Category Archives: Planning

Edinburgh and the Fencible Regiments

by Rory Butcher

This summer I have been consumed by my master’s dissertation. I promised myself I wouldn’t, and truth be told I never expected I would be. In September 2018, I had anticipated researching Waterloo or the Peninsula War – as all good budding Napoleonic historians do. But of course, the first casualty of battle is always the plan. By early this year, I had concluded that I was going to research something far more niche. And so, I discovered the Fencible Regiments.

In 1793, with Britain suddenly thrust into a war with Revolutionary France, the British Army was in a spot of bother. They weren’t fully prepared to fight an army which was upwards of 600,000 men – and so rushed to recruit men to defend against a French invasion. One of the ways these men were recruited was to enlist them in these Fencible Regiments. The regular army was considered “too much” by many, and so these were the alternative. They were paid the same as the regulars, disciplined the same as the regulars, and drilled the same as the regulars; but they weren’t to serve overseas without the express permission of every man. Despite the fact that the Fencible Establishment was, at its largest, over 30,000 men (1/6 of the entire British Army payroll), there has been little to no substantial research into their existence. So I found myself investigating a series of regiments with files barely touched at the National Archives, and scouring various journal catalogues for any mention of them.
Now why is this relevant to the rather wonderful view of Edinburgh at the top of this article, I hear you ask? Well, because a large proportion of the Fencibles were Scottish. Of the 55 infantry regiments raised, 44 were Scottish. Of the approximately 30 cavalry regiments, 14 were Scottish. It therefore became rather pertinent to my research that I visit the archives which reside in Edinburgh. So off I went!

It has been 9 years since I was last in the Scottish capital, but I had forgotten how beautiful the city is! When I first arrived, however, I did not have long to dwell. I was straight off to the National Library, just off the Royal Mile. A killer climb to be sure, but at the top of it a very welcome break. As is always sensible at these places, I had gone through their catalogue ahead of time, and requested the documentation I thought would be most useful to this research. Some of the wonderful material I was able to uncover included: a copy of the list of officers in the first Fencible regiments, and even 3 accounts of trials involving men in the regiments! One of these court martials was for eight soldiers, all implicated in a mutinous uprising. It being a library, I was also overjoyed to read through several books which are either out of print, or never went into print. These would not have been accessible down south, and so made the trip worthwhile on their own.

I then spent the next three days of my trip at the Public Records Office of Scotland, in one of the grandest archive buildings I’ve ever been in. The National Archives at Kew are lovely, but are not the most visually stimulating. The PRO has its own private garden! It is also a much smaller affair, and fosters a closer relationship between researchers and the archivists. Some of the material I uncovered there was equally astonishing – several items were from family collections, and so I found myself promising to contact them if I wanted to make use of them in any publication! There I was able to access commission forms, regimental ledgers, and lots of correspondence. I have often struggled to read historic letters, on the basis of the handwriting alone, but they did become a little easier knowing that I was the only person who was going to read them otherwise! I will admit my frustration with the rather perplexing differences in spelling, though – inlist and publick especially.

Two gems I wish to note here are as follows. The first is a series of letters written by one of the Colonels of a Fencible Regiment to the Secretary at War, demanding that he be given permanent rank in the army. Being a Fencible, his rank would otherwise expire at the end of the war, and so a series of 7 letters over nearly 18 months remain of his constant demanding for this confirmation. He specifically complains at one point that another officer ‘got the rank he now holds in purchase alone, and he held no commission in the army a few months ago.’ You can almost feel the frustration.

The other noteworthy items were a shock to me. When men enlisted into any regular regiment, their names, physical descriptions, previous occupations, and place of birth were recorded in an inventively named “Description Book”. The historian Edward Coss researched the British army in 1808, and only found 11 of these for the entire regular infantry. The PRO had 2 Fencible Description Books, buried amongst other paperwork of the regiments. I was astounded enough when I uncovered the first, but the second one truly blew me away. These were some of the rarest documentation in British military history, and I was able to read 2 of them.

As you can imagine, that was probably the highlight of my week. Although, of course, after the archives had closed in the afternoon my wanderings around Edinburgh were very enjoyable. I was able to squeeze in visits to the National Portrait Gallery, and to St Giles’ Cathedral. I even managed to convince myself to enter a purveyor of Scottish whisky – oh the horror(!)

So this piece has had two outcomes, really. The first is that the obscure archives really do hold treasures; if you, the reader, do want to undertake research into a niche facet of history do be sure to scour all possible avenues for material. And the second is that Edinburgh is a gorgeous place, and I am very lucky to have been able to visit it, and have it prove a useful investment of my time academically, as well as personally!

Once Rich in Natural Resources, Coalbrookdale Now Overflows with Research Gems

by Meg King

As a first-time visitor to Coalbrookdale, I could’ve been mistaken for Owen Wilson, considering how many times I said, “wow.” I mean, who knew that Ironbridge is so much more than literally just an iron bridge? Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Ironbridge Gorge museum network is actually comprised of ten separate heritage sites, including the Blists Hill Victorian Town, the Coalport China Museum, and the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, where I spent the majority of my far-too-short time in Shropshire.

Set upon the grounds which served as the birthplace of industry, the Museum of Iron illustrates the lives and work of the family of Abraham Darby. As a staunch Quaker, studying and developing the craft of a skilled tradesman was an obvious path for Abraham Darby. Darby’s notoriety surpassed that of an ordinary artisan, however, when he perfected a method of smelting iron in a blast furnace which was fueled by coke as opposed to charcoal.

19th-century printing blocks which were used to showcase the company’s creation in catalog form

Whereas charcoal tended to be both time-consuming and fragile, coke expedited the smelting process and made the production of iron more cost-effective. Darby’s ingenuity not only enabled the mass production of iron goods, which were intricate in detail, solidly forged, and exported worldwide, but, moreover, established Coalbrookdale as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

Admittedly, I knew very little about Coalbrookdale prior to my visit, but after driving past the Abraham Darby Academy and the Abraham Darby Sports and Leisure Centre, I felt it was safe to assume that the men who bore the name were a pretty big deal. What I did not anticipate, however, was how important women were in securing Abraham Darby’s place in history. In the Quaker faith and in the Darby family business, regardless of any legislative factors, men and women were acknowledged as equal, which offered all individuals access to the same educational and employment opportunities. As this is a history blog rather than a political rant, I shall continue onward, with no further comments or comparisons.

Quaker bonnets worn by the women who at one point ran the company (Ironic how women were so important, yet the only surviving objects from their reign are as stereotypical as clothing)

So, women. Yes, as early as 1709, women of all ages labored in warehouses and mines. Women combed the pit banks and mine shafts for fragments of iron and transported them to the production site. Moreover, upon the death of Abraham Darby III in 1789, women even ran the Coalbrookdale Company. As there were no male heirs of age to fulfill management roles, Abraham’s sister, Sarah Darby, supervised (and might I add, expertly so) all matters of business alongside her sister, Mary Rathbone, and her brother’s widows, Rebecca and Deborah. At all levels, the intelligent and hardworking women of Ironbridge Gorge advanced the company’s operations and profits, and by 1880, ten percent of the Coalbrookdale Company’s payroll were female. Women filling the rank and file of a sector that can only be described as a “boys’ club” is impressive as is, but in nineteenth-century terms, it’s extraordinary. In fact, it was during the reign of the Darby women that Cornwall-based engineer Richard Trevithick came to understand that only the talented artisans in Coalbrookdale could aid him in carrying out his vision of the world’s first railway steam locomotive.

Strolling on the green and listening as the clocktower still chimes every hour on the hour, viewing the Darby Family’s original furnace, which remains preserved upon the property and dating back to 1638 (Fun Fact: It’s historical significance has been awarded Grade I Listed status), and touring the Darby family houses, situated atop the hill alongside the workers’ quarters really puts into perspective both the massive scale of the family’s iron-making operation and its commitment to the Ironbridge Gorge community. For less casual history buffs, the Coalbrookdale Research Library and Archive house rich primary resources, including personal diaries, private correspondence, photographic collections, and local ephemera which reinforce the region’s importance in the Industrial Revolution.

A fireplace cover bearing the scene of the last supper (details on how the Quaker religion influenced and even enhanced the Coalbrookdale Company)

Maybe you’re thinking that all of this information is overwhelming or maybe I still haven’t sold you on exactly how interesting iron can be. If you’re unsure of where to start, go online and plan your visit or reach out to one of the many lovely people who strive to preserve these important historical sites. During my time in Coalbrookdale, I didn’t encounter a single soul who wasn’t willing to answer my questions or point me in the direction of a good cup of coffee. If the latter is holding you back from planning a visit to Ironbridge Gorge, I can promise you that the region has something to offer everyone. Just to reiterate, the area has ten historical sites. Ten. So just trust me.

Swift and Bold: The Royal Green Jackets Museum

by Jack Davis

The Royal Green Jackets Museum is one of several military museums at the former Peninsula Barracks in the historic city of Winchester. The museum chronicles the story of the famous Royal Green Jackets from their beginnings in the mid 18th century, through to the amalgamation into The Rifles today. Boasting an impressive collection of artefacts, the museum captivates the imagination and showcases military history in an impressive way.

On the 17th of April 2019, myself and two other ambassadors, Rory and Arlo, travelled to Winchester and met outside the impressive Peninsula Barracks. Winchester itself is a gorgeous city, rich with medieval buildings, a bustling high street, and a very impressive cathedral. It was a shame that my time in Winchester was limited, although now it is certainly a place to revisit over the summer! We soon made our way through the gates of the barracks and into the museum and were welcomed by the museum’s curator, Christine Pullen. We were then left to our own devices to wander through the museum at our own leisure. There were many uniforms, weapons, and other items of significance in the museum, and the Brown Bess musket and Baker Rifle that you were able to pick up and feel certainly fulfilled many a childhood fantasy! The most impressive exhibition in the museum was the gigantic 25 square meter Waterloo diorama, complete with over 30,000 figures. Taking a bird’s eye approach to one of the most famous battles of the period, the diorama walks visitors through the Battle of Waterloo in painstaking detail. The Age of Revolutions period is covered very well, and aims to tell visitors the role that the Royal Green Jackets, then the rifle regiments in the British Army, played. From Copenhagen to Spain, the impact of these men in their famous green jackets was clear. The museum goes further, though, exploring the Royal Green Jackets’ role in the colonial wars of the later 19th century, and the regiment’s contributions to the First and Second World War, and the campaigns that followed.We had visited the museum as part of the project’s military history aspect, and the Royal Green Jackets Museum is one of several museums that ambassadors will be visiting, or indeed have already visited, over the next couple of weeks. The other museums are the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment at Dover Castle, the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum at Caernarfon Castle, and the Highlanders Museum in Fort George. The aim of the project is to create a pop-up exhibition to be displayed in the museums, highlighting the role the British Army played in this period, with a particular emphasis on the Napoleonic Wars. The exhibition hopes to ‘fill in the blanks’, so to speak, with what the current museums offer with regards to Napoleonic history, exploring the history of recruitment for the British Army among other aspects. As a military history student at the University of Kent, it is sad to see that the school curriculums never seem to truly tackle military history, and so the project hopes to introduce this vital aspect of the Age of Revolutions back into schools.







The museum has great potential for the Age of Revolutions Project, and the staff seemed enthusiastic for the future. It will be interesting to see how the project can expand upon the museum’s rich exhibitions. I would like to convey my thanks to Christine, the museum’s curator, for her warm welcome.

GCSE ‘Bootcamp’ Revision Session – 22 Feb 2019

by Jonathan Burton

London Victoria is tourist central. The station itself easily boasts more fast food outlets than platforms whilst also being within walking distance of famous London landmarks like Buckingham Palace, St James Park and 10 Downing Street. If you find yourself in need of a model of Big Ben or an insatiable desire for a cuddly beefeater, then this is the place to come. However, myself and Ben were not here to see the sites. We were on more important business.

Courtesy of the Old Operating Theatre, we were on our way to represent the Age of Revolution project at a revision session for GCSE students studying Medicine Through Time. Hopefully, the new skills we had acquired through A-Levels and University would be put to good use helping the students improve their analytical skills.

I must admit to feeling slightly nervous as we approached the venue. It feels five minutes since I myself completed GCSEs; the thought of lecturing others on how to improve their skills seemed strange, almost laughable.
‘What happens if they think we’re students?’ I asked Ben. ‘How do we prove we’re not?’
As it happens, those fears were immediately expunged upon entering the room. It was full of teenage girls, seated quietly below the dais, listening to the introductory lecture. I relaxed slightly. It was exceedingly unlikely that any of the organizers were likely to mistake either Ben or I for participants!

The structure of the event was simple. The course was divided up into various sections, based either on period or theme. The students spent thirty minutes on each section which was itself divided into a lecture to revise the basic facts and a discussion period where various sources were analysed. There were also frequent breaks to refresh both mind and body, which stopped the students from losing too much focus. The source section was where Ben and I swung into action, roaming around the room attempting to broaden and improve the students understanding and analytical skills.
The discussions were generally lively and showed a good understanding of both the periods under discussion and a broad range of analytical techniques. We were ourselves subjected to a detailed interrogation: how old were we, where were we from, what were we doing here? Ben and I tried to answer these questions as best we could whilst trying to make sure conversation didn’t get too off topic!

Five minutes before the end, the organizers allowed us to give a short talk on the Age of Revolution project which we used to spread the word about the projects aims and achievements. The students seemed interested although this may have been simply relief that their ordeal was almost at an end! With that the day ended, with the students departing for their homes and Ben and I for the tube in a successful attempt to beat the rush hour throng.

Ben and I would like to thank Julie, Gareth and Hailey for both inviting us to the session and to the Age of Revolution project for providing us with the opportunity. Thanks again for allowing us to take part.

Welcome, to our new Student Ambassadors!

On Thursday 24th January we held a meeting for existing student ambassadors and welcomed our new recruits! This gave us a chance to network and chat about events that had taken place so far, including the ‘Beyond the Barricade‘ exhibition held at Studio 3. We had a presentation from Dr Ben Marsh, to discuss exciting events coming up and get involved with.

Ralph Roberts talked about workshops that had taken place at the Bowes museum, County Durham.
We had an update from Kesia Wills and Jasmin Hart about their initial visit to the site of the Peterloo Massacre, and the upcoming workshops that will be taking place with Manchester Histories. With an update from Dr Marsh regarding the work-in-progress on the Graphic Novel, and the schools edition that will be produced – more to follow on this!
Jessie Concannon, Jonathan Burton and Ben Bradley shared their experiences when they visited the Old Operating Theatre, and with their participation at the ‘Up Close and Medical’ event held at the British Dental Association – which provided an excellent networking opportunity. GCSE revision workshops will be taking place soon at the Old Operating Theatre – so watch out for an update on these!

Other projects and collaborations discussed were:

Regimental Museums including Princess of Wales Royal Regiment Museum, Royal Greenjackets, Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Cornwall’s Regimental museum/
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
Ironbridge and New Lanark

Watch this space for the latest news and updates………………

Trip to Waterloo, Ben B

The trip to Waterloo proved to be an educationally and socially enriching experience. As a first year at the University of Kent, the trip was so much better than anything I had experience formally in education. Over the course of the four days we visited a total of six museums, each with their own appeal and important insight on history. The majority of these were to do with the battle of Waterloo, which is hardly surprising given that we were staying in Waterloo, but I think what may have surprised me the most was the fact that even though they were focused on the same battle, each museum still managed to provide new information or provide the information in such a way that they were still interesting and informative. By far the most fascinating of these exhibits to myself was the presentation provided to us at Hougoumont farm. With two large screens, each carved to represent either the British or French cavalry charge, the museum managed to create more than just a simple presentation and produced an engaging and visually pleasing display that certainly will not be leaving my mind any time soon. Another eye opening and particularly notable experience on the trip was climbing to the top of the Butte du Lion. After almost dying from doing more physical activity I think I’ve done since I was five by climbing up the stairs, the view at the top proved to be worth it. From the statue, one could see out into the fields in which one of the most famous battles in British History took place. I felt this experience was even more complimented by the fact we had Dr. Tim Bowman’s lecture the evening before giving us a rundown of the battle. Each of the museums were fantastic and if I had to recommend a visit to Waterloo to any student, lecturer or just anyone interested in the field in history, I certainly would.

However, the educational side of the trip was not the only reason it was fantastic for me. Being a first year I had never really had contact with many students studying history that were second or third years. The trip proved to connect me to both students that were more experienced than myself and students that certainly were more knowledgeable. This led to a plethora of fascinating discussions on all that is history as well as any topics of interest I actually have (which are far too nerdy to include on this blog) and even led to me making quite a close friend as a result. Furthermore, as well as meeting generally interesting people, it also helped me to decide what to do next year and resulted in me receiving a lot of tips on how to write essays.

Overall the experience at Waterloo was one I will certainly not forget any time soon. It not only gave myself and the other students that I have spoken to since an insight into the horrors and historical significance of the Battle of Waterloo and the Napoleonic Wars as a whole, it was a lovely experience and gave the students and lecturers involved in the Age of Revolution project a chance to bond. I immensely enjoyed the trip and am looking forward to working with and for the Age of Revolution project in the future.

Trip to Waterloo 8-11 February 2018 by Megan K

As someone who had very little knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars prior to visiting Waterloo, my experience there was eye-opening, to say the least. In my native Pennsylvania, students of history are predominately instructed on topics relating to Native Americans, the Imperial Crisis of the American Revolution, the Civil War and Reconstruction, World War II, and the Civil Rights Movement.  My only previous connection to the 20-year conflict in general was through a fifth-grade lesson on the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, where we learned of the bombardment of Fort McHenry and Francis Scott Key’s penning of the Star-Spangled Banner.  In fact, to add to my shame, the earliest I can recall gaining any insight into the legend of Napoleon Bonaparte was through the Ben Stiller film Night at the Museum.  On the bright side, the narrow scope of American-centric history made me all the more appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the Age of Revolution project.

Our journey began with a visit to the Ambulance Museum of Mont Saint-Jean, which fabulously illustrated the absolute brutality of the Battle of Waterloo. The exhibits we visited emphasized a sense of humanity within the battle.  The people involved in this decisive battle were not just soldiers, they were fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons who battled in grimmest of conditions.  Many met violent ends and those who were lucky enough to survive were often left mentally and physically damaged.  After this humbling introduction to the engagement, Dr. Tim Bowman provided an extremely insightful talk to set the stage for the next day’s battlefield walk.  Discussing the military strategies exercised by both sides as well as the weaponry utilized, the Age of Revolution crew was thoroughly prepared to visit the scene of the crime.

After a fueling up with a plate of dumplings and a good night’s sleep, we took on the 1815 Memorial Museum, la Butte du Lion, and Hougoumont. Honestly, I could have spent the entire day exploring the Memorial Museum alone.  The materials were so well presented and the artifacts were so well curated that I spent half of my time marveling at the layout of the museum and half of my time surveying the actual items it houses.  The next step, or steps I suppose, 225 of them to be exact, was visiting the Lion’s Mound.  Not only did I realize how out of shape I am, I also came to fully realize the extent of the catastrophe at Waterloo.  Standing on top of the Mound, I was able to look out, recalling Dr. Bowman’s illustration of the battle, and truly appreciate the efforts and the tenacity that both sides brought to the table during this immense clash.  Afterward, a short stroll to Hougoumont provided the group with an intriguing and endearing account of Britain’s successful endeavor to prevent the property from falling into Napoleon’s hands.  As a historian with rather limited experience but quite high interest in military history, I was baffled by the fact that some 26,000 troops engaged in the fight for Hougoumont and its surrounding area.  To say that the second day of our excursion left an impression would be an absolute understatement.

Our last full day in beautiful Belgium started with a talk by Dr. Ambrogio Caiani at Napoleon’s headquarters. If it hadn’t been for the excruciatingly windy conditions, I could have listened to Dr. Caiani discuss the location and its significance all day.  After a quick pit stop to warm up with a cup of tea, we headed back to utilize the meeting rooms at the Memorial Museum, hearing several fascinating sessions on sources and objects and how these materials can provide substance to any lesson in revolutionary history.  Speakers such as Arthur Burns and several University of Kent ambassadors enlightened us on not only how to access these resources, but additionally how to take advantage of physical items and allow them to bring history to life for students.  To conclude a wonderful weekend of exploring, the group headed to the National Army Museum in Brussels where we were able to freely roam through the exhibits, exploring the history of the Belgian military.  After such an informative weekend, I genuinely cannot believe how little I knew about the Napoleonic Wars a few days prior, and I am exciting to continue learning about the conflicts independently.

As a former primary school teacher, I really appreciate that the project provides educators with the tools necessary to better understand this era of history as well as to present the material in a way that fully engages a younger audience. I enjoyed the fact that the trip was inclusive of those with a minimal understanding of the Battle of Waterloo in addition to those with extensive knowledge of the historical significance.  Not only were the organizers of the trip always willing to provide a deeper background into the unfolding of the events, the museums and monuments we attended as a group were accessible and very well assembled.  After a brilliant weekend of networking, meeting fellow historians, and hearing about the specific historical interests of others, I can confidently say that the opportunity to work on the Age of Revolution project as a PhD student at the University of Kent is an absolute privilege.

Age of Revolution project launch event!

We would like to invite you all to attend a ‘launch’ event for the Age of Revolution project on Thursday 18th January 2018 at 18:00-19:30 in Grimond Seminar room 8.

Drinks and nibbles will be provided.  Please let me know you are able to attend by registering at​

We look forward to seeing you there!



Let me introduce myself…..

Hi! My name is Becky Beach and I have recently been recruited as the Project Administrator to provide administrative support to the Waterloo 200 legacy project.

I have been working at the University of Kent for just over 4 years now; my main role working in the Deans offices providing administrative support to the Deans, their PA’s and the three Faculty Heads of Administration. I have also had roles in the School of History, Centre for American Studies and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, as Programmes Co-ordinator – I spent 15 months there and loved every second!

I keep myself busy outside of work ‘entertaining’ my 7 year old daughter, tending my allotment, socialising and planning fun events and trips with friends! I am also studying for an Access module in People, work and Society through the Open University, with the hope to go on and study for a degree, possibly in History, subsequently!

I am really looking forward to working on this project with you all and I hope that I can provide advice and assistance along the way! I hope to meet you very soon, but please feel free to email me whenever, in the meantime, if you have any questions at