No.49 Hackney Volunteer


Hackney Village and NE London From the first Ordinance Survey series between 1801 and 1805.  ©2009-2017 University of Portsmouth and others (Jisc). (Annotated by Iain Laird 9th October 2022)

FIRE [Front Rank] (see original 1799 description below)

Shortly after it was formed the unit became the First Regiment of Tower Hamlet Militia. (see map of Hackney and East London c. 1800 attached). The earliest reference to the name “Tower Hamlets” was in 1554, when the Council of the Tower of London ordered a muster of “men of the hamlets which owe their service to the tower”. This covered a wider area than the present-day borough, and its military relationship with the Tower is thought to have been several centuries earlier than the 1554 record. In 1605, the Lieutenant of the Tower was given the right to muster the militia and the area east of the tower came to be a distinct military unit, officially called Tower Hamlets (or the Tower Division).[14] The Hamlets of the Tower paid taxes for the militia in 1646.[15] A legacy of that connection with the Tower is that residents of the modern borough can gain entrance for only a token fee of £1.[16] this benefit isn’t extended to the London Borough of Hackney, most of which once formed part of the original Tower Hamlets. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets forms the core of the East End. The population of the area grew enormously in the 19th century, leading to extreme overcrowding and a concentration of poor people and immigrants throughout the area. These problems were exacerbated by the construction of St Katharine Docks (1827) and the central London railway termini (1840–1875) with many displaced people moving into the area following the clearance of former slums and rookeries. Over the course of a century, the East End became synonymous with poverty, overcrowding, disease and criminality. The area was once characterised by rural settlements clustered around the City walls or along the main roads, surrounded by farmland, with marshes and small communities by the River, serving the needs of shipping and the Royal Navy. Until the arrival of formal docks, shipping was required to land goods in the Pool of London, but industries related to construction, repair, and victualling of ships flourished in the area from Tudor times. The area attracted large numbers of rural people looking for employment. Successive waves of foreign immigration began with Huguenot refugees creating a new extramural suburb in Spitalfields in the 17th century.[18] They were followed by Irish weavers,[19] Ashkenazi Jews and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis.[21] Many of these immigrants worked in the clothing industry. The abundance of semi- and unskilled labour led to low wages and poor conditions throughout the East End. This brought the attentions of social reformers during the mid-18th century and led to the formation of unions and workers associations at the end of the century. The radicalism of the East End contributed to the formation of the Labour Party and demands for the enfranchisement of women. The Tower Division was a liberty in the ancient county of MiddlesexEngland. It was also known as the Tower Hamlets, and took its name from the military obligations owed to the Constable of the Tower of London. The term ‘Hamlets’ probably referred to territorial sub-divisions of the parish of Stepney – and its daughter parishes – rather than to the usual meaning of a small village. In contemporary terms, the Liberty covered inner East London, the area now administered by the eponymous modern London Borough of Tower Hamlets together with most of the modern London Borough of Hackney (Shoreditch and Hackney proper). The Liberty was seen as synonymous with East London until East London extended further, east of the Lea and into Essex. The Tower Division was formed sometime in the 17th century but the much older administrative units comprising the area were united in shared military obligations long before this time. The Liberty had judicial and some local government responsibilities, and its military function was unique.

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Original Description of the unit from 1798:
THE Loyal Hackney Volunteers were formed in May, 1794, under -—— Beaufoy, Esq. now Colonel of the First Regiment of Tower Hamlet Militia, to which he was appointed in March, 1797. Their engagements are, to aid and assist the Civil Power in case of Riot or Invasion, anywhere within ten miles of Hackney. They at present consist of two Companies of about 60 each; and received their Colours from the Ladies of Hackney.  This Corps has upon several occasions done Duty in London, at the request of the Magistrates, and on other occasions.
Captain Commandant, James Williams; also Captain of the First Company.  First Company. —Captain, James Williams; Lieutenant, William Le Gros; Ensign, G. M. Hanson.  Second Company.Captain, Samuel Dobree; Lieutenant, S. Lee; Ensign, vacant.
Round Hats; Bearskin and Feather.  Breastplate, oval, with letters, L. H. V.  Cartouch Box; square Plate with L. H. V.  Buttons; the words, LOYAL HACKNEY VOLUNTEERS.  Long Gaiters.  

Additional information

Weight 0.0121 kg
Dimensions 25.5 × 32.5 cm


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