Cheshire: volunteer infantry of 1803

On this page are notes on the organisational basics, dress and equipage, or at least what I know of them, of the infantry volunteer corps of Cheshire formed or re-formed in the second wave of volunteering from 1803: Alderley, Ashton-upon-Mersey, Bolesworth, Chester, Cholmondeley and Bickley, Cragg Hall, Delamere Forest, Doddington, Dukinfield, Frodsham, Knutsford, Lyme, Macclesfield, Middlewich, Nantwich, Poynton, Runcorn and Weston, Sandbach and Rode, and Stockport. The page is essentially a framework into which further information can be slotted, as and when. Many entries are minimal, and archival material, in particular, waits to be be added.

The great majority of Cheshire volunteer infantry of the period adhered in their dress to the basics of their county militia regiment, who wore dark blue facings and buttons spaced in pairs. However, while the Cheshire Militia used silver for its officers’ lace and metal colour, the majority of volunteer corps adopted gold.

The listing of corps and their commanding officers is largely from the House of Commons return of December 1803, the War Office volunteer list of 1804 as copied in Earwaker, the volunteer list of 1805, and Willson’s chart of 1806. The Dunham Massey papers in the University of Manchester Library provide an indication of initial armaments for some corps. Paul Anderton’s 2016 study of selected Cheshire and Staffordshire volunteers is in general narrowly focused on WO papers, but provides some organisational details on a few Cheshire corps, with much biographical and historical background.

Click to enlarge images.

[Volunteers of the United Kingdom1803, House of Commons, December 1803; A List of the Officers of the Militia, Gentlemen & Yeomanry Cavalry and Volunteer Infantry of the United Kingdom, 11th Edition, War Office, October 1805; James Willson, A View of the Volunteer Army of Great Britain in the Year 1806; J P Earwaker, Local Gleanings Relating to Lancashire and Cheshire, Vol 1, 1875-6. University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers, Papers relating to the Lord Lieutenancy (of Lord Stamford) and Militia, GB 133 EGR4/1/2. Paul Anderton, Called to Arms 1803-12 in the Staffordshire-Cheshire Border Region, Audley & District Family History Society, 2016.]

 

Alderley Volunteers

Capt Edward Stanley. In the 1805 list the captaincy is vacant, the remaining officers being Lieuts David Walker and Thomas Whittle. The company is not listed by Wilson (1806) and may have disbanded, as Astley Terry suggests, by the beginning of that year.

In September 1803 application was made for the company to be armed half with muskets, half with 60 pikes.

[Astley Terry, Historical Records of the 5th Administrative Battalion, Cheshire Rifle Volunteers, 1879.]

 

Ashton-upon-Mersey cum Sale Loyal Volunteers

Capt Comm John Moore Jnr (wrongly, More).

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, white legwear. These colours are confirmed by Moore’s uniform (above), displayed at the Cheshire Military Museum, except that his coat is unlaced, though the metal colour is gold. The scarlet coat has a dark blue collar and cuffs (and lapels, though not visible in the display). The front has two rows of ten large buttons in pairs, with two pairs on each cuff, and presumably two on or under each pocket flap. (The rear skirts were not accessible when I viewed it.) All edges – collar, front, tops of cuffs, sides and lower edges of the flaps – are piped in white. The collar has a small button at each side. The collar and cuffs (and presumably flaps) have twist button holes, as does the row of buttons on the front closing edge, the top pair of holes angled downwards at a diagonal. The two gilt epaulettes have fringes and crescents of half inch gold bullion, with a narrower bullion braid along the strap edges.

The gilt buttons are inscribed “ASHTON / L V / CUM SALE”, all in Roman capitals. With the coat are a regulation gilt gorget with dark blue cords and rosettes, white cloth breeches with side pockets, a white button at the top of the fly, and three small regimental buttons at each knee, and a pair of black cloth gaiters (above right), each with six small bone buttons, the tongues over the feet long and pointed. (The unusually small number of buttons suggests to me that the gaiters may not be military, and so not an original part of the uniform group, though I may be wrong.)

Unfortunately these items are displayed with an unidentified and incongruous hat with a feathered edge, of a much later date, which was purchased in 1987 to “complete” the figure.

 

Loyal Bolesworth Volunteers / Bolesworth Rifle Corps

Capt Comm Thomas Tarleton. Two companies. In a newspaper report of October 1805, this corps is titled as a rifle corps, and presumably had converted to this arm of service fairly recently, making obsolete the entry in Willson’s chart of 1806, which still gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, and white legwear. As riflemen, the corps would have been required to wear a green uniform.

[Chester Chronicle, 11 October 1805. Chester Courant, 15 October 1805.]

 

Chester Volunteers / Royal Chester Volunteers

Col Roger Barnston.  The regiment originated at a meeting of 27 July 1803, and by mid 1804 was over 1000 strong, later expanding to 13 or 14 companies, including grenadier, light and artillery companies. By June 1808, when it volunteered to transfer to the Local Militia, the regiment had an effective strength of 59 sergeants and 1135 rank and file.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, with white legwear. This is largely confirmed by a drawing with notes, in the copy of the Hawkes pattern book at the National Army Museum, of an officer’s coat captioned “Cheshire Volunteers”, but apparently for this corps and of this period. (Thanks to Ben Townsend for the image of this.) However, this coat is unlaced, though the metal is gold. The scarlet superfine cloth coat has a dark blue collar, cuffs and lapels. The front has two rows of ten large gilt buttons in pairs, with two pairs on each cuff and under each pointed pocket flap. The collar has a small button on each side, and collar, cuffs and flaps have twist button holes. The rear waist has two buttons with two pairs of twist holes. (With two small buttons for the epaulettes, the buttons total 38 large and four small.) There is no mention of any white edging. The turnbacks are white cassimere with gilt embroidered skirt ornaments, though the design of these is not given. The two epaulettes are “rich Gold”.

The initial meeting of July 1803 proposed a uniform for other ranks of:

… a Scarlet Jacket, White Waistcoat and Breeches, long Black Gaiters, Black Stock, and regulation felt Cap, with Feather or Tuft …

By the end of the first week of December 1803 the majority of men had received their initial clothing. The Chester Chronicle reported:

Their uniform is uncommonly becoming, at the same time as it gives them a truly martial appearance. The jacket is red, with blue facings; white cloth waistcoat and small-clothes, black gaiters, and a black cap with regulation feather, ornamented in front with military trophies and the initials G.R. in yellow metal.

Though it’s not clear whether the original intention to clothe all ranks in scarlet (as opposed to red) was followed through, this confirms Willson’s colours and suggests an entirely orthodox outfit, down to the regulation plate for the 1800 cap. (It’s possible that the flank companies and musicians wore appropriately distinctive plates, which were advertised in October 1803 by goldsmith and military outfitter, R Bowers of Chester.)

If the officer’s coat above is actually of this corps, the men’s jackets would have had buttons spaced in pairs.

The report quoted above notes that “The buttons bear the crest of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales”. By “crest” here we should probably understand the badge of the Prince of Wales, the well known three feathers, associated with this county among others. Presumably this button design also included the initials of the corps or some other identifier. A different button (left) has been attributed to this corps; it is flat, possibly gilt, 21 mm in diameter and shows a crown above script “LCV”. This attribution is not definite, and the button, if it is Chester, is maybe more likely be of the 1797 predecessor corps.

In November 1803 a subscription was opened to provide those of the corps unable to afford them with “flannel waistcoats, socks, woollen stockings and other warm clothing” for service over the winter.

In September 1803 Barnston applied to government for 600 stand of arms and accoutrements, and 100 pikes for the artillery company (see below), the rest of the corps to be for the moment without arms. However, the corps was reported to be “fully accoutred” in the first week of December 1803.

The warm clothing subscription opened in November 1803 was also to purchase two field pieces for the corps, an application to government for four field pieces having been unsuccessful. As a result, from August 1803 the regiment included an artillery company under Capt Thomas Dixon, augmented to two companies in May 1805. The artillery was generally seen as integral to the regiment, though it does not appear to have travelled with the rest of the regiment on permanent duty, and is given a separate entry in the 1805 list. On 19 March 1804, following the presentation of colours, this company took possession of “two new beautiful brass field-pieces (short sixes) cast at Bersham”, each inscribed, within a circle: “ROYAL CHESTER / MDCCCIV / ARTILLERY”. The six pounders were accompanied by ammunition waggons. In 1808 these guns were transferred to the Chester Local Militia, thereafter kept at Chester Castle, then at the Chester volunteer drill hall, and then returned to the castle. The company was also armed with pikes.

Willson’s chart gives the colours of the artillery uniform as blue faced red, officer’s lace gold, blue legwear.

In September 1803 Colonel Barnston requested the Lord Lieutenant to apply for 600 stand of arms for half the regiment, the remainder being unarmed, and 100 pikes for the artillery company.

On 19 March 1804 the corps was presented by Mrs Barnston with a pair of “elegant” colours, “prepared” by her. These are said to have “eventually disappeared”, but the regimental colour turned up in 1910 in a second hand shop in Bath; it was purchased and housed in Chester Cathedral. It was described as “of pale shot blue silk, with the Union in the upper canton … two yards long, and fifty-seven inches wide; the Union measuring 21 inches by 18 inches; the whole surrounded on three sides by a silk fringe, 2 inches in depth; in colour red, white, and blue – each for a space of 1 inch alternately.”

[Chester Chronicle, 29 July, 19 August, 21 October, 18 November, 2, 9 December 1803, 16, 23 March 1804, 3 June 1808. Chester Courant, 22 November 1803, 3 July 1804. John M B Pigot, History of the City of Chester …, 1815. J.H. Hansall, The History of the County Palatine of Chester, 1817. Frank Simpson, The Old Chester Volunteers and their Colour, Chester, 1911.]

 

Cholmondeley Volunteers / Cholmondeley and Bickley Volunteers

Capt Charles Clark (Clarke). This company is bracketed with the Nantwich Volunteers in the 1803 Return, is listed separately in the 1805 list, but is not listed for 1806 by Willson. It may have been disbanded or amalgamated.

A button has been tentatively attributed to this company; it is flat, pewter and inscribed “CBV” in script.

 

Cragg Hall Volunteers / Chester Volunteers / Palfreyman’s Volunteers 

(Modern spelling: Crag Hall.) Capt George Palfreyman. Initial returns indicate just 38 privates, with 35 and 33 present on permanent duties in 1804 and 1805.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, white legwear.

[Paul Anderton, Called to Arms 1803-12 in the Staffordshire-Cheshire Border Region, Audley & District Family History Society, 2016.]

 

Delamere Forest Riflemen / Volunteers

Capt Comm Thomas Cholmondeley.  Two companies. These were raised from among the tenants and neighbours of Cholmondeley and second captain John Egerton, who proposed to clothe the men at their own expense.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as green faced black, officer’s lace black, green pantaloons.

[Chester Chronicle, 26 August 1803.]

 

Doddington Volunteers

Capt Comm Revd Henry Delves (Delve) Broughton. One company. A revival of the corps of 1797.

The company was raised entirely at the expense of its patron, Sir Thomas Broughton of Doddington Hall, father of the Captain, who, though not a member, accompanied it on its period of permanent duty in June 1804. Anderton states that the 1803 re-formation was not successful, but this is incorrect.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, white legwear.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, half with pikes though Sir Thomas commented that they were far from content with this arrangement.

[Chester Chronicle, 23 September 1803, 8 June 1804. Chester Courant, 12 June 1804. Paul Anderton, Called to Arms 1803-12 in the Staffordshire-Cheshire Border Region, Audley & District Family History Society, 2016.]

 

Dukinfield Riflemen

Attached to the Manchester Rifle Corps. See under Lancashire, Manchester.

 

Loyal Frodsham Volunteers 

Major Comm Daniel Ashley. Four companies. The corps first fired on a field day on 22 March 1804.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, no officer’s lace, white legwear. At an inspection on 2 June 1805 the inspecting officer noted the corps’s “soldier-like uniform”.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, half with pikes.

On 19 May 1804 the corps was presented by its commander with a pair of colours.

[Chester Chronicle, 23 March, 8 June 1804. Chester Courant, 4 June 1805.]

 

Loyal Knutsford / Knutsford Loyal Volunteers

Major Comm Thomas William Egerton, Capt Strethill Wright.  three companies

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, white legwear.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, while government offered pikes for the other half. The pikes were declined, the corps preferring to purchase its own arms for the remainder.

 

Lyme Volunteers

Capt Thomas Follett. This company appears only in the 1804 list as published by Earwaker, and presumably was disbanded or amalgamated.

 

Macclesfield Volunteers / Old Macclesfield Volunteers / Old Loyal Macclesfield Volunteers

Capt Comm Jasper Hulley. Capt James Pearson. Two companies.

Astley Terry states that Hulley equipped the corps at his own expense. Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace silver, white legwear. Terry (1879) includes an image of an officer of 1805, though this may be based on little more than general knowledge and the details in Willson. I show it here for a bit of period flavour.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets and half with pikes, the remaining firearms to be purchased from the subscription.

The colours were retained by the Hulley family, and sketched by Astley Terry, who described the King’s as of dark blue silk with the Royal arms. (His published drawing does not show a Union canton, which may possibly be an error, perhaps because the drawing was made from a fragment.) The regimental colour was of crimson silk with a Union canton, the centre showing, within a wreath of oak leaves and acorns, a version of the arms of Macclesfield – a lion rampant, holding a garbe (wheatsheaf), both in gold, above the motto “NEC VIRTUS NEC COPIA DESUNT”.

[Astley Terry, Historical Records of the 5th Administrative Battalion, Cheshire Rifle Volunteers, 1879.]

 

Loyal Macclesfield Foresters / Forresters

Lieut Col Comm Davis (Davies) Davenport. Four companies.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, blue pantaloons. Astley Terry shows an officer of 1805, though, as with the figure above, this may be little more than general knowledge plus Willson’s data. Certainly, the lapels appear starved of buttons.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, while government offered pikes for the other half. The pikes were declined, the corps preferring to purchase its own arms for the remainder.

 

                       Loyal Middlewich Volunteers

Major Comm Trafford Trafford. Three companies

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace silver, white legwear.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, while government offered pikes for the other half. The pikes were declined, the corps preferring to purchase its own arms for the remainder.

 

Loyal Nantwich Volunteers / Nantwich, Combermere and Dorfold Volunteers

Lieut Col, then Col, John Crewe. Six companies, 420 strong. Disbanded in 1809.

A subscription for clothing volunteers not able to pay for their own clothing was opened in November 1803. Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, white legwear.

Astley Terry illustrates a belt plate, perhaps for other ranks, but provides no details, and it’s possible that this is of the 1797 formation of this corps. The plate is oval, inscribed “NANTWICH LOYAL VOLUNTEERS.”, above a crown and “GR” cipher.

A bill of May 1804 for greatcoats and carrying straps, from Streatfield, West, and Streatfield, is for 432 grey kersey coats and 18 blue coats with scarlet (i.e. collars and cuffs) for sergeants.

[Chester Courant, 8, 22 November 1803. Astley Terry, Historical Records of the 5th Administrative Battalion, Cheshire Rifle Volunteers, 1879. Paul Anderton, Called to Arms 1803-12 in the Staffordshire-Cheshire Border Region, Audley & District Family History Society, 2016.]

 

Poynton, Worth, Norbury and Bullock Smithy Volunteers 

Capt Comm Nathaniel Wright. Two companies. At a review of January 1804, the corps was combined with the Stockport Rifles, the Stockport Volunteers, and the Heaton Norris (Lancashire) corps to make a regiment of about 800 men, referred to as the Stockport and Poynton Independents, under the command of Viscount Bulkeley.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours, interestingly, as red with white collar and blue cuffs, officer’s lace silver, white legwear.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, while government offered pikes for the other half. The pikes were declined, the corps preferring to purchase its own arms for the remainder.

[Derby Mercury, 19 January 1804.]

 

Runcorn and Weston Volunteers 

Capt Comm William Wright. Capt Comm James Adam (wrongly, Adams). Two companies. The corps was formed at a meeting on 8 August 1803, at which 150 men were enrolled. (A period report is careful to distinguish this corps from a neighbouring corps of “flatmen and labourers” employed on the canal works of the recently deceased Duke of Bridgewater, under the command of R H Bradshaw. I have not found any other mention of such a corps or of this commanding officer.)

The appointment of Adam as commanding officer took place under curious circumstances. Initially, the two companies offered to government were captained by Wright and Captain Bate, both duly approved and gazetted. A move was then made to add a third company, of which Adam was elected captain, but when the offer of only two companies was accepted, the three captains drew lots, and Wright, losing, resigned.

By late 1806 the corps had either converted to light infantry, or had practised that drill, a report noting “their proficiency in the light infantry movements, by sound of bugle.”

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace gold, white legwear.

An excavated officer’s shoulder belt plate is oval, gilt, with the design in relief of an all-seeing eye on a sunburst of rays, within an edged border inscribed in Roman capitals: “PRO PATRIA / RUNCORN & WESTON VOLUNTEERS”. (This unusual design may conceivably have been connected with the efforts of the Vicar of Runcorn, Rev W E Keyt, to promote the formation of the corps.)

A colour was deposited in 1818 in St Bartholomew’s, Runcorn; the church was demolished in 1846, but I am ignorant of the location of the colour after that.

[Chester Chronicle, 12 August 1803, 9 March 1804, 26 December 1806. Chester Courant, 30 December 1806. Bert Starkey, “The Ancient Parish Church of Runcorn”, talk to Runcorn & District Historical Society 2006, online at http://www.runcornhistsoc.org.uk. Philip Haythornthwaite, “The Runcorn and Weston Volunteers”, MHS Bulletin 237, August 2009.]

 

Loyal Sandbach and Rode Volunteers

Lieut Col Comm John Ford. Six companies, the first return being for 342 rank and file, reducing to 256 in 1806. Anderton states that the corps effectively ceased to operate from March 1806; it was disbanded prematurely in June 1807.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, no officer’s lace, white legwear. Astley Terry states that officers wore caps similar to those of the men, which might indicate light infantry status, or perhaps just a volunteer affectation.

An officer’s shoulder belt plate has been offered on eBay. Oval, apparently gilt, it shows the design in relief of a crown over “GR” on a stippled ground within an edged circular border on an eight rayed star, all within an engraved double lined border inscribed “LOYAL SANDBACH / & RODE VOLUNTEERS” in Roman capitals.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, half with pikes.

[Astley Terry, Historical Records of the 5th Administrative Battalion, Cheshire Rifle Volunteers, 1879. Paul Anderton, Called to Arms 1803-12 in the Staffordshire-Cheshire Border Region, Audley & District Family History Society, 2016.]

 

                                                   Loyal Stockport Volunteers

Lieut Col Comm Thomas, Viscount Warren Bulkeley. Four companies. At a review of January 1804, the corps was combined with the Stockport Rifles, the Poynton and Bullock Smithy Volunteers, and the Heaton Norris (Lancashire) corps to make a regiment of about 800 men, referred to as the Stockport and Poynton Independents, under the command of Viscount Bulkeley.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced blue, officer’s lace silver, white legwear.

In late 1803 the corps was to be armed half with muskets, while government offered pikes for the other half. The pikes were declined, the corps preferring to purchase its own arms for the remainder.

Unidentified buttons found in Cheshire may perhaps be for this corps; they are convex, pewter, showing in relief a crown over “SV” in Roman capitals, one example in a diameter of 14 mm.

On 3 January 1804 the corps was presented by Viscountess Bulkeley with a pair of “very elegant” colours. (A contribution to Cheshire Notes & Queries states that these colours – or possibly those of the corps of 1794 – were discovered in the Court House in the mid 19th century and moved to Vernon Park Museum. They were still there in the 1940’s.)

[Lancaster Gazette, 14 January 1804. Derby Mercury, 19 January 1804. An Old Resident of Stockport, “The Presentation of Colours to the Old ‘Stockport Volunteers’ ” in E W Bulkeley, ed, Cheshire Notes & Queries, 1886.]

 

Loyal Stockport Armed Association / Stockport Volunteers

Capt Comm William Radcliffe. Two companies.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform colours as red faced black, officer’s lace gold, blue pantaloons.

 

Stockport Rifle Volunteers

Capt Comm Thomas Ross.  One company. Attached on field days to the Manchester Rifle Corps – see under Lancashire, Manchester. The company is not listed by Willson for 1806, and may have disbanded. At a review of January 1804, the corps was combined with the Stockport Volunteers, the Poynton and Bullock Smithy Volunteers, and the Heaton Norris (Lancashire) corps to make a regiment of about 800 men, referred to as the Stockport and Poynton Independents, under the command of Viscount Bulkeley.

The company is noted by Christie-Miller, unsurprisingly, as “clad in green”.

[Derby Mercury, 19 January 1804. John Christie-Miller, A Record of Stockport Volunteers and their Armoury, 1969.]


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