This page attempts to set out what I can find of the basic organisation, dress and equipment of the First to Fourth Lancashire Supplementary Militia, or Second to Fifth Royal Lancashire Militia, from their formation in 1797 to the disembodiment of the two remaining regiments of the four in 1816. (The “old” or First Royal Lancashire is dealt with at length on this page, while the Lancashire Local Militia of 1808 will be found on this page.) The discussion is fairly straightforward, but it does assume a basic general knowledge of British military uniform of this era.
A quick introductory section looks at the general initial arrangements for clothing the Supplementary Militia before embodiment. After this, the page is ordered by regiment, sub-divided as appropriate for officers, other ranks, rifles, drummers and bandsmen, and colours. Published and archival sources are listed at the end, alphabetically by author’s surname; some other sources are noted in the text as we go. For a very brief general note on the system of clothing and equipping the militia, see the parent page here.
My thanks to Ben Townsend for images of pages from the Reynolds books at the V&A, and to Denis Darmanin for kindly giving permission to use his excellent drawings of buttons.
Click to enlarge images.
In 1796 legislation to augment the Militia created a new levy of “Supplementary Militia”, to be organised by counties. Arrangements for forming the new levies into regiments, and for clothing, equipping and training them were made in early 1797. In 1798 it was judged necessary to mobilise and embody this force, half in February and half in April. In the event some of the new regiments survived, while others were soon disbanded and their men drafted into the existing militia regiments.
As a stopgap, government authorised a cheap initial outfit at a total cost of £1 5s 9d – about half the clothing allowance for an embodied militia private. According to numerous identical press reports of January and February 1797, this was costed thus:
A scarlet jacket, faced with yellow £0 12 6
A white waistcoat 4 3
A pair of white cloth pantaloons 6 6
A black military cap, with a white stump feather 2 6
“Scarlet” might in practice have meant a cheaper red cloth, while the yellow facings may have been specific to certain counties, this detail perhaps copied indiscriminately from one newspaper to another. The cap was certainly intended to be a simple light infantry or undress type in leather; in Sussex the chosen cap was described as “a plain leather cap, like those used for travelling”, whatever that might suggest. “Stump” indicated a short feather tuft. Sergeants were not granted a higher allowance, beyond the minimal expense of some small distinction. The task of supplying this clothing was delegated to the lord lieutenants of counties; where they declined, it was to be ordered by the War Office from the clothier of the “regular” embodied militia of the county. The precise details of what was ordered within this general scheme varied from county to county; at present I’m unable to say exactly what was supplied in Lancashire.
Accoutrements issued by the Ordnance to the Militia were of tanned leather. (Most colonels preferred to purchase buff leather, to be whitened, at an additional cost.) The Supplementary Militia initially used the tanned leather issue, which most or all regiments would have blackened.
On mobilisation in 1798, those Supplementary militiamen selected to augment existing militia regiments were directed by a General Order of 21 April to “march with their Supplementary clothing, arms, and accoutrements”; on arrival at their new regiment the detachment was to be issued with “necessaries”: a shirt, a pair of stockings, a pair of shoes and a pair of long gaiters, the first two items of a higher quality for sergeants. According to Western, those embodied well before the Midsummer annual delivery of uniforms were allowed some temporary clothing from their new regiment to bridge the gap.
In August 1798 clothing for that year for the new Supplementary regiments became due at the full allowance, and they were variously clothed according to the preferences of their colonels, as documented below. The Lancashire regiments all wore some version of their county’s colours of red faced with “Royal” blue, and were all supplied, at least for the first year, by J N & B Pearse, one of the more dominant army clothiers, responsible already for outfitting the First Royal Lancashire Militia (see this page). At about the same time the black leather accoutrements were replaced by buff, and the regiments, losing the “supplementary” tag, were re-titled and re-numbered as Royal Lancashire Militia.
1st Lancashire Supplementary Militia / 2nd Royal Lancashire Militia
The regiment was raised at Liverpool on 1 March 1797 as the 1st Supplementary, and embodied on 10 March 1798 under Col Edward, Lord Stanley, commissioned on 1 March 1797. In June 1798 it was augmented from ten to twelve companies. On 17 August an order was received re-numbering and re-titling the regiment. In November it was reduced to ten companies. An eleventh company was added in August 1801 but again reduced in February 1802. The regiment was disembodied on 29 April 1802, and re-embodied in April 1803. In June it was augmented to twelve companies. In January 1804 permission was given to convert two of the existing twelve companies to rifles. In July 1805 the regiment was again reduced to ten companies. It was disembodied on 15 March 1816.
In the Military Library militia list of 1800, the officers’ uniform of the Lancashire supplementary battalions is given as “blue facings, gold epaulet”, implying that no gold lace was worn. Officers’ metal is confirmed as gold in the Hamilton Smith chart of 1815 (see below).
Two patterns of officer’s button are recorded. The earliest (Ripley & Darmanin 307) imitates the design of the “old” First Royal Lancashire (see this page), a crown over a beaded edged circle inscribed “1 / R L / S” on an eight rayed star, the additional “S” for Supplementary. It is recorded as gilt, slightly convex, 20 mm in diameter. The second pattern (114) again follows that of the “old” First, but now with “2 / R ● L” in the centre; it is known in gilt and in silver for senior NCO’s, in diameters of 22 or 23 mm.
A rectangular gilt belt plate in the KORR Museum at Lancaster, dated as 1809-16, has an embossed version of the design for that of the other ranks (see below): “LANCASTER” in Old English capitals above a coronet and garter inscribed “HONI ● SOIT …” etc in Roman capitals, and enclosing an applied silver rose, above two sprays of palm leaves. In the lower corners are inscribed “II” and “REGT.”, in Roman capitals.
The “design” book of army clothiers J N & B Pearse, kept at the Canadian War Museum, includes drawings and descriptions for the coats of privates, sergeants and drummers for the initial full clothing of August 1798, which replaced the temporary outfit with jackets. These are in the conservative, long skirted “old fashion”. The battalion company private’s red coat has a dark blue collar, cuffs, lapels and pointed shoulder straps, all edged in white braid. The “strapped” lapels, broader and pointed at the top, have ten buttons singly spaced, with four on each cuff and pocket flap, two at the rear waist and one for each shoulder strap. There are no loops to the buttons. The pointed cross pocket flaps are red, but, unusually, are edged in blue braid, which is also used along the top edges of the white turnbacks. The turnback ornament is a round “dubbie” of blue cloth, apparently with a button at the centre, edged in white braid. The body and sleeves are lined in Padua, with two inside pockets.
The grenadier company privates have the same coat but with red wings; presumably these are edged in white braid, and probably have six braid bars, judging by the drummer’s wings (below). The light company privates wear a shorter jacket version with red wings and rear pleats (and presumably with single turnbacks only).
The sergeants’ coats and jackets, presumably in scarlet, are of the same patterns, but with the edging in white silk braid, including on the pocket flaps, but the turnback top edges feathered with blue binding braid. For drummers, see below. By 1800 or shortly after, these coats would have been superceded by the new pattern of jacket, without lapels.
Reynolds notes that grenadier caps are shown in wear in a return of May 1807.
Initially the regiment was issued with accoutrements in blackened tanned leather. In the Autumn of 1798, following the change to the regiment’s status and the issue of new uniforms, these were replaced by whitened buff leather.
The later period is shown by the Hamilton Smith militia chart of 1815, which gives regularly spaced pointed loops, the lace with a blue stripe towards the inside edge. By 1821, as recorded by Reynolds from the Militia Clothing Book of that year, the loops were square ended and in pairs, the blue stripe towards the outside of the loop. (Reynolds notes that at this point the First, Second and Third Regiments wore their buttons singly, in pairs and in threes, respectively.)
A flat pewter button is known in incomplete form, the raised design showing a crown over “2 / RL”. (A similar type is recorded for the Third Regiment, below.)
A rectangular brass belt plate in the KORR Museum at Lancaster, dated as 1809-16, has an incised version of the design for officers (see above): “LANCASTER” in Old English capitals above a coronet and garter inscribed “HONI ● SOIT …” etc in Roman capitals, and enclosing a rose, above two sprays of palm leaves. In the lower corners are inscribed “II” and “REGT,”, in Roman capitals.
The two rifle companies authorised in 1804 each comprised 81 privates, four sergeants, four corporals and two “drummers”, also referred to as buglers. Documents supplied by the regiment in 1810 for the guidance of the Shropshire Militia, now in the Shropshire Archives, provide useful details of the initial dress and equipment of the Second Lancashire companies, which appear to have been essentially the same as that of the 95th Rifles, but with gilt buttons for all ranks.
A breakdown of costs for “Rifle Suits” (jacket, pantaloons and cap) shows that the private’s jacket was made from 1¼ yards of dark green cloth, with black facings (collar, cuffs, shoulder straps) edged or feathered with six yards of lace, presumably white. (Pearse’s notes of this period for the 95th give only three yards of white lace per jacket; the extra here might be to edge the turnbacks?) A separate entry for “skirt facing” may indicate white turnbacks. The shoulder straps were fringed, presumably in white, and the jacket used 44 gilt buttons, the same number as for the 95th – three rows of 12 on the front, two for shoulder straps, two on each cuff and two at the rear waist. The jacket was lined with serge, with linen interior pockets.
The private’s pantaloons were of the same green cloth as the jacket, with a small amount of linen, presumably for the lined parts, ten waistband and brace buttons, and just six gaiter buttons. There is no reference to gaiters as such, which would have required a larger number of buttons; unless existing short gaiters were available, the pantaloons must have been made like “gaiter-trousers”, to close over each foot with three buttons. The private’s “Cap and Feather Complete” was priced at 6s 3d.
The sergeant’s jacket was the same as the private’s, but in superior green and black cloth, at virtually twice the price. The lace, buttons, “skirt facing” and serge lining, however, were the same as for privates. A “Cheveron” was worn (single, so on the right sleeve only). The sergeant’s pantaloons were as for privates but again in superior cloth, while the cap and feather, at 9s 6d, were about half again the cost of the private’s, presumably with superior fittings, and perhaps a feather plume rather than tuft.
The cost of a bugler’s jacket was more than twice that of a private’s, but details are not given. The bugler’s pantaloons cost merely 5d more, so would have been of private’s cloth, presumably with a white lace seam stripe for the extra five pence. Buglers appear to have worn privates’ caps.
The Militia Clothing book cited by Reynolds shows that in 1821 the rifles’ coats still conformed to those of the Rifle Brigade, with the same number of gilt buttons. The use of gilt buttons for other ranks is unusual, but a likely type for the rifle companies is known (Ripley & Darmanin 113). It is recorded as gilt and convex, though I wonder if this indicates a half ball? The design is simply “2” over “R ● L”. (A similar design was worn by riflemen in the Third Regiment – see below.)
Rifle accoutrements were purchased in June 1804 from Garden and Stratton; each set, certainly in black leather, consisted of a rifle pouch belt 2½ inches wide, a sword belt, a rifle sling with brass buckles, a bullet bag, a powder horn and powder flask, and three yards of “Green Line”. The cord or “line” would have held the powder horn – and the flask? Pouches are not listed, so presumably the converted companies used their existing pouches. It is not clear whether the “sword belts” (presumably waist belts) held a short curved sword as such, or a rifle sword bayonet.
The Pearse book also shows the drummer’s coat of August 1798, cut as for the other ranks of the battalion companies and similarly in red with a dark blue collar, cuffs, lapels, shoulder straps and wings. There are four square ended lace loops on each pocket flap and four at the rear waist. As usual with drummer’s coats, the lacing is complex, and three types are used: broad, narrow and binding, of which the first two seem to be “Glasgow lace”, which I guess (probably wrongly) may be a patterned white lace. The broad lace is used on the seams – shoulder, arm, back, side and front and back of sleeves. The narrow lace is used for the loops, edging of shoulder straps and the edging and bars of the wings. It also seems to be used along the bottom edge of the pocket flap loops and buttons, inside the edging “frame”. Binding lace (of what colour?) is used to edge the collar, lapels, pocket flap “frames”, and top edges of the turnbacks. At the inside corners of the flaps this lace forms a lozenge or bastion end around each of the two buttons at the rear waist; at the tops of the inside turnback edges the binding lace forms a bastion end that meets the rear seam. Binding lace is also used for the three darts (chevrons) on each sleeve, including the edge of the pointed cuff. Above and below the two darts at each elbow, three parallel bars of lace run up the sleeve, either in narrow or binding lace – it is not clear which. The wings and three darts on each sleeve are fringed, presumably in white. The turnback ornament is a lace loop with a button at the centre. The coat is lined in Padua, with Garlix linen sleeve linings and pockets; the lapels are not lined.
It’s likely that in later years the drummer’s lace conformed to that worn by the 1st and 3rd Regiments, the broad lace in a pattern of blue and white chevrons, the narrow lace blue and white diagonals, and the looping lace white with a blue stripe.
These were received at some point soon after embodiment in 1798, and altered in 1801 following the union of Ireland with Britain.
In December 1803 the colonels of the three Lancashire Militia regiments requested Royal permission for the future use on their colours of “the antient badge of the County Palatine, the Red Rose” (A Aspinall, ed, The Later Correspondence of George III, Vol IV, 1968). This was promptly granted by a Royal letter of the 26th.
2nd Lancashire Supplementary Militia / 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia (Prince Regent’s Own)
The regiment was raised at Preston in 1797 as the 2nd Supplementary, and embodied on 25 February 1798 under Col Sir Henry Philip Hoghton, commissioned on 2 March 1797. In 1799 and 1800 it was re-numbered and re-titled, and in 1800 augmented to twelve companies. It was disembodied on 24 April 1802, and re-embodied in 1803, assembling on 4 April. Colonel Hoghton was succeeded by Col Wilson G Braddyll, commissioned Colonel on 25 December 1803. At some point (1804?) the regiment’s ten companies included a rifle company, abolished in 1829. On 26 April 1813 it was granted the title of the Prince Regent’s Own. In July 1813 it embarked for Ireland, returning in December 1815. It was disembodied on 10 January 1816.
In the Military Library militia list of 1800, the officers’ uniform of the Lancashire supplementary battalions is given as “blue facings, gold epaulet”, implying that no gold lace was worn. Officers’ metal is confirmed as gold in the Hamilton Smith chart of 1815 (see below).
Three basic types of button are recorded. One type (118) is modelled on that worn by the “old” First and the Second Regiment (see above); it is gilt, convex, with the raised design of a crown over a beaded edged circle enclosing “3 / R ● L”, all on an eight rayed star, and recorded in a diameter of 19 mm. At least three different styles of the “3” are known (above).
The second type has the design of a coronet over a simple garter inscribed “3 ROYAL ● LANCASHIRE +“, enclosing a rose, all on an eight rayed star. One version (119) is flat, gilt, with an incised design. Another (120) is gilt, convex, with an embossed design. Both are known in 19 mm diameter. A third version (121) is inscribed “3D” rather than “3”, and has a crown in place of the coronet; it is gilt and convex. Parkyn dates this general design as “subsequent to 1810”. The third basic type (Ripley & Darmanin 308), which must post-date 1813, is similar to the previous, but with a crown, and the garter inscribed “PRINCE REGENTS OWN”; it is gilt, flat, with an incised design.
An officer’s belt plate is drawn by Reynolds; it is oval, gilt, with the design of a coronet over a garter inscribed “THIRD ● ROYAL ● LANCASHIRE ●”, enclosing a rose, enamelled in red, and a small spray of palm leaves. Reynolds notes: “The centre mounted on”. Parkyn states that this design is found in a note book of the maker Jennens, and dates it to circa 1812.
The 1798 clothing is shown in the Pearse “design” book, though only in a pencil sketch; it is noted as being in the “same Fashion & Manner of Lacing” as the Fourth Supplementary, for whom see below. The private’s red jacket, in the most up-to-date style, has a dark blue collar and cuffs, the collar edged in plain white braid. There are no lapels, but nine buttons and bastion loops in white braid on the front, four on each cuff and pocket flap, and two buttons and four loops at the rear. The shortened skirts have double turnbacks, though it is not clear if the edges of these are laced. The turnback ornament in a double ended bastion loop of white braid with a button at the centre. The sleeves are lined.
The waistcoats are of kersey, and the breeches of lined cloth; these are “buttoned and holed”, I suppose meaning at the knee. The jackets of sergeants have yellow buttons, presumably gilt, suggesting that those of the privates are of white metal (see below).
For the period after 1803 the Pearse “materials” book gives brief but useful notes. The private’s jacket is now looped “9 by 3s Colestreme”, meaning nine pointed (“Coldstream”) loops arranged in threes to denote the Third Regiment. (This arrangement was previously used by the Third Supplementary – see below.) The lace is now the same as that used by the First and Second Regiments, with a blue stripe, arranged with the blue towards the outside of the loop. There are three loops on each cuff and pocket flap. A note adds cryptically “Loops six ½ Top”, which may mean that the top pair of loops was six and a half inches long. Sergeants’ jackets are noted as “same”, though presumably in scarlet with white lace.
The later period is shown by the Hamilton Smith militia chart of 1815, which, if correct, gives regularly spaced pointed loops, the lace with the blue stripe now towards the inside edge. By 1821, as recorded by Reynolds from the Militia Clothing Book of that year, the loops were again spaced in threes, the blue stripe towards the outside of the loop, and described as “Nun head” in shape – a term I take (maybe wrongly) to mean pointed. (Reynolds notes that at this point the First, Second and Third Regiments wore their buttons singly, in pairs and in threes, respectively.)
A flat pewter button is recorded (Ripley & Darmanin 117), resembling that worn by other ranks of the Second Regiment (above); the design is a crown over “3 / RL”.
Reynolds describes a cap plate for the 1800 cap, then preserved at Bristol, as of the universal pattern, but with “LANCASTER” embossed in an arch at the top above the crown, and “III” and “REGIMENT” embossed at the lower corners (see the belt plates for the 2nd Regiment, above).
For the dress of the rifle company, the Pearse “materials” notebook states tersely “Rifle as Rifle Brigade” (95th Foot). This would conform with the rifle companies of the Second Regiment (see above). As in the Second, small gilt buttons were apparently worn by all ranks; a recorded type (Ripley & Darmanin 116) is a gilt ball button resembling the rifles button worn by the Second (above); the design is simply “3” over “R ● L”. According to the 1821 Militia Book quoted by Reynolds, the dress of the rifle company remained as for the Rifle Brigade. Reynolds notes a report of October 1805 complaining that “The arms of the rifle company are dangerous, several having burst in firing blank cartridge.”
The 1798 jackets of drummers, as noted by Pearse, are red faced blue, and have yellow buttons, possibly gilt, though no other details are given. In subsequent years, judging by the 1821 Militia Book, the drummer’s lacing conformed with that used by the First Royal Lancashire (see this page and the Second Regiment above), the broad lace in a pattern of blue and white chevrons, the narrow lace blue and white diagonals, and the looping lace white with a blue stripe.
In December 1803 the colonels of the three Lancashire Militia regiments requested Royal permission for the future use on their colours of “the antient badge of the County Palatine, the Red Rose” (A Aspinall, ed, The Later Correspondence of George III, Vol IV, 1968). This was promptly granted by a Royal letter of the 26th. The original colours were replaced by a new pair in 1816.
3rd Lancashire Supplementary Militia / 4th Royal Lancashire Militia
The regiment was raised in 1797 as the 3rd Supplementary under Col Legendre (Le Gendre) Pierce Starkie, commissioned on 3 March 1797, and appears to have been nine companies strong. It was disbanded in 1799. The men were absorbed by the three remaining regiments.
Two types of button are known, both modelled on that worn by the other Royal Lancashire Regiments (see above). The first is gilt, slightly convex, with the design of a crown over a beaded edged circle enclosing “3 / R * L / S”, the “S” for Supplementary, all on an eight rayed star. The second (Ripley & Darmanin 123) is gilt, convex, with the circle enclosing “4 / R ● L”. It is recorded in a diameter of 21, 22 or 23 mm.
The Pearse “design” book shows the battalion company private’s jacket for 1798. It is in the “New Fashion”, without lapels and with shortened skirts, in red with a dark blue collar, cuffs and shoulder straps. The front has nine loops in threes – an arrangement later used by the Second Supplementary / Third Regiment (see above). The loops are pointed (“G[uar]ds Fashion”), in 3/8 inch white lace, with three loops on each cross pointed pocket flap and on each cuff, and two sets of three at the rear waist. The collar, top of cuff, pointed shoulder strap and pocket flap “frame” are all edged in the same lace, a line of which also links the three flap buttons, inside the pocket frame. At the upper inside corners of the pocket frames the edging lace is extended to form a lozenge around each of the two rear buttons. The turnbacks are edged with “Blue & White Skirt Lace”, presumably the white lace with blue stripe used by other regiments; at the top of the inner turnbacks this lace forms a bastion point at the base of the back seam. The turnback ornament is a double ended white lace loop with a button at the centre. The jacket sleeves are lined.
Similar jackets for the light company have shorter skirts, about nine inches long, but do not have pleats. No other flank company details, such as wings, are given.
4th Lancashire Supplementary Militia / 5th Royal Lancashire Militia
The regiment was raised in 1798 as the 4th Supplementary under Col Peter Patten, commissioned on 18 May 1798. It appears to have consisted of eight companies. It was disbanded in 1799. The men were absorbed by the three remaining regiments.
The Pearse “design” book describes the private’s and sergeant’s jackets for 1798 as “New Fashion Coats Laced in the same manner as Old Lancaster”, i.e. without lapels, with shortened skirts, and with nine buttons and bastion loops of lace on the front, four on each pocket flap and cuff, and two buttons and four loops at the rear waist, as worn by the First Royal Lancashire Militia (see this page). This is confirmed by a note in the Pearse entry for the Second Supplementary or Third Regiment (see above) describing its privates’ coats as cut and laced like those of this regiment. The private’s loops are of “Broad 3/8 [inch] Lace”, presumably plain white, and the collar would be edged with the same. The “Skirt Lace” is noted as “Blue & White”, meaning that the turnbacks are edged with the white lace with a blue stripe used by the other regiments. The jacket has lined sleeves and inside pockets. Buttons would be white metal. The private’s waistcoat is noted as of cloth, with a collar and welts.
The sergeant’s jacket is the same (though presumably in scarlet), but, unusually, is laced with yellow worsted braid, rather than the customary white for sergeants, to distinguish it from that of the privates. The sergeant’s buttons are also yellow, presumably gilt.
No pattern of button seems to have been recorded, perhaps because the regiment was so short lived.
The Pearse book illustrates and describes the drummer’s jacket in the same style. It is red with dark blue collar, cuffs and (probably) wings, with bastion loops. For once the lacing is fairly straightforward, all in blue and white. Broad or “middle” lace is used for the seams (shoulder, side, back, front and back sleeves), the three darts on each sleeve (including the top edge of the pointed cuff), the “frame” of the pointed cross pocket flap, plus the additional lines of “body” lace running down to each flap, plus the top edge of the wing, and possibly the three bars of lace above and below the elbow darts on each sleeve. “Middle” lace was a narrower version of the broad, of which the pattern would be alternating dark blue and white chevrons, as used by the First Royal Lancashire Militia (see this page and the Second Regiment, above.) The loops and all the edging (collar, front, turnbacks, and the line joining the four flap buttons) are in white looping lace with a blue stripe. The wings and darts are fringed, presumably in white, and the buttons are of white metal. The body is lined with Padua, and
the sleeve linings and pockets are of Garlix.
* * *
Historical Record of the King’s, Liverpool Regiment of Foot … , London, 1883.
Horse Guards, General Orders, April 21 1798, published in the Kentish Gazette, 4 May 1798.
H G Parkyn, “English Militia Regiments, 1757-1935: their Badges and Buttons”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 60, Winter 1936.
J N & B Pearse, Army contractor’s uniform design book, Textual Records 58F 3 9C, control number 19770094-013; Military tailors sample book, Textual Records 58F 3 9D, control number 19770094-011, Canadian War Museum.
Percy W Reynolds, notebooks at the V&A. (Thanks to Ben Townsend for images of the relevant pages.)
Howard Ripley & Denis Darmanin, English Infantry Militia Buttons 1757-1881, Military Historical Society, 2010.
Howard Ripley & Denis Darmanin, Scottish, Welsh and Channel Islands Infantry Militia Buttons 1757-1881 (Addendum), Howard Ripley, 2013.
Shropshire Archives, Shrewsbury: Bradford collection 190/1094-6.
J R Western, The English Militia in the Eighteenth Century, London & Toronto, 1965.
Col H C Wylly, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, Vol 1, 1741-1914, RUSI, London, 1933.