The paper will investigate the growing importance in the late nineteenth century of civic identity in helping nurture a sense of 'local patriotism' during an imperial crisis. In doing so it will challenge recent studies that suggest working-class patriotism was a 'top-down phenomenon' or simply a devotion to nationhood and empire cultivated by state institutions and imperialist mass commercial leisure. This study will adopt a more nuanced approach and argue that working-class patriotism characteristically prioritised local identity over the national. In contrasting three English communities during the Boer War, it will be argued that, by the end of the nineteenth century, changes in the local press, the development of civic identity and a growth of a popular local patriotism became fused, at key moments, with grand imperial adventures. Viewed within this context, the great desire to celebrate the volunteers was not so much an example of successful state hegemony but more an amplification of local patriotism within an imperial setting.