🥇 BANNER Stunning Marked Napoleonic Era British Volunteer Corps Cross Belt Plate!!!

paleomaxx

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I still can't believe I found this! Only the second hunt this Spring since the ground thawed and the site was almost a dud. Only a dozen buttons, two IHPs, and some odds and ends despite being an undetected foundation. I was working my way further out from the structure when I spotted a farm road cut into the hill and detected along it for awhile. There was an old thimble and a spoon bowl so I started working down the embankment and almost immediately got a 90's tone which turned out to be this:

Dug Plate 2.jpg


Finally! I've always wanted to find a cross belt plate so this was a huge bucket lister already, but when I wiped some of the dirt off the front I saw letters along the edge! A marked plate is even higher on my list and super rare, so I didn't mess with it any further out in the field.

Dug Plate 1.jpg


I could clearly see the word "Royal" though so I was positive it would end up being a British military plate of some kind. Once home I started by carefully removing as much of the dirt as I could while it was still moist to see if the patina would be stable. To my relief the hillside must have drained the water almost immediately over the years because the patina is so thin that in spots it almost looks like simply aged brass! It is also completely stable so I knew I could be a little more thorough with the cleaning. Here it is after the dirt has been mostly removed:

1st Stage Cleaning.jpg


Already some amazing detail and the lettering is all clear. Maybe 30-45min more of work with an andre's brush and I was done:

Plate 3.jpg


Talk about a stunner!!! :hello2: Couldn't be happier with the look of it so now it was on to research.

There are only a few mentions of the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers online. They were organized in Kilmarnock which is a town in the southern park of Scotland. It was apparently the earliest formed corps of Ayrshire Volunteers and were eventually incorporated in the Fourth Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. There's an 1800 officer roster, a mention of them assisting with a church collapse in 1801, and there are two other marked artifacts. There's an officer's Gorget and Colonel Parker's sword, both of which seem to be in museums. What I was able to find out was more along the lines of the Volunteer Corps. They were organized in various towns (mostly coastal ones) starting in 1794 for the purpose of home defense in the event of a French invasion. These groups consisted primarily of the propertied classes and the gentry served as the officers. It was very successful and at one time there were over 300,000 serving. They continued until the Volunteer Act was allowed to lapse in 1806 and the Volunteer Corps were formally disbanded in 1813.

It seems like decorated cross belt plates like this would have to have been specially made at the owner's expense and there are many different examples from the various units, but all are quite rare! Digging one in New York State of all places has to be a once in a lifetime event and I can only assume that it was brought over by an immigrant as an heirloom and then lost.

What a fun bit of history and I can't believe I managed to find a piece of it here! Plus I finally have a marked cross belt plate for the collection and more importantly my 2022 digging season is off to a fantastic start!
 
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paleomaxx

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That’s a outstanding recovery Voting Banner
Nice pictures with great detail
Thank you for your vote!!! This piece is super photogenic; usually I have to mess around with angles to get the details on a dug relic to be clear, but that last photo is just me holding it outside. Some craftsman did a really good job on this piece back in the day!
 

Digger RJ

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I still can't believe I found this! Only the second hunt this Spring since the ground thawed and the site was almost a dud. Only a dozen buttons, two IHPs, and some odds and ends despite being an undetected foundation. I was working my way further out from the structure when I spotted a farm road cut into the hill and detected along it for awhile. There was an old thimble and a spoon bowl so I started working down the embankment and almost immediately got a 90's tone which turned out to be this:

View attachment 2016778

Finally! I've always wanted to find a cross belt plate so this was a huge bucket lister already, but when I wiped some of the dirt off the front I saw letters along the edge! A marked plate is even higher on my list and super rare, so I didn't mess with it any further out in the field.

View attachment 2016777

I could clearly see the word "Royal" though so I was positive it would end up being a British military plate of some kind. Once home I started by carefully removing as much of the dirt as I could while it was still moist to see if the patina would be stable. To my relief the hillside must have drained the water almost immediately over the years because the patina is so thin that in spots it almost looks like simply aged brass! It is also completely stable so I knew I could be a little more thorough with the cleaning. Here it is after the dirt has been mostly removed:

View attachment 2016781

Already some amazing detail and the lettering is all clear. Maybe 30-45min more of work with an andre's brush and I was done:

View attachment 2016782

Talk about a stunner!!! :hello2: Couldn't be happier with the look of it so now it was on to research.

There are only a few mentions of the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers online. They were organized in Kilmarnock which is a town in the southern park of Scotland. It was apparently the earliest formed corps of Ayrshire Volunteers and were eventually incorporated in the Fourth Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. There's an 1800 officer roster, a mention of them assisting with a church collapse in 1801, and there are two other marked artifacts. There's an officer's Gorget and Colonel Parker's sword, both of which seem to be in museums. What I was able to find out was more along the lines of the Volunteer Corps. They were organized in various towns (mostly coastal ones) starting in 1794 for the purpose of home defense in the event of a French invasion. These groups consisted primarily of the propertied classes and the gentry served as the officers. It was very successful and at one time there were over 300,000 serving. They continued until the Volunteer Act was allowed to lapse in 1806 and the Volunteer Corps were formally disbanded in 1813.

It seems like decorated cross belt plates like this would have to have been specially made at the owner's expense and there are many different examples from the various units, but all are quite rare! Digging one in New York State of all places has to be a once in a lifetime event and I can only assume that it was brought over by an immigrant as an heirloom and then lost.

What a fun bit of history and I can't believe I managed to find a piece of it here! Plus I finally have a marked cross belt plate for the collection and more importantly my 2022 digging season is off to a fantastic start!
Outstanding Find and write up!!! Congrats!!!! My votes in
 
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paleomaxx

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Thank you all so much for your comments and votes!!!

The research has been ongoing and I found a really cool description of the Volunteer Corps from the Ayrshire Council which was the area that the Kilmarnock Volunteers hailed from:

During the Napoleonic War period hundreds of Volunteer units were formed by citizens to assist with home defense. These were generally raised by local gentry or titled individuals and served under officers who were people of some significance in their locality. The men came together periodically for training in military matters. The size of the units varied significantly from a few dozen men to battalion strength. A company comprised upwards of 60 to 100 men and a battalion was about 10 times that size. The military efficiency of the Volunteers was extremely variable and the discipline exerted by the officers also varied considerably. One of the advantages of being a volunteer was that exemption was gained from the system of balloting for service in the Militia, a potentially far more onerous service.





In 1802 following the signing of the Peace of Amiens the Volunteer units were disbanded. Hostilities resumed in the subsequent year and many of the earlier bodies were re-raised, sometimes under their former officers, sometimes not. With the passage of time the military efficiency of the Volunteers declined. Some units hardly ever paraded for training. This gave rise to concern in Parliament which was in part financing them and led in 1808 to the formation of regiments of Local Militia into which the Volunteers were invited to transfer their service for payment of a bounty (later discontinued!). By early 1809 two hundred and fifty regiments had been raised with a total of nearly 200,000 militiamen. Of these 125,000 were former Volunteers. This measure eventually led to the demise of the Volunteers who were progressively starved of Government funds. The Local Militia was distinct from the county Militia which had existed for many years and which continued its separate existence. Their role was to defend the locality in which they were raised and it was not intended that they would move far from it. Often a Local Militia unit was based on the largest of the Volunteer units in a given area and its commanding officer became that of the new regiment. Local militiamen were required to drill for 28 days per year but this was reduced by 1811 to 14 days. All the Local Militia regiments were formally disbanded in 1816, after the Battle of Waterloo and the ending of the war with France. Altogether 278 regiments of Local Militia were raised throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

Based on the size of Kilmarnock at the time and the few mentions of the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers I would guess that it was company size so only 60-100 men. I've also been looking online extensively and it seems that this plate is the only one known to exists from that company! :hello2:

If anyone else finds more info though I would love to see it!
 
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paleomaxx

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Very interesting find and detailed write-up. Great photos too. Wish I had your preservation skills (and detecting spots). Definitely a Banner worthy find and post.
Thank you! Took me a lot of of trial and error to get to this point when it comes to preservation, but it's still fairly nerve-wracking to work on something like this!

I kept it in the original soil even as I started working on it just in case the patina wasn't stable. The design is almost invisible when it's still moist so I couldn't even see most of the details until I let it dry out for the first time and that's when I took the third photo. After that it was just patient work with the andre's brush and some light polishing to bring it back to it's original glory!
 

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Well, that’s a stellar find, and all the more remarkable for turning up in New York State. It goes without saying that this is a rare item. Where’s that “Banner” button? It might be worth doing a bit of genealogical research to see if there is documentary evidence for any of the “notables” from the Volunteers having emigrated to America.

Here’s some history, some (or all) of which you may already know, but if it helps any then you’re welcome.

As you say, the formation of volunteer groups like this was authorised by the “Volunteer Act” of 1794, largely as a result of the threat of French invasion, but not directly arising from the Napoleonic Wars, which didn’t commence until 1803. The threat that prompted the Volunteer Act was the War of the First Coalition against France that lasted from 1792-1797. The Volunteers served the purpose of home defence; augmenting the infantry of the regular local Militia, serving as cavalry troops (yeomanry) and manning coastal artillery batteries. Kilmarnock is not exactly “southern Scotland”, but more what would be called the southwest. It’s about 10 miles from the coast, so wouldn’t itself have had coastal artillery batteries but most volunteers could be called on to serve up to 20 miles from their home town.

As well as plugging the gaps left by the posting of regular troops to fight overseas, they helped maintain public order and discourage insurrection… particularly at a time when not all Scottish people were satisfied with their lot under the rule of London and the country had a fair number of “French sympathisers” within its population. In addition, raising such groups served a political purpose in overtly demonstrating loyalty to the Crown. Unlike local Militia, who were government funded, Volunteer groups were privately financed by wealthy individuals and especially by “landed gentry”. More especially still if horses were involved.

The Volunteer Act was passed at the end of March 1794 and the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers seem to have been formed six months later. The Edinburgh Gazette reported in September 1794 as follows: “Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers. William Parker to be Captain. Tho. Greenshill to be Lieutenant. John Wilson to be Lieutenant. Wm. Brown to be Ensign.” Later records refer to Parker as “Major Parker”.

William Parker was a wealthy banker whose family owned the Assloss Estate on the outskirts of Kilmarnock. He was also Right Worshipful Master of the local Masonic Lodge and was instrumental in welcoming his good friend Robert Burns (yes, the Robert Burns) to the lodge as an honorary member. Burns refers to him affectionately in a Masonic song he had written beginning with the words “Ye sons of old Killie [Kilmarnock], assembled by Willie [William Parker]”.

The sword you referred to (as “Colonel Parker's Sword”) is an elaborate dress sabre styled similarly to those used by light cavalry officers of the regular army and inscribed: “Presented by the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers to their Captain Commandant William Parker Esquire as a mark of their respect for his Character and a Testimony of their high sense of his services to the Corps. Year 1800.” Infantry volunteers (but not yeomanry or artillery) were disbanded at the Peace of Amiens in 1802, but reformed the following year when the Napoleonic Wars commenced and Napoleon's planned invasion of Britain became a serious threat.

The Volunteers did indeed assist in recovering the dead and injured from the collapse of Kilmarnock’s “Low Church” on 18th October 1801. The poorly constructed building was hopelessly overcrowded as a consequence of there being a notable guest speaker scheduled to deliver a sermon. It was reported that twenty-nine people were crushed to death (another died soon afterwards) and around eighty severely injured.

There was another disaster in Kilmarnock on 3rd February 1810 when an ironmonger’s shop in which gunpowder was being stored exploded following a fire, killing a young lad employed there but sparing ten others in the building. The local newspaper reported that: “Magistrates, accompanied by Major Parker and the Local Militia, and other gentlemen of the town, used every exertion to quench the fire, to get the rubbish cleared away, and to prevent further fatal consequences.” Here, Parker’s men are referred to as “Militia”, not “Volunteers”. Probably the term is being used incorrectly, otherwise it would suggest the Volunteers had been disbanded by the beginning of 1810.


Note that although Volunteer corps were formally disbanded during 1813, this was only for infantry and artillery volunteers. The yeomanry were retained in case of civil insurrection. Although the threat of French invasion had passed and the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, the war had left Britain in economic depression and the effects were more severe in Scotland. Unemployment was rife, Scottish weavers and other artisans were lobbying for restrictions to protect them against the further impact of the Industrial Revolution, and “Corn Laws” kept food prices high. All of this was to culminate in the “Scottish Insurrection of 1820” (also known as the “Radical War”) but in the meantime the threat of public disorder or even a revolution weighed heavily on the minds of the British government and Scottish gentry. The government established a spy network of informants, dissident ringleaders were rounded up and tried, and the gentry again began recruiting Volunteers to protect their interests.

From Archibald M’Kay’s “History of Kilmarnock” [1864]: “For the purpose of keeping the peace, a regiment of volunteers was formed about this time [sometime in 1820, before 1st April] in Kilmarnock, and commanded by Major Parker of Assloss; but, happily for all parties, the tranquillity of the district was not disturbed, and the corps was soon afterwards disbanded.” It’s not recorded whether this volunteer regiment also used the title “Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers”, nor whether they were infantry or yeomanry.
 
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paleomaxx

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Well, that’s a stellar find, and all the more remarkable for turning up in New York State. It goes without saying that this is a rare item. Where’s that “Banner” button? It might be worth doing a bit of genealogical research to see if there is documentary evidence for any of the “notables” from the Volunteers having emigrated to America.

Here’s some history, some (or all) of which you may already know, but if it helps any then you’re welcome.

As you say, the formation of volunteer groups like this was authorised by the “Volunteer Act” of 1794, largely as a result of the threat of French invasion, but not directly arising from the Napoleonic Wars, which didn’t commence until 1803. The threat that prompted the Volunteer Act was the War of the First Coalition against France that lasted from 1792-1797. The Volunteers served the purpose of home defence; augmenting the infantry of the regular local Militia, serving as cavalry troops (yeomanry) and manning coastal artillery batteries. Kilmarnock is not exactly “southern Scotland”, but more what would be called the southwest. It’s about 10 miles from the coast, so wouldn’t itself have had coastal artillery batteries but most volunteers could be called on to serve up to 20 miles from their home town.

As well as plugging the gaps left by the posting of regular troops to fight overseas, they helped maintain public order and discourage insurrection… particularly at a time when not all Scottish people were satisfied with their lot under the rule of London and the country had a fair number of “French sympathisers” within its population. In addition, raising such groups served a political purpose in overtly demonstrating loyalty to the Crown. Unlike local Militia, who were government funded, Volunteer groups were privately financed by wealthy individuals and especially by “landed gentry”. More especially still if horses were involved.

The Volunteer Act was passed at the end of March 1794 and the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers seem to have been formed six months later. The Edinburgh Gazette reported in September 1794 as follows: “Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers. William Parker to be Captain. Tho. Greenshill to be Lieutenant. John Wilson to be Lieutenant. Wm. Brown to be Ensign.” Later records refer to Parker as “Major Parker”.

William Parker was a wealthy banker whose family owned the Assloss Estate on the outskirts of Kilmarnock. He was also Right Worshipful Master of the local Masonic Lodge and was instrumental in welcoming his good friend Robert Burns (yes, the Robert Burns) to the lodge as an honorary member. Burns refers to him affectionately in a Masonic song he had written beginning with the words “Ye sons of old Killie [Kilmarnock], assembled by Willie [William Parker]”.

The sword you referred to (as “Colonel Parker's Sword”) is an elaborate dress sabre styled similarly to those used by light cavalry officers of the regular army and inscribed: “Presented by the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers to their Captain Commandant William Parker Esquire as a mark of their respect for his Character and a Testimony of their high sense of his services to the Corps. Year 1800.” Infantry volunteers (but not yeomanry or artillery) were disbanded at the Peace of Amiens in 1802, but reformed the following year when the Napoleonic Wars commenced and Napoleon's planned invasion of Britain became a serious threat.

The Volunteers did indeed assist in recovering the dead and injured from the collapse of Kilmarnock’s “Low Church” on 18th October 1801. The poorly constructed building was hopelessly overcrowded as a consequence of there being a notable guest speaker scheduled to deliver a sermon. It was reported that twenty-nine people were crushed to death (another died soon afterwards) and around eighty severely injured.

There was another disaster in Kilmarnock on 3rd February 1810 when an ironmonger’s shop in which gunpowder was being stored exploded following a fire, killing a young lad employed there but spring ten others in the building. The local newspaper reported that: “Magistrates, accompanied by Major Parker and the Local Militia, and other gentlemen of the town, used every exertion to quench the fire, to get the rubbish cleared away, and to prevent further fatal consequences.” Here, Parker’s men are referred to as “Militia”, not “Volunteers”. Probably the term is being used incorrectly, otherwise it would suggest the Volunteers had been disbanded by the beginning of 1810.


Note that although Volunteer corps were formally disbanded during 1813, this was only for infantry and artillery volunteers. The yeomanry were retained in case of civil insurrection. Although the threat of French invasion had passed and the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, the war had left Britain in economic depression and the effects were more severe in Scotland. Unemployment was rife, Scottish weavers and other artisans were lobbying for restrictions to protect them against the further impact of the Industrial Revolution, and “Corn Laws” kept food prices high. All of this was to culminate in the “Scottish Insurrection of 1820” (also known as the “Radical War”) but in the meantime the threat of public disorder or even a revolution weighed heavily on the minds of the British government and Scottish gentry. The government established a spy network of informants, dissident ringleaders were rounded up and tried, and the gentry again began recruiting Volunteers to protect their interests.

From Archibald M’Kay’s “History of Kilmarnock” [1864]: “For the purpose of keeping the peace, a regiment of volunteers was formed about this time [sometime in 1820, before 1st April] in Kilmarnock, and commanded by Major Parker of Assloss; but, happily for all parties, the tranquillity of the district was not disturbed, and the corps was soon afterwards disbanded.” It’s not recorded whether this volunteer regiment also used the title “Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers”, nor whether they were infantry or yeomanry.
Thank you for the great info! I have less information on this site than usual, but the two surnames associated with the property in the 19th century are Ashley and Palmer. However I think there's a good chance this foundation was not the landowner's house, but a tenant worker residence since it isn't mentioned on several landowner maps that would have coincided with it still being occupied. If that's the case, it's unlikely that the owner of this plate would be mentioned in the commonly surviving records for this area. The only roster list I could find for the Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers was the list of officers in 1800 in the London Gazette.
 

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