The outbreak of hostilities with the French Republicans after the Revolution left Great Britain feeling unprepared for a possible invasion.
Lord Grenville, as Foreign Secretary, stated that ‘If the country is to be saved, the work must not be left in the hands of the government, but everyman must put his shoulder to it according to his rank and situation in life, or it will not be done’
An act was passed limited to the duration of the war authorising the raising of Volunteer corps and companies for the defence of the counties, towns and coasts, or in case of necessity, for the general defence of the kingdom.
Most corps served without pay. Some received clothing or cash allowances from the government.
Judging by the below barber’s bill, found in the Wallingford box of the Topographical Collections at the Society of Genealogists, the 1799 volunteer corps of Wallingford, Oxford received free haircuts too.