East Yorkshire Yeomanry 1794-1802

This page sets out what I know of the basic organisation, dress and equipage of the single corps of East Riding Yeomanry Cavalry from 1794 to 1802. (Other East Yorkshire yeomanry and association cavalry, including the 1803 re-formation of this corps as the Grimston Yeomanry, may later become the subject of another page.) A fair amount of information is available, and some of it has been published several times by Norfolk, Wilson and Sumner in the sources listed below, but a fresh review and sifting at this stage might be helpful.

Click to enlarge images.

[A List of the … Officers of the Militia; of the Corps and Troops of Gentlemen and Yeomanry … , War Office, 5th Edition, June 1797; 6th Edition, April 1799. R W S Norfolk, Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteer Forces of the East Riding 1689 – 1908, East Yorkshire Local History Society, 1965. Major Roy Wilson, “British Volunteer Regiments. The Grimston Yeomanry Cavalry”, Military Modelling, October 1983. Ian Sumner & Roy Wilson, Yeomanry of the East Riding, Beverley, 1993. David J Knight, Directory of Yeomanry Cavalry 1794-1828, The Military Historical Society, Special Number, 2013.]

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The corps of East Riding Yeomanry Cavalry originated in the resolutions of a meeting, held at the request of the Lieutenancy at Beverley on 30 April 1794, to plan for internal defence. These included the proposal:

That one Corps of Cavalry be raised not exceeding fifty to convey intelligence and also to defend the coast of Holderness, as being that kind of force most readily collected to repel an enemy.

This project was enthusiastically embraced by Thomas Grimston (Grimstone) of Grimston Garth, though he was obliged to change his proposed title of “East York Yeomanry Cavalry” to “East Riding” in order to reassure prospective recruits regarding the limits of their service. Grimston’s commission as Captain was dated 23 May 1794.

First uniform, 1794

Norfolk’s and Wilson’s accounts of the dress of the corps have drawn on the Grimston papers at the East Riding Record Office, which I have not seen directly. Surviving items and a fine pastel portrait of Grimston by Henry Singleton add to the picture. The original uniform was modelled on that prescribed in 1784 for light dragoons, with the buff facings of the East Yorkshire Militia.

The Grimston pastel shows the officer’s helmet with a buff turban and a feather plume that appears white (though interpreted as buff in Norfolk, Wilson and Sumner & Wilson); metal fittings would have been silvered. A photo of a Tarleton badge attributed to this corps is shown in Philip Haythornthwaite’s British Cavalryman 1792-1815 (Osprey 1994), and drawings of it are included in Wilson and in Sumner & Wilson. Haythornthwaite describes it as gilt, the other sources as silver, which would surely be the case if the attribution is right. The crowned garter, inscribed “PRO ARIS ET FOCIS” in Roman capitals, encloses a rose.

Two officer’s jackets survive. The first, attributed to Thomas Grimston himself, was on display at York Castle Museum in the ‘seventies, when I made the rough sketch shown here, but is no longer in that collection. It has since been illustrated in Sumner & Wilson. At some point before it was displayed at York the sleeves had been removed for an unknown reason, as if to create a shell jacket. The second jacket is held at the York Army Museum, and was acquired from the East Yorkshire Regimental Museum.

The jackets are dark blue, with pale buff collars, cuffs and turnbacks, but lined inside in white. They are edged and looped throughout in silver cord, or perhaps more accurately, ivory silk wound with silver thread. Each front has four pairs of large buttons, set in about three inches from the edges. The cuffs have no buttons. The turnback ornaments are dark blue cloth hearts, edged in silver cord with a button at the point. The vent below the rear seam is edged in cord with a trefoil knot at the top, and the side seams terminate in trefoils with three six inch lines of cord and one-and-a-half inch silver tassels. The silvered shoulder scales are on a dark blue cloth ground edged in cord; on the Grimston jacket there are ten scales along the line of the shoulder and another eleven down each wing. The Grimston jacket alone has silver cords and tassels attached to both front corners of the collar.

The Grimston pastel shows epaulettes worn over the shoulder scales, and the Army Museum jacket is displayed thus, but as the silver epaulettes on it are marked “G Y” for Grimston Yeomanry, they must in fact belong to the post-1803 period. (These epaulettes, or an identical pair, were once on display at the Castle Museum, York.)

The silvered convex (half ball) buttons have the raised design of a central crown enclosed by “Y / E R / C”, in Roman capitals.

The pastel shows this outer jacket worn over a light dragoon waistcoat or under-jacket of dark blue with three rows of buttons (presumably of the smaller size), edged and looped with the same cord, worn with a whitened buff leather shoulder belt with silver plate, buff breeches and a crimson sash. The surviving bill of May 1795 for Grimston’s clothing, from William Vaughan of London, itemises the “regimental tunic” at £14 and the waistcoat at a mere £1 5s; two sizes of buttons are included, and the breeches are specified as buff kerseymere.

Norfolk and Wilson describe the officer’s silver belt plate as oval, showing a crowned garter inscribed “PRO ARIS ET FOCIS”, enclosing the letters “E.R.Y.C.” I assume that this is based on an original not known to me, and it seems related to the East York Militia plate, of which Local Militia versions are shown on this page.

The pastel shows a distant line of mounted other ranks in dark blue, wearing helmets and white belts. There is no direct evidence that I know of, but we might assume their outfits to consist of the standard light dragoon sleeveless shell and under-jacket with white cord, the shell with buff facings and blue wings, worn with buff breeches. The corps’ Articles of Enrolment indicate that leather breeches and boots were to be furnished by the men themselves.

Initial purchases from Learmouth and Beazley of London included sergeants’ and privates’ helmets and plumes of distinct qualities, sergeants’ sashes (presumably crimson with a buff stripe), sergeants’ and privates’ sword belts, and twelve carbine belts with swivels, twelve carbines per troop being the allotted number. Sabres and pistols were ordered in September 1794 from London gunmaker Durs Egg. A complete Farrier’s kit, with hatchet and leather apron, was also purchased.

In the pastel, the trumpeter is visible on a grey horse, apparently dressed in red and possibly wearing a Tarleton helmet, rather than the buff jacket and bearskin cap prescribed by regulation. Records indicate that the trumpet, delivered in April 1795, had a crimson and buff cord.

(Two paintings by Thomas Beach described as portraits of unidentified officers of this corps were sold by Sotheby’s USA in 1990, but appear to be of unidentified light dragoon or fencible cavalry officers of a slightly earlier period.)

Second uniform, c 1800

Wilson states that the jacket was changed to scarlet by August 1800. Subsequent correspondence to Grimston from William Vaughan describes this as “made Hussar fashion”, i.e. in the new style of light dragoon jacket. This is confirmed by a private’s jacket, on display at York Castle Museum in the ‘seventies, when I made the sketch shown here, but no longer in that collection though since illustrated in Sumner & Wilson.

The collar, cuffs and shoulder straps are pale buff, and the front has three rows of 18 buttons, the lower end of the front opening cut across in a slight point, below the level of the lowest buttons. Loops, ornaments and edges are in white cord throughout. The collar is double edged, the inner line with eyes at the corners. The front loopings end in an eye top and bottom, that at the top curling up almost to the shoulder straps. The cuffs are edged, and ornamented with a trefoil, in double cord, the sleeve closed by two small buttons above the top of the cuff. The shoulder straps are singly edged, and held with a small button. The side seams are piped in cord, with an eye at the top, just on the sleeve, and an Austrian knot at the bottom, and the rear skirt is ornamented with a trefoil between two loops. Below each self coloured side pocket is a double line of cord with a trefoil at each end.

The front buttons are in white metal, possibly silvered, of the same design as noted above. The smaller buttons on the straps and cuffs are of another design, white metal, slightly convex, with a crown but no initials. (Sumner and Wilson give the front buttons on this jacket as those of the post-1803 Grimston Yeomanry, but this doesn’t accord with my notes and sketch. The jacket is drawn inaccurately in some respects in Wilson.)

We can assume that officers would have worn a version of this jacket with silver cord or lace. The uniform of the post-1803 Grimston Yeomanry, as given in Willson’s chart of 1806, included scarlet (or red) pantaloons, but there is no evidence that these were adopted during this formation of the corps.

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