Warwickshire Yeomanry 1794-1820’s

This page attempts to summarise what I have found on the dress and equipage of the regiment of Warwickshire Yeomanry from its origin to the 1820’s, but does not deal with any of the independent troops of yeomanry or association cavalry within the county. The topic was covered in part in 1987 in the short but invaluable booklet in their Yeomanry series by the late Leslie E Barlow and Robert J Smith, but a review and sifting of the evidence might be helpful at this distance. The evidence that has accumulated is patchy in places, and, to be honest, dates of developments are essentially educated guesswork; input from archival sources might improve this. The page will be improved when possible.

I have not seen H A Adderley’s History of the Warwickshire Yeomanry Cavalry (1896 & 1912) – a difficult and expensive book to obtain – but anything of use in it must surely have been covered by Strachan, and in turn by Barlow and Smith. The basic organisational details included here are brief, but have been checked against the War Office lists of 1797, 1799 and 1805, and the parliamentary return of late 1803. David J Knight’s essential Directory was also consulted.

[Volunteers of the United Kingdom1803, House of Commons, December 1803. A List of the … Officers of the Militia; of the Corps and Troops of Gentlemen and Yeomanry … , 5th Edition, War Office, June 1797, 6th Edition, April 1799. A List of the Officers of the Militia, Gentlemen & Yeomanry Cavalry and Volunteer Infantry of the United Kingdom, 11th Edition, War Office, October 1805. H F A Strachan, “The Uniform of the Warwickshire Yeomanry to 1914,” JSAHR Vol 44 No 178, June 1966. The Marquess of Cambridge & H F A Strachan, “The Uniform of the Warwickshire Yeomanry to 1914,” JSAHR Vol 45 No 181, Spring 1967. L Barlow & R J Smith, The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914, 9: Warwickshire Yeomanry, Robert Ogilby Trust, 1987. David J Knight, Directory of Yeomanry Cavalry 1794-1828, The Military Historical Society, Special Number, 2013.]

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Click to enlarge all images.

The Warwickshire corps of Yeomanry Cavalry originated at a meeting in June 1794, at which four troops were proposed, their officers’ commissions being dated 16 July: 1st Packington, Capt Heneage, Earl of Aylesford; 2nd Aston, Capt Heneage Legge; 3rd Rugby, Capt Simon Adams; 4th Kineton, Capt Evelyn Shirley.

In 1797 these four troops were constituted as a regiment under Lord Aylesford, his colonel’s commission dated 9 November. With the peace of 1802 the first three troops continued their services; the fourth disbanded but was revived the following year. Five troops are specified in the 1803 Return, but I’m not able to account for the fifth. Another was added in 1812, apparently formed from an independent corps at Atherstone, and another in 1820. In 1828 the regiment was maintained on pay and not disbanded.

Through this period, changes in the uniform reflected changes in cavalry fashion. The progression from an open coat to longer and then shorter jackets can be seen in some other yeomanry corps of the time. Both in its colouring and in its relative simplicity, the Warwickshire uniform of this era, in all its stages, is a little unusual, and distinctions between officers and men seem to have been minimal.

 

First uniform, 1794

No written details for the first uniform have survived, but it is shown in a series of four plates of the “Hungarian Sword Exercise”, drawn by Richard Lawrence of the Second Troop and published in 1797, some copies of which are hand coloured. The drawing is a little simplified, and the colourings vary, but essentially the images show a single breasted, unlaced coat of French grey (a light, bluish shade) with a falling collar, gold epaulettes or fringed straps, a Tarleton helmet without a feather, and white waistcoat and breeches. Straight “heavy” swords are hung by chain slings from white waist belts, and there is no shoulder belt, the cartridge box being worn on the waist belt as indicated below. Rolled cloaks are shown as red.

The coat turnbacks are coloured in the same grey as the coat, though white might seem more likely. On some copies the helmet turbans are red and the coat collar and cuffs a slightly darker blue; on others, such as those on display at the Warwick Yeomanry Museum, these elements appear green. It’s been suggested that the turban colour might have varied between troops, but given the colour scheme of the later uniforms, I’d suggest that green turban and facings might be the most likely, and that the variants may be down to some casual colouring by the publisher. The helmet is shown with a short fur crest that does not fall completely to the peak, and no title ribbon is visible, but this might be artistic license or shorthand.

The character of the vaguely drawn straps or epaulettes is probably clarified by a pair of officer’s scale epaulettes, apparently from this period, on display at the Warwick Yeomanry Museum. The gilt metal body shows in relief a crown between “W” and “Y” in Roman capitals above nine small holes and a bullion crescent. The strap is composed of eight flat gilt scales, the uppermost held by a small gilt button, its top bound by coiled bullion. Attached to the end is a short gold fringe, covered by a longer and heavier bullion fringe; the bullion at the top end and on the crescent and outer fringe appears silver. I’d suggest that the strap and inner fringe may represent the form worn by other ranks, that for officers having the additional bullion fringe. (This, with a waist sash and perhaps a higher quality of helmet and clothing, may have been the only distinctions of rank.)

A printed notice of 1795 for the First Troop (at the Warwick Yeomanry Museum) usefully itemises the “Uniform & Appointments”:

The Uniform Hat
Uniform Coat and Waistcoat { The Coat to be hooked by both Hooks, and the Chitterlin drawn out above and below               the upper Hook
Hussar-topt Boots
Leather Breeches – To be balled by the Regimental Ball
Tan Leather Gloves
Uniform Spurs
Black Stock
Cloak
Sword Belt and Cartouch Box, { The belt round the Waist, with the Cartouch Box on the Middle of the Waistcoat
Sword,
Pistol,
Carbine, – – Twelve in the Troop
Saddle,
Bridle and Linking Collar
Croper, and Pad with Cloak Straps
Breast Plate,
Holster and Box,
Goat Skin,
Circingle.
HAIR, to be worn round and short, – Those who usually wear Tails, to wear them up under the Hat, on Days of Exercise.

The instructions regarding the coat show that it was closed by two hooks and eyes, so that the buttons shown in the prints – possibly on both edges of the front – were not functional. The cartridge box was clearly positioned at the front of the waist belt. (The listed “breast plate” refers to the plate for the horse furniture.) Printed notices of “Penalties Agreed to” for the First and Second Troops (undated, but clearly from the same period) show that the leather breeches, “Hussar-topt” boots and leather gloves were to be furnished by the men themselves. (The First Troop notice was in the Warwickshire folder of the late R J Smith, and that for the Second Troop is in the Matthew Robinson Boulton papers at Birmingham Archives.)

The pattern of button for this period is found on the epaulette discussed above. It is gilt, with “W ● Y” in Roman capitals, with no crown. (For other buttons, see below.)

A brief note by R Scurfield and G Tylden (JSAHR Vol 36 No 146, June 1958) states that the regiment used no carbines until the 1840’s, but the list above shows clearly that the standard twelve per troop were issued, at least at this point.

 

Second uniform, after 1797

At some unknown point following the establishment of a regimental structure in 1797, the uniform was updated, the principal new element being a laced dragoon jacket in the long-waisted “Austrian” style. This is shown in a handsome print by Edward Rudge (see also this post), published in April 1801 though first advertised a year before, and possibly drawn by 1799.

As with the Lawrence print, the hand colourings are a little variable; the jacket is still French grey, with green collar and cuffs (appearing blue in some copies), the cuffs probably pointed in the forearm seam, and with three rows of buttons on the front, apparently twelve on each row, linked by simple lines of yellow cord or lace. The front shows distinctly a narrow edge beneath the centre row of buttons, but this does not seem to be in yellow. The buttons extend to the waist only and the skirts are not laced. The shoulders of the two troopers have scale wings in yellow metal on a green ground edged narrowly in yellow, and yellow edging also seems to be indicated on the two openings in the rear skirts at the ends of the side seams.

The helmets have green turbans with rosettes at the back, and yellow metal fittings, including skull guards and four lines of chain at each side.  They are still without plumes, but in one copy at the Anne S K Brown collection, shown above but wonderfully enlargeable online, feather plumes have been painted in later; though faint, these appear to be white over red. Breeches and boots are as before, and the plain black cartridge box is now on a plain white shoulder belt. The white waist sabre belt has white slings and a snake clasp; the sword knot may be yellow, and the gloves may be white. The cloaks appear brownish (perhaps meant as red?) and are rolled in black straps. The bridle is black, the saddle brown, the pistol holsters covered in black fur, and the horses’ head bands are shown in a light colour with diagonal markings.

 

Third uniform, from c 1799 

A fine painting acquired by James Kochan (to whom many thanks for permission to share) shows an unidentified officer of the 4th Troop in a uniform that may closely post-date that shown above. The French grey jacket is still about the same length, but the rows of gilt ball or half ball buttons (apparently sixteen) extend to the lower edge, closing the open “skirts” of the previous type. They are linked by French grey twist button holes rather than the yellow cord or lace shown by Rudge. The collar and cuffs are a dark shade of green, as is the ground to the gilt scale wing, which is edged narrowly in gold.

The helmet has gilt fittings, with three chains each side and a mid-green turban; the plume appears white, though the lower part, which appears red in the Rudge image above, is in shade. The title ribbon is inscribed “4TH TROOP W …” The shoulder belt, sword belt (over which the sash is worn at waist), and sword knot to the 1796 sabre are distinctly buff, as opposed to white, as are the breeches.

In 1799 a penny token [right] showing the figure of a private was issued by Thomas Welch of the Second Troop, as shown here. This shows a feather in the helmet, and also appears to show a shorter jacket, with buttons to the lower edge, as in the painting of the officer, suggesting that this cut of jacket was worn by all ranks from this date. The waist belt seems to be worn under the jacket.

 

Fourth uniform

Surviving accounts, said in 1966 to be in the keeping of the Earl of Aylesford, list items supplied between January and May 1804 by Hawkes and Co, while visual evidence reveals that new jackets, in an updated, even shorter waisted style, had meanwhile been adopted.

Helmets were purchased from Hawkes, those for officers with “large bearskin” crests. Single items, presumably as patterns for officers, included a pair of “double gilt” epaulettes on green cloth, a gilt scale wing on green cloth, a silk sash with cords, a sabre knot with a bleached strap and a dress sabre knot of gold and crimson cord. Perhaps also for officers were five black waist belts with gilt buckles.

A second, later portrait of the same anonymous officer of the 4th Troop as above, held at Warwick Yeomanry Museum (below, and also accessible via ArtUK) shows more of the uniform of this period. The helmet, with gilt fittings, retains the green turban and three chains; the white plume has a darker lower half which may be red, as in the print discussed above, and the visible title ribbon reads “4TH TROOP WAR —-“. There is a glimpse of a green rosette at the back of the turban, rather than the gold tassels mentioned below.

The French grey jacket, with green collar and cuffs (the hue painted less brightly on the collar), is cut shorter in the waist than the previous pattern, and has three rows of perhaps thirteen small gilt buttons or ball buttons. These have no lace, and the painter has not attempted to show any self-coloured twist button “holes” as on the previous portrait – see also the details of the Hawkes jacket below. On each shoulder, rather than a typical epaulette or wing, is a strap composed of about a dozen gilt scales, perhaps with a short gold fringe suggested, on green cloth visible around the edges, and held by a small button. A whitened shoulder belt, red sash and gloves, probably white, are worn. No waist belt is visible. The pantaloons are plain French grey.

A clearer picture of this jacket, or of a slightly later version, is provided by a drawing and description of August 1810 in the Hawkes tailor’s book (copy at the National Army Museum – thanks to Ben Townsend for the image). The notes to the drawing read:

French Grey S[uper]fine Cloth Jacket. Green Cloth Collar and Cuffs. Cuffs pointed in fore arm seam. 22 long notched holes in front. 22 Gilt balls in front. 42 ½ balls behind. 2 ball buttons at the hips, a button on each shoulder for Vellum strap. FRS[Rear Seam?] 2 ½ ball buttons, body lin[e]d white Rattinett. Pantaloons the colour of Jackett, buttons W Y & Crown.

This is pretty much self explanatory, though the drawing indicates that the “42” half balls “behind”, i e on the outer rows, should be 44, twice 22. The narrow vellum shoulder straps would be gold lace, and the “2 ½ ball buttons” must be the pair above each cuff on the rear seam. A key element is the “22 long notched holes”, or French grey twist button holes, at each side of the front. Despite some statements to the contrary, these are clearly drawn and described. Though the jacket carries an increased number of buttons, in other respects the Hawkes entry confirms the jacket and pantaloons in the painting above. For an officer’s outfit, these are rather modest. (The treatment of the Hawkes jacket in Barlow and Smith, via a copy made by D Hastings Irwin, is not quite accurate regarding the button holes. The customer is given in the Hawkes book as “Lord Barnard”, though no connection of that name with the regiment has yet been traced.)

Items from Hawkes for other ranks included helmets described as “deep” in the newer, taller style, with gold tassels replacing the rosettes behind the turban, painted or “japanned” canteens with cords (at the same price so apparently the same item), and “gild” (guild?) lawn linen haversacks. For the four Farriers bearskin caps with “gilt shoes” (horseshoe badges or possibly plates) were also purchased.

Interestingly, the Hawkes accounts also include, in April 1804, 36 “Rifle caps complt” and 36 sets of rifle accoutrements, showing that during this period either a small dismounted rifle company must have been created within the regiment, as a nod towards a fashionable “legionary” structure, or that the twelve carbines per troop were now rifled, and their users distinctively dressed as mounted riflemen. The generic description of the caps suggests an outfit something on the lines of the 95th Rifles, like most volunteer and militia rifle corps of the time. I have not come across any other reference to these sections or this company.

James Willson’s well known volunteer chart of 1806 gives uniform colours of red faced yellow for all Warwickshire volunteer corps, including the Yeomanry regiment, which is also allotted silver officer’s lace. In this one case at least, the chart has to be in error.

 

Fifth uniform c 1815 – 20

The later development of this uniform is shown in an undated “rough coloured drawing” of a private, owned by Lord Cambridge and described by him in 1967. This was previously copied by P W Reynolds in one of his V&A notebooks. (The Reynolds image here is lifted from the britishempire.co.uk site.) Another copy, apparently sketched by Cambridge and sent to Leslie Barlow in 1934, was in the Warwickshire folder of the late R J Smith.

In the absence of the original, these sources show that the figure wears a black shako, the shape and proportions broadly compatible with styles introduced from 1812. This has a yellow band around the top, white over red tufts, yellow metal chin scales, and some sort of indecipherable yellow metal badge on the front. The rear has a turned up back peak, and yellow metal binding is described for the front peak, though this is not visible in either copy.

The French grey jacket is as known, with yellow buttons, the green cuffs pointed in the forearm, the green collar still cut in the sloping style, and a gold or yellow shoulder strap visible. In the original drawing, the long twist “holes” between buttons are said to be marked in pencil. French grey overalls are now worn, with a broad green seam stripe. The pouch belt is still white, possibly with a yellow metal plate; the waist belt, sword slings and sabretache slings are black (or brown in Reynolds’ version) with yellow D’s for the slings, the sabretache plain black, the sword knot red.

The shako, the replacement of breeches by overalls, and the collar style, must date this drawing to the second decade of the century, perhaps towards the latter end. The further evolution of this uniform during the 1820’s is not clear, but in 1833 a new uniform with scarlet coatee was introduced.

 

Buttons

Three patterns of button can be identified for this period. The earliest is that found on the surviving epaulettes of the first uniform (above), gilt, with “W ● Y” in Roman capitals, with no crown (see above). The succeeding type, gilt with the raised design of a crown above the letters, is well known, often with a dot or tiny quatrefoil between the letters, and sometimes with the broad strokes of the letters hatched with two lines of shading along their length. Versions are found flat, slightly convex and as half balls, and in various diameters – 14, 15 or 16 mm and 20 mm. However, this design may well have been used also by other corps, the Wiltshire Yeomanry included.

The design associated with the later part of the period, perhaps the 1820’s, is gilt, slightly convex, with the letters in script form, and the design incised. It is known in 20 mm diameter.

 

Colours

The Hawkes accounts of 1804 include a set of three standards, purchased in late February, that must have replaced any predecessors – a “King’s colour with pole complete”, and two “regimental standards with pole complete”, all at 13 guineas each. Unless the terms “colour” and “standard” are used here loosely, and guidons are actually meant, the regiment must have classified itself as cavalry rather than as dragoons.


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