The Worcestershire Militia (1757 to 1777)

This chapter covers the Act passed for reorganisation of the Militia - Formation of the Worcestershire Regiment Militia - Appointment of Officers, etc. and the Annual trainings till 1777.

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In the year 1752 a bill was introduced into the House of Commons, by an independent member, for extending the usefulness of the Militia, but at the third reading, owing to the adjournment of the House, it was lost. In 1756 the threatening prospect of French invasion, and the absence from England of most of the regular troops in the Seven Years' War, caused the Government to turn its attention to the revival and reorganization of the force. An Act for that purpose was introduced in the House of Commons in 1756 by the Ministry, and in the following year, after some opposition, passed.

Under this Act, the 3o Geo. II. c. 25, 30,000 men, infantry alone, were to be raised in England and Wales, (see note 1 below) the quota of Worcester county and city being 560. The men, who were to be exclusively Protestant (The Militia ceased to be exclusively Protestant in 1802), between the ages of sixteen and forty-five, were to be raised by the system of the ballot, no man under five feet four inches in height being taken. They were to serve for three years, undergo twenty-eight days' training annually, be liable to be embodied in case of actual invasion, imminent danger thereof, or rebellion, but could never be compelled to serve out of the United Kingdom. A balloted man might, by paying £10, provide a substitute and thus avoid serving. Parish officers were allowed to supply volunteers and pay them such bounty as the parish had fixed.

Note 1: The Irish Militia was formed in 1793, by the 35 Geo. III. c. 8; and the Scotch in 1797, by the 37 Geo. III. c. 103.

The pay was the same as that of the line, and on embodiment each man received a guinea, known as a "marching guinea." Each man was supplied with a free kit, which became his property after three years' disembodied or one year's embodied service. During annual training or embodiment the men were made subject to the Mutiny Acts and Articles of War. For not appearing when summoned, fines, imprisonment, and public whipping were the penalties; for drunkenness, fines; and for disobedience, fines, imprisonment, or "be set in the stocks."

A direct authority was given to the Crown over the appointments of officers, whose names, as well as those of deputy-lieutenants, were to be submitted for a twenty-one days' veto previously to being commissioned. The Crown had also the appointment of adjutants and sergeants, but the latter were subsequently appointed out of militiamen. A property qualification (Click here for details of property qualification at different periods) was imposed upon officers except in cases of promotion to lieutenant or captain for meritorious service. Every fourth year one-third of the officers, except the adjutant, were to be discharged, to make room for others willing to accept commissions; the object being, avowedly, to train a number of gentlemen capable of becoming officers should a larger force be required, but more probably to enable commanding officers to get rid of objectionable persons. Officers ranked equal with those of the regular army, but junior in service. The rank of brigadier-general was held by officers in certain counties (see note 2 below).

Note 2: In 1760, Henry, Earl of Darlington, was appointed brigadier-general of Militia for the county of Durham; Sir James Lowther for the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland; Lord Shaftesbury for the county of Dorset; and in 1761, Charles, Duke of Bolton, for the Southampton Militia.

An annual Pay and Clothing Act was necessary to enable the Crown to exercise the force; and the preparation of the estimate was considered one of the privileges of the Commons till as late as 1862, when it was abandoned, without opposition, in favour of the ministers of the Crown, though the annual act continued to be passed (Clode's "Military Forces of the Crown").

The system of the ballot, by which the men were to be raised, was very obnoxious to the English country people, so much so that great difficulty was experienced in carrying the Militia laws into execution. Serious riots occurred at Nottingham, Mansfield, Boston, Sevenoaks, Newcastle, and Chirk, in Denbighshire; and in York four persons were condemned and one executed for obstructing the acts. And, what made matters worse, county gentlemen refused to accept commissions, the system of the ballot being so repugnant to their feelings.

The first meeting held in Worcestershire with the view of raising the regiment took place on July 27, 1758, at the Talbot Inn, Sidbury, when the Earl of Coventry, † Lord-Lieutenant of the County, and several deputy-lieutenants attended; but, so few gentlemen being willing to accept commissions, the subject had to be deferred till August 14. For the same reason it was again postponed till the following year, and for several years in succession.

Note 3: George William, 6th Earl of Coventry, was son of the Right Hon. William, 5th Earl of Coventry, Comptroller of the Green Cloth, and Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Worcester. He married first, in 1752, Maria (who died in 1760), eldest daughter of John Gunning, Esq., by Bridget, daughter of John, Viscount Mayo; he married secondly, in 1764, Barbara, daughter of John, 10th Lord St. John, of Bletshoe. He was Lord of the Bedchamber to George II. and George III., and Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Worcester, in which latter capacity he organized and raised the Worcestershire Regiment of Militia. He died in 1809.

This opposition to the Militia was only temporary in several counties, for many regiments were raised in 1758 and 1759. We read that between the embodying of the force in 1759, in consequence of the Seven Years' War, and the end of that year, such care and diligence had been used in disciplining it that "the greater part of those truly constitutional battalions rivalled the regular troops in the perfection of their exercise, and seemed to be in all respects as fit for actual service in the field. "And Horace Walpole, writing the same year, says" the towns through which they pass adore them; everywhere they are treated and regaled."

The new Worcestershire Regiment of Militia was formed in the year 1770. At a meeting of the lord-lieutenant and Deputy-Lieutenants of the county and city, held at Hooper's Coffee House, in Worcester, on May 19, it was resolved to immediately raise the regiment, sufficient gentlemen having at last consented to accept commissions. The county and city was arranged into divisions and subdivisions, and Deputy-Lieutenants appointed to each, to fix the proportions and ballot for the men.

6th Earl of Coventry

George William, 6th Earl of Coventry

The following correspondence took place in regard to the appointment of the officers and sergeants :—

"Lord Coventry presents his compliments to Lord Weymouth, and begs to trouble His Lordship with the names of the Militia Officers for His Majesty's approbation.

"Piccadilly, June 17, 1770.

Colonel Nicholas Lechmere

Colonel Nicholas Lechmere


Colonel ... Nicholas Lechmere, Esq.

Major ... Holland Cooksey, Esq.§

Colonel Nicholas Lechmere, of Ludford Park, Ludlow, Shropshire, was the only son of Edmund Lechmere, M.P., of Severn End, co. Worcester, High Sheriff of the County, 1733, by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Blundell Charlton, Bart., of Ludford; and step-brother of Sir Anthony Lechmere, first baronet. Born December 18, 1733 ; married Susanna, daughter of Jesson Case, Esq., of Powyke, near Worcester. Assumed the additional surname of Charlton in 1784, on succeeding to the estates of his uncle, Sir Francis Charlton. He was M.P. for the city of Worcester in 1774, and late Captain of 3rd Foot Guards.

§ Major Holland Cooksey, of Braces Leigh, co. Worcester, was the son of Richard Cooksey, Esq., of White Ladies. He was educated at Oxford, where he graduated B.A. at Worcester College in 1743, and M.A. at Merton in 1746. He was afterwards called to the Bar at the Inner Temple. He was the author of "A Charge to the Grand Jury of Worcestershire," delivered by him as chairman of the Quarter Sessions of the Peace of the County; and "An Essay on the Lives and Characters of the Lord Chancellors Somers and Hardwicke," 1791. He was a J.P. and D.L. for the county.


Captains - John Clements, Philip Moule, Samuel West, William Wren-ford, Edward Baker, Thomas Cornwell.

Lieutenants - Thomas Creswell, John Smith, Robert Barry, Hugh Gough, Thomas Blomer, Richard Gemm, John Bagley, William Goodwin, Edward Wellings, George Edwards.

Ensigns - William Heath, William Hancox, John Ross, Edmund Tayler, William Price, Richard Rowley, Thomas Darby."

"St. James's, June 22, 1770.
"My Lord,
"Having laid before the King the List of Militia Officers for the County of Worcester, which Your Lordship transmitted to me for His Majesty's approbation in your note of 17th instant, I have the pleasure to acquaint Your Lordship, that His Majesty does not disapprove of any one of the gentlemen named in the said List, etc.

"I have the Honor to be, etc.

"Earl of Coventry."

Robert Fettiplace, Esq., was shortly afterwards appointed lieutenant-colonel in the regiment.

Note 4 : Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Fettiplace, of Swinbrooke Park, Oxfordshire, was son of Thomas Bushell, Esq., and grandson of Robert Bushell, Esq., of Cleeve-Pryor, co. Worcester, by Diana, daughter and co-heiress of Sir John Fettiplace, Bart., of Swinbrooke, whose name he assumed.


"Whitehall, October 6, 1770.

"His Majesty does well approve of the Persons named in this List to be appointed Serjeants in the Militia Regiment of Foot for the County of Worcester.


"The Earl of Coventry.

Henry Watkins, of the 27th Regiment, to be Serjeant-Major.
Robert Harrison, of the 3rd Regiment, Dragoon Guards.
Ezekiel Parks, of the 58th Regiment.

Michael Dawkins, William Bowness, William Reynolds, Thomas Dyer, Edward Bateman, Joseph Penn, Thomas Simpson, Edward Place, John Warner, George Hargrave, William Widhouse, William King, Benjamin Perrins, William Chapman, John Dallow, Joseph Taylor, John Calland, John Roberts, John Chetwynd, Thomas Wadley, John Cotterell, Samuel Bradley, John Hopkins, Benjamin Bass."

The following is a copy of the order to the Board of Ordnance to supply the regiment with arms, accoutrements, etc.:- ("King's Warrant-Book," No. 42.)

"The Earl of Coventry His Majesty's Lieutenant for and in the County of Worcester having agreeable to the Acts of Parliament for the better ordering of the Militia Forces in that part of Great Britain called England certified and returned to the King, that three-fifths of the Militia Forces for the said County of Worcester have been chosen and enrolled, and that three-fifths of the Commission Officers for the same, have been appointed, and taken out their commissions and entered their qualifications; and his Lordship having in consequence thereof, desired that the necessary arms, accoutrements, etc., may be delivered for the use of the said Militia, I am to signify to you, His Majesty's Pleasure that you do accordingly direct the arms, accoutrements, etc., agreeable to the List enclosed, to be provided and delivered free from any expense of carriage at such place in the County of Worcester, as the Earl of Coventry, His Majesty's Lieutenant thereof shall judge most convenient and to such Person or Persons as shall be duly authorized by His Lordship to receive the same.

"I am, Sir,
"Your most obedient humble servant,

"Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance.


"A return of the Arms, Accoutrements, and Ammunition necessary for the Militia of Worcester by the Right Honble. George, Earl of Coventry, consisting of 28 Serjeants, 18 Drummers, and 560 Rank and File formed into nine companies.

Silk Colours the one a Union, the other a green sheet with the arms of the Earl of Coventry


Oilskin cases lined with Bays




Carbines with Iron Ramrods, Bayonets and Scabbards with Tan Leather Slings


Cartouch Boxes with Belts and Slings


Brushes and Wires


Small Hangers with Brass Hilts, Scabbards with Tanned Leather Waist Belts


Iron Wiping Rods with worms




Large Hangers with Brass Hilts, Scabbards with Tanned Leather Waist Belts


Foot Drums compleat with the arms of the Earl of Coventry


Drum Slings or Carriages


Ticken Drum Cases

Hangers with Brass Hilts and Scabbards, including one for the Drum Major


Leather Powder Bags


Powder, Paper, and Flints


The quota of 560 men for the county and city was soon completed by the ballot; and the Worcestershire Regiment of Militia assembled for the first time and first training on October 29, 1770, at the Town Hall, Worcester, at ten o'clock in the morning, under the command of Colonel Nicholas Lechmere. The men were billeted in the city, and the officers lived in lodgings. Pitchcroft was the place of exercise.

The uniform of the regiment consisted of (for officers) cocked hat laced with silver, and black cockade, except for Grenadier Company, the officers of which wore black bearskin caps ; red coat with green facings, silver buttons, and lace, crimson silk sashes tied round the waist, gold gorgets; breeches and long gaiters. Officers of Grenadier Company wore an epaulet on each shoulder, other officers one on the right shoulder only. The men wore a similar uniform.

The hair of all ranks was queued; and that of the men powdered, and, if long enough, plaited and tucked in the back of the hat.

Drummers wore bearskin caps, green coats with red facings; breeches and long gaiters; and carried short swords with scimitar blades.

Company officers carried espontoons, or spontoons, similar to halberts, only lighter, with sort of battle-axe heads, and with these they saluted on marching past; the sergeants of these companies, in addition to carrying swords, were armed with halberts, which were carried in the Army and Militia under the name of pikes till as late as the year 1830.

Officers of the Grenadier and Light Infantry Companies were armed with fusils, or fusees, which were not abolished till about the year 1795; (see note 5 below) they also wore shoulder-belts and ammunition-pouches.

The men were armed with the musket and bayonet, and small swords. The barrels of the arms were kept bright. The weight of the musket, with the bayonet fixed, was 11 lbs. 4 ozs.; the bayonet alone weighing 1 lb. 2 ozs. The length of the barrel was 3 ft. 3 in., and the diameter of the bore 0.753 in. The charge of powder was 6 drs. F.G.; bullets, 14½ to the lb.; and flints, 3 to every 60 rounds.

The following words of command, in the Manual Exercise (for 1764) in use when the regiment was first raised, sound strange at the present day as compared with our Firing Exercise:

Poise your firelocks.


Cock your firelocks.

Shut your pans.


Charge with cartridge.


Draw your rammers.

Half-cock your firelocks.

Ram down your cartridge.

Handle your cartridge.

Return your rammers.

Note 5: They were, at all events, in use as late as 1793, as the Annual Register of that year states that the Earl of Barrymore, commanding a party of the Berkshire Militia, who were escorting some French prisoners from Rye to Deal, accidentally shot himself through the head with his fusee.

The colours of the regiment were six feet six inches flying, and six feet deep on the pike. The length of the pike, spear and ferril included, was nine feet ten inches. The cords and tassels were crimson and gold mixed. The King's, or First Colour, was the great Union; the Second, or Regimental Colour, green, with the arms of the Earl of Coventry, Lord Lieutenant of the County, in the centre, and the Union in the upper canton.

On November 11 the officers dined at Croome Court with the Earl of Coventry; and on November 23 gave a grand ball in the Town Hall to celebrate the formation of the regiment.

On November 24 ended the first training, and the men were paid off and dismissed to their homes, everything having passed off satisfactorily, with the exception of a disagreement between two of the officers, ending in their fighting a duel at Stourbridge, but fortunately without a fatal termination.

The regiment assembled for its second training for twenty-eight days at the Town Hall, Worcester, on May 6, 1771 at ten o'clock, under the command of Colonel Nicholas Lechmere.

On May 28 the Earl of Coventry, Lord-Lieutenant of the County, inspected the regiment in Powick's Ham, and expressed his entire approval of its appearance and discipline, and presented a sum of money to be distributed amongst the men. In the evening his lordship dined with the officers at their mess at the Hop Pole Inn.

On May 29 was celebrated the anniversary of the restoration of King Charles II., and all the officers of the regiment, in full uniform, accompanied the mayor and corporation in state to the cathedral for Divine service.

The regiment was paid off and dismissed on June 3.

On May 4, 1772 the regiment assembled at Worcester for twenty-eight days' training, under the command of Colonel Nicholas Lechmere; absentees, fifty-three.

On May 12, 1772 a detachment, commanded by Major Holland Cooksey, marched to Kidderminster, and was reviewed the following day at Sion Hill. John Hurtle (a deputy-lieutenant of the county, and high sheriff in 1774) and the inhabitants of Kidderminster received and entertained the officers and men with the greatest hospitality. On the return march to Worcester the detachment was again entertained by John Baker, Esq., at Waresley Green.

The regiment was inspected on May 28, and dismissed on Sunday, May 31.

On October 18, 1773 the regiment assembled at Worcester for twenty-eight days' training, under Colonel Nicholas Lechmere, and was dismissed on Monday, November 15.

The regiment assembled on May 9, 1774 for twenty-eight days'. training at Worcester, under Colonel Nicholas Lechmere, who had recently been elected M.P. for the city of Worcester. It was paid off on June 6.
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Fettiplace having resigned his. commission, Thomas Dowdeswell, Esq., (see note 6 below) was appointed lieutenant-colonel on October 9, 1775.

Note 6: Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Dowdeswell, of Pull Court, near Tewkesbury, was the eldest son of the Right Hon. William Dowdeswell, M.P., of Pull Court, sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer, by Bridget, youngest daughter of Sir William Codrington, Bart. He married, in 1798, Magdalena, second daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley, first baronet. He was a D.L. and J.P. for the county of Worcester, and late Captain of 1st Foot Guards.

The regiment assembled at Worcester on October 16 for twenty-eight days' training, under Colonel Lechmere, and was dismissed on November 13, 1775.

The serious character of the war in which the country was engaged with America, induced the Government this year to obtain power to embody the Militia in cases of colonial as well as domestic rebellion. The bill, though it met with considerable opposition, passed by large majorities.

The regiment was called up for training for twenty-eight days in the autumn of this year (1776), under the command of Colonel Lechmere.

The regiment assembled at Worcester on May 12, 1777 for twenty-eight days' training, under Colonel Nicholas Lechmere. During the inspection at Powick's Ham, on June 2, the cartridge-boxes of three of the privates accidentally took fire, the explosion from which terribly scorched two of them and much injured three others. The regiment was paid off on June 9.

Major Holland Cooksey resigned his commission early this year (1777), and Captain John Clements (see note 7 below) was promoted to major in his vacancy.

Note 7: Major John Clements, of Worcester, was the son of the Rev. John Clements, M.A., F.R.S., rector of Long Whatton, co. Leicester, and brother of the gallant Captain Clements of the Royal Navy. He was married, and was a D.L. and J.P. for the county of Worcester.