Local Militia: Worcestershire

This page is a first attempt to set out something on the dress and equipage, both generally and by regiment, of the five regiments of Local Militia formed in Worcestershire in 1808 and 1809.

So far, the slight information available to me is surprisingly complex and rather lop-sided; at a regimental level it relies heavily on surviving items associated with Lieut Col Ferdinando Smith of the (City of) Worcester Regiment. Hopefully, more can be added in time.

Reference has been made throughout to Robert Mackenzie Holden, Historical Record of the Third and Fourth Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment, 1887, and to Roger W Bennett, Badges of the Worcestershire Regiment, published by the author, 1994 – a fine compilation. My thanks are also due to Anthony Skelsey for kindly sharing his information on the Smith uniforms.

Click to enlarge all images.

 

General remarks

All the county’s volunteer infantry corps of 1803 had adhered to the the basic colour scheme of their county militia (at that time with yellow facings), though with some variations in colours of legwear and officer’s lace. The dress of the new Local Militia regiments of 1808 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.

As the Second Regiment of Militia, formed in 1798, had by now been disbanded, the pattern was that of the single remaining regiment of “regular” Worcestershire Militia, by this period with buff facings, buttons in pairs, and silver metal for officers.

It appears that the (City of) Worcester Regiment wore the pattern of button of the “regular” militia, as outlined below, so, in the absence of contrary evidence, it seems probable that the other four Local Militia regiments did the same. Because of this, where there is no clear provenance, identifications might obviously be problematic.

The Worcester Militia’s earlier yellow facings are still in evidence in the striking painting by Richard Livesay of their review of August 1803, now in Portsmouth City Museum, that forms the masthead of this blog. At some point between then and 1808, the “regular” Militia’s facings were changed to buff. Evidence for their officers’ dress is in tailors’ notes and surviving garments.

The tailor’s book of J Buckmaster in the National Army Museum has an entry for the Worcester Militia (thanks to Ben Townsend for the image), which reads:

Buff facings, Scarlet Collar lined with Buff, and to hook & eye all the way up with 3 hooks & eyes – 10 holes in Lap[el] by pairs. 4 in Cuffs, flaps & Back. 2 Buttons middle of pleat, no hole & Button each end of Collar, flaps only edged with Buff Casim[ere]. Square Cross flaps.
Dress Coat same as above only Lappels to Button back, and to hook & eye all the way up.
Buff Casimere or Stocking Pantaloons & French Grey Cloth or Stocking Do.

The Smith group light company jacket, complete with impostor epaulette

The reference to grey pantaloons indicates a date of 1813 or later. (“French grey” here suggests a lighter, bluish shade.) There are some interesting details: the collar is scarlet, not buff like the facings, and has no twist holes with its buttons. The buff edging throughout the coat is restricted to the pocket flaps only. The buff pantaloons confirm that coat turnbacks and breeches would also have been buff, befitting a buff faced regiment. (A pair of buff breeches is on display in the Worcester Regimental Museum, with the grenadier officer’s jacket mentioned below; these fasten at the knee with three small Militia buttons as described below.)

Among the group of items associated with Ferdinando Smith of the Worcester Local Militia is a light company officer’s jacket that, as it cannot have been worn by Smith himself, has to be be attributed to the “regular” Militia. The flash on the rear collar, if original, dates it to before 1808, but it is compatible with other examples here. The collar is scarlet, the lapels, cuffs and turnbacks buff. The lapels have twist holes, but the collar, the deep cuffs, the rear waist and, probably, the slash pocket flaps do not. The pocket flaps are not edged in buff. Buttons throughout are small size, as customary for light companies. The bugle ornaments on the buff turnbacks are not described in Bennett, but are presumably silver wire on a red cloth ground.

By its sale in 1983, this light company jacket had been given a completely unassociated silver scale epaulette, while the loose light company epaulettes in the Smith group that might have belonged with it are apparently inscribed for the Worcester Regiment, and are described under that regiment, below.

An entry dated 1815 in the copy at the National Army Museum of the Hawkes tailor’s book (thanks again to Ben Townsend) describes a later officer’s jacket:

A Scarlet S[uper]fine Cloth Jacket, Buff Cass[imere] lappells, Cuffs & Stand up Collar. The lappells to button back & hook & Eye all the way to bottom. 10 Twist long notch’d holes by pairs. Slash flap 4 b[utton]s. 4 b[utton]s on the Cuffs, but no holes in flaps nor Cuffs. No hole or button on Collar. Tack over back, buff turnbacks. Skirts & body lined with buff Rattinett. All plain edges except the flaps which are edged with buff.

Here the collar has neither twist holes nor buttons. Both cuffs and flaps have buttons, but neither have twist holes, which once again are confined to the lapels. Again, only the pocket flaps are edged in buff. However, in contrast to the Buckmaster coat, the collar is buff, maybe a change that marks a distinctly new pattern. Note that the lining is specified as buff also.

Elements of these three garments will be found in the coats associated with the (City of) Worcester Regiment, illustrated below.

(The dress coat in the Buckmaster entry mentioned above has no silver lace, but notes for a “regular” Militia grenadier company officer’s coat in the Hawkes book feature silver vellum lace holes throughout, the lace edged in black. A grenadier officer’s jacket in the Regimental Museum at Worcester, attributed to the “regular” Militia, also has this lacing. However, no garment with a definite Local Militia provenance is known laced in silver, so we need only note these two laced examples here in passing.)

Officer’s silver convex buttons with the design of an Old English “W” within a French “scroll” or circle [above right] are attributed by Bennett, and by Ripley and Darmanin, to the “regular” Militia between c 1800 and 1830. As noted above, these are also found on the coats firmly identified to the Worcester Regiment of Local Militia.

There is a similar ambiguity regarding the officer’s silvered rectangular belt plates. Two basic types are known: one [above left] shows the same raised design as the buttons beneath a crown, the ground behind the “W” either plain or stippled. The second [above centre and right] uses a Gothic “W”, which is also found on the distinctive plate of the East Worcester Regiment (see below). These plates are attributed to the “regular” Militia, but known hallmark dates are 1808 and 1809, which suggests that they were also worn by at least some Local Militia. In the Regimental Museum is a light company example with a bugle horn below the scroll [above right]; logically, grenadier companies would have worn the same design with a grenade.

Evidence for the dress of the other ranks is less generous. Details in the Livesay painting of the “regular” Militia of 1803 are sketchy, but the jacket is shown with square ended laces in pairs, the collar apparently edged with lace, and with buttons and holes at each end. It seems probable that the succeeding pattern was precisely the same, but with buff facings.

Hamilton Smith’s chart

The exact colours of the lace are problematic: Holden states that by 1813 it was still in pairs, with “a mixed worm of red, buff, blue and yellow”, which, whatever it means, seems remarkably complex. The Hamilton Smith chart of 1815 shows a white lace, either with a red central stripe and a yellow stripe on the inside edge of the loop, or – in Lawson’s version – red, yellow and black stripes arranged centrally. (Lawson is not always reliable, but I suppose that if the ground were buff and the black were blue, this might match Holden’s description.) Hamilton Smith shows the lace with pointed ends and spaced singly, but if this is not an error it must be a change dating from 1815, and not adopted by the Local Militia. Bennett lists a men’s pewter version of the officer’s “W” and scroll button, but no such example seems to have been found, and this has to be a surmise, though a reasonable one.

Hamilton Smith shows the men’s breeches as buff, as we would expect. (As noted on my page on the East Yorkshire Local Militia, it’s possible that Smith gives buff breeches by default for all buff faced regiments, but the references above to officers’ buff legwear suggest that this is correct in this case.) Holden states that by 1813, again as to be expected, “light grey” trousers and short gaiters were in wear.

This pattern of dress would certainly have been followed by the other ranks of the regiments of Local Militia.

[Howard Ripley & Denis Darmanin, English Infantry Militia Buttons 1757-1881, Military Historical Society, 2010. Dixon Pickup, “Worcestershire Militia. Early 19th-Century Officers’ Shoulder Belt Plates,” MHS Bulletin 126, November 1891.]

 

City of Worcester Regiment (Worcester)

Retitled as Worcester Regiment in May 1809. Lieut Col Comm Ferdinando Smith, commissioned 24 September 1808.

A group of items associated with Smith provide invaluable evidence for the dress of the county’s Local Militia, but their interpretation has been confused by three factors: first, Smith had earlier been a captain in the Worcestershire Militia, and then from 1803 Lieutenant Colonel of the Loyal Worcester Volunteers; second, not all the items were worn by Ferdinando Smith, and lastly, the associated epaulettes have been detached and re-attached wrongly over the decades. Anthony Skelsey’s published research on these is an invaluable piece of disentangling! The items that can be confidently attributed to Smith’s time as Lieutenant Colonel of this regiment appear to be a cocked hat, two coats and their associated epaulettes.

(The light company jacket from this group is discussed above, and treated there as a “regular” Militia item, though elements may have informed the equivalent Local Militia jackets. I ignore here other items from the same source that are not relevant – a Worcestershire Militia waist belt and plate of 1804 and a jacket of the Loyal Worcester Volunteers.)

The two Smith coats were both sold by Wallis & Wallis in 1983, and one was sold again by Bosley’s in 2009. (In 1983 this had an incorrect pair of light company epaulettes, but by 2009 a correct pair from the same source had been substituted.) Both coats include features noted in the Worcester Militia items discussed above. They have scarlet collars with a single small button, ten large buttons in pairs on each lapel, two large buttons at the rear waist and a pair in each skirt pleat, two pairs of large under each pocket flap, but two pairs of small buttons on each cuff. The silver “W” buttons are as discussed above. There are twist holes on the lapels, pocket flaps and rear waist but not on the collar or cuffs. The pocket flaps alone are edged in buff. The buff turnbacks are joined by bullion laurel spray ornaments. The coats are lined in white cotton. The only differences appear to be in the width of the skirts and turnbacks; the coat with the narrower skirts has straight pocket flaps, while that with the wider skirts has pointed flaps.

Bennett describes the skirt ornament for these coats as a silver wire boss with two horizontal floral sprays of silver wire, but does not note the colour of the cloth ground – perhaps red. By inference, the bugle and grenade ornaments for light company and grenadier officers would have been as on the “regular” Militia light company and grenadier jackets discussed above, in silver wire on red cloth; Bennett quotes a description of a Militia grenadier officer’s skirt ornament from the P W Reynolds Worcestershire notebook at the V&A: “Silver wire boss, from which emerges a floral spray, similar in shape to flames of grenade, worked on red cloth.”

The silver bullion epaulettes associated with the two Smith coats have lace straps, bullion crescents and fine twist wire tassels. Bennett describes the ornament as an elongated star in gold sequins, on which is a garter in silver wire on yellow cloth inscribed “WORCESTER REGT”, enclosing a silver crown on red cloth; here the crown is evidently the rank badge of a Lieutenant Colonel. The pair of loose light company epaulettes in the Smith group are described by Bennett as having the same insignia, but with a stringed bugle (presumably in silver on red cloth) in the centre. It’s fair to assume that those of a grenadier company officer would be the same but with a silver grenade.

The cocked hat with the Smith uniforms was described at auction as “black felt with braid edging, silver lace loop, Worcester Militia button, gilt on red tassels, silk lining.” No plume or tuft survives. Unless I’m mistaken, this is the hat now on display in the Regimental Museum with the Worcester Militia grenadier officer’s jacket and breeches mentioned above, in which case it was not originally associated with them. (On the dummy, it is positioned at an odd, Napoleonic angle, sideways.)

The P W Reynolds notebook at the V&A describes, from the notebook of militia colours then at the RUSI, the regimental colour as buff, inscribed “WORCESTER L.M.” in a “special design”.

[Anthony Skelsey, “Uniforms of Lieutenant-Colonel Ferdinando Smith, Worcestershire Militia”, MHS Bulletin 267 & 268, Feb & May 2017.]

 

East Worcester Regiment (Evesham)

Col Jeffery Amherst, commissioned 24 September 1808.

It is likely, as discussed previously, that the dress of this regiment conformed to that of the Worcestershire Militia and (City of) Worcester Local Militia as outlined above. No distinctive buttons have been identified.

The Gaunt collection at Birmingham Museum contains a distinctive rectangular silver officer’s belt plate, with an applied design of a gothic “W” within a crowned garter inscribed “LOCAL MILITIA EAST” on a matt background, in Roman upper case. It is hallmarked at Birmingham for 1809.

The P W Reynolds notebook at the V&A describes, from the notebook of militia colours then at the RUSI, the regimental colour as buff, of the “usual pattern”, with the title “E. WORCESTER L.M.” within a wreath. This implies the title in yellow or gold within a Union wreath.

 

North Worcester Regiment (Bromsgrove)

Lieut Col Comm Richard Williams, commissioned 24 September 1808.

It is likely, as discussed previously, that the dress of this regiment conformed to that of the Worcestershire Militia and (City of) Worcester Local Militia as outlined above. No distinctive buttons have been identified.

 

South Worcester Regiment (Upton-on-Severn)

Lieut Col Comm Hon William Beauchamp Lygon, commissioned 20 September 1809.

It is likely, as discussed previously, that the dress of this regiment conformed to that of the Worcestershire Militia and (City of) Worcester Local Militia as outlined above. No distinctive buttons have been identified.

 

West Worcester Regiment (Worcester)

Lieut Col Comm John Jefferys, commissioned 24 September 1808. Lieut Col Comm Thomas Lord Foley.

It is likely, as discussed previously, that the dress of this regiment conformed to that of the Worcestershire Militia and (City of) Worcester Local Militia as outlined above. No distinctive buttons have been identified.

The P W Reynolds notebook at the V&A notes that a piece of drummer’s lace, then in a book at the PRO, is of the same pattern as that of the Worcestershire Militia.

At the Worcestershire Regimental Museum is the framed central portion of the regimental colour. On a buff ground is painted an extremely ornate coat of arms. The shield, gold framed and highly rococo in form, seems to show a composite design that is not strictly heraldic; to the left is an anchor (and stirrup?), to the right an oval escutcheon of arms perhaps related to the Malvern area, both under a view of a river, presumably representing the Severn, with a golden cornucopia resting on its bank, symbolising no doubt the fruits of trade. This is surmounted by a trophy of weapons and flags around the helmet and shield of Britannia, and is set within a Union wreath, above a blue ribbon, edged and lettered in gold, reading “WEST / WORCESTERSHIRE – LOCAL / MILITIA”. (Any further information on the derivation of the “arms” would be welcome.)

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