The English militia was
a kind of early 'home guard', raised to defend the nation against invasion or
rebellion. It did not serve overseas. Able-bodied men aged 18 to 45 years were
eligible for the militia. However, there were exemptions for poor men who had
three or more children born in wedlock (reduced to one child in 1786) and
certain professions such as clergymen, apprentices, articled clerks and parish
Men served in the
militia for three years and were chosen by ballot. However, few
men whose names were drawn in the ballot actually served in person! Those who
could afford to pay for a substitute usually did so and parishes were allowed to
provide volunteers in place of the drawn men.
Once a year, on a
Sunday morning, a militia list was displayed on the door of the parish church.
Militia men spent 28 days a year in training, during which time they were
billeted in public houses and paid according to a scale laid down by Act of
Parliament. For the 60-80 men of the Northamptonshire Regiment, training usually
took place during May and June. It was customary for the regiment
to celebrate the birthday of King George III, on 4 June, by assembling in
Northamptonís market square and firing three volleys of blanks.
The first time that the
militia saw prolonged service was following England's declaration of war with
France in 1778. Between 1778 and 1783, the Northamptonshire Regiment stood on
duty at various places in the home counties and, for a few months during 1780/1,
in Northampton itself. The regiment was discharged in March 1783, not to be
called upon other than for routine training until 1793 when war was again
declared on France.
With thanks to Alan
northants1841.fsnet.co.uk for the information on the militia