Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

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Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby mikeholness » 19 May 2017 14:51

Henry Shelley Tower Keeper Eastbourne small.jpg
Henry Shelley Tower Keeper Eastbourne small.jpg (45.76 KiB) Viewed 426 times
Even more apologies as I am now posting this enquiry into what I now realise is the appropriate forum!

We are rearching my multi-great grandfather Henry Shelley/Shilly, who rose to Second Corporal in the Royal Sappers & Miners, and became a Chelsea Out-Pensioner in 1816 at the end of the Napoleonic War. He aced it by living through to 1869 and achieving the grand old age of 87.

The relevant issue is that in 1851, then aged 69 he was Tower Keeper of the Eastborne fortification, a role presumably within the Corps of Engineers.

We have this photograph which we are reasonably certain is of him and a grandchild, at about that time - he in a uniform dress. We would value any advice/opinion about identifying the uniform and the badges - as a means of confirming the photo as being of him.

Mike Holness
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Frogsmile » 20 May 2017 10:23

mikeholness wrote:
Henry Shelley Tower Keeper Eastbourne small.jpg
Even more apologies as I am now posting this enquiry into what I now realise is the appropriate forum!

We are rearching my multi-great grandfather Henry Shelley/Shilly, who rose to Second Corporal in the Royal Sappers & Miners, and became a Chelsea Out-Pensioner in 1816 at the end of the Napoleonic War. He aced it by living through to 1869 and achieving the grand old age of 87.

The relevant issue is that in 1851, then aged 69 he was Tower Keeper of the Eastborne fortification, a role presumably within the Corps of Engineers.

We have this photograph which we are reasonably certain is of him and a grandchild, at about that time - he in a uniform dress. We would value any advice/opinion about identifying the uniform and the badges - as a means of confirming the photo as being of him.

Mike Holness


Mike, he is wearing the cap and collar badges of the Royal Sussex Light Infantry Militia (an auxiliary, reserve force under the County Lieutenant). It was quite common over the dates you mention for County Militias to man these coastal forts. It is a very rare photo of a man in the unit concerned, which had long used the Garter Star as its emblem. What is even more interesting is that the collar badge was not formally sealed as the agreed pattern (i.e. after it had already been in wear for a considerable time) until Dec 1878. Only a year later the pattern was modified to appear the same in outline (but not title circlet) as the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia, who also wore the Garter Star as their insignia.

The head dress he wears is a knitted and felted woollen, undress forage cap, of a type long made for the British infantry in Scotland. The upper garment he wears appears to be the dark blue undress 'frock' (loose fitting working jacket) that had 5-buttons and very probably a single chest pocket with flap, which was the most common type at that time. The trousers were matching. It was a practical, day-to-day working uniform and not intended for show.

References: Kipling and King 'Headdress Badges of the British Army (page 303) and Colin Churchill's The History of the British Army Collar Badge (page 157).

N.B. After the reforms of 1881, the RSLIM became the 3rd Battalion of the new, Royal Sussex Regiment (1st and 2nd Battalion being regulars) and, most interestingly, the Garter Star was incorporated as a central device in the cap badge of the new and unified regiment: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/media/250 ... 1-1966.pdf
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby mikeholness » 21 May 2017 08:30

Dear Frogsmile

What a great,instant response - I will need to follow up on your sources.

It had been a concern that general interest might focus on the officers, with little published about the artificiers and other ranks.

I am planning to do a good blown up copy of this for the Mlitary Museum at Eastbourne - although the archivist I contacted there replied:
Unfortunately I am not sure that we can help you in any way; we have very limited records of this type in our collections, and especially now we are no longer a military museum, but I am also unsure as to what the link is to Eastbourne or Sussex. I have done a search of our databases for your relatives name but I'm afraid we have nothing which brings up any information on him or the role of Tower Keeper.

Maybe we can persuade her to do a little about its role. I am planning to go there during the re-enactment weekend in August.

Many thanks - an example of the whole point if this site

Mike
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Frogsmile » 21 May 2017 09:34

mikeholness wrote:Dear Frogsmile

What a great,instant response - I will need to follow up on your sources.

It had been a concern that general interest might focus on the officers, with little published about the artificiers and other ranks.

I am planning to do a good blown up copy of this for the Mlitary Museum at Eastbourne - although the archivist I contacted there replied:
Unfortunately I am not sure that we can help you in any way; we have very limited records of this type in our collections, and especially now we are no longer a military museum, but I am also unsure as to what the link is to Eastbourne or Sussex. I have done a search of our databases for your relatives name but I'm afraid we have nothing which brings up any information on him or the role of Tower Keeper.

Maybe we can persuade her to do a little about its role. I am planning to go there during the re-enactment weekend in August.

Many thanks - an example of the whole point if this site

Mike


Mike, I was pleased to help and thrilled to see your picture as they are so rare. I am confident of my RSLIM ID and am not that surprised by the response that you received from your enquiry. Much knowledge regarding the militia has been lost, including such matters as the uniform details of some units. Insignia has fared better due to its metal basis and has thus survived in collections. For a time the relationship between the militia and the regular army was close because in times of war, especially the Napoleonic and Crimean periods, the militia, via financial inducement, provided large drafts of battle casualty replacements. In some cases entire companies of militia, led by their officers, volunteered to join specific regiments of the line.

Muster rolls are the key documents that you require to trace a name and those that survived are traditionally retained in County libraries. Former regular soldiers, especially NCOs, or men with special skills were encouraged to join the militia and this was a good source of employment for such veterans. Your forebear, as a former Sapper with a good record would have been seen as well suited as a warden of a coastal fortress. After 1859, things began to change a little as an additional auxiliary force, known as the Volunteer Rifle Corps, took shape and became popular. This force too became a place of employment for veteran regulars and also started to be used as static garrisons, quickly available for the defence of the coastal forts. From that point the militia and VRCs worked within each County under its Lieutenant, but each with its own, specified role and terms of service. To best understand the militia you would need to read the book 'The Constitutional Force', by Col Geo Jackson Hay.

N.B. Some copies of militia muster rolls are also held by the National Archives.

Footnote: one thing that does trouble me is the 1851 date that you quoted. The man in your photo is wearing uniform and insignia of the late 1860s, early 1870s.
Last edited by Frogsmile on 21 May 2017 14:55, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby mikeholness » 21 May 2017 09:56

Dear Frogsmile

a) My sister shrieked when she read your responses. This provides the final confirmation of the identity of this photo, which she (an artist) has carefully drawn as a portrait as well those of his son and grandson as adults - where their detail facial features that she could pick out clearly establish that this is not the same person, but someone who is a close relation.

b) Just to be clear - his forage cap would have been made in Scotland for British Army use across the UK?

Not, as might be read, solely for use by British Infantry when in Scotland or as members of a Scottish unit!!


I now need to get back to Sussex and bury myself in archival material.

Many thanks

Mike Holness
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Frogsmile » 21 May 2017 10:12

mikeholness wrote:Dear Frogsmile

a) My sister shrieked when she read your responses. This provides the final confirmation of the identity of this photo, which she (an artist) has carefully drawn as a portrait as well those of his son and grandson as adults - where their detail facial features that she could pick out clearly establish that this is not the same person, but someone who is a close relation.

b) Just to be clear - his forage cap would have been made in Scotland for British Army use across the UK?

Not, as might be read, solely for use by British Infantry when in Scotland or as members of a Scottish unit!!


I now need to get back to Sussex and bury myself in archival material.

Many thanks

Mike Holness


The undress head dress (known as a forage cap) was produced for all infantry (less Scottish after 1868) at Kilmarnock, in Scotland, where it was the major local industry. From 1874, non Scottish regulars adopted the glengarry (but in plain blue) to match the same style cap worn by their Scottish equivalents since 1868, but militia continued to wear the forage cap shown until much later.

In 1851, a more formal uniform was still being worn, in the style of a 'swallowtail coatee' and collar badges had neither been considered, nor introduced.
Either your 1851 date is incorrect, or the man shown is perhaps a son of the forebear that you are researching.
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Isandlwana » 21 May 2017 15:35

Mike,

Following on from Frogsmile's comments, do you have the original photograph if so what format is it in?

Is it on a photographer's studio card, if so is it carte-de-visite size? In which case the actual image should be 54mm (2.125") x 89mm (3.5"). Or is it cabinet-card size? If the photograph's image should be a photographic image measuring about 5.5" x 4" inches which were pasted to cards measuring 6.5" x 4.25"

Why I ask is an attempt to establish a time-period for your photograph, which in my opinion is later than the time-period that you suggest for the subject.

Regards,

John
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby mikeholness » 21 May 2017 18:12

The print is certainly more modern than the original photo. It is small, on photographic paper.

We know that Henry's son and grandson were into photography, and we have glass plate negatives surviving (just!) at least half of which are photographs of older photographs (but not this one).

We are assuming therefore that this print was either made from an original glass plate negative, or is in the same way a photograph of an original photograph - to give more copies within the family (Henry had 45 grandchildren!).

What is nice is the informality, and the relaxed relationship between him and the child - something we see about the men in our family in our family archive right down the years. It is also a striking portrait of the man.

Given we are secure about the uniform, and that only he would have been likely wear it - then the latest the original photo could have been taken would have been 1869. For our purposes, we are only concerned that it should be truly our Henry Shelley!

But I am very interested in the forensic process by which one might establish the period when the photo could have been taken.

best regards

Mike Holness
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby mikeholness » 21 May 2017 19:22

Frogsmile/John

Just to be clear about 1851, it comes from the 1851 census return, where he is living at the Eastbourne Fort and is described as the 'Tower Keeper, Board of Ordinance'.

He will have maintained that role for some time either side of that date - hopefully I will find muster rolls that will cover that when I start reearching at the West Sussex Records Office.

Given that he lived through to 1869, the photo could have been taken at a date consistent with the change from the 1851 formal uniform. It is not his son or grandson, as I explained from my sister's detail review of their facial characteristics.

Cheers, Mike
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Frogsmile » 21 May 2017 20:04

It is something of a conundrum Mike and because of the uniform details the date would have to be close to his death. That said, for the clearly, quite elderly man shown to be still in uniform, he would need to be in a sinecure type job and that lends itself to the role of a fortress warden. Another very important point to note and one that is often overlooked is that the militia was much older than the regular army and had territorial titles and complex insignia, frequently with 'Royal' appellation, at a time when regulars were still merely numbered in sequence and, in many but not all cases, without any special badges at all. This is why the RSLIM Garter Star ended up being incorporated in the Royal Sussex Regiment badge.
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby mikeholness » 21 May 2017 23:24

We are working on the thought that this photograph might have been taken in June 1862 on his 80th birthday, with his youngest grandson (of 45!), who would have been 1 year 9 months old. This child's Mother was present at and reported his death in 1869.

Perhaps when she sent the cards round the family (one of which we have), she enclosed copies of this picture?

We will have to see if I can find any service details from the West Sussex County Records Office - or wherever the trail goes from now.

best regards

Mike Holness
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Frogsmile » 21 May 2017 23:58

mikeholness wrote:We are working on the thought that this photograph might have been taken in June 1862 on his 80th birthday, with his youngest grandson (of 45!), who would have been 1 year 9 months old. This child's Mother was present at and reported his death in 1869.

Perhaps when she sent the cards round the family (one of which we have), she enclosed copies of this picture?

We will have to see if I can find any service details from the West Sussex County Records Office - or wherever the trail goes from now.

best regards

Mike Holness


I think that an 80th birthday portrait photo would fit with the uniform he is wearing and strongly believe that the frock (jacket) he is wearing is the same type used by regular infantry in the wars in New Zealand within that decade. I cannot emphasise enough how rare a photo of a member of the RSLIM must be.
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Isandlwana » 22 May 2017 21:08

Mike,

Do you have Henry's service record? Did he actually see any active service in the Napoleonic Wars? If so did fight in any actions for which he might have been awarded the Military General Service Medal? I only ask as I cannot discern any evidence of a medal ribbon.

As to the headgear of the subject of the photograph, such headgear was worn by members of the fire brigade well into the early part of the 20th Century. So it is not unique to the period you are looking for.

What I do notice that there is no discernible movement by the child during the exposure of the plate/film. That would normally leaving a blurring or double image. Personally, I don't think the photograph dates from the 1860's, but that is just my opinion based my study of 19th Century photography.

Regards,

John Y.
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby mikeholness » 23 May 2017 08:21

I have parts of his service record, essentially building Portsmouth by the looks of things.

He enlisted on 1 Nov 1794 *(age 12?), on Muster rolls for Second Company 3rd Battalion of Royal Sappers & Miners - as a Second Corporal Bricklayer in July 1816.
In November 1816 he was discharged to pension after 18 years one month service, with the name Henry Shilley (although his signature is clearly Shelly), where it states that he had inlisted on 1 Nov 1798 at age 18 years and was now about 37 - which would make his birth year 1779.
This three years difference is interesting, as he was baptised 17 June 1782 - did he lie about his age to get in at 16?

On the 1851 census (as Tower Keeper) he gives his age as 68 - ie consistent with 1782/3 birth.

In respect of the photo - I agree that it is unusual, both in composition and sharpness. Nonetheless, I am convinced that this is indeed Henry Shelley, perhaps photgraphed in 1862, certainly not later than 1869.

I will initiate some more formal discussions with the National Science & Media Museum and report back.

Mike
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Re: Henry Shelley 1782-1869/Corps of Engineers?

Postby Frogsmile » 23 May 2017 10:16

It was possible to join as a boy of 12 at that time Mike, usually as a drummer. It was especially common for sons of serving, or deceased soldiers, or orphaned boys on parish 'relief'.
At age 18 his pensionable (adult) service usually began, so hence the recording of the two dates.
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