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Henry Vorley and the Northampton Militia

Henry Vorley was born about 1777 in the east of Northamptonshire, probably Great Addington or Irthlingborough. He married Elizabeth Love on 9 May 1804 at Holy Sepulchre in Northampton. Their gravestone still stands in remarkably good condition in the churchyard. Henry and Elizabeth had two sons, William and Henry born in 1805 and 1813. There appeared to be nothing unusual about this family until the 1851 census revealed that their two sons were born in Dover and Edinburgh. What might be the connection here?

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Britain was troubled by revolutions in France and the rise of Napoleon. In response to the threat of invasion, the militias were raised across the country. The Northampton Militia was embodied in 1793 and disembodied in 1802 only to be embodied again in 1803, and disembodied with the peace in 1814. There are a variety of records relating to the militia in both the Northamptonshire Record Office and the National Archives. Unfortunately, local militia lists do not seem to have survived for the early 19th century as well as they have done for 1762, 1771 and 1777. However, the real treasure trove are the Muster Books and Pay Lists in the National Archives. There are four series of records:

1st Northamptonshire Militia (1780-1856) WO13/1618-1635
2nd Northamptonshire Militia (1798-1799) WO13/1643-1644
Northampton Yeomanry Infantry (1803 – 1809) WO 13/4478
Northampton Yeomanry Infantry (1804 – 1809)
1st Northampton (1803 – 1809)
Northampton Boughton (1803 – 1805)
Northampton Brackley (1803 – 1809)
Northampton Castle Ashby (1803 – 1809) WO 13/4479
Northampton Cottesbrooke (1803 – 1807)
Northampton Daventry (1803 – 1808)
Northampton Finedon (1803 – 1806)
Northampton Kettering (1803 – 1813)
Northampton Peterboro (1803 – 1812)
Northampton Spratton (1803 – 1805)
Northampton Towcester (1803 – 1809)

The WO5 series contains the Secretary-at-War: Marching and Militia Orders, which shed some additional light on the movements of the Northamptonshire Militia:

WO5/107 pp. 127, 143, 263, 274, 275, 281, 282, 321, 322, 332, 346
WO5/108 pp. 32, 43,

It was the Pay Lists and Muster Books in the series WO13/1618-1635 and for the period I was interested in, 1804-1814, these were contained in WO13/1625-1635. These records proved to be a gold mine as not only did they record weekly pay but they also recorded where the militia was located during any month. Often when movements of troops took place additional details were given.

The militiamen were paid 1 shilling (5p) per day. The monthly summaries of payments were from the 25th of one month to the 24th day of the following month.

Other published sources add some additional details to the militia story.

The history of the Northamptonshire & Rutland militia: now the 3rd Battalion (militia) of the Northamptonshire Regiment, from 1756 to 1919. Christopher Alexander Markham, 1924 (Available on This is a well-researched and comprehensive history including many references and footnotes.

Memoirs and Records of The Northamptonshire And Rutland Militia. Robert James D’Arcy, 1873 (Available on This is a less detailed publication than that by Christopher Markham but seems to include some recollections of the history of the militia that had been handed down in the 19th century.

Local newspapers often reported on the movements of their county militia, available on the British Newspaper Archive. This is not only the local press e.g. Northampton Mercury but also the papers of the locality in which the regiment was based at the time, particularly if there is some event like an inspection, parade or troop movements.

Map showing Henry Vorley's Northampton Militia service 1804-14
Henry Vorley, Northampton Militia service 1804-14

Piecing this altogether a complete log of movements of my 4xGreat Grandfather, Henry Vorley can be compiled.







24 May 1804

24 Oct 1804


Joined 24 May 1804


24 Nov 1804

24 Jun 1805

Dover Castle


25 Jun 1805

24 Sep 1805

Brabourne Lees Barracks


25 Sep 1805

24 Mar 1806

Chelmsford Barracks


25 Mar 1806

24 Sep 1807

Woodbridge Barracks

Chelmsford to Woodbridge 29-30 May 820 men


25 Sep 1807

24 Mar 1808

Norman Cross Barracks


25 Mar 1808

24 Mar 1809

Woodbridge Barracks


25 Mar 1809

24 Mar 1810



25 Mar 1810

24 Sep 1810

Porchester Barracks

Portsmouth – Portchester 23 Apr


25 Sep 1810

24 Jun 1811


Portchester – Portsmouth 8 & 15 Oct


25 Jun 1811

24 Jul 1812



24 Aug 1812

24 Mar 1813

On detachment at Ballynahinch

Main Garrison at Newry Barracks


25 Mar 1813

24 Apr 1813

Belfast Barracks


25 Apr 1813

24 Mar 1814

Edinburgh Castle

Garrison moved from Portpatrick to Edinburgh 4 – 24 May 1813


25 Mar 1814

8 Jul 1814


Edinburgh – Leith 15 Jun, 246 men, 17 Jun, 209 men
“Smacks” used see below.
Hull – Grantham – Northampton 18 – 29 Jun 245 men, 20 Jun – 30 Jun 209 men

The pay lists also often record the commanding officers, which can be useful to note when subsequently searching newspaper reports.

Commanding officer

Captain Edmund Major

24 May 1804

24 Oct 1804

Earl Pomfret

25 Jun 1805

24 Mar 1806

Charles Wake

2 Apr 1812

5 Sep 1812)

William Hodson

5 Sep 1812

24 Mar 1814

After signing up for the Northamptonshire Militia, Henry was dispatched to Deal to join the regiment where they were based in early 1804. At the end on 1804, they were moved to Dover Castle for the winter. His first son was born in Dover in the early months of 1805. Clearly wives and family were part of the militia retinue. The historian Jenny Uglow has written a commendable book, In These Times: Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793–1815. (2015). One reviewer summarised the role and relationship of women with the militia “[And women who] participated in the war not just as relations of combatants but as sutlers, prostitutes, laundresses, spinners, bandage-makers, and drawing-room news-followers.1

Henry and Elizabeth’s second son, Henry, was born in Edinburgh in 1813 whilst his father was stationed at Edinburgh Castle.

Norman Cross (1807-08) was a noted prisoner of war camp in Huntingdonshire and at times held over 6,000 prisoners.

Whilst stationed at Portsmouth (1810-11) the Northampton Militia’s duties included guarding French prisoners of war on a prison ship.

Of particular interest are the three sea crossings, Portsmouth to Belfast (for Armagh), Belfast to Portpatrick (Dumfries and Galloway) and Leith (Edinburgh) to Hull en route to Northampton.

The muster books give details of some of the vessels used for these journeys.

Vessels used between Portsmouth and Belfast (for Armagh), September 1811




5 – 15 Sep




5 – 15 Sep




5 – 16 Sep

Duchess of Richmond



The move to Ireland was not straightforward as the county militias normally only served on home territory and required them to be additionally sworn in and enrolled as the militia for the United Kingdom.

Smacks used between Leith and Hull, June 1814




15 – 17 Jun




15 – 17 Jun




17 – 19 Jun




17 – 19 Jun




Collating this information enables a map to be created of Henry Vorley’s journey and postings in defence of his country when under threat from a foreign power.

After completing his militia service Henry settled in North End (Regents Square), Northampton and later as a shopkeeper on St Andrews Square, Northampton. He died in February 1846, missing the 1851 census which would have revealed his place of birth.

A Review of the Northampton Militia at Brackley, by Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)
A Review of the Northampton Militia at Brackley, by Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)

A shorter version of this blog post first appeared in Footprints, the Journal of the Northamptonshire Family History Society, November 2022.

  1. Christine Haynes, Review, ‘’Journal of military history” April 2016 p 543-4

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