West Yorkshire: independent yeomanry and association cavalry

Of the cavalry of the West Riding of Yorkshire, only the county yeomanry were formed with the legislation of 1794 and, a little later, the Leeds Cavalry. All other independent cavalry volunteers raised in the 1790’s in the West Riding were formed during the armed association movement of 1798. On this page are notes on the organisational basics, and dress and equipage where known, the independent yeomanry of Leeds, Staincross and York, and of the armed association cavalry of Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield. Two of the latter may not have been actually formed, while some belonged to associations that also included companies of infantry, which are examined on a separate page. All, other than Leeds, were disbanded in or by 1802.

Four new independent corps were raised with the second wave of volunteering in 1803: the Craven Legion, Harewood, Knaresborough and Stockeld Park. A new troop of Huddersfield Yeomanry Cavalry was formed much later, in 1817. These five are also noted below, and all are listed in a single alphabetical order.

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. Surviving evidence, especially for dress and equipment, is sparse, and often limited to brief descriptions; in some cases I have found little more than an indication that a corps existed. If new information arrives it will be added. Click all images to enlarge.


Craven Legion

Raised as yeomanry in 1803. Associated with the volunteer infantry of the Legion. Overall command, Colonel Comm Thomas Lister, Lord Ribblesdale. Cavalry, Lieut Col Richard Wainman. Five troops by early 1804. With the transfer of the Legion’s infantry to the Local Militia in 1808, these troops became the Craven Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry; a sixth troop was added at some point between 1817 and 1820. Disbanded in 1828.

The total cost of clothing and equipment was estimated at “not much less than £10,000” (the infantry included) and described in 1804 as “uniformly handsome and good, but by no means tawdry or extravagant”.The uniform was blue jackets faced yellow, silver officers’ lace, blue pantaloons.

These colours are confirmed by figures in a miniature of a presentation of colours (in 1803?), online at http://www.birtwhistle.info. Though very small and unclear in the available reproduction, these show for officers a dark blue jacket with yellow collar and cuffs, pale lace looping on the front, dark blue pantaloons and black hessian boots. The Tarleton helmet has a white plume, and possibly a black turban; a black sword belt is worn with what must originally have appeared a crimson sash, now a pale pink. (With the exception of the yellow facings, this appears to be essentially similar to the dress of the Southern Regiment of West Riding Yeomanry at this period.)

Surviving buttons are flat, the design a crown over “CL” in Old English capitals; one example appears to be silvered.

Colours (along with those of the infantry) were presented on 17 February 1804. In the miniature shown above, a standard appears to be red or crimson with yellow or gold motifs.

[Lancaster Gazette, 3 March 1804. James Willson, “A View of the Volunteer Army of Great Britain …”, 1806.]


                                      Dewsbury Light Horse Volunteers

Presumably linked with the Dewsbury Armed Association, proposed in April 1798 and apparently accepted. However, the War Office list of 1799 includes no associations, infantry or cavalry, for Dewsbury. This is puzzling, given that a medal for the Dewsbury Light Horse Volunteers, inscribed “Merit Rewarded”, has been sold on eBay; it shows the arms of the town, and is dated 1801.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]


Halifax Volunteer Cavalry

An association troop, linked with the infantry of the Halifax Volunteer Association. Complete by April 1798. Earliest commissions 22 May 1798. One troop. Captain William Ingram. Disbanded in 1802.

From regulations of 1798:

Rule 5. That every Member at his own Expence shall furnish himself with the following Cloathing – Arms and Accoutrements, all made to pattern, a regimental Bridle and Saddle, with Cloak-Pad and Straps – a Cartouch Box, containing twelve Rounds, fixed in the right Holster, a Sabre, – a whited Leather Sword Knot, a whited leather Shoulder belt, a Pistol, a regimental Blue Coat Cloak, with Scarlet Collar and Lining, a Dress Uniform agreeable to Rule 6, and an Undress Uniform agreeable to Rule 7; and each commissioned Officer to procure a crimson Silk Sash.

Rule 6. That the Dress Uniform shall be a Scarlet Hussar Jacket with Silver Lace, Black Velvet Collar and Cuffs, White Leather Breeches, long black topp’d boots, plated Spurs with horizontal Rowels, Black Velvet Stock, with a narrow white Turn Over, frilled Shirt, Hair well powdered, Short Sides, Queue tied rather close to the Head, Silk Rosette, white wash Leather Gloves, and Helmet with white long feather.

Rule 7. That the Undress shall be a plain Blue Jacket – Pantaloons of Blue Cloth, with the Insides of Black leather – Half Boots – and other particulars as in Rule 6.

The jackets of all ranks are to be scarlet and silver (more usually officers’ distinctions), and no indication of rank is suggested other than officers’ sashes. “Insides of Black leather” must indicate strapping on the pantaloons, which may therefore have been cut looser, as overalls. The helmet turban colour is not indicated.

On 4 June 1799 a standard was presented by Miss Ingram.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 10 June 1799. Regulating Code of Laws for the Halifax Volunteer Cavalry, 1798. Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20. T W Hanson, “The Early Volunteers and Cavalry of Halifax”, Halifax Antiquarian Society, Transactions, 1920. Halifax Volunteer Cavalry, June 4th 1798, broadside of address etc at presentation of standard, York Museums.]


Harewood Cavalry

Raised as yeomanry in 1803. One troop. Captain Hon Henry Lascelles. Disbanded in 1814.

No uniform colours given in Willson’s chart of 1806.


Huddersfield Armed Association Cavalry / Huddersfield Volunteer Cavalry

Linked with the infantry of the Huddersfield Volunteer Association. First meeting April 23 1798, accepted May 1798. Earliest commissions dated May 22 1798. One troop. Captain Lawrence Atkinson. Disbanded in 1802.

From proposals of April 1798:

That the uniform for the cavalry shall be a plain scarlet hussar jacket, three rows of silver buttons, silver chain to each shoulder, with silver fringe and bullion, helmet cap inscribed ‘Huddersfield Volunteer Cavalry’, black bear skin on the crest, white plume with red top, white leather breeches, military boots, blue cloak and military horse-furniture.

That each member of the Cavalry Corps shall be provided with a sabre and one pistol, the sabre to hang from a white waist-belt.

STANDARD FOR THE CAVALRY. – In the centre, the Rose and Thistle, over which is a Crown; at the right corner at the top, and the left corner at the bottom, is an oval, H.A.A.; at the left corner at the top, and the right corner at the bottom, is an oval, the Hanover Horse, on crimson satin, with silver fringe and tassels.

Note: “fringe and bullion” indicates a distinction of rank, the bullion for officers. The helmet turban colour is not noted.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20. 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.]


Huddersfield Yeomanry Cavalry

Accepted as yeomanry 12 March 1817. One troop, a second troop added in 1820. Captain Commandant John Armytage, Captain Commandant Thomas Atkinson. Disbanded in 1827-8.

A painting exists of Captain Thomas Atkinson with a trumpeter, set by the artist, John Frederick Herring senior, against a fashionably gloomy and romantic sky. The uniform is of the contemporary light dragoon pattern, and so probably adopted in 1817: a dark blue jacket with buff collar, cuffs, lapels and turnbacks, and buff piping on the side and sleeve seams. Buttons and epaulettes are gold, the girdle gold lace and crimson. The cap has a white over red plume, gold lace and gilt or brass fittings. The dark grey overalls have a gold lace seam stripe, apparently edged in dark blue, with tan leather cuffs. The pouch and sword belts are white, the sabretache black. The rolled cloak is blue.

The trumpeter is similarly dressed, but with buff shoulder straps, a girdle with three buff and two dark blue stripes and overalls with a buff seam stripe and tan cuffs. His cap has an all red plume and apparently yellow (or gold?) lace around the top. The squadron in the background, though very distant, appear similarly dressed; white (over red) plumes are visible, and a dark coloured standard.

[R G Harris, “An Officer of the Huddersfield Troop of Yeomanry Cavalry 1822”, JSAHR Vol LX No 241, Spring 1982.]


Knaresborough Cavalry

Raised as yeomanry in 1803. One troop. Captain Thomas Slingsby. Disbanded in 1815.

Blue jackets, faced yellow, no officer’s lace, white legwear.

[James Willson, “A View of the Volunteer Army of Great Britain …”, 1806.]


Leeds Volunteer Cavalry / Leeds Gentlemen and Yeomanry

Raised as yeomanry, and not connected with the Leeds Association infantry of 1798. First meeting November 1796, accepted January 1797, earliest commissions 11 May 1797, first public appearance 4 June 1797. Originally one troop, Captain William Blackburn, Captain James Rhodes. Embodied through 1802, two troops by 1803. Disbanded in 1811. A standard presented 17 November 1797.

Officer’s jacket 1797: photo York Museums

York Museums have an officer’s jacket cut in the longer waisted style of the late 1790’s. It is scarlet with black collar and cuffs, laced throughout in a flat braid, about a quarter inch or slightly more, doubled on the loops between buttons and on the front frame, but single elsewhere. This braid now appears silver, but given that the buttons are gilt, is seems likely that it was originally gold. The front has two outer rows of 18 buttons and a central row of 19, the extra button being on the top line of the frame. The frame and front loops are broader at top and bottom, narrowing at the centre. The gilt buttons are flat, with no rim, and marked “LVC” in script.

Private’s jacket c 1800, and details of front trim

The collar has two lines of braid, and a button surviving at one side to hold a wing; both shoulder seams show three pairs of small holes for fastenings for chain or scale wings. The jacket is edged with single braid. The frame forms an eye at each top corner, and two eyes at the level of the lowest buttons, beneath which the outer line of the frame continues as a single braid to the bottom jacket edge. The top and sides of the pockets are edged with single braid, ending in eyes. The edge of the black lining is visible along the jacket and pocket edges. The cuffs close with two buttons, the same size as on the front, and have two lines of braid, the upper with a single eye at the point, the lower with three eyes. The cuff slits are edged with braid forming a small trefoil at the top. I have not seen the rear of the jacket.

York Museums’ online catalogue mistakenly links a photo of this jacket with a description of a different jacket attributed to this troop, which is not illustrated online. This appears to be a trooper’s jacket of a slightly later date [shown left], being a little shorter in the waist. It is red with black collar and cuffs, laced with a red worsted braid. The front loops narrow towards the waist, terminating in eyes at the outer rows. There are 20 buttons in each outer row and 19 in the centre, the top loop running to the collar and ending in a trefoil knot on the shoulder. There are no signs of any wings. The buttons are plain, fairly small, slightly domed; I noted them on viewing as brass, though the museum description is gilt. The collar and jacket are edged with a single braid. The cuffs are of the same pattern as those of the officer’s jacket, but with red braid. Below each pocket is a double line of braid, ending in trefoils. A button at the collar edge on each shoulder holds a yellow cord twist shoulder strap, running to the shoulder seam, and touching the braid knot. The edge of the black lining is visible along the jacket and pocket edges. Again, I have not seen the reverse of this jacket. A poor photo of it appears in a number of JSAHR that I have not identified.

Photo York Museums

A helmet of this corps, apparently once at Leeds Museum, also survives at York Museums and is discussed also in this post. This was almost certainly made by Hawkes. The feather plume and the turban chains are missing, but the fur crest and leopard skin turban are intact. The left label reads “LEEDS” and the right “VOLR. CAVALRY”. The large plate incorporates both the badge – a crowned garter and cypher – and the unit’s motto, the same as that used from 1795 by the West Yorkshire Yeomanry, with the negative areas painted black. Assuming that the metal trimmings are gilded, this would have been an officer’s helmet.

In September 1799 the troop was described at drill on their permanent duty: “They mount every morning at seven in watering caps, &c, without saddles …”

Completing the holdings of this corps at York is its standard, complete with staff. This was presented on 17 November 1797 by Mrs Peter Rhodes. I’d estimate the guidon to measure about two feet by two and a half. When I saw it on display forty years ago, the field looked to me a mid grey, but the museum’s current description is “green”; given that black elements of the design would not show on a ground that was black to match the jacket facings, it may well originally have been crimson. The staff has a white metal spear (originally gilded?) with two cords and four tassels of mixed crimson and white (apparently – originally crimson and gold?), with the fringes of the tassels in crimson alone. The fringe is gold. The painted design on the obverse is the crest of the city arms – an owl “proper” in brown, grey and white, on a torse of light blue and yellow (“azure and or”), thickly shaded underneath in black. The letters “L V C” are in yellow, shaded in black at the right and underneath. I have not seen the reverse side, but the museum’s online entry describes at the centre a wreath with “a motto and ribbons at the base”, surrounding “a boar with a ribbon tied around its waist” – not a boar but the hanging golden ram’s fleece, the central element in the arms of the city of Leeds. The motto, as given in a newspaper report of the presentation, was “Our country, our laws”.

No uniform colours for this corps are given in Willson’s chart of 1806.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 20 November 1797. Manchester Mercury, 3 September 1799. Emily Hargrave, “The Early Leeds Volunteers”, Publications of the Thoresby Society, Vol XXVIII.]


Rotherham Volunteer Cavalry

Presumably linked with the infantry of the Rotherham Armed Association. A single troop proposed in April 1798, and apparently raised. However, the War Office list for 1799 includes no association troop for Rotherham.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20. John Guest, Historic Notices of Rotherham, Worksop, 1879.]


Sheffield Independent Volunteer Cavalry

Linked with the infantry of the Sheffield Armed Association. Subscriptions made and corps accepted April 1798. Earliest commissions dated July 5 1798. Two troops. Captain-Commandant Charles Hawksley Webb, Captain George Browne. A standard was presented by Lady Fitzwilliam on 1 November 1798. One trumpeter in each troop, two trumpets presented 6 December 1798. Disbanded in 1802.

The uniform jacket dress … is scarlet, turned up with black velvet, trim’d with gold lace after the manner of the Sommersetshire[sic] Officers Dress, which suppose[sic] to be somewhat the style of the Hessian dress, generally adopted.

Helmets “according to approved pattern”.

The Somersetshire Fencible Cavalry were currently in barracks at Sheffield. It is not clear whether gold lace was proposed for officers alone or for all ranks. “Hessian” here seems confused with “Hussar”.

[Sheffield Iris, 2 November 1798. Leeds Intelligencer, 05 November 1798. Derby Mercury, 08 November 1798. Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]


Staincross Gentlemen and Yeomanry

Served as yeomanry, though proposed as an armed association in April 1798, and accepted as such in May. Earliest commissions 20 June. One troop. Captain Godfrey W Wentworth. Disbanded in 1802.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20.]


Stockeld Park Cavalry / Stockeld Yeomanry Cavalry

Raised as yeomanry in 1803. One troop. Captain Hon William Gordon. Disbanded at some point between 1812 and 1817. (In the 1803 volunteer list this troop is titled, perhaps incorrectly, as the “West Riding”.)

Blue jackets, faced red, officers’ lace silver, white legwear.

An undated medal was sold at Spink in 2006, of white metal, the obverse engraved with an eight pointed star bearing a garter with the regimental title and “G III R” between a crown and crossed swords. This may or may not indicate the use of a similar design on helmet badges or belt plates.

On 18 January 1804 the troop received its “colours” (a single standard?), presented by the Countess of Aberdeen.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 23 January 1804. York Herald, 28 January 1804. James Willson, “A View of the Volunteer Army of Great Britain …”, 1806.]


Wakefield Cavalry

Linked with the infantry of Wakefield Armed Association. Proposed at meeting of 21 April 1798. Earliest commissions dated 21 June. One troop. Captain James Milnes Thornes (or possibly James Milnes Thomas). Disbanded in 1802.

[Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20. J W Walker, Wakefield, its History and People, Vol II, 1939.]


City of York Gentlemen and Yeomanry / York Volunteer Cavalry

Served as yeomanry, though proposed as one element of an armed association in April 1798, and accepted in May. (Proposed associated infantry apparently not formed or accepted.) Earliest commissions 20 June 1798. One troop. Captain William Duffin (wrongly, Daffin). Said to have been disbanded in 1799, but certainly disbanded by 1802. A meeting on 25 July 1803, chaired by Duffin, proposed to re-form the troop, but this appears not to have happened.

The colour of the field of the standard (below) suggests that facings may have been blue, in which case jackets would have been scarlet / red. The metal colour was gold, as indicated by belt plates.

Gilt and brass oval belt plates are kept at York Museums, National Army Museum and Birmingham Museum (Gaunt Collection): garter star within crowned garter with trophies, inscribed “York Volunteer Cavalry”, above a wreath. A version with the same design in silver, made up as a medal, was sold in 2009 by Boulton Cooper.

An “elegant standard”, the gift of Captain Duffin, was presented on 28 October 1799. A line drawing of it has been published by Ian Sumner. This is said to have been drawn from the actual flag, whose location is not known to me. The guidon is described as originally a purplish mid-blue, the arms a red cross with gold lions and edging on a white field, crimson scrolls with gold lettering and white edges, their reverse sides white, crimson & brown, the palm leaves in shades of green, the rose stems green with white roses. There is no surviving fringe.

[Leeds Intelligencer, 04 November 1799. York Herald, 30 July 1803. Sheffield Archives, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y20. Ian Sumner, British Colours & Standards 1747-1881(1), Osprey Elite 77, 2001.]

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