West Yorkshire Rifle Volunteer’s Button

Late Victorian militaria does not come up too often, but occasionally a piece comes out of the woodwork like tonight’s object which is a little white metal button, marked up to the ‘4th Administrative Battalion, West Riding of Yorkshire Rifle Volunteers’:imageThe central feature of this button is a Tudor rose for the county of Yorkshire and the white metal was commonly used for volunteer regiments rather than the brass/gold coloured insignia of regular regiments. The rear of the button indicates that it was manufactured by Firmin of London:imageThe Rifle movement grew out of an invasion scare in 1859 which led to thousands flocking to locally formed Rifle Volunteer Corps. A large number of independent RVCs were raised in the West Riding of Yorkshire, including the ‘Barnsley Rifles’ and the ‘Rotherham Rifles’ and in August 1860 some of these were grouped into the 4th Administrative Battalion, Yorkshire West Riding RVCs, based at Doncaster (dates are those of the first officers’ commissions):

  • 18th (Pontefract) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 2 March 1860
  • 19th (Rotherham) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 29 February 1860
  • 20th (Doncaster, Great Northern Railway) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 5 February 1860
  • 21st (Doncaster Burgesses) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 5 February 1860
  • 36th (Rotherham) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 19 October 1860, joined 4th Admin Bn 1862
  • 37th (Barnsley) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 21 November 1860, transferred from 3rd Admin Bn 1863
  • 40th (Wath-upon-Dearne) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, March 1863, based at Hoyland Nether until 1866

The 20th RVC was recruited largely from employees of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) at Doncaster Works and was commanded by the railway’s locomotive superintendent, Archibald Sturrock. The other units in the battalion were mainly recruited from coal mining and related industries. A Rotherham Rifle Band was formed and by August 1861 it was competing in brass band competitions.

Walter Spencer-Stanhope (1827–1911) of Cannon Hall and Horsforth Hall, a Captain in the 2nd West Riding Yeomanry, who had raised the 36th RVC, was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 4th Admin Bn on 11 February 1863. He later became Member of Parliament for the Southern Division of the West Riding (1872–80).

A drill hall was built at Wharncliffe Street, Rotherham, in 1873, prior to which the 18th and 36th RVCs had used the Court House and Corn Exchange in the town.

The RVCs in the 4th Admin Bn were consolidated as the 8th Yorkshire West Riding RVC at Doncaster in 1880, still under the command of Lt-Col Stanhope.

This then dates this little button to before 1880 and after 1860 so we have a nice twenty year window in which it must have been manufactured and used.

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