Lancashire: 1st Royal Lancashire Militia 1760-1816

This page attempts to set out what I can find of the basic organisation, dress and equipment of the regiment of Royal Lancashire Militia, titled from 1798 as the First, from its initial embodiment in 1760 to its disembodiment in 1816. (The First to Fourth Supplementary Militia, or Second to Fifth Regiments, are dealt with on this page. The Lancashire Local Militia of 1808 is also not included here, but will be found on this page.) This is a bit of a marathon, but hopefully not too confusing; it does assume a basic general knowledge of British military uniform of this era. More could be added, particularly from items mentioned that are in store at the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum at Lancaster which currently cannot be viewed, and which are not among those usefully shown on the Museum’s website. I have not seen, for a start, Standing Orders for the First Regiment of Royal Lancaster Militia, published by John Stockdale, 1804, of which the Museum has a rare copy.

To my mind, the dress of this regiment, particularly during its third embodiment in the 1790’s, gives us a good example of just how its evolution could conform to the overarching requirements of army regulation, while pushing to the limit its internal regimental oddities – a privilege, perhaps, of the militia.

The page is ordered chronologically, by periods of embodiment, sub-divided for other ranks, officers, drummers and bandsmen, and colours. Published and archival sources are listed at the end, alphabetically by author’s surname; 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.

Click to enlarge images.


First embodiment 1760-62

Arms were first issued to the newly raised regiment of ten companies on 18 July 1760, and it was embodied under the command of Col Lord Strange (Smith Strange / James Smith Stanley) on 23 December that year. The regiment included two grenadier companies – the Colonel’s company and a captain’s. A letter of October 1761 announced that by the King’s command the regiment was to be called “His Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Lancashire Militia”, and the Colonel’s company to be known as the King’s Company.

Cowper’s private of 1760 – how reliable?

Other ranks

Parkyn and Sumner give the uniform as red faced blue, the latter confirmed by the officers’ dress and regimental colour (see below), and by the Royal status. An illustration in Whalley can be discounted, being clearly based on nothing more than the images of Norfolk militiamen in Townshend and Windham’s Plan of Discipline of 1759 (see this post). Another attempt in Cowper is more convincing, showing a plain hat, blue cuffs and lapels with buttons apparently in pairs, a red waistcoat and blue breeches; however, as the lace is noted as gold, which is clearly an error, and as Cowper’s sources for this image are not made clear, my feelings on this are pretty agnostic.

Regimental orders of 1762 specify gaiters for field days, “spatterdashes” (short gaiters?) for marching order, and mention the wearing of “nabsacks” (knapsacks).

An Ordnance return of 4 September 1760, quoted by Rawstorne and Whalley and abstracted by Cowper, includes for the rank and file: short muskets with bayonets, scabbards, ramrods and tanned leather slings, cartouch boxes with belts and frogs, small hangers with brass hilts, scabbards, and tanned leather waist belts. For sergeants: halberts, large hangers with brass hilts, scabbards, and tanned leather waist belts. Cowper states that Strange, without success, attempted to give up the hangers, which he considered useless, in exchange for steel ramrods instead of the wooden ones supplied.


The prime source for the officers’ dress of this period is the remarkably complete and well preserved outfit of Capt Thomas Plumbe, consisting principally of a coat, waistcoat, breeches, gaiters, sword belt and sash; this is on display in the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum at Lancaster, and is described in Cowper and Lawson.

The scarlet coat has blue lapels, cuffs and collar tabs, and is lined in blue, the pockets included. It is edged and ornamented throughout in gold lace, with ten large buttons and narrower lace loops on each lapel in pairs, and with a single button and loop at the front waist below the lapel; the front can be closed to the waist by a row of blue cloth buttons hidden in the front fly. The blue collar tabs, edged in gold lace, each fasten back with a single small collar button. The sloping, pointed pocket flaps, and the slashed and pointed scarlet flaps on each sleeve, all have two pairs of buttons and loops. The rear pleats and central slit are edged in gold lace, with a button at each end of each pleat and a pair in the centre, the top buttons set in lozenges of lace that extend in lines to a central lozenge formed by the top end of the edging on the slit, echoed by two short lines of lace below. The brass (gilt?) buttons are convex and plain, without design. On the right shoulder is a gold lace epaulette, held by a button, with a two inch gold fringe.

The sleeveless scarlet waistcoat is edged and looped with gold lace, including edging on the three rear slits. The front has 18 lace loops, spaced singly, the upper 12 with small buttons. The pointed cross pocket flaps have four loops with buttons below, spaced singly. The 12th to 14th front loops run across the pocket frame and flap edge. The skirts are lined in blue.

The scarlet breeches have gold lace tapes at the knee. The white linen gaiters button to above the knee with 28 small black bone buttons, and are held by black silk garters with gilt buckles. The narrow black leather waist belt closes with a lion’s head and snake buckle; in the museum display it is shown, inaccurately, worn over the waistcoat. The sash is crimson.

The Molyneux portrait

This uniform is also seen in a portrait by Arthur Devis of Sir Richard Molyneux and his family. (This is not in public ownership, but a black and white image is online here.) Here the lapels are shown with loops spaced singly, but otherwise this appears a close match, down to the gold lace at the breeches knees. In this context stockings and shoes are worn; the cravate is white, and the hat on the ground appears to show a button and black cockade, with gold lace edging. (A drawing in Lawson is based on this painting, with a description derived from Cowper’s notes and illustration of the Plumbe uniform. An image of an ensign in Whalley can be safely ignored, as it is copied from Townshend’s Norfolk officers, as noted above.)

Regimental orders of 1762 required officers to wear sashes, gorgets and boots for field days, and to practise the spontoon exercise.


The Ordnance return of 1760 lists for drummers: drums, carriages, ticken cases, small hangers with brass hilts and scabbards. Waist belts are not mentioned. A drum major is mentioned in an order of June 1762.


The return of 1760 describes the colours supplied by the Ordnance as: “the one an Union, – the other the Arms of the Dukes of Lancaster on a blue sheet.” The cases were of oil skin, lined with baize. The arms of the Duchy would have included the red shield with three gold lions of England, with a label of three points, each point charged with three fleurs-de-lis; other elements, if used, might have included a helm and crest, and single ostrich feathers as supporters – the heraldic history here is complex. (An illustration of the regimental colour in Whalley is unreliably inventive, and is not reproduced here.) The King’s colour was presumably unadorned.

Cowper states that these colours were silk, and presented by the King at Warley Camp on 15 October 1761, and carried possibly until 1801, including on service in Ireland. On their retirement they were hung in the house of Colonel Stanley, and on his death in 1816 sent to the adjutant for deposition in Lancaster Parish Church, “since when all trace of them has been lost”.


Second embodiment 1778-1783

The regiment was re-embodied by a warrant of March 1778, under Col Edward, Earl of Derby (Edward Smith Stanley), who had been commissioned on 14 February 1772 during the long period of disembodiment. Nine of the ten companies were commanded by captains, including a light company; the King’s or Colonel’s company, with a captain-lieutenant, was the grenadier company. The regiment was disembodied by a warrant of February 1783. That August Thomas Stanley was appointed colonel.

The regiment’s precedence numbers, as given by Baldry, were: 1778-79: 38. 1779-1780: 43. 1780-81: 30. 1781-82: 12. 1782-83: 32.

Other ranks

Parkyn, citing the Militia List of 1778, notes the facings as “royal blue”. The Osborn book of 1780, documenting the uniforms of English and Welsh militia (Carman, 1958), shows the Lancashire facings as dark blue, and the lace as square ended white loops in pairs. (Other aspects of the Osborn image are generic, so require confirmation.) Inspection reports of 1781 quoted by Chartrand simply note that the clothing, delivered that August, was “very good and well fitted”, while the arms and accoutrements, received in May 1777, were “good”.

Cowper ascribes to this period the button design of a crowned star with “R.L.” in a central circle (see below), in white metal for other ranks; I’m not entirely sure about this, though it can be confidently identified to the next embodiment.


An inspection report of 1781 quoted by Chartrand notes that officers now wore their blue facings with gold embroidered button holes, and hats with gold lace. A head and shoulders portrait of Lieut Col Geoffrey Hornby, commissioned in 1776, attributed to “the circle” of Sir Nathaniel Dance, has been sold by Bonham’s; it shows the embroidered loops, and the top lapel button holding the loop of the falling collar. A modest gold epaulette is barely visible, and the cravate is white.

Major John Chadwick was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in Hornby’s place in May 1778; his watercolour portrait is in Chetham’s Library, Manchester. As he was not replaced until 1794 it could date from after the embodiment, but has the look of this period. The facings of his scarlet coat are in a brightish shade of dark blue, with five pairs of gold embroidered holes on each lapel, apparently with pointed inner ends, and two pairs to each cuff. The skirts are not turned back. On each shoulder is a narrow gold lace epaulette with a small fringe. The gilt gorget is shown as rather broadly shaped, the white waistcoat has small gilt buttons, the breeches are off-white, perhaps leather, and the cravate white. The hat, with a gilt button and loop to the cockade, is bound in black, without gold lace.

The button (see also other ranks, above) and belt plate given by Cowper are not proven for this period to my mind, and are dealt with below.

The KORR Museum has a gorget of pre-1796 pattern attributed to this regiment, and dated rather broadly to 1759-94; the shape and style suggest this period. It is gilt, engraved with the Royal arms, the shoulders embossed with a pattern of three stylised arrows or sprigs.


Whalley and Cowper note that a fife and drum band was established by early 1779.


The colours of 1760 (see above) were apparently still carried during this period.


Third embodiment 1793-1802

The regiment was re-embodied in ten companies under Colonel Stanley by an order of January 1793. In 1797 the First to Fourth Battalions of Supplementary Militia were organised, subsequently titled as the Second to Fifth Royal Lancashire Militia, requiring the old regiment to be titled as the First from 1798. In 1798 it was augmented by two companies of volunteers from the Supplementary Militia, but reduced again to ten the following year. The Fourth and Fifth were disbanded in 1799. During this period the First served in Ireland; it was disembodied by an order of April 1802, along with the other two remaining regiments. The county’s precedence number was now 37 for this entire period.

Other ranks

Records of the appearance of the other ranks are far richer than for earlier periods. For the opening years we have nine watercolours by Edward Dayes and two prints by Scott related to these. For the second half of the same decade the changing cut of the coat is documented by drawings and notes in the Pearse clothier’s books. The Dayes images of circa 1793 are held at Quebec House in Kent, and can be found in the National Trust online collection; they comprise four of men of the battalion companies, three of light company men and two of grenadiers.

The red coats (jackets for the light company), now with standing collars, are faced in dark blue, but the lace loops (almost certainly nine per lapel) are now in bastion form and spaced singly, even though the officers and senior sergeants retained the previous double spacing and square ended loops (see below). The collars, pocket flaps and turnbacks are edged in lace. In the Dayes images the lace appears plain white; Lawson mentions here lace with a blue stripe, as for later periods, but there is reason to think that this may be only on the turnbacks, the loops being, unusually, in plain white – see below for more on this. Buttons are of white metal. The turnback ornament is not clear, but appears circular – possibly a button on a loop of lace as in some subsequent patterns (see below). Waistcoats (light company excepted) and breeches are white, the latter with three buttons above the knee; the black gaiters also have white buttons.

The battalion company hats have a large black cockade with a white button, loop and tassels, while the cords cocking the hats are also white. Feathers are not visible in three of the Dayes images, but the fourth may show a white plume; from the prints Lawson notes white, and Reynolds red over white. The coats have blue shoulder straps edged with lace, and white tufts, and the pointed cross pocket flaps have four buttons and loops on the flap.

The grenadiers wear fur caps (the height apparently exaggerated in the images) with white tassels, and presumably cords, though these must be hidden in the fur; there are no feathers. The cap plate in one Dayes image is definitely the familiar black and silver pattern of 1768, though in the other Dayes image, and in the print derived from it, the plate appears to be entirely of white metal. (Cowper suggests that grenadier caps were not worn during this period, but this is an error.) On the shoulder, the blue strap is edged in lace, but not the wing, which has lace bars and a white fringe.

The light company men wear Tarleton helmets; the colours are not always distinct, but these appear to have mid-green turbans and white feathers. The jackets are styled like the coats of the other companies, though conceivably with slanting pocket flaps. The shoulders have laced blue shoulder straps; the details of the wings are not clear, but they seem generously fringed. The red waistcoat – a traditional light company feature – is laced at the front with white bastion loops.

Judging by the clothing of 1796-97, it’s likely that during the 1793-96 period covered by the Dayes images, the sergeants wore scarlet coats faced and laced like those of the privates.

For the succeeding years, the “design” book of army clothiers J N & B Pearse, kept at the Canadian War Museum, provides thorough coverage of the dress of other ranks from the end of 1796 to 1799, illustrating the transition from the coat of the early ‘nineties to the new jacket. In all, 16 outfits are drawn and/or described, for privates, sergeants, senior sergeants and musicians, for the years 1796-97, 1797-98 and 1798-99. At this period new militia clothing was due for delivery at Midsummer, but items dated by Pearse for August and December 1796 are presumably to be counted in the 1796 clothing – was this because of a delay in the system triggered by the change of 28 January 1796 in the regulations for infantry clothing? This change of regulation required the lapels to be cut so as to close to the waist with hooks and eyes. Accordingly, the Lancashire private’s “coat” for 1796, cut in “the New Regulation fasshion”, is a shortened, jacket length, version of the earlier lapelled coat but closing at the front, retaining the skirt and turnback arrangement, but now without lace around the pocket flap, and described thus:

Blue Facings. Body Lined Padua. Sleeves Unlined. Pocketts inside. Laced with Broad White Lace,  9 Jews harp Loops, Regular, in front. Turned back with Blue & White Skirt Lace. Gr[enadier] & L[igh]t Inf[antr]y Blue Wings.

“Jew’s harp” means here what we might call bastion loops. Importantly, these are confirmed as of plain white lace, noted as “broad”, so presumably half inch. The regimental lace with a blue stripe is used only to edge the turnbacks. A turnback ornament is shown, which appears to be a button in the centre of a double ended bastion loop of lace. The shoulder straps are drawn with a squared end. The blue grenadier and light infantry wings are now shown with laced edges; both have six oblique lace bars, but the grenadier wing, as was the custom, is shown as significantly deeper. There is no indication of tufts or fringes for shoulder straps or wings; if still worn, these may have been added by the regimental tailors. Nor is there any indication whether the pocket flaps of the light company were made “slashed” (oblique) as required by the order of January 1796.

These jackets evidently remained the same for 1797-98. For 1798-99 this was altered to “New fashion without lapells”, meaning a single row of buttons with the points of the loops facing outwards, the front now resembling that of the familiar jacket of circa 1802.

The pattern for the sergeant’s coat of 1796-97 is identical to that for the privates, except that the flank company wings are shown laced along the outside edge only, though it’s hard to say if that is significant. The cloth is scarlet, as opposed to red, and the inside pockets linen. For 1797-98 a significant change was made for sergeants, the loops (lapels, cuffs, flaps, turnback ornament) and collar edging now being in silver bias lace, the loops square ended and in pairs like those of the officers, with five pairs on the lapel. The edges of the turnbacks are not laced, but feathered in blue cloth, and the turnback ornament is a square ended silver lace loop with a central button. For rank distinction, a single shoulder strap is prescribed, with an “epaulette” – presumably silver with a silver fringe; the other shoulder has a shoulder strap edged in silver lace. This proved to be a short lived fashion, and for 1798-99 the sergeant’s jackets, now cut without lapels like those of the privates for that year, revert to nine bastion loops, but with all the lacing in white silk “braid”; the turnback edges remain feathered in blue.

In 1796-97 the sergeant major’s “new regulation fashion” coat is like that of the sergeants for 1797-98, but of scarlet, faced in “dragoon blue” cloth, with loops of silver bias lace in pairs. The turnbacks are edged in silver lace, and the turnback ornament is circular, perhaps a “dubbie” of lace with a button. The body is lined with white shalloon, the sleeves and pockets with garlix. For rank, there are two silver epaulettes.

For 1797-98 the sergeant major’s coat reverts to the old, long skirted style otherwise reserved for officers, but presumably now closing to the waist; other details appear unchanged. The quartermaster sergeant’s coat for this year is the same as the sergeant major’s, but noted as of “Grenad[ie]r Materials”. These senior sergeants’ coats appear to have remained the same for 1798-99.

A different coat is prescribed for a drill sergeant for 1796-97. This is in the same cut and materials as that for the sergeant major of that year (above), but with the privates’ nine bastion loops in silver bias lace, and with the shoulder strap and single epaulette of a sergeant. These frequent alterations of style indicate some regimental uncertainty about proper modes of dress for senior sergeants during a period of transition in uniforms.

Waistcoats with collars are noted for privates, of white cloth, with kersey back, collar and welts, though for 1798-99 they are simply given as “kersey”. The sergeants’ waistcoats are also collared. Privates’ and sergeants’ breeches, interestingly, are described as “new Regulation with Strings at Knees, no Buttons at Knees”, and by 1798 as “with Ties as usual”. If an order to infantry to substitute ties for buttons was issued in 1796, I have not seen it, and it does not appear in Hew Strachan’s comprehensive compilation. Waistcoats and breeches for the sergeant major, quartermaster sergeant and drill sergeant were made up in “Major’s cloth”, a superior grade. With the change to a closed jacket front, the red waistcoat of the light company became superfluous.

Pearse’s notes and drawings for the musicians of this period are discussed below.

An inspection report of 1801 notes that men re-embodied from the disbanded Supplementary Militia were clothed “except their caps, not yet arrived.” Reynolds suggests plausibly that this indicates that the regiment had already adopted caps by this date, as per the order of 24 February 1800.

Belts were uniformly of whitened buff leather. The Dayes watercolours (above) show oval brass belt plates, which may have been a version of those worn by officers – see below. (The rectangular brass plate attributed by Cowper to 1797 is discussed in the section on the fourth embodiment, below.)

The earliest pattern of button identified to the regiment by Ripley and Darmanin – “R.L.” on a crowned star – is dated by Cowper to 1778, but I’m not confident about that. However, it was certainly worn at this time by officers (see below), so it seems safe to say that a white metal version was worn by the other ranks.

Some idea of a second dress is given by a deserter notice of 13 October 1795 in the Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser, where an absconder from the regiment is described as wearing:

… a Regimental Jacket with plain dark blue Facings; Regimental Hat, and white Linen Trowsers.

Here, “plain” must imply unlaced, therefore some form of undress jacket, while linen “Trowsers” might have an open cuff as opposed to gaiter-trousers; this may be a regimental undress, or possibly a “slop” outfit provided for recruits.


Surviving items and a fine portrait give us a good idea of the officers’ dress of earlier part of this period, from which that of the other ranks had by now diverged. A field or battalion company officer’s coat, once in the collection of C C P Lawson, is drawn and described both by Lawson and by Reynolds in his V&A notebook (thanks to Ben Townsend for an image of this). The scarlet coat is faced in dark blue. The lacing (collar edges, loops, turnbacks) is in half inch gold crooked bias lace. The turnback lace, which is on the long edges only, has a narrow edge of blue cloth showing at each side. The lapels have four pairs only (for a shorter man) of squared ended loops, with two pairs of loops on each cuff and cross pointed pocket flap, and two at the rear waist. There are two buttons at the rear and a pair in each skirt pleat. The cuffs close at the back slit with two small dark blue cloth buttons. The skirt ornaments are gold double trefoils or bows on a dark blue cloth ground.

Cowper notes a similar coat said to be in the KORR Museum at Lancaster, which I have not seen. This has the standard five pairs of loops per lapel.

These coats appear a good match for that shown in the portrait by James Northcote of Col Thomas Stanley, at the Shire Hall, Lancaster Castle, and online here. According to Whalley this was placed in the Hall in 1800, during Stanley’s period of absence from the regiment due to poor health, which dates the style to 1793-99. This also has five pairs to each lapel. Two gilt epaulettes are worn. The white waistcoat has small gilt buttons, and the white breeches are worn with boots. The hat appears unlaced, and possibly has a black feather plume, unless the dark shape is intended for the cockade.

For the light company dress we have the jacket of Lieut and Capt John Plumbe (or Plumbe-Tempest), on display in the KORR Museum, though only viewable from the front. It is cut, faced and laced like the coats but with jacket skirts, and with small buttons throughout. The turnbacks are certainly edged in gold lace, but I can’t say if the lace is edged in blue as on the coat above. I assume that the pocket flaps are oblique. The scarlet straps and wings – not blue like those of the other ranks – are edged in the gold lace, with a gold fringe and bullion. On the wing, to each side of a central disc of blue cloth bearing a gold embroidered bugle horn, are three echoing curves of lace. Cowper states that the turnback ornament is an embroidered bugle, presumably like that on the wing, on a dark blue ground.

Accompanying the jacket is a waistcoat, which is not on display. Cowper describes this as red (scarlet?), with buttons in pairs, and laced “all the way down”. The buttons must certainly be of the small size.

The buttons on these garments, as shown above in the drawings of the Lawson coat, are of the earliest pattern noted by Ripley and Darmanin, gilt, with the raised design of a crowned rayed star enclosing a beaded circle with “R ● L” (or “R . L”) in Roman capitals. They are flat, not the convex version recorded by Ripley, which must be slightly later. Parkyn dates this design to “about 1790”.

Cowper attributes a rectangular belt plate to this period, which I’d prefer to ascribe to the next embodiment. For this period, the oval plate illustrated by Almack seems more likely. Cowper dates this plate to 1778, but the Goetze silversmith’s pattern book reproduced in Almack is of a later date, though certainly pre-1809. The description reproduced by Almack reads:

Lancashire Regt. A cast Metal Matted Plate with Beaded Border Gilt Dead colour, the Beads Burnish’d. A Silver cast Star engrav’d in Long bold Hollows with pointing up & down at evry other ray, the flat Rays small long Hollows. A Metal Madalion in the center with a Beaded edge with a Crown over gilt Dead colour within the Madalion A Lion Passant guardant field Gules, with a fleur de lis in a chief Azure.

The arms are those of Lancaster, the engraved lines a heraldic indication of colour – the fleur-de-lis on blue (azure), the lion on red (gules). This plate is worn in the silhouette by William Hamlet shown under the next embodiment. An example held by the KORR Museum is also described by Cowper and Reynolds, and is said to have a much simplified eight pointed star. This sounds like the example sold recently by DNW, gilt with a beaded border, with an applied silver star bearing the crowned arms with a beaded border in gilt. The star has eight points, without the alternating straight rays of the Goethe drawing. The auction description identified this plate to the Royal Lancashire Volunteers Fencibles. This could perhaps be so, but the term “Fencibles” is not used by Goetze, and it seems to me that Cowper’s attribution must have some force.

Cowper also notes an undress for officers of 1794 – a blue “frock-coat” with red collar and cuffs. This is sourced from George Jackson Hay’s An Epitomized History of the Militia of 1906; I have no idea of its accuracy, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

Drummers and bandsmen

The Pearse design book (see above) also includes drawings and/or notes for outfits for drummers, the drum major and the “cymballs”, i.e. the black percussionists in the band. Details of lacing, as always for drummers, are complex. (For images of later patterns of lace, perhaps also used at this time, see under the embodiment of 1803, below.)

For 1796-97 the drummers still wear for dress a long coat (“Old Fashion Cut”) in reversed colours, but also have a shorter jacket for a second dress. (Strictly speaking, reversed colours were not permitted under the 1768 warrant, still in force, for Royal regiments, but this was clearly ignored here.) The blue coat has a scarlet collar, lapels and cuffs, the lapel with nine “jew’s harp” (bastion) loops, the pocket flap four, with four more loops at the rear waist. The pointed cuffs are plain, without loops. The notes are not entirely clear to me, but it seems that three different laces may be used: the loops, the straps and wings, possibly the edges of the lapels, and possibly the lower edge of the pointed pocket flap, may well be in the plain white lace used by privates, or just possibly in the same “binding lace” used on the top edge of the cuff, the collar edges, the outside frame of the pocket flap, and the top edges of the turnbacks. I take “binding lace” to mean “drummer’s narrow” lace, with half the design of the “broad” lace. “Broad” lace is used for the seams – shoulders, tops of arms, two sides, back, and front and back of sleeves – and the darts, i.e. the five inverted chevrons on the outside of each sleeve. The binding lace framing the flap extends into a half lozenge enclosing each rear waist button, while the same lace edging the rear turnbacks forms a lozenge at the base of the rear seam. The shoulders have a strap and a square ended wing with six bars. The skirt ornament is round, possibly a button, possibly on a “dubbie” of lace. The coat is lined in white Padua.

The drummers’ jackets, in the same colours, are noted as having no sleeve darts, but in other respects appear to have the same ornamentation.

For 1797-98, the drummers’ coats, still blue faced scarlet, are in the new style, the lapels closing and the skirts shorter.  Binding lace is used to edge the collar, cuffs, all turnback edges, and pocket flap frames, including a line along the lower edge parallel to the frame. The loops, lapel edging and wings are now in “looping lace”, which may be the plain white then used for privates, or may be white with a blue line as used later. Again, the colour of straps and wings is not clear. The body lining is white Padua, but that for the sleeves and pockets is garlix.

The drummers’ jackets for 1797-98 are as these coats, but with no sleeve darts, and with a round cuff with four loops and buttons. I can’t say if the jacket skirts were the same length, or even shorter than the new shorter “coats”.

For 1798-99 the drummers’ coats are made, like those of the privates, without lapels, the loops pointing outwards and applied directly to the front; otherwise the lacing is the same as for 1797.

The development of the drum major’s clothing follows a slightly different trajectory. For 1796-97 his coat resembles those of the drummers, but with a round cuff with four loops and buttons, no sleeve darts, and with a strap and wing divided by a zig-zag line of lace with four points – see the image above left. The distribution of binding and broad laces follows that for the drummers, with a “narrow silk lace”, in scarlet and white, used for the elements where I have suggested a white lace was used for drummers. The notes specify “no Ep[aulet]t[e]s”, meaning that the wings have no fringes. Again, the colour of wing is not clear. The coat is lined with white shalloon.

For 1797-98 the drum major, as a senior sergeant, continues to wear a long coat, though this is now laced only in broad lace for the seams alone, and in narrow scarlet and white silk lace for the loops and other features. (I am not sure whether the lapels would now be closed to the waist or stay open to show the waistcoat.) The wings now have six oblique lace bars and a scarlet and white fringe. The body lining is still shalloon, the sleeve and pocket linings garlix. The drum major’s waistcoat and breeches are, appropriately, in “major’s cloth”.

“Cymballs” 1797-98

The final pattern, interestingly, is for a jacket and shell for the band’s cymbals player, and presumably for other black percussionists dressed exotically. The outer shell, like that of a light dragoon, is sleeveless. Of blue cloth, it has a scarlet collar and shoulder strap, and white turnbacks. The seams – shoulders, tops of arms, sides and back – are laced in broad lace, while the six bastion loops each side of the front, and the edgings of the collar, front, turnbacks, rear slit and pleats are in looping lace. There are 16 (white?) tassells, one at the point of each loop, and two depending from the lace ornament on each pleat. The shoulder strap has a small (white?) fringe. The turnback ornaments are a silk rose (presumably red for Lancashire) and the rear skirts have two small buttons inside the lozenges formed by the lace. The body is lined in white Padua, with two linen pockets inside.

The sleeved jacket, worn underneath the shell, is scarlet, with the cuffs, the integral belt and the upper part of the sleeves in blue. The front has eight bastion loops of narrow lace, with tassels, on each side; the front and belt are edged in narrow lace. The belt has a button hole at the right end to fasten to a button hidden by the shell. The sleeve seams, front and back, are in broad lace. The top edges of the cuff, the four darts and the three vertical bars on the forearm are in binding lace. The wings are attached to the jacket, so do not connect physically to the strap on the shell; their colour is not specified, so presumably is scarlet like the strap and jacket body, and they have six bars of lace, which, with the edging to the strap and wing must be either in binding or narrow lace. The wings are fringed (in white?) as are third darts down, at the bend of the arm. The jacket is lined in garlix. Interestingly, the notes show that the original intention was to make the shell with a “stump sleeve”, i.e. a short sleeve to the elbow, but this was revised.

Most unhelpfully, the notes add that “Cymballs Lace &c differ from Drums”, so we are none the wiser on the three patterns of lace apparently used here. These top garments are worn with white pantaloons in sergeant’s cloth, with the waistband, lining and pockets in garlix, which use two coat (large) and two breast (small) buttons. This outfit would have been completed by short gaiters or boots and some sort of fez or turban, but the details are unknown. In 1798-99 the “cymballs” clothing remained unchanged.


The colours of 1760 (see above) were apparently still carried during this period, though Whalley documents a pair of colours of “date unknown” with a post-1801 Union that apparently precede those presented in 1806. For details, see under the next embodiment. Whalley mentions a tradition that “previous to the embarkation of the RLM for Ireland in 1798, the word ‘Boyne’ and other Irish ‘honours’ were borne on the Regimental Colours, but … were ordered to be taken off, out of consideration for the feelings of the Irish people.” To be honest, this seems unlikely on a number of counts.


Fourth and fifth embodiments 1803-1814, 1815-16

With the renewal of the war, the regiment was re-embodied on 4 April 1803, again commanded by Col Thomas Stanley. By 1805 it had eleven companies, one of which may have been the rifle company that was maintained until 1829; it appears to have reverted to ten by 1812. In 1804 the regiment’s permission to use the title of “Royal” was confirmed by the War Office. With the peace of 1814, it was disembodied late that year. It was re-embodied in 1815 and disembodied again in April 1816. In 1817 Colonel Stanley died, and was succeeded by Peter Patten Bold. The county’s precedence number for 1803-33 was 52.

Other ranks

Evidence is more sparse than for the preceding period. The note and sample book of J N & B Pearse, again at the Canadian War Museum, notes for the private’s jacket, as before, blue facings with nine regular “Jew’s harp” loops, requiring 14 yards of looping lace. A sample of the lace is attached (below, left); it is now white with a central blue stripe, not plain white as before. The number of buttons required seems to be 18 large and 11 small. The 18 large were used on cuffs, flaps and the rear waist; the 11 small comprised nine for the loops and two for shoulder straps, without the small button sometimes used to hold the pocket flap closed.

The sergeant’s jacket is noted as “same as Privt”, though we can assume in scarlet cloth with white lace.

Hamilton Smith

The basics hold good for this entire period and beyond, judging by the Hamilton Smith chart of 1815, which differs only in showing (consistently in different copies) the blue stripe towards the inside edge of the lace. The Militia Clothing book of 1821-24 copied by Reynolds gives the same colours and loops, though the blue stripe is shown once again down the centre of the lace.

The button for this period would presumably have been a white metal version of that used for officers (see below).

A rectangular plate in the KORR Museum (above, centre) is dated to 1809-16, though I’m not entirely sure whether the image on the Museum website is of the gilt officer’s version, or the brass version for other ranks. (Cowper and Reynolds mention both, so perhaps the designs are identical.) The plate has rounded corners, and the raised design is of a crown over a rose, over crossed sprays of palm leaves, over a ribbon inscribed “ROYAL LANCASTER” in Old English capitals.

The cap plate worn on the 1800 cap is not recorded, but the KORR Museum has an all brass example of a plate for an 1812 cap attributed to this regiment (above, right); however, this was certainly worn by the Lancashire Local Militia and is of a different design to one worn by officers of the First (see below), which puts a small question mark over the identification.

Bearskin grenadier caps seem to have fallen into disuse among militia regiments generally during the early part of this embodiment, but were required to be worn by a Royal warrant of 20 November 1805. 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. This strongly suggests that some militia grenadier companies had not been provided with such caps for
some time. From 1806 the warrant changed that. They were at least owned by officers of this grenadier company in January 1806 (see below), though apparently of the old pattern, now needing to be altered; for the other ranks, grenadier caps are shown on a return of 1807, and were among items then on order to be completed.

I have found no evidence for the dress of the rifle company.


Again, evidence seems thinner for this period. A monochrome silhouette by William Hamlet, sold by Ellison Fine Art, has been identified as an unknown officer of the regiment, probably by the red rose on the epaulette, while the oval belt plate is clearly the type discussed under the previous embodiment, above. (However, Paul Bantick has observed that the tones of the coat and facings do not suggest scarlet and dark blue respectively, which is a good point.) The paired buttons match the previous arrangements for officers. This is said to have been painted at Weymouth, which might tie it to 1805-06. The coat is unlaced, with twist loops to the buttons on lapels and collar. The hat feather is white over red. The crowned star on the epaulette indicates a full colonel, and though the identification must be tentative, the profile is at least compatible with the features of Thomas Stanley as in the Northcote painting, above. The red rose was authorised as a badge on colours in late 1803 (see below).

Identified, but in some ways more puzzling, is the stormily romantic portrait by John Hoppner of Major Charles Lutwidge, dated to 1805 by McKannand (1963). Hoppner died in 1810, but I’m not sure how secure the 1805 dating might be; I’d suggest later. The scarlet coat has unlaced dark blue facings, with gilt buttons and epaulettes, and a narrow black waist belt is worn, with a gilt lions’ heads and snake buckle. However, the buttons appear to be spaced singly, and there seem to be none on the cuffs or collar. This can be compared with Cowper’s minimal description of a coat, dated by him to 1811, in the KORR Museum, said to be “swallow-tail”, with ten buttons on each lapel, equidistant, with twist loops four inches long at the top, diminishing to three inches at the bottom. The best we can say for lack of clearer evidence is that at some point during this period the spacing of buttons on officers’ coats and jackets was made single, consistent with that of the other ranks.

The pattern of gilt button noted above is now found in a convex version; sizes are recorded as 19, 20 or 23 mm in diameter. Parkyn states that this design was used until 1829.

The officer’s bearskin caps of the grenadier company were required to be altered in January 1806 at a cost of £8, perhaps as they were still of the old 1768 pattern. At the same time the grenadier company’s epaulettes were to be altered to wings at a similar cost.

The oval belt plate mentioned above was superceded at some point during this period. A rectangular plate in the KORR Museum is dated to 1809-16, though I’m not entirely sure whether the image on the Museum website is of the gilt officer’s version, or the brass version for other ranks, as already mentioned above. (Cowper and Reynolds mention both, so perhaps the designs are identical.) For an image, see under other ranks, above.

The design of 1812 cap plate discussed above for the other ranks is also attributed to officers of this regiment by Cowper. An officer’s version in the KORR Museum is in gilt, the central rose with red enamel, as also firmly identified to the Warrington Local Militia on this page. It’s worth noting that “LANCASTER” in Old English letters, as on this plate, appears on the 1816 regimental colour (see below), so it’s not impossible that the plate was worn by this regiment. However, the Museum also has a different gilt 1812 plate which must have at least an equal claim; this omits “LANCASTER”, but has a numeral “1” rather awkwardly squeezed in below the crossed sprays of leaves. The leaves are in silver, and the rose is enamelled in red.

Drummers and bandsmen

Broad lace (Pearse)

Narrow lace (Reynolds)

The Pearse note gives some basic details for the drummer’s jacket, and adds, cryptically, “red Drums”. Under the 1768 warrant, still in force, drummers of Royal regiments with blue facings were not meant to wear reversed colours – a regulation ignored by this regiment during the previous embodiment (see above). Judging by this note the drummers’ jackets were now red. The notes specify nine regular “Jew’s harp” (bastion) loops, apparently in “narrow” lace. Broad lace is to be used for the seams, the “body” (vertical lines of lace each side of the front), pocket flap frames, sleeve darts and top edges of cuffs. Presumably the narrow lace was also used to edge the collar and turnbacks, and on the wings. This required 14 yards of broad and 15 of narrow laces. A sample of broad lace is attached, in a pattern of alternating white and dark blue chevrons. The narrow lace, as documented by Reynolds from the 1821 Militia book, would have been half of this, i.e. blue and white diagonal stripes. These details may have been sufficient for Pearse’s tailors, but I find it hard to visualise the complete jacket from them.

Belgic cap (Reynolds)

In 1936 the KORR Museum was given by Hawkes & Co an 1812 drummer’s cap attributed to this regiment. I have not seen this, but it must be the same “Belgic” cap as sketched at Hawkes’ by an unidentified “JCL”, and shown in Reynolds’ Lancashire notebook. (Thanks again to Ben Townsend for the Reynolds images used here.) Reynolds and Cowper state that this is of black felt with brass plates. The unusually pointed front is described as 9 inches tall, the body of the cap 5⅛ or 5½ inches tall, and the rather narrow peak as 1½ inches broad. The circular front plate, 3 inches in diameter, shows “Lancaster” in old English capitals, over a rose, over sprays of leaves, matching the elements of the design of the plate shown above for other ranks. “JCL” notes that there is a hole somewhere unspecified in the upper part of the cap front, and “evidence” that it was worn with a “festoon”. This cap has also been attributed to the Lonsdale Local Militia, as noted on this page.

A plate in Whalley of the 1806 colours (see below) includes small images of two kettle drums, one larger, one smaller, presented to the regimental band by the King and Queen on 15 August 1805. Both are now at the National Army Museum, whose website has shown a photo of the larger, unrestored (above, left); the smaller, after heavy conservation, is now on display at the Museum (above, right, and below). Details of the painted fronts vary slightly between the two drums. The bodies are shown in Whalley as dark blue and the hoops red; the bodies now appear black, and at some point a dark blue band with gold leafy curlicues has been added to each hoop. The fronts are painted with the Royal arms with garter, motto and supporters (but no helm or crest) under an outsized crown and “G III R”, and superimposed on trophied flags – two Union flags and one with the Royal arms at each side. (On the displayed drum, for some reason, the “N” in “MON DROIT” is mirrored.) Below, this is all set on a red robe with ermine lining inscribed “1st / ROYAL.LANCASHIRE”. On the reverse of each drum is painted a large crown.


As noted in previous sections, the colours of 1760 are said to have been carried possibly until 1801, after which they were kept by Colonel Stanley and apparently lost in 1816. Sources are vague on the colours that replaced them, which are labelled as “date unknown” or “1801 (approx)”. These are said to have been kept by Col John Plumbe until placed in the regimental chapel in 1932, though considerably tattered and reduced. The King’s colour was a Union without any device. The blue regimental colour retained evidence of a wreath in the centre, while what appear to be earlier paintings of these colours in the KORR Museum (though identified on the KORR Museum site as the colours of 1806) show a little more of a Union wreath topped by a crown. When drawn for Whalley’s plate in 1888 and (later?) photographed, the spear heads were missing on both, but the cords and tassels surviving. Whalley suggests that these flags were smaller than the 1806 and 1816 colours.

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, but the regiment did not take advantage of this immediately.

The 1801(?) colours were replaced by a pair presented on 23 June 1806 by Queen Charlotte, which were later kept by Plumbe at Tong Hall, Bradford, where they were still in 1939. Photos, and the plate in Whalley, show that again the King’s colour was unadorned; the blue regimental displayed a Union wreath with “FIRST ROYAL / LANCASHIRE / MILITIA” in gold(?) Roman capitals, the lettering increasing in size with each line. The photos show small spearheads.

These colours were in turn replaced in 1816 by a more elaborate pair whose designs incorporated a recognition of the regiment’s service in Ireland, and which were presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. At the centre of the King’s colour is a large crowned Union wreath enclosing an Irish harp. This also appears in the centre of the Union canton on the blue regimental colour, which bears a large crowned cypher in gold, above “I BATT”, and in gold lettering, on a blue ribbon edged in gold, “ROYAL / LANCASHIRE / MILITIA”, all in Roman capitals. In each of the three remaining corners, tucked in quite close to the central motif, is “LANCASTER” in Old English capitals in an arc, above a crowned red rose.

This regimental colour is drawn by Ian Sumner in his Osprey title of 2001, British Colours & Standards 1747-1881 (2), but there are some inaccuracies: the cypher is simplified, the title ribbon (already simplified in Whalley) is much reduced in size and complexity, and “LANCASTER” is moved from above to below the roses.

The 1816 colours were replaced in 1853 and kept by Colonel Plumbe; at Whalley’s time of writing (1888) they were still kept at Tong Hall, Bradford.

*         *          *

Edward Almack, Regimental Badges Worn in the British Army One hundred years ago, London, 1900.

W Y Baldry, “Order of Precedence of Militia Regiments”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 57, Spring 1936.

W Y Carman, “Militia Uniforms, 1780”, JSAHR Vol 36, No 147, September 1958.

René Chartrand, “English Militia Uniforms 1780-1781”, JSAHR Vol 71 No 285, Spring 1993.

Col L I Cowper, The King’s Own. The Story of a Royal Regiment, Vol 1 1680-1814, printed for the Regiment at the University Press, Oxford, 1939.

Lancashire Record Office Handlist 72: Sources for the history of the militia and volunteer regiments in Lancashire.

Cecil C P Lawson, A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol II, London, 1941; Vol III, London, 1961.

A McKannand, “Major Charles Lutwidge, 1st Royal Lancashire Militia, 1805”, JSAHR Vol 41 No 167, September 1963.

H G Parkyn, “English Militia Regiments, 1757-1935: their Badges and Buttons”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 60, Winter 1936.

Lieut Col J G Rawstorne, An Account of the Regiments of Royal Lancashire Militia, 1759 to 1879 …, Lancaster, 1874.

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.

Rev Percy Sumner, “Militia Facings, 1762”, JSAHR Vol 27 No 110, Summer 1949.

J Lawson Whalley (& R J T Williamson), History of the Old County Regiment of Lancashire Militia …, 1888.

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