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


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Aug 14, 2016
Upstate, NY
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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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Dec 8, 2008
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