The Volunteers Review 1864

Click on image for further details

On Easter Monday 1864, Blackheath was the location of a military spectacular that involved 17,000 Volunteer troops. Queen Victoria came to review the troops that were part of The Volunteer Force, a citizen's army made up from mainly farmers, tradesmen and labourers.
 
In a report in 'The Times' on 24th March 1864 details of the event were given - 
The general outlines of the Volunteer Review to be held near Guildford on Easter Monday are now sufficiently well arranged to be made public. From the applications forwarded to the War-Office it would appear that at least 13,000 are anxious to take part in the day's proceedings, and that the evolution of the troops will be supported by 24 pieces of artillery. The field of action is rather limited for such an imposing force, but it agreed that the plan agreed on will afford scope for them to manoeuvre with effect; and, as far as the spectators are concerned, the conflict will be brought much more nearly under their view than on any of the previous anniversary displays of a similar character. As already stated, the troops reaching Farley Heath by different railway routes from the metropolis will be kept distinct during the day, and massed in separate divisions. Those travelling by the South-Eastern line to Shalford, having the shortest distance to march before arriving at the Common, will be pushed on to its further extremity, and these, facing about and fronting the quarter from which they came, will representing the attacking force. The Volunteers using the Southern-Western Railway, and having to mark some three or four miles from Guildford, will on the other hand be compensated by finding themselves in position almost as soon as they emerge upon the Heath, where they will assume a defensive attitude. So far matters are settled. But the actual movements the volunteers will be called on to undertake from this point must be covered by what the officer in command finds to be practicable within a given time after the Volunteers have assembled, and also by the extent of his force at his disposal. The belief at present is that after some preliminary movements of a strategic character on both sides, the left wing of the attacking force will be despatched and sent through the woods by a circuitous path to fall on the right of the defending army; and that the latter, forced by this assault to show an entirely new front will gradually be pressed back till it reaches the vicinity of the Grand-Stand, upon which as an impregnable fortress it will halt and quietly proceed to march pass, an example commending itself to the approval and adoption of its late opponents. Lieutenant-General Sir J.L.Pennefather, K.C.B, will command in chief, and under his orders will be Major General Russell,C.B. and Major-General Rumley, each having charge of a division. There are to be eight brigades in all under the following brigadiers - Lord Colville, Lord Ranelagh, Lord Elcho, Earl Grosvenor, Lord Radstock, Lord Bury, Lieutenant-Colonel Bigge, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lindsay. The artillery force will be handled at one side by Colonel Gambier, C.B, and at the other by Colonel Buchanan. Of the 24 pieces of artillery to be brought into the field six 18-pounders will be contributed from Brighton; the rest, consisting of six 6-pounders, eight 18-pounders, and four 24-pounders, will be furnished by the Hon. Royal Artillery Company and by the Regiments of the Middlesex Artillery. The public are to have a means of approach distinct from the allotted to the Volunteers. The latter will take possession of the row known as Phillip's Lane, leading from Shalford Common, where the brigades are to be formed on the arrival of the different corps. Sample Oak Lane, running direct from Chilworth  the heath, will be reserved for the public, and the position of the spectators will enable them, on arriving on the ground, not only to obtain a favourable view of the day's manoeuvres, but to approach very close to Phillip's Lane, the route upon which the Volunteers men move from and to the stations either of the Southern-Western  or Southern-Eastern Railways. The Grand-Stand occupies a prominent position upon an eminence known as 'Roast Meat Hill,' and facing this it is proposed to erect capacious refreshments booths. This is the department in which at present there appears to be greatest need for organisation, and for the credit and comfort of all  concerned there interval before Easter Monday ought to be turned to good account
 
Corps proceeding from Waterloo Station-
Middlesex Regiment
Total 6,027.
Corps proceeding from London-Bridge Station-
Middlesex Regiments
Tower Hamlets Regiments
Total 6,630
Country Corps -
Surrey Rifles
Hants Artillery
Cinque Ports Artillery
Sussex Battalion
Kent Battalion
Total 4,442
Queen Victoria watched the event from Derry's Hill near to Top Cottage, from which she had a clear view across the scene towards the Grand-Stand.
 
Martin Tupper, the English writer and poet was born and lived in Albury. He was  the Rector of Albury for some time. During this period he campaigned vigorously to set up a Victorian fore-
A red flag flew when firing was in progress, the flagstaff being about where the Hallams is now. The whole heath at that time was very different in appearance to that of today, it was very open with very few Scots Pines.
 
The question as to why The Volunteer Review of 1864 was staged in Blackheath seems to be connected to Tupper's ' Blackheath Rifles'. They later merged with the 22nd Surrey Rifle Volunteers.
 
The other influence of Tupper's 'Blackheath Rifles' was the National Rifle Association that exists today.
Many members  excited members of the public flocked to watch the event, streaming up from Chilworth Station to the large wooden Grandstand on Rosemary Hill. The area was known as Roast Meat Hill, it is thought that during Medieval times it was a meeting place when the 'Hundred's Court' met and perhaps a place for feasting. On the day of the review it has something of a fair atmosphere to it with stalls selling beverages and food.
The proceedings started with small skirmishes and quickly followed on to the firing (blanks) of the artillery followed by waves of attackers charging whilst firing their muskets. Eventually the two opposing sides met and hand to hand fighting began.
 
No-one was injured apart from a dreadful accident , when sadly the Rev. Ruscoe was killed by a rouge shot!  Someone must have had live ammunition!
At the conclusion of the review many of the Blackheath men headed back to the village pub for a reviving pint of ale. Whilst discussing their exciting day, they came up with the idea that the pub should be called the 'The Volunteer'. Henceforth it became known as that until a name change in the 1973.

© All rights reserved. Text and all images are copyrighted and are not to be used in any form without prior written permission. Please contact Blackheath Surrey Village Archive on our contact form.