Gloucestershire: volunteer and association infantry of the 1790’s

On this page are notes on the organisational basics, dress and equipage, where known to me, of the volunteer and association infantry of Gloucestershire in the 1790’s. Though other, often more urban, counties responded in 1794 to the appeal for volunteers, in Gloucestershire the earliest corps, at Bristol, was not raised until early 1797. Under the stimulus of the legislation to encourage armed associations, others followed in 1798, either formed as associations or under the existing volunteer terms. (Similar information on the Gloucester volunteers of 1803, Bristol excepted, can be found on this page.)

In contrast to that of the more conformist volunteers of 1803, their dress was diverse, though a common theme seems to have been the light infantry style of caps and jackets, with round hats also in evidence. However, despite the relative wealth of material for Bristol and Frampton, I have found very little for many of these corps. Any new information will be included in future.

Names of commanding officers and earliest dates of commissions are taken largely from the War Office list of 1799 (sixth edition). A few “phantom” units are listed for reference, mentioned in sources but apparently not surviving, or maybe never having existed. Brigadier Bullock’s compilation has been very useful and Mick Kippin’s more recent miscellany has also been checked, while Daniel Brinson’s fine work on insignia is a default reference.

Click to enlarge images.

[Brigadier H Bullock, “Gloucestershire Volunteers, 1795-1815,” JSAHR 154, June 1960. Mick Kippin, “Volunteer Corps in Gloucestershire During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars,” MHS Bulletin 217, August 2004. Daniel Brinson, Military Insignia of Gloucestershire, Bodmin, 2009.]


Bristol Volunteers / Loyal Bristol Volunteers / Bristol Military Association / Bristol Associated Volunteer Corps.

Lieut Col, later Col, Evan Baillie. The first corps of volunteer infantry to be formed in the county during this period. (Kippin notes that a small “military association” had been formed by July 1794, but, if so, this may not have survived.) Date of earliest commissions 23 March 1797. A report of 18 February 1797 indicates that the corps was at first envisaged as a military association, with the purpose of guarding French prisoners at Stapleton, if required. A regiment of ten companies, none of which are identified in Brown’s listing as flank companies.

A resolution passed at an initial meeting of 18 February 1797 proposed:

THAT the Cloathing of this Corps shall be as little expensive as possible, (each Member of the Association being intended to provide his own)at the same time, it is expected to be strictly uniform.

This uniform, with cap, jacket and pantaloons, imitated a light infantry style. A jacket, currently on display, is held by the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, and two more are at Bristol Museum (images above, largely from Bristol Museums website). They are scarlet, with yellow collar, cuffs and lapels, scarlet shoulder straps and white single turnbacks. The skirts are relatively long, compared to those of later jackets, and the lapels are cut to narrow slightly towards the bottom and to drop away at an angle. On one of the Bristol jackets the top point of each lapel is rather more rounded than on the other two. The collar has one large button at each side, and there is one for each shoulder strap, three pairs on each lapel, two pairs on each cuff and pocket flap, two at the rear waist and one in each pleat. The buttons on collar, cuffs, lapel and flaps all have self-coloured twist holes. The top and front edges of the collar, the shoulder straps, the lapels, the tops of the cuffs and the rear pleats are all narrowly piped in white. The turnback ornaments are yellow cloth hearts; those on one of the Bristol jackets look as if they may once have carried a button.

The corps’ buttons are well known in two sizes, one being 21 mm in diameter. They are flat, silvered, the relief design showing the arms and crest of the city between “B V” in Roman capitals.

Other evidence suggests that this jacket was worn by all ranks without distinction, officers being distinguished only by their swords and sashes. An unidentified portrait (below left), said to be by or after Sir Henry Raeburn and online at Wikigallery, may be of Baillie; he wears the same jacket over a white waistcoat, with a black light infantry cap, perhaps of leather. This has a raised front with a white metal badge (see further below), a small peak below a black chin strap with a small white buckle, a black cockade with a small button at the centre supporting a white feather plume, with a black fur or bearskin crest running transversely across the top to hang at the right. (A mug at Bristol Museum, decorated for the Volunteers, is painted with a crude image of a similar cap, but with a red feather. For other examples of this form of cap, see this post.) The sword shoulder belt is white, though the plate (see further below) is not visible.

Further details are supplied by an contemporary image on a ceramic commemorative plaque at Bristol Museum (apparently by the Temple or Bristol Pottery, probably of 1802), and a related watercolour in Bristol Libraries, though this may have been copied from the plaque. These show an officer holding the regimental colour, wearing the same cap and jacket over a white waistcoat, with dark bluish-grey gaiter-trousers (pantaloons) piped in yellow on the flaps and front seam and around the “tongue” over the foot; no side seams, where we might also expect piping, are visible. The sword belt is white, the waist sash crimson, the sword straight with an open hilt, as in the Baillie portrait.

(No gorget is worn in any of these three images, and a silver gorget at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, showing the pre-1800 Royal arms and with its date given as 1794, may be for the Loyal Bristol Volunteers or 103rd Foot, though engraved mysteriously for the “Bristol R H Volunteers”.)

A cap badge (below left) matching these images is held by the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, and is listed and drawn by Brinson; it is silver, shield shaped, with the arms of the City in intaglio. (The drawing of this in Brinson is fluent but inaccurate in some details. Brinson also lists this plate in brass or gilt, based only on the watercolour above, an interpretation that may not be secure.)

The belt plates in the plaque and watercolour above appear oval and yellow, but an actual plate (above right) at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum (attributed wrongly to later rifle volunteers on the museum’s site) matches the cap badge and buttons, and is listed and drawn by Brinson. It is silver, rectangular with clipped corners, showing the city arms and crest in intaglio between “B” and “V”, all within a double border of toothed lines.

Resolutions passed at the meeting of 18 February 1797 included a request to government to provide “Field Pieces” along with infantry arms and accoutrements. In a response of 13 March the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Berkeley,  asked if any members of the corps would actually be trained in the use of these field pieces, that being a condition of their delivery. I’ve found no mention during this period of such battalion guns being attached to the corps.

By 1798 the regiment included a band of twelve members, and thirteen drummers for the ten companies.

A “beautiful Pair of Colours, richly embroidered with gold, the voluntary gift of the Ladies of Bristol and its Vicinity” was presented on 9 June 1797. These were actually presented by Lieut Col Baillie on behalf of his daughter, who, “from motives of delicacy”, he deemed too young to perform the task.

The regimental colour, as shown in the plaque and watercolour discussed above, has a yellow field and a post-1801 Union canton, with the arms of Bristol at the centre. The crest shows two interlaced arms emerging from clouds, holding a green serpent and a pair of golden scales. This is set on a wreath of red and gold; the elaborate mantling (decorative cloth on the helmet) is red, and the helmet appears a dark tone. The shield has a red background, with the castle in white, the ship in natural colours, the water blue and land green. The supporters are golden unicorns with dark manes, and the pinkish or crimson motto reads “VIRTUTE ET INDUSTRIA”. The staff has a spear head and the tassels appear gold.

Several newspapers reported that on the King’s birthday (4 June) 1800 the captains of the regiment presented every man with

… a beautiful medal to commemorate his Majesty’s happy escape from assassination, which being worn suspended on the left breast by a royal purple ribbon, had an elegant and interesting effect.

[Gloucester Journal, 20 February 1797. Staffordshire Advertiser, 14 June 1800. Chester Chronicle, 20 June 1800. James Brown, The Rise, Progress & Military Improvement of the Bristol Volunteers …, Bristol, 1798. John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century, Bristol, 1893. R M Grazebrook, “Old Gloucestershire & Bristol Volunteer Uniforms, 1797 to 1814,” JSAHR Vol 39 No 159, September 1961.]


Cheltenham Volunteers / Royal Cheltenham Volunteers

Capt William Hicks (Sir William from 1801). Date of earliest commissions 24 May 1798. Apparently one company, though with a chaplain, adjutant and surgeon listed. The corps originated at a meeting on 21 March 1798, and was initially intended as an armed association, but served under volunteer terms.

The corps was reported to have a band by October 1798. Colours were presented by Lady Sherborne on 20 August 1798.

[Gloucester Journal, 2 April, 27 August, 8 October 1798. John Goding, Norman’s History of Cheltenham, London & Cheltenham, 1863.]


Cirencester Associated Volunteer Corps / Cirencester Volunteers

Capt Joseph Cripps. Date of earliest commissions 12 July 1798.

Bullock, quoting from a minute book of the corps, gives the uniform as:

A dark blue coat faced with black velveteen, with a narrow white edge; a white cloth or kerseymere waistcoat; long pantaloons of white russia cloth with a black strap at the knee; short black gaiters; black stock; a round hat with a bear’s skin over it, and a white feather tipt with red.

A meeting of 24 July 1798 decided that the quality of the uniform was to be the same for all ranks.

In October 1799 the company included seven bandsmen.

Colours were presented by the Hon Mrs Elliott on 12 August 1800, the Mrs Willes who was to have made the presentation being indisposed.

[Gloucester Journal, 11, 18 August 1800.]


Clifton Volunteers

A Clifton corps of perhaps two companies is mentioned in passing for this period in Latimer’s Annals of Bristol, but does not appear in any other reference, including the 1799 list.


Frampton / Frampton-on-Severn Volunteers  

Capt Nathaniel Winchcombe (afterwards Clifford). Formed as an armed association. Date of earliest commissions 2 June 1798. A single colour was presented on 22 August 1799. The corps was disbanded on 12 May 1802.

Michell’s and Whiting’s studies (the latter far more comprehensive) draw from a wealth of material in the Clifford archives at Gloucestershire Record Office, including an Order Book which describes the uniform:

Round hat with cockade and scarlet feather; scarlet jacket, faced with blue, lined and edged white, turnbacks blue; white waistcoat and breeches; gilt buttons with “F.V.” surmounted by a crown; white cotton stockings, black velvet hose[sic], half gaiters of black cloth.

Is “hose” here a mis-transcription for “stock”? I think so. It’s not entirely clear from this outline whether the jackets were lapelled, unless “turnbacks blue” here means lapels; blue skirt turnbacks, rather than white, would have been unusual but not inconceivable. Winchcombe’s personal purchases included a pair of gilt “stars” for turnback ornaments, indicating that his turnbacks, at least, were double; any turnback ornaments for other ranks are not recorded.

The surviving calculations of officer’s and sergeant’s expenses do not include jackets, waistcoats or breeches, but as First Lieutenant Henry Hicks was a clothier by trade, the corps’ clothing may have been made in house, and records of purchases are limited to other items. Hats for the four officers, from Davies and Jarratts of Bond Street, were “superfine round hats” at £1 5s 0d each, with cockades at 2s 6d each and “white officer’s feathers” at 9s each. (Note that the Order Book, above, stipulates scarlet feathers, presumably for other ranks only.) Winchcombe purchased a pair of gold epaulettes, befitting a captain of light infantry.

From Hawkes in London were purchased officer’s white sword belts at 12s each, and “Long patent sashes” at 34s each. The officers’ belt plates, at 5s, may or may not have been the same as an officer’s gilt plate (left), described by Brinson as a waist belt clasp, now at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum; this has the generic applied design in silver of a crowned “GR” cypher within a laurel wreath with the motto “DIEU ET MON DROIT”. Officers’ sword knots were gold.

A button matching the description above is known; it is flat, gilt, 18 mm in diameter, and shows a crown above “FV” in script.

Sergeants’ expenses included lower grade hats with feathers at 13s, swords at £1 with belts at 8s 6d, and, from Hawkes, “worsted Patent sashes” at 8s each.

The “Articles of the Association” of July 1798 required hair to be “combed and properly cut”.

A fine display at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum of items from the corps originally at Frampton Court, now on loan from Gloucester City Museum, incorporates a well executed modern painting by Simon McCouaig, reconstructing the uniforms of an officer, private and musician. In this, turnbacks are shown as white, the white edging is a broad tape rather than narrow piping, the private carries a hanger, the musician is given wings and a waistcoat and breeches that appear buff – all details that might be considered unproven, so for that reason I do not reproduce the painting here.

other ranks’ plate

Issues to the corps from the Ordnance Office included 100 muskets and slings, cartridge boxes with shoulder belts,  cross belts for bayonets with plates, drummer’s hangers with scabbards, belts and plates, and sergeant’s pikes. In the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum display is an oval brass shoulder belt plate (right) with the generic design in intaglio of a crown over the “GR” cypher, one of the general issue plates furnished by the Ordnance.

The 1798 “Articles” stipulate that money from fines would be used to purchase drums and fifes and “to cloth the drummer”. In the event, drums and drummers’ hangers with scabbards, belts and plates were furnished by the Ordnance.

In 1798 the band consisted of four clarinets, two horns, two bassoons, two octave flutes, a “double” or bass drum, and a triangle. John Pearce, the bandmaster, noted that the clarinets and bassoons would also be suitable for concert and church use. With the drummers and fifers, the musicians totalled 19 men.

The band uniform is said to have been identical to that of the rest of the corps, but in reversed colours – a blue jacket, faced scarlet, lined and edged white, with scarlet turnbacks. Along with the officers’ hats purchased by Winchcombe in 1798 were three “Round livery hats” with silver binding and bands at £1 15s 6d each. It is conceivable that these were for musicians, though the same order includes a “Postillions Velvet Cap” that can hardly have been intended for any military use.

The display at Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum includes two bandsmen’s hangers and scabbards (of the six originally on display at Gloucester City Museum), two clarinets, a bassoon, a horn and the bass drum. (The side drums are said by Whiting to have been part of the City Museum group, but are not in the current display.)

The front of the drum is handsomely painted – according to Whiting, by bandmaster Pearce, though maybe more likely at his direction. On the dark blue front, below a crown and within wreaths of laurel and oak, is a simple oval garter in dark blue, edged in gold, with the motto of the corps, “PRO DEO REGE ET CARISSIMIS.” (For God, the King and our dearest), in gold Roman capitals. This encloses a scarlet ground with “FV” in gold in ornate script. The hoops are edged in dark blue and diagonally striped in blue – white – red – white. The strap is of whitened leather.

The King’s colour, mentioned above, still survives. It was supplied by Robert Horne of London, measured 78 by 70 inches, approximately the regulation size, and came with a belt of buff leather. It is a pre-1801 Union flag, with no fringe. Photographs of both sides appear in Michell, a photo of the centre of the reverse, framed at the City Museum and including the loose spearhead, is in Whiting, and a sketch made from this is in Ian Sumner’s Osprey title on infantry colours. At the centre of each side is skilfully painted a Union wreath, enclosing a crown over a garter star that bears a circular garter; on the obverse the garter is inscribed “HONI SOIT … ” etc in Roman capitals, and encloses the “GR” cypher, while on the reverse it bears the corps’ motto, “PRO DEO REGE ET CARISSIMIS.”, and encloses “FV” in script. Sumner notes the star as silver with a red centre, the garter blue, and the cypher and lettering gold. (His sketch mistakenly shows “GR” at the centre of the reverse instead of “FV”.) The colour is now kept by the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum but is not displayed and awaits conservation work.

[Gloucester Journal, 17 May 1802. George B Michell, “The Frampton Volunteers – 1798 to 1802,” JSAHR Vol 7, 1928. J R S Whiting, “The Frampton Volunteers …”, JSAHR Vol 48, 193, Spring 1970. Ian Sumner, British Colours and Standards 1747-1881 (2) Infantry, Osprey Elite 81, 2001. Newsletter, The Friends of the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, Autumn 2015.]


Royal Gloucester Volunteers / Royal Glocester Volunteers

Capt Charles Evans. 1798. Date of earliest commission 19 April 1798. Colours presented on 18 September 1798.

Bullock quotes a uniform description, supposed to be that of the officers of the proposed Winchcomb Volunteers of 1803, but, judging by the buttons and round hat, probably that of this corps: “Plain scarlet jacket, blue facings trimmed with white; two small gold button epaulettes; blue pantaloons; black gaiters; white waistcoat; round hat with bearskin tail over the crown; red feather and cockade; gilt buttons with crown and letters R.G.V. raised; belt and gilt belt plate.”

A button fitting this description and attributed to this corps is in the collection of the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum; it is flat, with a crown over script “RGV”.

[Gloucester Journal, 17 September 1798. Winchcomb and Sudeley Record, Vol V, 50-52, February to April 1894.]


Horsley Volunteers

Bullock surmises that this corps was formed in 1798 under Capt Edward Wilbraham, but it does not appear in the 1799 list, and this is evidently mistaken.


King Stanley Volunteers

Bullock lists this corps for 1798, but rightly declares it “doubtful”; it is not in the 1799 list.


Lechlade Volunteers

Capt Sutton Thomas Wood. Date of earliest commission 11 July 1798. One company. Oddly, in the 1799 List, Wood is also listed as lieutenant, commissioned on the same date, which has to be a simple error. The corps was reported to have attended a “Grand Field-day”, possibly its first, on 11 September 1798.

[Gloucester Journal, 17 September 1798.]


Lodgemore Volunteers

Fisher states that this corps was formed in 1798 under Capt George Hawker, who commanded the Rodborough Volunteers of 1803, but it does not appear in the 1799 list and this must be mistaken.

[Paul Hawkins Fisher, Notes and Recollections of Stroud, Gloucestershire, London & Stroud, 1871.]


Loyal Longtree Volunteers

Capt Francis Kingdon. Date of earliest commission 4 July 1798. Formed in the Hundred of Longtree.


Loyal Painswick (Painswicke) Associated Volunteer Infantry / Royal Painswick Infantry Association

Capt Benjamin Hyett. Capt Charles Loveday? Date of earliest commissions 7 June 1798. One company, formed as an armed association. (The “Royal” in one version of the title may be an error for “Loyal”?)

The corps was reported to be “in full regimentals”, [perhaps for the first time, on 23 September 1798.

A button is attributed to this corps; it is gilt, appears flat, and of 14 mm diameter, showing a crown above “L P V” in Roman capitals.

[Gloucester Journal, 17 September 1798.]


Stow Volunteers

Capt William Bricknell. Date of earliest commissions 13 September 1798.

A single colour, described in a newspaper report as “a very elegant Standard, provided at the expence of the mothers and wives of the corps”, was presented on 8 July 1800 by Lady Shireborne.

[Gloucester Journal, 21 July 1800.]


Stroud Riflemen / Severn Volunteer Riflemen 

Capt Samuel Wathen. Date of earliest commissions 25 July 1798. Re-formed in 1803 as the Severn Riflemen.

A report of 12 November 1798 gives the uniform as:

… dark green and gold, and their arms a Rifle-gun and a light infantry Hanger. They carry, both officers and men, 24 cartridges each, besides loose powder and balls.

These details imply the wearing of powder horns and ball pouches in addition to cartridge boxes. A description in Fisher, probably for this earlier period, gives:

Bottle green jacket and pantaloons, black velvet cuffs and collar, black velvet stock, helmeted cap with upright blue feather, black leather cross-belts, and pouch with horn powder-flask, short rifle and sword.

“Helmeted cap” most likely refers to a Tarleton helmet.

For a belt plate and button inscribed ‘Severn Volunteer Riflemen’, which might apply to this period but are more likely from the 1803 formation, see this page.

[Gloucester Journal, 12 November 1798. Paul Hawkins Fisher, Notes and Recollections of Stroud, Gloucestershire, London & Stroud, 1871.]


Loyal Stroud Volunteers / Stroud & Friendsbury Volunteers

Capt John Hollings. Date of earliest commissions 24 May 1798. The corps was disbanded on 13 May 1802.

Fisher describes the uniform thus:

Reverse of the Stroud colour, adapted from a photo in Kippin

The uniform of the corps consisted of a jacket of scarlet broad-cloth, with blue cuffs and collar, waistcoat and breeches of white kerseymere, white cotton stockings, and black cloth gaiters. The cap was somewhat helmet-shaped, and the arms of the privates were a musket and bayonet, which, with the drums, were supplied by the Government.

Kippin specifies the “facings” as collar and cuffs. The “helmet shaped” cap might be a Tarleton helmet, or conceivably a light infantry cap of the sort worn by the Bristol corps (see above).

The drum corps included a drum major, two drummers, one or two fifers and a tambourine, and the band a serpent, six clarinets, two French horns, a bassoon, a triangle and a bass or “double” drum.

Colours were presented by the Countess of Berkeley on 19 September 1799. Fisher is insistent that only a single, regimental colour was presented; though newspaper reports speak of “colours” plural, this may have been so.

The regimental colour is described by Fisher as deep purple (originally dark blue?) with a Union canton, the Royal arms painted in the centre, between scrolls inscribed “SI DEUS EST NOBIS, QUIS CONTRA NOS” and “LOYAL STROUD VOLUNTEERS”. Grazebrook describes it in 1949 as “now definitely a faded blue”, with the Royal arms being those of 1714-1801. A photo is included in Kippin, which matches this description, and shows the Union canton to have been pre-1801. This colour was placed in Holy Trinity Church, Stroud, in 1914, and transferred to Stroud Museum in 1960.

[Gloucester Journal, 23 September 1799, 17 May 1802. Paul Hawkins Fisher, Notes and Recollections of Stroud, Gloucestershire, London & Stroud, 1871. R M Grazebrook, “The Regimental Colour of the Loyal Stroud Volunteers”, JSAHR Vol 27 No 110, Summer 1949.]


Royal Tewkesbury Volunteer Infantry

Formed as an association in April 1798 with the stipulation that they should serve no more than six miles from home; this offer was declined by government. Under the circumstances, the assumption of the title of “Royal” seems to have been premature.

[James Bennett, History of Tewkesbury, 1830.]


Tockington Volunteers

Major Comm Samuel Peach Peach. Date of earliest commissions 23 June 1798. Two companies. Formed as an armed association. Peach’s intention to raise the corps was reported in the newspapers of mid May 1798. (In the 1799 List, this corps is wrongly given as “Torkington” – presumably a simple typo.)

The corps was re-formed under Peach in 1803.

[Gloucester Journal, 14 May 1798.]


Uley (Uly) Associated Volunteer Infantry

Capt Edward Sheppard. Date of earliest commissions 22 May 1798.


Westbury Associated Volunteer Infantry

Bullock lists this corps, mentioned in passing in Latimer’s Annals of Bristol, as possibly formed in 1798, but rightly notes it as “doubtful”; it does not appear in the 1799 list.


Winchcomb (Winchcombe) & Sudeley Loyal Volunteer Infantry

Capt Charles Hayward. This corps is said by Bullock and Kippin, on the basis of a common source, to have been formed as an armed association in 1798, but, oddly, it is not in the 1799 list, and it’s possible that its offer of service was not accepted.

Bullock describes the uniform, quoting from the Winchcomb and Sudeley Record, as:

Dark blue jacket, blue facings; plain round yellow button; plain white waistcoat of kerseymere or cloth; white breeches of kerseymere, cloth or leather, with white metal buttons; black gaiters, to reach to the calf of the leg; white stockings; small black cap with red feather; black neckerchief.

Kippin quotes the same source but gives the “facings, cuffs and collar” as originally red but later changed for blue. (An “artist’s impression” included in Kippin appears anachronistic in some respects, and is not reproduced here.)

[Winchcomb and Sudeley Record, Vol V, 50-52, February to April 1894.]

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