Robin Hood Rifles were a volunteer rifle corps whose uniforms I saw on display last year in the Nottingham Castle museum (see my pics below). The background on their card shows the grand Exchange Buildings on High Street.
The Post Office Rifles are a regiment that’s been on my mind with regards to modelling some figures using perhaps some Italeri British Zulu War Infantry. The image is based on a contemporary depiction of their marching off to Egypt in 1882 and winning the first Volunteer overseas battle honour. The background image appropriately depicts pyramids and camels.
Finally, the Lovat Scouts are a yeomanry regiment which served with distinction in the Anglo-Boer War. As a Highland regiment they were attached to the Black Watch and later formed two companies of the Imperial Yeomanry and the card depicts them in pith helmets and khaki worn during this conflict. A typical Boer farmhouse is shown in the rear of the illustration.
Next time in this series: Two superb sets on the topics of overseas British Empire uniforms in the 1930s and, one of my favourite sets, British military headdress.
PLEASE NOTE: Suburban Militarism is a non-smoking blog (and always has been). I’m glad that the cigarette companies don’t produce these today, however – I would be buying the packets for the cards and throwing away the cigarettes!