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This article concerns the ancestral volunteer battalions of what became the 5th (Territorial) Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

In 1859 England expected to be invaded by France and a scare swept the country, exposing the inability of the small peacetime Regular Army to defend Great Britain as well as the vast colonial Empire. The widespread popular demand for additional volunteer forces led to formation of Corps of Rifle Volunteers. Lancashire responded with particular enthusiasm to the call for volunteers and by the end of 1860 over seventy local Infantry units had been raised.

On 13th July 1859 at the Town Hall in Little Bolton a meeting was held which decided on the formation of the Bolton branch of what would become the 27th Volunteer Rifle Corps.

A notice was placed in the local newspaper;

“It is particularly requested that persons of all classes, of good character, who are desirous of joining in the present movement to form a Volunteer Corps in Bolton.. will at once communicate their names, addresses and occupations to Mr Bailey, 14 Wood St., Bolton. By order of the committee.”

The Government provided 25% of the rifles with the remainder being bought by the individual members and it was decided that the rifle of choice would be the short rifle.

The founding members of the branch included Arthur Bailey Esq. and James Watkins Esq; both men serving for many years and Arthur Bailey becoming the Commanding officer.

All members were required to drill at least five hours per week, with Saturday to count as three and an entrance fee of 5s was payable by the member. Fines were imposed for non-attendance.

The Bolton branch officially stood-up on 15th November 1859 with 33 members swearing their allegiance to the Queen at the Town Hall. Land for a 300m shooting range at Bradshaw was provided by Mr Hardcastle at a rent of £5 per year which he then offered as a prize for the best shot.

The uniform was a light grey trousers and tunic with invisible green facings, the skirt being 16 inches long with bronze buttons and a black enameled belt. A cap was to be worn being of the same colour as the tunic and trousers.

The Lancashire Volunteer Rifles helmet (post 1863)

The Lancashire Volunteer Rifles helmet (post 1863)

During the next few months three more companies were raised in Deane, Farnworth and Kearsley and the headquarters of the Corps was at a rented house in Crook Street. In 1861 the headquarters was moved to Bridge Street and in 1863 moved to the old workhouse in Fletcher Street. By this time there were 10 companies who now sported a red scarlet uniform with green facings and the helmet above similar to that of the Regulars.

Snider-Enfield rifle

Snider-Enfield rifle

In about 1867 they adopted the .577 Snider–Enfield breech-loading rifle and after 1874 the Martini-Henry rifle. The battalion was now in the position that it was well equipped but lacked the facilities required to adequately train with their weapons. It was considered dangerous to use these ‘modern’ rifles on the small 300 yard range at Bradshaw.

Martini-Henry rifle

Martini-Henry rifle

On 2nd September 1880 the name of the Corps was changed to the 14th (late 27th) Lancashire Rifle Volunteers and on 1st February 1883 it was decreed that it would now be known as the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

Here follows a series of articles about the Bolton Volunteers during the latter years of the 20th Centuary. Most articles relate to their time during the annual camps or their ongoing plight for a longer rifle range.

Monday, May 21, 1883; The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


The inspection on Friday did not end the duties of the Bolton rifles. As their encampment will extend to Monday their duties will do the same. Major Francis, the adjutant, led the corps out, as usual, on Saturday morning for early parade, and in the forenoon the commanding officer held his customary parade, when for the first time during the encampment the regiment was marched on the beach, and put through a number of evolutions upon the magnificent greensward, of which Lytham is envied by many of her rivals, and these evolutions were witnessed by a great concourse of spectators. At their conclusion the battalion marched right through the town, when the bearing of the men was eulogised by those who had until then had had no opportunity of seeing them en masse.

On Saturday afternoon the regimental sports came off with great success in the field. Some hundreds of persons were present and took the greatest interest in all. The several events were well contested, but of these the polo match by the officers mounted on donkeys was by far the most enjoyable, causing almost endless laughter. A fund of amusement was also created by the donkey races. Many a time did gallant captains come to ground, and at others assume in attempting to save themselves the most ludicrous positions imaginable. Before the start of the race the officers and their “chargers” were photographed.

During the afternoon the band of the corps discoursed selections of music. Heavy rain fell during Saturday night, and yesterday morning the sky was threatening.

Service was held at 10.30, the corps being drawn up in line so as to enclose a square plot of ground, in the centre of which stood the pulpit – a drum covered with the Union Jack. A good many civilians attended. The Rev. Charles Lane, M.A. Vicar of the Holy Trinity, Bolton, and chaplain to the corps, officiated.

Monday, December 10, 1883; The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


On Saturday evening the Right Hon. The Earl of Bradford distributed the prizes gained during the past year for drill and shooting, to the members of the second volunteer battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, in the Albert Hall at Bolton. The mayor of the borough (Alderman E. G. Harwood) presided, and among those present were Colonel Cotton, inspecting officer, and Colonel Bailey, Commanding Officer.

Colonel Bailey, in submitting his annual statement of the condition of the corps, said the number of members was 812, of whom 806 were efficient. The recruits number 166, 24 men had seen more than 20 years service, and there were only 60 men in the corps over 40 years of age. The Government grant was £1,439 but the finances were hardly in a satisfactory state, especially considering their possible outlay on a new and longer range than the one at Hindley, which was only 300 yards.

The Earl of Bradford said he was at a loss to see why he had been honoured with the invitation to distribute those prizes, unless it was that he might be considered a brother volunteer. He was not competent to give them advice on the service generally, but he was glad to say for many years he had been connected with the auxiliary forces as an honorary colonel of the yeomanry cavalry. Before that he was colonel in the rifle volunteers, and therefore he was not uninterested or unacquainted with their branch of the service. The position of a volunteer soldier in this country was an extremely honourable one. The volunteer unquestionably possessed the good will and confidence of his fellow-countrymen, and that of itself was a great reward. (Applause).

Distinguished military men never failed to speak of the high value they attached to the services of the volunteers, especially in the aid they afforded the regular army, and this was a most important point. When they heard soldiers like Sir Garnet Wolseley addressing public assemblies and declaring his high appreciation of this branch of the service they might feel assured that their position was one of importance in measuring the military resources of the country. (Applause). He understood that corps was not very well placed in regard to opportunities of practicing at the targets, but he hoped before long they would obtain a good and satisfactory range. In his opinion it was of more importance that there should be a high average throughout the corps in the shooting competitions than one or two members distinguished as remarkably good shots. The noble earl concluded by expressing his pleasure at taking part in the ceremony of distributing the prizes.

Colonel Cotton afterwards paid a high tribute to the proficiency of the regiment and said the behavior of the men in camp and on the drill ground was eminently satisfactory.

Saturday, September 6, 1884; Supplement to the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


On Saturday afternoon the annual inspection of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Loyal North Lancashire (Bolton) Regiment took place at Bradford Park, Bolton, the inspecting officer being Colonel Stapleton Cotton, commanding 47th Regimental District.

There was full attendance on parade, 820 of all ranks being present, the total strength of the regiment being 900. The inspecting officer arrived about five o’clock and was received with a general salute, after which the commanding officer (Colonel Bailey) put the regiment through a number of military movements, the whole of which were performed with soldierlike steadiness and precision, the marchpast being especially good.

At the conclusion of the inspection Colonel Cotton addressed the men in most complementary terms. He commended especially their quiet and steady demeanour. He was delighted to see the numbers present. They had performed movements that afternoon to which they were unaccustomed, and had done them wonderfully well, showing they had paid greater attention to their work than was usually seen in volunteer regiments. He was also pleased at the absence of talking in the ranks. That was a great point, and a feature on which he had occasion to compliment them at previous inspections. The ground had been against them, but their marching past, which had to be done over mounds, was wonderfully well done.

The regiment was then marched back to the barracks.

A typical review of the Lancashire Rifles - click to enlarge

A typical review of the Lancashire Rifle Volunteers – click to enlarge


Wednesday, February 24, 1886. The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


A bazaar was opened yesterday at the Albert Hall, Bolton, in aid of the funds of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, the more immediate object being to provide a long-distance range. The Right-Hon. Lord Winmarleigh was announced to perform the opening ceremony, but he was unable to attend, and Colonel Murant, commander of the Northern Division and inspecting officer for the district, acted for him.

There was a very large and fashionable attendance at half-past 11 o’clock, and the Albert Hall looked exceedingly pretty when the mayor (Alderman Fletcher) took the chair. He was supported by Colonel Murant, Mr H. S. Cross M.P., Colonel Bailey and other officers of the battalion.

A guard of honour in full dress uniform, together with the band of the regiment, was also in attendance. The Mayor said that £4000 was required to give a better organisation to what he would, for the time being, call the local army of Bolton. It would be a great pity if this volunteer movement was allowed to decay, and he hoped that the patriotism of Bolton would at any rate be as strong this week as it had shown itself to be some 20 years ago, when they had a bazaar for a similar purpose. (Applause.)

Colonel Bailey read a letter from Lord Winmarleigh, who wrote expressing his extreme regret that he could not keep his engagement of opening the bazaar. Other letters were read from Sir Charles Tempest, Colonel Bridgman M.P. and Colonel Grey. Colonel Murant was then called upon to open the bazaar. He said he had the honour to inspect this battalion last year, and he was much struck with the drill and the appearance of the men, and he also ascertained that there was an almost total absence of irregularities amongst them. The battalion laboured under the disadvantage of not possessing a rifle range, and he need hardly say that no matter how much a regiment might excel in drill and discipline, unless it also excelled in rifle shooting it could not nowadays be termed efficient.

He then declared the bazaar open, and expressed an earnest hope that it might be successful. (Applause.) Captain Alderman Dobson proposed a vote of thanks to Colonel Murant. This was seconded by Major Watkins and carried. A similar compliment was paid to the Mayor, and then the active business of the bazaar was commenced.


In the author’s collection is a thank you card sent by Colonel Bailey to a Mrs C. J. French for her able support and assistance during the bazaar.


Saturday, May 28, 1887; Rhyl Record and Advertiser


Whitweek is a favourite time, and the North Wales coast is a favourite country for camping, with the Lancashire Volunteers. This year is no exception, and from Prestatyn to Conway Marsh clusters of white tents are seen at short distances between, already pitched for the reception of the several battalion who go under canvas tomorrow (Saturday) night. In the immediate neighbourhood of Rhyl we have two encampments.

The Bolton Battalion, or to give it its territorial distinction, the Second Volunteer Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, will occupy its old ground on one of Mr Amos’s fields at Foryd. A fatigue party of 54 all told arrived on Wednesday morning under the command of Major Hesketh and accompanied by Captain Tristram, Surgeon-major Mallet, Assistant-surgeon Scewcroft; Sergt-Major Briston; Quarter-Master Sergt. Briscoe; Sergt-Instructor Warner and Sergt-cook Pye. Major Francis, the adjutant, had arrived in the town two days previously to complete the necessary arrangements.

In a short time the party had the tents pitched, marques, pavilion (for officer’s mess) erected, and the cooking ovens were placed in position, on almost the identical spot they occupied last year.
The atmospheric conditions under which the party spent its first night under canvas at Rhyl were not very encouraging. A drizzling rain commenced to fall about half-past seven, and the camp looked very dismal and uninviting. It cleared up, however, and the gravelly subsoil soon absorbed all the moisture, leaving the surface dry, and the men made themselves comfortable for the night.
The men are provisioned by a regimental arrangement, and not by a contractor, but the canteen is let to Mr McConnel, a Preston contractor. Mr J. W. Roose, of this town, supplies all the grocery and provisions for the regiment, the officer’s mess and the canteen, and Mr Lyne, of the market hall, supplies the butcher’s meat.

This afternoon the main body of the regiment will arrive under the command of Colonel Bailey, and it is expected that between 400 and 500 will be in camp tonight. The Rev. Charles Lowe, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Bolton chaplain, will conduct divine service on the field tomorrow, and as usual civilians will be allowed to attend.

Thursday, May 24, 1888; The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser



An unknown LNL Volunteer

The men of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment have now settled down to camp life, and appear to enjoy it immensely. The good spirit, the espirit de corps that prevails extends to all ranks. Colonel Bailey is in command, and there were present on Tuesday Lieutenant-colonel Ormerod, Major Hesketh, acting as adjutant (in consequence of the regrettable absence from illness of Major E. L. Frances, one of the most energetic officers in her Majesty’s Volunteer Forces); Surgeon-major Mallett, Major Watkins, paymaster; Captain Gregg, quartermaster; and the following in charge of companies:- A Company, Lieutenant F. Watkins; B Company, Captain and Hon. Major W. W. Cannon; C Company, Captain Dobson; D Company, Captain French; E Company, Lieutenant Smith (Captain Hardcastle being absent on leave); F Company, Captain O. L. Perry; G Company, Hon. Major Tristram; H Company, Captain Knowles; and J and K Companies, Captain Read. On the permanent staff there are Sergeant-major W. Bristow and Sergeant-instructors Warner, Friar and Banfield; and also in camp, Quartermaster-sergeant Briscoe, Sergeant Beckett (orderly-room clerk), Sergeant H. Leach (hospital), and Sergeant Hilton (armoury).

On Tuesday Captain Perry took F Company on to the shore for instruction in constructing shelter pits and entrenchments, which proved a valuable as well as novel variation to the usual routine of camp evolutions. The supposition was that the men had landed in boats and were to throw up earthworks in order to cover the landing of the main force. With their entrenching tools the men set about the work right lustily, and, despite the influences of a burning sun, had in a very short space of time prepared very adequate cover for themselves. Much importance is now being attached to earthworks as a means of stopping missiles of all sorts. Shelter trenches afford perfect protection to outposts acting in the field, while a small force thus protected can do an infinite amount of mischief to the enemy advancing upon them.

The Bolton men, like their colleagues from Rochdale at the other end of Rhyl, speak in high terms of the commissariat arrangements and the health of both camps is everything that could be desired.


This item survived intact for 120+ years but was damaged in 2016 and smashed into over two dozen pieces. It is now in my collection and has been carefully reconstructed but it is so sad to lose such an old piece.


Monday, May 26, 1890; The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


On Saturday evening the Bolton Rifles, known as the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, went under canvas at Lytham, close to the 1st Manchester Rifles, and the camp will not be struck till Monday week. All arrangements for the encampment had been well carried out by a fatigue party of 55 men who arrived with Major Tristram, Dr. Mallett, and Quartermaster Bristowe. Altogether 110 bell tents have been erected for the men, and there are officer’s tents, canteens, sergeants’ mess, hospital stores etc. Everything was in readiness for the battalion when it arrived on Saturday evening. Colonel J. Cross Ormerod was in command. The field state yesterday was 18 officers, 39 sergeants, 349 rank and file. Total 406.

Monday,  June 2, 1890; The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


This conjoint corps of Rifle Volunteers forms the 1st Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and this year was encamped at South Shore, Blackpool, for their week’s annual training. On Saturday the 11th Lancashire Rifle Volunteers (Preston & Chorley) had a sham fight at St. Annes-on-the-Sea with the 2nd Volunteer Battalion (Bolton), the attack being made by the 1st Battalion under Captain and Adjutant Fraser supported by Majors Tomlinson and Widdows about 11 o’clock. The engagement lasted about half an hour, in the course of which two prisoners were captured on the promenade by Captain Whiteside. The two battalions were then inspected by Colonel Berkeley, of the 47th, who expressed his satisfaction with the condition and performances of the volunteers. The camp was then broken up and the men returned home.

Monday, May 18, 1891; The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


The quiet seaside resort of Lytham is one of the numerous places which have been temporarily taken possession of this week by various volunteer regiments. Here the 2nd V.B. Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, better known as the Bolton battalion, are spending a week under canvas. The men are no strangers to the peaceful little town. The present is their 15th visit there. They deserted it once for a period of 5 years (from 1885 to 1889) and pitched their camp at Rhyl, but last year came back to Lytham, and this year have renewed the acquaintance. The camp is pleasantly situated, perhaps half a mile from the seafront on slightly elevated ground off Mythop-road, on the same site in fact as that which was occupied by one of the Manchester battalions last year. Well sheltered on three sides by a belt of trees and with a fine view in front a more desirable situation could hardly be found or wished for. Of all the volunteer battalions whose tents just now dot the shore from Lytham to Blackpool, the lines of the Bolton men have fallen in the pleasantest place.

The battalion is close on 1000 strong, but only 284 on Saturday joined the fatigue party of sixty men who had been busy since Wednesday, under the command of Major Tristram, preparing the camp for the reception of the main body. Altogether there will be some 800 men under canvas from the busy manufacturing town , and the greater part of the balance required to make up that number are expected on Thursday, when the Bolton observance of the great holiday begins. The battalion on Saturday assembled at the volunteer barracks, Bolton, and marched to the station under the command of Colonel Ormerod. The other officers who accompanied the men were Major Hesketh, Major Cannon and Major Francis, who retires from the Regiment in June after a connection of over 21 years.

From Bolton the battalion was conveyed by special train to Lytham, and they marched in good order from the station to the encampment, the band leading the way. After disposing of the tea which had been prepared for them the men (excepting those who had been detailed for orderly and guard duties) were at liberty to spend the evening as inclination led them. Divine service was held yesterday morning, the preacher being the Rev. R. C. Hutton, M.A. Vicar of St. George’s, Bolton, who succeeds the Rev. Charles Lowe, Vicar of St. John’s, Cheetham, and formerly of Holy Trinity, Bolton, as chaplain of the corps.

Today the serious business of camp-life begins. Company drills will take place in the field on which the camp has been pitched, but it is not large enough for battalion drills, and these will be held in Lytham Park. On Friday Colonel Berkeley, commanding the 47th Regimental District, will inspect the battalion.

In 1894 the Volunteer Long Service Medal (pictured above) was instituted. It was awarded for 20 years service in the ranks but officers could receive the medal based on previous non-commissioned service. The medal was issued unnamed but many men took it upon themselves to have it named privately by jewellers or crudely add their name to the rim themselves.

The Bolton Volunteers finally got their rifle range in 1900 when a four-section range was opened in Entwistle which allowed practice up to 800 yards.

Six officers and 172 men of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion served alongside the Regular Battalions in Volunteer Service Companies during the South African war of 1899-1902 but that will be subject of a separate post.

In 1908 the 2nd Volunteer Battalion became the 5th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment upon the creation of the Territorial Force. It was part of the West Lancashire Division and by the time war was declared in August 1914 there were over 950 efficient members of the Battalion.

Paul McCormick
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One Response to The Bolton Rifles and Volunteers 1859 – 1900

  1. Jim Waddington says:

    A detailed website. I wonder if the ‘Captain Whiteside’ referred to also saw (& survived) service in WW1… if so he is a distant relative of mine on my father’s side of the family (John Whiteside Waddington) born in 1923)

    Jim Waddington

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