No. 47 Ratcliff Volunteer


From “ISLE OF DOGS LIFE” In Search of Old Ratcliffe 30 March 2017. Map dated 1795.

MAKE READY [Front Rank]  (see original 1799 description below)
Ratcliff or Ratcliffe is a locality in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. (See map). It lies on the north bank of the River Thames between Limehouse (to the east), and Shadwell (to the west). The place name is no longer commonly used. Ratcliffe in earlier times was also known as “sailor town”. It was originally known for shipbuilding but from the fourteenth century more for fitting and provisioning ships. In the sixteenth century various voyages of discovery were supplied and departed from Ratcliffe, including those of Willoughby and Frobisher. By the early seventeenth century it had the largest population of any Hamlet (administrative sub-division) in Stepney, with 3500 residents. It was again a site of shipbuilding in the seventeenth century – a number of sailing warships were built for the Royal Navy here, including one of the earliest frigates, the Constant Warwick in 1645. Located at the western end of Narrow Street it was made up of lodging houses, bars, brothels, music halls and opium dens. This overcrowded and squalid district acquired an unsavoury reputation with a large transient population. In 1794 approximately half of the hamlet was destroyed in a fire but, even so, it continued as a notorious slum well into the nineteenth century. From the late sixteenth century Ratcliffe and surrounding areas were notable areas for non-conformist ChristianityJohn Penry preached in the area in 1592/3, until he was spotted by the local vicar at Ratcliffe and subsequently hanged. By 1669 around 200 Presbyterians were worshipping at a warehouse at Ratcliffe Cross and there was a purpose built Quaker meeting house in Schoolhouse Lane, which was demolished by soldiers in 1670.

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Original Description of the unit from 1798:
This Corps was established the 4th of May, 1798, under Joseph Brown, Esq. and resolved to serve without Pay within the Tower Hamlets.  Their number is between 80 and 90, forming one Company; they have a Committee elected by the Corps, and of which James Barnfield is Chairman; it is composed of the Officers and several other Members.  The Colours are provided but have not yet been presented in form.  This Corps rendered itself extremely useful at the great Fire of Shadwell, and in Wapping when the Rioters attempted to destroy the Marine Police Office, &c.
Captain, Joseph Brown.  First Lieutenant, — Boulcott; Second Lieutenant, –— Longbottom.
Helmets; Label, RATCLIFF VOLUNTEERS.  Ornament on Helmet, Crown and Garter; G. R. in centre.  Breastplate, oval, with R. V. in cypher.  Cartouch-box, R. V. in a Star.  Buttons, R. V.  Short Gaiters. 

Additional information

Weight 0.0121 kg
Dimensions 25.5 × 32.5 cm


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