Thought I’d share on this day an image I found of a Victorian Christmas card depicting the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) gathering mistletoe.
The so-called ‘Cherry Pickers’ are seen here gathering a different crop to cherries. The regiment acquired the nickname following an incident during the Peninsular War, in which the 11th Hussars were attacked while raiding an orchard at San Martin de Trebejo, in Spain. The colour of the trousers, unique to British cavalry, were adopted from the Saxe-Coburg livery and were described as ‘cherry’. Lord Cardigan referred to his men as the Cherry-Bums (or when ladies were present – the more genteel cherubims).
It must be a memorable painting as I recall that I once received a Christmas card of Harry Payne’s Christmas Cherry Pickers when I was around 12 years old and have never forgotten it. It was originally published by postcard manufacturer Tuck and Sons, one of their 6-part #8085 “Christmas” series and it comes as no surprise that their celebrated military uniform artist Harry Payne had a hand in this.
After the first Christmas card was sent in 1843, it appears that cards featuring sentimental scenes of brightly uniformed soldiers were a popular theme in the Victorian era helping connect families and friends scattered across the extensive British empire.
I was surprised to learn that in 2004 famous toy soldier manufacturer Britains produced a “Winter Limited Edition” for their Collector’s Club featuring a representation of Payne’s iconic Cherry Pickers postcard scene in model soldier form! Only 250 sets were made. I’m always pleased to see an artist’s vision of soldiers brought to life in model form. It seems to me to be the perfect Christmas decoration, being something along the lines of my decorative Army of Advent.
And the tradition of modelling military Christmas scenes continues today with Replica Model Soldiers issuing a seasonal scene every year with charming themes include snowballing soldiers, “The Garrison Christmas Dinner” and “US Army Winter Manoeuvres”!
Some old photographs recently passed to me by my mother included a few snaps of a Victorian Military Society fair that I attended sometime back in the mid 1980s. I think I might have attended two or three around this time and I suppose would have been aged between 13 and 16. The fair was been held, I very distinctly remember, at the Victory Services Club in London.
The Victory Services Club was opened in 1907 by Major Arthur Haggard, brother of the famous author H. Rider Haggard and moved to its current site on Seymour Street, near Marble Arch. My admittedly low quality photo below gives an impression of the fair with its crowd of visitors and stands.
I could be wrong but one figure standing on the stage to the side I believe to be Colonel Peter Walton, who remains today the Victorian Military Society’s Vice-President, I’m happy to say.
Looking at the photos, I well recall the range of stands offering all sorts of items for the Victorian military enthusiast including books, prints, old newspapers, clothing, militaria, model figures and more. I believe these items (a sword, bayonets and an assegai) are from the same event, though I can say no more about them.
It was from a VMS fair around this time that I purchased (for a whopping £1.50 pocket money) a Dorset MMS “Armies of the World” 54mm model yeomanry figure which I, as I blogged in 2018, I only recently got around to painting!
I remember at these fairs speaking to the military history authors Michael Barthorp, Ian Knight and Ian Castle. Peter Walton also gave a talk on his new volume of Richard Simkin prints called “Simkin’s Soldiers”.
The occasional re-enactor could be found stalking the floors or giving talks with both men and (judging from my hazy, dim photo of the whole floor) women too.
Upstairs could be found a large wargaming room in which this young visitor could only stand agog at the conflicts playing out before him with a range of wonderful figures. I still remember this skirmish below being played out by the Crimean War Research Group, presumably some sort of raid on the Sevastopol siege lines.
I also have a vague impression of another featuring the 1880s Sudan campaign. Clearly, non-British conflicts were also covered too as this photo seems to show an American Civil War battle.
My overall memories are of a thrilling day out for a young military history nerd who returned home on the train with bags of purchased ‘goodies’.
Further to my recent post on an edition of the Victorian-era Illustrated London News, Mark from over at Man of Tin blog has done a little research (nice work, Mark!). After reading through this 1863 newspaper, I had drawn attention to a classified advertisement for “The Little Modeller”, which promoted a ready-to-make model cricket field / model village with coloured engravings.
I was intrigued about the existence of Victorian miniatures and model making, so was delighted when Mark subsequently found a pristine example of this very set (H.G. Clarke and Co’s Saxton Model Village) on a New Zealand museum’s website. The quality of the museum’s photograph is tremendous and the page allows for extreme close-up zooming to see the fine details. It’s a thing of beauty and I urge visitors to go and have a look at the illustrations and composition.
It seems to be a kind of early forerunner to the paper soldiers which have been produced with great success recently by Peter Dennis’ Paperboys range of paper soldiers and landscapes.
The publisher even manages a little miniature self-advertisement “H.G. Clarke Magic Toymaker, 232 The Strand.” Clarke’s old headquarters address today is a c.1900 building called Thanet House situated opposite The Royal Courts of Justice in London.
They remind me a little of the BBC Paddington animations from the 1970s produced by Film Fair with their finely drawn 2D figures. I’d be very interested to see Clarke and Co’s cricket field too!
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:
Followers of English football may have noted the very sad ending of a football club which could boast an impressive 146 year long history. The club in question was Cheshire’s Macclesfield Town who went by the nickname The Silkmen. What has this to do with Suburban Militarism, you may well ask? The answer lies in the club’s formation way back in 1873, something which piqued my interest. According to Wikipedia;
“The beginnings of Macclesfield Town Football Club can be traced, at least in part, to the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers who were formed in 1873 and played regularly in Macclesfield from October 1874. It was agreed at a public meeting on 21 October 1876 that the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers and the Olympic Cricket club teams be merged to form Macclesfield F.C.; initially matches alternated between association and rugby rules.“
Some research reveals that the headquarters of the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers was the Bridge Street Drill Hall, seen above. This rather impressive building opened in 1871, just two years before members of this rifle volunteer corps formed what would be the genesis of Macclesfield’s 146-year old football club.
Illustration of a Cheshire Rifle Volunteer from “Redington’s New Twelves of Rifle Volunteer Corps“, a coloured print of 12 different Rifle Volunteer figures. Published by J. Redington of London, c.1860.
With the Childers reforms, this unit become the 5th Volunteer Battalion of the local Cheshire Regiment in 1883. Later, with the formation of the Territorial Force, it became the 7th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment in 1908. At the onset of hostilities in the Great War, men of the battalion were mobilised at the Bridge Street drill hall in August 1914 prior to being sent off to Gallipoli and the Western Front.
“On the 31st December the Queen accepted the services of a Corps at Macclesfield, consisting of one Company, under Captain Samuel Pearson, late Lieutenant 1st Dragoon Guards. The uniform was grey, trimmed with black lace, and long loops for the Officers, velvet facings, and a kepi. The accoutrements were of brown leather. This Corps was numbered the 8th Cheshire.”
The book includes the lovely illustration seen above of the 5th Cheshire in 1859. The description of a grey uniform also bears a passing resemblance to another Cheshire Rifle Volunteer Corps – the 1st, also known as The Cheshire Greys.
I modelled a small diorama of the Cheshire Greys in their 1880s incarnation wearing Home Service Pattern helmets and firing Martini-Henry rifles. I suppose the 8th Cheshire RVC could have looked much the same at around this time.
I’ve written before of how the Victorian Rifle Volunteer movement, with it’s emphasis on locally raised units, could be as much a social as a military endeavour featuring dances, shooting competitions and other events all adding to the camaraderie and cohesion of the units. It seems that, as with the formation of Macclesfield’s football club, sport was also a key feature of the Rifle Volunteer movement. In Macclesfield’s case, the sporting legacy of these local men endured for 164 years until a High Court decision last Wednesday.
The town of Macclesfield itself is, as the New Order drummer and Silkmen fan Stephen Morris put it, “a mill town that had lost the adjective ‘thriving’ somewhere along the way”. Its high street is pockmarked by boarded-up shops. The football club, like the old Majestic cinema and the many closed pubs on the London Road walk up to the Moss Rose, appears destined to become another lost community asset.
Notably, Bridge Street drill hall, Wikipedia reports “was decommissioned and has since been converted into apartments.” The long legacy of the Rifle Volunteer movement, it seems, has sadly finally come to an end in Macclesfield.
An interesting metal soldier figure came up on an auction site recently which I immediately recognised as being a recreated scene from a painting. The canvas in question is “The Girl I left Behind Me” by Victorian artist Charles Green (1840–1898).
The original canvas is fairly large and hangs in the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester and postcards of this painting are available in the shop. In fact, I remember that I sent one of these very postcards to a hobby friend in Germany.
The painting has many elements of the very narrative and (to some modern eyes at least) somewhat mawkish style of Victorian art. We see troopships awaiting in the distance as loved ones and locals take their leave of the departing regiment. An old fella shakes the hand of one young soldier, while a consoled young lady looks down at her baby in sorrow as if already widowed. The headgear suggests these Napoleonic-era soldiers are off to Belgium for the coming Waterloo campaign, or perhaps for the latter stages of the Peninsular War.
I believe there are some errors with the uniforms; the drummer boys should be in reversed colours to the troops, for example. I like how the artist contrasts these regimented, marching drummer boys with the running of the kids alongside them at play, reminding us that while they are called to battle they are still essentially children.
The colour yellow seems to be a feature of the young women in the crowd, I notice, which puts me in mind of the old song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”. Wikipedia says of the song:
The song/poem “She wore a yellow ribbon” has appeared in various forms for at least four centuries. It is based upon the same general theme: A woman of destiny is under some sort of test or trial as she waits for her beloved to return. Will she be true to him?
All of which seems to be the central theme of the painting. The centrepiece of the painting is the young lady (in yellow dress) clinging to her beloved as he marches off to war. The fortune of their relationship appears to hang in the balance as his death in war, and her fidelity at home, threatens its future.
Get to the point, Marvin!
Oh yes, the figure I saw was a 54mm recreation of this couple in Green’s painting. There are minor differences of course, but the composition and their poses are near identical. It is by El Viejo Dragon Miniatures, a Spanish manufacturer which seems to specialise in ladies wearing rather less clothing than our regency lady here! Curious that a Spanish manufacturer has recreated it.
The auction listing states that this model is of “a soldier in the Inniskilling 27th foot and his sweetheart around 1814 before Waterloo. Hand painted in Ulster by Rainey Miniatures.”
The paint job is quite nicely done, though overall the shading appears a little ‘grubby’ for my tastes. I would also have wanted to recreate the scene in Green’s painting more closely with the yellow dress and the soldier’s white breeches, etc. Perhaps the painter was unaware of the inspiration behind this scene or, more likely, they wanted to create a more meaningful and local scene for themselves, and so set it in Ulster.
Unfortunately, the price for the figure is a little more than I want to pay, the family ‘war chest’ just won’t take any more model soldier purchases of late!
Wait. There’s an option to ‘Make Offer’? ….I really shouldn’t, or my own ‘girl’ will place her arm around my neck – and not in a fond way either!
“The Girl I left Behind Me” is a folk song said by some to date back to the Elizabethan era and is commonly associated through the ages with being played whenever soldiers left for war and set sail. Consequently, the title of the painting was drawing on a tune traditionally associated with the drama it was depicting.
The tune, incidentally, aside from being the title of a painting showing troops heading to Belgium in 1815, can be heard playing in the 1970 film Waterloo at the moment when Wellington orders the whole Allied army forward in victory.
O ne’er shall I forget the night, The stars were bright above me And gently lent their silv’ry light When first she vowed to love me. But now I’m bound to Brighton camp Kind heaven then pray guide me And send me safely back again, To the girl I left behind me.
“This regiment was formed in 1881 and adopted the name of “Princess Charlotte of Wales Regiment”. In 1885, the regiment was granted the title of “Royal” in recognition of the service of the 1st Battalion at the action of Tofrek in 1885. The drawing depicts a private of the old 66th Foot in the uniform of 1855.“
Number 13 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
“This regiment was raised in 1689. In the Royal Warrant of 1713 it was described as the “Royal Regiment of Welsh Fuzileers”. The present form of spelling “Welch” was adopted in 1920. The drawing shows a fusilier in 1849.”
Number 12 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
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.
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…
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!