West Yorkshire: volunteer infantry of 1803

On this page are notes on the organisational basics, dress and equipage of the infantry volunteer corps of the West Riding formed or re-formed in the second wave of volunteering, from 1803: Addingham, Ainsty of York, Barkston Ash, Bawtry, Bingley, Birstall and Batley, Bradford, Craven, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Ecclesfield, Halifax, West Halifax, Knaresborough, Leeds, Pontefract, Ripon, Rotherham, Roundell, Sheffield, Skyrack, Staincross, Thorne, Upper Agbrigg, Wakefield, Wath Wood, Wharfedale, and York. Most of these corps thrived until 1808, when many transferred to the Local Militia, whose dress is discussed on this page. That of their predecessors of the 1790’s is discussed on this page (volunteers) and on this page (armed associations).

This is a long list, but details for some corps are rather thin. Further information will be added as and when it arrives. The listing of corps and their commanding officers is largely based on the House of Commons return of December 1803, Stockdale’s list of 1804 based on the return, the War Office volunteer list of 1805, Willson’s chart of 1806 and period newspaper reports.

A meeting of the Lieutenancy in late August 1803 resolved that:

… the Uniform of the Volunteer Infantry Corps, throughout the Whole of the West-Riding of Yorkshire … should be the same in every Respect; and should be similar in Materials and Make to, and not exceed the regulated Prices allowed for the Army; and it is recommended that the Officers of the above Corps be clothed in Serjeants’ Cloth.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 5 September 1803.]

This modest and economical proposal may not always have been adhered to, not least in the matter of officers’ cloth, but it set the tone. The majority of West Riding volunteer infantry corps of this period adhered in their dress to the current basics of either the 1st West Yorkshire Militia (facings of dark green, with gold metal, buttons in pairs), or the 2nd Militia (facings yellow, gold metal, buttons in pairs). It seems that none imitated the 3rd Militia (as the 1st but with silver metal).

However, there were a few variations, such as yellow facings with silver lace, or green facings with singly spaced buttons. In addition, a small number of corps – Knaresborough, Rotherham, Roundell and Royal Wakefield – adopted, without authority, the dark blue facings of “royal” regiments.

Click to enlarge images.

[Volunteers of the United Kingdom, 1803, 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.]


Addingham Volunteer Infantry

Captain Comm William Cunliffe. For the Grand Review of volunteers on Brinsworth Common on 8 October 1804, this company was attached to the Wharfedale Volunteers.

Willson’s chart gives yellow facings, silver lace for officers and white legwear.

[Charles William W Hatfield, Historical Notices of Doncaster, 3rd Series, 1870.]


Ainsty (Ainstie) of York Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm Hall Plumer. This corps did not become part of any of the Local Militia regiments in 1808, but appears to have disbanded by 1812.

Willson’s chart gives yellow facings, no officers’ lace and white legwear.

A gilt officer’s button, 19.5 mm in diameter, flat with a raised design of a crown above “A.Y.V.” indicates that the officers’ metal colour was gold. A pewter version is known for other ranks.

The shoulder belt plate and gorget of Ensign Richard Gaunt were sold in 2003. The oval gilt plate is engraved with a crown and the unit title in Roman capitals. The copper gilt gorget is of the regulation pattern with crown, “GR” and laurel sprays.

On 9 January the York Ladies’ Committee for Flannel Clothing (see under York Volunteers below) announced that 122 flannel shirts and caps would be made available to the Ainsty corps.

Colours were presented on 18 January 1804 by Mrs Plumer.

[York Herald, 14 January 1804. Leeds Intelligencer, 16, 23 January 1804. Dixon Pickup, “Ensign Richard Gaunt, Ainsty of York Volunteer Infantry 1803-1808,” MHS Bulletin 259, February 2015; Philip Haythornthwaite, “Ainsty of York Volunteers,” MHS Bulletin 260, May 2015.]


Barkston (Barkstone) Ash Volunteer Infantry

Major(?) John Shillito (wrongly, Shilleto). Col H M Mervin Vavasour. A battalion of six companies. In March 1805 the Sherburn and Tadcaster companies of the battalion demonstrated the “light infantry movements” on a field day.

Willson’s chart gives yellow facings, gold lace for officers and white legwear.

A flat, silvered button is known, 18 mm in diameter, with a raised design of a crown over “B ● A / V”. As officers’ buttons would have been gilt, this is presumably a senior NCO’s. A copper (pewter?) version is also known, apparently slightly convex – presumably for other ranks.

On 23 February 1804 the corps’s inspecting officer was obliged to regret their “want of arms” at this late stage.

On 4 February 1805 the corps was presented with its colours by Col Vavasour.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 05 March 1804, 11 February, 11 March 1805. Dixon Pickup, “Excavated buttons – a further selection”, MHS Bulletin 248, May 2012.]


Loyal Bawtry Volunteer Infantry

Major Comm Robert, Viscount Galway (Gallway). This corps did not transfer to the Local Militia, and was in existence until 1811, though not listed by Willson.

Button designs with crown and script “BV” and “BVI” have both been attributed to Bawtry. The former seems to have been worn by the Bradford Volunteers, but it is possible that the “BVI” button was worn by this corps. Examples appear to be flat; one is said to be of copper (pewter?), presumably for other ranks.

Arms and accoutrements were delivered to this corps on 27 October 1803.


Bingley Volunteer Infantry

Major Comm Wilmer Mackett Willett. Capt, then Major Comm, Currer Fothergill Busfeild. Two companies were enrolled in early 1803, and the corps is listed in the 1803 Return, but, oddly, it does not appear in the 1805 List, nor in Willson’s chart of 1806, though it is recorded elsewhere as in existence under Busfeild’s command until 1811.

In October 1807 the corps was reported as “cloathed new from top to toe“.

On 15 May 1804 a pair of colours was presented by Miss Wickham. Speight’s Chronicles of 1898 notes that:

Formerly there were two tattered banners hanging in the church, one of which remains. They were the colours of a local corps of volunteers …

[Leeds Intelligencer, 21 May 1804, 17 October 1807. Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y32. J Horsfall Turner, Ancient Bingley. Or, Bingley its History and Scenery, Bingley, 1897. Harry Speight, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley …, London, 1898.]


Bingley Grammar School corps

On the occasion of the presentation of colours to the Bingley Volunteers (see above) the Leeds paper noted that:

The ground was kept by the young gentlemen under Mr Hartley’s care, who afterwards went through the manual exercise with great exactness.

“Mr Hartley” was the Rev R Hartley, Vicar of Bingley since 1797, who consecrated the colours, and who was also Headmaster of Bingley Grammar School. In order to keep the ground at such an event, the corps must have been uniformed and well disciplined. (For another possible school corps, see below under Leeds.)

[Leeds Intelligencer, 21 May 1804. ]


Loyal Birstall & Batley (Battley) Volunteer Infantry

R T Cooper’s 1945 drawing of the jacket

Lieut Col Comm Samuel Sykes.

Willson’s chart gives green facings, gold officers’ lace and white legwear.

A drawing of a sergeant’s jacket, attributed wrongly to a Northumberland unit, was illustrated in a publication of 1945. By the ‘seventies this jacket was on display at the Castle Museum at York, where I made a rough sketch of it; at that time it was firmly attributed to Birstall and Batley. In 2013 the identity given in 1945 was queried by Dermot Jones, and the suggestion of Birstall and Batley made in response by Philip Haythornthwaite; neither seems to have been aware of the York identification. The York Museums website still lists (but does not illustrate) this jacket as YORCM: 1951.541, and identifies it to this corps.

jacket details

According to my notes, this grenadier company jacket has medium green collar, cuffs and wings, with plain white tape edging to the collar, cuffs, wings, pocket flaps and jacket front. The wings have white fringes. There are green chevrons edged in white tape on the right arm only,  spaced slightly apart. The narrow pocket flaps are straight, and laced on all four sides; the turnbacks are white. I was not able to view the back or skirts. The wings each have one small button, with two pairs of large buttons on each cuff and pocket flap, and four pairs on the front. The buttons, which my notes give as “brass”, but I suppose might be gilt, are flattish, with the design of a crown over script “LBBV”.

Oddly, the 1945 description gives the white lace as “silver”, while the current York Museum description, which is less than satisfactory, gives unspecified “dark” facings and describes the chevrons as “gold lace”. I can’t account for these differences.

The jacket raises the question of whether the white lacing was a sergeant’s distinction, or worn by all other ranks.

On 4 June 1807 the re-uniformed corps appeared “in their new clothing”. In August 1807 a supplier, a Mr Wade of Leeds, advertised for the return of a missing box containing “a quantity of regimental feathers” sent to the corps; for this second clothing, if not for the first, the caps may have had full feathers rather than regulation tufts.

In December 1803 William Charlesworth of Brier Hall, near Birstall, presented each volunteer with a flannel waistcoat.

On 28 May 1804 the corps was presented with “beautiful” colours by Miss Plumbe, a gift of “the liberality of the ladies of the neighbourhood”.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 12 December 1803, 4 June 1804, 8 June, 24 August 1807. John Radnor, It All Happened Before. The Home Guard Through the Ages, Harrap, 1945. Dermot Jones, “Northumberland – a Volunteer Jacket c 1806”, MHS Bulletin 251, February 2013. Philip Haythornthwaite, “Northumberland – a Volunteer Jacket”, MHS Bulletin 253, August 2013.]


Bradford Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm John Hardy Jnr. Reported as about 700 strong at the end of January 1804. Six companies.

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, gold officer’s lace and white legwear. Bradford historian John James notes that in addition to the men’s white breeches with gaiters, linen trousers were worn “for changes”, and that the men’s caps had tufts. The uniforms were reported as worn “new” on 29 January 1804.

Plate 37 of Walker’s Costume of Yorkshire portrays the Bishop Blaize procession in Bradford, held in 1804 and 1811. The book was published in 1814, but many of the images were clearly drawn years before. The procession includes small figures in uniforms faced yellow that probably represent the Bradford Volunteers, given that the succeeding Morley Local Militia, I believe, wore green facings. The scale of the figures means that the details may be rather approximate. All belts are white, and all plumes and tufts appear white also. The men (of a battalion company?) wear caps with rectangular brass plates. The band are in yellow jackets, their caps without visible plates, and with a hat for the bandmaster. The bass drummer and tambourine player wear red fezzes with white turbans, yellow jackets under red shells, and yellow pantaloons with short black boots or gaiters.

The Gaunt collection at Birmingham Museum identifies a convex gilt button with the raised design of a crown over script “BV” as for this corps. (Variant script “BV” buttons are known, but it is not clear to me which might be for Bradford.)

In 2012 a junior officer’s gilt epaulette identified to this corps was sold by Dix Noonan Webb. The plain lace strap, with a crown and “BV” button, was said to have a green and gold border, but to be lined with yellow silk.

The regiment included a rifle company, commanded by John W Buck. This appears to have been a small affair initially, but was increased by resolution of the regimental committee to 60 men, Buck being commissioned captain on 29 November 1803. Willson’s chart gives their uniform as green faced black, black officer’s lace, with green pantaloons – presumably something approximating to the dress of the 95th. During the regiment’s permanent duty at Ripon in May 1804, the rifle company was said, “by the singularity of their manoeuvres, [to] attract a great concourse of spectators”.

In late October 1803 the press reported that “about 560” stand of arms had been delivered to the corps, from the York depot, said to have been “of Prussian manufacture, and remarkably strong.”

A “pair of elegant colours” was presented by Lieut Col Hardy on 23 April 1804. Hardy’s speech included a reference to the motto on both colours: “… simple but emphatic words on your Regimental Banners, ‘FOR OUR COUNTRY’ …”

[Leeds Intelligencer, 31 October 1803, 30 January, 23, 30 April, 21 May 1804. Hull Packet, 08 November 1803. York Herald, 19 May 1804. George Walker, Costume of Yorkshire, 1814. John James, The History and Topography of Bradford … , London, 1841.]


Craven Legion

Infantry (two battalions, twelve companies), reported as 1200 strong in March 1804. Overall command, Col Comm Thomas, Lord Ribblesdate.  Infantry, Lieut Col Thomas Garforth, Lieut Col Richard Heber. (For the cavalry component of the Legion, see this page.)

The total cost of clothing and equipment was estimated at “not much less than £10,000” (the cavalry included) and described in 1804 as “uniformly handsome and good, but by no means tawdry or extravagant”. On 9 February 1804 the Keighley Volunteers, a component of the Legion, 200 strong, were reported to be “neatly dressed in a very smart uniform”.

Willson’s chart gives the uniform as red faced yellow – these colours confirmed by a report of March 1804 – with silver officer’s lace and white legwear.

A miniature and a related drawn portrait of Major William Birtwhistle show a coat with yellow collar and turned back lapels, silver buttons, silver epaulettes and a gilt gorget. The collar has a button at each end to which the gorget is attached, the ribbons and rosettes being yellow. It is not possible to tell if the buttons have twist holes or if they are spaced in pairs. A miniature showing the presentation of colours to the Legion’s cavalry (for which see this page) confirms this, also showing the yellow cuffs and a silver lace loop on the hat.

The flat silvered buttons of the corps show the raised design of a crown over “CL” in Old English letters; one size is known to be 19 mm in diameter.

The drawing of the gorget in the Birtwhistle portrait seems to show an outdated design of royal arms, but the actual gorget of Lieut Josias Robinson, sold on eBay, is of the regulation crown, “GR” and laurels pattern of the period.

The arms were privately purchased, and described in 1804 as:

… new and excellent, from Mr Galton, of Birmingham: – these even taking a considerable sum from the subscription purse, as Government only allow 32s. per musket.

Colours (along with those of the cavalry) were presented on 17 February 1804.

[York Herald, 11 February 1804. Lancaster Gazette, 18 February, 3 March 1804. “Birtwhistle Family History” at http://www.birtwhistle.info.]


Dewsbury Volunteers

A corps under this title, or possibly as the Dewsbury and Toothill Volunteers, was raised by John Halliby[?] in 1803. A letter from Halliby to the Lord Lieutenant, Earl Fitzwilliam, of November that year states that he cannot continue in command, and no successor can be found. Fitzwilliam notes that the corps was discontinued.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y32.]


Doncaster Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm William Wrightson. Lt Col Sir George Cooke, Bart. As noted below, the corps appears to have continued through the Local Militia period.

The corps was reported as first appearing in full uniform on 1 January 1804. Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, silver officer’s lace and white legwear. Sheardown, though not giving a source, further describes the officer’s uniform as including a white waistcoat,  white breeches with gaiters, or boots for dress, cocked hat with feather and a round hat for undress.

In late October 1803 300 stand of arms were delivered to the corps, described as “of Prussian manufacture” and “uncommonly strong”.

Colours were presented on 7 May 1804; in 1814 it was resolved to deposit these in the Mansion House along with the band instruments, “as an encouragement for the continuance of a military band, and as a memorial to posterity of the patriotism of the corps.”

[Leeds Intelligencer, 07 November 1803, 9 January, 14 May 1804. William Sheardown, pamphlet collection, Central Library, Doncaster. Charles William Hatfield, Historical Notices of Doncaster, 3rd Series, 1870.]


Ecclesfield Volunteer Infantry

Major Comm Thomas Rawson. Reported in June 1804 as “near 200” strong.

Colours were presented on 23 April 1804, the gift of Mr and Mrs Greaves, bearing the motto “Nothing is Difficult to the Brave & Faithful.” These were later deposited in St Mary’s, Ecclesfield, along with six swords and three bugles. They are still there, though the colours are reduced to their bare staffs – see this (copyright) image on the “Glass Angel” flickr photostream. The swords are those of the sergeants, and two of the bugles still have their cords and tassels which appear to have been in the facing colour of green. (Thanks to Eamonn O’Keeffe for passing on this link.)

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

[Sheffield Iris, 26 April 1804. Derby Mercury, 21 June 1804. Website of St Mary’s Parish Church, Ecclesfield.]


Halifax Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm Thomas Horton.

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

This is confirmed by the uniform of a grenadier company officer in the Duke of Wellington’s Regimental Museum at Bankfield Museum, Halifax, shown in my rough sketches.

The scarlet coat is faced in a mid-green, edged white, with nine buttons and green twist button holes on each lapel.  There are small buttons with green twist holes at each end of the collar and small buttons at each side for epaulettes, and four large buttons with twist holes on each cuff. All buttons are singly spaced, not in pairs as for the Militia. The skirts have two large buttons at the rear, with green twist holes between. The scarlet pointed pocket flaps have four large buttons underneath, with four green twist holes, the lower edges and sides of the flaps edged in white. The pleats are edged in white down to the turnback join and ornament, but not below. The edge of each white turnback is piped in green. The turnback ornament is a central small flower, possibly a rose, with two trefoils, in wire which now appears a dull grey but must be gilt or silver. This is a handsome coat with fine detail, and the use of contrasting green twist on the scarlet rear waist and pocket flaps is striking.

The gilt buttons, slightly convex, show a crown over script “HV”. The “H” and “V” are joined, which probably distinguishes the buttons of this corps from others of the same initials. The larger size of this button is known with a diameter of 20 mm.

The gilt epaulette is ornamented with wire and sequins, and shows a gilt grenade over a silver rose.  The gilt gorget is  engraved with the regulation crown, royal cipher and laurels design, the laurel sprays emerging from the letters. Associated with the coat were a white waistcoat and white breeches, but these were not on display when I saw it.

Also associated is a sword belt, plate and sash. The crimson sash has crimson and gold tassel fringes, the thicker crimson cords mixed with thinner gold. The belt is of whitened buff leather; the oval gilt plate has an applied design of a crown over “HV” in Roman capitals above a grenade. The letters, joined at the serif, are made in one piece.

An excavated battalion company belt plate has been offered on eBay, showing the same design minus the grenade, and with a raised rim. No details of the metal were given, and this may be an other ranks’ plate. It follows that the light company plate would be the same, but with a bugle horn below the letters.

Greatcoats were in wear by or before 1806.

In early November 1803 847 stand of arms, of Prussian manufacture, were delivered to the corps from the depot at York.

Colours were presented on 30 March 1804 by Lady Mary Horton, a gift from the ladies of the town and neighbourhood. These were later returned into private hands.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 6 February 1804. Hull Packet, 08 November 1803. Manchester Mercury, 11 February 1806. Capt N H Moore, Records of the 3rd Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) regiment, formerly 6th West York Militia, The Halifax Militia …, London, 1910.]


West Halifax Volunteer Infantry / Sowerby Volunteers

Lieut Col Comm James Moore.

The corps appeared first in its new uniform on 8 April 1804. Willson’s chart gives red faced green, gold officer’s lace, white legwear. The buttons identified to this corps are gilt, slightly convex, with a crown over script “WHV”.

An unsourced image on pinterest shows an unidentified oval gilt belt plate that may well be of this corps.  (The National Army Museum holds an officer’s belt plate that would confirm this, but I have not yet seen it.) The engraved design is of a crowned garter inscribed “IN DEFENCE OF OUR COUNTRY” in Roman capitals, enclosing “WHV” in script. The remains of the attached belt are black leather, indicating that accoutrement belts were, as for some other West Riding corps, at least initially in black.

At its first inspection, on 11 February 1804, the corps was reported not to have yet received any arms.

Colours were presented on 8 April 1804, and were later deposited in St Oswald’s, Sowerby.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 16, 23 April 1804. York Herald, 11 February 1804. A Sermon preached at Sowerby, on Sunday the 8th of April 1804 to the Western Corps of Halifax Parish Volunteers by Joseph Ogden, A.M. Chaplain to the Corps. Capt N H Moore, Records of the 3rd Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) regiment, formerly 6th West York Militia, The Halifax Militia …, London, 1910.]


Knaresborough Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm John Ingleby (Ingelby, Ingilby), Bt.

Willson’s chart gives, unusually for the West Riding, red faced blue (as for the Rotherham and Roundell corps), gold officer’s lace, and white legwear.


Leeds Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm Thomas Lloyd. Lieut Col William Smithson. In September 1803 formed into two battalions: the Northern under Lieut Col Ralph Clayton, the Southern under Lieut Col William Smithson, and later Lieut Col Thomas Ikin.

Uniform colours are not given by Willson, but a field officer’s coat (that of Thomas Lloyd?) is held at Leeds City Museum (thanks to Jak for the photo). The scarlet coat has a collar, lapels and cuffs in strong yellow, with five pairs of large gilt buttons on each breast of the front, with two pairs of large on each pointed pocket flap and each cuff. The collar has no buttons. The cuffs and flaps have self-coloured twist button holes, but the lapels do not. The sides and lower edges of the flaps, and the top edges of the turnbacks, are edged in yellow. The epaulettes are gilt. I have not yet been able to view the epaulette detail or the rear of the coat.

The gilt buttons on this coat are flat, the raised design showing the hanging fleece of the Leeds arms over “LV” in script – in other words, the same as those of the 1794 formation. A silvered button with the design of a crown over the same style of “LV” in script, has been found near Harrogate, and might also be of this corps, though presumably for a senior NCO.

In an article of 2007 Dixon Pickup mentions a Lloyd coatee of 1803 with the design of button that he later, in 2009, attributes to the Leeds Volunteers of 1820. I’m assuming that the first reference is mistaken, but the button in question, showing a rose in the centre of a crowned Thistle star, is shown on this page.

Robert Potter Berry mentions an oval gilt “breast plate” of Ensign Thomas Motley, which may be one of the two examples still at the Castle Museum, York. These are engraved with a crowned garter inscribed “HONI SOIT …”, enclosing script “LV” on a horizontally lined ground. In the ‘seventies one of these was on display at the Museum on a black belt, of which there now seems to be no record.

The monument to Thomas Lloyd in St Peter’s Church in Leeds dates from 1834, and its sculpted images of officers in single breasted coats do not seem to be accurate.

Clothing for the other ranks is said to have been scarlet jackets faced yellow, white breeches with black gaiters, caps with a white feather for battalion companies, and a green feather for “flank” companies, which may mean only the light companies. The feathers were replaced by tufts for all ranks in October 1805. In October 1803 1400 stand of arms were delivered, the muskets “of Prussian manufacture, and uncommonly strong”. In March 1804 complete marching order was described as “in full appointments, with knapsacks, haversacks, greatcoats, and canteens.”

cartridge box

Inevitably, in the style of the times, a “Ladies’ Subscription” was opened in October 1803 to provide flannel waistcoats.

In September 1807 both battalions appeared wearing “new military appointments,” consisting of new uniforms and white accoutrement belts, replacing the back, said to have “given them more the appearance of regular soldiers.” In the ‘seventies, a showcase devoted to the corps at Castle Museum, York, included two muskets with white slings, and a cartridge box of plain black leather on a white belt.

In October 1807 the second uniforms were described as “quite new and handsome”, giving the men a “very military appearance”. However, some payments to the subscription opened to pay for this fell into arrears, and even by May 1808 the Committee had been unable to defray the costs fully.

At their inspection on 10 October 1807, both battalions performed “a variety of Light Infantry manoeuvres … such as require an immense extent of ground”, a sight regarded by spectators as “novel”.

In late 1808, when the majority had transferred to the Leeds Local Militia, the corps was disbanded and the remaining “Volunteer stores” auctioned, including “new shoes, old great coats, jackets, breeches, long gaiters, caps, forage caps and sundry other articles.”

In early November 1803, the Corporation voted to give “a pair of elegant colours” to each battalion. The presentation was scheduled for 11 Janury 1804, but postponed until 8 March. The colours are said to have shown the motto “Pro Rege et Patria”. One pair was on display at the Castle Museum, York, in the ‘seventies, but furled, with no details of their designs visible. The King’s was a Union flag, and the Regimental had a yellow field, as expected. The staffs had spearhead finials, and the cords and tassels appeared crimson. I do not know if they have survived, or where.

A (very) rough sketch of the Leeds bass drum

A bass drum was on display at Castle Museum, York, in the ‘seventies; I have no idea of its current location. The front of the dark wood body is painted yellow, with a slightly ornate dark blue edging. (The four spaces within this decoration are yellow.) The Royal arms (post 1801) are painted in gold for the lion, crown, gold mane and the chain on the unicorn, with white pearls and a red lining to the crown, a dark blue garter (“HONI SOIT …”) and motto ribbon (“DIEU ET MON DROIT”) edged in gold, both with gold lettering. The supporters are shaded on their right edges in dark blue or black. The hoops, which hold eleven white ropes and leather slides, are painted with alternate red and dark blue diagonal bands, with dark blue wavy crosses on the red sections.

For an image of a side drum that I have ascribed to the 1794 Leeds Volunteers, but which might conceivably be of this formation, see this page.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 17, 31 October, 7 November 1803, 16 January 1804, 12 October 1807 25 April, 9 May 1808. York Herald, 17 October 1807. Robert Potter Berry, A History of the Formation and Development of the Volunteer Infantry, from the earliest times … , London & Huddersfield, 1903. Emily Hargrave, “The Early Leeds Volunteers”, Publications of the Thoresby Society, Vol XXVIII, Miscellanea, 1927. Dixon Pickup & Denis Darmanin, “Excavated Buttons of Some Interest”, Parts 1 & 2, MHS Bulletins 227, February 2007, & 237, August 2009.]


Leeds Pioneers

Captain Wade Brown. One company, its officers commissioned in June 1804, listed separately to the Leeds regiment.

Willson gives the uniform as blue, faced red, with gold officer’s lace and blue legwear.


Leeds Special Constables

On 24 November 1803 over 300 men were sworn in as special constables, to aid the civil authorities in the case of invasion. Such measures were not uncommon elsewhere, but here the force seems to have had a paramilitary nature:

They are to be armed with pikes, and such as are acquainted with the military exercise are to be provided with firelocks.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 28 November 1803.]


Leeds school corps

On their return from permanent duty at York on 26 April 1804, the Leeds Volunteers were met by a large crowd of supporters and well wishers. The local paper noted that:

A corps of dismounted cavalry, composed of genteel-looking boys, was not the least conspicuous in the crowd.

To quite what genteel institution this early cadet corps may have belonged, I do not know, though there may just be a connection with the pupils of Mr Hodgson’s Academy in Park Row, Leeds, who on 4 June 1794 (the King’s birthday), had paraded before the Mayor’s house and, “having learnt the military exercise, fired three excellent volleys”. On the other hand, this is a ten year gap, so maybe not … For another possible boys’ corps, see under Bingley, above.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 30 April 1804.]


Pontefract Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm John, Earl of Mexborough.

Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, silver officer’s lace, white legwear. (The 1797 formation of this corps had worn the same colours, with buttons in pairs.)

Numerous examples survive of a flat silvered button, which may well be from this period as well as the previous, given that no other pattern for Pontefract seems to be known. Inscribed “Pontefract / Volunteers”, the coin-like design shows a crown above Pontefract Castle, the main element of the arms of the town, on a horizontally lined ground. Examples are recorded as in 22 mm, 18 mm and 16 mm diameters.

An “elegant pair of colours”, was presented by the Countess of Mexborough on 3 April 1804. the presentation postponed from 18 January.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 16 January, 9 April 1804. Hull Packet, 10 April 1804. Diaries of T A Ward, Vol. 1, in Sheffield Archives, Cuttings, Vol 43(S).]


Loyal Ripon Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm Richard Wood.

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

A gilt button exists, 24mm in diameter, which may be of this period, or of the 1794 formation. It is inscribed “Ripon  / Volunteers”, surrounding the arms of the city, showing a hunting horn, above sprigs of palm and laurel.


Ripon Corps of Riflemen

In mid November 1803 it was reported that:

Government have declined accepting of the Corps of Riflemen, to amount to nearly of one hundred, who had offered their services under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Dalton, of the Grange, near Ripon, the quota of the West Riding Volunteers being complete.

This was presumably Thomas Dalton, previously commander of the York Volunteers of 1794.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 14 November 1803. Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 19 November 1803.]


Rotherham Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm Joshua Walker. Reported as almost 500 strong in December 1803. Later nine companies.

The corps was reported as parading in full uniform, apparently for the first time, at the presentation of its colours, probably in late December 1803 (see below). Willson’s chart, unusually for the West Riding of this period, gives red faced blue (as for the Knaresborough and Roundell corps), no officer’s lace, with white legwear.

An unidentified oval belt plate, apparently gilt, can be seen on pinterest, with no source given; this is very similar to the Leeds plates, so might be tentatively attributed to Rotherham. The engraved design shows a crowned garter inscribed “HONI SOIT …” in Roman capitals, enclosed script “RV” on a horizontally lined ground.

In mid-December 1803 it was reported that the Ladies of Rotherham were providing flannel waistcoats for the volunteers.

On 3 November 1803 480 stand of arms were delivered to the corps, of Prussian manufacture “and uncommonly strong”.

Colours were presented by the Countess of Effingham either on 28 December 1803 or 25 January 1804 – sources vary, but probably the former; these were the same colours originally presented to the Rotherham Volunteers of 1798.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 07 November, 12 December 1803, 9 January 1804. York Herald, 04 February 1804. Charles William Hatfield, Historical Notices of Doncaster, 3rd Series, 1870.]


Roundell Volunteer Infantry

Captain Comm William Roundell.

Willson’s chart gives, for this single company, unusually for the period of the West Riding, red faced blue, silver officer’s lace and white legwear.


Selby Volunteer Infantry

Captain Comm(?) John Foster Jnr. This small corps is listed in the 1803 return, but does not appear in the 1805 list or in Willson’s chart; it was presumably amalgamated or disbanded.


Sheffield Volunteer Infantry

Colonel Richard, Earl of Effingham. The regiment included an artillery company.

No uniform colours are given in Willson’s chart, but the recollections of Capt T A Ward specify green facings, as confirmed by his portrait at Sheffield Museums. This shows a darkish green collar and cuffs, one button on the collar, buttons in pairs on the front, a gilt epaulette and crimson sash. The painting lacks clear detail, but there appears to be a green twist hole to the collar button, with no such holes on the lapels.

Captains Ward & Woollen

A portrait of Capt James Woollen is reproduced rather murkily in black and white in Hoole’s Sheffield Portaiture, from which my rough sketch is taken. It also shows buttons in pairs, with no collar button, though the gorget ribbon appears to pass round the back of the neck, which must be wrong. This ribbon and rosettes are a dark shade, so green. The sword belt, which carries an oval plate, is black.

A rough drawing in a cutting in the Bland Collection claims to show a regimental button. This has a rim, and shows a crowned Royal cipher between “SHEFFIELD” and “VOLUNTEERS” in capitals. I have not seen any actual button to confirm this.

Accounts of 1804 include knapsacks and trousers, presumably of white linen. The regiment was re-clothed in February 1808.

On 3 November 1803 500 stand of arms were delivered to the corps, of Prussian manufacture “and uncommonly strong”. The accoutrements for the corps had black leatherwork, as confirmed by the sword belt in the Woollen portrait. In November 1807 Colonel Fenton wrote to Earl Fitzwilliam, the Lord Lieutenant, asking to exchange the black belts and musket slings for white, and repeated this request in January 1808. Whether this was actually done before the disbandment of the corps and the organisation of the Local Militia later that year is not clear.

The regiment’s artillery company was the direct descendant of that formed in 1798 within the corps of 1794. Its two brass six pounders were purchased at Woolwich, the costs donated by Mrs Thomas Walker, of the Walker gun-founders of Rotherham. In 1803 they were passed to the reformed Sheffield Volunteers, in 1808 to their successors, the Sheffield Local Militia, and in 1821 in perpetuity to the Trustees of the Estate of the town. The “town guns” are now at the Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield. It would seem likely that the artillery company of this period was dressed in blue faced red, in the manner of the Royal Artillery, but there is no evidence to confirm this.

A Roll in Sheffield Archives  includes fifers and drummers for each company, a pioneer in each of the seven battalion companies and the artillery company, no pioneer in the light company, but two in the grenadier company.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 07 November 1803. Sheffield, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y16. Sheffield Archives, “Newspaper cuttings relating to Sheffield”, series S Vol 10, and Bland Collection, Cuttings. Charles William Hatfield, Historical Notices of Doncaster, 3rd Series, 1870.


Skyrack (Skyrac) Volunteer Infantry

Major James Cox. Major Comm Michael Angelo Taylor.

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


Staincross Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm Walter Spencer Stanhope. Lieut Col Francis Lindley Wood, Bt.

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

A belt plate, presumably an officer’s, kept in 1939 at the Albion Street Museum in Hull, is described as showing “Staincross Volunteers” on a garter within a star. It does not seem to have survived the Second World War.

It appears that initially all officers wore caps rather than hats. In early 1805 a resolution required hats to be worn, except by light company officers, and an order of hats for officers arrived at the start of April that year. The light company officers, allowed to retain their caps, then expressed a preference for Tarleton helmets, as Adjutant John Lees informed Colonel Stanhope:

… as Mr John [Captain John Spencer Stanhope, commissioned in January 1805] belongs to the Light Infy Compy it is not necessary for him to procure a hat, as nothing is done respecting a change for them, but they would wish to wear Helmets, which of course would be most in character … The proposition of the Light Inf officers wearing Body belts & sabres – which change would be effective – very readily at this time – their present sword belts and breast plates being wanted for the new officers …

It is not clear that helmets were actually adopted.

The rather spectacular fatigue cap of Major and Adjutant John H Lees has been recorded twice by Philip Haythornthwaite, though its location has not been disclosed. It has been attributed to Lees’s time in both the Volunteers and Local Militia, but on the grounds of its colourings, I’m inclined to identify it with this corps. Apart from the black glazed leather peak, the entire cap is covered by silver lace figured with a diamond motif repeated four times within each square inch. The band is stiffened, but the upper part is unstiffened lace, constructed with bands of thin cane so as to concertina down over the right ear. The cane is covered in a fabric now ochre, but perhaps once yellow. The top is ornamented with four “leaves” of white fabric with interwoven lines of “green”, and edged with the covered cane. From the centre button hangs a silver tassel.

In September 1805 it was suggested that all ranks of the light company should wear pantaloons rather than breeches, and be issued greatcoats, the latter possibly to be extended to the whole regiment.

At the start of 1807 the process of re-clothing the regiment was begun, items apparently being tailored in-house. This was almost finished by mid April, with only the drummers’ jackets outstanding, though the old caps were considered not good enough for the new clothing.

The organisation of musicians was problematic. No band had been completed by December 1804, and by April 1805 the partly formed band was replaced:

I am ordered to call in all the Band – and in place thereof to enlarge our Drum & Fife Band – with three Brass drums, 1 Long Drum & 4 octave flutes – the other instruments to be sold to pay the expence of the new.

A clothing account of August 1806 includes “drummers lace”.

The regiment’s colours were presented by Mrs Wentworth on 16 October 1804 and were given into the keeping of the Barnsley Rifle Volunteers in 1889. The regimental colour appears to have included the device of “a cross fixed firm on a rock” with the motto “Thou shalt conquer”.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 22 October 1804. York Herald, 27 October 1804. Sheffield Archives, Spencer Stanhope Muniments 60565. John N Dransfield, A History of the Parish of Penistone, Penistone, 1906. T Sheppard, “Staincross & Osgoldcross Local Militia”, Hull Museum Publications No 204, 1939. Philip J Haythornthwaite, “A cap of the Staincross Volunteers, 1805”, JSAHR, Vol LX No 241, Spring 1982. Philip J Haythornthwaite, British Infantry of the Napoleonic Wars, 1987.]


Thorne Volunteer Infantry

Captain Comm John Ellison.

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


Upper Agbrigg Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm George Armitage (Armytage), Bt. Raised in Huddersfield and vicinity. Colours were presented on 19 March 1804.

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

A resolution of 29 December 1803 instructed “That 1,000 great-coats be firnished for the Volunter Infantry, and that Mr Whitacre and Mr Jo Haigh be requested to provide the cloth.” A resolution of 3 May 1804  provided for the commanding officer to “be empowered to order knapsacks”, if these were not allowed for by government.

An officer’s belt plate, kept at the Tolson Memorial Museum, Huddersfield, is shown in Rumsby, but with no details given. It is oval, presumably silvered, with an engraved design showing a crowned garter inscribed in Roman capitals “PRO REGE ET PATRIA”, enclosing an ornate script monogram “UAV”, above two sprays of laurel.

The Tolson Museum also has the sabre of Captain Lewis Fenton. Berry states that “The dress of the officers differed from that of the men only by the distinction of silver epaulettes. The head dress was the stove-pipe hat of the period …” The strong implication here that all ranks wore caps might be fanciful, but the National Army Museum does hold the “shako plate and plume” of Lieut Samuel Knight, commissioned in April 1805. I have not seen these, but unless Knight was in the light company, they would confirm Berry’s statement.

Volunteers or Local Militia?

A silvered button is identified to this corps, the design showing a crowned eight rayed star, at its centre a beaded circular border enclosing “UAV” in script letters.

As noted on the West Yorkshire Local Militia page, Berry’s illustration of the regimental colour of the successor unit, the Agbrigg Local Militia, is puzzling because it shows a yellow field, though it seems most likely that that regiment was faced in green. It would also surely be highly irregular for Local Militia colours to show the coat of arms of the commanding officer (still Sir George Armitage), as the regimental colour does. It’s possible that these colours are actually those of the Volunteers of 1803 carried through into later service, with the title ribbons updated in 1808.

[Robert Potter Berry, A History of the Formation and Development of the Volunteer Infantry, from the earliest times … , London & Huddersfield, 1903. John H Rumsby, “‘Attentive Soldiers and Good Citizens’: Militia, Volunteers and Military Service in the Huddersfield District 1757-1957”, in E A Hilary Haigh (ed), Huddersfield: a Most Handsome Town, Kirklees Cultural Services, 1992.]


Royal Wakefield Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm W R L Serjeantson.

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

It seems that there was some objection to the wearing of coats and hats by officers, but caps and jackets by other ranks. A meeting of the light infantry company on 5 January 1804 resolved:

That it appears to this company that any distinction in the Uniform of the officers and that of the Privates, beyond what was observed in the last corps of volunteers, would be highly unreasonable & ought not to be adopted.

A flat, gilt button identified to this corps is shown by Pickup and Darmanin in an MHS Bulletin, where it is ascribed to the 1803 formation, though on this page I have suggested that it might equally well have been worn by the previous formation of 1794. The raised design shows a crown above script “RWV”,  and the button is known in diameters of 16mm and 18.5mm.

On 3 November 1803 480 stand of arms were delivered to the corps, the muskets of Prussian manufacture “and uncommonly strong”.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 07 November 1803. Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y 32. Charles William Hatfield, Historical Notices of Doncaster, 3rd Series, 1870. Dixon Pickup, “Excavated Buttons – a Further selection”, MHS Bulletin 248, May 2012.]


Wath Wood (Wath) Volunteer Infantry

Major(?) F F Foljambe. Lieut Col Comm Samuel Walker.

Commissions were first dated 7 September 1803, but by late November the corps was still not armed, prompting their inspecting offcier to promise to effect this.

Uniform colours are not given in Willson’s chart.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 28 November 1803.]


Wharfedale (Wharfdale) Volunteer Infantry

Colonel Walter Ramsden Hawkesworth Fawkes. Lieutenant Colonel Josias Morley. The corps was recruited from the tenants and neighbours of its colonel, Walter Fawkes, a friend and patron of the painter J M W Turner. In early February 1804 it was reported as nearly 700 strong. This regiment did not transfer to the Local Militia but continued its existence.

On 11 February 1804 the corps first appeared in uniform, and was said to have presented a “soldier-like appearance”. Willson’s chart gives red faced yellow, gold officer’s lace, and white legwear.

In 1807 the regiment was due to be re-clothed, and a public subscription opened to raise funds for the purpose; this did not go too well, and was extended, at least twice, into November. Meanwhile, Fawkes was obliged to write on 14 September to the Lord Lieutenant, Earl Fitzwilliam, that his “ragged regiment” would therefore be unable to go on permanent duty that year.

An “elegant pair of colours” was presented by Colonel Fawkes on 10 April 1804, with an address “in his usual animated and nervous stile[sic]”.

[Sheffield Iris, Aug 25 1803. Leeds Intelligencer, 13 February, 16 April 1804, 26 October, 16 November 1807. Hull Packet, 24 April 1804. Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y16.]


York (City of York) Volunteer Infantry

Lieut Col Comm William Mord. Milner, Bt. Two battalions were in existence by 1808.

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

Among a group of items associated with Lieut Col Hewley John Baines (Baynes), auctioned in January 2018, was a jacket clearly attributable to this period of the corps. (Baines had also been a captain and major in the 1794 formation.) This has subsequently been offered by Waterloo Militaria. The jacket is unusual, being single breasted; either it was some form of undress, or, just possibly, such jackets were worn for dress by all officers.

The scarlet jacket has a yellow collar and cuffs, with a button and square ended button hole in gold vellum lace at each end of the collar, a button each side of the collar for epaulettes, five pairs of buttons and lace holes on the front, two pairs and lace holes on each cuff, two pairs with lace holes on each pointed pocket flap, and two at the rear waist. As far as I can tell by the photos, all buttons are the same, small size. The white turnbacks are edged in the same gold lace. The jacket front, the sides and lower edges of the flaps, and the rear skirts are narrowly edged in white. Each cuff is closed by a single yellow cloth covered button at the rear opening. There are no skirt ornaments. The jacket is lined in white.

The buttons on this jacket are gilt, slightly convex, with the raised design of a crown over “YORK / VOLUNTEERS”. The basic design resembles the Baines-related ball buttons shown and discussed on this page for the 1794 formation. That page also shows Baines’s belt plate; the design of the plate resembles the earlier buttons, but it could in theory also have been worn from 1803.

(The National Army Museum holds a field officer’s coat of this corps, an associated shoulder belt with plate, and a separate plate. I have not yet seen these and cannot document them.)

The dress of the other ranks is fairly well documented, thanks to the regimental committee’s practice of tendering for materials and tailors by advertising in the local press from September 1803. The jackets of all ranks were of sergeant’s quality scarlet broad cloth faced with yellow, waistcoats and breeches were of white cloth, and the long gaiters of black broad cloth. Jacket (“coat” size) buttons, apparently on an allowance of 30 per jacket, were gilt, “similar to those of the late York Volunteer Corps” – though identifying the pattern, as indicated above and on the page for the 1794 corps, is not straightforward. Contracts were also made for smaller buttons for waistcoats and breeches, and for gaiter buttons. The caps bore “devices”, later described as “a yellow plate with the motto ‘pro aris et focis’ – for our homes and altars, which we have no doubt they will will defend when called on,” and “regulation feathers” – presumably tufts. The first batch of 600 caps with “Regulation Feathers” was supplied, at the lowest estimate (10s each), by Messrs Haden and Moody (William Haden and Samuel Moody, both hatters of York).

The scarlet, white and black cloths purchased by the committee were supplied, along with buttons, to the tailors, who were expected to furnish “all other Articles, Facings and Trimmings”, including the yellow cloth for facings. Contracts for the clothing seem to have been made in two batches, for 556 and 417 suits respectively; these were made individually, to measure, the minimum contract being for at least one company. The uniform was first worn on 1 December, and reported as “extremely good and handsome”.

Also contracted for were regulation swords for sergeants, and belt plates to pattern for privates and sergeants, the latter in gilt. Greatcoats and knapsacks were also bought in late 1803, and tenders for greatcoat straps were invited in December.

At York, as elsewhere, local women organised to provide flannel clothing for the winter, in this case by donations of made-up items rather than of money. By mid-December 1803 the Ladies Committee had received a total of 765 shirts, 480 flannel caps, 42 pairs of stockings, 129 pairs of gloves and 64 pairs of socks – a total of 1480 items from 240 contributors. By 9 January 1804 the total of shirts had risen to 886, and flannel caps 598, including 60 caps and shirts despatched to beacon watchers in the East Riding.

On 22 October 1803 it was reported that 6,000 stand of arms for volunteer corps of the area had arrived at the depot in the city. From these, this corps would have been furnished. Some, if not all, were noted as “of Prussian manufacture, and remarkably strong.”

Colours were presented to the original regiment on 20 December 1803 by the Mayoress.

[York Herald, 10, 17, 24 Sept, 1, 22 Oct, 3, 17, 24 Dec 1803, 14 January 1804. Leeds Intelligencer, 26 September, 5 December 1803.]


York Armed Association

A meeting in mid October 1803 resolved to form an armed association, to serve within the limits of the city and surrounding area in the event of the services of the volunteers being “requisite elsewhere”, especially in case of invasion. The association was not formed in the event, perhaps because its offer was not acceptable.

[York Herald, 15 October 1803.]

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