This Day in History: 1805-08-14

On 14th August 1805, when England feared a Napoleonic invasion, Colonel Walter Stanhope, commander of 600 Yorkshiremen known as the Staincross Volunteers was informed by clergyman and magistrate Mr Dixon from Woolley that the beacon at Pontefract was lighted. Dixon was giving orders for lighting the one standing upon Woolly Edge, a wild, bleak height which dominated the surrounding country for many miles. Instructions had previously been given by the General of the district that upon the lighting of this beacon the regiment was to march to Pontefract immediately, and Stanhope realised that not a moment was to be lost.
They commenced their march to Pontefract, in orderly fashion, with their Captain at their head, and they had already got to Hemsworth, a distance of about twelve miles, when they were overtaken by a messenger bearing the following note: —
To Colonel Stanhope.
Dear Sir,
I have sent a Servant to the Beacon at Pomfret this Morning as I could learn nothing here, and find that the Pomfret Beacon was not lighted & that the Woolly People were deceived by the burning of a Brick Kiln placed near the Beacon. You are sure I am truly sorry to have occasioned you all the Trouble you have had.
I remain, dear Sir,
Very truly yours
Jer. Dixon.
Although summoned on a false alarm, the troops received an ovation at Hemsworth, where the populace collected to cheer them and they were feted and offered the loan of waggons for their return journey. The readiness of these sturdy Yorkshiremen to devote themselves to the defence of their county, with such excellent leadership which could produce such a prompt muster and perfect organisation, roused popular enthusiasm, while the news sped through the country and the March of the Staincross Volunteers became famous. Stanhope recorded in his journal: ‘A most gallant muster, the whole Regiment turned out; ate at Hemsworth, got home to tea.’