More about the militia and barracks
Posted by Caroline on August 07, 1998 at 23:20:17:
In response to Another question for clarification, written by Gayle on August 05, 1998 at 23:17:41
] I'd like to apply what you've already told us to JA's novels. Let's start with P&P -- the Regiment at Meryton. Meryton is supposed to be a small town. I am thinking that perhaps there were no barracks there. Would you assume the same thing?
In June I was looking at some old accounts of militia and other military training in the 1790's around the town of Camberley, in Surrey. This is going to be a bit garbled because a lot of what I was reading wasn't actually to do with the militia per se, but with Camberley's history, and the papers are not in front of me now, but here's what I think was the case then.
About 1790, it was realised that military training might be useful for all troops, militia and regulars included. The area around Camberley was chosen as the centre of training, and eventually the Royal Military academy at Sandhurst, the Staff College at Camberley, and a permanant military training area were set up there. However, most of the buildings didn't get put up until the 1830's when these things were formalised. Around 1790-95, there were militia training camps around Sandhurst and Camberley, but they were composed of thousands of tents, similar, I presume, to those which were used in the Peninsular Campaign.The numbers of militia varied according to season, but seems to have averaged about 5,000 for the period 1794-1800 There were no towns as such in the area- Sandhurst itself was a miniscule village with a ford , and Camberley did not exist at all- the land was forest and heath on infertile sand, almost useless for farming. Tradition has it that King George rode over from Windsor to watch the progress of the training from time to time. There is only one permanant structure of the period, dated to about 1794, called the Camberley Obelisk. It's a single, brick-built tower, with an open Canopy on the top, on the top of the highest hill around. No-one is absolutely sure why it was built, but one suggestion is that it was for watching troop manoevres.(Another one is that it was part of a message system- possibly heliograph- from Portsmouth to the Earl of Dashwood's house in the Chilterns- a feat which is technically possible, but not exactly proven to have happened. It also would have come in handy for looking out for highwaymen on the London Road!)
Okay, what relevance does this have to JA? Well, Camberley is on the London-Basingstoke road, which is one of the routes Jane would have been familiar with. It's not the most direct route from Chawton to London, as that was through Farnham and Guildford, but it is almost as good. my guess is that she would have seen the camps, if only in passing.
] What about when they moved to Brighton -- more likely to be barracks ther? Because it is a bigger town?
Brighton is on the coast, and they moved there in the summer, when invasion was most likely. As Captain Everett has said, a permanant barracks was built there. I'm not absolutely sure what they looked like, but I would think that they would be single or dual storey buildings, with dormitories for the men."Barns for people" is a good description!Some of the older coastal fortifications like deal and Dover probably had something similar inside the castle walls.
Then, we move to the Navy in Persuasion -- when Admiral Croft and Captain Wentworth come ashore, I'm assuming they are on leave, correct? That being the case, they can go where they wish and lodge where they wish, right?
Exactly. Portsmouth has some naval barracks down in the dockyard, but they are not open to the public- because they are still in use. I'm not sure of their date, and I'll see if I have any thing on them in my notes somewhere. Most of the buildings there built between 1750 and 1820 were for storage or equipment manufacture.
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