Tag Archives: Light Horse Volunteers

‘A nearer resemblance to our Brethren in Ireland’

I know this has been flagged up elsewhere, but I can’t help posting about this wonderful print recently acquired for the Anne S K Brown Military Collection, which portrays:

“An exact representation of the whole of the PROCESSION of ALDERMAN KIRKMAN’s FUNERAL, taken as it passed thro’ the City to St. Michael Bassishaw Church, – together with the Procession on Foot to the Church, – the Funeral Exercise with all the Motions which the Association Companies went thro’, correctly drawn; – the Uniform Dresses of the Captains of the Horse, Infantry and Light-Infantry and the Drill-Dress of the LONDON ASSOCIATION and of the other City Associations which attended upon this Solemn Occasion.”

Titles were certainly comprehensive in 1780, and quite rightly too. Italics were also italics, and capitals capitals. And the City of London was an inhabited community, not a heap of desolate skyscrapers.  Kirkman had been prominent with the volunteers during the recent Gordon Riots, and the useful background provided here, on the Anne S K Brown blog, suggests that the display of military force may have had a deeper purpose than mere pomp and circumstance. (Click the image above for some eye watering enlargement.)

Kirkman detail
The hundreds of tiny marching figures, fluently and economically drawn by one T Bonnor, include the infantry, light infantry and light horse of the Loyal London Association (in scarlet, faced black velvet, silver officer’s lace, drill dress white faced blue);  the Bishops Gate Street Association (blue faced buff); the Castle Baynard Ward Association (colours not given); the Newgate Street Association (white faced orange), and the Cheap Ward Association (Kirkman’s own, red faced green). Orange facings must surely have had a political-religious significance at this time? This is the “6 Pence plain” version of the print; the “1,S. Colour’d” version must have been splendid, but labour intensive for the poor underpaid hand colourer.

The volunteers of 1779 to 1782 were the precursors of the mass movements of 1794, 1798 and 1803, but have received relatively little study. The London Association is also shown in Francis Wheatley’s painting of the riot in Broad Street, which I can only find online in print form. Wheatley also portrayed Henry Grattan and a number of scenes of Irish volunteers, which points up an interesting connection. The correspondence of Thomas Taylor of the Liverpool Military Association of 1782 (among the Memoirs & Proceedings for 1900 of the Manchester Literary & Philosophical Society) contains these significant comments:

“I have been sorry to hear some reflections lately thrown out by some Townsmen of yours and those friends to the Association, that the Officers in your Companies [the Manchester  Military Association] have gone to expence in their dress, and have made a shew and parade by no means consistent with the true spirit of the institution, and I heard the names of several Gentlemen mentioned who had left the Corps on that account. I wish these insinuations may have been wrong or exaggerated, for I shall always wish to hear you shall proceed on right principles.

[We] shall go to no further Expense this winter as we have resolved that the present Jacketts are sufficient uniforms till the Spring … It is necessary for us to be economical, we have no fund to recur to to furnish the extraordinaries but I do not think us the less respectable on this account. It gives us a nearer resemblance to our Brethren in Ireland, whose Conduct I wish us to imitate in all respects.

(My italics.) Talk of “true spirit” and “right principles” shared, in Taylor’s view, with the Irish volunteers implies a strong Whiggism that finds its visual expression in an economy of dress that keeps distinctions of rank to the necessary minimum. (This argument would surface again in the more polarised atmosphere of twenty years later – see this post.) Alignments between the English and Irish volunteers of this era could well deserve further attention.