North Yorkshire defence and militia lists text

North Yorkshire Napoleonic Defence & Militia Lists
After the invasion scare of the Jacobite Rising in 1745, and the later strain on the regular army
during the Seven Years War, bills for the re-form of the militia were brought to Parliament.
Following the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Parliament passed several acts empowering the
lord lieutenant of each county to appoint officers and raise men for a militia force, but these were
not centrally funded. This burden of supplying men and funds fell on property owners depending
on their land and property values. This meant that the main part of the militia was drawn from
farmers, tradesman and labourers. From this time, the militia could be called out for local police
actions, to keep the peace, and in the event of a national emergency. It also played a substantial
role in coastal defences throughout the 17th to 19th centuries.
In 1757, Parliament ordered that militia regiments be re-established as it was realised that
insufficient volunteers could be induced to come forward to serve in the ranks. An alternative
method of recruitment was introduced, a form of conscription in which parishes made lists of
able-bodied, adult males, and then ballots were held to choose some of them for compulsory
service, lasting five years. If the chosen men were not willing to do so in person then they were
required to find other men to serve in their place as substitutes or pay a £10 fine. These lists are
called enrolment lists and are not what are known as militia lists which contained the names of all
the men liable to the ballot. The majority of counties by the early 1760s were holding annual
ballots which held yearly lists of names to be compiled.
There was considerable opposition to the reforms throughout the country – riots occurred in
Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and elsewhere in 1757, the main cause being an ill-informed fear that
conscription, leading to compulsory foreign service, was being introduced when, in fact, the acts
restricted service to only Great Britain. Training took place over several weeks each year, other
than that, men would be largely free to continue their normal lives. When assembled, regiments
would be normally quartered in public houses or barracks where available. Camps were also an
option which were often sizeable, bringing troops together in large numbers for strategic and
training purpose. Pay, uniforms and conditions were similar to those of the regular army, with the
additional benefit of money for family dependents. For those who were casual workers and
labourers, this must have been quite an enticement to volunteer as they could return to their day
jobs, and only report when called for extra training.
By the Act, parish constables were ordered to record the names of all men aged 18-60, excluding
peers, clergy, teachers, medicals, serving military, university members, MPs, apprentices and all
‘peace officers’ such as magistrates. However, from 1758-1831, Parliament directed that no names
were to be omitted, although the upper age limit was lowered to 45 from 1762, and the above
categories of men were exempted from the ballot. However, many gentry and those with previous
military experience put themselves forward in positions of authority to organise and train men in
the cavalry and foot regiments. These lists should, in theory, be complete annual censuses of all
men as noted here. However, like so many early documents, not all are complete nor kept to the
rulings, but they are good census substitutes recording people of all classes.
In the Militia Acts, Parliament laid down the minimum information that was to be provided on
each man as follows:
1757-8 Names and infirmities: 1758-1802 Names, occupations and infirmities:
1802-1806 Names, descriptions, infirmities, those with more than a certain number of children
‘born in wedlock’, mostly 3 or 4, aged generally over and under 14:

1806-1831 Names, descriptions, ages, infirmities, numbers of children aged over and under 14:
men under a certain height, mostly 5ft 4 inches
The imprecise ‘infirmities’ led many people, as would be expected, to exaggerate their ailments to
get off the lists! Also, information was to be added on those men who had already served a term
in the militias, and details of men serving in the Voluntary Infantry and Yeomanry. Some parish
constables chose to provide still more information, particularly in the 1757-1802 period but it
would seem that some parish constables chose to omit certain names – through coercion, evasion
and bribery?
Enforced conscription by use of the militia ballot was almost universally hated by the civilian
population. As opposition steadily grew during the 1820s, this ballot was suspended in 1829. The
government tried to reintroduce it in 1831 at the time of the Reform Bill riots when the militias
were reassembled but this led to such an outcry that no further lists were produced, nor ballots
‘Defence’ Lists 1798 and 1803-4, are so similar in appearance to the militia lists that they have
often been confused with them. They were not compiled for use in any ballot, and none of the
people given in the lists were intended to be recruited into the militias or army during the threat
of a French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars Their compilation was intended to organise
reserves of men to evacuate the civil population, list and remove livestock and crops from the
path of the invader, gather up any arms and equipment in private hands, transport and supply
food to the defending forces. They were also to be grouped into posses of pioneers and special
constables to harry the enemy and quell any disquiet. Although we know the invasion never
happened, these preparations were nevertheless, urgent, and in many places fastidiously
organised but in others only totals of volunteers, supplies, livestock, transport and arms were
recorded by the constables.
In the following lists, only names have been extracted from fuller details and indexed for those
men capable of volunteering for defence and in some places, numbers of dependents incapable of
removing themselves. In many cases there could be far more in the household who were able to
leave the area using horses, carts or on foot.