Until the formation of the local militia, military service was quite ad hoc. In 1458 Henry, Earl of Northumberland and other aristocrats were appointed commissioners to raise archers in the county of Northumberland.
After its formation in 1759 at the height of the Seven Years War, the Northumberland Militia came to be based at Alnwick with its original depot on the corner of Hotspur Street and Green Batt. Later their base moved to a large building on the north side of Bondgate Without, now the site of the Playhouse.
When the unit was ‘embodied’ (mobilised) men’s names were drawn from a ballot and they often then served elsewhere in the country so as to make desertion more difficult, but when not on active service the militia trained on the pastures, north of the river opposite the castle.
PTV Percy Tenantry Volunteers, formed 1798 disbanded 1814. 1,179 riflemen, 200 light cavalrymen. Counter threat of French invasion of Britain, if the south coast was defended (Martello Towers etc) left the north more vulnerable. All Lord Lieutenants asked to from units, 2nd Duke Northumberland keen to participate. He’d been Army officer in American War of Independence and insisted on rifles (range and accuracy, and green jackets, camouflage) for his men. Recruited from Dukes estates (100,000 acre in Northumberland), men though volunteers, were paid for attendance and NOT subject to naval press gangs or enlisting in Militia (sent anywhere in country). Units throughout the county, divided North and South based at villages/towns. PTV expected role was to delay French by sniping, bridge denial and scouting until the arrival of main British Army. Earl Percy at 18yrs, commanded from 1803 but aided by Colonels at Alnwick. At Napoleons defeat they were disbanded and government weapons returned. Duke had supplied swords and pistol which were retained and stored and forgotten till 20th century.
See WW1 – Alnwick
The North Demesne had a military tradition dating back to the Napoleonic wars, when the Percy Tenantry Volunteers used the parkland for summer training. Later, the area was used by the Northumberland Light Infantry militia for its summer camp. A permanent camp, known as the ‘Huts’ was established here in the latter years of the 19th century.
Soon after the outbreak of the Great War, the Duke of Northumberland made land available on the North Demesne for the construction of a hutted training camp to accommodate some of the large number of volunteers from the Tyneside area. Work started in October 1914, and by the end of the year troops of the Northumberland Fusiliers had started to occupy the camp. In all there were four separate camps, each accommodating a battalion of about 1,000 men. The camp was eventually occupied by the four battalions of the Tyneside Scottish Brigade, who stayed until the end of August 1915. The Tyneside Scottish took part in the Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916 attacks. After the departure of the Tyneside Scottish the camp was used as a military convalescent and rehabilitation hospital. At the end of the war the huts were auctioned, and little remains today to be seen.
Green Batt House
On the day after war was declared, a detachment of the Northern Cyclists Battalion arrived in Alnwick to provide for local defence. They were billeted in and around the town, using Green Batt House as their officers’ mess. They would have been expected to respond to any invasion attempt, prior to the arrival of reinforcements.