18th Century Living History

Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

Winter Quarters 2012

In General News on December 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm

It’s been a hectic year in 2012. We’ve campaigned against Jacobites with Lace Wars, drummed for likely lads in Cumbria and Kent at General Wolfe’s childhood home and finally headed to winter quarters.


You can see some of the highlights from the year in our Facebook page by clicking the links below!

Ryedale Folk Museum – Keeping the Kings Peace

Westerham; Quebec House – Recruiting for the King

Murton Park -Winter Quarters

While your there why not follow us on Facebook. Next year is nearly upon us and we are looking for a few likely lads to join us in the ranks next year, as we pull down the French king.

If your heart treads high the path to glory, email us at john.lambtons@gmail.com.



“Ye lowsy red-coat rake hells, ye locusts of the nation, you are dogs that would enslave us, plunder our shops and ravish our daughters, ye scoundrels” – 18th Century Billeting

In 18th century, 68th Foot, DLI, Durham Light Infantry, Research, Seven Years War on June 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm

The statement above was probably a common one when considering the nature of the billeting systems of the British Army through to the 1850’s and Cardwell’s Reforms. Although the Mutiny act of 1689 had technically banned the practice of billeting soldiers on only private civilians without prior permission, with number of purpose built barracks largely none existent in England, with forts and other military installation generally only built in Scotland or Ireland. British Soldiers being stationed in the homes and public houses of parts of population remained common practice (Horn;1776). This is especially true of emergencies for instance the town people of Manchester in 1746 during the Jacobite uprising complained and filed a petition against the “One regiment of foot and one regiment a dragoons numbering 900 men, 250 women and children” (Horn;1776, McNeil:1990).

A very friendly British Grenadier – From Moriers paintings of a Grenadier from each regiment, currently held by the Royal Collection.

 The reasons behind the practice of billeting on the local populace were three fold; firstly the bureaucracy of the modern nation state army was in its infancy and had not yet developed the resources to cope with a barracks building programme of any scale. Similarly at least in England the idea of the monarchs standing army was seen as signs of tyrannical and autocratic rule dating back to Cromwell and James II, barrack’s were the embodiment of this threat upon English men’s hard won civil liberties. (Western: 1965, Manning: 2006). Finally the army itself main role was to maintain and restore public order, suppress riots and crush civilian insurrection. In having the army dispersed around the country the government had potentially a company of men at hand not only as a deterrent but also a reactionary force in every local area (Thompson: 1968, Brewer: 1989).


Hogarth ‘March of the Guard to Finchley’

Hogarth’s infamous painting of the British Foot Guard’s march to suppress the Jacobite rebellion perhaps sums up the unwelcome affects of soldiers coming into contact with the civilian populace. These men trained for violence, seemed to be prone to fall into general unruliness.  Similarly those who followed a company or regiment of foot could reap as much havoc on a local population as the soldiers themselves, for example General Wolfe while a colonel complained that he had received “complaints from the people in the neighbourhood of this castle against some women of loose disorderly conduct, supposed to belong to the: garrison; which however is not true.- The colonel, is likewise informed that the soldiers have in an open, indecent, and scandalous manner frequented these same women” (1753).

Similarly the army gave little consideration to the economic affect of housing and feeding its men would have on the local populace. As one colonel stated “we have ruined half the public house upon the march, because they have quartered us in the villages too poor to feed us without destruction to themselves”. Inn-keepers being bound to provide food and lodgings to the cost of 4d per private soldier and 1 shilling per officer below rank of captain, it is clear the sheer magnitude of cost a battalion of foot numbering several hundred could reap on the local civilian population (Brewer: 1989).

Private Walsh tries his luck the with the local population.

It can be assumed that generally civilians disliked soldiers, to the reluctant householder who had to billet their unwelcome military guests, the regulars must have seemed little more than armed policemen living at next to nothing at the expense of honest townsfolk, anti-social and dangerous parasites (Childs: 1982).

And we must go a marching to the beating of the drum!

In General News on May 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm

It’s been a little while since we posted anything on the blog largely because we have been off eventing all over the U.K from Yorkshire in March, Befordshire in April and most recently Cumbria this weekend.

A recruiting party at the Cockermouth Georgian Fayre.


You can see pictures from these events by clicking the links below and browsing on our facebook page.

Coming out of Winter Quarters – Ryedale Folk Museum

Wrest Park – English Heritage St.Georges Day Festival

Cockermouth Recruiting Party – Cockermouth Georgian Fayre

We will be returning to Ryedale Folk Museum this weekend to keep the Kings Peace which has been disturbed by the local population who care not for the Militia Acts.

The Militia Acts having been enacted in 1757 as a way to bolster the home defence of the U.K and potentially free up regular units for campaign. Men in England were balloted to join the embodied militia; however those rich enough could buy their way out of the ballot. This can be seen as arguably a system of conscription by another name.

The act was universally unpopular, especially in the North of England. In 1758 at York Azzises four men were arrested for obstructing the ballot. They were eventually hung for treason. In 1761 at Hexham the North York Militia was ordered in to the town square at Hexham to support the Civil peace. Around 5000 individuals had gathered to protest against the Milita Ballot. Following building tensions the riot act was read, the crowd advanced on charged bayonets with clubs and staves. In the confusion two Militiamen were shot by their own weapons. The magistrates ordered a general fire, by the time the fire ended the 45 men were dead and over 300 were wounded.

The actual 68th was ordered to Durham to help keep the peace in 1761 although with less bloody consequences than what has become known as the Hexham Riots!

“For the Soldiers to hut” – The British Soldier Shelter during winter in the Seven Years War.

In Research on February 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Although it was general military practice for regiments to enter ‘winter quarters’ during the colder months of a year, generally between October and March. Sometimes regiments would be required to remain in the field during these periods. As such the men would be forced to continue to use tents. Although the standard British Army tent of the period no doubt did the job of keeping some of the elements off the private men we know from the works of Captain Bennett Cuthbertson that if a regiment was to remain in the field it would often be given the order “For the soldiers to hut”.

Cuthbertson was a Captain in the 5th Regiment of Foot and his military treatise was perhaps written to replace the some what dated manual written by Humphrey Bland. Bland’s treatise which had been originally published in 1727 but was still certainly in use having been through several editions. Certainly officer in the Continental Army during the Revolution were encouraged to ‘study Bland and other treatise’. Although it is worth worth noting that Cuthbertson treatise was published in 1768 and therefore after the end of the Seven Years War, the 5th had indeed fought throughout the war and were indeed at the ‘Raid of Cherbourg’ in 1758, Warburg in 1760, Kirch Denkern in 1761 and Battle of Wilhelmsthal in 1762. For the most part we do not know how for certain how much of Cuthbertsons work relates to current practice in the 5th or indeed if it was practiced across the army. Certainly his recommendations frequently appear in Order Books verbatim, the number of editions and the above fact would imply his recommendations were widely read and available.  

Improvised shelters have a long history in European armies as shown in this 15th/16th century example.

It can be argued with some confidence that Cuthbertons section on hutting is reliable; certainly there is historical provenance of hut building in European armies from the 15th/16th century as shown in the image above. Similarly Cuthbertson states “The hurdled Huts were in general use in the allied Army in Germany last war”. This coupled with the 5th war service would suggest he indeed was speaking from previous experience.

So what exactly are huts? Cuthbertson gives us a clear description of what exactly Huts are and how they are to be constructed.

“in most case, the most expeditious and ready method, is, to provide square hurdles, large enough to cover a Tent, when resting slope ways against the upper edge of each other; they must be a foot on every side longer than the Tent, to leave sufficient Room for stricking: a piece of wicker-work is next to be fitted to the front, by way of a door, to move at pleasure: these hurdles and wickers being properly made and fixed, a thick coat of thatch (ether straw, sedge or rushes) is to be laid on them, we secured and bound”.

Hurdles like those used today for fencing have been used for centuries and it stands to reason that this is what Cuthbertson may have been talking about.

The description provided by Cuthbertsons paints a vivid picture of ‘huts’ and in apparently “nothing can be warmer than one of these habitations”. We can assume that the hurdles that he refers to bear some resemblance to hurdles used over the centuries as simple fencing and pictured above. Certainly soldiers who had come from a labouring background, as so many did in the mid 18th century before the industrial revolution had taken full grip of the country, would have some experience of constructing these. With regards to thatching, again we can assume that the soldiers would have some experience of this and example of thatching of shelter by W.H Pyne and although not military in nature provides us a good basis for what this may have looked like.

A possible example of a basic thatched structure.

Hutting could be adapted to other circumstances and Cuthbertson also describes how the system could be used to create an enclosed Kitchen area, where the soldiers could “enjoy themselves with great comfort and satisfaction, until they chuse, or it is proper, to retire to their huts.

“young trees should be collected, about the size and length of hop-poles, and placed in a circular form round the out-side of the Kitchens, sloping upwards to a point, exactly in the same position, the poles are fixed, after the hop gathering is finished, leaving a sufficient opening on one side, for the men to enter, and weaving small boughs or rushes through the poles”

The image below from a German Manual called “What it is necessary for each officer to know during a campaign.” This lean-to side design is shown being used to shelter a small fire.

Using both Cuthbertsons vivid descriptions and images like those above for inspiration it should be possible with some degree of accuracy to recreate a style of Hut as used by the British Army during winter months inGermanyduring the Seven Years War.

Selected References:

 Cuthbertson, B. (1968) Cuthbertson’s System, For the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry. Boulter Grierson.

 Unknown. (1738) Was ist jedem Officier waehrend eines Feldzugs zu wissen noethig (trans., “What it is necessary for each officer to know during a campaign”) Mit zehen Kupferplatten (trans. “with ten copper plates”), Carlsruhe.

 Najecki, R. (2011) Reproduction Home Page, [Online], Available: http://najecki.com/repro/reproindex.html [13th February 2012].

 Rees, J. (2004) “Soldiers are ingenious animals.” American Civil War Campaign Shelters” [Online], Available: http://www.libertyrifles.org/research/campaignshelters.html [13th February 2012]

 Pyne, W.H. (1806) Microcosm or, A Delineation of the Arts, Agriculture, and Manufactures of Great Britain in a Series of above a Thousand Groups of Small Figures for the Embellishment of Landscape. London