From the Thorley Archives

Thorley's Dad's Army of the 1700s

By the Parliamentary Militia Act of 1757 Thorley was obliged to list all able-bodied men for the Hertfordshire Militia Force. A ballot was then made from this Militia List and the 'drawn' or chosen men had to serve for three years. Their job was to serve the county of Hertfordshire in case of internal or external threats. At this time the regular army was preoccupied with threats from France and the American colonies. This call up of a reserve army was followed in every county with the number of men that each parish had to provide determined by the number of taxable houses. The Militia came under the authority and patronage of successive Lord Lieutenants of Hertfordshire.

There were exemptions to being placed on the Militia lists. All men between 18 and 50 were eligible with the exception of those who were lame, deaf, already serving in the regular army or navy, parish officers or clergymen. Those who were drawn could pay 10 for a substitute. Once drawn a man could serve for up to three years. Upon being called up the man received one guinea and if the family was unable to support themselves the Parish Rate had to look after them.

The Hertfordshire Family & Population History Society has transcribed Thorley's Militia List so we have a reasonable record of every eligible man who lived in Thorley between 1758 and 1798. Records after this date are incomplete. It was the job of the parish constables to compile the list and this duty they performed with varying degrees of efficiency. Amongst the 310 names listed by our Thorley village constables from 1758 - 1801 are many names familiar to older Thorley residents today. For example - Champness, Hockley, Harris, Kent, Markwell, Pegrum, Prior, Sampford and Wicks. The man with the longest serving record was John Bass at one time servant and groom to the Raper family of Twyford House and Thorley Hall. During his thirty years on the list he was not drawn to serve in the Militia. Only 15 men were drawn from the Thorley lists over the 43 years.

Whilst the constables' lists also contain details of the man's occupation and number children in the family, the exact details must be treated with caution due to the diligence or otherwise of the writer. Similarly the spelling of names etc. varies according to the pronunciation of the speaker. Incapacity disqualifications are described variously as 'knocked kneed, lame, has fits, one eye, hard of hearing and broken.' The listings detail the farmer of Thorley Hall Farm as being Litchfield Moseley who also served the parish as the assessor and Collector of the Land Tax and Window Duty. His son William was drawn to serve in the militia cavalry.

Thanks to the Hertfordshire Family & Population History Society family historians have, in our Thorley Militia Lists, a rich source of local information to track their families in the late 1700s.

Bill Hardy
April 2007

From the Archives