Onslow Madras Cavalry Officer's Uniform

Contributed by: Camden Historical Society

Onslow Madras Uniform Forage Cap Forage Cap Side Forage Cap Label Jacket Back Jacket Sleeve Waistcoat and jacket lining Cummerbund (toggles should be worn to the left) Trousers Label Madras Medal with Ali Musjid bar Jacket moth holes Trousers, good condition Cummerbund lining Waistcoat label Miss Annette Macarthur-Onslow viewing the Madras uniform, 1970
  • Australian dress register ID:

    569
  • Owner:

    Camden Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

    1970.264
  • Date range:

    1882
  • Place of origin:

    Manufactured in London, Westminster, England
  • Gender:

    Male
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Object information

Significance statement

It is rare to find a superbly provenanced uniform from the 19th century in such good condition. The uniform is of great significance, being connected to an influential colonial family from the Camden region of New South Wales. The Onslow uniform dates from 1882 and was owned and worn by Francis Montgomery Onslow who was born in India in 1843. In the Madras Cavalry Onslow took part in the Abyssinian war in 1867-68 with the Land Transport Train and was awarded a medal for this service. Onslow was appointed ADC to the Lt-General Madras from 24 Feb 1876 to 2 Feb 1881. He served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War between the British and the Afghan forces in 1878-1880 where he was awarded the Afghanistan medal with 'Ali Musjid' bar. After the successful battle Onslow was promoted Major and Squadron Commander of the 2nd Madras Cavalry on 4 September 1880. The immaculate condition of the garment may be due to the fact that four years after the purchase of this uniform in 1882, Onslow was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and retired.

The tailor ‘J.B. Johnstone’ was a well known British military tailor established in 1820 operating in London, and Dublin. 

The Onslow uniform is unusual and colourful, and a good example of the 2nd Madras Cavalry mess uniform. This may be the only version of this type of uniform to have survived, and therefore is internationally significant, in terms of the history of uniforms worn by officers of the Madras armies. The Onslow uniform has unusual qualities which distinguish it from other items in this category as the uniforms changed from time to time and different uniforms were worn for formal or less formal occasions. The dress regulations for officers of the Madras Light Cavalry changed in 1883.

The uniform is in good condition for its age but there are some moth holes and tarnishing. In 2015 the uniform was moved to a wire mannequin to take some stress off the seams. It is on display at the Camden Museum, 40 John Street, Camden NSW.

The Onslow uniform is significant to the Camden Museum as it came from a prominent local donor, Quentin Macarthur-Stanham, who is a family descendant of the wearer of the uniform. The uniform is part of the connection between the Onslow, Macarthur and Stanham families and their long historical military tradition.

 

Author: Julie Wrigley, Camden Historical Society., 2 April 2015.

Description

Cap: Red felted worsted fabric forage cap, pill box shape. The cap has a band of 1¾ inch silver 'lace', and on the crown a silver purl button, a braided figure of regimental pattern, and a line of silver braid round the crown seam. The cap is lined with padded quilted red silk with beige leather facing, and there is a fine leather chin strap. The signs of wear at the right front, a greasy stain, suggest the cap was worn over the right eye.  

Jacket: Mid-blue fine woollen worsted heavily-felted fabric. The same buff fabric trims the sleeve cuffs and stand-up collar. There are 5 silver braid toggles down the centre front with 14 large metallic hooks and eyes. The epaulettes are trimmed with plaited bullion-work, with a domed button next to the neck. There is a space for a bullion crown for a Major to be attached but the rank emblem is missing. The sleeves are 2-piece and shaped. The centre front and centre back are cut to a point. The lining is a tan corded silk with quilting around the breast and side back, and padded to accentuate the shape. The waist is strengthened by a leather band, hand-stitched except for the quilting on the lining. The pocket inside the left breast allows access by the right hand. The jacket is entirely hand stitched except for the quilting on the lining.

Waistcoat: Red, fine woollen worsted, trimmed with silver metallic lace, wide around the edges of the neck collar and across to the side seams. There are 7 sets of silver metallic frogging (braided button loops) with domed black-painted steel buttons.

Trousers: Fine Royal-blue felted woollen worsted which is quite heavy in weight; entirely hand-stitched. There is a fly with 5 metal buttons and buttons at the waist to support braces. The trousers are shaped with a 'seat' and there is lining in the crotch to make the trousers more comfortable for riding. Running down the sides of the legs are 2 metallic 'lace' bands. There is a slight gathering at the knees to allow movement whilst riding.

Cummerbund: Buff silk with a cotton backing, stiffened with a heavier cotton. The cummerbund is a different manufacture, of inferior quality. It has 4 braided loops and 4 toggles which have a wooden core, covered in silk with purl stiches.  

Link to further information about this object

History and Provenance

Francis Montgomery Onslow married Mary Charlotte (nee Girardot), widow of Lt. Gen. Frederick William Jebb (1835-1880) of the 67th Foot who also served in Madras, India.

Francis was the younger brother of Arthur Alexander Walton Onslow. It was Captain Arthur Onslow who married the Macarthur family heiress, Miss Elizabeth Macarthur, from whom all the Macarthur-Onslows are descended.  Miss Elizabeth Macarthur was the only child of James Macarthur and Emily Macarthur nee Stone, and the granddaughter of the pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur of "Camden Park".

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Francis Montgomery Onslow was born on 9 November 1843 in Tiruchchirappalli (known as Trichinopoly in English), Tamil Nadu, India, and died on 30 January 1932 in Larchfield House, Farnham, Surrey, England.

According to National Army Museum records, Onslow served with the British army in the Abyssinian war in 1867-68 with the Land Transport Train (being awarded a medal for this service). This was a rescue mission and punitive expedition carried out in 1868 by the armed forces of the British Empire against the Ethiopian Empire.  

Onslow also served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War between the British forces and the Afghan forces in 1878-79-80, and was present at the attack and capture of Ali Musjid on 21 November 1878, (being awarded a medal with clasp). The battle was at the western end of the Khyber Pass on the border between Afghanistan and India on 21st November 1878 under Lieutenant-General Sir Samuel James Browne.

The Onslow uniform dates from 1882 after Francis Montgomery Onslow had been promoted to Major in 1880.  It seems likely that it was purchased in England. Onslow was in England, at the time of the census on 3 April 1881 at the home of his father, Arthur Pooley Onslow, at Send Grove, Surrey, England. He was in London for his wedding on 1 June 1881 at St. John the Evangelist church, Westminster.

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

The uniform, once the property of the Macarthur-Onslow family of Camden Park, was donated to the Camden Museum in 1970 by the Macarthur-Stanham family, the owners of Camden Park. At that time Brigadier Quentin Macarthur-Stanham was the head of the family and donated the colourful uniform to celebrate the opening of the Camden Museum.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

In the second half of the 19th Century India became the British Empire's most valuable possession, "the Jewel in the Crown". The Madras cavalry had been established to protect the British East India Company and were then transferred to the British Crown in 1858. There was rivalry between the British and the Russian Empires, and there were fears in Britain of an overland invasion of India by Russia. In 1839 Britain moved to pre-empt this by invading Afghanistan, but the First Anglo-Afghan War was a disaster for Britain.

The uniform is memorabilia from the successful Second Anglo-Afghan War between the British forces and the Afghan forces. Francis Montgomery Onslow served in the Second Afghan War in 1878-79-80, and was present on 21 November 1878 at the attack and capture of Ali Musjid (being awarded the Ali Musjid Medal with Clasp). This medal is held by the Macarthur-Stanham family at "Camden Park". The Onslow, Macarthur, Macarthur-Onslow, and Stanham families have a long tradition of serving in British or colonial armies.

Where did this information come from?

Camden Historical Society members Janice Johnson and Margaret Wheeler researched the uniform, consulting the following:

Charles Griffen, an authority on the uniforms of the British Empire: http://britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/britishinfantry/24thfoot.htm

Dr. Christopher Flaherty, an authority on 19th century uniforms, particularly Turkish uniforms. http://www.amazon.com/Christopher-James-Flaherty/e/B001K880TO

Regimental and Service Records, London Gazette and Edinburgh Gazette. 

British Army records supplied by Alastair Massie, National Army Museum, UK.

Ms Lindie Ward, former textile curator at the Powerhouse Museum, who gave advice on the entry. 

 

 

This garment has been exhibited

The uniform has been on exhibition at Camden Museum since 1970.

In 2015 research was undertaken by Camden Historical Society members, Janice Johnson, Margaret Wheeler and Julie Wrigley, and a Statement of Significance written about the uniform. This is on view at Camden Museum, 40 John Street, Camden, NSW, 2570.

In March 2015 the uniform was moved from a plaster model to a museum-approved wire mannequin made by Ms Lindie Ward and purchased by the Camden Historical Society. The labels inside parts of the uniform were viewed for the first time in 45 years. They confirmed the name of the manufacturer; revealed the maker of the silver buttons, Jennens & Co. London; and the hand-written information Maj[or] F.M. Onslow, 3 Madras Cav with the numbers 6564 for the jacket and 6423 for the trousers.

  1. Place of origin:

    Manufactured in London, Westminster, England

  2. Cost:

    Not known. 

  3. Owned by:

    Francis Montgomery Onslow, officer of the 2nd Madras Cavalry. This is the uniform of a Major. Onslow was promoted Major and Squadron Commander of the 2nd Madras Cavalry on 4 September 1880.  He was ADC to the Lt-General Madras from 24 Feb 1876 to 2 Feb 1881. Onslow's medal shows he served with the 2nd Madras Cavalry but the uniform label states 3rd Madras Cavalry. On his retirement he was listed as Madras Staff Corps.

  4. Worn by:

    Major Francis Montgomery Onslow, Madras Cavalry Officer. Onslow was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1886 on his retirement.

  5. Occasion(s):

    Mess uniform of the Madras Cavalry. Onslow was promoted to Major of the 2nd Madras Cavalry on 4 September 1880.

  6. Designed by:

    British Army uniform.

  7. Made by:

    J. B. Johnstone, Military Tailor, 34 Sackville Street, London & 59 Dawson Street, Dublin. 

    The Military and Merchant Tailor J. B. Johnstone traded from 34 Sackville Street, London between the years of 1885-1901 and from 59 Dawson Street, Dublin between the years 1880-1889. 

  8. Made for:

    Major Francis Montgomery Onslow (later Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Montgomery Onslow) 1843-1932.

Trimmings / Decoration

Cap: A wide band of silver lace on the sides of the pill box. On the crown there is a silver 'purl' button and braided figure of the regimental pattern, and a line of silver braid round the crown seam.

Jacket:  There is a metallic Russia braid in a complex flourishing pattern around the collar and in a loop on the cuffs. At the back the thick Russia braid follows the seams. There is an Austrian knot of silver cord on each sleeve. The stand-up pale buff collar is also decorated with corded silver crocheted loops.

Waistcoat: Lace down the centre edges with silver Russia braid, and 7 loops of silver crocheted chain, buttoning with silver half-ball buttons. The stand-up collar is also decorated with Vandyke lace.

Trousers: Two stripes of 15 mm lace in a Vandyke pattern, 5 mm apart down each side seam.

Cummerbund: 4 loops of Russia braid which fit over 4 toggles.

Braiding

Silver metallic Russia braid on the jacket with elaborate braid work on the sleeves.

Lace

On the trousers there are two stripes of ¾ inch silver metallic 'lace' in Vandyke pattern, ¼ inch apart, down each side seam, sewn on with running stitch. They look like ribbon.

Embroidery

The cap's crown is decorated with metallic Russia braid with a worked, domed ‘purl’ (button) in the centre, and silver metallic embroidery in a regimental pattern.

Fibre / Weave

The uniform was made in England according to the labels but may have been sent abroad for some of the metallic Russia braid and other finishings.

Forage Cap:  Red, felted worsted fabric. Inside there is padded quilted silk lining, a leather band, and a fine leather chin-strap.

Jacket:  Mid-blue fine woollen heavily-felted worsted fabric. The same cream fabric trims the cuff and collar.

Waistcoat:  Red, fine woollen worsted, trimmed with silver metallic ‘lace’, wide around the edges of the neck collar and across to the side seams.

Trousers:  Fine Royal-blue felted woollen worsted which is quite heavy in weight.

Cummerbund:  Khaki or buff silk with a cotton backing, stiffened with a heavier cotton.  

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Manufactured by the Military and Merchant Tailor J. B. Johnstone, who traded from 34 Sackville Street, London, England, between the years of 1885-1901 and from 59 Dawson Street, Dublin, Ireland, between the years 1880-1889. 

The label inside the crown of the cap states:  BY APPOINTMENT / J. B. JOHNSTONE MILITARY TAILOR / 34, SACKVILLE STREET LONDON & 59, DAWSON STREET DUBLIN, 22/11/[18]82.

On the trousers under the centre back seam is a small maker's label: J. B. JOHNSTONE / LONDON AND DUBLIN / 6423  / 13/11/[18]82. The same printed label is on the jacket lining beneath the collar, and on the waistcoat.

The silver buttons are stamped Jennens & Co. London. This was MESSRS. JENNENS & CO., LTD., 56, CONDUIT STREET, LONDON, W. and at BIRMINGHAM, a maker of military and uniform buttons, early 1820s to 1924.

The black painted steel buttons on the trousers are stamped J.B. Johnstone London & Dublin.  The buckle on the waistcoat is marked W. Dowlen.

Label

'J. B. Johnstone, Military Tailor, 34 Sackville Street, London & 59 Dawson Street, Dublin'. 

The printed label inside the jacket says, J. B. JOHNSTONE / LONDON AND DUBLIN.  There is a hand-written addition:  Maj[or] F.M. Onslow 3 Madras Cav [Cavalry] 6564 22/11/[18]82.

Waistcoat label as pictured.

Alterations

No alterations.

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

The jacket fastens with 5 silver braid toggles down the centre front with 14 large metallic hooks and eyes.

The waistcoat has 7 sets of silver frogging (braided button loops). Underneath the frogging are 17 hooks and eyes. The back of the waistcoat is red cotton fabric with an adjustable half-waist band and buckle. The buckle is marked W. Dowlen with 2 prongs. It does not appear to have been heavily used.

The trousers have a button at the centre front and a fly with 5 metal buttons marked Jennens. The bottom of each leg fastens with 3 buttons and buttonholes.

The cummerbund fastens with 4 braided loops and 4 toggles which have a wooden core and are covered in silk with purl stiches.  On the reverse of the cummerbund there are 4 metal hooks and 4 metal eyes (one missing). The hooks and eyes can be done up at 3 different points to allow for adjustment for different girth measurements.  The cummerbund was not worn with the waistcoat, only in hot weather, in place of the waistcoat.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Cap: The inside is padded in red silk with beige leather facings.

Jacket:  The sleeves are lined with different cream silk. The jacket lining is a tan corded silk with quilting around the breast and side back, and padded to accentuate the shape. The waist is strengthened by a leather band. The jacket is hand-stitched except for the quilting on the lining.

Waistcoat: The back is red cotton fabric.

Trousers: The trousers have brown glazed-cotton inner facings.

Cummerbund: The silk has a cotton backing stiffened with a heavier lining.

Measurements

belt cap jacket trousers waistcoat
Girth
Neck 410 mm 400 mm
Chest 930 mm 860 mm
Waist 820 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 465 mm 470 mm
Front waist to hem 340 mm
Back neck to hem 450 mm
Back waist to hem 990 mm
Sleeve length 630 mm
Inside leg 700 mm
Outside leg 980 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 170 mm
Cross back 470 mm
Underarm to underarm 440 mm
Convert to inches

Stand-up collar on jacket: 37 mm.

Cap: 170 mm diameter, 570 mm circumference, 47 mm high.

Cummerbund: 865 mm long, 157 mm wide. Leather chin strap 490 mm.

Dress Themes

The Onslow uniform is unusual and colourful, and a good example of the 2nd Madras Light Cavalry uniform. This may be the only version of this type of uniform to have survived, and therefore is internationally significant, in terms of the history of uniforms worn by officers of the Madras armies. 

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

1.  Miss Annette Macarthur-Onslow of Hassall Cottage, Macquarie Grove, Camden, NSW, recalled that a Camden News article on Wednesday June 24, 1970 with the heading "It's the uniform that gets 'em", showed a photo of her looking at the uniform with the caption “Miss Annette Macarthur-Onslow inspects the colourful uniform of the Madras Cavalry displayed at the Camden Historical Society’s museum which was opened last Saturday by her uncle, Sir Denzil Macarthur-Onslow. The uniform, once the property of the Onslow family of Camden Park, was donated to the museum by the Macarthur-Stanham family, the present owners of Camden Park.”

2. Article by Julie Wrigley in Camden local paper, The District Reporter, on 31 March 2015, under the heading "It's the uniform that still gets 'em".

3. In the collection at Camden Park House there is an Afghan War Medal and Ribbon.

The medal is as follows: Afghanistan Medal 1878-79-80 with a bar ‘Ali Musjid’. Engraved on the edge is: CAPT. FRA. MONTGOMERY ONSLOW 2nd MAD. CAV. [Madras Cavalry]. The medal itself is silver depicting Queen Victoria (head in profile, designed by Joseph Boehm) on one side and an elephant carrying a gun accompanied by cavalry on the reverse). It was engraved by Leonard Wyon at the Royal Mint. The ribbon is green with a crimson panel down each side.

After the Afghan War, Francis Montgomery Onslow was ADC to the Lt-General Sir Neville Bowles Chamberlain of the Madras Cavalry from 24 February 1876 to 2 February 1881 when the Lt-General retired. On the occasion of his retirement Sir Neville Bowles Chamberlain presented Francis with an engraved watch which is also in the Camden Park House collection. 

4. On 25 March 2015 Lindie Ward, former fabric curator of the Powerhouse Museum, visited Camden Museum and brought with her one of her wire mannequins, which the Society purchased. At the workshop Lindie separated the 5 pieces of the uniform, searching for labels, and assisting in compiling an entry for the Australian Dress Register. Dr Chris Flaherty, an expert on military uniforms, also attended. Robyn Gill and Margaret Wheeler took photographs on that day, and Janice Johnson supplied photographs of the uniform taken in 2011 on the model and in 2015 on the new mannequin. The exploration of the uniform succeeded in finding labels which showed that the uniform dated from 1882.

Other related objects

In the collection at the Macarthur-Stanham property, Camden Park House, Camden, NSW, there is an Afghan War Medal 1878-79-80 with a bar marked Ali Musjid which was awarded to Francis Montgomery Onslow. Engraved on the edge is: CAPT. FRA. MONTGOMERY ONSLOW 2nd MAD. CAV. [Madras Cavalry]. The medal itself is silver depicting Queen Victoria (head in profile, designed by Joseph Boehm) on one side and an elephant carrying a gun accompanied by cavalry on the reverse.

Francis Montgomery Onslow was ADC to the Lt-General Sir Neville Bowles Chamberlain of the Madras Cavalry from 24 February 1876 to 2 February 1881 when the Lt-General retired. On the occasion of his retirement Sir Neville Bowles Chamberlain presented Onslow with an engraved gold watch which is also in the Camden Park House collection. 

Condition

The uniform is in good condition for its age but there are some moth holes and tarnishing of the silver braid. 

Jacket  There are several moth holes in the fabric.  There are signs of sweat under the arms and the sleeve linings are fragile. The silver braid and Russia braid have tarnished. There is some damage to the cotton lining of the jacket. The seam at the back of the jacket was under stress until the uniform was moved to a wire mannequin.

Waistcoat  There are a few moth holes, and the metallic braid is tarnished. The centre back has a stain in the middle and the back lining has splattered bleaching spots, which may be from wine.

Trousers  Good condition, with some signs of wear at the knees.

Forage Cap  The leather chin strap is broken and the leather internal head-band is torn. The silver braid is tarnished. The signs of wear at the right front, (dark greasy stain), suggest the cap was worn over the right eye.  

Cummerbund  There is a stain in the centre front, from some incident and a related stain in the lining. There are 4 metal hooks which correspond to the sets of metal eyes for the waist adjustment but one eye is missing.

 

Evidence of repairs

There is no evidence of repairs.

Insect damage

There are some moth holes in the jacket and waistcoat.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Holes

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