In 1859 an Italian revolutionary, Felice Orsini, attempted to assassinate the French Emperor Napoleon III in Paris by throwing a bomb. Orsini's bomb was made in Britain, and he had received other help from the British. Following the assassination attempt the British Government became concerned that with most of its small Regular Army abroad policing the Empire that we were at risk of invasion from France due to rising tensions and Orsini's apparent links to Britain. The Lord Lieutenants of every county were instructed to raise bodies of rifle volunteers in order to have a defence force that would be able to repel any invasion. The Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire (who was also the Lord Lieutenant of the City of Bristol) immediately commissioned the raising of a Volunteer Rifle Corps. In a follow up instruction Lord Lieutenants of maritime counties were also instructed to form Volunteer Artillery Corps. In Bristol, Major Henry Bouchier Osborne Savile, a former Regular Army officer, son of an MP, was tasked with raising the Gloucestershire Volunteer Artillery Corps to be based in the city. Thus started the history of the GVA which continues to this day.

The Society of Merchant Venturers in Bristol, of whom many have served in the GVA over the last 150 plus years, provided the land in Whiteladies Road, Clifton, on which premises to house the GVA were built. The GVA has occupied this location continuously from 1859 to the present, it is called 'The Artillery Grounds.'

At first the Volunteer Artillery Corps was the financial responsibility of the County and City of Bristol, being independent of the War Office. The defence reforms of the late 19th century and the early 20th century (particularly the Haldane Reforms of 1907) led to all Volunteer, Yeomanry, and Militia forces in the UK to become the responsibility of the War Office, though committed to defence of the UK, allowing the Regular Army to defend the Empire and form an expeditionary force in time of war in Europe.

The following are links to documents that will give you more detail on the early days of the GVA.


Note on the Formation of the GVA 1859.pdf Note on the Formation of the GVA 1859.pdf
Size : 484.275 Kb
Type : pdf
Contemporary Officer Biographies.pages.pdf Contemporary Officer Biographies.pages.pdf
Size : 7204.107 Kb
Type : pdf
Fund Raising.pdf Fund Raising.pdf
Size : 681.951 Kb
Type : pdf
Clevedon Pier Opening.pdf Clevedon Pier Opening.pdf
Size : 32.298 Kb
Type : pdf
1 Historical Records 1859-1914.pdf 1 Historical Records 1859-1914.pdf
Size : 3736.187 Kb
Type : pdf