Eden District Council
Search our Site

The Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry

Penrith and Eden Museum contains several items connected with the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry Regiment.

Originally styled the Westmorland Yeomanry, it was raised at his own expense as a volunteer force in Penrith by Colonel Hugh Cecil Lowther Earl of Lonsdale and superseded the Westmorland East and West Ward Militia and the Cumberland Loyal Leath Ward Volunteers.

Its formation in 1819 was largely a response to widespread fear in the wake of the 'Peterloo' incident of that year in which the Manchester Yeomanry had been called upon to put down a civil commotion following a Reform meeting.

When Colonel Lowther retired to take charge of the Cumberland Militia, Edward W. Hasell took command of the Yeomanry Regiment and remained its Colonel for 50 years.

In all six troops were raised, in Kendal, Shap, and Appleby in Westmorland, and in Cumberland at Edenhall, Dalemain and Milnthorpe. They were described at that time as wearing 'Skiddaw grey trousers and scarlet jackets with headgear that was wonderful to contemplate in shape as much like a big frying pan as anything' By mid-century the regiment's uniform was one of the most striking of any Regular or Yeomanry Cavalry.

Chartist disturbances caused the Civil Power to call out the Regiment in Penrith and Carlisle in 1839. In February 1846 a dispute between two labourers working on the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway at Hugh's Cutting at Lowther Park led to tension between English and Irish labourers.

Ranged in opposing mobs they converged on Penrith where banks and shops suspended business. The Yeomanry intervened, though it took a week to end 'The Navvy Riot' which threatened 'to sack and loot the town in such a fashion as it never previously had been, not even by the moss-troopers or in the Scotch wars with England'. Surprisingly no one was killed but the violent behaviour of an English 'savage' called Hobday led to his transportation for 15 years.

The Yeomanry training took place in Kendal, Penrith and Appleby. Since the practice was to muster a few miles from the ground and march to it, when the Wigton troop was raised in 1840 it was deemed too far for marching to Kendal or Appleby and Penrith became the centre for this annual event.

At first this was held on the Race Course with the force billeted in the Penrith inns. This meant good business for the inn-keepers including Sergeant Major 'Josie' Bolshaw, proprietor of the Red Lion who had his own prescription for increasing their custom: 'give 'em salt 'addock for breakfast an they'll sup plenty ale'. In 1900 training was held on Brackenber Moor, Appleby, and later the 'Elysian Fields' at Lowther Park were made available by the Earl of Lonsdale for annual summer training camps.

The public were invited to watch military sports and crowds of spectators from the two counties assembled for 'Cavalry Sunday' during the training.

A contingent of the regiment took part in celebrations in London of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and in 1900-1902 the Yeomanry sent a company of mounted infantry to the Boer War in South Africa. In a skirmish at Faber's Put several lost their lives. They were commemorated by the granite memorial formerly in front of Penrith Town Hall now re-located in the Castle Park.

In 1911 Colonel Beddington, anxious to keep his squadron in the front line of modernity provided it with a portable radio outfit at his own expense. With the portable parts carried on horseback and the fixed part in a tent near the officers' mess it was much used on manoeuvres. In May that year a shorthand note of world news was taken from Poldhu station in Cornwall, published at the 'Observer' office in Penrith and circulated among officers and men of the regiment.

In the Great War (1914-1918) the yeomanry saw action as Divisional Cavalry at Gallipoli and in France with three of Kitchener's Army Divisions. It was reformed as a Corps Cavalry Regiment and later attached to Infantry Regiments, including the 7th. Battalion of the Border Regiment or, like the 2nd. Line, to a Cyclist Brigade. It was disbanded after the Great War. An Old Comrades Association was formed having an annual reunion and dinner at Dalemain. The force had a strong sense of tradition and loyalty and bound in comradeship countrymen and horsemen from the same district.

The 'carte-de-visite' portrait photograph (above right) shows Trooper John Harrington, a farmer of Redhills, Penrith. It was taken by E. McDonald of Castlegate, Penrith. Harrington wears the full dress uniform of the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry, c1895, though he would also have worn a busby or flat cap. The style is of the period c1890=1914. John Harrington was born in 1871 and died in 1945.

Museum admission and opening hours:

The museum is open all year and admission is free. The museum's opening hours are the same as Penrith Tourist Information Centre.

Loan, donate or bequeath to Penrith and Eden Museum

The Museum the curators will only be to happy to receive any objects you wish to loan, donate or bequeath to the museum.

For further information

See about the museum or contact the Penrith and Eden Museum curators.

Trooper John Harrington
Trooper John Harrington
Yeomanry Recruitment Poster
First World War Yeomanry Poster
Yeomanry Cavalry print
Yeomanry Cavalry print

Was this page helpful?