Here's a little 'history'...
When the Bishop of Hereford joined the cause of the Anglican League, support from the countryside was muted. While some of the more progressive elements of the Herefordshire set joined his crusade, the vast majority of the people that mattered (wealthy landowners, farmers, the landed gentry and such) remained staunchly conservative traditionalist and, while not necessarily seeing eye-to-eye with Edward’s fascist cronies, baulked at rebelling against the King. Neither did they openly oppose the Bishop, instead preferring to look to their own interests while generally keeping the fighting at arms length.
However the subsequent defeat of the Anglican League in the county bought a new set of challenges for country folk as isolated farms and hamlets, especially along the Welsh border, became targets for the various factions who struggled to fill the power vacuum left by the departing Anglicans. It was only natural that people would band together for protection and soon every farmstead, village and country estate had gathered a group of armed men from the local inhabitants for their defence.
With so many shotgun-toting bands roaming the countryside, clashes between local interests were inevitable. Family feuds, longstanding grudges and petty jealousies turned into low-level fighting, while some of the more unscrupulous landowners tried to forcibly retake land that they had been obliged to sell to pay for death duties after the war. In this atmosphere of survival of the fittest, disparate groups began to coalesce around their more powerful neighbours and soon the Herefordshire countryside was in danger of being carved up by modern-day Marcher barons.
The royalist authorities, grudgingly admitting that their influence did not extend very far from the city of Hereford and surrounding towns, tacitly encouraged co-operation between the most significant landowners, who, themselves recognising that something had to be done, formed the Landowners Protection Association – an umbrella group which nominally controlled all the local bands, co-ordinated any actions and acted as intermediary when serious disputes erupted between members.
At a meeting at the Green Dragon hotel in Hereford, the county’s notables elected Sir Barrington Patchpole QC as chairman and military leader of the LPA. Noted for his organisational skills and impartiality when presiding over the Hereford Assizes, Patchpole was also a WW1 veteran with sizeable holdings and family ties to the county that went back to before the Norman Conquest. He quickly set about organising a ‘standing army’, in which each major landowner would contribute a ‘company’ of men – drawn mainly from their own tenants, gamekeepers, labourers, house staff and local villagers.
Added to these companies, Patchpole also incorporated some less conventional units, including mounted aristocrats from among the local hunts, horse breakers from the hills of the border region and sharpshooters drawn from the many hunters, stalkers (and poachers) in the region. While mainly armed with the ubiquitous shotgun and lacking any heavy weaponry, the LPA could rely upon the support of the local population and a knowledge of the countryside that was second to none.
Using this force to keep the peace in the countryside, bring to heel any overly-ambitious landowner and protect the borders of the county from incursion and banditry, the LPA freed up official government forces to handle the ‘proper’ fighting – occasionally stepping in to provide auxiliary support when things got a little too hot for the fascists (for as long as the LPA deemed it politically advantageous that is…)
The photos are of the first painted LPA unit, the Foley Manor Fencibles - more to come!