John Grimshaw, Coldstream Guards Soldier and Lancashire Weaver

Soldier and Lancashire Weaver

Emblem of the Coldstream Guards

John is an interesting representative of the Grimshaws of Lancashire from two standpoints – his army career in the Coldstream Guards, one of the most distinguished military units in England, and his participation in the textile industry before and after his 12-year military career. Lancashire-born Anne Grimshaw (now living elsewhere in England) has researched John’s life extensively, as well as several aspects of the context of his life.


Website Credit

Sketch Map of Churck Kirk and Oswaldtwistle Area

Summary of John Grimshaw’s Life

John’s Life Before Enlistment in the Coldstream Guards

Lancashire Textile Industry in the Early 1800s

Following the Fife and Drum

Who Are the Coldstream Guards?

John’s Life in the Coldstream Guard (Details Provided in a Companion Webpage)

John Grimshaws Foreign Service Before the Battle of Waterloo Details Provided in a Companion Webpage

The Battle of Waterloo

Why Waterloo?

Let Battle Commence

Plan of Campaign


A Near Run Thing

What Happened After Waterloo?

John’s War Wounds

Discharge and Pension

Return to Civilian Life

John Grimshaw’s Death


More Detail on the Coldstream Guard (Provided in a Companion Webpage)

Additional References and Resources for This Webpage

Note: certain sections of this webpage are contained in companion webpages, which can easily be reached by clicking on the hyperlinks in these sections. The purpose of having these companion webpages is to make John’s story easier to read and to reduce loadtime of this “master” webpage.

Webpage Credit

Thanks go to Anne Grimshaw for making her research available for this webpage. Anne’s style of research and presentation – combining what is known of John’s life with rich detail on the context of the times, organizations, people and places – provides a clear and interesting picture. This picture depicts both the life of the Grimshaws in Lancashire at the outset of the Industrial Revolution and the life of a soldier in the English army at the time of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Anne provides the following background on her interest in John Grimshaw; additional credits are given at the bottom of this webpage.

It was during a visit to the Public Record Office (PRO) at Kew, near London, England, and playing with the new, computerised database of soldiers discharge papers (WO 97) by typing in Grimshaw that I first made the acquaintance of Private John Grimshaw. He came from my part of Lancashire: to the north-east of Blackburn towards the Pennines. At this stage it was (and probably always will be) impossible to ascertain whether he is directly related to me. I would like to be able to claim for certain that John Grimshaw was my second cousin five times removed (according the Sierra Generations family tree software) — he might well be but I cannot prove it 100 per cent— perhaps 90 per cent! Nor can I prove he isnt an ancestor.

However, a possible ancestor who fought with the Coldstream Guards in the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars and finally at Waterloo was too exciting an opportunity to miss. What could I discover to drag the long-forgotten Private John Grimshaw out of obscurity?

Would I be able to find anything at all about him? There had been about 67,000 men in the British army at Waterloo. Could I find him amongst all of those?

The latest record of him is that his General Service Medal (awarded for the Peninsula Campaign) was sold by medal dealers, Spinks, as recently as 1973 but they do not hold records of twenty-eight years ago.

Private John Grimshaw could have had no idea that he had left so many footprints in history, let alone that they would be diligently followed almost two-hundred years after he taken the Kings Shilling on that day in October 1806 when he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. What would he have thought of having his own Webpage?

Much of the research was undertaken in the PRO and references are given to documents consulted there; the PROs online catalogue ( proved extremely useful. Correspondence ensued with regimental archives, museums, local studies departments of libraries and individuals too numerous to mention. The Internet and e-mail proved invaluable. Books, of course, were a key source of information and the main titles consulted are listed below under the Bibliography.

Anne’s text is presented nearly in its entirety as provided. Anne also provided most of the photos. The only editing has been minor organizational changes and addition of figure captions; these additions are shown in italics.

Summary of John Grimshaw’s Life

The following summary has been prepared from notes provided by Anne Grimshaw:

John Grimshaw was born on April 13, 1789 and was baptized at St James Church, Church Kirk, Lancashire on August 1, 1789. His parents were John Grimshaw (born about 1750) and Dolly Grimshaw (born October 27, 1752), who were married on August 28, 1776 at St James Church. His maternal grandparents were James Grimshaw and Rosemon Giles. His paternal grandparents are not known but possibly were John Grimshaw and Elizabeth (surname unknown.) John’s siblings were Sally (born 27 December 1784, died December 3, 1858); Rose (born April 29, 1787); and James (born 1791, died 1794.)

John enlisted in the Coldstream Guards, a regiment based in London, in Blackburn on October 24, 1806. After training he assigned to Lt-Col. Henry Brands Company in the 2nd Battalion. During the Napoleonic Wars against the French, John served under the Duke of Wellington from 1810-12 during the Peninsula War (1808-14.) He also served in the Low Countries (1813-15,) and was wounded in the right arm and left leg during the attack on Bergen op Zoom on March 10, 1814. John fought at the battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815 in the élite Light Company (Lt-Col. John Walpoles Company) of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. He was wounded in jaw and hip while engaged in the defense of the chateau of Hougoumont.

The battle of Waterloo ended the Napoleonic Wars. After the war John returned to England and transferred to Lt-Col. William Raikes Company, based in London. He was discharged on December 14, 1818 as unfit for further service. John was granted a pension of 9d per day upon his discharge from the army. He was awarded the Military Generals Service Medal with clasps for Busaco, Fuentes dOnoro, Ciudad Rodrigo and Salamanca. He was also awarded the Waterloo Medal.

After discharge, John Grimshaw returned to his home in Lancashire and was (possibly) one of the rioters who on April 24-26, 1826 attacked local factories where new steam-powered looms were installed. These looms were seen as a threat to the livelihoods of hand-loom weavers. One of the rioters was Phoebe Tomlinson, John’s future wife, who was sentenced in August 1826 at Lancaster Assizes to 12 months imprisonment in Preston gaol for her part in the riots.

John and Phoebe Tomlinson were married on May 26, 1828 at St James Church, Church Kirk, the same church in which John was baptized. They had no children. His occupation was hand-loom weaver. The 1841 census showed them living at White Croft, in the Red Shell area of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire. John was listed as a cotton weaver; Phoebe was shown as having no occupation. The 1851 census showed them living at the same address. John was listed as a silk weaver.

John died of asthma on August 17, 1851 at Red Shell, Oswaldtwistle. The informant of the death was Thomas Pollard, John’s brother-in-law (husband of sister Sally). Thomas was also a former Coldstream Guardsman (1803-13) who had served in the Peninsula War but had been wounded in the right hand and rendered unfit for further service. John was buried on August 21, 1851 at Immanuel Church, New Lane, Oswaldtwistle.

Sketch Map of Church Kirk and Oswaldtwistle Area

A sketch map showing the area where John was born and lived his life (when not in the Coldstream Guards) is shown in Figure 1. Most of the locations shown are referenced further down on this webpage.

Figure 1. Sketch map of Church Kirk and Oswaldtwistle area of Lancashire. The Key is repeated below the map for increased clarity (we are still working on a clearer map). Several locations of other “Grimshaw connections” are also shown. Map image provided by Anne Grimshaw.

Key: 1) Birthplace of John Grimshaw (JG); 2) St. James Church where JG was baptised (1789) and married Phoebe Tomlinson in 1828, and where Thomas Pollard married Sally Grimshaw in 1815 and was buried in 1859; 3) White Croft where JG lived (1841 and 1851 census); 4) Broughton Barn where JG worked as a silk weaver (possibly); 5: Immanual Church where JG was buried in 1851; 8) White Ash factory, scene of loom-breaking in 1826 when Phoebe Tomlinson was arrested; 7) Simonstone: birthplace of Thomas Pollard (1786); and 8 Henry Street: Church Kirk , home of Thomas Pollard (1841 and 1851 census).

Other Grimshaw connections: A) Stanhill where James Hargreaves and wife Elizabeth Grimshaw lived and where the spinning jenny was (allegedly) invented; B) Dunkenhalgh Hall (after the Grimshaws split [Clayton-le-Moors] with the Rishtons; C) Duckworth Hall (home of forebears of Duckworth Grimshaw, Mormon emigrant to Utah); and D) Clayton Hall.

John’s Life Before Enlistment in the Coldstream Guards

Anne Grimshaw’s description of John Grimshaw’s life begins with a number of details on his origins and where he lived during the first few years of his life. Her text is as follows:

A. Who Was John Grimshaw?

The army discharge papers of John Grimshaw (PRO WO 97/174) show him to have been a weaver from, Church or Church Kirk to give it its full name, a village to east-north-east of Blackburn, Lancashire, England. He enlisted at Blackburn in the 2nd Foot Guards (Coldstream Guards) on the 24 October 1806 aged 18 and he was discharged in London on 14 December 1818 thus aged about 30.

With this information I calculated he had been born about 1788 but, as civil registration of births did not begin until 1837, his birth or baptism would have been recorded only in the parish registers.

Not having easy access to the Church parish registers, I searched the International Genealogical Index (IGI) on the Internet. It showed no fewer than eight possible John Grimshaws having been born or baptised around that time in Church. However, as the IGI is by no means definitive, not every reference can be taken as gospel truth! But it was a start and later, the parish registers of Church on microfiche confirmed the IGI records on the Internet.

Another document in the PRO, the Chelsea record of out-pensions (PRO WO 120/22), gives John Grimshaw’s age as 31 on discharge in December 1818 but this does not greatly help in establishing the exact year, let alone date, of his birth. John could, of course, have lied about his age on enlistment and been younger than the 18 the army believed him to be.

According to the army pension records (PRO WO 22/91) John Grimshaw died on 17 August 1851, aged 68. His death certificate shows that date but aged only 61 which would have indicated a birth year of 1790. It was his death certificate that held the key to his birth for the informant of his death was Thomas Pollard of Church. He signed his name with a ‘X’. The name meant nothing—who was he?

Out of curiosity I checked the IGI index for a birth/baptism or marriage of any Thomas Pollard of Church in the first half of the nineteenth century. A marriage on 4 December 1815 showed that Thomas Pollard’s bride had been Sally Grimshaw. There was only one Sally Grimshaw listed around this time in the IGI and of the eight possible John Grimshaws, only one set of parents had a daughter, Sally: John and Dolly Grimshaw of Church whose son, John, was born in 1789. Sally was born on 27 December 1784. The evidence strongly indicated that Thomas Pollard was John’s brother-in-law and hence I had now found the correct parents of my Coldstream Guardsman! I was later to find out that Thomas Pollard had also been a Coldstream Guardsman – further proof that, via Sally, I had the right parents of John Grimshaw.

John’s parents appear to have married on 28 August 1776 at St James’, Church, although the bride’s name is given as Dorothy, not Dolly. She was also a Grimshaw. Their marriage was witnessed by William Dyneley and (yet another) John Grimshaw. This is the only marriage in the parish registers that fits although it is a puzzle as to while the eldest child, Sally, was not born until 1784.

John’s mother Dolly is listed in the baptismal registers for 27 October 1752 of Church as being the daughter of James Grimshaw.

John Grimshaw (the father) is cited a ‘cotton printer’—just three cotton printers are listed— and, as the father of Sally, is also cited as cotton printer—perhaps a further indication that these are the ‘correct’ parents. John Grimshaw (the son) was baptised on 1 August. He was, however, born almost four months before at Lane End, Church, on 13 April 1789—the year of the French Revolution—the aftermath of which was to have a great bearing upon John’s life. His younger brother, James, also born at Lane End, two years after John, died, aged three in 1794. Of John’s elder sister, Rose, born 1787, there is no further mention in the parish registers. Lane End was actually Church Lane End to the north-east of the village at the junction of Church Lane and the Whalley Trust Turnpike, now the A680 and the B6231.

Also living at Lane End, Church, was a James (son of William and Elizabeth née Holt) Grimshaw and his wife, Betty (née Pilkington) and their four children: William (born 1793), Betty (born 1796), Anne (born 1800) and Nelly (born (1802).

Another John Grimshaw and his wife, Susan (née Duckworth) lived there too with their children, Richard (born 1783) and John (born 1785) both at Great Harwood, and Henry (born 1786) and Eleanor (born (1798) both at Church. There may also have been William (born about 1771) and Ellen (born 1794 Blackburn).

B. Where Did John Grimshaw Live?

In 1806 the year that John Grimshaw enlisted in the Coldstream Guards, Church, in the parish of Blackburn, Lancashire, was small both in acreage and population. In 1801 (the year of the first census) its population was just 323 and, at the time of the second census, ten years later in 1811, it had grown to 474.

Church had had a chapel run by monks from Whalley Abbey hence the name. The Church of St James, Church Kirk (see Figure 2), is of very ancient foundation, some claim from 642 AD(!) From about the twelfth century it was the main church for a wide area, including Oswaldtwistle. The tower is said to date from 1284, the nave from 1806 and the chancel from 1856. Today it is a Grade II listed building. Figure 2 shows two sites that were important in John’s early life — Church Lane End and Saint James Church.

Figure 2. Two important locations for John Grimshaw’s early years. Both photos provided by Anne Grimshaw.

a. Church Lane End, where John was born and brought up. (See Location 1 in Figure 1 above.) 

b. Saint James Church, located in Church Kirk, Lancashire. John Grimshaw’s parents, John and Dolly Grimshaw, were married here (August 28, 1776.) John was also baptized (August 1, 1789) and married (May 26, 1828) at this church. (See Location 2 in Figure 1 above.

The Lords of Clitheroe owned the area until the thirteenth century when the Rishtons followed by the Walmesleys of Dunkenhalgh held sway. Much of the land was owned by the Petre family of the Dunkenhalgh estate.

When Daniel Defoe visited Lancashire in the 1720s he found a county of largely poor farmers who eked out a living by spinning and weaving the wool from their sheep which grazed on the Pennine moors. But these farmers-cum-textile workers made the most of what fibres were available to produce a variety of goods: linen, silk, worsted, cotton and mohair but without capital and machines they were destined to remain small-time workers.

However, the port of Liverpool, barely fifty miles away was booming in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries importing cotton from the West Indies and the Southern states of the newly independent United Sates of America. Imports shot up after the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 that separated the seeds from the cotton fibres in the bolls leaving the cotton ready for cleaning and spinning. Given the combination of capital, a canal from Liverpool to east Lancashire, a suitably damp climate that favoured cotton fibres, pure, soft water for washing and bleaching, machine technology and a supply of workers, cotton was soon to be king in Lancashire.

When John was a boy there was not much in the way of industry in Church; a small madder dyeing mill founded by the Peel family at Coppy Clough to the north-west of the village was about all. Most people were hand-loom weavers who worked at home or in small loomshops housing two or three looms—it could hardly be called an industry. Water-mills and windmills were the obvious use of ‘technology’ and the most common use of machines.

Church appears to have had few claims to fame; perhaps one of these might be that the uncle of Sir Robert Peel, founder of the police force, owned a calico works in the town. The Peel family had lived at Church Bank and John would certainly have known of them ‘in the big house’. They were typical of the new rising middle classes who invested, not in land like the aristocracy of the past, but in new technology.

Famous within the textile industry were Frederick Steiner, chemist, and F.A. Gatty, the latter a chemical and dyestuffs inventor in the nineteenth century calico printing industry.

Another notable event was on 18 September 1824—perhaps John witnessed it for he had been home from the army for almost six years. One Windham Sadler was flying in his hot-air balloon from Bolton to Blackburn. While flying over the town he hit a mill chimney and was killed. He would be no doubt glad to know that many of the town’s mills are now demolished.

Two detailed maps of Lancashire were drawn at very ‘convenient’ times for they depicted the area in which John Grimshaw lived from around the time of his birth to shortly after he returned from the army—a time-span of forty-five years. The first in 1785, just a year or two before John was born and the second in 1829, eleven years after he returned from his army service.

The most striking difference in the second is that there is a new road, running east-west, just to the south of Church. This was the era of the stagecoach and turnpikes, the transport revolution was beginning. Now the A679 but then a branch of the Bury, Haslingden, Blackburn and Whalley Turnpike Trust, the road, engineered by John Macadam, provided work for unemployed hand-loom weavers during the years of distress and unrest (1826-7) when new power looms in mills were attacked and destroyed. Had John ever worked on this road or would his war wounds and poor health have prevented him?

Another difference is that two bleach works appeared on the later map (Sharn Hall and Hagg Works near the canal) – the Industrial Revolution was underway. Not far away towards Accrington was the aptly named Waterloo Hall.

At the time John was signing on for service in the Coldstream Guards, the Leeds-Liverpool canal was under construction. He had been gone a year or two when the canal opened (1807-8) and thus began a highly successful operation, with a wharf at Church. (Old soldier, Sergeant Douglas, in his Tale of the Peninsula and Waterloo, went from Liverpool to London with his regiment in 1809 via canal. Perhaps, when returning home from the army John travelled from London via the Leeds-Liverpool and other canals?) Once the canal came to the area in the eighteenth century, and the railway in the nineteenth century, the community grew rapidly with most of its economy based on textiles, chemicals (dyes for calico and other materials) and some coal mining.

In the thirteenth century a water-powered cornmill had occupied the site of what was later to become Church Bank Printworks. In 1734 a small horse-powered fulling mill on the site was leased by Thomas and Joshua Dynley and William Rothwell to Robert Brewer. The site became a wool fulling mill and a calico printers in the 1770s, owned by William Peel and his brothers. They were a progressive family and installed a printing machine and a 24hp beam engine in 1801. It may even have been here that John’s father, also a John, worked as a ‘cotton printer’, according to the parish registers. The Grimshaw family lived at Lane End, just a short walk from Church Bank. One of the witnesses at the marriage of John’s parents, John and Dolly Grimshaw in 1776 (possibly), was a William Dyneley—was he the same William who was grandson of Joshua Dyneley and great-grandson of Thomas Dyneley who had leased the site in 1734?

Later, the print works had its own short branch of the canal to serve it. While John was away fighting in the Peninsula and the Low Countries, the works expanded with more machinery added. The laborious hand-printing of fabrics made them expensive but machine-printing with the pattern etched onto steam-driven steel rollers and presses could now churn out affordable printed fabrics for the rising middle classes.

The year after John enlisted in the army, 1807, a bleach works with a 12-foot diameter water wheel was set up near Sharn Hall and the Peels also set up another bleach works, Hagg Works, on a former crofting site, just to the east of Church itself. It was a sign of things to come. An important development was bleaching powder using chloride of lime that speeded up the bleaching process. Calico production was also speeded up by the invention of a colour-printing cylinder that could do more work in a day than a hundred hand-printers.

Lancashire Textile Industry in the Early 1800s

Anne Grimshaw provides a rich description of textile manufacture in Lancashire during the period of John’s youth.

A. Spinning and Weaving

The raw material, whether wool or cotton, to be made into cloth needs to be washed and carded, i.e. combed to separate the fibres before spinning into yarn. In John Grimshaw’s youth this would have been done on a spinning wheel, a domestic machine with a horizontal spindle that was turned by hand or with a treadle. This twisted the loose fibres into a thin yarn ready for weaving. Almost every home would have had a spinning wheel, usually operated by the women of the family (hence ‘spinster’) to produce yarn for the (mainly male) weavers who worked on hand-looms in or near the home.

The process consisted of interlacing one set of threads of yarn (the warp) with another (the weft). The warp threads are stretched lengthwise in the weaving loom. The weft, the cross-threads, are woven into the warp to make the cloth.

For centuries hand-loom weaving had been carried out on the basis of the shuttle bearing the yarn being passed slowly and awkwardly from one hand to the other. In 1738 John Kay patented his flying shuttle that dramatically increased the speed of this process. Kay placed shuttle boxes at each side of the loom connected by a long board, known as a shuttle race. By means of cords attached to a picking peg, a single weaver, using one hand, could cause the shuttle to be knocked back and forth across the loom from one shuttle box to the other. A weaver using Kay’s flying shuttle could produce much wider cloth at twice the old speed and could make cloth of any width, whereas previously two men had sat together at a loom to make broad cloth. By 1800 it was estimated that there were 250,000 hand-looms in Britain.

The flying shuttle now meant that weavers used up yarn faster than spinners could spin it. But it was not until thirty years after the invention of the flying shuttle that a Blackburn weaver, James Hargreaves, came up with the answer: the spinning jenny—a machine with a number of spindles set in a row that are rotated by a wheel which also moves a travelling carriage to and fro, twisting the cotton ‘rovings’ (loose bundles of fibres) attached to the carriage. As it moves back again the twisted threads are wound onto spindles. Jennies could spin up to thirty (and later 120) threads but they were small machines which, like the domestic spinning wheel that they ousted, were used in or near the home. When word spread of
Hargreaves’ invention (patented in 1767) his machines were smashed by other spinners who regarded them, quite correctly, as a threat to their livelihoods. This action was to repeat itself fifty years later with the introduction of steam-powered looms.

Other inventions in the textile industry ensured that it moved from the home to the factory and its workers from the village to the town, or indeed, turned villages into towns—like John Grimshaw’s home of Church.

B. Life of a Weaver

John Grimshaw could write as shown by his signature on his army discharge papers. This does not appear to be an awkwardly written signature, perhaps learnt especially to sign this paper, but has the flow of one who handles a pen easily. However, without knowing John’s background it is impossible to say whether he learned to write as a child or during his time in the army.

There was been little in the way of schools in the area at that time—largely Dame Schools and perhaps Sunday schools—but whatever his education, John, like many boys in the area, almost automatically became a hand-loom weaver, perhaps serving an apprenticeship or more casually picking it up from an older weaver.

The home in which he grew up at Lane End, Church, was probably a stone cottage in which work and home-life were inextricably bound. A spinning wheel in the corner at the very least no doubt provided additional income to that of his father, a cotton or calico printer who may have worked at Peel’s calico printers not far away. Even if there had been no hand-loom in the Grimshaw household, the house where John earned his living would have been cluttered with looms, wool and cotton ready for use and bundles of yarn and cloth. Figure 3 shows a  mockup of a weaver’ cottage at the time of John Grimshaw’s childhood.

Figure 3. Photo of the interior of a weaver’s cottage in the early nineteenth century. This is a hand-loom of the type that John Grimshaw would have used. Note the spinning wheel for spinning the yarn (warp and weft) from the raw cotton for using on the loom. Spinning was usually done by women. Source: Mock-up on view in the Time Tunnel at Oswaldtwistle Mills. Photo provided by Anne Grimshaw.

Hand-loom weaving had reigned supreme although subject to many fluctuations in trade and hence income. Soon after John joined the army in 1806, hand-loom weavers everywhere were beginning to be adversely affected by steam-powered. The new power loom could produce thirty yards of cloth for every three produced by the hand-loom weaver. They simply could not compete.

Eight years after John returned from the army to Church in 1818 there were riots by hand-loom weavers who saw their livelihoods threatened by the steam-powered looms. Weavers in towns and villages around Church made their views known in no uncertain terms by attacking the new steam-powered looms in local mills. But, of course, it was a lost cause and the craft of the hand-loom weaver fell prey to mechanisation. Some rioters (including women) were condemned to death for their part in the riots and loom-breaking but their sentences were commuted to transportation to Australia or imprisonment.

But just a year or two before John returned home in 1818, it was a very different picture. What was happening elsewhere was soon to happen in Church. Unemployed hand-loom weavers were forced in increasing numbers to leave their cottages and crofts and join the thousands known as ‘operatives’ in the mills. In 1760 Manchester had had a population of 22,000; just seventy years later it was 235,000—and 30,000 power looms.

Weavers’ cottages in this area of Lancashire were mainly made from stone which was the predominant building material and of a squat and sturdy appearance, functional, without ornamentation and ‘vernacular’ lacking any pretensions in terms of architectural style. They were, in other words, plain. This can clearly be seen by Broughton Barn on the Haslingden Road, Oswaldtwistle.

Following the Fife and Drum

John’s enlistment and early career in the Coldstream Guards are described by Anne as shown below. Following this section the Coldstream Guards are described in more detail.

When John Grimshaw joined the army in Blackburn in 1806 he was a hand-loom weaver. The Industrial Revolution with its mechanisation of factories and mills was still a few years into the future but was John astute enough to see that his days in that occupation were numbered and hence joined the army? Probably not. Was it sheer poverty that drove him to the colours? The uncertainty of the trade and wild fluctuations in earnings? Perhaps.

Why else might John Grimshaw have enlisted? A spur-of-the-moment decision whilst in Blackburn? Bravado induced by alcohol at the local ale house in front of his pals? Flouting parental wishes? A ‘dare’ he couldn’t back out of? We shall never know for certain.

However, there may be a clue from the gravestone in St James’, Church, of Thomas Pollard who was three years John’s senior, and also of Church. He enlisted in the Coldstream Guards in 1803. Surely it cannot be coincidence that in a village of about 400 people, two young men enlisted in the Coldstream Guards unbeknown to each other? Also, the fact that in 1815 Thomas Pollard married John’s sister, Sally, perhaps indicates that the two families were known to each other. Maybe young John looked up to the older Thomas and had him a something of a role model.

But why the Coldstream Guards? Church is not far south of Preston and hence on one of the main north-south routes through Lancashire from England into Scotland. It was maybe because of this that there was a tradition of recruitment locally in the Scottish regiments that continued through the First World War. Perhaps not finding enough men locally, recruiting sergeants continued southwards from Scotland to England, and Lancashire would be the first real source of population. The army was desperate for recruits at this time—the height of the Napoleonic Wars.

On 24 October 1806 in Blackburn John Grimshaw became one of the Coldstream Guards’ newest recruits. He had probably walked the five miles or so into Blackburn through Oswaldtwistle, a Grimshaw ‘stronghold’—perhaps he had family there.

Blackburn had been one of the towns targeted in the ‘beating order’ drawn up by the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. He and the sergeant-major had selected the recruiting party which consisted of an officer, two sergeants, a drummer and a handful of men with orders to ‘beat up’ the area for likely lads.

Surely it was more than idle curiosity that drew John to the fifing and drumming that could be heard throughout the town all day long. That, the smart red tunics, the recruiting sergeant’s well-rehearsed, rosy view of army life, the promise of a shilling a day and perhaps thoughts of neighbour Thomas Pollard persuaded John Grimshaw to enlist.

The recruiting party who signed up John were Ensign Henry Dawkins, Sergeants James Lewis and James Galbraith and Corporal Isaac Walker from Lt-Col Henry Brand’s Company (PRO WO 12/1703).

The change from weaver to soldier was made as soon as John had taken the King’s Shilling. The next step was to see the District Surgeon who pronounced him fit. Aged eighteen, like about a third of soldiers, with sandy hair, a fair complexion and grey eyes and, at five feet nine inches taller than most, John Grimshaw was perfect material for the Coldstream Guards. John had enlisted for “unlimited service” and twelve years later his discharge papers attested to that fact: his conduct as a soldier had been good.

Mustered under a sergeant, John and the rest of the party of new recruits were marched off to nearest depot where they were ‘sized’ and allocated to their companies.

John received his bounty of about £2-12s. He had probably never had so much money in his life but he wasn’t to have it for long for two guineas for a knapsack was immediately deducted and that left him with only ten shillings.

There was little time for John to wonder whether he had made the right decision or not. He and his new comrades messed together—two meals a day—and drilled together. Drill had begun immediately—two or three times a day under the watchful eye of an NCO for the next few months.

It began with reveille before dawn. On campaign it would be a hour and a half before dawn and ready to march by daylight, the drill sergeant told them gleefully. Assembly was beaten on a drum or sounded on bugle. That was followed by basic drill, standing in the ranks, the order ‘March’, the order ‘Halt’ and ‘Dress’, in line, in column then the halting to fire a volley.

After that came drilling with a musket. Arms were carried in the ‘Support’ position in crook of elbow when the battalion was halted or moving in column. When marching in line or wheeling, forming into a line or dressing, they were carried ‘Shouldered’.

Then there was stand at ease and attention; quick march at 108 steps to the minute, wheeling time and marking time. Marching was not just walking smartly but, so the drill sergeant said in no uncertain terms, each pace was to be exactly 30 inches and 75 steps a minute. Soldiers did not swing arms but drilled with the arm and fingers extended and the hand firmly down beside the thigh. Toe was pointed when marching and always kept near the ground except when marking time, ‘gliding’ rather than stepping.

Equally important was falling in and forming a square when battalions drilled to form square from either line or column. Once four sides were complete, either two or four deep, with field officers, drums and Colours in the centre, it was almost impregnable.

Finally, John completed his initial training and was given the pay of a fully trained soldier and entitled to wear his first regimental headdress.

John Grimshaw was now a private in the Coldstream Guards. His Colonel was HRH the Duke of Cambridge and his Commanding Officer was Lt. Col. Hon. Henry Brand.

Who Are the Coldstream Guards?

The Coldstream Guards has the distinction of being the oldest regiment in continuous existence in the British Army – the unit celebrated its 350th birthday in 2000. Besides serving in many combat engagements over the years, the Coldstream Guards has Royal Guard Duty at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. With their striking red tunics and large black bearskin caps (see Figure 4), they undoubtedly comprise an essential element of the “tourist experience” of London. Their emblem is shown in Figure 5 below. More information on the Coldstream Guards is given at the bottom of this webpage.

Figure 4. The striking uniform of the Coldstream Guards is shown in this occasion: “The Queen presents new Colours to the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards and No. 7 Company, at Victoria Barracks in Windsor. A reception followed the presentation.” The occasion took place on May 20, 1999. From the Royal Insight (“A monthly guide to the life and work of Britain’s Royal Family”) webpagea

Figure 5 (below). Emblem of the Coldstream Guards. Includes an eight-pointed star of the Order of the Garter with the cross of St. George in the center. From the website of the Coldstream Guards Living History Museumb.

John’s Life in the Coldstream Guards

John’s life after his enlistment in the Coldstream Guards is described by Anne Grimshaw and is provided in a companion webpage. Included in this description are the following topics:






What Did John Carry When on Campaign


Campaigns and Muster Rolls

Death Rates

Coldstream Guards Battle Honours

John Grimshaw’s Officers

John Grimshaws Foreign Service Before the Battle of Waterloo

John Grimshaw saw action after three years with the Coldstream Guards first in the Walcheren Expedition of August – September (1809), then in the Peninsula War (1810-12), the Low Countries (1813-15) which included the assault on Bergen-op-Zoom in March 1814 and culminated in the battle of Waterloo in June 1815. He was, without doubt, a veteran.

John was accompanied in the Peninsula, as far as can be ascertained by Thomas Pollard, also from the same area of Lancashire. Thomas was not only a fellow Coldstreamer but became Johns brother-in-law after his discharge from the army in 1814. Thomas, in the First Battalion Coldstream Guards, had been in the Peninsula eighteen months before John, in the Second Battalion, arrived there. Despite being in different battalions it is quite possible that they knew each other while stationed in England. If not, they presumably met while on campaign in Portugal and Spain.

The Walcheren Expedition of 1809, the Peninsula War (1810-12), and the Low Countries (1813-15) are described in a companion webpage. The Battle of Waterloo is described in the next section. The table in Figure 6 below shows the overseas movements of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards.

Figure 6. Overseas movements of the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards.

Source: McKinnon, Daniel, 1883, Origins and Services of the Coldstream Guards.

As noted, additional detail on John Grimshaw’s foreign service prior to his involvement in the Battle of Waterloo is provided in a companion webpage. Included in this webpage are the following topics:

John Grimshaw Fought in the Battle of Waterloo

The culmination of the Napoleonic Wars which had lasted twelve years from 1803 was the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. John Grimshaw had been in the army for just over nine of those years and was to remain in the army another three and a half years once the threat of further war with France had passed.

No doubt in his childhood, when he had been naughty, he had been threatened by adults that if he did not behave the ‘bogeyman of Europe’—Napoleon Bonaparte—or ‘Boney’ would get him. Little was John to know that just a few years later he would face ‘Boney’ himself and, rather than being ‘got’ by him, he would contribute to the French Emperor’s downfall, somewhere in the Low Countries at a then unheard of place called Waterloo.

With hindsight of 185 years during which time, reality and memory, fact and fiction have inevitably become one, it is difficult to think of the battle of Waterloo as anything but an outright British victory coloured by stirring pictures of the cavalry charge of the Scots Greys with just about everyone who mattered wearing a red jacket!

A. Why Waterloo?

As always, the reality was somewhat different. John Grimshaw did not wake up on the morning of the 18 June (if indeed he had slept much at all the previous night as, like all the soldiers, he had spent the night in the open in the rain) knowing this was going to be one of the most significant days in European history. He had no idea he was going to change the course of European history. It was just another morning in just another campaign. He had seen enough fighting while in the Peninsula in 1810-12 and in the Netherlands the previous year to know when a battle was brewing. He had no reason to think this morning, a Sunday of all days, was going to be any different.

All he knew was that ‘Boney’ was back—just when everyone thought they had heard the last of him—having escaped from exile of less than a year on the island of Elba, and he was heading towards Brussels with an army of veterans including his beloved Imperial Guard. And that was the reason that he, Private John Grimshaw, along with 90,000 others, only a third of whom were British and mostly untried at that, were assembling not far from Antwerp. John had been in the Low Countries since November 1813 and, after the unsuccessful attack on Bergen op Zoom in March 1814, had remained in the area until hastily marched south from Brussels to where he was now camped near Mont St Jean.

Wellington was back too, this time in command of a motley Anglo-Dutch and Allied army. One of the Allies was Field Marshal Blücher and a Prussian army of 120,000 men, of whom more than half were raw recruits or militiamen. They were advancing from the Rhineland to come to Wellington’s support, or so John had heard but no one really seemed to know.

But Napoleon knew it and he aimed to stop him. He knew he could not take on the whole Allied army at once, but by dividing the forces of Wellington and Blücher, he could take them on one at a time.

Figure 7 shows a record of John as a member of John Walpole’s Company of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream at the Battle of Waterloo.

Figure 7. Copy of pages from the notebook of Sergeant John Biddle, which shows John Grimshaw to be in No 1 Section, under the command of Captain Robert Moore, of Lt. Col. John Walpole’s Company of 2nd Battalion Coldstream at Waterloo 18 June 1815. Note entry on third line from the bottom. Record provided by Anne Grimshaw, who received it from Alan Harrison of Burnley, Lancashire.

B. Let Battle Commence

Napoleon saw his chance after crossing the Sambre and attacked Blücher and his Prussians at Ligny on 17 June—it looked like it had been a good move. Blücher had deployed on a forward slope—always a bad choice of terrain and Wellington had told him so—and he paid the price. Not only his troops, but he himself was badly hurt when his horse was shot from under him.

Then things began to take a turn for the worse as the French Marshals, Ney and D’Erlon, somehow prevented Napoleon from outflanking Blücher so that Ney had to switch his attack to the crossroads called Quatre Bras, five miles to the north-west of Ligny, where he knew there was a weak Dutch-Belgian force. It was already being reinforced by the British, who had to be thrown piecemeal into the battle and managed to check the French advance—but at a price with much loss of life.

There was time a draw breath and, in the inexplicable absence of orders from Napoleon, Wellington’s troops withdrew northward, protected by a cavalry rearguard action to his chosen ground of Mont St. Jean, on the road to Brussels just south of the village of Waterloo.

C. Plan of Campaign

After the actions at Ligny to the south-east and Quatre Bras to the south, British troops under the command of the Duke of Wellington, positioned themselves east-west across the road to Brussels, a few miles to the south of the city near the village of Waterloo to prevent Napoleon’s French troops from reaching the Belgian capital.

It was rolling farmland of gentle hills and shallow valleys, peasant farms and bigger, self-sufficient estates with their own orchards, gardens and woods. At this time of the year, the fields all around were full of rye.

It was a good position for the ridge afforded shelter for the troops for they were out of sight of the French gunners, yet it held a commanding position over the battlefield. The British line stretched about two miles and ran parallel to an east-west ridge. Parallel to the ridge was a road that formed a crossroads with the north-south Brussels road near where Wellington had his headquarters. Evenly spaced along the British line were three farms or chateaux, all strongly defended. A break anywhere in the line could mean that the French would pour through the gap straight on to Brussels.

On the left (east) of the line was Papelotte. Nearer to the centre was La Haie Sainte. In the west, on the left and the most isolated, was Hougoumont which was out of sight from the crossroads and almost due west of Napoleon’s headquarters at La Belle Alliance on the Brussels road. Hougoumont had to be held at all costs for if it fell, the whole line could be rolled up and the British troops outflanked.

D. Hougoumont

John Grimshaw, by now in Lt Col. Walpole’s élite Light Company of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, found himself at Hougoumont, a fortified chateau within its own grounds of orchard, garden and woods, on the extreme right of the east-west British line that crossed the Brussels road to the south of the city. It was actually nearer to the French line than the British. It was up to the Guards to defend it. A recent photo of Hougoumont is shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Recent photo of Hougoumont. Photo provided by Anne Grimshaw.

That wet morning of 18 June heralded a momentous day in European history—not that John Grimshaw knew that as he looked around him. Hougoumont was not the kind of place where the formal movements of infantry training could be employed. If things got hot it was the sort of place where it would be every man for himself, acting on initiative, making instant decisions and carrying them out. And it did get hot—at about 11am the French opened fire on Hougoumont and John found himself sheltering under the stone walls of the farm buildings while others took refuge by the high brick walls of the garden, amongst the trees in the orchard and woods and behind the heavy wooden gate of the farmyard.

Soon the thatched roofs of the outbuildings were on fire by shells from French howitzers and the flames spread to the lower floors of the chateau. Ceilings and floors crashed to the ground trapping many wounded men. Thick, black smoke rose over the farm. It was as hot as an oven and flying embers ignited clothing and hair but John and his comrades held on, filling gaps where a breach threatened. Reloading, firing, watching, running, gasping for breath in the smoke from the burning buildings and peering through the smoke from his own gun—this was the ‘fog of war’ with all its horrors. The Guards plugged every gap. Dogged determination, obedience, following orders and no thoughts of surrender or retreat ensured that Hougoumont held.

At some point during that day, John was wounded in the jaw and in the hip. Perhaps he temporarily bandaged his wounds taking refuge to in the buildings, before they caught fire, along with other wounded. If so, he was luckier than some for he was able to escape the burning timbers that rained down on those wounded unable to move or be moved. They were burned alive. There is no way of knowing exactly when or how John sustained his wounds except that they would have been from musket ball, sword, shell or blow in hand-to-hand combat. He himself may well not have known in the noise and chaos of battle.

E. A Near Run Thing

All day the battle ebbed to and fro but John was unaware of that so busy was he with his own small patch of battlefield, not to mention his wounds. He had no knowledge of anything other than what he could see and hear above the din. He did not know until much, much later when somebody told him, that brave old Blücher, despite his pasting of yesterday at Ligny, rallied his fleeing Prussians to help his allies. And rally they did, advancing across the wet fields and lanes choked with the debris of war, to threaten Napoleon’s right flank and rescue the situation in the nick of time.

Too late Napoleon realised what was happening. He threw his forces against the left flank but Wellington countered the attack with devastating effect. In a last desperate struggle, Napoleon called upon his beloved Imperial Old Guard but, for the first time in its history, the Guard broke and the whole French army, or what was left of it, headed by the Emperor, retreated. It had been as Wellington observed, “A near run thing.” Figure 9 shows a plaque of Hougoumont recognizing the role of the Coldstream Guards at that location in the Battle of Waterloo.

Figure 9. Plaque at Hougoumont honoring the Coldstream Guards for their role in carrying the day at the Battle of Waterloo by holding firm at Hougoumont.The inscription (in English above and French below) reads as follows:

“In memory of the officers and men of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, who while defending Hougoumont Farm successfully held this south gate from successive attacks throughout 18th June 1815.” 

Photo provided by Anne Grimshaw.

The Battle of Waterloo had lasted a few hours but those hours changed the lives of everyone on the field of battle and many on the home front. They also changed the course of European history.

Four days later, Napoleon abdicated for the second time and was once more in exile. Meanwhile, the Allies established an Army of Occupation in France.

The French casualties numbered about 37,000, the Prussians 7,000 and the British 13,000.

F. What Happened After Waterloo?

The following day, 19 June, John would, no doubt, have been nursing the wounds to his jaw and hip. It is not known whether he was ‘walking wounded’ or so badly injured that he would have had to be carried to the makeshift hospitals in the St. Jean area north of the battlefield on the Brussels road. Either way, he was never to fight again and, it seems, judging from the muster rolls, returned to England to recuperate.

However, early on 19 June the Coldstream Guards left Hougoumont to go to Nivelles arriving in Binche the following day and two days later at Malplaquet—the site of one of Marlborough’s greatest victories over the French, just over a century before in 1709.

On 25 June they arrived at Le Cateau and from there to encampment in the Bois de Boulogne on the outskirts of Paris where they remained as troops of occupation.

In John’s native county of Lancashire, the local newspaper, the Preston Chronicle of 24 June 1815, reported the “Great and glorious victory” of the battle of Waterloo. Muted sub-headings, closely packed type and, of course, no pictures, was the way the citizens of Preston and surrounding areas, including John’s home village of Church, learned of the defeat of Napoleon in which at least one ‘local hero’, John Grimshaw, had played his part. He, of course, remained unnamed.

The next issue, Saturday 1 July 1815 (i.e. two weeks after the battle) reported under the sub-headline ‘Foreign Intelligence’ in one-and-a-half columns “the Battle of Mount St Jean, otherwise called the battle of Waterloo” as taken from the French newspapers!

Early July saw the creation of ‘Waterloo men’ and two years’ service added for an increase in pay and pension when discharged. This was put into operation 5 August—this was a remarkably quick piece of legislation and administration.

At the end of that month ‘small books’ were introduced “to show the state of each man’s accounts, to be regularly and correctly made up to the 24th of each month and to oblige the men to keep their small books in their own possession, and in good order” (Ross of Bladenburg). Where is John’s now? Sadly, it was probably thrown away many years ago.

On 9 November the Coldstream Guards in France were reinforced by 204 men from England.

On 20 November Treaty of Paris was signed which resulted in the allied occupation of France with the British Corps HQ at Cambrai.

While in France the health of the troops was good with only forty-three Coldstream men sick. One of the main illnesses was opthalmia.

In view of John Grimshaw having been wounded at Waterloo and not knowing the severity of his wounds, it is difficult to establish exactly where he was immediately after Waterloo. He may have recovered sufficiently to rejoin his regiment which formed part of the army of occupation in Paris. However, as his name now appears in the company of Lt Col William Raikes, it can perhaps be deduced that John had returned to England to recover from his wounds and was transferred from the Light Company under Lt. Col John Walpole, to another company.

Now that the threat from Napoleon had disappeared, the regular army was reduced by 50,000. Sixty men in total were unfit for service in the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards; fifteen of the most unserviceable men from each of the four companies were sent back to England on 23 April 1816. (Whether this meant they were unfit for any form or army service of whether they were temporarily unfit for foreign service, is not clear.) Was John Grimshaw amongst these? Was he even admitted to the newly established regimental hospital in Rochester Row, London, or, as in previous times, tended in his own quarters? (The lease on this hospital had been secured by Col. The Hon. Henry Brand, John’s CO at Waterloo and later to become Lord Dacre.) Despite his being wounded, John is never noted as a casualty on the muster rolls although he appears as ‘Sick’ on a muster roll of 1816 and 1817.

As he remained in the Coldstream Guards for three and a half years after Waterloo, it would appear that he was considered to be of some ‘use’.

The muster roll of December 1815 – June 1816 (PRO WO 12/1713) shows John now in Lt. Col. William H. Raikes’ company ‘On duty’ (Westminster) and one of only ten Waterloo Men in that company. John was to remain in Raikes’ company until discharged as unfit and ‘surplus to requirements’ in December 1818.

In January 1816, Eagles captured at Waterloo were “deposited with solemnity” in the Chapel Royal, Whitehall. Twenty-three privates from the Coldstream Guards were in attendance. Was John Grimshaw one of them?

At the end of January, the Coldstream Guards were the last to leave Paris to march to Cambrai. The Battalion was billeted at each stop in various villages en route (Senlis and Peronne to Cambrai) and on 6 February arrived at Cambrai. The Light Company, of which John had been a member at the battle of Waterloo, occupied village of Villers Glishain under the command of Lt-Col. Dawkins.

By 1817, the war with France over by eighteen months, the army turned its attention to the soldiers’ well-being. The supply of soldiers’ ‘necessaries’ had never been satisfactory and so the Commanding Officer established stores where men could buy articles of good quality at reasonable, fixed prices. This was set up on January 1817 January and all the men’s ‘necessaries’ were to be bought only from there. This was enforced in the 2nd Battalion then based at Cambrai on 9 February.

The government also granted to soldiers the privilege of sending their letters by post at the very cheap rate of 1d. Although now based in London, did John write letters home? (Perhaps there was little point as his sister, Sally, and her new husband, Thomas Pollard, were barely illiterate.)

No doubt John would have been pleased to know that, while in France, the conduct of the Coldstream Guards was good despite “vexatious police regulations” and some scuffles with French soldiers. The Guards’ “temperate conduct” was praised.

Occupation of French territory lasted until November 1818 during which time the troops were kept actively employed on military duties including reviews and manoeuvers such as that on 23 October 1816:

“The Light Companies of the Brigade and the three leading companies of the Coldstream marched yesterday through the village of Denain in a soldierlike and exemplary manner. The rest of the Brigade did anything but follow their example” (Supplementary Despatches xi 522)

On 23 November 1818 the Coldstream Guards left their base at Cambrai to sail home from Calais (after the main body of troops). Perhaps diplomatically, they avoided large towns and centres of French patriotism.

After disembarking at Dover, they marched to Chatham arriving on 28 November. In December, the 2nd Battalion returned from Cambrai and 200 men were “dispensed with”. Did this number include John Grimshaw who had returned to England earlier? (Ross-of-Bladenburg, 1896.)

John’s War Wounds

During his foreign service John Grimshaw was wounded twice. First during the campaign in the Low Countries in the attack on the town of Bergen op Zoom on 9/10 March 1814, when he was wounded in the right arm and left leg and, fifteen months later, in the jaw and hip at the battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815).

According to Major (Retired) Pete H. Starling of the Royal Army Medical Corps, John’s wounds would have been inflicted:

“…by musket ball, sword, lance or shell. He would have been initially treated by the assistant surgeon of the battalion who would have bandaged the wound and possibly given stimulants. Once the battle was over he would have tried to make his own way or he was carried, possibly by a drummer or comrade, to the dressing stations grouped together at Mount St Jean. There the wound would have been explored by the surgeon and any musket ball removed. There were no dedicated ambulances at that time so farm carts were used to carry the wounded.

The casualties were then evacuated to Brussels where five large hospitals were used for the treatment of them.

During the fighting at Bergen op Zoom the hospital was located at Williamstadt and ships in the harbour were also used. Eventually, because of the large number of sick soldiers, plus the wounded, a third of the town was taken over for the casualties.”

John’s wounds to his right arm and left leg at Bergen op Zoom in March 1814 would appear to have been flesh wounds or perhaps simple fractures. A musket ball could have been dug out with a probe or special forceps if it had not smashed the bone and caught the main artery. Case shot, debris, even bits of bone (someone else’s not John’s) could have been winkled out by the finger of a dextrous surgeon. The missile might even have gone right through the flesh and come out the other side. Whatever the nature of John’s limb wounds they did not, fortunately, result in amputation or even the ability to hold a penfor he was able to sign his discharge papers. If they had, he would at least have had the compensation of a visible badge of courage: a wooden leg or an empty sleeve.

John had obviously recovered sufficiently to maintain his place in the muster rolls of the first half of 1814 for he was not recorded under in the column reserved for ‘Casuals’, ‘Deserted’ or ‘Dead’.

His wounds to the jaw and hip at Waterloo also warranted no mention in the ‘Casuals’ column of the six monthly muster roll after Waterloo (June 1815) where John is listed as ‘On duty’. As he remained in the army three and a half more years, it would appear that his wounds were not sufficiently severe that he was immediately unfit for service although on his discharge in December 1818, the reason for discharge is given as “Bad health” and his wounds are cited.

On returning to England, at this time, early 1800s, the roads were poor and it was often quicker and more comfortable to undertake long journeys by water, either canal or sea.

How did John return home to Church? Would he have splashed out some of the money owed to him on leaving the army in London on the fare for a stagecoach, taken boats on the Grand Union and the Leeds-Liverpool Canals or paid a carrier a few pence here and there, hitched a lift now and again and walked when he had no option? Would his leg wound have allowed him to do the latter? Would anyone have fancied giving a lift to a man with perhaps a disfigured face whose jaw wound perhaps had made speech and eating difficult?

However he made the journey home he would have ensured that his pension document and discharge papers were safe. He would need them to claim his army pension when he got home. They were his ‘passport’, ‘social security’ form and identity card all rolled into one.

Discharge and Pension

Private John Grimshaw was discharged from the Coldstream Guards (or 2nd Foot Guards as the regiment was usually referred to in the Chelsea Pensioners’ documents) on 14 December 1818. Having been a regular soldier, a veteran of the Peninsula, the Low Countries and Waterloo, and having been wounded, he was entitled to a pension. Army pensions were administered by the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, not only of the old soldiers who lived there—Pensioners—but out-pensioners like John Grimshaw. Figure 10 shows a copy of John’s discharge paper.

Figure 10. John Grimshaw’s discharge paper from the Coldstream Guards 14 December 1818. Source: PRO WO/97/174. Crown Copyright Public Record Office. Provided by Anne Grimshaw

Out-pensions records from the Royal Hospital Chelsea Regimental Registers (PRO WO 120/22) show John aged 31 when he was discharged after 12 years 2 months’ service plus two years for Waterloo making a total of 14 years 2 months. Records simply state he was wounded in jaw and hip, right arm and left leg, came from Church, Blackburn, Lancashire and had been a weaver.

He would have had to appear before a board to be assessed as to how much pension he would receive—9d per day. (A note by his name shows: “Payed increase B811447” but the handwriting is not clear.)

When discharged on grounds of poor health with a disability, John would have been given a parchment certificate from the Royal Hospital Chelsea that he would have taken with him back to Church. This served as his ‘address’ and was the name of the place on this document from where he could claim his pension. He would have presented it to the local magistrates or revenue officers and have sworn an oath that he was John Grimshaw. The magistrates or revenue officers would then have authorised payment of his pension probably on a monthly basis. They were the officials designated to pay out pensions and record the payments that were then returned to Chelsea. John would have kept this parchment document as proof of his identity and that he was entitled to a pension. This, and his Waterloo medal, would probably have whipped up sympathy for ‘an old soldier’ and hence worthy of a free beer or two!

He would also have to report each year with his papers, which would have had his description and his signature in order to keep claiming his pension—which could go up or down.

Return to Civilian Life

John Grimshaw’s life in Lancashire after his discharge from the Coldstream Guards is described in some detail in a companion webpage. Included in this description are the following topics:

When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again


Phoebe Tomlinson

Silk Weaver


Thomas Pollard

John Grimshaw’s Death

John Grimshaw died on 17 August 1851 aged 61. In those six decades his home village of Church had changed enormously from a remote, hamlet of 300-400 people to a large rapidly industrialising village that merged into Oswaldtwistle to the south. It was embracing the technology of the Industrial Revolution and, in turn, the benefits that grew from it, especially for the rising middle classes who formed a significant part of one local newspaper’s readership. The Preston Guardian (which sometimes carried news of Church and other outlying areas) was now full of advertisements from commerical companies for products such as Holloways’ Ointment, Dr Bardsley’s antibilious pills, Parr’s Life Pills and old Dr Jacob Townsend’s United States sasparilla that “purifies the blood”. But the big news was the railway and the benefits it could bring to ordinary, working people. It opened up doors as never before for travel for business and pleasure. There may have been doubters but railway mania was about to take off.

Technology was encroaching into every walk of life. There was more money available and enough even for working class people to contemplate saving as demonstrated by the advertisements from building societies. Public utilities were being established as seen by advertisements to tender for local waterworks. The growing middle classes were eager to better themselves and could do so by purchasing The family tutor and school companion. Enough people now had a house with more than one room and aspirations to gentility, hence advertisements for subscriptions to The parlour magazine. But some things are timeless: the Matrimonial Alliance Association advertised to bring lonely hearts together.

News headlines too had a depressingly familiar ring: “Awful depravity and death”, “Fatal colliery accident”, “Female duelling [in Spain]” and “Executions in America”. Human nature and its thirst for the lurid and sensational has not changed.

It was from this ‘world turned upside down’ that John Grimshaw departed having lived through rapidly changing times.

John’s army pension record stated that he was 68 but, according to his death certificate, he was 61. This information was provided by John’s brother-in-law and fellow Coldstream Guardsman, Thomas Pollard, and signed ‘X’—his mark. According to the 1851 census Thomas Pollard was a labourer living at 110 Henry Street, Church, with his wife, Sally, and two sons, Thomas aged 31, also a labourer, and James, aged 27, a joiner or piecer—an unskilled job of tying broken threads during spinning. (The handwriting is not clear.) A copy of the out pensions payment list showing a record of John’s date of death is presented in Figure 11.

Figure 11. Out-pensions payment list from Chelsea Hospital for the Preston area, 1841-54, showing John Grimshaw’s name and date of death (last entry). His pension was 9d (ninepence) per day. Source: PRO WO/22/91. Crown Copyright Public Record Office. Provided by Anne Grimshaw.

Thus it would appear that John’s death was witnessed and reported to the registrar by his brother-in-law. The cause of his death was stated as asthma although there was no medical attendant present at the death. Could ‘asthma’ really have been bysinosis—a lung disease that afflicted cotton workers? The symptoms of bysinosis could very well have been mistaken for the more familiar asthma.

John’s place of death was given as Red Shell, Oswaldtwistle. The 1851 census carried out some months before John’s death shows him living at White Croft, is in the Red Shell area. (It seems strange that there were two White Crofts within a few hundred yards of each other.) Figure 12 shows two views of White Croft.

Figure 12. Two views of White Croft, where John Grimshaw lived shortly before his death in 1851. Photos provided by Anne Grimshaw. (See Location 3 in Figure 1 above.)

The discrepancy between John’s age of death on his army records and the death certificate is probably an army mistake, perhaps handwriting had been unclear and a mistake perpetuated. It is very likely that his brother-in-law, Thomas Pollard, three years older than John, not to mention John’s sister, Sally (Thomas’ wife) would have known John’s age, or at least been more accurate than the army’s record which was seven years adrift. It is also likely that Thomas Pollard attended John’s funeral on 21 August 1851 at Immanuel Church, New Lane, Oswaldtwistle, at the foot of the moor where he had lived for over a decade. John was buried by the curate H. Stowe. He lies, apparently, in an unmarked grave for there is no record of a tombstone in the list of monumental inscriptions published by the Lancashire Family History Society. A picture of Immanuel Church is shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13. Immanuel Church, New Lane, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire. John is apparently buried here in an unmarked and unrecorded grave. Photo provided by Anne Grimshaw. (See Location 5 in Figure 1 above.)


Anne Grimshaw has provided the following references associated with her research for John Grimshaw:

Baines, Edward. History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain. 1935

Casson, Robert. A few Furness worthies. 1889

Dalton, Charles. The Waterloo roll call. London, Arms and Armour Press, 1971. 85368 057 4 (First edition 1890)

Derry, T.K. and Jarman, T.L. Modern Britain: life and work through two centuries of change. John Murray, 1979. 0 7195 3546 8

Douglas, John (former sergeant, 1st Royal Scots). Douglass tale of the Peninsula and Waterloo. Ed. Stanley Monick. London, Leo Cooper, 1997. 0 85052 5665 9

Farish, William. Autobiography of William Farish: the struggles of a hand-loom weaver. Caliban Books, 1996

Fletcher, Ian and Younghusband, William. Wellingtons Foot Guards (Elite series). Oxford, Osprey Military, 1994. 1 85532 392 3

Fosten, Bryan. Wellingtons infantry (1). London, Osprey, 1981. 0 85045 395 X

Christy, Geraldine, ed. The Guards: Changing of the Guard—Trooping the Colour—The Regiments. Rev. ed. Pitkin Pictorials, 1990 0 853372 476 8

Guest, Richard. History of cotton manufacture. London, 1823

Hogg, David. History of Church and Oswaldtwistle 1760-1860. Accrington and District Local History Society, 1971.

Howarth, David. Waterloo: a guide to the battlefield. Andover, Pitkin, 1992. 0 85372 2944 3

Howarth, David. Waterloo: a near run thing. Windrush Press, 1999, originally 1968. 1 900624 028

Livesey, Joseph. The Editors Autobiography, The staunch teetotaler, January, 1868. no.13.p.197.

MacKinnon, Daniel. Origin and services of the Coldstream Guards. Vol. II. London, Richard Bentley, 1833.

Marker, R.J. Record of the Coldstream Guards: part 1 1650-1907. London, Vacher, 1923

Marsden, Robert. Cotton weaving: its development, principles and practice. London, 1895. p.321

Mills, John. For King and country: the letters and diaries of John Mills, Coldstream Guards 1811-14. Staplehurt, Spellmount 1995 1 8733376 22 7

Pericoli, Ugo. 1815: the armies at Waterloo. London, Sphere Books, 1973.

Pigots Trade Directory 1834 Seaham, Co. Durham

Rothwell, Michael. Industrial heritage: a guide to the industrial archaeology of Church. Hyndburn Local History Society, 1980

Ross-of-Bladenburg, Lt-Col. History of the Coldstream Guards from 1815-1895. London, A.D. Innes, 1896

Rothwell, Michael. Industrial Archaeology of Church and Oswaldtwistle

Rule, John. The Labouring Classes in Early Industrial England. London, Longman, 1986. pp. 143-150.

Stadden, Charles. Coldstream Guards: dress and appointments 1658-1972. London, Almark Publications, 1973. 0 85555244 1101

Stothert, William. A narrative of the principal events of the campaigns of 1809, 1810 and 1811, in Spain and Portugal; interspersed with remarks on local scenery and manners. London, 1812.

Timmins, G. Last shift: decline of hand-loom weaving in nineteenth century Lancashire. Manchester University Press, 1993

Timmins, J.G. Hand-loom weavers cottages in Central Lancashire. Occasional paper 3. Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster, 1977

Turner, William. Riot! The story of the East Lancashire loom-breakers in 1826. Preston, Lancashire County Books, 1992. 1 871236 17 7

Woodman, Richard. Victory of sea power: winning the Napoleonic war 1806-1814. Chatham Publications, 1998

Wooten, Geoffrey. Waterloo 1815: the birth of modern Europe. (Campaign series) Oxford, Osprey Military, , 1992. 1 85532 210 2

More Detail on the Coldstream Guards

Additional background and details on the Coldstream Guards is provided on a companion webpage for those who are now familiar with English history, customs and military traditions. Included in that webpage are the following topics:


Where is Coldstream Located?

“Second to None”

Colours And Customs

History Of The Coldstream Guards

The Coldstream Guards Today

Additional References and Resources for This Webpage

Anne Grimshaw provides the following acknowledgements for information that appears on this webpage.

Accrington Public Library Local Studies

Catherine Duckworth for details of history and geography of Church kirk, maps, census returns, information about Braddyll landowners, etc.

Accrington Register Office

John Grimshaws death certificate.

Barrow Record Office

Aidan Jones, area archivist, for information about Thomas Braddyll and Conishead Priory

Blackburn Register Office

Thomas Pollards death certificate

Jack Broderick

For checking monumental inscriptions of St James, Church

Bridget Andrews

Correspondence and e-mails providing information obtained from Ian Fletcher about John Grimshaws General Service Medal (sold at Spinks in 1973) and the clasps awarded for service in the Peninsula Campaign: Busaco, Fuentes dOnoro, Cuidad Rodrigo and Salamanca.

British Library Newspaper Library, Colindale, London

Coldstream Guards, Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London

Archivist Maj. J. Louch stated that there were no documents or information relating to John Grimshaw and Thomas Pollard as they enlisted and was discharged before individual numbers were assigned to soldiers and all early records have been transferred to the Public Record Office. Other information provided about Lt. Col. Thomas Braddyll.

Debbie Goldsmith and John Litchfield

Information by e-mail and photograph of Coldstream Guards re-enactors

Alan Harrison

For information by correspondence about detailed records kept by John Biddle, a Sergeant in the Light Company, 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, who maintained lists of the men, weapons and clothing in the company at the time of Waterloo. Details of service and General Service Medals awarded to Thomas Pollard and much other information.

International Genealogical Index (IGI)

On Internet for parents/family details of Grimshaws, Pollards and Tomlinsons of Church and Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire.

Rod Jones

For help in the field: driving me around, going to record offices, correspondence, etc.

John Joynson

Historian of the Coldstream Guards for information on medals.

Lancashire County Record Office

Parish registers, maps.

Lancashire Virtual Gateway (Internet)

Dennis Ainsworth for information about Thomas Braddyll

Lancaster Castle

Lynnette Morrissey for details of trials and prison conditions.

National Army Museum

Nothing in this collection relating specifically to John Grimshaw but useful background material in the library and exhibits, especially the Road to Waterloo gallery. Also information supllied about firelocks and muskets. K.R. Miller, Weapons, Equipment and vehicles, and Michael Ball, Librarian

Oswaldtwistle Mills

Museum and visitor centre with its Time Tunnel exhibits. Information on the local area, textile industry and loom-breaking riots

Public Record Office

Assistance from William Spencer. Coldstream Guards discharge papers of John Grimshaw (WO 97/174) and Thomas Pollard (WO 97/200) obtained via computer database in Microfilm Room

Six-monthly muster rolls of Coldstream Guards in which John Grimshaw served from 1806/7 to 1818 (WO 12/1706-1715)

Waterloo Roll (WO 100/14) shows John Grimshaw in Lt. Col. J. Walpoles Company (Light Company)

Register of Out-Pensioners with Disabilities (Examination of Invalid Soldiers) Chelsea (WO 116/28)

Regimental Registers of Pensioners—Chelsea out-pensions—(WO 120/22)

Out-Pensions payment list from Chelsea (WO 22/91) for the Preston area 1842-54 (showing John Grimshaws name and date of death)

Map of Bergen op Zoom showing plan of attack 10 March 1814 (WO 78/2726)

[Campaign medals for Peninsular War 1793-1814 WO 100/3 or 5. These relate to 1st Foot and 3rd Foot Guards and officers only. No mention of 2nd Foot Guards.]

Regimental records Vol.1 1803-81 Cavalry and Foot Guards (WO 380/2)

Documents relating to the loom-breaking riots 1826: (PL 27/10), Crown Minute Books (PL 28/5) and HO 27/31

Adrian Roads

Information via e-mail about muskets.

Royal Armouries, Leeds

Information about firelocks and muskets from Martin Pegler.

Royal Army Medical Corps, Keogh Barracks, Ash Vale, Aldershot

Information relating to wounds and medical treatment provided by Maj. (retd.) Pete H. Starling RAMC

Royal Hospital Chelsea

Several telephone conversations with the archivist, Martin Ford, established that John Grimshaw had never been a Chelsea Pensioner, i.e. lived at the Chelsea Hospital, but gave much useful information regarding army life, administrative procedures and such like during the early nineteenth century.

Spinks medal dealers, London

Reply to my enquiry as to whether they have any records of the sale of John Grimshaws General Service Medal in 1973 and his Waterloo Medal. No records kept that far back—suggest trying a search notice in Medal news (March/June 2000).

William Turner

Author of Riot! (see Bibliography)and of further information by correspondence relating to the loom-breakers and riots of 1826.

Webpage History

Webpage posted February 2001, updated March 2001. Banner replaced April 2011.