Suburban Militarism is back online – at last! In the past few weeks, without any internet, I’ve been rediscovering what I once did in the 1980s for entertainment. Reading, mostly. Board games. Watching free-to-air television. Taking a walk outside and also down memory lane with all the boxes of stuff that I brought with me. And eventually managed to locate my paints and brushes to get painting some figures again. More on that in the next post.
One of the tasks I’ve enjoyed doing is setting up my new “hobby room / office” (note the order of naming importance). I’ve fixed some pictures to the walls already including my Bob Marrion yeomanry prints and a framed cutting from the Illustrated London News (see my post Relics of the Norfolk Light Horse for more on this). This framed newspaper illustration was sparked from an idea by Mark at Man of Tin when he shared a photo showing something similar hanging over his painting bureau. My own piece of Victorian newsprint now which now hangs above my office desk. In this new position, I’ve been able to examine it more frequently and in more detail, which had got me thinking…
The print shows the “Review of the Norfolk Volunteers on Mousehold Heath. Lady Suffield presenting prizes won at the Norfolk Rifle Association Meeting” and enticingly held out the suggestion of their being further information (see next page). Of course, I don’t have the next page, just the engraved illustration itself. So I wondered if it was possible to find out more. Thankfully the internet – acting in the nice, positive and open way which it was originally conceived of to do – provided me with all the information!
The very wonderful and free Internet Archive has fully scanned copies of the Illustrated London News, including the specific edition that I required – Saturday, Sept 26th 1863.
The article in question had much to say about the events on Mousehold Heath near Norwich, these being rifle shooting competions which started on the 7th September 1863 and lasted for five days. Much of the article covered in patient detail all the various competitions, the prizes, the marks scored and names of winning competitors. The prestigious championship of Norfolk went to Corporal Wilshak (Great Yarmouth Rifle Volunteer Corps), beating Private Richardson (Fakenham RVC) and the aptly named Corporal Gunn (4th Norwich RVC).
To modern eyes, the journalist presents a notably dry account of proceedings, mostly being facts, names and statistics and lacking any colour in describing details of the spectacle, the weather, the personalities and the crowds. The largely factual approach, however, at least has the advantage that the event pictured in my illustration has light thrown upon it by the paper’s fastidious correspondent who very helpfully lists all the units involved in some detail. The prize-giving ceremony he reports taking place on “Tuesday week”, so actually on the 22nd September 1863. The following volunteer corps that were ‘assembled on the occasion’ included:-
- 1st Norfolk Rifle Volunteers (408 men)
- 2nd Norfolk ” ” (316)
- Norwich ” ” (339)
- Yarmouth Artillery (194)
- Yarmouth Rifles (221)
- (Norfolk) Light Horse (35)
The very useful painting below by artist Claude Nursey shows a group of men of the 1st Norwich Rifle Volunteers on the rifle range at Mousehold Heath, presumably the location of the event in question. They are mingling with some other men of the Norfolk Light Horse (wearing red jackets) the remainder of whom can be also just seen mounted in the far distance. The landscape does bear a resemblance to my print.
There were other armed forces present too:
- 18th Hussars (3 troops)
- 14 staff of the West Norfolk Militia
- ‘The Norwich Cadets’
This amounted to a total of 1800 men under arms in addition to which, as can be seen from my illustration, there must have been a considerable number of interested onlookers. That description suggests that the mounted officer in the foreground (below) judging by his uniform is probably one of the ’14 staff of the West Norfolk Militia’.
Likely to have been present during the proceedings would likely have been the officers of the Norfolk Light Horse, namely; Captain Francis Hay Gurney, Lieutenant Francis Boileau, Cornet Frederick Grimmer, Honorary Vet. Surgeon Smith and Hon, Assistant Surgeon Cooper. The article then goes on to describe the scene very specifically shown in my picture.
“Several manoeuvres were then gone through, after which the Hussars left for Norwich [the location of their barracks] and the volunteers then formed a large square for the purpose of witnessing the presentation of prizes to the successful competitors at the late annual gathering of the Norfolk Volunteers Service Association.
So, my illustration depicts the gathering actually formed in a large square as the following scene played out:
The presentation was made by Lady Suffield, the recipients of the well-merited rewards being also addressed, one by one, in a few encouraging words, by the Earl of Leicester.
The Earl of Leicester, as Lord Lieutenant, would be most likely to be wearing a uniform much like the one below with the cocked hat and blowing white feather plumes, while Lady Suffield is here bestowing an award upon one lucky sharpshooting recipient.
I had previously noted the appearance of a mounted hussar in the drawing (below right). I wonder now, given that the troops of the 18th Hussars had apparently returned to barracks prior to the presentations, whether this might actually show an officer of the Yarmouth Artillery in a Royal Horse Artillery-style uniform? Other mounted volunteers appearing below seem to include another militia officer, a rifle volunteer officer, a senior officer (possibly the said Colonel McMurdo of the Norfolk Corps?) and in the foreground two white-plumed men of the 35-strong Norfolk light Horse.
So, all that helpfully shed a little more light on my treasured scene of events which took place over 150 years ago at the height of the Victorian Rifle Volunteer movement.
The rest of that edition of the Illustrated London News was also an interesting read. Events included tension between Russia and others over Poland’s national struggle for independence; the ongoing ‘War in America’ between the Union and Confederate states and the siege of Charleston; we are informed that “Her Majesty the Queen continues at Balmoral, in good health”. Columns appear with obscure headings abound such as “Echoes of the Week” and “Column for the Curious”; while sporting columns appear to be exclusively about horse racing and fishing. Scientific news included the Admiralty’s investigations into the sun’s distance from the earth,
There were macabre crimes;
The ILN had a particularly intensive interest in the most minute matters of royalty, both home and abroad; “The King of Wirtemberg, who is now in his eighty-second year, has been seriously ill for some days.”
Victorian advertisements within it’s pages are entertaining including such products ranging from “Pistachio Nut Toilet Powder” to parlour game catalogues (dull evenings made merry), and pleasingly there was even something for “The Little Modeller” of the mid-Victorian era too!
And finally – in a nice coincidence – the ILN printed a full page reproduction of an artist’s work (which they discussed in an eccentrically Victorian manner) entitled “Quarter Day! – The Discomforts of Moving” – a chaotic experience which I am personally still living and, I fear, will be for some time!
“The house is given up to a reckless band of nondescript men, who tear up carpets, pull down curtains and level bedsteads.”
Quarter Day, incidentally, is a old English tradition marking the quarters of the year when traditionally rents and notices to quit were due, servants were hired and school terms began, one of which – Lady Day – was just a few days before my own moving day.
For anyone who may be any interested, I’ve reproduced the full ILN article below: