My father’s family were farmers in the Blackmore Vale for generations. (Manor Farm Bagber, Cooks Farm Thornhill) for many years, so interesting fragments about those days have come to me.
A photograph of my Great Uncle George in the Blackmore Vale troop of the Dorset Yeomanry in the 1870’s has always fascinated me. He is wearing trousers with a wide stripe down one side, a jacket fastened with silver buttons and a high standing collar outlined in white. The uniform may have been dark green, it is impossible to tell from my Victorian photograph. On his head is a pill box hat, continental looking, which to my mind sits a little oddly above his heavily moustached Dorset dumpling face.
I decided to find out more about the Dorset Yeomanry formed as the Dorset Volunteer Rangers 1794 when war with revolutionary France was feared. The Government provided a sword, pistol and holster per man and the volunteers provided their uniform, horses and horse furniture. They were stood down in 1802 after a brief treaty with France but recalled the following year until peace was finally made with France in 1815.
The Yeomanry were called out again in the 1830’s to deal with riots all over the County, usually the appearance of a troop of Yeomanry being sufficient to disperse the rioters.
After that, the Dorset Yeomanry became a socio-military organisation enjoying a few weeks in camp every summer and taking part in military competitions, especially rifle shooting. Camp did not take place during hay making or harvesting of course, but for young men from remote Dorset farms it was a great experience.
I showed my photograph rather proudly of Great Uncle George to a retired colonel. `Oh yes,` he snorted, `Typical of the Yeomanry. They always loved dressing up`.
© Hilary Townsend