Hampshire Neighbours

Some people mentioned in the letters who lived or may have lived near the Englishes’ home at Wickham, near Fareham 

Mrs Ambler was connected with a local school. ‘Mrs Ambler deserves great credit for her care. I have always understood that all the interior economy of the school depended upon her & that it was well conducted.’ (letter 17)

Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Brace lived in Catisfield and knew Uncle Hawker. He is mentioned several times in the letters.

Admiral Sir Francis and Lady Collier, their family and Lieutenant Thistlethwaite 36th Regiment: the Admiral (1785-1839) was the son of Vice-Admiral Sir George Collier who had served with distinction in the US War of Independence. He was with Nelson at the Nile, then in the West Indies, where he married Eliza Osborn (died 1828), with whom he had a daughter Ellen, who married Frederick English junior in 1850.

Following service in the Persian Gulf and as Commodore, West Coast of Africa Station, the Admiral was knighted in 1830. In 1831 he married Catherine, daughter of Thomas Thistlethwaite of Southwick Park, hence English’s question of Lieutenant Thistlethwaite of the 36th Regiment in Barbados in letter 78, ‘Is he not a brother of Lady Collier’s?’ After the period of the letters, the Admiral became Superintendent of Woolwich Dockyard, and then commander of the China station. He died in Hong Kong in 1849.

Witnesses on Ellen’s marriage certificate were Frances Isabella Collier, who may have been the bride’s sister, and Alexander Collier, perhaps her brother, also Selina Catherine Collier, who according to Wikipedia was the daughter of the Admiral’s second marriage. Frances and Ellen Collier, both aged about 20, independent and not born in Hampshire, are recorded as living at Park Place, Wickham, the home of Sir E (RN half pay) and Lady Tucker, in the census of 1841. There may have been another sister, name unknown, the Miss Collier, whose marriage in 1835 is mentioned in letter 39 alongside ‘Young Collier’, perhaps Alexander, an officer or perhaps a midshipman on HMS Belvidera. As he is recorded as having had at least one child by his second marriage, the Admiral fathered five children from his two marriages, perhaps more.

I have not discovered where the Colliers lived, but surely they were not far from Wickham. Lady Collier and Kate were friends, and it is hinted that they are in frequent communication and that the Admiral is not away on naval duty. Thus, in letter 77, when disclosing confidential information, English writes: ‘All this must be kept to yourself & fire side. Not a word to Sir F Collier.’ It may be that they made their home on the Thistlethwaite estate, about six miles from Wickham.

Dr Fisher: a local medical man, who advised Kate to take Annie to London for eye treatment (letter 15).

The Gardiner family of Roche Court: Lady Gardiner and her daughters are frequently mentioned in the letters with great affection, but there is no word of the head of the family. Roche Court is a medieval manor house (now a school) at Fareham; it was then the seat of Sir James Whalley-Smythe-Gardiner, 3rd Baronet (1785-1851). English calls the Misses Gardiner his ‘nieces’, but I have found no trace of a blood relationship. Lady Gardiner was Frances, née Mosley, and there were five daughters, Frances, Barbara, Grace (died unmarried aged 105 in 1921), Emily and Mary Anne (married Captain Montagu Burrows in 1849 and died in 1906). Their ages ranged between about 23 and thirteen as the letters began. Letter 45 records a gift of ‘beautiful engravings’ from the Misses Gardiner, and letter 47 music and lavender. English met a Lieutenant Munday RA (‘the good looking Bombardier’) who was friendly with Miss Frances (letters 78 and 79). In letter 80 English expresses sympathy over ‘the state their brother remains in’, and the death of this brother, James, is recorded in letter 90.

Moses Hawker, ‘Uncle Hawker’ is something of a father figure in English’s life. There had been Moses Hawkers in the area for over a century; there is a monument in Portsmouth Cathedral to one who died in 1734. Uncle Hawker was a landowner and a justice in Hampshire. He lived with his wife Caroline at Catisfield; they had no children. A brother, Henry, and his wife Mary, lived nearby. He is mentioned frequently in the letters with great affection. In letter 104, he is seriously ill, and letter 106 records his death in June 1838. His brother died shortly after him. English and his brother John were executors of his will, and all four brothers and English’s two eldest children were beneficiaries. In letter 109, English writes: ‘Ask Mrs Hawker to let me have article, not perishable, of my late esteemed Uncle’s which may be useless to her – his gun, his pistols or even his powder horn, something that I can hand over to Fred as his ‘Uncle Hawker’ when, alas, his property is all divided and he, amiable man, forgotten by all the world nearly’.

A portrait of Moses Hawker, organist and proprietor of the Concert Rooms in St George’s Square, Portsmouth, by James Northcote, painted in Portsmouth in 1776, hangs in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter; he was probably the father of Uncle Hawker.

Mr Jolliffe: ‘I can fancy Mr Jolliffe being much flattered by your attention – poor fellow, he was always kind to us as boys’ (letter 17).

Lady Knighton was distantly related by marriage to English (she was born Dorothea Hawker, see commentary on letter 41). There is a note about her husband, who died in 1836, in the commentary on letter 107. She lived at Blendworth, near Horndean, about ten miles from Wickham.

Mrs Naghten and her sons Tom and Henry lived at Crofton, near Stubbington, about six miles from Wickham. Mrs Naghten, a widow, owned three estates in Demerara: Canefields, Golden Fleece and Columbia, managed by an attorney, Mr Garnet, whom English sought out soon after his arrival in the colony (letter 43). In December 1835 (letter 46), Tom arrived, sent by his mother to report on the running of the business. Mr Garnet put him to work in the store, perhaps with the intention of making sure he didn’t find out too much about the finances. English told Kate in letter 44 ‘Young Naughton, after a little insight into his mother’s estates here, if half as shrewd as old Mr Garnet, may save his family some 5 or 600 a year & act Atty himself’. However, Tom had no taste for life in British Guiana, and returned home in 1838. Henry, the younger son, appeared in Barbados in November 1837 as a midshipman with HMS Seringapatam and visited English whenever his ship was in Bridgetown. Letter 60 records that Kate spent a day with Mrs Naghten at Crofton in the summer of 1836.

Aunt O’Brien was English’s maternal aunt and sister of Uncle Hawker. She was born Martha Charlotte Hawker, probably in the 1770s, and was a widow named Bradby when she married, as his second wife, the retired naval officer Edward O’Bryen in 1808. She was widowed a second time in the same year, and left with an infant step-daughter Mary. They lived at Catisfield. On 29 March 1837, Kate writes with the news of her death (letter 80). I have not established the relationship between her late husband and Lord James O’Bryen, who is often mentioned in the letters. It appears that she changed the spelling of their name to O’Brien.

Miss Mary O’Brien step-daughter of Aunt O’Brien, was probably no more than four years old when her father died in 1808, leaving her in the care of her step-mother. In her childhood she knew English as a young army officer, and perhaps dreamed of marrying him one day. This explains ‘my early flame Mary OB’ (letter 12), ‘my wife Mary’ (letter 40) and similar expressions throughout the letters. In 1838 she is reported to be unwell (letter 111), ‘megrims’ are mentioned in letter 113 and in letter 114 she is better. I have found no record of her later life.

Captain O’Brien RN is close enough to Wickham for Kate to communicate: ‘I went to dine with Mr & Mrs Hines – he is the Speaker – & slept there. Tell Capt O’Brien RN they enquired most kindly after him & that I gave them the favorable account I had recd from Capt Douglass.’ (letter 103) and ‘Tell Capt O’Brien I passed a few pleasant day with his friends the Hinds’s lately.’ (letter 111) 

Captain O’Brien 70th Regiment had been in Wickham recently: ‘Capt OB will assuredly be a most welcome visitor if he can say he has recently seen you all and will talk over my Wickham ménage’ (letter 94)

 Miss Anne Parker was the girls’ governess, and, it appears, their mother’s companion. Letter 101 shows that she had been with the family since Fort George days, that is, at least seven years. She was born in Kent, was about 31 at the start of the letters, and was treated as family. She was practical and skilled in crafts: English’s slippers are worn out (letter 70), but are soon replaced with a new pair (letter 90). She was still in the household at the 1841 census in Jersey, and she was listed as a visitor in Cheltenham in 1861.

The Poors: in letter 39 there appears this quaint sentence: ‘Regards to the Poors if in Wickham, particularly to the pretty little woman.’ 

Lieutenant-Colonel, (later Sir) William and Mrs Reid RE: two years English’s junior and a Peninsula veteran, Reid had just left Bridgetown when English arrived in April 1834. From 1837 to 1839 he was stationed at Portsmouth and in touch with Kate. Letter 87 reveals that Mrs Reid had described the splendours of Shot Hall, the Bridgetown residence of the CRE, to Kate. There is a note about Reid’s career and his interest in meteorology in the commentary on letter 111. I have no information on where they lived; perhaps they were in Portsmouth.

Jane Ross, sometimes called Jenny, was the cook and housekeeper for the English family. She had been with them since they were in her native Scotland in the early 1820s, and she was still in the household in Jersey at the 1841 census, but not in Cheltenham in 1851. The letters often reveal affection for her, especially when a food parcel has arrived as in letter 39. In letter 48, English writes, ‘I wish I had her here for a few days to set my Wardrobe in order’. 

Captain George Tait RE had held the rank of Captain since 1830, and was deputy to the Commanding Royal Engineer Sir Charles Smith when English arrived in Bridgetown in 1834. They became friends, and corresponded when English was away from Barbados. Tait passed on some welcome confidential information, quoted in letter 54. He returned home in late 1836, and on 2 January 1837, English wrote: ‘A delightfull letter reached me…from Capt Tait, who is fated to know you. He was about to start for Portsmouth to be quartered, so find him out my dear Kate, a more valuable person there cannot be’ (letter 67). By letter 82 Kate has met him, and by November 1838 ‘Capt Tait seems to perform as your ADC…his friendly attention to my family is very flattering’ (letter 113). In letter 102, English even speculates that Tait may become his son-in-law, earning himself a reproof from Kate (letter 119).