West Yorkshire: association infantry

In the West Riding, eight corps of volunteers were formed in immediate response to the volunteer legislation of 1794, and a further three in 1797-8 at a time when when the parallel formation of armed associations, with more limited terms of service, stimulated a general revival of the volunteering spirit. In addition to these volunteers, six corps of infantry were raised in 1798 as armed associations. On this page are notes on the organisational basics, dress and equipage, where known to me, of the armed association infantry of  Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Otley, Sheffield and Wakefield. All were disbanded in or by 1802.

In addition, the correspondence of the lieutenancy of the Riding in the Wentworth Woodhouse papers at Sheffield indicates that apparently viable offers of armed associations were made by the citizens of Dewsbury, Doncaster, Halifax, Horbury, Pontefract, Staincross, Strafforth & Tickhill, and York, but for whatever reason, even if accepted by the lieutenancy, it seems that these did not see realisation. I have noted them here in alphabetical order with those that were successfully formed.

Some of these associations also included troops of cavalry, which are examined on a separate page, while the West Riding infantry volunteers of 1794-5, 1797-8 and 1803 will be examined on other pages.

Given the brief existence and limited scope of these smaller military associations, information on their dress and equipment, with a couple of exceptions, is sparse or non-existent, and even basic details of their organisation can be difficult to find.  Earliest dates of commissions, as best known to me, are taken from the War Office list of 1799 (sixth edition) or from the London Gazette. This page does not pretend to be comprehensive, and if new information arrives it will be added. Click all images to enlarge.

 

Bradford Volunteer Association

Earliest commissions dated 26 May 1798. Two companies. Captain Benjamin Hobhouse, Captain Thomas Bush.

 

Dewsbury Armed Association

Proposed and accepted by the Lieutenancy in April 1798, but I can find no further mention, and may not have been formed. (For what may be a related cavalry troop, see this page.)

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Doncaster Armed Association / Doncaster Volunteer Infantry

Proposed in May 1798, though I have not noted any record of acceptance. Articles of enrolment mention coats, waistcoats, breeches or pantaloons.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Halifax Armed Association 

Linked with the cavalry of the Association. One company, completed by April 1798. No further mention seems to be made of this company in period sources, and it may not have survived.

The 250 muskets of the existing Halifax Volunteers, raised in 1794, had been provided at Birmingham, but were considered too light and the bore too small for government cartridges. In 1798 the corps requested new arms, and that the old should be issued to the infantry of the Armed Association.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Horbury Armed Association

Proposed and accepted in April 1798. One company, John Rayner to command. No further mention found, and may not have been formed.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Huddersfield Armed Association / Huddersfield Volunteer Infantry

Linked with the cavalry of the Association. Earliest commissions dated 22 May 1798. At the first meeting of the Association on 23 April 1798 two companies were proposed but only one appears to have been raised initially, a second added subsequently. Major Commandant Joseph Radcliffe.

From the April resolutions and “Rules and Regulations”:

That the uniform for the infantry shall be a blue coat, with scarlet collar and cuffs, and gold epaulets, white waistcoat, white linen pantaloons and black gaiters, a round hat with a feather and a loop, sword hung to a white shoulder belt, pouch to another to cross.

That each member of the Infantry Corps shall provide himself with clothing, conformable to the 4th resolution, exact in colour and as near as possible in quality, and exact to the pattern dress proposed by the committee. And we also agree to pay for the arms and accoutrements when delivered to us by the committee.

COLOURS FOR THE INFANTRY. – The Union Flag, in the centre of which is the King’s Arms.

This description of the King’s colour resembles that attributed by Berry to the volunteers of 1794 (Huddersfield Fusiliers) as illustrated in his work; conceivably, this was the pattern intended for that of the Association infantry.

Regimental colour of the 1794 Huddersfield volunteers as shown by Berry, and as described also for the Armed Association

In the Gaunt collection at Birmingham Museum is a belt plate of a generic design attributed to the “Loyal Huddersfield Volunteers”, which could be an officer’s plate. As we might expect the Huddersfield Fusiliers of 1794 to have used a design specific to that corps, and as the 1803 formation used silver as the officer’s metal, it is at least possible that this was used by the Association infantry, though it is clearly a light company pattern, and this has to be a cautious judgement. It is described by the museum as brass but may be gilt; on the stippled matt centre is a crown, with a bugle horn applied in a white metal.

[Robert Potter Berry, A History of the formation and development of the Volunteer Infantry, from the earliest times, illustrated by the local records of Huddersfield and its vicinity …, London & Huddersfield, 1903.]

 

Leeds Volunteer Association

First proposed in April 1798. At meetings in late June proposed as two battalion companies. Earliest commissions dated 9 July 1798. Two companies formed. Captain Commandant Benjamin Gott. As the last mention of the corps in the local papers is said to be in June 1800 it is possible that it was disbanded before 1802.

From proposed rules of April 1798:

That each member provide himself with an Uniform consisting of a double breasted dark blue Coat with a black Collar and plain yellow buttons, a white waiscoat[sic] a pair of White Linen Pantaloons  or overalls a round Hat looped up on one side and a Feather.

From resolutions of 29 June 1798:

The uniform should be a scarlet coat with black velvet collar, lapell, facings & cuffs, white buttons with a Fleece & L A in Roman characters. Under – a white waistcoat of any description of cloth & make and white linen pantaloons or overalls, black velvet stock, black cloth gaiters, and a round hat with a black cockade.

Notes: the blue uniform was not adopted. The design of the button was later amended to read “L” alone (see below). “Overalls” here might suggest that white trousers were worn in undress, or may in this context be a synonym for pantaloons. It is not clear whether “black cockade” implies a black feather or tuft also. Belts (see below) were of black leather. The diary of Lieutenant Thomas Butler confirms the June uniform resolution, mentions pantaloons but not overalls, and indicates that in July Butler discussed clothing with a Mr Hardwick, possibly a local clothier.

The Butler coat: a sketch of the main features

Butler’s uniform was described in 1903 by Robert Potter Berry, and was once at Leeds Museum. In the 1970’s it was on display at the Castle Museum, York, and originally consisted of a coat, waistcoat, gorget, sword belt and plate, sword and sash. It is not now at York and seems mysteriously unaccounted for, though a belt plate and gorget, which may or may not be from Butler’s outfit, are held at the National Army Museum, and were, until the recent restructuring, on show in the volunteer display.

The scarlet coat is faced in black velvet, with the collar, lapels, tops and backs of cuffs and pocket flaps all finely edged in white. A large button is on each side of the collar, but without any button hole. Each lapel has eight large buttons with short black thread holes. The top corner of the lapel is slightly pointed. Each cuff has four large buttons, with a small red cloth covered button securing the rear opening. The horizontal (cross) pocket flaps have four scarlet twist holes, with four large buttons below. The flat silver plated buttons bear the fleece symbol of Leeds over a Roman capital “L”. (A dug silvered button recorded at finds.org.uk is of the same design.) The white turnbacks are narrowly edged in black, but the turnback ornament and rear skirts were not in view in the display when I saw it. The right shoulder bears a silver epaulette, held with a small uniform button; the top of the strap is pointed, and the strap bears the fleece motif, embroidered in gold, possibly below another element that was not clearly visible in the display at York. The bullions of the fringe appeared relatively narrow.

The white single breasted waistcoat fastens with small uniform buttons. The silvered gorget was displayed at York suspended from the collar buttons by a black ribbon, though no rosettes were visible to me. The design shows “LAA” in script within a small wreath, above the arms of Leeds, showing the escutcheon, supporters and motto ribbon, but no crest. The details of the owls are quite vaguely rendered and the scroll or ribbon is empty, with no inscription.

The sword belt is of black leather, with an oval silvered plate showing a crown over “LAA” in ornate script. The red sash shows a clear weave, and does not resemble silk. I do not recall seeing the sword with the belt at York, but Berry noted that it has a gold and crimson knot.

Also on display at the National Army Museum until recently was a regimental colour which, though attributed to the Leeds Volunteers of 1794, could well be of the Armed Association, though I’m open to correction on this. The dark field was described in the display as blue, the facing colour of the 1794 volunteers, whose regimental colour similarly bore the city’s arms; however, it seemed to me that it looked more like a red cross on black, the colours for a corps with black facings, and so attributable to the Association infantry, even though inscribed “Leeds Volunteers”. The regimental colour of the Leeds Volunteers of 1794, discussed on a separate page, was described at the time as finely embroidered and as bearing the motto “Pro Rege et Lege”; as this flag is painted and does not include that motto, it is clear that it should be re-identified to the Association. (This flag does not show up in the NAM’s online inventory search.)


The sleeve of the colour is red, and there is no fringe. The canton shows the pre-1801 Union, with a margin of black ground between the Union and the red cross. At centre, the arms of Leeds omit the crest, showing white owls shaded in brown with yellow coronets, supporting a shield with yellow edging and rococo ornamentation, bearing three white stars on a black chief above a golden fleece on a blue field. The title ribbons are white, shaded in grey, with the lettering in black capitals with serifs. My very quick sketch gives a very rough impression.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20. Emily Hargrave, “The Early Leeds Volunteers”, Publications of the Thoresby Society, Vol XXVIII, Miscellanea. A E, B F & H M Butler, eds, The Diary of Thomas Butler of Kirkstall Forge, Yorkshire 1796-1799 …, Chiswick Press, 1906; I have not seen this, but it is quoted in Rodney Butler, The History of Kirkstall Forge …, Henry Jenkinson Limited, 1945. Robert Potter Berry, A History of the Formation and development of the Volunteer Infantry, from the earliest times, illustrated by the local records of Huddersfield and its vicinity, from 1794 to 1874, London & Huddersfield, 1903.]

 

Otley Armed Association

Proposed in May 1798, 150 strong. Earliest commissions 6 June 1798. Two companies. Major Commandant William Vavasour.

A guide leaflet (pre-1970’s) for All Saint Otley, online at http://ashefamily.info, includes the note: “Before entering the chancel notice the military drum which belonged to the Otley Armed Association formed in 1797[sic].”

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Pontefract Armed Association

Proposed in April 1798, but I have found no further mention, and may not have been formed.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Sheffield Volunteer Association

Linked with the cavalry of the association. Four companies proposed and approved in April 1798. Earliest commissions dated 9 July 1798. Two companies. Captain Samuel Robinson, Captain John Watson.


In the 1970’s the Mappin Museum, Sheffield, held a gorget, different in design to those of the Sheffield Volunteers of 1794 and 1803, which can be attributed with confidence to this corps. Of gilt copper, it has applied, cut out in silver, the pre-1801 Royal arms, and at the ends the arms of the city and of the Cutlers’ Company. Another of the same design is shown in a photo from an unidentified auction catalogue, sent to me in 1982 by Philip Haythornthwaite. We can assume from this that the officers’ metal colour was gold.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Staincross Armed Association

In May 1798 a troop of cavalry and 200 infantry were proposed. While the cavalry were accepted, I have found no further mention of the infantry.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Strafforth & Tickhill Armed Association

This association was proposed in May 1798 but I have found no further mention of it.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

Wakefield Volunteer Association

Linked with the cavalry of the Association. Proposed in April 1798. Earliest commissions dated 21 June 1798. Two companies. Captain Commandant John Naylor, Captain Andrew Peterson.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

 

York Armed Association

Infantry proposed in April 1798 in conjunction with the cavalry troop raised and accepted, but which served as yeomanry. I have found no further mention of the infantry being organised.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]

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