Warwickshire: volunteer infantry of 1803

On this page are notes on the organisational basics, dress and equipage of the infantry volunteer corps of Warwickshire formed or re-formed in the second wave of volunteering from 1803: Alcester, Arrow, Atherstone, Birmingham, Burton Dassett, Dunchurch, Hampton Lucy, Hemlingford (1st Warwickshire), Kineton, Rugby, Stonley, Stratford. For Sutton, Coleshill, Kingsbury, Polesworth, Coventry, and Meriden, see under Hemlingford.

The Warwickshire volunteer infantry of the period adhered in their dress largely to the current basics of their two county militia regiments – scarlet or red, faced yellow, with silver officer’s metal.

The listing of corps and their commanding officers is largely from the House of Commons return of December 1803, Stockdale’s list of 1804 based on the return, the War Office volunteer list of 1805, and Willson’s chart of 1806.

Beyond the Birmingham battalions, where documentation is more generous, this page is really a rather basic skeleton, but further information will be added as and when it arrives. Click to enlarge images.

[Volunteers of the United Kingdom1803, House of Commons, December 1803; List of the Volunteer and Yeomanry Corps of the United Kingdom … , John Stockdale, London, 1804; 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.]


Alcester (Aulcester) Volunteer Infantry

Capt Joseph Brandish (wrongly, Brandith).

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, no officer’s lace, white legwear.


Arrow Pioneers

Capt Thomas Shayler. This corps is not listed in 1803, no other officers are named in the 1805 List, and it is not listed in Willson’s chart. My guess is that it may have been defunct by 1806.


Atherstone Volunteer Infantry

Capt Abraham Bracebridge.

Willson’s chart gives no details, but the metal colour was silver, as shown by surviving buttons, which are convex, with a raised crown over script “AVI”; two sizes are noted, 16 and 14 mm, though 15 mm is also sometimes given.


(Loyal) Birmingham Volunteer Infantry  

Col George, Earl of Dartmouth. Three battalions, each of ten companies, including light and grenadier. 1st Battalion, Lieut Col John Breynton, Lieut Col George, Lord Lewsham (Lewisham?); 2nd Battalion, Lieut Col John Gordon, Lieut Col Edward Jesse (Jessey); 3rd Battalion, Lieut Col Henry Johnstone, Lieut Col John Wilkes.


Willson’s chart gives no colours, but officers’ dress for all three battalions is set out in considerable detail in the regimental “Standing Orders and Regulations” of 1803:

Coat – Scarlet Cloth, lined with white Shalloon, Lappels, Collar and Cuffs, lemon colour, of the same shade of yellow which is on the Pattern Coat, the Skirt faced and turned back with white kerseymere, and an Embroidered Ornament (such as the pattern approved) at the joining of the Skirt facing; the Epaulets the same as the Pattern; Buttons the same, with the number of the Battalion to which the Officers respectively belong. Field Officers to wear two Epaulets, Grenadier Officers two Epaulets with a Grenade embroidered on them, Light Infantry Officers, Wings according to a Pattern approved, and a Jacket exactly corresponding to the Pattern one. Waistcoat – White Cloth or Kerseymere, Single-breasted, Uniform buttons. Breeches of White Cloth or kerseymere, with four Uniform buttons at knees, and made to Buckle, Strings being positively forbid. Field Officers and Adjutants, being mounted on horseback, may be permitted to wear white leather, with Uniform Buttons.

Boots – Black Topt, lined with yellow Leather at the Facing of the Knee. Hat – Regulation Cock, crimson and gold Rosettes and Band, silver Loop, Uniform Button, Black stiff Cockade, Regulation Feather, not exceeding fifteen inches in length. The Grenadier Officers, Feather with three inches of red at Foot, the Remainder white. Light Infantry Officers to wear a Cap similar in shape to the Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates of the Light Companies, with the Ornaments, etc, as the Pattern, and a green Feather of the same size as before mentioned. The Grenadier Officers will have their hats looped, and a Grenade in place of the Button. Sash – Crimson silk, and tied behind, a little inclining to the right side.

Sword. Field Officers, Regulation straight Sword with a black waist-belt same as the Pattern, Regulation Sword-knot (whitened), Shoulder belt with a pattern Plate gilt. Flank Officers, Hanger as the Pattern, Sword-knot as above, Sword-belt buff whitened made in the same form as those worn by Light Dragoons and Flank Officers of the regular regiments. Pattern Plate.

Stock. A black Silk Handkerchief tied behind, no Bow to appear in Front, but folded smoothly and neatly, a small white Edging to shew next the chin.

Gorget, as per Pattern, with a Small Rosette, and String of yellow Ribbon the same colour of the Facing.

Hair. The Hair to be tied in a Queue, similar to that worn by Officers of the regular infantry, and a small black Ribbon Rosette. Grenadier and Light companies to wear braids.

The hair cues and braids for all ranks were abolished by an order of 7 November 1803:

Hair to be powdered and cut Short or tied close up under the Stock so as to prevent any appearance of loose Hair either in front or behind, and to be Cut short over the ears – the Books of the regulation for the Dress to be Corrected Accordingly.

It’s worth highlighting that the facing colour is specified as a “lemon” yellow, and that grenadier officers did not wear fur caps; oddly, feathers are given as white for battalion companies and white over red for grenadier, the reverse of the usual practice.

Since nothing else is specified, it’s fair to assume that buttons were singly spaced. Buttons “with the number of the Battalion” are known, apparently silvered. An example for the First Battalion in the Gaunt collection at Birmingham Museum, slightly convex, shows in relief a garter with beaded edges inscribed “LOYAL ● BIRMINGHAM ● VOLRS” in Roman capitals, enclosing a crown over “1”. An equivalent button for the Third, sold on eBay, has a “3” and is 19 mm in diameter.

In 2006 Bosley’s sold an officer’s belt plate for the Third Battalion, described as gilt copper, with a raised design of a garter inscribed “Loyal Birmingham Volunteers”, with a central “3” on a dimpled ground. I have not been able to find an image of this, but gilt plates are specified in the regulations above.

Memoranda by Major Matthew Boulton of the First Battalion, made for the period of permanent duty in the summer of 1804, include a pair of dress breeches, boots, a pair of blue pantaloons, a pair of pantaloons of patent cord of a light colour, a round hat (presumably for undress) and a blue great coat.

Other ranks

On 23 August 1803 the committee advertised that it was “ready to receive offers of Contract for Scarlet, Yellow and White Cloth for Clothing, and Black Cloth for Gaiters.” The First Battalion received its caps in early November 1803, and battalions paraded in uniform for the first time late in that month. The “Standing Orders and Regulations” of 1803 provide some details:

Non-Commissioned Officers’ and Privates’ Dress

Jacket the same as those of the approved Pattern, both as to Make, Quality of Cloth, Lace, Buttons, Wings, and Ornaments. The Serjeants to have the addition of three Silver Lace Bars on the right arm, the Corporals two Bars of Lace, the same kind as the Looping. Grenadiers to wear Wings of Worsted Fringe, with a Grenade on the Skirt. Light Companies a jacket according to Pattern, with Wings as above, and a Bugle on the Skirt.

Breeches of white Cloth, made to button up high at the Waist, and no Button of the Flap to appear below the Jacket, four Uniform Buttons at the knee, and to buckle, no Strings to appear.

Gaiters to sit close, full up to the pan of the knee in Front, and a small hollow behind, with a Button-hole to Button on a Button affixed to the Breeches, the Tongue to come well down on the Shoe, and no String or Tying of the Shoe to be seen.

Cap made exactly as to Pattern, and no alternative either in that, Feather or Ornament to be allowed. Stock the same as the Pattern, no appearance of Handkerchief or Cravat to be seen, and a very small Frill, which is only to appear as far as the second Button of the Jacket, one of which only is to be unbuttoned.

Sash. Crimson and yellow Worsted, which is provided by the Committee, and to be tied in a small knot behind, inclining to the Right side.

Hair to be braided up very close under the Cap, or tied close under the Stock, so as to prevent any appearance of loose Hair either in front or behind, and to be cut short over the Ears, in the Grenadier and Light Infantry Companies. The Battalion Companies to have their Hair queued nine inches in length, with a small black Leather Rosette.

(As noted above, hair cues and braids were abolished in November 1803, and the final paragraph amended.)

To this we can add a section of the printed “Regulations for the First Battalion of Birmingham Volunteers”:

VIII. THAT the Corps be clothed in Serjeant’s Scarlet Cloth, viz. Jacket with White Lacings, Yellow Collar and Cuff, White Cloth Breeches, Black Cloth Leggings, Regulation Caps and feather, Black Velveteen Stock, White Buttons, Belt Plate, and Ornaments to the Cap.

The singular “Pattern” of jacket suggests a common style for all three battalions, of sergeants’ quality scarlet, laced with white tape. (Other such jackets are discussed in this post.) In December 1803, Lady Dartmouth, the Colonel’s wife, wrote to Boulton to give her approval of the uniform, but with this tactful caveat:

She is fearful of suggesting any alteration to the uniform lest it should make it less handsome, but she submits to Major Boulton’s judgement, whether the Buttonholes might not look better made straight & of worsted lace.

“Straight” here presumably indicates square ended loops, as opposed to bastion etc. Also worth noting is that the grenadier companies wore the 1800 cap rather than fur caps, and that, in the volunteer manner, cap “feathers” were worn, not tufts – presumably white for battalion and white over red for grenadiers, as for the officers. The white metal buttons were presumably of the same pattern as the officers’. (Hart’s History includes a plate to represent an NCO, but as it shows an 1812 cap, a double breasted jacket for a sergeant and so on, it can’t be taken as reliable, and I do not reproduce it here.)

The other ranks’ belt plates were supplied by Peake of Birmingham. An oval brass plate, identified to this corps, was sold by Toovey’s in 2016; the intaglio design, quite different to the officer’s plate described above, shows a crown over “LBV” in ornate script.

Undress & other clothing, arms & accoutrements, pioneers, musicians, colours

Flannel undress clothing was, as for many volunteer corps, provided by the local community; an “Address to the Ladies and Fair Sex in general of Birmingham & its Vicinity”, probably by Lady Dartmouth, appealed for subscriptions and sewing for “flannel cloathing”, specifically “a flannel Jacket”. A printed booklet of health advice, “The Physicians of Birmingham to the Loyal Birmingham Volunteers”, recommended that “The flannel waistcoat should be made large with sleeves, and to extend below the hip bone at least eight inches.” Though for some corps the provision of flannel clothing may have been more inspirational than practical, in this case it was actually worn on the march, at least initially; an order of late November 1803 instructed:

… each Volunteer when ordered to March will be required to appear in flannel Dress similar to the one approved by the Committee, and one in their Knapsack, and Dresses having been provided by our Patriotic Country Women to deliver out in case of an Order for the Battalions to march, those Individuals of each Compy who wish to be furnished with them will give in their names to the Captains of their Company …

In February 1804 the Committee reported that the subscription had furnished 3,600 flannel waistcoats, 1,800 pairs of drawers and 1,800 night caps.

In May 1804, in preparation for a period of permanent duty, foraging caps, great coats, great coat straps and haversacks were distributed; captains of companies were responsible for marking these items with the company letter and numbering them as per the stand of arms. A note by Major Boulton suggests that the sergeants’ great coats should have been blue, but there is no evidence that this was adopted. In the absence of knapsacks, the leather great coat straps were adopted on the recommendation of Major John Wilkes of the 3rd Battalion:

The Strap is the one made use of by my Regiment during our Irish Campaign … it contained a Great Coat Pair of Shoes Shirt Brushes and shaving Box. The price was I think 10d but probably may from the advance of leather now be 12d. you will Perceive it is made to sling across the Shoulder which is considered more useful than being fixed as the Knapsack is and as we have not at present Knapsacks might not Straps be found necessary to be provided immediately as they would in some degree answer the purpose of a Knapsack in case of sudden Orders to move in haste.

Knapsacks may have been provided at a later date, as Boulton’s papers note a pattern available at Bretts, Judiest & Hibden of Parliament Square, of Russia duck and with straps at 7/6d each, and another “to pattern – with buff belts complete” at 6/9d each at Garden Pind[?]by.

There is no evidence that canteens were issued; Boulton’s notes mention “a wooden canteen complete with Straps 2/9 each” available at high class furnishers Turner & Smith of Bond Street, but this would have been for his private use as an officer, as was a “Haversack 3/- each in russia duck” from the same source.

Arms were purchased by the Committee from various makers, though some men provided their own; if privately provided, all were “to have the Town proof and to be made in point of Orniment and external appearance Compatible to the Tower of the India pattern.” A return for the First Battalion shows that some sergeants were armed with swords and pikes, others (presumably in the light company) with carbines.

One pioneer was appointed per company, chosen by the captain; pioneers were issued their fur caps and accoutrements on 22 December 1803.

A Drum Major to all three battalions was appointed on 28 September 1803, with the responsibility of training boys as drummers and fifers. In November 1803 the corps advertised in the press for the services of several fifers and a fife teacher. The Drum Major and drummers were partly clothed by late December 1803; their clothing was distinctively laced. A return of 1803 or ’04 for the 1st Battalion indicates seven drummers, four fifers and one bugler for the battalion, all with swords and belts. The light infantry companies, like the others, used drummers. A design for the Drum Major’s staff head is in an album of drawings by John Phillp, designer for the manufacturer Matthew Boulton, in Birmingham Archive. On the side is “LBV” in script within a wreath of oak on a burst of rays, over a band inscribed “[LOYAL BIRMINGHAM] VOLUNTEERS” in Roman capitals, on a wreath of oak leaves. (For a little more on Phillp, see this post.)

In October 1803 the band of the previous Birmingham Loyal Association of 1797-1802 enrolled in the 1st Battalion, but declined to attend parades for all three battalions, which they considered excessive.

Colours were presented to the 2nd Battalion on 6 March 1804. Initially, the 1st Battalion carried the colours of the old Birmingham Loyal Association of 1797-1802; on 29 August 1804, these were deposited in St Martin’s Church, and new colours presented to the 1st and 3rd Battalions. On these occasions four camp colours per battalion were also presented, the camp colour men having been chosen by the Adjutant.

[Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, Oct 17, Nov 28 1803. Gloucester Journal, 20 February 1804. Matthew Robinson Boulton papers, Birmingham Archives, MS 3782/18. Col Charles J Hart, The History of the 1st Volunteer Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment and its predecessors, Birmingham, 1906. Philip J Haythornthwaite, “Loyal Birmingham Volunteers, 1803”, JSAHR Vol 61 No 246, Summer 1983. Anthony Skelsey, “Shoulder Belt Plates of the Birmingham Loyal Association of Volunteers”, MHS Bulletin 268, May 2017.]


Burton Dassett  Volunteer Infantry

Capt Henry Hugh Holbeck.

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, silver officer’s lace, blue pantaloons.


(Loyal) Dunchurch Volunteer Infantry

Capt Thomas Boddington.

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, silver officer’s lace, white legwear.


Hampton Lucy Volunteer Infantry

Capt Mason, Capt William Osborne.

Willson’s chart gives no details. Silvered buttons are known, convex, with the raised design of the crest of the Lucy family between “HAMPTON LUCY / VOLUNTEERS” in Roman capitals. Two sizes are known, 14 and 20 mm in diameter.


Hemlingford Volunteer Infantry / 1st Warwickshire Regiment

Lieut Col Comm Hon Charles Finch. Hemlingford was the northernmost of the four Hundreds of Warwickshire. Presumably, judging by the numbering, the intention at one point was to form additional composite regiments in other areas of the county. The nine companies included Sutton, Coleshill, Kingsbury, Polesworth, Coventry (two companies), and Meriden. One of the Coventry companies was the light infantry company of the regiment.

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, no officer’s lace, blue pantaloons.

Following disbandment, the Committee of the two Coventry companies, at a meeting of 23 November 1808, declared their total expenditure on clothing and equipping to be £488 5s 6d. A balance of £89 6s 3d was still due upon the first accounts of the light company to four outfitters: Hawkes of London, Bunney, Smith and Rollason.

[Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, 6 August 1804. Coventry Herald, 3 June, 22 July, 25 November 1808.]


(Loyal) Kineton (Keinton, Kington) Volunteer Infantry

Capt Hill, Capt Richard Holloway.

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, no officer’s lace, white legwear. A button is attributed to this corps, flat, said to be of copper, showing a crown over script “KVI”.


Rugby Volunteer Infantry

Capt John Caldcott (Caldecott). Two companies.

Willson’s chart gives no details.


Stonley (Stoneley, Stoneleigh, Stanley) Volunteer Infantry

Capt James Harborne.

Willson’s chart gives no details. A button, found in Warwickshire, has been tentatively attributed to this corps. It is flat, gilt, showing a crown over script “SI”. The metal colour contradicts that of the county militia.


Stratford (Stratford-upon-Avon) Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm Francis, Marquis of Hertford. Three companies.

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, no officer’s lace, white legwear. Silvered buttons are known, convex, with the raised design of a lion’s head between “STRATFORD / VOLUNTEERS” in Roman capitals. (A button excavated near Stratford is of a different design, silvered, convex, showing a crown over “SLV” in Roman capitals, but this may be unconnected.)

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