This page attempts to set out what I can find of the basic organisation, dress and equipment of the Royal South Gloucestershire Militia (also the First) from its initial embodiment in 1759 to its disembodiment in 1816. At many points a comparison can usefully be made with the dress of the North or Second Regiment, which can be found detailed on this page. In the later periods the regiment adopted some unusual light infantry touches in its clothing, involving some striking deviations from regulation.
The discussion assumes a basic background knowledge of British military uniform of this era. For a very brief general note on the system of clothing and equipping the militia, see the parent page here.
The page is ordered chronologically, by periods of embodiment, sub-divided as necessary for officers, other ranks, artillery, drummers, bandsmen and colours. Most published and archival sources cited are listed at the end, alphabetically by author’s surname; any other sources are noted in the text as we go. All images extracted from the Board of Ordnance Militia Book at the National Archives are shown under the Open Government Licence, TNA WO 44/609, with major thanks to Ben Townsend for the use of his photos. My thanks to Denis Darmanin for permission to reproduce his drawing of a button.
Click to enlarge images.
First embodiment 1759-63
Gloucestershire’s militia was organised from 1758 as two battalions, North and South, of a single regiment under the overall command of Col Norborne Berkeley, afterwards Lord Botetourt and Governor of Virginia. (Western also notes a Bristol Battalion embodied in June 1762, though I’ve not seen this mentioned elsewhere.) The South Battalion was two thirds complete by April 1759, and some of its officers first appeared in uniform at Gloucester Assizes on the 13th of that month. A “String of Waggons” carrying arms and accoutrements for the battalion was dispatched from the Tower on 22 May, and it was embodied that July; at that point it comprised eight companies, but the North just two. The North Battalion was only finally embodied on 4 April 1761.
A return of June 1761, when the two battalions were encamped at Winchester, gives the total establishment as 1,000, and their actual combined strength as 975. Of this, the South Battalion had a strength of 551 out of an establishment of 571. On 5 October the writer and historian Edward Gibbon estimated the battalion’s rank and file on parade at Winchester as just 312, the reduction probably due to sickness. Richard Brocklesby recorded that “on the latter end of the campaign of the year 1761 … the daily returns of the Gloucestershire militia regiment only amounted to near one hundred men” – a situation much improved by Berkeley’s having temporary huts to house the sick built by the regiment’s pioneers. Of the total in this battalion, Gibbon reckoned the grenadiers at one fifth, so presumably one company out of five.
After their disembodiment in or shortly after February 1763, the two battalions were separated and made distinct regiments, the South Gloucestershire later numbered as the First Regiment, with headquarters at Gloucester. On 26 July 1768, during the ensuing period of disembodiment, Frederick Augustus, Fifth Earl of Berkeley, was commissioned Colonel.
Facings, as for the North Battalion/Regiment, were certainly blue. The grenadier company would presumably have been distinguished by grenadier caps, and the pioneers by their distinctive caps. The uniforms seem to have been of acceptable style; in October 1760, when the battalion was at Cirencester, the diarist “Mrs Delaney” (Mary Granville) noted its “gay appearance”, while in November 1761, when it arrived at Bristol from the Winchester camp, the papers reported that it made “a very grand Appearance”.
Blacker records that flannel waistcoats were donated to the men of the original regiment by gentlemen and clergy of various localities. Cripps records that 896 knapsacks, at 2s 6d each, were supplied by the manufacturer John Trotter to the two battalions in 1761.
Lawson, working from an Ordnance warrant, gives the South Battalion’s regimental colour of 1759 as a blue sheet (with a Union canton) with unspecified arms, presumably those of the Lord Lieutenant, who at that time was John Howe, Second Baron Chedworth, who died in 1762. If this was the case, the arms would have been a version of those shown here: a yellow, or gold, shield with a black bar and three black wolves’ heads (“Or, a fess between three wolves’ heads, couped, sable”), with a small white or silver crescent on the bar as a mark of “cadency”, signifying a second son. If included, the crest, on a helmet and coronet, was an armoured hand with a sword impaling a black boar’s head, on a “torse” or wreath of white and purple. The supporters were a lion with black spots, and a winged allegorical figure in a blue gown with a crimson robe, and the motto “Iustus et Propositi Tenax”. The King’s colour would have been the Union flag.
Second embodiment 1778-83
The regiment was re-embodied in 1778 under Col Lord Berkeley. At Plymouth in 1781, according to Haarmann’s documentation, it was 600 men strong. In a list for 1782, among the Paterson plans, a total strength of 683 in ten companies is given. It was disembodied in 1783.
The county’s militia precedence numbers for this period, as given by Baldry, were – 1778-79: 22. 1779-80: 29. 1780-81: 17. 1781-82: 18. 1782-83: 45.
Both Parkyn and Reynolds cite a 1778 militia list giving the uniform as red with blue facings. Haarmann notes a reference to blue facings in 1781.
On display at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum is a watercolour by an unidentified local artist of men of the regiment outside Gloucester Cathedral, dated to circa 1778. Some details may be a bit uncertain, and the ground of the paper is a buff colour which does not help determine features intended for white, but even so, it is a valuable record.
Two officers are shown – Col Lord Berkeley, doffing his hat to the ladies, and an unidentified figure shown from behind, both in a form of undress. They wear scarlet coats with narrow lapels in the style of the period, without turnbacks and without lace. The buttons (which appear white but should perhaps be understood as gilt) are singly spaced, with one button each side retaining the falling collar. In one case a small gold epaulette is visible on the right shoulder. Coat linings, waistcoats and breeches are white, and the small hats, turned up high at the pack and dropping to the front point, show no lace edge, but have black cockades, buttons and short loops. Both officers wear short, curved hangers.
A family group at Berkeley Castle, painted by Ozias Humphry and dated to circa 1780, includes a more flattering representation of Col Lord Berkeley, which confirms the general look of the officer’s uniform in the watercolour. The available online image gives the impression of no buttons on much of the lapel, but those that are visible are gilt, and spaced singly, as also on the cuffs. The tops of the cuffs are edged in gold, as may also be the case for the lapels and the narrow falling collar. A gold epaulette can be seen on the right shoulder. The hat has a gold loop and button, but apparently no gold lace edging. The small waistcoat buttons are gilt, and the waistcoat and breeches have a definite buff tint.
Extensive evidence to the celebrated court hearing regarding the Berkeley peerage includes this recollection of the annual training of May 1785: “I think he [Lord Berkeley] was in his regimentals, but I cannot say exactly; for sometimes he wore a blue coat with a red collar when he was not in the field.” I’m not sure if this blue coat would have constituted a form of military undress, or if it was purely civilian.
The Osborn Militia book of 1780 (Carman, 1958) shows the men with blue facings, their buttons and white square ended loops arranged in pairs, though this last point is at odds with the evidence of the 1778 watercolour, where they are shown singly spaced.
In the watercolour, all other ranks are shown in lapelled jackets and short gaiters, suggesting a form of second dress; the lapels appear without lace loops, but since the artist has suggested them on some cuffs, this must be an open question. The jackets have full double turnbacks and the buttons are singly spaced. Lace turnback ornaments appear to be in a bow shape. Waistcoats and breeches are intended as white.
Belts and slings are white, pouches black, apparently without insignia, and the brass belt plates are rectangular. What may be men of the battalion companies wear small hats edged in white(?) lace, with black cockades, buttons and short loops. The men drilling appear to be of a battalion company; they wear red cloth forage caps with turned up semi-circular yellow fronts. A man of the light company wears a jacket with wings laced with strips, a white waistcoat and a light infantry cap with a short semi-circular front, a tall back turned up (reminiscent of the light infantry caps of the 69th Foot drawn by De Loutherbourg at Warley the same year), both with a broad white(?) edge, with a cockade and dark feather plume at the left; some insignia is vaguely suggested in white on the front.
Dating of buttons seems very much a shot in the dark, but an unidentified type is known, not recorded by Ripley and Darmanin, that seems a likely bet for this regiment, and possibly of this general period. It is flat, in pewter, the design showing “I / GM” in Roman capitals in a central circle with a rope border, the button also rope edged; in one version the design is raised, in another incised.
(Glamorgan or Guernsey are also possibilities, I suppose, but seem less probable.)
The watercolour shows a drummer in useful detail. His jacket is white with scarlet facings and white turnbacks. The buttons are spaced singly and have square ended lace loops, including on the cross pocket flaps. The lacing is relatively simple, compared to later versions (see below, later embodiments), with narrow lace for the loops and turnback ornament, and to edge the collar, lapels and round cuffs; a broad lace is used over the seams (only the sleeve seams are visible), for the five upward sleeve darts, and to to edge the wings. The broad lace is shown with red chevrons; this may be artistic licence, but can be compared with the known later pattern (below). The hat is edged in white lace, with cockade, button and loop. The front of the drum is painted blue, with some design vaguely suggested, and the drum hoops are red.
I assume that for full dress a bearskin cap would have been worn. The white and scarlet colour scheme was still used at a later date (see below) and was also used by the North Gloucestershire (see this page).
Third embodiment 1793-1802
The regiment was re-embodied in 1793. On 14 March 1794 Col Lord Berkeley was commissioned a colonel in the army for the duration of this embodiment. The “Royal” title was first used by the sister Northern Regiment in 1795, so this may have been the case also here. The regiment was briefly disembodied with the peace of 1802.
The county’s militia precedence number for this period was 8.
Parkyn notes that the Military Library of 1800 gives the uniform as red with blue facings, and gold lace and epaulette for officers.
In the Royal Collection is a watercolour by Robert Dighton of Col Lord Berkeley (0811, Miller & Dawnay 709, plate 262), published as a print in 1801 with the title A NOBLE COMMANDER from SOUTH GLOUCESTER taken on the STEYNE at BRIGHTON; copies are at the NPG, the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum and elsewhere. The watercolour and print are the same except that a crimson sash is added to the latter; accuracy of colouring on the print varies. The coat is an early sign of the tendency of the regiment to style itself in this decade as light infantry; it is single breasted, with three rows of multiple small gilt buttons extending to the shoulder on the outer rows, which must number over thirty. The cross pocket flaps have six scarlet twist holes with six buttons below, with the same number of buttons presumably on each cuff, on which blue twist holes are indicated. The collar, front edge of coat, tops of cuffs and pocket flaps sides and lower edge are narrowly edged in white. The turnbacks are edged in narrow blue lace, and the skirt ornament appears to be a button on a “dubby” of white edged in blue (see also below). The heavy gilt epaulettes have a silver garter star with a red cross. The hat has a white over red plume, a gold lace loop and gold and crimson tassels. A sabre is worn on a white waist belt with gilt lion’s head fittings. White breeches and gloves are worn.
Dighton made watercolours of other officers of the regiment, but these are from a few years later, and are discussed under the next embodiment.
The evolution of the men’s clothing through this period is well documented. For the earlier part we have a print after Scott, published in 1797, though the image dated by some authorities to 1792 or 1793; this is drawn and described by Lawson and Reynolds, and a watercolour version is at the Soldiers of Gloucester Museum. The coat is of orthodox cut, faced blue, with pointed loops spaced singly. The standing collar, with two loops and buttons, and the fringed shoulder straps are edged with white lace; a tracing of the print by “JCL” consulted by Reynolds also shows narrow white edging to the lapels and tops of cuffs, though Reynolds notes that he himself, working from another copy, had recorded these edges as plain, and this seems to be the case in the watercolour version. Scott shows the looping lace with a red line on the inside (but see under the next embodiment, below). The hat has a white feather, the waistcoat and breeches are white, the black gaiters have white metal buttons, and the brass shoulder belt plate is rectangular, or perhaps square, as noted in the previous embodiment.
Patterns for the later years appear in the “design” book of clothiers J N & B Pearse, at the Canadian War Museum. The “Old Fashion” private’s coat for 1798 (so worn 1798-99) is a good match for that shown by Scott, except that the lapels are now cut wide at the top, and slanting away at the lower end. Buttons and pointed loops remain the same, and the coat is now “Bound all Round” with the looping lace, apparently meaning round the collar, shoulder straps, lapels, tops of cuffs and side and lower pocket flap edges. The cuff closes with a small button at the wrist. The turnbacks are edged with blue “skirt lace”, and the skirt ornament is a “dubby”, probably a button on a disc of white edged blue. The edged shoulder straps have a tuft of white fringe, and are made separately to the flank company wings.
The grenadier company wing is complex. The ground is blue, and it is lined with Padua and “Stuft” – presumably padded. It is edged in white, the outer edge fringed, and laced with strips of quarter inch white braid – 19 strips in the drawing. The light company wing is halved blue and yellow (the blue probably worn on the outside), edged in white, with a zig zag “worm” of looping lace and a “Thick Fringe”. (For the later use of these wings, see the next embodiment.) The coat is lined in the “forepart” and skirts.
For a second dress, a jacket was supplied, the same as the coat but with shorter, pleated skirts, so presumably a single turnback at each side.
The sergeant’s coat and jacket are as for the private, but edged and looped with 3/8 inch white braid. The body of the sergeant’s coat is lined in Padua, the sleeve lining and pockets of Garlix.
In a radical change of style, the private’s coat or jacket for 1799-1800 is in the “New Fashion”, short skirted, with no lapels, and with a “Tommy behind”. The front has pointed loops, interestingly noted in different numbers for different sizes: nine and ten loops for smaller sizes and eleven, as in the drawing, for large. Pocket flaps and cuffs each have four buttons and loops. There is a loop (apparently without a button) on each side of the collar, and two buttons and a triangular “hat” of lace at the rear waist. The collar, shoulder straps, cuffs (including the wrist opening), pocket flaps and the rear vent below the “hat” are all edged with white binding lace. The cuff closes with a small button at the wrist. The turnbacks, which have a “bastion finish” with a button, are edged in looping lace. The flank company wings are as before. No fringe is indicated for the shoulder straps but that is probably an oversight.
The sergeant’s version is the same, but with 3/8 inch white lace, though the turnbacks are edged with private’s looping lace.
A deserter advertisement of April 1796 describes four men wearing “regimental jacket, regimental waistcoat, and grey cloth trowsers”. Note that the second dress jacket is worn here (see above), not the “first cloathing” coat. The grey undress trousers are unusual.
A fragment is known of a pewter button that might perhaps be identified to this regiment for this general period, though this is purely guesswork (Glamorgan and Guernsey might also be possibilities). The raised design shows “GM” in Roman capitals within a beaded central circle, all on an eight rayed star.
Reynolds notes that two “battalion guns”, perhaps acquired in 1794, were served by an artillery company. They were still in service in 1801, and were still in the keeping of the regiment in 1894.
The Pearse book includes a drummer’s coat for 1798-99, of the same conservative cut as the private’s, above. As for the previous embodiment, it is of white cloth with scarlet facings. Broad lace is used on the seams (arm holes, back, sides, sleeves), on the “front”, meaning the two vertical lines running down to each pocket flap, for the five downwards pointing darts on each sleeve, and apparently for the top edge of the wings. Narrower binding lace is used for the nine darts on the front above each pocket flap, to edge the pocket flap “frames”, to edge the turnbacks, and probably for the six strips on each wing. At the rear corners of each pocket frame, and at the top of the rear turnbacks, the lace is extended into bastion shapes. Private’s looping lace is used for the pointed loops (on collar, lapels, pocket flaps, cuffs and rear waist) and also to edge the collar, shoulder strap, lapels and top edges of the cuffs. A line of looping lace connects the four buttons on each pocket flap. The top edge of each cuff is indented to echo the darts, making the loop under the cuff point, unusually, shorter than the others. The cuff closes with a small button at the wrist. The shoulder straps and wings are fringed with “Th[ick] Worsted Fringe (Pairs)” in scarlet, yellow and white, presumably meaning a double thickness.
I’d assume that the drummer’s coat of 1799-1800 was in the shorter “new fashion” without lapels, like the private’s above, but there is no direct evidence of this. However, as the drum major’s coat for 1799 was in the new style, but still white faced scarlet (see below), we can surmise that those of the drummers were likewise.
No drum major’s coat for 1798-99 is noted in Pearse, but, as just mentioned, his coat for 1799-1800 follows the new style of the privates, with shorter skirts and no lapels. It is of white cloth with scarlet collar and cuffs, and turnbacks of scarlet shalloon, ending in a bastion point with a button. The coat is “feathered front Flap & behind”, which at a guess may mean that the front edge, edges of pocket flaps and rear vent were edged in scarlet. The pointed loops with the buttons are of a narrow scarlet and silver striped lace – one each side of the collar, twelve down the front and four on each pocket flap. The uppermost loops are 6½ inches long, the lowest 5 inches. At the button end of each loop is a tassel; the colour is not given, but scarlet and silver mixed seems likely, as on the bandsmen’s coat for the previous year (below). The striped lace is also used on the sleeve seams and on the five bars running between them above and below the darts. Though it’s not made explicit, it may also be used on the arm hole seams, to edge the shoulder straps, collar and “Horse shoe” shaped wings, for the six strips on each wing, for the two upward pointing darts at each elbow and to edge the pointed cuff. Fringe is used on the shoulder straps, wings, darts and top edge of cuff; no colours are given for the fringe, but scarlet, yellow and white seems possible, as previously for the drummers. On each side seam, at the top of the pleat at waist level, is a button, while the trim on the rear vent forms a lozenge at the base of the back seam.
Pearse shows three coats for the “music”, for successive years. Each is quite different, suggesting an active creativity on the part of the colonel.
The “music” coat for 1798-99 follows the cut of the private’s and drummer’s for that year, but has no lapels. It is of white cloth with scarlet collar, shoulder straps, cuffs and feathering, meaning presumably the front edge and the sides and lower edges of the pocket flaps. The 40 pointed loops (on collar, front, pocket flaps, rear waist and cuffs) are of scarlet and silver striped lace, each with a 1¾ inch scarlet and silver crepe tassel at the button end. The turnbacks are edged in the scarlet and silver lace. The ten loops each side on the front are not on lapels, but have their buttons at the outside ends, as if they were. The cuffs are pointed on the front seam, and close with two small buttons at the wrist, one above and one within the cuff; these buttons are at the pointed ends of two short horizontal lace loops, which have non-functioning buttons and tassels at the other end. The shoulder strap is fringed, though the fringe colour is not given. The coat is lined with Padua, and the sleeve linings and pockets are in Garlix.
The coat of 1799-1800 is made as the drum major’s for that year (see above), but without wings, with plain white sleeves, and with the cuff pointed at the front seam, closing at the wrist with two small buttons; these have short horizontal pointed loops in the scarlet and silver striped lace, one above and one below the cuff, while the top of the cuff and a short length of the back seam are also both laced.
Presumably the “music” coats of 1800-02 were the same, but that of 1802-03, the year of disembodiment, returns to the long tailed cut but in an entirely new style. It is now of scarlet cloth, with a scarlet collar and blue cuffs. The collar, front and turnback edges are all feathered in blue cloth. On each side of the collar is a fancy serpentine loop of gold Prussian lace on blue cloth, the edges of the blue feathered white. At each end of each loop is a small yellow ball button, the outside buttons each with a small piece of gold fringe to resemble a tassel. The loop on each side of the scarlet collar appears to be set on a scarlet patch feathered round its edge in blue. The pointed shoulder straps appear to be of gold lace. At the end of each strap, on each cuff, at the rear waist at the base of the back seam, and on the turnbacks as an ornament, is a pair of short loops forming an upwards chevron, with buttons and fringe at the centre and at each end. The top edge of the blue pointed cuff is feathered white, and the cuff closes under the wrist with two plain yellow buttons. There are no wings. The coat is lined with white shalloon and has inside pockets.
Fourth and fifth embodiments 1803-14, 1815-16
With the renewal of hostilities the regiment was re-embodied in 1803. On 22 August 1810 William Fitzhardinge Berkeley was commissioned Colonel, after the death of his father Lord Berkeley who had commanded the regiment for over 40 years. It was disembodied in 1814, re-embodied in June 1815 with the renewal of hostilities, and disembodied again in 1816. The regiment was listed for the first time as “Light Infantry” in the 1813 Militia List, but continued to include ensigns. A general order of 13 July 1815 required that the regiment be clothed as light infantry.
The county’s militia precedence number for this period was 7.
A coat of this period is drawn and described in the copy of the Hawkes tailor’s book at the National Army Museum (above – my thanks to Ben Townsend for an image of the page). Of scarlet superfine cloth, it has blue facings, collar and cuffs, with two rows of ten large gilt buttons on the front, four under each cross pointed pocket flap (and presumably on each cuff), two at the rear waist, and one small button at each side of the collar, with blue or scarlet twist holes as appropriate. It is edged throughout in white, and the turnbacks are edged with a narrow strip of blue cloth “to appear like a lace”. The “dubby” turnback ornament is a small (“breast”) button edged with a disc of white, blue and white. The body of the coat is lined with white rattinet, the skirts with white cassimere.
Three caricatures of officers by Robert Dighton are in the Royal Collection, dated to “about” 1804 in Miller and Dawnay, and to 1803-05 by Reynolds. They are of Lieut Col John Wall (0929, Miller & Dawnay 729), Capt James Walwyn (0930, M&D 730, plate 260), and an unidentified captain (0936, M&D 733, plate 261). Allowing for some Dightonesque exaggeration, hats are now larger and collars deeper. All the coat details match the Hawkes pattern above, except that the cross pocket flaps are cut straight at the lower edge, not pointed as in Hawkes. Lieutenant Colonel Wall, appropriately, wears white breeches and a white waist belt with gilt lion’s head fittings; his sword is straight. (His front buttons seem to be in rows of eight only, perhaps because of his height, or perhaps by artistic licence.) The captains, both of battalion companies, wear dark blue pantaloons with Hessian boots, and carry straight swords on white shoulder belts with oval gilt plates (see below). All metal is gilt.
Contrasting with their regulation appearance is another Dighton painting in the Royal Collection, dated 1804 by the artist, of an unidentified officer of the light company (0720, M&D 732, plate 271). This should be compared with the image below of the light company sergeant. The scarlet jacket with blue collar and cuffs, and evidently with very short tails or possibly none, is single breasted, with three rows of gilt ball buttons, reminiscent of the Colonel’s coat of 1801 (see above); eighteen buttons are visible on the outer rows, which extend to the shoulder strap. The jacket is edged in white, including down the wrist on the cuff. The collar has one button each side, and the cuffs have two buttons, with a further seven on the sleeve above, arranged vertically. The shoulder straps are of gold lace, the wings halved dark blue and yellow, as seen in the previous embodiment above, edged in gold lace with a gold lace zig zag “worm” and gold fringe. The cap has gold cords, tassels and cockade, a tall dark green feather plume, and a small silver badge on the front that might be intended for a strung bugle, though this is not exactly clear. The barrel sash is crimson and gold with gold tassels, and the waist sabre belt red leather with gilt lion’s head and snake fittings. White pantaloons are worn with Hessian boots. The gloves are white.
Orthodoxy had clearly been maintained by the time of the orders of 1811 for the dress of officers, published by Grazebrook, though with no source given:
The Officers in obedience to His Majesty’s orders are always to appear at Quarters dressed in their uniforms with their hair properly powdered.
The Coat to be made according to the regimental pattern (which is not to be deviated from) and to be worn buttoned across, and hooked at the top, no frill to be shown. Officers when dressed for dinner are to show part of the frill, with a few buttons of the lapel turned back and a little white above the handkerchief ; white Kerseymere breeches, with regimental boots (if for duty, leggings), black muslin or silk handkerchiefs (no white to be seen over the stock) and white leather gloves.
The hat, feather, sword, knot, sash, gorget, and shoulder-belt, to be in strict conformity to His Majesty’s regulations, the plate according to the Regimental pattern.
The officers of Grenadiers to wear wings according to regulations, hats looped. The Light Infantry to wear wings and caps.
The sash to be always worn and tied behind the gorget on all duties, field days and marches.
Blue pantaloons and half-boots are permitted to be worn on a march and indeed to be the general dress of the regiment, except on Sundays, when the officers will appear in white breeches and whole boots.
The senior officer on parade is at all times to be answerable that no officer falls in with his Company who is not dressed in conformity with the established regulations.
These orders clearly pre-date the forthcoming introduction of caps and jackets, and suggest an emphasis on conformity and regularity by the new colonel, with no sign of any light company specialities. Note that the grenadier company officers no longer wear grenadier caps.
By 1815, Charles Hamilton Smith’s chart shows buttons still spaced singly and lace or metal still as gold.
Ripley and Darmanin illustrate a gilt, convex button (78) that can perhaps be allotted to this general period, with the design of a crown over script “SG”. (A later type, their 79, Brinson’s E6 and E7, shows a coronet over “S.G” in Roman capitals, but is only known in silver, so more likely dates from the 1830’s.)
The precedence number 7 was current until 1833. Parkyn and Brinson refer to an officer’s oval belt plate with this number, dated to circa 1814-20, but given the oval plates shown in the Dighton images above, this may be too late a date; according to the Jennens note-book the plate is gilt, and has the “7” within a garter inscribed “Honi soit …” etc on an eight pointed star, all within another garter inscribed “Gloucester Royal South” under a ducal coronet.
Reynolds shows a second, rectangular, belt plate for this period, as traced by Samuel Milne Milne from a Hawkes pattern book; the design shows a garter under a ducal coronet, inscribed “GLOUCESTER • ROYAL • SOUTH” in Roman capitals, enclosing the precedence number “7” on an oval ground on an eight rayed star. No indication of the metal is given, though it must be essentially or completely gilt. (Brinson dates this after the plate described above, to circa 1820-25.)
Reynolds cites two inspection reports, the first of September 1805 in which the clothing is judged good and “according to order”, which may mean according to regulation. The second is from March 1806, which judges the uniform “accdg to Regulation, except the lace on the men’s cloathing, which is a bad imitation of light cavalry.”
Something of this “light cavalry” influence is evident in the 1801 Dighton image of Col Lord Berkeley discussed under the last embodiment. The effect on the men’s styling is clear in two watercolours by an unidentified artist once owned by Samuel Milne Milne, then by Lawson, and now in the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum.
The first (above) is said to be, variously, of Sergeant Harpur, Hasper or Hooper of the grenadier company, but as no chevrons, sash or gloves are visible, he seems to be a private. A second version, or perhaps a very accurate copy, has been shown by Haythornthwaite. The red jacket has blue facings, with white edging to the collar and front, but apparently not the cuffs, which have the standard pointed loops. The jacket front is filled with 20 small buttons and broad pointed loops in a narrow lace, presumably plain white. The shoulder straps and wings are as known from 1798 (above), the blue wings with their multiple slanting white lace strips, though now a bit more rectangular in form. The fur cap has no plate, but does have a white plume, cord and tassels. The black gaiters have white buttons, and the brass belt plate is now oval, like that of the officers of this period (see above).
A Royal warrant of 20 November 1805 reminded colonels of militia regiments that, as in regiments of the line, “Bear Skin Caps should be considered as a part of the dress of the Grenadiers”, and required them to supply and replace such caps as necessary. An application by regimental agents for an additional allowance to cover the cost of grenadier caps was refused by the Secretary at War, who declared it a charge against the existing clothing allowance.
The second image (above), of Sergeant Cossett of the light company, makes an interesting comparison with the Dighton light company officer above. The jacket appears the same as for the grenadier, but with a round blue cuff with a single button centrally on a horizontal, double ended, pointed lace loop, with three more loops and buttons on the sleeve above. Only the collar appears to be edged in white. The heavily tufted shoulder straps and wings are blue, and the latter may be as 1798, though the pattern is hardly visible. The cap has a green chain cord and tassels, a dark green feather plume and a strung bugle horn badge in brass. The sash is crimson with a dark blue stripe. His gloves are white. The brass or gilt belt plate is oval, and the pouch belt carries a white metal whistle and chain from a brass or gilt boss. The firearm appears to be a fusil.
It may help to point out that Reynolds makes a rather inaccurate watercolour version of these two figures in his note book (along with his rendering of the Dighton light company officer), but then supplements them with an accurate line drawing (above, right).
A second Pearse book at the Canadian War Museum (the “materials” note book) contains brief details of the lacing of the private’s jacket for this period; I’m working on the assumption that this meets the regulations and probably post dates the deviant styles seen above. The jacket still has ten regularly spaced pointed loops, and the lace, if it didn’t before, now has a yellow line towards one edge, in addition to the red line already noted, as shown by an attached sample. The yellow is on the outside of the loop. Twelve yards of this lace are required, with 18 large buttons (ten front, four on each cuff) and 12 small (pocket flaps, rear waist, shoulder straps). The sergeant’s jacket is cut as the private’s, but with sergeant’s cloth and lace.
The Hamilton Smith chart of 1815 (above) shows the loops still pointed and regularly spaced, and with the same pattern of private’s lace. This lace is also sampled in the 1820 Militia book used by the Board of Ordnance. As already noted, a general order of 13 July 1815 required the regiment to be clothed as light infantry, meaning that all jackets would now use small buttons and have wings. The 1820 book prescribes double lace on the collars and wings, which have the conventional six strips of lace and white worsted fringe. Sergeants’ scarlet coats use half inch white worsted lace for the looping and 3/8 inch lace on the collar and top of cuff, with the chevrons noted as “duble” – presumably in a double row of lace. Attached samples show the sergeant’s wider lace with a herringbone texture, the narrower with a diagonal texture. The sergeant’s wings are padded, with a double thickness of white worsted fringe. The sergeant major’s coat of circa 1820 is scarlet, with silver bias lace, silver fringe and plated buttons. Some of these 1820 features may have been in use previously, during the embodied period.
The Pearse “materials” book provides brief quantities for lacing a drummer’s jacket of this period, but does not reveal the colours; the basic coat is unlikely still to be white, but could now be red or blue, though more probably red – see below. It still has ten regular pointed loops, and uses three widths of lace, the broad lace on the seams, the “body” (probably meaning lines from shoulder to pocket flap on the front) and five sleeve darts – the same number as on the coat under the previous embodiment.
The 1820 Militia book details the drummer’s coat for a later period, which is now red with blue facings. One inch broad lace is used on the seams on the sleeves and coat body as far down as the hips. Medium ¾ inch lace is used to edge the turnbacks and pocket flap “frames”, the front edge, and from the hips down the tails. Half inch narrow lace is used for the looping (not specified, but presumably still single, pointed loops), around the arm hole seams, on the wings, and in a double row on the collar. The cuffs are edged with either broad or narrow lace – the notes mention both. The wings have a double thickness of fringe. A sketch shows the sleeve unusually plain, with no darts or cuff loops, therefore no trim other than the wing, sleeve seams and top cuff edge. Some of these features may have been in use previously, during the embodied period.
No colours are given for drummer’s fringe in the 1820 Militia book, and no sample is attached. The three samples of drummer’s laces that are included are essentially in the same pattern, but in differing widths, the broad and “Middling” with a pattern of yellow and white chevrons between two red lines, while on the narrow lace the chevrons are reduced to narrow bars. (The narrow lace is not accurately drawn by Reynolds in his V&A note book.) The broad lace here matches an earlier sample in the Pearse book, indicating that this pattern had been in use for some time.
The drum major’s coat of circa 1820 is the same as that of the sergeant major (above).
At the opening of this period of embodiment the “music” coat of 1802-03 (above, previous embodiment) may still have been in wear.
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W Y Baldry, “Order of Precedence of Militia Regiments”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 57, Spring 1936.
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Daniel Brinson, Military Insignia of Gloucestershire, Colvithick, 2009.
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H G Parkyn, “English Militia Regiments, 1757-1935: their Badges and Buttons”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 60, Winter 1936.
Capt Daniel Paterson, “Maps of encampments in England and Great Britain, 1778-82, c 1784-91”, Royal Collection RCIN 734032.
Percy W Reynolds, notebooks at the V&A. (Thanks to Ben Townsend for images of the relevant pages.)
J R Western, The English Militia in the Eighteenth Century, London & Toronto, 1965.