The long war with Napoleonic France resumed on 18th May 1803 following the collapse of the Amiens Peace treaty. Soldiers and sailors were recalled to arms and county militia and yeomanry cavalry re-established. By June, France had begun preparations to invade England so the British government called for volunteer infantry regiments to be raised. His Grace the Duke of Rutland, Leicestershire’s Lord Lieutenant, was in command but companies of voluntary soldiers were to be organised at a local level.
On 18th August 1803 a public meeting was held in Market Harborough parish church and resolved that the town establish the’ Loyal Harborough Volunteer lnfantry, comprising two companies of infantry. Each company had a small band of drums and fifes. Volunteers had to be aged between 17 and 55 and they had to be vetted by a committee.
William French Major Esq. was appointed Captain Commandant of the First Company with William Atkins, Lieutenant and Thomas Green, Ensign. Pointz Owsley Adams Esq. was appointed Captain of the Second Company with Charles Heygate, Lieutenant and John Chater, Ensign. A full list of each Company is given in William Harrod’s, History of Market Harborough, 1808.
What we know about the Loyal Harborough Volunteer Infantry is that ‘officers and privates’ attended a theatre in the Town Hall on 24th September 1803 where songs were sung ‘with the warmest loyalty and patriotism’, The Companies received their Colours at a ceremony on 13th February 1804 and later that year, they were on ‘active duty’ in Melton Mowbray and in 1805, at Daventry. A number of soldiers of the 65th Regiment of Foot mutinied at Kettering and were marched, under guard to Market Harborough and the Loyal Harborough Volunteer lnfantry were ordered to escort the mutineers from here to Leicester.
Following the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the threat of invasion was minimised but the voluntary infantry units remained until 1808 when it was decided they were no longer needed.
Our thanks to Research Volunteer Michael for researching and writing this month’s entry.