The Discomforts of Moving

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!

Here is the news… Saturday, September 26, 1863.

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).

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

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.

Nursey, Claude Lorraine Richard Wilson; Officers of the 1st City of Norwich Rifle Volunteers, with Their Captain Henry Staniforth Patteson, on the Rifle Range, Mousehold Heath; Norfolk Museums Service.

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.

A scene not dissimilar to my own moving experience…

For anyone who may be any interested, I’ve reproduced the full ILN article below:

The Illustrated London News, Sept. 26th, 1863…

For some time, I’ve had my eye on acquiring one of the many Victorian newspaper illustrations of rifle volunteers from the movement’s heyday in the 1860s through to the end of the century. It was an abstract concept until Mark from Man of Tin drew my attention to such a print on display over his painting desk. It looked so good that it convinced me to do likewise.

The image I’ve chosen featured in a recent post and is taken from The Illustrated London News, September 1963. The caption reads: Review of the Norfolk Volunteers on Mousehold Heath: Lady Suffield presenting the prizes won at the Norfolk Rifle Association meeting.

A spare frame and a cheap picture mount does the job nicely.

I chose this one because of my interest in military volunteers from Norfolk, being a county I lived in years ago. What’s more, the illustration is a good scene of Victorian volunteer soldiery together with depictions of men and women of the local community taking a keen interest in proceedings. The dark-coated men lined up are from the local Volunteer Rifle Corps.

To either side are the mounted Norfolk Light Horse in their scarlet coats, wearing black dragoon helmets with falling white plumes, a force which I posted about earlier this year. This short-lived formation were attached to the local rifle corps. Other mounted military men in the distance appear to be officers wearing a variety of headdress and I can even make out a hussar.

The mounted man in the foreground appears to be an infantry or militia officer.

In the centre with the cocked hat could even be the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk which at the time of this event would have been Thomas Coke’s son**.

And so, the artistic militarisation of my household walls continues…

** Incidentally, this week it was announced in the Eastern Daily Press that Norfolk has appointed its first female Lord-Lieutenant of the county in 470 years of the role.

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…