Inglewood Rifle Corps

Inglewood Rifle Corps was formed, with patriotic fervour, as a Victorian Dad’s Army

Its soldiers included boys in their teens and men in their 50s. There were grocers, painters, solicitors, publicans, all taking up arms to drill in Penrith against a foe who never came.

This is their story.

The ‘threat’

In 1851, Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, the elected president of the French second republic, staged a coup and proclaimed himself Napoleon III, emperor of the French (main image).

By the end of the decade, there was a widespread fear in Britain he might invade. Britain never was in danger. But panic at high levels here led, in 1859, to a letter being sent to the Lieutenants of every county, authorising the formation of a Volunteer Rifle Corps.

The response was massive. 


In December 1859, a public meeting was held in Carlisle, chaired by the mayor, Robert Bendle. There was a large turn-out of ‘the most respectable and influential citizens’ and members of ‘the operative class’, who heartily endorsed the ‘patriotic sentiments of the various speakers’.

All were keen to set up a Rifle Corps in the city.

‘They don’t like it up ‘em’

The mayor said for his own part, he had no fear whatever of the Emperor of the French coming to disturb the peace of this country.

If he should attempt it he (the mayor) was confident he would not be suffered to place his foot upon its soil.

And if the Emperor did make it, there was such a growing spirit of loyalty and patriotism existing in the country that they would teach him a lesson he would not readily forget. 

Letters were read out at the meeting. W Lawson junior*, of Brayton, was brave enough to say he didn’t think there was evidence that Louis Napoleon/France intended hostilities against England. But that ‘the vast preparations’ being made here might create trouble between the nations.

Speakers at the meeting said not to worry: the Rifle Corps would be purely precautionary – like house insurance – rather than out to stir aggression towards France.

  • has to be Wilfrid, son of the 2nd baronet.

Inglewood Rifle Corps

A number of the letters from the ‘great and good’ said ‘thanks for the invite but…’ they were already members of Inglewood Rifle Corps at Penrith.

Those letters were from Henry Howard of Greystoke Castle; William James of Barrock Park; William Crackanthorpe of Newbiggin Hall; George H Oliphant of Broadfield House; (magistrate/land owner) Thomas Scott of Brent House Penrith; Charles Fetherstonehaugh of Staffield Hall; Lt Col (retired) Henry D Maclean of Lazonby Hall, and; W Marshall of Brighton.

The youngest was 48, several of them were over 70 and their support was financial. 

George Oliphant (68) did write:

“I am sorry to say that I am too far advanced in life to join the Corps.”


In his Penrith ‘jottings’ book (1926) J E Horsley writes:

The first captain of the Inglewood Rangers (later Penrith Volunteers) was Lawrence Harrison, Bishop’s Yard.  

The book says the first man sworn in was William Brougham, later Lord Brougham, in January 1860. And then lists a number of other men sworn in that year.

I have added their ages, where found, from the 1861 census. The occupations in some cases are what they became, rather than what they were in 1860.

  • George Goodburn, Wool Pack Inn (50)
  • Ben. Sweeten (printer) … (40 – unless it was his son Ben, 16).
  • Joseph Mattinson (rate collector) (39)
  • Richard Jameson (31 or 38)
  • William Jameson (wrestler) (30)
  • Joseph Matthews (gunsmith) 
  • James Barnsley Thwaites (mineral water manu-
  • facturer) (18)
  • Thomas Miller (printer) (21)
  • Henry Newton (brewer) …
  • John Hutton (Melbourne House)
  • William Little (solicitor) (28)
  • F. Cowper (Carleton Hall) (Frederick 38)
  • William Miller (Ambleside) (joiner, 17)
  • S. J. Butler (Clerk in Holy Orders) (Samuel Butler 37)
  • M. W. Taylor, M.D. (Michael Waistell Taylor, 36)
  • Thomas Cant (solicitor) (31)
  • Tom Patrickson  
  • George Hetherington (grocer) (20)
  • Quintin Lowthian (printer) (20)
  • Tom Redfern (chemist) (27)
  • John Sarginson (King Street) 
  • Albert Smith (grocer) (20)
  • Joseph Dixon (painter) ..
  • R. Bradshaw Smith (grocer) (Robert, 26)
  • R. A. Tyson (share broker) (Richard Allinson Tyson, 24)
  • T. B. Arnison (draper)
  • Charles Nathan Arnison (solicitor)
  • W. B. Arnison (solicitor)
  • Ie brothers William Burra Arnison 30, Thomas Bell Arnison 28, Charles Nathan Arnison 20
  • Lawrence Harrison (solicitor) (51)
  • Michael Rimington (54).
  • Plasket Gillbanks (17)
  • Thomas Machell (bank manager) (17)

Uniforms at last

Late in February 1850, it was reported that 300 yards of cloth had been ordered to make the Inglewood Rifle Corps’ uniforms. They turned out in full uniforms for the first time in mid-June.

Affray with Riflemen at Penrith. Drunkenness and riot.

One evening in July (in short), a few drunken locals jeered at and mocked the riflemen after their weekly drill and tried to provoke them into pulling out their bayonets. There was a degree of retaliation. The resulting court case is too long to report here.

In 1861 the Penrith Observer carried a news-in-brief item:

Early Closing. We understand that the officers of the Inglewood Volunteer Rifle Corps intend waiting upon the tradesmen of Penrith, with a view to solicit them to close their respective establishments at 7 o’clock.

Bunch of questions from that, but no answers.

With no invaders to fight, the Inglewood Rifle Corps settled down to holding shooting contests and balls and public parades and (the band) concerts…

The Arnison brothers

Thomas Bell Arnison died in 1888. Charles Nathan Arnison died in 1911. Their graves is at Beacon Edge cemetery. William Burra Arnison died in 1896 and is buried at Christ Church.

Thomas Bell Arnison’s grave at Beacon Edge

Willim Burra Arnison’s grave at Christ Church

Last of the volunteers

By 1926:

Every one of those Volunteers whose names appear above has “crossed the bar” except four, namely William Little, William Miller, Tom Patrickson and Thos Machell

Dr Michael Waistell Taylor had died in 1892. His lengthy obituary in the Penrith Observer notes that he held the rank of Surgeon-Major in the Inglewood Rifle Corps by the time he retired.

William Little celebrated his 97th birthday in February 1930, still working as the Earl of Lonsdale’s chief agent. He retired after a car accident in August (shaken, but not hurt) and died on September 25.

Thomas Machell died in November 1929. He’d reached the rank of hon Lieut Colonel.

William Miller died in 1932, aged 89, at Salford. 

The Wigton Advertiser reported he was the last survivor of the original Inglewood Rifle Corps.