The Percy Artillery Records
         Lieut-Col J.G. Hicks
              

 

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The Local Volunteer Artillery

   Although a number of Northumberland ports had some form of artillery defence for many years, threat of a French invasion in the late 18th and 19th centuries necessitated the formation on a national scale of a larger defence force of cavalry, infantry, engineer and artillery volunteers, raised from the civilian population to protect these islands.  Two particular periods of  heightened risk correspond with the formation and expansion of these forces. The first was in the aftermath of the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic Wars, (1792-1815); the second during a period of tension between France and the United Kingdom following the 1858 attempt on the life of Napoleon III (the Orsini affair), which was carried out by Italian nationals but supported by English radicals. The 1858 event was only the final trigger to get the second great volunteer force movement started, since many notable individuals, including the Duke of Wellington had been pressing for a home defence force since 1847, due to the frequent periods that virtually the entire Regular British Army found itself on campaign, with the home territories left undefended.  

Regarding our own local artillery units, these actually fall into three, rather than two distinct periods of existence:
 
1.  The Percy Tenantry Artillery Company 1805-1814
   The Percy Tenantry Volunteer Infantry were raised by Hugh Percy, the 2nd Duke of Northumberland in 1798 (Southern Division) and 1799 (the Northern Division.) The Cavalry component enrolled 1798. The 1803 return show the infantry and cavalry strength at 1,195 and 304 respectively.  A small artillery unit, "The Percy Volunteer Artillery Company" was added in January 1805. This was attached as Horse Artillery to the Cavalry and was commanded by Captain John Toppin. Full establishment of the Artillery was 26 and they were armed with two brass three pounder cannons. In 1814 as the French threat receded the  Percy Tenantry Volunteers were disbanded, but in the case of the Artillery component they continued, funded by the Duke as a private artillery club.  
 
2.  The Private Artillery unit of the Duke of Northumberland 1814-1860
    The Duke's now private artillery continued on with the men from the officially disbanded Percy Tenantry Artillery Company.  Also known as the Duke of Northumberland's Household Artillery, they now practiced with the Duke's 6 pounder guns.
 
3.  2nd Northumberland (Percy) Artillery Volunteer Corps 1860-1902
    The war office preferring artillery units to be formed in the maritime districts as opposed to rifle units, accepted the 3rd Northumberland AVC (consisting of one battery and an HQ at Alnwick) as the local volunteer corps in February 1860; the first volunteers coming from the Duke's private artillery. In April the designation changed from the '3rd' to the '2nd' Northumberland AVC.( For the rest of the story see Lieut-Col Hicks history of the Corps from formation to 1899 on this page. )
   In 1902 after difficulties in complying with requests from the War Office to convert to both position and garrison units, a second proposal to combine with the Berwick Artillery, then a final a proposal to convert to infantry which resulted in the resignation of the Commanding Officer, it was decided that the Corps be disbanded with effect from the 31st October 1902.
 

National Arttilery Asscoiation Silver Cup

(Above) Four views of the silver cup awarded to Gunner Robert Common of the Warkworth Detachment
of the 2nd Northumberland (Percy) Artillery Volunteer Corps; one of ten in total for the detachment as 1st prize
in the 40 pounder rifled breech loading Armstrong gun competition, Shoeburyness,1875.

 

Alnmouth Battery Today
Constructed in 1861 by the Duke of Northumberland  for the use of the  2nd Northumberland (Percy) Artillery Volunteer Corps.(Note: during the Second World War modifications were made to the remaining structure to make it suitable as a defensive pill-box.)
Alnmouth battery position, village centre left.     Dedication stone  
         
   
        Building built into the hillside 
         
Ground floor doorway, lintel at ground level   Target area for one of the battery guns - the Coquet roads       
         
 
2nd Northumberland (Percy) Artillery Volunteer Corps:
Two 32 Pounder Smooth Bore Muzzle Loading Guns (32 pdr SBML), ex Alnmouth Battery, now in Alnwick Castle. 
The first battery guns from Alnmouth have survived and are now positioned on an interior terrace overlooking the north wall of Alnwick Castle. Cast at Low Moor Ironworks during the reign of William IV, they are dated 1831 and 1832 and weigh 50 cwt and 49 cwt, 2 quarters and 7 pounds respectively.
 
   
Gun Terrace Alnwick Castle: Pair of Iron battery guns to the left  Gun with girl for scale!  Muzzle, calibre 6.25 inches  Breech/cascable end.  Gun showing typical garrison or naval carriage mount  
         
         
Barrel top showing William IV cypher and broad arrow. Side profile  Plaque on gun carriage  1831 gun; year of manufacture and weight marks.  1832 gun; year of manufacture and weight marks.  
         
         
King William IV Royal cypher on gun barrel  Centre of gravity markings and serial number on right trunnion  Manufacturer's name on left trunnion (Low Moor)    
         
 
Percy Tenantry Artillery Company 1805 -1814
     
Percy Tenantry Artillery Company brass 3 pounder gun (Alnwick Castle) Percy Tenantry Artillery Company artifacts  (Alnwick Castle)      
         

 

 

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