I’ve very recently become the proud owner of some large antique prints purchased at what was an absurdly low budget price (aka ‘my price range’). On coming through the post, they emitted that strong musty smell suggestive of great age and antiques.
The four prints depict the following yeomanry cavalry regiments from the 1840s:
The Yorkshire Hussars
The Buckinghamshire Hussars
The Suffolk Yeomanry, Long Melford Troop
The 2nd West York Yeomanry
They are in excellent condition considering their great age. Coming with their own generously sized mounts, they are 45cm x 55cm in dimensions, so they are really quite large for a suburban domestic property. My wife has generously agreed to their being displayed in the spare upstairs room as soon as I source some appropriate frames.
So what’s the story behind these prints?
They are from a series of prints titled “Fores’s Yeomanry Costumes“. Each print is dated to a specific day of issue, between 1844 and 1846, and state that they are published in London by “…Messrs Fores, at their sporting and fine print repository & frame manufactory, 41 Piccadilly, corner of Sackville Street.”
‘Messrs Fores’ were the sons of Samuel William Fores. He was an illustrator and publisher based in London. Fores Senior was the son of a cloth merchant and established his business as a print seller in 1783, specialising in popular satirical caricatures. Yeomanry had featured in Fores publications prior to the 1840s. the most infamous of which was by George Cruickshank who created a biting satire on the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. The sarcastically titled “Manchester Heroes” are the men of the ‘Manchester and Salford Yeomanry’ who are sabreing defenceless men, women and children, to the anguished cries of “Shame!”
After S.W. Fores’s death in 1838, his sons took over the business and moved their output from satire to sporting scenes and fine art. This series of yeomanry costumes, begun a few years after their father’s death, was probably a part of that intentional move away from the satirical publications that had made his fortune.
The prints are plates numbered 1, 3, 4 and 6 from a series of eight, so far as I can tell, in total. The drawings are by Henry Martens, a military artist whom I’ve mentioned before on Suburban Militarism after seeing copies of some of his paintings displayed at the Royal Norfolk Regiment Collection, The 2017 Anglo-Sikh Wars exhibition and also at the Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum last year. I also saw a print from this very series when I visited the Shropshire Yeomanry Museum earlier this year. The print (plate 5 in the series) featured the South Salopian Yeomanry and was reproduced on my report on the Shropshire Yeomanry earlier this year.
Martens painted a great deal of military scenes in the early 19th century, notably on the Sikh and Xhosa wars. He was, however, apparently also well known for his depiction of British army uniforms released between 1839 and 1843 under a different publisher (Ackermann). The Yeomanry Costumes drawings appears to have been a natural continuation of his successful uniforms series with Ackermann.
Martens’ works were often engraved and hand-coloured by a lithographer called John Harris, and this is indeed the case with my own prints. The ridges of carefully applied paint on the prints can still be felt on the fingertips!
I’m well used to seeing the beautiful and prodigious work by Richard Simkin in his depictions of the yeomanry during the 1880s and 1890s. Henry Martens, it seems, can be placed in a tradition of faithfully recording the exotic dress of Britain’s yeomanry regiments, a tradition which was carried on by Simkin.
As I’ve indicated, I believe, at least four more paintings were produced in this series. These depicted the West Essex Yeomanry, the Buckinghamshire Artillery Corps, another scene of the Long Melford Troop from Suffolk and, as previously mentioned, the South Salopian Yeomanry. It’s interesting that two were produced for the Long Melford Troop and two for troops from Buckinghamshire and Yorkshire. Some of the prints (notably not the Long Melford Troop) includes a dedication to a local dignitary and the ‘Gentlemen of the Corps’. It’s possible that sponsorship was received by the publisher for this series from those willing and able to pay for the privilege.
There may be more than 8 prints in the series. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for any other bargains, though wall space for any more will be limited! I doubt another in a similar and affordable price range will turn up any time soon, however!
The rifle butts – seen in the distance with markers, backstops and a flag flying to indicate direction and warn of the range being in use. The men engaged in shooting appear to screened off, presumably to limit accusations of being distracted!
A vibrant social scene where differently uniformed corps would intermingle (note the different kepis, forage caps, kilts and at least one busby). The competition is well attended with many ladies and children being eagerly entertained by the rifle volunteers.
A nice vignette of a successful rifleman being carried aloft by jubilant comrades after his marksmanship has won his corps glory.
For those taking part in such competitions, success could earn the eternal gratitude of one’s officer and comrades, not to say acquire a little local celebrity. So it was for Sergeant Roberts of the 12th (Wem) Rifle Volunteer Corps whose performance at said Wimbledon Common earned him the epithet “The Champion Shot of England”! It also engendered this effusive ‘illuminated address’ by his grateful Captain and colleagues:
A little further on in the museum, I found an example of what might lie in store for those riflemen who did not pay sufficient “strict attention to drill and rifle practice” with as much diligence as Sgt. Roberts – namely, a wooden spoon! This was “probably a booby prize for the worst shot” in the 2nd Shropshire Rifle Volunteers…
Another of the museum’s fine manikin displays portrayed two local volunteer troops of the Victorian era; specifically men from the two Volunteer Battalions of the Shropshire Regiment. The 2nd Volunteer Battalion wore a grey uniform with black crossbelts and facings. His marksman’s badge of crossed rifles can be seen above his left cuff. His weapon is a Snider-Enfield.
The 1st Volunteer Battalion was represented by its preceding formation, the 1st Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps. The uniform dates from the 1880s, around the time of the Childers Reforms which first linked the Rifle Volunteer Corps more closely with the county infantry regiments. The 1st Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps wore scarlet tunics and white facings, therefore looking much like the regulars.
It was great to see county volunteer forces so carefully and skilfully depicted in this display by the Shropshire Regimental Museum. Rifle Volunteers may not have seen any active service prior to the Anglo-Boer War, but they were a significant part of the military and social history of Shropshire.
In the display below of the local Administrative Battalions, the ‘drab’ dress of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion was complemented by dark green braid and black facings and crossbelts. The 1860s shako features a hunting horn badge with the number 48 (being the order of precedence for the Shropshire Rifle Volunteers). Post-1880, both Volunteer Battalions have adopted the dark green Full-Dress helmets. The other ranks uniform to the left is awash with medals, proficiency stars, etc.
Like the yeomanry, bandsmen would have been a part of self-respective Rifle Volunteer Corps. I spotted this large drum belonging to the second corps below:
The Shropshire Militia:
The national Militia force expanded during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars but, by the time of their conclusion, a single regiment of Shropshire Militia existed. The established system of maintaining the Militia by local ballot was unpopular, poorly enforced and numbers were in decline.
In 1852, service in the Militia became voluntary – closer to the TA of today. The attraction of experiencing army life and wearing the smart uniform must have been attractive to many. Particularly so, as the uniform was very similar to the regulars of the time.
In 1881, as part of sweeping reforms, the Shropshire Militia came under the newly established King’s Shropshire Light Infantry regiment and was designated the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, K.S.L.I. At the same time, control of the Militia was taken from the Lord Lieutenant and appointments and training came under the War Office instead.
The Shropshire Artillery Volunteer Corps
To support the large number of Rifle Volunteer Corps being established in 1860, the importance of mounted infantry and artillery formations to support them was recognised. This wasn’t always easy to achieve as horses and cannons are more complex and expensive formations to maintain. Nevertheless, in Shropshire, the 9th (Shrewsbury) Rifle Volunteer Corps was converted to the Shropshire Artillery Volunteers in July 1860. Initially, there were a formation of ‘heavy artillery’ and performed exercises at Long Mynd, an area of heath and moor in the Shropshire Hills. The site of the battery and magazine is still apparently identifiable even today.
The museum had a number of objects relating to this formation including this Full-Dress pouch:
The Full-Dress uniform of a sergeant of the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery could be seen in its entirety (below). The Shropshire RHA was formed in 1908 as a consequence of the formation of the new Territorial Force. They were one of only six volunteer corps to be designated as being prestigious Horse Artillery.
Below is a portrait held in the museum of the first commander of the Shropshire Artillery Volunteers, Colonel William Field, wearing a fur busby with white plume. In the distant background can be just about seen some gun limbers and horses. The town of Shrewsbury is in the distance. His fine grey charger also featured in the museum. Following its demise, the beloved animal had its hoof converted into an inkwell, now in display!
To encourage proficiency, prizes were awarded to provide an incentive, a common enough concept for volunteer forces. For the SAV, the winning battery each year would take the ”Skill at Arms’ trophy shown below. An image of an artillery team in action can be seen embossed on the front.
The Full-Dress headgear of the 1st Shropshire Artillery Volunteers in the 19th century was this shako. Note the metal ball instead of a spike at the top the helmet, and also the artillery piece appearing under the Royal Coat of Arms.
Complimenting last year’s purchase of the book “Riflemen, Form!” on the Victorian Rifle Volunteer movement, I bought a copy of “A History of the Shropshire Artillery Volunteer Corps”, a newly published and detailed account by Derek Harrison, available in the museum shop online. Perfect bed-time reading for me there!
A (thankfully) short, final post on this exhaustive report to come, in which I include some personal thoughts about the museum.
Last week, on a gloriously sunny day, I finally fulfilled a long-held desire to visit the Shropshire Regimental Museum.
It is picturesquely based in Shrewsbury’s castle and houses collections relating to the following:
The 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment
The 85th King’s Light Infantry
The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI)
The Shropshire Yeomanry
The Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery
The local Militia, Volunteers and Territorial units
The Lords Lieutenant of Shropshire collection
The extensive collection occupies virtually the entire castle, including its impressive Great Hall.
In the first part of my review, I’m taking a look at the displays on the local yeomanry regiments of Shropshire. My copy of the “Blandford Encyclopaedia of Cavalry Uniforms” contains three illustrations of yeomanry regiments in Shropshire by Jack Kassin-Scott, including this illustration of an 1892 mounted trooper.
In comparison, the extent of the gold braid worn by the officer becomes evident. The county of Shropshire was quick to respond to the threat of French invasion during the Revolutionary Wars and raised no less than 11 individual Yeomanry Cavalry troops in the 1790s! Starting with the Market Drayton Troop in early 1795, others localities soon followed suit including Wellington, Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Pimhill, etc. By the time of the war’s cessation in 1815, only three remained in service: the Shrewsbury Yeomanry Cavalry; the South Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry; and the North Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry.
By 1828, these three regiments were reduced further into two as the South Shropshire and Shrewsbury Regiments were amalgamated into the single South Salopian Yeomanry Cavalry. In response, the North Shropshire regiment renamed itself to become the North Salopian Yeomanry Cavalry. Eventually, these two would also merge in 1872, becoming simply the Shropshire Yeomanry. This continuity of service entitled it to be 6th in the Yeomanry order of precedence.
Around the museum were pleasing artworks depicting the local yeomanry force including the two above, both by unknown artists. The oil painting on the left is of Colonel William Cludde of the early Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry, 1795. Middle: Yeomanry Officer in Full Dress, 1910 by W.H. Taylor. To the right is a nice print depicting officers of the South Salopian Yeomanry, 1846. A coloured aquatint after Henry Martens.
On entering the museum, I was first guided upstairs by staff to a small vestibule which housed some excellent yeomanry helmets and guidons. The regimental colours included examples of some of the ephemeral early volunteer cavalry such as the Apley Troop of the Brimstree Loyal Legion which lasted from 1799 to 1802.
I was delighted to see my first post-Waterloo era Royal Horse Guards helmet with its outrageous and enormous black woollen crest. It was displayed in order to demonstrate how it was the model for the North Shropshire Yeomanry’s own dragoon helmet.
A side view of the regiment’s Full-Dress “Roman pattern” helmet (1817-1846) can be seen below. This pattern helmet was used by both the North and South Shropshire Yeomanry.
Also in this display was (below) a South Salopian Yeomanry Full-Dress officer’s helmet which features a black plume, something that was replaced with the red/white plume of the North Salopian Yeomanry was adopted upon amalgamation.
Alongside that was a highly unusual black leather dragoon helmet used by the North Salopian Yeomanry. It too was replaced by the more usual metal helmet upon amalgamation in 1872.
Proceeding on to the Great Hall, my attention was soon drawn to the sight of some extravagant shakos in a glass case:
These extravagant shakos were ‘possibly used’ by officers of the South Shropshire and South Salopian Yeomanry. No evidence existed for either regiment adopting them so I can only speculate that these no-doubt wealthy officers were trialling fancy new headgear simply because they liked them!
The museum was particularly strong in its collection of old Yeomanry uniforms. Their use of manikins was also really effective, I thought, as can be seen in the fine display below of an officer of the North Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry in the mid-19th century. It’s a classic heavy dragoon style uniform and the wonderfully ornate metal helmet at his feet.
A closer view of that style of helmet, alongside another example of the aforementioned unique black leather helmet was afforded in another cabinet, seen below:
The above two North Shropshire 19th century dragoon helmets are amongst the finest examples I’ve seen. The black helmet dates from 1816-36 and the one on the right from 1854-72. The detailed sunburst helmet plates look dramatic against the black leather or white metal and the lion’s face appearing over the crest framed by the red plume is glorious.
Above is an example of a Shrewsbury Yeomanry officer’s helmet and coatee from the period 1817-30. The helmet has a notably different metal crest to the North Shropshire version above. I’m unsure who the metal figure is intended to depict but the sculpted face with wide open mouth appears menacing enough! The black helmet this time is metal (not leather) and appears to have been subject to japanning. It would have had a bearskin crest, now absent.
The amalgamation of the North and South Salopian Yeomanry regiments in 1872 required a new uniform to be designed for it. Some compromise was needed therefore to combine elements of both regiment’s uniforms into a new version. The subsequent uniform featured a dark blue tunic with scarlet facings, red piping and gold lacing (as can be seen on the officer below). Leg wear was dark blue with a red stripe (or seemingly gold for officers). The helmet’s gilt ornamentation was inspired by the South Salopian regiment, while the red and white plume imitated that of its Northern cousin.
This new uniform owed something to the uniform of the Royal Horse Guards which, as we have seen, also inspired the dragoon helmet adopted soon after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
I’ve said it before, I’m always keen to see evidence of mounted bands and musicians and I was particularly pleased to discover both of the Shropshire Yeomanry’s drum banners, placed high up on the castle wall.
The regiment’s drum banners would have surrounded the steel kettle drums carried by a drum horse. No sign of the kettle drums, unfortunately, but it was interesting to see how the banner compared to its depiction in the cigarette card set by John Player and Sons that I own.
As you can see, in comparison with my (admittedly poor quality) photo it looks quite different, featuring a cypher instead of the three ‘loggerheads’ of the Shropshire coat of arms. Furthermore, the scroll underneath reads “Shropshire-Yeomanry-Cavalry” from left to right, and does not have the central word as being ‘Shropshire’. In the 1920s, postcard manufacturer Gale & Polden produced a large poster of Yeomanry drum banners. Their illustration of the Shropshire Yeomanry’s banner agrees with the Player’s illustration showing the loggerheads.
R.G. Harris’ “Yeomanry Drum Banners and Mounted Bands” (#14 in the Ogilby Trust Yeomanry Series) informs me that the wife of the CO, Colonel Wingfield, presented these banners to the regiment on 8th May 1885. They differ slightly in size to each other. There are ‘no known pictures or photographs of the band’, sadly. Furthermore, the versions depicted in the Player’s series and the Gale & Polden poster have never been traced or verified, so may well have simply been erroneous.
The aforementioned Colonel Wingfield’s name also appeared on an invitation to an event hosted by the Shropshire Yeomanry in 1886. It reports that the regimental band will be ‘in attendance’. This card was nicely illustrated with two yeomen; one in Full Dress with sword drawn and the other wearing a stable jacket, with a carbine and an Other Ranks pill box cap. This invitation I was pleased to see reproduced in the museum shop in the form of a postcard (below):
The Imperial Yeomanry’s experience in the Anglo-Boer War marked the Yeomanry force’s first experience of foreign warfare. Stripped of their ostentatious finery worn in the previous century, they learned some valuable lessons about modern warfare ahead of the Great War. Artefacts from their time in South Africa were many including this slouch hat:
…and this photograph below of the yeomen, prior to embarkation to South Africa in 1900.
For the second part of my review of the Shropshire Regimental Museum, I’ll be taking a look at some of the other exhibits.
Rear view of officer’s uniform, Shropshire Yeomanry, 1882.