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Devon County

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The following account appeared in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post on November 4th 1885. It is interesting for  its careful listing of the names of everyone connected with the event but also for the descriptions of the prizes awarded, which had been donated by local businesses and by individuals across the county.


There must be many in Devon who have inherited from their ancestors the kind of item which prompts the question "How on earth could they have afforded that?" or, even more to the point perhaps, "Why on earth would they have wanted that?" If you are now the proud owner of a boxed set of forks (never used) or a cut-glass water jug (never used) or a microscope (never used) then maybe your ancestor won it as a prize for his skill and treasured it afterwards in remembrance of that proud occasion.


"The annual distribution of prizes to members of the First Rifle Volunteers, for success in shooting during the past season, took place last evening at the Victoria Hall*. The annual gatherings have long enjoyed a good popularity and the large attendance last evening, showed that there is no falling off in public interest.


A number of choice plants lent by Messrs. Lucombe, Pince & Co. adorned the platform and the orchestra and the upper end of the hall was also prettily decorated with a number of colourful lamps. The Chair was occupied by the Right Worshipful Mayor (W. Brown Esq.) who attended in civic state and was received with the customary honours.  Amongst others on the platform were the Hon. H. S. Northcote, CB; MP; Lieut. Colonel Walrond, MP; Colonel Freemantle (commanding the district), Major Naper and Mrs. Naper, Surgeon-Major Harris and Mrs. Harris, Major Wyatt-Edgell (Volunteer Artillery), Major and Adjutant Smith, Major Lind, Captain Mortimer, Captain Montague (Crediton); Captain Swinton RN; Captain Weekes; Quarter Master Mudge; Lieutenant Jones; Lieutenant Shorto**; Mr. W. G. Rogers; Mr. W. Wreford; Mrs. S. Jones and Miss Jones.


Letters expressing regret for inability to be  present were received from Lord Devon, Lord Iddesleigh, Viscountess Chetwynd, Sir John Phear, the Sheriff of Exeter, Mr. E. Johnson MP, General Drewe, Colonel Martin, Captain Richards and a number of others.


Colonel H. Walrond in 1893

Colonel H. Walrond

(photographed in 1893)


Colonel Walrond made a short statement as to the doings of the Battalion during the past year. He was glad to be able to report a further increase in the strength of the Corps, the total number now on roll being 803, against 722 in 1884 and 640 in 1883. (Cries of hear, hear).


This steady increase showed how much the young men of Exeter and the neighbouring towns flocked to the Volunteers. With all this progress, they had but one drawback - the want of a drill hall, but he was glad to think that this want would now very shortly be supplied, for the officers had secured a site on which to erect a suitable building. It was a great responsibility because they had taken it without the money to pay for it, and therefore they would have to appeal to their friend in the City of Exeter to provide the necessary funds. They had taken the site of the old Theatre*** and this, with the ground occupied by some stables belonging to the Duke of Bedford, which they hoped also to secure, would enable them, he ventured to hope, to put up a drill hall worthy of the city of Exeter, and of the 1st Rifle Volunteers. They had the privilege of seeing the Financial Secretary of the War Office present that evening, and he hoped to be able to enlist his sympathetic attention to one or two remarks which he hoped would be borne in mind when he returned to his official duties.


The Volunteers wanted the Government to provide them with more money to buy great coats, or for the Government to supply the coats. It would also save them much inconvenience of the Government would make some arrangements for paying over the capitation grant so that the Volunteers would not be kept waiting for it six months after the money had been earned.


With regard to the work done by the Battalion, he said that during the the past year, they had formed a signalling corps, and they also had a class of young men in training for ambulance work. He thought that these were two most important things. He regretted that he had not been able to give so much attention to his military duties as he could wish, also he was unavoidably absent from the last inspection, the first he had missed since his connection with the Battalion. It was, however, a satisfaction to know their interests had been well looked after by Major Naper, and that the 1st Rifle Volunteers had obtained a most satisfactory report from the Inspecting Officer ( more cries of hear, hear). He expressed regret at the approaching removal of Adjutant Smith and congratulated the Battalion on the accession to the ranks of the officers by the promotion of Sergeant Shorto (Applause.) The distribution of prizes then proceeded as set forth next.




*The site of the Victoria Hall in Queen Street is now occupied by Exeter College. The Hall was destroyed by fire 6 October 1919.

**The Lieutenant Shorto mentioned here, having worked his way up through the ranks, eventually became Major Shorto in command of "B" Company and was Exeter's Town Clerk. His second son, Martin Shorto (educated at Hele's School) eventually also became a member of the 1st Rifle Volunteers, joining the South Lancashire Regiment when war broke out in 1914.  He was killed in action in France on 27 July 1917 aged 26.


*** The "old" Theatre, once known as The New Theatre, was situated in Bedford Street at the rear of Southernhay. It too was destroyed by fire.



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