Cheshire: volunteer and association infantry of the 1790’s

On this page are notes on the organisational basics, dress and equipage of the volunteer and association infantry of Cheshire in the 1790’s. In this county the response of 1794 to the appeal for volunteers was modest, a corps being formed at Stockport alone. Initiatives at the same time at Macclesfield and Northwich were unsuccessful, but other corps followed in 1797 and 1798, either formed as armed associations or under the existing volunteer terms. Listed below are those for Cheadle, Chester, Congleton, Doddington, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Middlewich, Nantwich, Northwich and Stockport.

While the Cheshire volunteers of 1803 (see this page) largely adopted the dress style of their county militia, their predecessors of this period, from the limited information we have, gravitated more towards the blue coats and red facings more typical of the armed associations. This page would certainly benefit from more input from archival sources, and new information will be added as it comes along.

Names of commanding officers and earliest dates of commissions are taken largely from the War Office lists of 1797 and 1799 (fifth and sixth editions) and from local press reports.

Click to enlarge images.



Cheadle Volunteers / Cheadle Loyal Volunteers / Cheadle Military Association

Capt James Harrison. Date of earliest commissions 17 May 1798. Harrison was a Deputy Lieutenant of the county. While the corps may have been conceived originally as an armed association, it served under volunteer terms. One company of 50 privates. Disbanded in 1802.

Harrison’s proposal of April 1798 included that the company would be uniformed at his expense, and members would retain their clothing, but arms and accoutrements to be supplied by government. The clothing was resolved to be:

A Blue Coat, single breasted, with Scarlet Cloth Collar; Yellow Buttons engraved with CV, and a gold laced Shoulder Strap, a Heart at the Flaps to correspond, slash’d Sleeves, Waistcoat White, single breasted, Pantaloons White, Gaiters Black, Hat round with a Bear Skin, White Feather and Cockade Black, Stock or Neck Handkerchief Black.

This is not entirely clear. We might assume that the cuffs, shoulder strap and heart turnback ornament were also scarlet, the last edged with gold lace “to correspond” with the strap. It is not clear if the coat was lapelled. Gaiters worn with pantaloons would have been short.

The company included a drummer and fifer. An advertisement seeking a fifer appeared in the local papers in October 1798.

[Chester Chronicle, 04 May 1798. Staffordshire Advertiser, 5, 12 May 1798. Manchester Mercury, 23 October 1798. University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers.]


Loyal Chester Volunteers

Lieut Col John Bonner (wrongly, Bonnor). Date of earliest commissions 25 April 1797. Five companies. In March 1801 the corps was expanded.

A drawing with notes, in the copy of the Hawkes pattern book at the National Army Museum, is of an officer’s coat captioned “Cheshire Volunteers”, but apparently for this corps and possibly of this period. (It is also included on my page for Cheshire volunteers of 1803. Thanks to Ben Townsend for the image of the Hawkes page.) The scarlet superfine cloth coat has a dark blue collar, cuffs and lapels, all unlaced. The front has two rows of ten large gilt buttons in pairs, with two pairs on each cuff and under each pointed pocket flap. The collar has a small button on each side, and collar, cuffs and flaps have twist button holes. The rear waist has two buttons with two pairs of twist holes. (With two small buttons for the epaulettes, the buttons total 38 large and four small.) The turnbacks are white cassimere with gilt embroidered skirt ornaments, though the design of these is not given. The two epaulettes are “rich Gold”.

It is possible that this corps did not include a band, given that it was accompanied on a public occasion in October 1797 by a fencible cavalry band.

The corps’s successor regiment of 1803 included an artillery company, for which two brass six pounders were purchased. A report of October 1797 mentions a celebratory firing of field pieces, which may have belonged to an artillery company within this corps.

A “beautiful pair” of colours was presented on 5 June 1797 by Mrs Bonner and consecrated on 14 August; these were reported as “decorated with appropriate loyal and provincial emblems”. Simpson states that, in 1911, they were “not yet” placed in Chester Cathedral. I have no idea if they ever were.

[Chester Chronicle, 09 June, 18 August, 13 October 1797. Chester Courant, 15 August 1797, 17 March 1801. John M B Pigot, History of the City of Chester …, 1815. Frank Simpson, The Old Chester Volunteers and their Colour, Chester, 1911.]


Congleton Voluntary Association / Congleton Volunteers

Capt Nathaniel Maxey Pattison. Date of earliest commissions 6 June 1798. One company of 60 men, proposed as an armed association at a meeting on 1 May 1798.

The company included two drummers and two fifers.

[University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers.]


Doddington Volunteers

Capt Henry Delves Broughton. Date of earliest commissions 16 August 1797. One company. The corps’s patron, at whose expense it was raised, was Sir Thomas Broughton of Doddington Hall, father of the Captain. In 1799 Henry Broughton was apparently now a student at Cambridge, his father apparently managing the company’s affairs in his absence. By 1800 Sir Thomas, disillusioned with what he perceived as government’s indifference to his efforts, had “determined … not to keep them up any more”, and his son was on the point of resigning his commission; fear of invasion encouraged them to relent, and the corps was still active in late 1801.

The company included two drummers. Colours were presented by mid December 1797.

The corps was revived in 1803 under the same commander.

[Chester Courant, 12 December 1797, 17 November 1801. Paul Anderton, Called to Arms 1803-12 in the Staffordshire-Cheshire Border Region, Audley & District Family History Society, 2016.]


Loyal Knutsford Volunteers / Knutsford Loyal Volunteers / Nether Knutsford Volunteers

Captain Comm George Leycester. Date of earliest commissions 7 July 1798 . One company of 100 men, later two companies. Raised as an armed association at a meeting of early May 1798, alongside a small company of cavalry. Arms and accoutrements were to be supplied by government.

[Chester Courant, 26 March 1799. University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers.]


Loyal Macclesfield Volunteers

Capt Jasper Hulley. Date of earliest commissions 21 June 1797. One company. A resolution to form a corps of infantry or cavalry had been passed at a meeting on 25 June 1794, approved by the Lieutenancy, and a clothing subscription opened, but no infantry corps had materialised at that time.

An unidentified button in the Gaunt Collection at Birmingham Museum might possibly be for this corps, though this is speculative. It is gilt, with an incised design of the Prince of Wales’ feathers, associated with this county, over script “LMV”.

Ian Sumner notes that in November 1797 a George Barton of Macclesfield was paid for “making a standard” for this company.

The corps was revived under the same commander in 1803.

[Chester Courant, 1, 8, 15 July 1794. Chester Chronicle, 4 July 94. University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers. Ian Sumner, British Colours & Standards 1747-1881 (2), Osprey, 2001.]


Middlewich Volunteers

Capt Comm Trafford Trafford. Date of earliest commissions 22 May 1797. One company, proposed at a meeting of 4 March 1797.

No expenses were charged to government, the company’s subscription paying for clothing, arms and a drummer and fifer. For clothing, the March meeting decided:

That the uniform of the corps be a blue-coat with red facings and cuffs, white waistcoats and trowsers.

That the whole corps shall wear white stocks.

“Facings” implies that the coat was lapelled in red. “Trowsers” may have been “gaiter-trousers”, as opposed to loose trousers, as gaiters are not mentioned. The white stocks are a very unusual touch.

[Chester Courant, 28 March 1797.]


Loyal Nantwich Volunteers / Nantwich Infantry

Major Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton. Date of earliest commissions 1 June 1797. Two companies, Cotton commanding the second. The corps was proposed at a meeting of 7 March 1797.

As discussed below, the uniform was probably blue faced red (or possibly red faced blue), with blue pantaloons edged in red, and/or nankeen pantaloons, and short gaiters. A belt plate, possibly for other ranks, is illustrated in Terry, though he provides no details, and it’s possible that this is of the 1803 formation of this corps. The plate is oval, inscribed “NANTWICH LOYAL VOLUNTEERS.”, above a crown and “GR” cipher.

The corps included two drummers and two fifers. A deserter notice of August 1798 describes John McCave, an adult drummer who absconded from paid service with this corps, taking with him:

… a blue drummer’s jacket with four red cross bars edged with white on each sleeve, red cuffs and collar, black velvet stock, white cloth waistcoat, blue pantaloons edged with scarlet, and also Nankeen pantaloons, with a pair of short black gaiters.

As McCave had recently been discharged from the Royal Cheshire Militia (perhaps from the Second or Supplementary Regiment), it’s possible that some or all of this outfit was inherited from that service; however, the Pearse design book shows for late 1796 the Cheshire Militia’s drummers in red jackets faced blue – as per the 1768 warrant for a “Royal” regiment – with six “darts” on the sleeve, which makes this less likely. The deduction is that the Nantwich corps as a whole either wore red faced blue and reversed its drummers’ clothing, or perhaps more probably wore blue faced red. The “cross bars” would be chevrons or “darts” on the sleeve, the lacing made up in the facing colour edged in white, exactly as seen on the sleeve seams in the 1793 images of musicians of the Buckinghamshire Militia (see this post). The two pairs of pantaloons may have been for different orders of dress, the nankeen pair for undress or summer wear.

[Chester Courant, 14 March 1797, 14 August 1798. Captain Astley Terry, Historical Records of the 5th Administrative Battalion Cheshire Rifle Volunteers …, Sandbach, 1879. University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers. Paul Anderton, Called to Arms 1803-12 in the Staffordshire-Cheshire Border Region, Audley & District Family History Society, 2016.]


Northwich Association / Northwich Volunteers

Major Comm Thomas Barker. Date of earliest commissions 11 July 1798. A corps was proposed at a meeting of 28 June 1794 and was approved by the Lieutenancy, but was not raised at that time. Proposed again at a meeting of 28[?] May 1798 as two companies, and raised as an armed association alongside one troop of [yeomanry?] cavalry. (The place name is given in error in the 1799 List as “Northwick”.)

[Chester Courant, 17 June, 1 July, 8 July 1794. Chester Chronicle, 4 July 94. University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers.]


Stockport Loyal Volunteers / Loyal Stockport Volunteers

Major Comm Holland Watson. Date of earliest commission 14 Aug 1794. The initial strength was reported to be 200. Four companies, comprising a grenadier company and three battalion companies, but, interestingly, no light company. The corps was disbanded on 19 May 1802.

A subscription to provide clothing was opened at a meeting of 25 June 1794, and the considerable sum of £500 was given by the county subscription for the “Encouragement and Support” of the corps. Clothing was supplied during September 1794. Christie-Miller gives the uniform, from an unidentified source, as “Long blue coats, tight pantaloons faced with red cord. Cocked hats turned up at the side.”

In 1801, if not before, the corps included a band.

In September 1794 100 stand of arms were received from government. By February 1795 207 firearms had been purchased, apparently paid for from the county subscription.

Colours were presented on 8 January 1795, the gift of Lady Warren. (There are references to colours once being housed at Vernon Park Museum, though this may refer to those of the 1803 corps – details on that page.)

[Chester Courant, 15 July, 26 August 1794, 8 June 1802. Chester Chronicle, 31 October 1794, 2 October 1801. Manchester Mercury, 26 August, 11 November 1794. Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 77, 1795. University of Manchester Library, Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers. John Christie-Miller, A Record of Stockport Volunteers and their Armoury, 1969.]

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