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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lincolnshire > History > Local History > What is a Yellowbelly?

A man's yellowbelly

A man's yellowbelly

What is a Yellowbelly?

For years, anyone born and bred in the county of Lincolnshire has been known as a Yellowbelly. Here are some of the mythical explanations why.

If there's one thing you can say about true yellowbellies, it's that they're an argumentative lot. The easiest way to prove this is to ask them where the name 'yellowbelly' came from.

Chances are every single person you ask will have a slightly different version of events. So here for your enlightenment and delight are a few of the most common stories.

The Royal North Lincolnshire Militia

The building on Burton Road, Lincoln that is now home to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life was once the barracks of the Royal North Lincolnshire Militia. The officers of this regiment would wear bright yellow waistcoats on the battlefield. This made it easier for their men to spot them (let's overlook the fact that it also made them rather obvious targets...), and also earned them the name Lincolnshire Yellowbellies. 

Newts and frogs

There is, apparently a breed of newt common to the fens that has a bright yellow underside. So now you know.

Should you not be very partial to newts, Marion Christy who is a yellowbelly herself, was always told that it was frogs that had the yellow bellies and were rather partial to the damp conditions of the undrained fens.


During summer the farmers would often work without their shirts on (the saucy devils). As they tended the fields they would be bent over, and get a lovely suntan on their back. Their fronts however would be in the shadows the whole time and so would stay white. The reflection of the corn is said to have given a yellow hue to their bellies.

Mail Coach 

The mail coach that ran from Lincoln to London had a yellow undercarriage. Upon it's arrival in London it is said that the locals would call out "Here comes the Lincolnshire yellowbelly". Geoffrey Alan Wildman assures us that this is the real reason, although he tells me that the coach went from Lincoln to York.


The traditional breed of sheep in the county is the Lincoln Longwool. As the name suggests, it's fleece was, well, long. It looked rather like the sheep in question had a bad perm.

These sheep would often graze in the fields of mustard that were once a common sight around Lincolnshire. As their shaggy coat dragged along the ground it would pick up pollen from the mustard flowers and give them, you've guessed it, a yellow belly.

last updated: 10/04/2008 at 10:48
created: 24/08/2005

Have Your Say

Do you know of another origin for the term 'Yellowbelly'? Let us know using the form below.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Lincolnshire yellow bellies rule

dicky blunt
the term yellow belly was used in the American war of independence. the lincs soldiers with their yellow vests had no stomach for battle and quite often turned and ran. hence the name yellow bellies

i think that lincoln people are not very friendly and that lincoln isnt the best place to live if you want some good shops

I'm a proud Yellowbelly
there are so many versions to the story of our heritage but to be perfectly true to myself I'm proud to come from Lincolnshire and lived here all my life and I really don't mind where our name came from because they are all just so great and all just as worthy of each other

Michael Bailey
I am Lincolnshire born and bred and I have always been led to believe the militia explanation.In response to Josie Mclernon, I don't dispute your claim but the Yellowbelly name has been around a hell of a lot longer than WW2. Surely your explanation could be put to anyone working the land at the time, Lincolnshire or not? My farming relatives were always highly respected because of the aid they gave to the war effort.

Louise Hickman
I was under the impression the term yellow belly came from the fact that farmers working in rape fields before modern machinery ended up with yellow fronts from bending over working.

Paul Waumsley
The term Yellowbelly derives it's origins from the War of the Roses period. The Lincolnshire uprising in 1470 against Edward IV lead by Sir Robert Welles, Sir Thomas de la Launde, Captain John Neille & Captain Richarde Warine, manufactured by the Earl of Warwick & the the kings brother Clarence. The livery colours of the Lincolnshire force were Yellow, the term Yellowbellies derives from this as when the Kings army advanced the rebel army broke rank & fled the field throwing liveries away as they went, hence Lose coat fields at Tickencoat just outside Stamford. Also Bloody Oaks is where most of these men were hung & left to rot, the second most bloody encounter of that period after the battle Towton (Yorkshire). Before you all string me up, I'm a Yellowbelly & bloody proud of it, to you all a glass raised, to your health.


No matter what the reason is for Lincolnshire people getting their nick name.The Lincolnshire people are lovely people as I lived in Lincolnshire for over 5 yrs and miss the county and the people agreat deal

shirley giles
yellow bellies were derived from the marsh bug that was unearthed and gave all the workers a malaria type disease. Hence yellow belly The cure was opium, which was imported into the country, 3/4 of the opium imported into the country came up to this area, until they learnt to grow their own poppies. Even the babies were fed opium to keep them quiet.

Troy Porter grandfather from heckington told me the sheep out numbered the people 5-1 inh the ol days....hence yellow bellies ????

bhillaby hull
In the book the yanks and the yellowbellies, it is said the yellow breastplate worn by the lincolnshire yeomenry had the yellow breast plates.All my children are yellowbellies being born in LOUTH.

Virgina Lemon
I too being of sound mind and body belived it to be because Lincolnshire people were considered cowards when they didn't go to war! What would they call people who did go to war? Red bellies?! Chuckle.

Noel Herbert
I always understood that it came from the times when poachers in the Fen area slithered on their stomachs trying to catch wildfowel. This led to them getting a yellow stain on their bellies from the mud, thus the term 'Yellow Bellies'.

A genuine yellowbelly
I had always been led to believe that the term came from the high level of calcium in the water which led to a tendency to yellow teeth, but strong ones too. But mine are really white so maybe that's not true!!!

Andy Farmer
I was always lead to believe Yellow Belly refered to the fact Lincolnshires farming of the humble potato and its yellow flesh.


Chaz Scowen
I was always led to believe that the term yellowbelly came from a time much further back . My parents asserted that the yellowbellies were in the wars of the roses as the rank and file wore a simple yellow tabard or wainscot. At that time the yellowbellies were a respected fighting force and feared as such.

Trevor Young
I was born in Louth and My Mothers uncle Harry always said Yellow Belly came from when Louth was a wool trading port, the handlers loading the wool used aprons to protect them and these were stained by Lanolin from the wool which would age and turn yellow at the point of contact from carrying the bales which was The Belly !!
i was told that when a baby had it`s umbilical cord cut off,they put iodine on the wound to heal it,thus makeing them have a yellow belly

S Shields
During fighting in the Militia years, the soldiers used to like to cure their own pork, they stated it was ready when the bellies of the pig turned yellow, thus Lincolns became known as yellow bellies.

Josie Mclernon
I have just been reading your item on Lincolnshire Yellow bellies and some of the ideas as to where this term came from, which are very amusing, however, none of them are correct. My family is from Boston in Lincolnshire. My grandparents both worked the land and during the war, they both wanted to enlist to do their bit for the country, however, their applications were rejected because they were deemed more useful working the land and providing food for the country than being off fighting the war. This then gained us the title Yellow bellies, as other people that did enlist to fight thought the land workers were cowards.

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