🥇 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!
 
Last edited:
Upvote 84

Southern_Digger

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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!
That is a stunning find. Imagine the history witnessed by that piece--across two continents. Congratulations. Thank You for your perseverance and thank you for sharing that with us.
 

watercolor

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What an incredible recovery as well a stellar job of cleaning & conservation on your part. I really enjoyed reading the history associated with your find.

Congratulations on finding such a wonderful piece of history!
 

pepperj

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Now that is a centre piece in any display case. :occasion14:
Congratulations on the Banner so rightly deserved on such a rare plate as described, great write ups by yourself and Red-Coat.
Probably get some PM offering up some good dosh from collectors.
 

villagenut

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Congrats on a well deserved banner, now I have to go back a gaze some more at the cleaned up picture in post 1.
 
OP
P

paleomaxx

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Banner vote from me too, and I enjoyed seeing this one on your Instagram!
Thank you! It's funny, the Instagram crowd didn't seem to be impressed by it, but it's probably going to be one of my best finds of the year if not all time!
 

Chilli

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So a Banner Find!
Awesome, huge congratulations mate, two big thumbs up well done 👍👍
Ahh, why not, another two 😀 👍👍
 

CRUSADER

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Late to the party, only just seen this incredible find.
A Museum quality piece, big congrats on something that rarely turn up here, as we had so many of them overseas fighting.
 

Red-Coat

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Late to the party, only just seen this incredible find.
A Museum quality piece, big congrats on something that rarely turn up here, as we had so many of them overseas fighting.

Rare indeed, but a consequence of the small number that would have been produced. A unit like this would not have seen overseas service and the presence of the plate in New York State must have another explanation. A little more history:

The Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers were raised in 1794 and may have been disbanded and reformed twice in the early 1800s, although it’s not certain if they kept the same name. At this time, Britain’s land forces consisted of the Army, the Militia (both of which comprised “regulars”) and the Volunteers (who were “part-timers”). Note that I’m using capital letters for those terms. In addition, there were a number of privately-owned military units known as “Fencibles”.

Although the Militia were regulars and received uniforms, weapons, training, and a salary at government expense, they were local forces which could not be sent outside Great Britain. Even Ireland was normally out of bounds, although an exception was made in 1798. Militia were recruited by ballot of able-bodied men aged between 18 to 45 and served for five years if selected. There was an option to pay for a substitute to serve in your place, if you could afford it.

By contrast, Volunteers were (as the name suggests) actively offering to serve, and were privately funded at local level, the government having rejected proposals that it should fund them. Although, there were some unofficially-raised Volunteer units prior to the Volunteer Act 1794 (generally referred to as “military associations”), the legislation formalised the process, based on the “Plan of Augmentation for the Forces for Internal Defence”. Volunteers were therefore designated for local duties within the country itself, not liable for overseas service, and in most cases were only willing to operate within 20 miles from home. Initially, the vast majority were infantry and continued to hold down a job (labourers, shopkeepers, innkeepers or whatever) in addition to their volunteer service. They differed from Militia in that they were part-timers, weren’t government funded and many of the “poorer” infantry units were equipped only with pikes rather than muskets.

Horse-mounted Volunteer units as cavalry (more properly called “yeomanry”) proved more popular for landed gentry providing the funding, as well as more flexible in use. To further bolster the numbers, the government passed the “Provisional Cavalry Act 1796”, requiring anyone who owned ten or more horses to recruit a Volunteer. These recruits were liable for service “anywhere in the country”, but not overseas.

These kinds of measures helped the government avoid “mass conscription”, which was unpopular both because it meant full-time service, a greater likelihood of seeing action, and a high probability of being posted overseas at some point in time.

From June 1803 onwards, the government recognised the usefulness of the Volunteers, taking a more direct interest in the way they were raised, uniformed, armed, paid and deployed. Their roles expanded to be much more military in nature and they were then explicitly placed under the control of the Home Secretary via the “Volunteer Consolidation Act 1804”. It remained the case that they could still not be called for overseas service and were exempt from the military ballot.
 

CRUSADER

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Rare indeed, but a consequence of the small number that would have been produced. A unit like this would not have seen overseas service and the presence of the plate in New York State must have another explanation. A little more history:

The Royal Kilmarnock Volunteers were raised in 1794 and may have been disbanded and reformed twice in the early 1800s, although it’s not certain if they kept the same name. At this time, Britain’s land forces consisted of the Army, the Militia (both of which comprised “regulars”) and the Volunteers (who were “part-timers”). Note that I’m using capital letters for those terms. In addition, there were a number of privately-owned military units known as “Fencibles”.

Although the Militia were regulars and received uniforms, weapons, training, and a salary at government expense, they were local forces which could not be sent outside Great Britain. Even Ireland was normally out of bounds, although an exception was made in 1798. Militia were recruited by ballot of able-bodied men aged between 18 to 45 and served for five years if selected. There was an option to pay for a substitute to serve in your place, if you could afford it.

By contrast, Volunteers were (as the name suggests) actively offering to serve, and were privately funded at local level, the government having rejected proposals that it should fund them. Although, there were some unofficially-raised Volunteer units prior to the Volunteer Act 1794 (generally referred to as “military associations”), the legislation formalised the process, based on the “Plan of Augmentation for the Forces for Internal Defence”. Volunteers were therefore designated for local duties within the country itself, not liable for overseas service, and in most cases were only willing to operate within 20 miles from home. Initially, the vast majority were infantry and continued to hold down a job (labourers, shopkeepers, innkeepers or whatever) in addition to their volunteer service. They differed from Militia in that they were part-timers, weren’t government funded and many of the “poorer” infantry units were equipped only with pikes rather than muskets.

Horse-mounted Volunteer units as cavalry (more properly called “yeomanry”) proved more popular for landed gentry providing the funding, as well as more flexible in use. To further bolster the numbers, the government passed the “Provisional Cavalry Act 1796”, requiring anyone who owned ten or more horses to recruit a Volunteer. These recruits were liable for service “anywhere in the country”, but not overseas.

These kinds of measures helped the government avoid “mass conscription”, which was unpopular both because it meant full-time service, a greater likelihood of seeing action, and a high probability of being posted overseas at some point in time.

From June 1803 onwards, the government recognised the usefulness of the Volunteers, taking a more direct interest in the way they were raised, uniformed, armed, paid and deployed. Their roles expanded to be much more military in nature and they were then explicitly placed under the control of the Home Secretary via the “Volunteer Consolidation Act 1804”. It remained the case that they could still not be called for overseas service and were exempt from the military ballot.
That being said why are they found in great numbers overseas than the UK?
 

Red-Coat

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That being said why are they found in great numbers overseas than the UK?

Well, that would be the case for Volunteers raised to fight in the American War of Independence... both those raised in Britain and Loyalists recruited within America. Also for some Volunteer units in regions of Canada at certain times.

I don't believe it to be the case for Volunteer regiments raised as a consequence of the Volunteer Act 1794 though. They were raised for home defence purposes to counter the threat of French invasion during the War of the First Coalition against France and then again with the commencement of the Napoleonic Wars
 

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