Who’s this? And what’s that hat?

Postscript – Man in Hat identified!

Many thanks to Ralph C Spears, whose comment down below deserves pride of place up top here. Ralph writes:

I am pretty sure that the sergeant in the painting in “Who’s this? And what’s that hat?” is a member of the Northumberland Militia c 1803. See an image of the plate in JSAHR Vol 66 (1988) Page 97. The castle shown on the belt plate is Alnwick. The facings of the Northumberland Militia was light buff.

And so indeed it proves, and here’s the plate in question. “NORTH” is actually “NORTHD” for Northumberland.

The character of the hat is still a curiosity. While the black belt suggests that the Colonel accepted the tan leather accoutrements supplied by the Ordnance to Militia, rather than replacing them with whitened buff, as many did. And I still wonder why a sergeant would have had such a professional portrait done. Is he a figure of significance?

Anyway, here’s the original post …

*          *          *

Here’s a characterful little portrait – almost Falstaffian – lifted from the Art UK site, but held at Scarborough Art Gallery, where it is titled as “Major Tindall” and dated to circa 1745. That’s half a century too early, I think. Nor is this an officer. And the Lieutenant Colonel Tindall who commanded the Scarborough Volunteers of 1794 and 1803 (if that’s the thinking here) would have worn black facings. So who is it?

The single breasted jacket and the queued hair without powder suggest circa 1800 or a bit later, the black belt suggests a volunteer of the 1803 generation, and the sword suggests a sergeant, despite the absence of chevrons. The buff facings might indicate the volunteers of the neighbouring East Riding of Yorkshire, from among whom the word “North” on the belt plate might designate the North Holderness Volunteers – the only volunteer corps in the North or East Riding with that word in their title. (And North Holderness is only a stone’s throw from Scarborough.) The plain lace loops might be for a sergeant or a volunteer style as discussed in this post. (The lace here appears buff rather than white, though no regulation supports that for a sergeant of a buff faced corps.)

So, a sergeant of the North Holderness – well, maybe, though I could be well off target. But the whole effect is strangely agricultural. Wouldn’t you button up your jacket for a portrait? And how many sergeants could afford to have themselves limned for posterity, and by quite a competent painter, too? And what’s with the hat? Were no dress caps available? It has the look of an old hat cut down for a forage cap, with just a flap surviving to fold up at the back. So why the lone button at one side, and the feather (and cockade?) at the other? And was a castle emblematic of the Holderness area?
Skipsea Castle (demolished)? Flamborough (virtually
demolished)? I’m not convinced.

In the unlikely event that anyone stumbling across this can shed any further light, I’d love to hear about it.


13 responses to “Who’s this? And what’s that hat?

  • phil redman

    Completely fascinating. I have been researching home defence volunteer units for a year or so, and what you have been writing about is *precisely* my area of interest.

    In particular it’s interesting to note how many names of the Staffordshire Militia were to be found in 1805 in the “Returns , Presented To The House Of Commons, Of The Volunteer Corps Of Cavalry, Infantry, And Artillery, In Great Britain” with which I am sure you are familiar. (https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/RETURNS_PRESENTED_TO_THE_HOUSE_OF_COMMON.html?id=pS9bAAAAQAAJ&redir_esc=y). For example, Lieut Col Walter Sneyd of the North Staffords was, in 1805, c/o of the Stone and Sandon Volunteers. There is a Sneyd Street in Stoke on Trent and one wonders if it was named after or built by his family.

    Lieut Col Sir Robert Lawley of the South Staffs Local Militia was, in 1805, in command of the Tamworth Volunteers, who numbered 30 officers and 218 men in five companies.

    In many cases you can find out a lot about the officers in particular because as perhaps with Lieut Col Sneyd they were local gentry, and mentioned in gazetteers and the like. A Major Mascall, for example, commanded a Kent unit called the Ashford Light Infantry. According to The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798 – http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol7/pp526-545), the Mascalls of Ashford were local worthies – “The town of Ashford stands most pleasant and healthy, on the knoll of a hill…In the midst of it is a large handsome house, built in 1759, by John Mascall…and his only son, Robert Mascall, esq. now of Ashford…is the present owner, and resides in it.”

    I’ve had a look at the relevant bit of Ashford on Google Streetview, and although one can see the area all right and recognize features such as the church, it’s not possible now to identify the Mascalls’ “handsome house”. A bit more Googling of books surfaces the fact that the same Robert Mascall was indeed an officer of local volunteers (https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rKCg4mSYWX0C&pg=PA549&dq=%22robert+mascall%22+major&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi2iJ-JvtrZAhXM0FMKHcdNAksQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=%22robert%20mascall%22%20major&f=false). A major called Mascall is cited here
    as having fought at Corunna in 1809.

    It’s rather remarkable that you can find out so much, sitting at a computer, about a local squire who commanded volunteers over 200 years ago – down to the name of his wife, where his father was buried, and a description of his house.

    Another such is Lt-Col Thomas Lloyd, who is mentioned in the Returns as commanding both battalions (280 and 230 men) of the Leeds Volunteers. There is a portrait of him in the National Army Museum in which he wears what looks like a fairly regulation uniform.

    I shall follow your stuff with great interest!



    • richardawarren

      Many thanks for this Phil. Yes, the volunteer officers, on the whole, transferred their service to the Local Militia when that was organised in 1808, so the names follow through. Nice clear copy of the Lloyd image. And I’m in your debt, as I hadn’t noticed the 1806 returns on Google Books, though I thought I’d plundered Google Books pretty thoroughly, Interesting and useful! Many thanks for that.


  • phil redman

    One thing I am trying to fathom is the extent to which the volunteer formations were expected to converge in the event of a call to action.

    On page 52 of the ‘Returns’, for example, there is a ‘Counties’ column that lists out Somerset, Wiltshire, Glocester (sic) and Worcester. There is an inspecting field officer for each county, and then a number of local units. In Somerset, for example,these include four cavalry contingents totalling 291 all ranks in 9 troops; and 11 local infantry contingents, in strengths from 52 all ranks (Banwell, one company) up to 661 (West Mendip, 11 companies).

    Of the cavalry units, three of the four are rated “Fit to act with troops of the line”, although unfortunately the other one – described as “Advancing in discipline” – is the one that has 6 troops and amounts to 195 of the 291 men. Among the infantry, two of the 11 local units are described as “deficient” or “advancing” in discipline while the other 9 are rated “Fit to act with troops of the line”. As with the cavalry this means the largest unit isn’t rated as fit to serve with the line,but the volunteer infantry still amounts to about 2,000 men in companies of 50 men or so even without those two.

    Have you come across anything on how these were expected to operate tactically? I have seen online sources (such as http://www.nonington.org.uk/nonington-and-the-east-kent-volunteers/, which says that

    “At the end of 1803 it was decided to form the eight various [cavalry] troops into a single regiment with Sir Edward Knatchbull as Colonel, William Honywood as Lieutenant Colonel, and William Hammond as Major.”

    If reliable this account rather suggests that the various sub-units of the Kent yeomanry were regarded as a regiment. I’m trying to get a sense for whether the same is true of the foot volunteer units, i.e. whether they would have been converged to make tactical units – four 500-man battalions in the case of the Somersets for example. There seems very little a 45-man unit could otherwise do.


  • richardawarren

    I think that’s right. The tendency was increasingly to amalgamate yeomanry troops into regiments and so on. Less so for infantry, though (for instance) previously isolated companies became the two-battalion Shropshire Volunteers in 1803, absorbing many, though not all, of the separate units. In the event of mobilisation, the different terms of service adopted by different units under different pieces of piecemeal legislation would have thrown up a few problems – extent of geographic areas in which units had agreed to serve etc. Which is why the Local Militia of 1808 was introduced, to absorb the smaller volunteer units into homogeneous regiments under unified terms of service. At least that’s my understanding – this isn’t entirely my area of study!


  • phil redman

    I have come across this local history site

    which suggests that volunteers were grouped into three categories: ‘willing to serve with arms’, ‘willing to act as pioneers or labourers’, and ‘prepared to supply wagons, carts, horses and drivers’.

    ‘As London would be the goal of the invaders, the Government planned for these volunteer units to be summoned to the capital as soon as Napoleon’s forces landed. There, they would either be sent to aid the army against the French or set to building and then manning the city’s defences in preparation for a siege.’

    Hmmm. I emailed the site owner to ask about one or two points there, but didn’t get a reply. I struggle a bit with the idea that 200,000 volunteers would have been summoned to London. First of all, it would take days for the summons to go out, and weeks for the furthest-flung units to muster and march. One then wonders how would they be housed and fed en route and on arrival.

    I’m also struggling a bit with yeomanry uniformology. Looking at paintings, they all look like light dragoons, but some are in red and and some in blue. The artillery wore reversed coat colours, hence the RA and RHA both in blue with red cuffs; this supports the idea that regular light dragoons would have worn red. But there are lots of pictures of yeomanry who appear to be in blue, including this one of Thomas Grimston:

    in which his troops in the background are all in blue and on bay horses, except the trumpeter on the end who has a reversed coat and a grey horses – exactly like a regular unit in fact.

    One searches on…


    • richardawarren

      Hello Phil. I think the survey you cite was undertaken in every area as a preparation for a levee en masse which was anticipated but not put into practice. (The legislative framework for all this is not quite at my fingertips, but a source such as Austin Gee’s ‘The British Volunteer Movement 1794-1814’ or the relevant bits of Fortescue’s history of the British Army, would throw light on that.) The uniformology is more my thing. The volunteers and yeomanry of the 1790’s wore pretty much what they liked. Those of the 1803 formations were supposed to conform to the basic colour scheme of infantry scarlet/red, cavalry and artillery blue, rifles green. However, the yeomanry continued to be a bit of a law unto themselves, and even post-1803 can be found in scarlet/red, or light dragoon dark blue, or even occasionally dark green, light blue or “French grey” (a light, bluish shade), the last two worn by the Surrey and Warwickshire yeomanries respectively. As a general rule, the earlier Fencible cavalry (in effect, regulars but for home service only) wore red in light dragoon style, while the Provisional Cavalry of 1796 (a form of short lived militia cavalry in effect) were required to wear dark green in every county.


  • phil redman

    Hi Richard

    I have come across this British Library 1803 map

    which reckons to map the military districts alluded to in the Volunteer Returns. I am not sure how accurate it is, but I found it interesting.

    Have you by any chance come across a place called “King’s Mews” in your research? It was the headquarters location of the South Inland military district, which covered Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. I have a feeling it must have been somewhere around Northampton but I have no clear idea.

    The source for that information was Steve Brown’s paper on the 1805 “Home Guard” – https://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/Britain/fencibles/HomeGuard.pdf

    One interesting snippet from the above link is that in 1805 the commander of the Staffordshire yeomanry (313 men) was apparently one Lt Col John Bromhead (he’s nowhere to be seen in the Volunteer Returns, however). I wonder if he was any relation to the Bromhead of Rorke’s Drift?


    • richardawarren

      Thanks, Phil. I hadn’t seen the map before, but it seems to equate with the military districts as in Steve Brown’s returns. (I’m afraid King’s Mews doesn’t mean anything to me.) Lt Col John Bromhead must have been the regular officer (what does “IFO” stand for?) assigned under this scheme to the command of the Staffs yeomanry in the event of mobilisation – command of that regiment is listed in the 1805 Militia and Volunteer Lists as under Col Hon Edward Monckton, who was commissioned as the actual colonel of yeomanry. I’m surprised that their effectives were reckoned as low as 313 for what was counted as a full regiment, plus some separate companies, but as the regiment’s companies were based on localities, thin companies would make a thin regiment, no matter how many companies existed. I think the Returns that Steve B reproduces were essentially a paper structure, and that these brigades never actually functioned as such, though they would have attempted to do so in the event of invasion, of course. In my head (at least) the volunteer structure is by county – much simpler!


  • Jack Marshall

    I have in my collection this pair of portraits. Then gentleman is wearing a uniform with white facings and has a breast plate marked “York Regiment”. I have been trying to track down which york regiment this is? English Militia, Irish Volunteer or even Fencible? Any help would be greatly appreciated.



    • richardawarren

      Jack, your facebook link seems to have dropped out of my comment box, so here it is for anyone interested –

      By a process of elimination, I think this has to be the York Regiment of Fencible Infantry, raised 1794. That’s York as in Yorkshire. Can’t prove it by the uniform details, but I can’t at the moment see what else this could be.


      Richard Warren


  • richardawarren

    Sorry. WordPress seems to eliminate the link, so your excellent images are not accessible here. Facebook, search “Jack Marshall”.


  • Ralph C Spears

    I am pretty sure that the sergeant is the painting in “Who’s this? And what’s that hat?” a member of the Northumberland Militia c 1803. See an image of the plate in JSAHR Vol 66 (1988) Page 97. The castle shown on the belt plate is Alnwick. The facings of the Northumberland Militia was light buff.


    • richardawarren

      Excellent! Thank you very much, Ralph. Found the JSAHR, and it’s a definite fit. If it’s OK with you I’ll add your comment to the body of the post, rather than just leaving it hidden at the bottom of the Comments box. Great when a puzzle is solved.


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