The militia had its origins in Anglo-Saxon times, and was for home defence only. It was active during periods of war, for example during the Tudor and Stuart periods, the Seven Years’ War and Napoleonic War.
The County Lieutenancy organised the recruitment. County and parish officials drew up militia lists of men over 18 years of age to serve in local defence forces. We hold few such lists which is unfortunate as they also noted:
- 1757 - 1758 infirmities
- 1758 - 1802 infirmities and occupations
- 1802 - 1806 descriptions, infirmities, numbers of children
- 1806 - 1831 descriptions, ages, infirmities, numbers of children
A ballot was then held, from which a muster of men was selected. Those selected had to serve in the militia unless they could pay a substitute. Their names were recorded in militia enrolment lists. These lists are described on our online catalogue as muster lists, muster rolls, or muster books and can be found under catalogue prefix Q30 (covering 1833 to 1904) and 44M69/G5 (covering c1588 to 1640).
After 1831, the authorities were no longer able to enforce a ballot and from then on those who served in the militia did so on a voluntary basis.