[IMAGE: Stuart Lilie, Historic Saddler]

WAR OF 1812

 Contact Us:
        Stuart Lilie, Saddler
        130 Mansfield Rd.
        Ashford, CT 06278
       (860) 208 3111
Products - Horse Furniture

Scots Greys Housing and Holster Caps

[IMAGE: Scots Greys Housing, detail of corner embroidery]
The Housings and Holster Caps to be of the Colour of the facing of the Regiment, laced with one broad white or yellow worsed or mohair lace with a stripe in the middle of one third of the whole breadth, as hereafter specified: the Rank of the Regiment on the Housings upon a red ground as on he Second Guidon or Standard: The King's Cypher, with the Crown over it, to be embroidered on the Holster Caps, and under the cypher the number of the rank of the Regiment.
Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751

Housings and holster caps, like these for the Scots Greys, served to identify the regiments and rank of a dragoon or horse trooper. Through the first half of the 18th century, enlisted horse furniture gradually became less elaborate, going from being entirely embroidered, to laced with only an embroidered cypher and regimental badge. The 1751 regulations quite succinctly spell out the details for British heavy cavalry during the Seven Years war. Combined with the details of the Morier paintings and an original housing from the 1st Dragoons, there is a lot of information about the details of enlisted horse furniture for this period. While horse furniture may seem impractical to modern researchers of cavalry, it was vital in the period. Dragoons spent very little of their time actually on campaign. Most of their time was spent as police, enforcing customs duties, patrolling roads for highwaymen, and performing riot and crowd control. Clubs were only issued at the turn of the 19th century, prior dragoons had to have the discretion to use the flat of their sword blades to pacify a rioting crown. In fact the 17th Light Dragoons were specifically posted to Boston in 1775 due to their extensive experience with crowd control in London. Performing this government business, it was essential that dragoons display the authority they had to enforce the law. In the 18th century this wasn't just expressed in writing, but also through the material wealth displayed. An enlisted dragoon's horse furniture cost more than all the rest of his saddlery combined, and everyone around would have known it. Housing lace, was woven in the same manner as drummer's or liveree lace; it was actually an uncut velvet and quite expensive in the period. The mohair embroidery on the housing and caps would have said the rest.

I get hand woven, looped pile housing lace for my reproduction of these housings and holster caps. I hand-embroider the cypher and regimental badge both on Kochin-Phillips broadcloth. The backing for both the holster caps is done based on originals, stiffened up to give the appropriate drape shown in the Morier paintings. Later patterns based on the 1768 Warrant and for light dragoons are available too. Unpopular through the 1780's and 1790's, housings and holster caps were officially abolished in 1796. However, they come right back for parades and civilian police duties by the 1810's.
[IMAGE: Scots Greys Housing] [IMAGE: Scots Greys Housing, detail of corner embroidery] [IMAGE: Scots Greys Housing, detail of lace]
Scots Greys Housing: $950
Scots Greys Holster Caps (not pictured): $690
1750-1800 Officer's and Civilian Housing and Holster Caps

[IMAGE: Buff Plush Officer's Housing on Horse]
The Housings and Holster Caps of the Officers to be of the colour of the facing of the Regiment, laced with one gold or silver lace, and a Stripe of velvet, in the middle of the colour of that on the Men's.
Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751 For Cavalry Officers

...the Majors and Adjutants of infantry are to wear an uniform horse furniture, which is to be of cloth the colour of the facings of their respective regiments and laced with gold or silver, as the officers claothes are laced. The Majors to have two laces and a tassle on their housings and caps, the Adjutants to have no tassel.
the Duke of Cumberland, 1752 from A History of the Uniforms of the British Army by Cecil C. P. Lawson.

The horse furniture used by officers was also pretty well spelled out by regulation. Officer's horse furniture tends to be variations on these themes in terms of lace patterns, embroidery, and fringe, but the overall silhouette was very consistent. Just as the enlisted horse furniture identified the rank and regiment of a dragoon or horse trooper and just as officer's clothing was of a higher quality than enlisted clothing, so too was their horse furniture. Beyond superfine and doeskin woolens, velvets, plushes, and mohair shags show up commonly in officer's horse furniture.
While they were very popular in the latter half of the 17th century, civilian housings and holster caps were old-fashioned in in much of the hunting set by the 18th century. Small saddle cloths or just plain saddles were preferred by many wealthy gentlemen for racing or fox hunting. Indeed, most images of British officer's saddlery by the 1760's shows just a plain hunting saddle, with nothing more than a white saddle cloth. However, neat and plain civilian housings do appear in portraits with the very traditional form of one row of silver or gold lace, and one row of silk or worsted fringe. There were some regional variations in this aspect of horse furniture. Virginia, which carried on alot of 17th century equestrian traditions, shows a tremendous number of saddle housings made by saddlers like Alexander Craig for all the notable gentlemen and even the elite mechanics of Williamsburg. Housings also tend to be associated with travelling. They seem to frequently be purchased along with cruppers, pillions, and portmantles. Displaying one's status in an unfamiliar town could be very handy. Another odd excpetion were the military forces of the East India Company. The images of horse funiture from East India officers both in country and even after thier return to England, are uniformly elaborate, ornate, and often very old fashioned. For British and American officers there was a lot of interplay and overlap of these competing notions and customs of horse furniture. I hand-stitch all my reproduction horse furniture with the best reproduction metallic laces and cloths available. The standard neat and plain civilian and officers styles are available at the set price. Call for a quote for details like embroidery, or for help sorting out what horse furniture is appropriate for your given impression.
[IMAGE: Buff Plush Officer's Housing] [IMAGE: Green Plush 1750's Officer's Housing on a horse]
Officer's Housing (without embroidery): $438
Officer's Holster Caps (without embroidery): $260
Please inquire for embroidery pricing
[IMAGE: Green Wool 1770's Civilian Housing with Holster Caps] [IMAGE: Green Wool 1770's Civilian Housing]
Civilian Housing (without embroidery): $438
Civilian Holster Caps (without embroidery): $260
Please inquire for embroidery pricing
Continental Light Dragoon Housing and Holster Caps

[IMAGE: Philadelphia Light Horse Housing and Holster Caps]
American Light Dragoon Housings and Holster caps are known for a couple of the regiments. The Charles Wilson Peale portrait of Washington after Trenton features a good detail of two dragoons of the Philadelphia light horse, with their brown holster caps and housings trimmed in white lace. The 1776 Regulations for the 1st Continental Light dragoons specify brown leather holster caps with a "1" painted on them. Both DeVerger watercolors of continental light dragoons show holster caps and one shows a blue housing edged in white or silver. Given the supply problems the Continental Army faced, it's unlikely that this horse furniture was ever as elaborate as its British equivalents. Proper housing lace and embroidery, both were expensive luxuries when cloth for uniforms was a higher priority. None the less, worsted tapes and braids were appropriate for this horse furniture. All the horse furniture I make is hand-stitched, properly lined and backed as per originals. Please call for what housings and holster caps are appropriate for your impression, based on which regiment and time period during the war.
[IMAGE: Philadelphia Light Horse Housing] [IMAGE: Philadelphia Light Horse Holster Caps]
Continental Light Dragoon Housing: $370
Continental Light Dragoon Holster Caps: $225
Napoleonic French Officer's Housing

[IMAGE: Napoleonic French Officer's Housing]
This particular Napoleonic French Officer's Housing is for a general officer. Despite regulations, they varied from crimson to scarlet in color. This one is made to copy Napoleon's field housing, which shows up as scarlet. It is made with scarlet mohair plush, a velvet made of worsted wool that is practically indestructible. Its dimensions are taken from the 1786 regulations, with the simple geometry typical of French horse furniture after the French Revolution: the curves and rounded shapes of the 18th century weren't neo-classical enough for fashion. These large housings actually wrap around the saddle, between the skirt and the panel, rather than riding under the saddle like a modern saddle pad. This housing is all hand-stitched, right down to the horse hair backing, and ticking lining. Housings for other ranks and regiments are available too.
[IMAGE: Napoleonic French Officer's Housing Front Edge] [IMAGE: Napoleonic French Officer's Housing- Lace Detail]
Napoleonic French Officer's Housing: $776
Civilian Saddle Cloth

[IMAGE: Civilian Saddle Cloth]
Civilian saddle cloths during the 18th and early 19th century didn't actually pad the saddle, they simply helped keep the panel clean. Often they were made in a particular gentleman's racing colors, or the colors of a particular hunt, some were simply some white wool cloth folded up under the saddle. All the original laced or colored ones, for racing or hunting, were actually coarsely stitched to the cloth covered panel of the saddle to keep them in place. When they needed to be cleaned the stitching was simply cut. These stayed very popular in America into the 19th century and periodically show up in militia service. The exact popularity of housings versus saddle cloths seems to vary regionally during this period. For instance, New York state militia, at the start of the 19th cenury, shows up primarily with housings, while the Maryland militia shows up almost exclusively with saddle cloths bearing regimental and rank markings. Civilian and militia saddle cloths for the 18th and early 19th century are available. The listed price is for 18th century civilian saddle cloth, there may be additional charges for others.
18th Century Civilian Saddle Cloth: $197.25
1850's Housing

[IMAGE: 1850's Housing on Horse]
As anachronistic as it seams, housings actually stayed popoular in the US right through the civil war. They show up in images of civilian saddlery through the 1860s. Many surviving antebellum saddles have the unmistakable small billets to accept housing buckles. They're illustrated in the 1834, and mentioned in the 1841 ordanance manuals. Even the General Barksdale saddle from the civil war has a saddle housing, though by the Civil War, some saddle housings were whip stitched to the saddle pannel like a saddle cloth. This particular saddle housing comes from an original that survived along with an almost complete set of 1850's saddlery. The painted cloth backing, and coarse kersey are tyical of mid-19th century textiles. My reproduction is copied by hand, stitch for stitch with the original. Other copies of mid-19th century housings will be coming soon.
[IMAGE: 1850's housing next to the originial] [IMAGE: 1850's Housing next to the original, underside view] [IMAGE: 1850's Housing, detail of how it attaches to the saddle]
1850's Housing: inquire for pricing
Lauzun's Legion Shabraque

[IMAGE: Lauzun's Legion Shabraque]
While sheepskin shabraques were standard for the Hussars in the regular French army by the 1776 regulations, the very conservative regulations of the Voluntaires Etranger de la Marine and later Lauzun's Legion specified cloth shabraques as had been standard with previous regulations. Yet again, the 1770's was a transition period in French hussar saddlery. My hand-stitched reproduction of the shabraque follows the 1778 Voluntaires Etranger regulations to the letter. It has all the slits for the baggage straps and carbine straps, that other reproduction shabraques miss. Later patterns are available, but may cost more due to additional lace, leather reinforcements, sheepskin seats or other later features.
Lauzun's Legion Shabraque: $391