Local Militia: East Yorkshire

This page sets out a small amount of information, generally and by regiment, on the four numbered regiments of Local Militia raised in the East Riding in 1808. These regiments are listed and discussed briefly in R W S Norfolk, Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteer Forces of the East Riding 1689 – 1908, East Yorkshire Local History Society, 1965.

There’s much room for addition and improvement here, and new details will be added whenever discovered.

Click all images to enlarge.


General remarks

Hamilton Smith

The Riding’s volunteer infantry corps of 1803 had adhered largely to the the basic colour scheme of their county militia, with buff facings. (Willson’s “Volunteer Army” chart of 1806 has sometimes been interpreted as showing these units faced in yellow, but it is buff that is intended there.) In 1808 the dress of the new Local Militia regiments was intended to be completely uniform:

The clothing of the Local Militia is to be the same in every respect as that worn by the regular militia of the county.

The Hawkes drawing (photo Ben Townsend)

Walker’s plate

An entry in the copy of the Hawkes tailor’s book at the National Army Museum (thanks to Ben Townsend for an image) shows an officer’s coat of the period for the single regiment of East Yorkshire Militia. This has a “pale buff” collar, lapels and cuffs, but white turnbacks. The lapels each have eight large buttons, regularly spaced, with four on each cuff and under each pointed cross pocket flap, and two at the rear waist. Each side of the collar has two small buttons, arranged parallel to the front slope. All the buttons have twist button holes, in buff on the facings and presumably in scarlet elsewhere. The collar is lined with scarlet. There is no edging or silver lace, and the turnback ornaments are not drawn or described. The coats and jackets of the Local Militia officers would have followed this pattern closely, if the example of the 3rd Regiment below is anything to go by.

A plate in George Walker’s The Costume of Yorkshire (published in 1814, but drawn rather earlier) shows men of the “regular” East York Militia. Though some details are a bit garbled, the red jackets have regularly spaced lace loops, square ended, as confirmed in the Hamilton Smith chart of 1815 (above), where the lace is shown with a single red stripe. The men of the Local Militia regiments would have worn jackets of this pattern. Smith shows the breeches as buff, appropriately enough for a buff faced regiment, though white breeches are shown in the Walker plate and are also given for the 3rd Regiment below. (It’s possible that Smith’s chart gives buff breeches by default for buff faced regiments, even when this was not the case.)

The Walker image shows the white rose worn as a cap plate. It’s quite possible that the Local Militia followed suit.


 1st Regiment (Pocklington)

Lieut Col Comm Robert Denison (Dennison?).

At the National Army Museum is a belt plate, of an oval design closely related to that of the “regular” Militia. It is of yellow metal, so presumably an other ranks’ brass version. The border is edged with two lines of beading in relief, the beads on the outer edge being slightly larger than on the inner. The recessed design shows a crowned garter on an eight rayed star inscribed “Pro Aris et Focis”, enclosing  a “1” within “Y / E L / M”; all lettering is in serifed capitals, as shown in my rather rough sketch.

Judging by those of the “regular” and Third regiments, the officer’s plate of the First would have been of the same design, possibly with a single line of beading, but certainly silver plated.


2nd Regiment (Bridlington)

Col Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, commissioned 4 February 1809.

An unrecorded button exists. It is convex, silvered, with the raised inscription “Y / E 2 L / M” in Roman capitals, the broad strokes decorated with two parallel lines. (My thanks to Kevin Lazio Pearce for the use of his photo.)


3rd Regiment (Beverley)

Lieut Col Comm Richard Bethell, commissioned 24 February 1809.

An order book of the regiment was once kept at the East Yorkshire Regimental Museum at Beverley. I do not know its current location, but an order of early 1809 is quoted at some length by Major Roy Wilson in an article of 1984:

The officers of every rank will be pleased to conform strictly in their dress to the King’s regulations. Accordingly the mounted officers will wear white leathern or kerseymere breeches with regimental buttons and uniform boots. The other officers will appear at all times in white kerseymere breeches with regimental buttons and long black gaiters with buttons of the same description. The officers will be so good as to provide themselves with a uniform blue great coat, with regimental buttons, scarlet collar and cuffs, as no other can be allowed on any occasion.

It is expected that the officers will at all times appear with their hair cut short. They will wear a plain velvet stock with a stiffener fastened behind. White dimity waistcoats, without collars, cut short, are recommended to be worn under the regimental coat.

It’s clear from this source that legwear was white, not buff as given by Hamilton Smith (see above), and that officers’ dress was required to conform to that of the “regular” Militia (see above):

The commanding officer recommends the officers to employ as tailor on this occasion Matthew Brown of Beverley, he having been long employed in making officers’ regimentals in the East York Militia. He has procured a pattern from the regiment and has received all necessary directions.

In order to ensure uniformity in the colour of the facings Mr Rudston of Hull has been desired to procure a quantity of buff cloth for that purpose.

Patterns for other items  (epaulette, turnback ornament, belt plate, hat etc) were lodged with selected Hull tradesmen.

Wilson’s 1984 article includes a nicely drawn plate by Bill Younghusband that purports to show the coat, but this appears to be based not on a surviving example but on generic expectations; as several features (collar, shade of facings, pocket flaps, turnback ornaments) seem very doubtful to me, I do not reproduce it here.

Two types of button are known. The first, seen less often, is illustrated both by Wilson and by Ripley and Moodie (Local Militia Buttons, 1994 & 2002). Inside a beaded edge, between “East ● York” and “Local ● Militia” in serifed capitals is an eight rayed star with a “3” on a central disc. This is reported as convex, silvered and 19 mm in diameter. The second type is convex, with an eight rayed star  in relief enclosing “3 / E [star] Y / L M”. This is known in 18 mm diameter, both silvered and gilt. (Gilt buttons for this regiment, whose officers used silver metal, must presumably have been for senior sergeants.) Ripley and Moodie also show what appears to be a third type, similar to this but with a beaded edge, and in gilt – unless this is an inaccurate version of the second type?

Also at the Regimental Museum in Beverley at the time of Wilson’s writing was an officer’s oval silvered belt plate, but I do not know its present location. The pattern is similar to that of the 1st Regiment (above) and related to that of the “regular” Militia; within a double beaded border in relief the recessed design shows a crowned garter on an eight rayed star inscribed “Pro Aris et Focis”, enclosing  a “3” within “Y / E L / M”, with all lettering in serifed capitals. (The drawing by Bill Younghusband shows some small differences to the plate of the First (above), mainly in the shape of the crown and the inner ranks of rays, but for want of a photo it is shown here.)

At Hull Museum is a belt plate of a different and unusual style, rectangular with rounded corners, described as of copper. As there is no mention of its having been silvered, this must be for other ranks. The design, in relief, shows “E Y / III / L M” in Old English capitals within a lined border. (The damage is from an air raid fire of 1943.)

[Major Roy Wilson, “British Volunteer Regiments”, Military Modelling, November 1984.]


4th Regiment (Hull)

Lieut Col Comm John Wray, commissioned 24 February 1809.

Two patterns of button are known, similar to those of the 3rd Regiment, both illustrated by Ripley and Moodie. The first, with a “4” on the eight rayed star, is recorded silvered, with a 16 mm diameter. The second has a beaded edge, a star with shorter rays than on the similar button for the Third, and is inscribed “E Y / 4 / L M”. It is recorded silvered, and in gilt with a 20 mm diameter. Gilt buttons for this regiment, whose officers would have used silver metal, must presumably have been used by senior sergeants.

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