Local Militia: West Yorkshire

This page sets out what I have on the dress and equipage of the Agbrigg, Claro, Craven, Halifax, Leeds (two battalions), Morley, Sheffield, Staincross & Osgoldcross, Strafforth & Tickhill, Wakefield, West Halifax and York City regiments. All were formed in 1808, their commanding officers’ commissions dated to 24 September 1809, with the exception of the West Halifax regiment, formed in 1812.

This is certainly nowhere near complete. When new information arrives it will be added. Click all images to enlarge.

 

General remarks

Already in 1803 the great majority of West Riding volunteer infantry corps adhered in their dress to the basics of either the 1st and 3rd West Yorkshire Militia (faced dark green) or the 2nd Militia (faced yellow), though with some variation in metal colour and button spacing. The dress of the new Local Militia regiments of 1808 was to be still more 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.

Hamilton Smith’s chart entry for the 1st WY, showing the later single spacing of lace

This prompts the question in counties with more than one militia regiment: the same as which regiment? In the West Riding the universal pattern was that of the 1st Militia: dark green facings, gold metal, buttons in pairs. (That of the 3rd Militia was essentially the same, but with silver metal for officers.) Officers’ coats and jackets show only minor variations, such as white edging or the absence of it. Some other details – buttons, belt plates – remained regiment specific.

Though no jackets survive to prove it, corporals and privates would have worn the lace of the First, with a central red stripe. It is conceivable that the men wore the white rose cap plate of the First, but this has to be speculation; the “Belgic” cap plate of the Leeds officers (see below) incorporates it as a badge.

As in other counties, at least some of the 1803 volunteer corps were issued accoutrements with black leather belts, but the indications are that most, if not all, had managed to switch to white
belts before their transition to the new Local Militia. There is some evidence below for white belts
in use across the new regiments, but none for black.

photos York Museums

A general pattern of gorget is held at York Museums. This is gilt, of the generic crowned cipher pattern but with a scroll at each end inscribed “West Yorks L.M.” It is not attributed to any specific regiment, and this example has no ribbons or rosettes. It does not follow that this exact pattern was worn by officers in every regiment, as the York example below proves.

 

 

Agbrigg Local Militia (Huddersfield)

Lieut Col Comm Sir George Armytage.

Secondary evidence here seems to contradict the general picture: Berry gives the uniform as scarlet faced yellow, and provides an attractive plate by P W Reynolds of a light company officer in these colours, jacket buttons singly spaced, buttons, wings and belt plate in silver, and with a pre-1812 cap with green feather and cords. While this might certainly be applicable to the Upper Agbrigg Volunteers of 1804, whose uniform followed that of the 2nd West Yorkshire Militia with silver metal and yellow facings, the evidence below of items in gold indicates the use of the green facings of the 1st Militia, consistent with the other regiments. On the other hand, the image in Berry of the yellow field of the regimental colour (below) argues for yellow facings, unless it was the case that the volunteer colours of 1804 were carried through into the period of local militia service with their title ribbons updated. On balance, I think we have to assume that Berry is misleading, and that green was worn.

In a National Army Museum display, before the recent reorganisation, was a sword belt plate, rectangular with rounded corners, showing a crowned garter inscribed “Pro ● Rege ● et ● Patria” and ribbons inscribed “Local / Militia” and “Agbrigg”, enclosing a rose. All is in applied relief, and all gilt, except for the silver rose, which is cut out against a gilt ground.

Ripley and Moodie show a drawing of a gilt button showing a crowned garter with the same motto enclosing “A / LM” in script, in 15 mm and 22 mm diameters.

Berry’s version of the colours, with problematic yellow field

As mentioned above, Berry illustrates the colours, “copied from the working pattern in the books of the London firm who made them”; title ribbons, garter and mottoes are shown in pale blue; the regimental colour, with a yellow field, shows the Armytage arms over the motto “Pro Rege et Patria”.

[Robert Potter Berry, A History of the Formation and Development of the Volunteer Infantry …, London & Huddersfield, 1903. Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

Claro Local Militia (Ripon)

Lieut Col Comm Richard Wood.

Held at York Museums is an officer’s scarlet coat with dark green facings. The top and front collar edges, lapel edges, tops of cuffs, side and lower edges of pocket flaps and pleats are narrowly piped in white. The gilt buttons are in pairs on lapels, cuffs, flaps and skirts, with a single button each side of the collar; buttons on the facings have dark green twist holes, and those on the flaps scarlet. A small button to hold an epaulette is placed just above the lower edge at each side of the collar. The turnbacks are narrowly edged in dark green and the points held by pairs of green trefoils. No surviving epaulettes are recorded for this coat.

Photos York Museums

The buttons on the coat match both an example seen in the ‘seventies at Castle Museum, York, and a drawing by Ripley and Moodie, being gilt and convex, and showing a simple garter inscribed “C ● L ● A ● R ● O” on an eight rayed star, enclosing “L M”.

An officer’s shoulder belt plate is kept by the National Army Museum; I have not yet seen this and cannot document it.

[Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

Craven Local Militia (Gisburn)

Col Thomas, Lord Ribblesdale.

Ripley and Moodie show a drawing of a gilt button, 19 mm in diameter, showing a simple garter inscribed “ WEST ● / ● YORK” on an eight rayed star, enclosing “C / L M”.

The gold buttons confirm dark green facings.

The British County Flags website notes that “several” white roses feature on the colours, as shown in the 1812 notebook at the National Army Museum.

 

Halifax Local Militia

Lt Col Comm Thomas Horton, Col Thomas Ramsden.

Colours presented 9 June 1809.

The gold buttons and items in green below confirm dark green facings.

Moore states that in Bankfield Museum was a sword and belt with “Halifax Local Militia” on the plate, but I have not seen this. In 2014 Bosley’s sold a belt plate of a light company officer; this is oval, gilt, with an applied silver ornamented garter inscribed “HALIFAX LO / CAL MILITIA”, surrounding an applied silver rose with a red enamel or stone centre, a gilt bugle at the top of the garter. As this follows the pattern of the 3rd West Yorkshire Militia, and was also used by the York regiment (see below), we can assume that the battalion company plate probably had a silver lion’s head in place of the bugle. An example is also kept by the National Army Museum.

Ripley and Moodie show a drawing of a gilt button, with the design of a simple garter inscribed “ WEST ● / ● YORK” on an eight rayed star, enclosing “H / L M”.

I believe that in the ‘eighties a cap (an officer’s, presumably) was kept at Keighley Museum. I have not seen this.

In 1813 the housing of Colonel Ramsden’s saddle was noted as “scarlet and green, very much embroidered with gold”.

Moore mentions a surviving kettle drum, of metal, painted green and yellow, standing on claw feet, with designs of “G R”, the white rose of York, “Ist H.L.M.” and the Prince of Wales’s feathers.

[Capt N H Moore, Records of the 3rd Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment …, London, 1910. T W Hanson, “The Early Volunteers and Cavalry of Halifax”, in Papers, reports &c, read before the Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1920. Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

Leeds Local Militia

Two battalions, sometimes termed regiments. Lieut Col Comm William Smithson. 1st or North Battalion, Lieut Col Thomas Ikin. 2nd or South Battalion, Lieut Col T W Stansfield, Lieut Col John Hill.

Surviving insignia indicate no distinctions in dress between the two battalions.

On display at Castle Museum, York, in the ‘seventies were an officer’s jacket, an officer’s cap of the 1812 pattern, and a white sword belt with plate. The jacket and cap, with a crimson sash, have been on display recently, in a costume section, but there is no sign of the sword belt or plate.

The scarlet jacket is faced dark green, with five pairs of large buttons on each breast, two pairs on each cuff, and one small on each side of the collar. The collar and cuff buttons have dark green twist button holes, but the lapels do not. In the current display, a gilt epaulette is attached to the right shoulder. The museum description states that the turnback points are each decorated with a Yorkshire rose; I  have no further details of the rear. (But see the coat turnbacks for Staincross & Osgoldcross below. The museum’s current online description states that the facings are blue, and that each breast has six pairs of buttons, but this seems to be in error. In the current display the epaulette appears to be attached wrongly to the collar button.)

The buttons match that drawn by Ripley and Moodie: gilt, convex, showing a simple garter inscribed “● L L M ● / West ● York” on an eight rayed star, enclosing a rose, in 21 mm and 15 mm diameters.

The cap is of black felt bound with black tape, with gold cords and tassels and a white over red feather. The crowned gilt plate shows the Royal cipher in relief on a stippled ground, over a rose and ribbon inscribed “Leeds ● Local ● Militia”, both applied in silver. Another such plate is shown in Kipling and King’s Head-Dress Badges of the British Army, while another was recently sold by Les Martin militaria, turning up subsequently on eBay on a faked cap.

The belt plate, like another briefly described by Berry, was rectangular with rounded corners. The design is a crowned garter with narrow “rope” edges, inscribed in capitals with serifs “● Leeds ● / West ● York” and enclosing a rose, all above a ribbon inscribed “Local”, as shown in my rudimentary sketch. All is in gilt except for the silver rose. An example of this plate (which may or may not be that once at York) is kept at the National Army Museum.

Hargrave gives this short excerpt from a printed Standing Orders of the Second Leeds Regiment of the West Riding of York Local Militia of 1810:

… at all inspections, field days with colours, upon guard, orderly duties and courts-martial, all officers (field officers and adjutants excepted) are to appear in white kerseymere breeches and long black gaiters, and with gorgets, except officers of flank companies, who are not to wear that appendage. At all ordinary parades blue pantaloons, with half boots or half gaiters are to be worn. Officers are at all times to appear
sashed, and never without their side arms.

The instruction here that flank company officers were never to wear gorgets is particularly interesting, and seems unusual.

[Robert Potter Berry, A History of the Formation and Development of the Volunteer Infantry …, London & Huddersfield, 1903. Emily Hargrave, “The Early Leeds Volunteers”, Publications of the Thoresby Society, Vol XXVIII, Miscellanea. Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

Morley Local Militia (Bradford)

Lieut Col Comm John Hardy.

Ripley and Moodie illustrate a gilt button, showing “Morley / Militia” surrounding a crown over “W ● Y / L”, 21 mm in diameter.

The gold buttons confirm dark green facings.

[Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

Sheffield Local Militia

Lieut Col Comm Francis Fenton.

An article in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of July 1883 notes that:

The uniform of the regiment was the same as the former one, viz, that of the regular York militia, red with green facings.

In the Mappin Museum, Sheffield, in the ‘seventies was a quantity of buttons of both sizes, about 19 mm and 13 mm in diameter, gilt, slightly convex, showing a crowned eight rayed star enclosing “S / L M” within a circular frame. These match the drawing in Ripley and Moodie.

Also in the Mappin was the light cavalry styled uniform of Captain John Brown of the light company, consisting of a jacket, waistcoat and barrelled sash. The scarlet jacket had collar and cuffs of a very dark green, almost black, and short skirts to about mid thigh, with white linings and turnbacks. The single breasted front had three rows of 14 small gilt ball buttons, about 13 mm in diameter, with another on each side of the collar with a twist button hole. The cuffs, about 95 mm deep and round with no rear opening, had two pairs of the same buttons, with twist holes. Two more ball buttons were at the rear waist and one under each pleat.

The white turnbacks continued in a narrow band to meet at the front waist, and their points were each decorated with a black bugle horn trimmed in silver on a black or dark green cloth patch. The wings and straps were of scarlet, decorated with narrow gold wire lace, with a similar bugle horn on scarlet in a central ring, with seven echoing “chains” along each point, and edged with a gold bullion fringe about 30 mm deep. The pointed straps were each held by a small regimental button, as above, at the lower collar edge. The straps were about 90 mm in length, the wings about 240 mm.

With this stylish jacket was a barrelled sash in hussar style, the threads crimson and the three sets of four barrels, and the cords and tassels all in gold. Dimensions in inches are indicated in my sketch.

With these, but not seen by me, was a sleeved “vest” or waistcoat, described on the accession card as having a front in a red and white horizontally striped fabric, closing with six “Old Sheffield plate” buttons showing a bugle and ribbon in relief, the back and sleeves white. Despite its association with the Brown jacket, it’s possible, though by no means certain, that this actually dated from the later rifle volunteer movement.

The two brass six pounders of the preceding volunteer corps were kept in service in the regiment; presumably the artillery company was distinctively dressed.

[Sheffield Archives, “Newspaper cuttings relating to Sheffield”, series S, Vol 10. Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

Staincross & Osgoldcross Local Militia (Monk Bretton)

Lieut Col Comm Sir Francis Lindley Wood.

Two officer’s coats exist. One, with associated items, was at Wakefield Museum in the ‘seventies, and is now at Pontefract Museum. The scarlet coat has dull dark green collar, lapels and cuffs, the top and front edges of the collar, the lapels, tops of cuffs and sides and lower edges of pocket flaps narrowly edged in white. The collar is particularly – and fashionably – deep at the front. The breast has two rows of five pairs of large buttons, two pairs of large on each cuff and each pocket flap, two large at the rear waist and two more half way down each rear pleat. One small button on each side of the collar has a dark green twist button hole; there are twist holes to the upper two pairs of buttons on each lapel, but not on the lower three. (This indicates that the lapels were not meant to be worn fully open, as arranged by both museums, but partly buttoned over; there is a hook and eye at the throat to keep the collar closed.)

The button holes on the scarlet pocket flaps are, unusually, in dark green twist, as are the four short lines running horizontally between the rear buttons. The white turnbacks are narrowly edged in dark green, and their points held by roses in silver wire with spangles at their centres. Two pairs of small raw holes, at the right lower edge of the collar and by the right shoulder seam, show where an epaulette was once held.

The second coat is at York Museums; I have not seen it, but a photo is available online. It appears to match the Pontefract coat, though no buttons are visible on the collar, nor is it possible to pick out the placement of button holes. (The front view is wrongly paired by the museum online with the rear view of the Claro coat shown above, so it’s not possible to describe the rear. The online description mentions a pair of “silver bullion epaulettes” associated with this coat, but this is also clearly in error.)

The buttons on both coats are gilt, slightly convex, matching the drawing in Ripley and Moodie. They show an eight rayed star bearing a broad ring inscribed “WY / ST OS / LM”, enclosing “ET” (for “and”).

Two pairs of epaulettes have been sold in recent years, or possibly the same pair twice, by Spink in 2006 and by Bonhams in 2012. The plain straps are of gold check lace, edged, like the crescents, with green and gold cord, with gold bullion fringes and yellow silk linings, each strap held by a small regimental button. At each side of the crescent is a bifurcated “garter end”.

Associated with the Pontefract coat is a waistcoat, a pair of breeches and a sword belt with plate. The waistcoat has a scarlet collar and front, narrowing towards the waist, the remainder being in white. A narrow band of white at the bottom edge holds a small white button, while the scarlet front closes with five small scarlet cloth covered buttons. (The breeches are buff leather and perhaps not part of the original outfit, like the brown leather belt tied round them.)

The Pontefract sword belt is of buff leather  that has now lost its whitening. The oval gilt plate has engraved ribbons at top and bottom reading “Staincross & Osgold Cross / Local Militia”, separated by “W” and “R” for “West Riding”. These enclose a crowned, elongated eight rayed star with a rose at the centre, all applied in silver. This matches another example noted in 1939 at Albion Street Museum in Hull.

[T Sheppard, “Staincross & Osgoldcross Local Militia” in Hull Museum Publications 204, 1939. Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

Strafforth & Tickhill Local Militia (Rotherham)

Lieut Col Comm Samuel Walker.

Sheardown notes the officers’ uniform as scarlet faced green. The printed Standing Orders of 1810 contain nothing on dress, but remark on the accoutrements:

The pouch to rest on the rise of the right hip, the breadth of one finger lower than the elbow when bent, and so far back as to permit the right arm to play naturally in front so as to clear the end of the pouch. The bayonet frog to be placed so far back, that, when the bayonet is in the scabbard, the left arm will play clear of it, the top of the frog to be exactly in a line with the top of the pouch, and the breast plate on the swell of the chest, covering the belts where they cross.

The British County Flags website notes that the regimental colour includes a white rose at the centre, as shown in the 1812 notebook at the National Army Museum.

[William Sheardown, Doncaster Pamphlets. Standing Orders for the Strafforth & Tickhill Local Militia, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Walker, Rotherham, May 1810, in Rotherham Librray.]

 

Wakefield Local Militia

Lieut Col Comm George Wroughton.

An officer’s sword belt plate was sold at Bosleys in 2012. This is oval, gilt, with a raised silver border and a crowned garter inscribed “Wakefield ● Local ● Regt ●”, all applied in silver, surrounding an applied silver rose on the gilt ground. An example is also kept at the National Army Museum.

Ripley and Moodie show a drawing of a gilt button with the design of a crowned garter inscribed “Honi Soit …” enclosing “L M” in script, above “Wakefield”.

The gold buttons confirm dark green facings.

The British County Flags website notes that the regimental colour includes a white rose at the centre, as shown in the 1812 notebook at the National Army Museum.

[Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

West Halifax Local Militia

Formed in 1812. Lieut Col Comm James Moore.

A button sold on eBay is gilt, slightly convex, with a simple garter inscribed “● West York ●” on an eight rayed star enclosing “W ● H”. This matches the drawing by Ripley and Moodie. Diameter 18 or 19 mm.

The gold buttons confirm dark green facings.

An officer’s shoulder belt plate is kept at the National Army Museum; I have not yet seen this and cannot document it.

The British County Flags website notes that the regimental colour includes a white rose at the centre, as shown in the 1812 notebook at the National Army Museum.

[Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

 

York City Local Militia

Lieut Col Comm Sir William Mordaunt Milner.

The copy of the Hawkes pattern book at the National Army Museum includes a description and drawing for an officer’s coat, with a sample of the facing cloth. This is of scarlet, with (dark) green lapels, cuffs and collar, with a twist hole and large button each side of the collar, five pairs with holes on  each lapel, two pairs and holes on each pocket flap, and a “soldier’s back” with two large buttons, the body lined in white ratinette, the skirt linings and turnbacks of white cassimere. There is no mention of any edging to facings or turnbacks and no details given for the turnback ornaments. The sample of green is of a very dark shade, virtually indistinguishable from black.

An officer’s jacket, with gorget, sword belt, plate and sash, was on display at the Castle Museum, York, in the ‘seventies, and the jacket and belt plate, if not the other items, are still kept at York, though there is no online photo of the jacket. It is scarlet, with collar, lapels and cuffs, like the Hawkes sample, in a shade of green so dark as to resemble black. (The museum’s online description calls it black.) The collar has one small button and twist hole at each side, the lapels five pairs of large buttons, the upper two pairs only on each side with twist holes, showing that the lapels were intended to be largely buttoned across. The cuffs have two pairs of large buttons and twist holes.

My sketch indicates no white edgings, and the rear of the jacket was not visible when I saw it. On the right shoulder is a gold check lace epaulette, the strap, with a rounded end, held by a small regimental button, with a bifurcated “garter end” at each side of the crescent and bullion fringe.

The gilt buttons show an eight rayed star bearing a simple garter inscribed “York City Local Militia”, enclosing a crown. This design matches the drawing in Ripley and Moodie.

The gorget on display at York was of the generic type, gilt with a crowned cipher and wreath.

The sword belt was of whitened leather. The belt plate is oval, gilt, with an applied silver ornamented garter inscribed “York City / Local Militia”, surrounding an applied silver rose with a red enamel, glass or stone centre, a silver lion’s head at the top of the garter, following the pattern of the 3rd West Yorkshire Militia.  An example in the Gaunt Collection at Birmingham Museums is identical, though the rose is inverted, with two petals uppermost. As this is also the same pattern as the Halifax plate shown above, we can assume that the light company plate probably had a gilt bugle in place of the lion’s head. Another example is kept at the National Army Museum.

[Howard Ripley & Bob Moodie, Local Militia Buttons, 1994.]

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