Adding Colour to the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry

I’ve been reading the Google-transcribed text of “Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry“, wordily subtitled; “To which is added the Fencible and Provisional Cavalry of the same county, from 1780, to 1908”.

Holkham Hall, Norfolk, in the Summer of 2018.

I referenced this work last year in my post on the history of yeomanry cavalry on a north Norfolk estate; Horsemen of Holkham Hall, a stately home which I visited during the summer of 2018. In the post, I was unsure as to what colour uniform the local Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry actually wore and speculated they were likely to have adopted the popular choice in Norfolk of red coats with white or blue breeches.

Reinagle’s painting of Thomas Coke (1752-1842), 1st Earl of Leicester; National Trust, Shugborough. Holkham Hall visible in the distance.

The only real clue that I could find lay in the words of the Holkham troop’s commandant, Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall, who petitioned the Prince of Wales for permission to raise the troop. The letter, reproduced in Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry, has Coke writing;

“I have to request your Royal Highness’s permission that we may wear the colours of ye loth for our uniform…”

Ye loth? I speculated in my post that it could even be a miss-scanned ‘yellow’. Judging from similar instances of typographical errors appearing  in the document, it now becomes clear to me to be “the” (written as ‘ye’ in those days) and “10th (i.e. that numbered regiment of Light Dragoons). Reading on, makes it blindingly, and embarrassingly, obvious;

“I have to request your Royal Highnesses permission that we may wear the colours of the 10th for our uniform, and that your Royal Highness would have the condescension to order two soldiers from that Regiment to drill us;…”

Furthermore, the Prince Regent was in fact Colonel of that Regiment, the 10th Light Dragoons, an office he held from 1796-1819, so it would make perfect sense for Coke to petition the Prince of Wales in this manner, newly raised yeomanry troops otherwise having permission to wear whatever style uniform they (or their benefactor, in this instance Coke) preferred.

Standard of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry which I photographed during my visit. The base colour matches their facings.

So, if the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry apparently wore a uniform which imitated the 10th Light Dragoons then we might reasonably assume they would have worn a jacket and Tarleton helmet looking something like the Prince of Wales’ own officer’s uniform seen below:

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Being Colonel of the 10th (‘The Prince of Wales’s Own’), the Prince took great pride in his regiment. Barred from active service, he ‘…channelled his interest into collecting and into the design of military dress and accoutrements. As Colonel Commandant, and later Colonel, of the 10th Light Dragoons, patterns of uniforms and equipment were submitted to the Prince for approval, many of which he retained at Carlton House‘ (Royal Collection Trust). It is known that he wore the Tarleton above at a review in 1798, which is around the time that Coke was raising his Holkham Yeomanry.

A vision of Thomas Coke in his Holkham Yeomanry uniform? George IV (1762-1830) when Prince of Wales 1803 by Sir W. Beechey. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019.

It’s a dark blue jacket with a pale yellow, almost buff, facings, with twenty one lines of silver lacing across the chest. The Tarleton helmet has a black silk turban with silver chains surmounted by a crest of black fur and a white feather plume. I wonder how closely the Holkham Yeomanry troop imitated this arrangement.

The Prince had a number of portraits created depicting him in an earlier version of the uniform around the time of his first appointment to the 10th Light Dragoons in 1793. The turban on the Tarleton is different, a leopardskin, and the braiding can be seen to be a more sparse arrangement.

It has been my intention for a while to create some Holkham Yeomanry in some form or other, preferably in my favourite 1/72 scale as an unusual addition to the Napoleonic Cavalry Project. HaT have been crowdfunding some Peninsular War-era British Light Dragoons which should be issued at some point, so these might well do the trick but progress to production has been slow (a couple of years in the making so far, I think), so I might have to be patient for those for a while longer yet.

Due sometime, ah, hopefully soon… HaT’s Peninsular British Light Dragoons artwork looking distinctly Holkham-esque.

For a more immediate fix, there’s always the Strelets issue of British Light Dragoons in Egypt. Their heavyweight horses look like they’ve been out in the fresh springtime pasture for far too long. Also, unavoidably I suppose, some of the riders appear to be in less than ideal poses – either involved in either some wildly vigorous sabre drill or perhaps in the midst of putting down an insanely violent bread riot in Wells-Next-The-Sea!

Strelets Light Dragoon horses as seen on Plastic Soldier Review. More like sturdy Suffolk Punches than nimble Norfolk chargers!

Well, this is all food for thought in my attempt to bring the Holkham horsemen back to life, in some half-assed way or other! Time to get back to those other cavalry figures that I’m painting.


Even though his Holkham Troop had disbanded 14 years prior to Coke’s death, it seems the yeomanry of Norfolk had not forgotten him. Above is the dedication on the imposing Holkham monument made in memory of Thomas Coke, which reads; “Erected by subscription originating with the YEOMANRY…” The column’s architecture mostly commemorates his substantial agricultural rather martial achievements, and the corners of the column’s plinth support sculptures of an ox, a sheep, a plough and a seed-drill – so no swords here, just ploughshares.