The Age of Sail – Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ first cousins – Seppings side

Plymouth Dock seen from Mount Edgecomb, Devonshire, 1816, by J M W Turner (Tate Gallery)

Lt Edmund Henry Seppings had four aunts on the Seppings side – Lydia, Mary, Helen and Elizabeth, and one uncle, Sir Robert Seppings. His aunts married into the Laws, Gill, Pleasance, and Cornish families. His cousins in this post are Edward, Robert and John Laws, Robert Gill, John Milligen Seppings and the husband of cousin Martha Milligen Seppings – Major James Hull Harrison. Other female cousins were Mary Milligen Seppings who married Dr Robert Armstrong, an Inspector of Hospitals; Louisa Seppings married Edward Lock, a banker, of Oxford, and later Rev William Du Satoy M.A.; and Helen Seppings married Daniel Godfrey, a solicitor of Abingdom, and later Capt George Cecil Thorne.

Cousins Edward, Robert and John Laws joined the Royal Navy, with Edward living in Kingston, Ontario, and Quebec, Canada, and Robert in Plymouth, both as Naval Storekeepers. John began his career serving under Capt Nicholas Lockyer (Edmund Henry Seppings’ uncle) in the British Channel, then to North America and the West Indies, and as far away as South America, the East Indies, Australia and New Zealand, eventually becoming a Rear Admiral.
For this generation of males in the Seppings family, British military presence was extending to the colonies in the antipodes, while ‘at home’, the advent of modern railroads meant the ability for more people to travel to find work in England, more transportation of food crops, raw materials and manufactured goods; more employment to build, run and maintain the railways; and the connecting of the manufacturing districts and the sea ports. Cousin Robert Gill, a railway engineer and pioneer, together with his friend and colleague George Stephenson, built the Manchester and Liverpool railway line, the first to set the style for railway networks around the world. Cousin Capt John Laws RN, like Robert Gill, took up directorships and managerial positions of several railways networks.
Major James Hull Harrison, while related through marriage, not blood, was a high-ranking navy officer in the Seppings family, serving on board HMS Victory as a lieutenant 1808-12, and completing his career in the Royal Marines. John Milligen Seppings, Sir Robert Seppings eldest son, spent his working life in India as an Inspector of Shipping in Bengal, Surveyor H C Marine, Civil Service HEICS, and Superintendent of the Dockland, Calcutta.

Lydia Seppings (1762-), the first (surviving) child of Robert and Lydia Seppings, was sent in 1780 with her youngest brother John Milligen Seppings (Edmund Henry Seppings’ father) to live with their uncle, Capt John Milligen, in Plymouth. Lydia’s first marriage was to William Sampson of Rudham, near Fakenham where she was born. They had one daughter, Ann. In 1790 Lydia married Green Laws Esq, of Waltington, in Foulsham, Norfolk, and had six children: three daughters – Elizabeth (1794-1878), Mary (1798-) and Pleasance, and three (surviving) sons – Edward (1791-1854), Robert (1798-1889) and John (1799-1859), joined the Royal Navy.

Mary Seppings (1763-1799) married Samuel Garrett in 1782 and had one son. A second marriage, to William Brooke Gill (1765-1839), produced four sons – John (d. 1864), William, Robert (1796-1871) and Thomas (d. 1870).

Helen Seppings (1765-) married MD John Pleasance (1759-1793) in 1786 and had two daughters – Susan Elizabeth (d.1874), and Mary. Susan married a tea merchant of London, Joseph Dockerill and had six children. Mary married the schoolmaster at Kings Lynn, William Beloe, and had three children. Their eldest son, Robert Seppings Beloe (1822-1896), became a rector, and his son, Robert Douglas Beloe (1868-) and grandson John Douglas Beloe (1907-1978) followed as reverends. Their second son, Henry Beloe, an artist and photographer, also had a grandson who was ordained, Rev John Seppings Beloe.

Sir Robert Seppings (1767-1840) married Charlotte Milligen (1770-1834), his first cousin, in 1795. They had four sons, but two died in infancy. John Milligen Seppings (1798-1863) survived, as did Andrew Sanders Seppings (1806-1849), but he died an invalid, unmarried. Of their six daughters, Martha Milligen Seppings (1796-1840),  Mary Milligen Seppings (1799-), Louisa Seppings (1810-1891) and Helen Seppings (1812-) survived.

Elizabeth Seppings (b. 1774) married Robinson Cornish in 1798 and had two sons, Thomas and William.

Lydia Seppings (1762-) m Green Laws (1768-)

  • Edward Laws (1791-1854) Royal Navy Storekeeper
  • Elizabeth Laws (1794-1878)
  • Mary Laws (1798-)
  • Robert Laws (1798-1889) Royal Navy Office Clerk (Storekeeper)
  • Rear Admiral John Milligen Laws (1799-1859) Royal Navy
  • Pleasance Laws

Naval Dockyard, Point Frederick, Kingston, Ontario. Commodore’s house on right. 1815.

Edward Laws (1791-1854), born in Foulsham, Norlfolk, was the Naval Storekeeper at Kingston, Ontario, and Quebec, Canada from 1813-21. Being the Storekeeper, Edward was in charge of receiving, maintaining and issuing supplies in storage and was responsible for all money-related items, not only for the stores, but also salaries and wages, contracts in the dockyard, advertising procurement tenders for a variety of materials, services, and construction of buildings at Point Frederick, Kingston.
Edward Laws was storekeeper at the Kingston Royal Navy Dockyard during and after the War of 1812. A stone building, built circa 1813 and used as a hospital, is now known as the ordnance storekeeper’s quarters. In 1815, Edward was instructed by Commodore Owen to extend the hospital and refit any usable huts and remove those not needed. The skilled workers contracted for the job were required to build their own shelters from ‘offal wood of the Yard’, on the peninsula, after their working hours. Edward described the shanties in his 1820 storekeeper’s survey, as ‘in a most wretched condition’, unsafe and unhealthy due to their close proximity to the swamp. (1)
After the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817, the many British naval forts on the lakes along the international boundary, were largely demilitarized. The Kingston Dockyard remained open, but there was no new warship construction.
In 1819, Edward Laws was listed by the Admiralty as a Commissioner of the Navy and Naval Storekeeper in Quebec. The modern citadel was built from 1820 to defend the port and secure Quebec City against a potential American attack.

Old Naval Storehouse, Admiralty Way, Pembroke Dock (2015).

On 8 June 1821, Edward Laws became Naval Storekeeper at Pembroke Dockyard in South West Wales.
There was a marriage settlement between Edward Laws and Elizabeth Griffiths of Rochdale, Lancashire, in 1848.
in 1858, he received notification by the Military Secretary that he had passed a satisfactory examination at Burlington House, London.

Robert Laws (1798-1889) was a Navy Office Clerk (Storekeeper) at Plymouth Dockyard, also at Royal Dockyard, Sheerness, at the mouth of the River Medway in Kent, and he was appointed Captain of the Devonport Brigade of the Royal Dockyard Corps in 1848.

British fleet in harbour of Port Cornwallis, Island of Great Andaman, with HMS Sophie on right.

Rear Admiral John Milligen Laws (1799-1859), born in Watlington, Norfolk, entered the Royal Navy on 19 December 1809 as a ten-year-old First-class Volunteer on board HMS Sophie 18 and served under Capt Nicholas Lockyer (Edmund Henry Seppings’ uncle) for nearly two years in the Channel.
In October 1812, John Milligen Laws became midshipman on HMS Ramillies, a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line serving under Capt Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy and sailed to North America at the outbreak of the War of 1812. Hardy had served as flag captain to Admiral Lord Nelson, and commanded HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson was pacing the decks with Hardy when he was fatally shot, and as he lay dying, Nelson’s famous remark of ‘Kiss me, Hardy’ was directed at the flag captain.
Hardy led the fleet in Ramillies that escorted and transported the army which captured significant portions of eastern coastal Maine. On 4 December they recaptured the whale Policy from the US Navy and took it to Halifax, Nova Scotia. During 1813 they captured many American brigs, schooners, sloops and ships for prize money. On 9 August 1814 they demanded Stonington, Connecticut, surrender, and for three days they bombarded the town, using Chinese stinkpots as weaponry, but were defeated and sailed off on 12 August after losing many on board. On 12 September they attempted a battle at North Point, Maryland, and suffered two fatalities. In August 1815, Ramillies was under the command of Captain Charles Ogle in the Channel squadron participating in many prize captures.
After serving briefly on HMS Iphigenia 36 at Chatham in October 1815, John joined HMS Antelope 50, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral John Harvey in the West Indies. In 1818, he returned to England as Acting-Lieutenant of HMS Scamander 36 and he was made a lieutenant on 11 November.
From 14 October 1819, John accompanied Capt William Furlong Wise on the frigate HMS Spartan 46 to the West Indies and South America, and in 1821 served on board HMS Pyramus 42, Valorous 26, and Aurora 46. In 1823, he joined Admiral Sir Harry Neale off Algiers on the Falmouth mortar-vessel sloop and, on HMS Wellesley 74, under Capt Graham Eden Hamond, accompanied Lord Stuart de Rothesay on a mission to Portugal and Brazil to negotiate a commercial treaty with Pedro I. The artist Charles Landseer travelled with them.

HMS Satellite in heavy gale, 1838.

John Milligen Laws attained the rank of Commander on 1 July 1825 and on 22 November 1826 was employed on HMS Satellite an 18-gun sloop designed by his uncle Sir Robert Seppings, for experimental duties in the Channel, and then on to the East Indies, Australia, New Zealand, and back to Bay of Bengal. In the Naval Biographical Dictionary, Vol 1, 1849, Capt Laws is said to have ‘afforded relief to some settlers in New Holland who had been hemmed in by the natives, and discharging for fourteen months the duties of Senior officer at Sydney. He also effected the capture of a band of convicts who had turned pirates, and, besides making a survey of the Friendly and Society Islands and New Zealand (in 1829), demonstrated the necessity of frequent visits to those parts.’
In January 1831, after he had extensively examined the east coast of the Bay of Bengal, Capt Laws commanded HMS Cruizer 18, and went to Pondicherry for the purpose of acknowledging the government of Louis Philippe who had become the last King of France.
On 17 April, Capt Laws became Commander (acting Captain) of HMS Southampton 52, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Edward W. C. R. Owen, of the East India station, with whom he returned to England on 12 October 1832. He then joined the fleet under the command Sir Pulteney Malcolm on the coast of Holland during the Dutch Blockade and Seige of Antwerp which ended on 23 December. Malcolm’s fleet included HMS Stag 46, under Captain Nicholas Lockyer’s command.
On 7 January 1833, Capt Laws was confirmed as Captain of HMS Royal William and the Naval Biographical Dictionary, Vol 1, 1849, writes that he ‘has not been since employed.’ He was the Senior Officer of his rank on the List of 1833.


Two of John Milligen Laws’ homes – Darley Hall, Greater Manchester, set in grounds of 300 acres, and No 4 Rock Terrace, Tenby, Pembrokeshire.

At the age of 37, John married Mary Mathias, the only daughter of Charles Mathias, Esq, of Lamphey Court, Pembrokeshire, at St.Mary’s church, Lamphey, on 20 June 1836. They had three sons – Edward (1837-1913) born in Wales, John Milligen Laws (1842-1928) born at Crumpsall Hall, and Mathias Robert Seppings Laws (1847/8). Mary Laws was born in Wales on 5 March 1840 but died four days later. Another daughter was born in 1844, in Shepherds Bush, and died in Wales, at Tenby Norton Cottage on 6 Jun 1882, age 38. Edward joined the 35th Foot Royal Sussex Regiment, commissioned on 13 July 1858. He was a notable public figure in Pembrokeshire for half a century, as a member of the town Council (1897) and mayor of the borough (1900), a Justice of the Peace, and chairman of the Tenby bench. In 1899 he was high sheriff and was the Secretary of Tenby Museum. He devoted his time to the study of the history and archaeology of Pembrokeshire and wrote several books, including the county history, Little England beyond Wales, (1880) and produced an ‘Archaeological Survey of Pembrokeshire,’ 1908. His son, Edward Lucien Laws (1876-1916), died as an army officer in Mombassa, East Africa. John Milligen Laws (1842-1928) became a ‘lunatic’ in the 1880s and was cared for at St Holloway Sanatorium, Ann’s Heath, Peckham. Mathias Robert Seppings Laws was in the 62nd Foot Regiment and became a lieutenant on 26 February 1869.
In 1839, Captain Laws began a new career with the Railways. Most likely due to his connection with his cousin Robert Gill’s work (see below), he held the position of General Superintendent and Director of the Manchester & Leeds Railway Company (1839-46), and railways in Lincolnshire, and was appointed Managing Director of the London & York Company (1846-53). He also served on the Provisional Committee of the Welsh Midland Railway, and was involved with the Sheffield and Gainsborough Line.
John Milligen Laws and his wife Mary lived in several remarkable buildings. Records show them living at Crumpsall Hall, Lancashire, 1842-1846. 20 Sussex Square, Hyde Park, Middlesex, was another address, as was the early-19th-century Darley Hall, Greater Manchester, near Bolton-le-Moors, set within extensive grounds of about 300 acres with a kitchen garden. Also, the large Grade II Georgian listed building No 4 Rock Terrace in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, set back from the street with rear facade overlooking Iron Bar Sands and sea views. They owned and leased additional properties including the farms of Holloway and Frankleston; Gloyne Estate, Lampeter Velfrey, and land in Penally, Tenby and Crinow – on which the Pembroke and Tenby Railway was to be constructed.
John Milligen Laws was ranked Rear Admiral on 21 July 1856 and received a coat-of-arms & seal. He died at Marchfield House in Binfield, Berkshire, on 3 March 1859, age 60. Mary died in Oswald House, the Esplanade, Tenby, in 1889.

Mary Seppings (1763-1799) m William Brooke Gill (1765-1839)

  • John Gill (d. 1864)
  • William Gill
  • Robert Gill (1796-1871) Engineer, Railway pioneer, property speculator, a Director of the Crystal Palace.
  • Thomas Gill (d. 1870)

Robert Gill, aged approximately 35.

Robert Gill (1796-1871) resided with his uncle Sir Robert Seppings at Somerset House, London, after his mother died at the age of 35 in 1799. Robert became an engineer and together with his friend and colleague George Stephenson built the Manchester and Liverpool railway line, the world’s first modern railroad with inter-city freight and passenger trains, ‘scheduled’ services and terminal stations, opening in 1830. He dug the first turf for the Manchester and Leeds line in 1837 which opened in 1842. Robert became General Manager of the Manchester & Leeds Railway Company, Leeds and West Riding, and Newot and Sheffield Railways, and of the Wakefield, Lincoln and Bolton Railways Companys. An ‘enthusiastic supporter of innovation and modernity’, he spent time on site and in parliament. (2)
In 1842, Robert developed the Palatine Hotel and Buildings in anticipation of the demand for hotel accommodation that would follow the projected extension of the Manchester and Leeds Railway line from Collyhurst to Hunt’s Bank.
Robert Gill’s first wife, Frederice Entwistle of Rusholme Hall, Norfolk, died in 1843. On 29 December 1846, Robert Gill, Esq, married Fanny Susannah (1820-1911), second daughter of the late Colonel Need (of Sherwood Hall), at Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire. They had four daughters and one son, Rev Robert John Seppings Gill (1859-1948).
According to the 1851 census, Robert was chairman of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, a title adopted by the Manchester & Leeds Railway in 1847. He was living with his wife, Fanny, and their two children and seven servants, Fanny’s widowed mother Mary, and her brother Walter Need, a commander in the Royal Navy, at the Manor House at Mansfield Woodhouse. The Need family had occupied the Manor House for most of the 19th century. A Grade II listed building ‘of sprawling proportions and stands in lawned gardens on Priory Road,’ the Manor House was considered one of the largest and grandest houses in Mansfield Woodhouse.

The Crystal Palace at Sydenham

Robert was a smart businessman, amassing a great deal of money, and as one of a consortium of eight businessmen bought the Crystal Palace after the closure of the Great Exhibition in 1851. He was involved in its re-erection at Sydenham, which cost £1,300,000 (£133 million in 2019), and continued to be one of its directors for several years.

Manor House at Mansfield Woodhouse.  Apps Court, Elmbridge.

In 1855, the Gill Family moved into their new home, Apps Court, in Walton-on-Thames, Elmbridge, Surrey, a distinctly palatial, centuries-old mansion dating back to pre-Norman Conquest. Situated within 150 acres of grassy parkland, the house was rebuilt in 1824 and described at the time as ‘white brick with a noble stone portico supported on Ionic columns’. (3)
In 1898, Robert’s widow, Fanny, sold the house and land to the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company, which demolished it and transformed the park into the two reservoirs.


Sir Robert Seppings (1767-1840) m Charlotte Milligen (1770-1834).

  • Martha Milligen Seppings (1796-1840) married Major James Hull Harrison (1783-1853) of the Royal Marines. They had 11 children including John Seppings Harrison (Solicitor); Robert Seppings Harrison (1821-1872), a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marines; Henry Laws Harrison (1833-1863) a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines; and Horace Sibbald Harrison (1837-1922), an Army Captain.
  • John Milligen Seppings (1798-1863) Royal Navy married Marianne Matthews (1796-1853) in Bengal. Their three children were Capt Edward James Seppings (1826-1857) who died at Cawnpore, Charlotte Marianne Seppings (1828-), and Robert Seymour Seppings (-1881) an unmarried invalid, ending Sir Robert Seppings’ male line.
  • Mary Milligen Seppings (1799-) married Dr Robert Armstrong, an Inspector of Hospitals.
  • Andrew Sanders Seppings (1806-1849) invalid.
  • Louisa Seppings  (1810-1891) married Edward Lock, banker, of Oxford (son of Sir William Lock of Oxford). They had two children – Helen Seppings Frances Lock (1836-1890) and Edward Seppings Lock (1837-1886), Colonel in the 82nd Regiment – Foot. Edward served in India’s North West Provinces to suppress the Mutiny of 1858 and was awarded a medal. Helen married Rev William Reyner Cosens, DD and had six sons and two daughters.
    Louisa married a second time to Rev William Du Sautoy M.A. (1805-1886) and they had a son, James Du Sautoy (1762-1858), an army captain and barrack master. The Du Sautoys are still a distinguished family in England and include Peter Du Sautoy of Faber & Faber publishers.
  • Helen Seppings (1812-) m Daniel Godfrey a solicitor of Abingdom. They had four daughters. Helen was married a second time to Capt George Cecil Thorne.

HMS Victory

Major James Hull Harrison (1783-1853) was born in Bombay, India. He served on board HMS Victory in the Baltic as a lieutenant 1808-12. He completed his career as a Major in the Royal Marines. When an investigation ensued, in India, he was a deputy-judge advocate. (4)
Major James Hull Harrison married Martha Milligen Seppings (1796-1840) in 1817. They had 11 children, the first, John Seppings Harrison, became a solicitor, the second, Robert Seppings Harrison (1821-1872), was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marines, the 7th was Lt Henry Laws Harrison (1833-1863), also in the Royal Marines, and the 9th was Horace Sibbald Harrison (1837-1922) an army captain.
Major James Hull Harrison died in Plymouth, Devon.

Kidderpore Docks, Calcutta 1892

John Milligen Seppings Esq (1798-1863), Sir Robert Seppings’ eldest son, was born in Plymouth, Devon. He was an Inspector of Shipping, Bengal, Surveyor H C Marine, Civil Service HEICS, and Superintendent of the Dockland, Calcutta. He was an Inspector of Shipping under the East India Company at Calcutta for twenty years. He is listed in the UK Registers of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office as a ‘European Inhabitant’ in India in 1817 and a Marine Board Member of the Bengal Marine Establishment in 1823, as ‘First Surveyor’ Royal Navy.
Two of the first nine paddle-steamers employed in India, PS Irrawaddy (1826-37) and PS Ganges (1826-38) were built by James Kyd & Co, of teak with frames of saul and sissoo wood, at their yard at Kidderpore (Khidirpur), Calcutta. The work was done under the superintendence of J M Seppings, the East India Company’s Surveyor of Shipping in 1826. The drawings of the vessels were originally prepared by his father, Sir Robert Seppings, however it was found necessary to alter them for the climate, and the plans used for construction were designed by J M Seppings. The vessels were launched in early 1827 and used as Bengal government packets and communication boats, mostly in connection with the Tenasserim coast, or as tugs on the Hoogly River. The Ganges was sent to Bombay.

East India Company’s Steamer Irrawaddy and Ganges, and Hoogly plans. Signed by Mr J M Seppings 1830.

In 1828, PS Hoohly was built according to Mr J M Seppings’ plan, ‘with straight timbers in mid-ships, entirely of teak, at the yard of the Howrah Dock Company; cost for hull and fittings, without machinery, 64,600 Sicca Rupees; she is fastened upon Sir Robert Seppings’ new principle; copper bolted to the upper edge of the wales; and has proved herself a most efficient vessel, as regards strength and velocity.’ (5)
PS Forbes was another Steamer built by the new Howrah Dock Company and overseen by J M Seppings, named after Captain Forbes who helped to introduce steam ships into India. The engines were built in Britain by Boulton and Watt.
John Milligen Seppings married Marianne Matthews (1796-1853) in 1821, in Bengal. They had three children – Capt Edward James Seppings (1826-1857) who died at Cawnpore, Charlotte Marianne Seppings (1828-), and Robert Seymour Seppings (-1881) an unmarried invalid, ending Sir Robert Seppings’ male line.

Greenfield, home of John Milligen Seppings – 35 Thurlow Rd, Torquay, England.

When John Milligen Seppings died in 1863 he was living at Greenfield, in Tor Mohun (before the name changed to Torquay), now divided into three flats.

Part 4 of ‘The Age of Sail’ looks at Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ first cousins on the Lockyer side.

Illustration Credits 

Plymouth Dock seen from Mount Edgecomb, Devonshire, 1816, by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Purchased by Tate Gallery 1986.
Watercolor Depicts Naval Dockyard, Point Frederick, Kingston, Ontario. To the right is the commodore’s house. Two ships are under construction: the Canada and the Wolfe. (Original: Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston.) July 1815
Pembroke Dockyard Storehouse – Old Naval Storehouse, Admiralty Way, Pembroke Dock. Designed by Edward Poll and completed in 1822.
British fleet in harbour of Port Cornwallis, Island of Great Andaman, with HMS Sophie on right, by Lieutenant Joseph Moore – National Maritime Museum plate1-2/
HMS Satellite in heavy gale, 1838. Drawn by Chetwynd Plowden Wood. Engraved by Hollway.,_Feby_28th_1838._Lat_29._Long_64._Drawn_by_Chetwynd_Plowden_Wood,_Midshipman_on_board,_2nd_son_of_General._I._S._Wood_RMG_PU6136.tiff
POSTCARD – DARLEY Old Hall, Farnworth, Bolton, Lancashire
Robert Gill, painting by William Bradley. Elmbridge Museum
Crystal Palace, Sydenham – The Crystal Palace General view from Water Temple 1854
by Philip Henry Delamotte (1821–1889), Smithsonian Libraries
Manor House at Mansfield Woodhouse.
The Manor House
Apps Court, Elmbridge.
HMS Victory by Geoff unt;
Kidderpore Docks, Calcutta 1892
East India Company’s Steamer Irrawaddy and Ganges, and Hoogly plans. Signed by Mr J M Seppings 1830. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
The Honble East India Compys Steamers Irrawaddy and Ganges built at Messrs Kyds & Co Dock-yard (Kidderpore near Calcutta.) (Plan, 1830) (PAD6671)
Tassin, Jean Baptiste Athanase Government Litho Press lithograph
The Honble East India Company’s Steamer Hoogly built (opposite Calcutta) by the New Howrah Dock Company. (Plan, 1830)
Tassin, Jean Baptiste Athanase Government Litho Press Calcutta, Hoogly (1828)
Greenfield, home of John Milligen Seppings – 35 Thurlow Rd, Torquay, England.,+Torquay+TQ1+3EQ,+UK/

Research Resources

(1) Laws, Edward 1820 Survey of His Majesty’s Buildings at the Naval Establishment at Kingston. Microfilm, LAC MG 12, ADM 106 vol. 1999, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.
(4) The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to PersiaChina, and Japan, 1856-7-8. Front Cover. George Dodd. W. and R. Chambers, 1859
(5) A Collection of Papers: Relative to Ship Building in India: with Descriptions of the Various Indian Woods Employed Therein, their Qualities, Uses, and Value; also, a Register, Comprehending all the Ships and Vessels built in India to the present time; with Many Other Particulars Respecting Indian Shipping, and the External Commerce of Bengal by John Phipps, published by Scott and Co (1840)
Our Family History Faith Packard (1989)

Edward Laws (1791-)
Laws, Edward 1820 Survey of His Majesty’s Buildings at the Naval Establishment at Kingston. Microfilm, LAC MG 12, ADM 106 vol. 1999, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.
(Nation 1992)
(Brock 1968: 10; Mecredy 1982: 53)
Naval Biographical Dictionary, Vol 1, 1849 (Google Books)
The Royal kalendar and court and city register for England, Scotland
The Navy List By Great Britain. Admiralty (Google Books)
E Laws (report mentioned –

Rear Admiral John Milligen Laws (1799-1859)
A Naval Biographical Dictionary – Volume 1, p151 By William R. O’Byrne (Google Books)
A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of every living officer in Her Majesty’s navy, from the rank of admiral of the fleet to that of lieutenant, inclusive. Compiled from authentic and family documents. Volume 1. By William R. O’Byrne 1849 (Google Books)
NAVY LIST, The 20th JUNE, 1850.
Alphabetical List of the Officers of the Royal Nayy and Royal Marines, with the Dates of their Seniority (Google Books),_John_Milligen
A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of every living officer in Her Majesty’s navy, from the rank of admiral of the fleet to that of lieutenant, inclusive. Compiled from authentic and family documents. Volume 1. By William R. O’Byrne 1849 (Google Books)
British Warships in the Age of Sail 1817-1863DesignConstructionCareers & Fates
By Rif Winfield (Google Books)
Allan Russell – The Sun 13 September 1845, The Leeds Intelligencer 9 April 1845, and –
Manchester Guardian, 30 August 1845; The Builder, 17 January 1846; Herapath, 1 August 1846; Herapath, 17 February 1849; Manchester Examiner, 2 April 1853; Manchester Examiner, 6 April 1853; Railway Times, 9 April 1853; Railway Times, 9 April 1853; Herapath, 30 April 1853; Manchester Examiner, Railway Times & Herapath, 10 September 1853 –

Robert Gill (1796-1871)
The Manor House apps-court

Major James Hull Harrison (1783-1853),_Harry_Burrard_(DNB00)
Dictionary of Battles and Sieges by Tony Jaques (Google Books)
The Navy List, Great Britain. Admirality (Google Books)
Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces, Vol 1, Paul Harris Nicholas (Google Books)
P 159 The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia, Volume 1
Royal Kalender, and Court and City Register, for England, Scotland, Ireland and the Colonies. 1842
P 199 Promotions, Preferments in The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 7 1837, Royal Marines

John Milligen Seppings Esq (1798-1863)
The India Office and Burma Office List 1823 (Google Books)
UK Registers of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office–61-
Plymouth Dockyard (1690) Pre-eminent, alongside Portsmouth, during the wars with France (1793 onwards). Known as Devonport since 1843.
The Steamers employed in Asian Waters, 1819-39 by A. Gibson-Hill
Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
Vol. 27, No. 1 (165) (May, 1954), pp. 120-162
The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and Its Dependencies, Volume 24, Black, Parbury, & Allen, 1827

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The Age of Sail – Lt Edmund Henry Seppings and his siblings

The rise and fall of the British Empire_Manuel Web Belin_1886
Pax Britannica – British Empire 1886

The Age of Sail was a different experience for Lt Edmund Henry Seppings (1807-1858) and the men of his generation compared to that of his father and uncles’. Edmund Henry was born two years after the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) – the decisive battle against the French and Spanish fleets during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) – from which time forward the Royal Navy maintained British maritime supremacy. British blockades kept French ships in ports and prevented them from assembling fleets. The navy had the power to cut off supplies transported by sail and could easily threaten ocean trading routes. The French never again challenged the Royal Navy and major European powers weren’t strong enough to oppose its dominance on the seas. The 1800s saw significant changes, notably the last major action between sailing ships in 1827 at the Battle of Navarino during the Greek War of Independence. Pax Britannica, an era of peace enforced by the Royal Navy, lasted until 1914.

Following the American War of 1812, Britain retained Canada but lost bases on most of the North American eastern seaboard. The Treaty of 1818 saw lasting peace established between Britain and America. The Royal Navy had control of the North Sea, English Channel and influence over trade from the Baltic. They operated in the Western Approaches, Irish Sea, Bay of Biscay, the western Mediterranean, and the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal. The West Indies fleets, covering the eastern Caribbean and the western Atlantic, were based in Jamaica and the Leeward Islands. In 1819, Bermuda became the permanent naval headquarters for the North America and West Indies Station. The Jamaica Station closed in 1830.

Ships at Port Royal, 1820. Lt Edmund Henry Seppings served at Jamaica from March 1829 to April 1830.

The system of Prize Money continued to benefit Royal Navy crew members who received a financial share of the capture of enemy merchant vessels and their cargoes, pirate ships and slave ships. The prohibition of transporting slaves in British ships to British colonies, however, would affect this lucrative scheme. Prior to the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807), Britain dominated the trade with more than 150 slave ships leaving its shores each year. (1) The Royal Navy escorted slave ships down the West African coast and kept its own enslaved Africans in its Jamaican and Antiguan dockyards. In the early 1800s, the British government was the largest purchaser of slaves in the Caribbean, many of whom replaced white sailors lost to malaria and yellow fever, and a dependence on rum.

The British economy flourished in the West Indies with its slave-based coffee and sugar production which helped sustain Britain during war. Enforcing the legislation did not happen in a hurry. For the next 60 years the Royal Navy maintained a Blockade of West Africa to stop the illegal trade which required constant naval patrolling. The abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833 made more of a dent to the sordid business, however, indentured servants and farm workers (many from Ireland) were then placed in similarly harsh and exploitative conditions.

Enslaved Africans harvesting sugar cane in Antigua, 1786
Medal commemorating the abolition of the slave trade 1807 (bronze)

It is worth mentioning that sailors in the Royal Navy were commonly intoxicated. A sailor’s daily half pint of rum allowance was mixed with a quart of water (over 1 litre), the ration given twice daily, between 10 am and noon and 4 and 6 pm. (2) Lemon or lime juice was added to prevent scurvy. Rumbullian was procured from molasses by British sugarcane planters and distillers on several Caribbean islands. In 1823, rations were cut in half and in 1850 in half again. Rum was also prescribed to treat various ailments, such as scorpion and spider bites, and was used as currency. It frequently led to intoxicated injuries, fights, alcohol poisoning, and death.

Copper Rum Measure (22 cm tall)                    Serving-grog on HMS Jubille

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy had up to 773 warships, including 176 ships of the line, and required 140,000 highly experienced sailors who would spend months at a time on ships all around the world. With no wars and no slavery, unemployment became a major issue. In 1810, the British fleet was reduced to 398 ships and to 248 by 1820. Only 15 percent of the navy’s 3730 commissioned lieutenants kept their jobs. (3) To be securely hired in the Admiralty during the 1820s and 30s, a young man would have to be very well connected or was selected in recognition of his war records. With less men required, the prospects of a naval career diminished for many thousands and even fewer had chances of ever achieving a commissioned rank.

There were other jobs, such as Naval storekeepers in charge of stores at stations and victualling yards and distribution of the stores to vessels. Naval stores were the most important resource to Britain in the Age of Sail. Clerks supported the senior officers of a yard and usually civilians were employed in the navy department, but sometimes naval officers served as temporary storekeepers in foreign ports.

A First Rate Taking in Stores, 1818 by J M W Turner

During the Age of Sail, the supply of wood from England became exhausted. Britain searched the globe to meet its desperate need for wood, turning to the Baltic for its masts and large timbers as well as to Canada, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, and India, the latter which provided the most successful source of timber for naval shipbuilding, primarily teak. The British East India Company was already building teak warships in the Bombay dockyard and the Royal Navy took over in 1811 further utilising the tough and durable wood.

The navy also turned its focus on making use of England’s coal and iron ore resources, and ships began to be built from iron and steel as substitutes for wood. Using copper on the bottom of ships reduced the amount of timber required for repairs. By the end of the 1840s, steam power was introduced as an auxiliary propulsion.

Britain had expanded its powers around the world and kept more vessels on foreign naval stations than any other nation. Since 1788, Australia was being used as a British penal colony and this continued through the first half of the 19th century, though the Royal Navy did not maintain a permanent force until 1821. Britain, at the height of the industrial revolution, was mainly focused on gaining total control of India – the grandest jewel in the imperial crown – as its trade with India, particularly in cotton, was the reason for the empire’s financial success.

East India Company grandee

Officer cadet training for the East India Company’s armies in Bengal, Madras and Bombay commenced in England at the Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey. Cadets, like brothers Alsworth Merewether Seppings and William Lawless Seppings, had to collect recommendations and testimonials and were then nominated by a member of the Board of Control. Starting from the age of 14 to 18 years, cadets received general and technical education, including Latin. After a six month probation to test the required abilities and disposition, studies continued for two years. High class capabilities meant an appointment in the engineers, followed by the artillery. The lowest in competencies joined the infantry. To become a captain, besides efficient skills, an officer needed knowledge of spoken and written Hindustani and written Persian. Once in India, the cadet might be placed in civil duty, or be made an adjutant, auditor, quartermaster, surveyor, paymaster, judge-advocate, commissary-general, brigade-major, aid-de-camp, barrack-master, clothing agent, or head of the police in an area recently evacuated by the military. Many of these offices were very lucrative with salaries up to 4,000. (4)

In 1837 there were 28,000 British troops in India; in 1850 the number was 44,000, comprising 28,000 Queen’s troops, and 16,000 belonging to the East India Company. (5) There were about 5000 British officers governing the entire Indian army of native and British regiments, but many were absent or on leave, or on staff appointments, and so there was insufficient control of regiments and civil duties, and much insubordination. The more Indian territory the Company tried to acquire, the more the locals grew upset. The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was the largest anti-colonial uprising in the world in the nineteenth century, involving more than 125,000 soldiers of the Bengal Army. (6) It was a rebellion against the British East India Company, but the power and the armies simply shifted to Queen Victoria, who became Empress of India, and the Government of India (The Raj), and the India Office in London, until independence in 1947.

East India House by Thomas Malton the Younger

The British Empire continued to grow with the possession of Burma, as a Province of British India from 1824 to independence in 1948, New Zealand in 1840, and the rule of Hong Kong after the first Opium War in 1842. The Royal Navy showed its naval supremacy again during the Crimean War in the 1850s with a fleet totalling 613 war vessels, employing 356 captains, 1,700 lieutenants and 84,000 sailors. (7) Some of the biggest changes in the century were that war would, from then on, be communicated through telegraphs and captured in photographs. And Florence Nightingale’s nursing reforms would mean soldiers would no longer die of disease more than from battle wounds.

Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ family in the Age of Sail –

Lt John Milligen Seppings (1770-1826) married Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer (1782-1859) in Plymouth, Devon, in 1804. They had 11 children. Edmund Henry was their third child and was raised by his grandmother, Ann Lockyer, at Wembury House, Wembury, Devon, with his cousin William Lockyer, (Major Edmund Lockyer’s first born). The 7th child, Clara Louisa Seppings (b. 1814), died a month before her third birthday. The first nine children were all born at Lime Kiln Lane, Greenwich, Kent, and christened at St Alphages Church of England,; the youngest two were born at Culver House, New Exeter Street (formerly Culver Street), Chudleigh, Devon, and christened at St Martin & St Mary, Chudleigh. Their five sons all joined the military; three served in the Royal Navy and two in the British Indian Army.

Lt John Milligen Seppings (1805-1863) – Royal Navy
Anne Maria Swainson Seppings (1806-1863)
Lt Edmund Henry Seppings (1807-1858) – Royal Navy
Nicholas Lockyer Seppings (1810-1887) – Royal Navy
Lt Alsworth Merewether Seppings (1811-1841) – British Indian Army (Bengal Artillery)
Lt William Lawless Seppings (1812-1845) – British Indian Army (Madras Native Infantry)
Clara Louisa Seppings (1814-1817)
Eliza Jane Bicknell Seppings (1815-1854)
Emily Elizabeth Seppings (1819-1835)
Augusta Mary Seppings (1820-1910)
Charlotte Ellis Seppings (1822-1880)

Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ sisters

Anne Maria Swainson Seppings (1806-1863) married Rev Joseph Cuming (1796-1879) at her home, Culver House, Chudliegh, Devon, in 1827. He was the Master of Pinsents Free Grammar School, Fore Street, Chudliegh, and curate to Rev. Gilbert Burrington. After her father’s death in 1826, Anne’s mother moved into the Grammar School house with them. In 1843 Anne and Joseph moved to London where he took up the headship of a grammar school there. Anne’s mother and her two youngest sisters, Augusta and Charlotte moved to Exeter. Anne and Joseph had six children, all born in Chudleigh – Ellen (1829-1831), John (b. 1831), Henry (b. 1832), Robert (b. 1833), Emily (b. 1837) and William (b. 1841). At the time of Joseph’s death, they were living in Kensington, London. Anne married again to Rev Henry Sam Syers, Rector of Barnack and Canon of Peterborough Cathedral. She died in Wandsworth, London.

Eliza Jane Bicknell Seppings (1815-1854) married Landed Proprietor Thomas Yarde (1796-1870) in 1843, Chudleigh, Devon. They had three sons – Rev Thomas John Yarde (1844-1908); Lt Hugh Henry Yarde (1846-1870) who died at sea on board SS Tangore; and Gilbert Francis Yarde (1848-1849); and one daughter, all born in Chudleigh. The Yarde family bought Culver House in 1851 and occupied it until 1909. Eliza and Thomas both died there.

Augusta Mary Seppings (1820-1910) married Rev Edward Puttock (1824-1877) in 1855, Exeter, Devon. They had five sons – Edward Henry Puttock (1857-1897), James Seppings Puttock (b. 1859), Frederick Lockyer Puttock (b. 1860 – drowned), John Milligen Puttock (b. 1863) and Ernest Alexander Puttock (b. 1864).

Charlotte Ellis Seppings (1822-1880) married George Nutcombe Oxenham (1799-1873), barrister-at-law and son of Rev William Oxenham (Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral and Vicar, Clerk of Cornwood), in 1858, Exeter, Devon. Charlotte was George’s third wife, he had previously married Caroline Hill Hunt in 1830, then Mary Emma Hunt in 1852. Charlotte had been living with her mother, Ann, who died in the home of Charlotte and George at 6 Summerland Place, Exeter, in 1859. They had one daughter, Charlotte, who died on the same day as her father – 15 Dec 1873, at their home in 17 Earls Terrace, Kensington, London. Charlotte died seven years later and was buried with husband George and one of his previous wives in Earl’s Court, London.


Blundell’s School, Tiverton, Devon, 1857, where John Milligen Seppings was educated.

Lt John Milligen Seppings (1805-1863), the first born to Lt John Milligen Seppings and Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer, was named after his father. Their are few records of him, aside from his birth in Greenwich, his first marriage to Sarah Cogswell (b. 1809) in 1846, in Bmenfully, Madras, India, then to Margaret Daly (b. 1830), and his death in 1879, Mysore, India. He was registered as a student of the Blundell’s School in Devon from 15 August 1814 to 16 December 1816, where the syllabus was Latin and Greek.
John and Margaret’s first child was a daughter Mary Margaret Seppings (b. 1856). They named their first born son the same – John Milligen Seppings (b. 1863). They also had a son named Edmund Henry Seppings (1864-1934) who became an Inspector of Hospitals, Burma branch.

HMS Seringapatam at anchor in Valletta Harbour, Malta, between 1824 and 1827.
Edmund Henry Seppings began his naval career on HMS Seringapatam from the age of 13.

Lt Edmund Henry Seppings (1807-1858) began his naval career at the age of 13 on 5 February 1821 aboard HMS Seringapatam, a 46-gun fifth rate frigate under Captain William Walpole. It was freshly built, of teak, when Edmund Henry set sail for the Mediterranean, to be based at Zante, Greece. On 4 Feb 1822, a letter from Seringapatam reported that one of the ship’s company was murdered following a confrontation with Greek soldiers, resulting in 6 of the soldiers being hung. The ship was then ordered to depart for England.

Edmund Henry Seppings joined Captain Robert C. Spencer on 10 July 1823, age 15, as a midshipman on HMS Naiad at Portsmouth Dockyard. By August, the 38-gun fifth rate frigate was fitted for use in the British Channel and the Mediterranean. They remained at Lisbon until late January 1824, when Naiad and Camelion, under Spencer’s orders, visited Algiers.

HMS Naiad towing HMS Belleisle towards Gibraltar 1805.
Lt Edmund Henry Seppings served on HMS Naiad in the British Channel and the Mediterranean from July 1823 until August 1826.

Two Spanish vessels had been captured there, their crews bound for slavery, and the Regency had committed a violation of the British consul’s offices. On 31 January, the Consul General and family were taken on board the Naiad for their safety. On leaving the harbour, the Algerian pirate corvette Tripoli, of 18 guns and 100 men, which had captured the Spanish vessels, was seen and chased. Naiad fired several shots reducing Tripoli to a wreck and killing seven on board. The Spaniards were rescued by Camelion.

During the next few months, Naiad was employed on the Barbary Coast as part of a blockade to suppress Barbary pirates and privateers in the slave trade, and the Algerian dey. Naiad captured two ships for which they received prize money – Quattro Fratelli in March, and Muni on 23 February 1825.

Map of the Mediterranean Sea (1785). Lt Edmund Henry Seppings served along the Barbary Coast, Nth Africa, and in the Gulf of Patras, Greece, from Jan 1824 to Aug 1826.

At half-past eleven on the night on 23 May 1824, Edmund Henry Seppings left Naiad in one of the boats which destroyed an Algerian 16 gun brig of war, full of grain, moored alongside the walls of the fortress of Bona, a seaport in the north eastern corner of Algeria, defended by 400 soldiers. Captain Spencer described the attack by the boats, under the command of Lt Quin, in an official letter to Admiral Sir Harry Neale, commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, dated 24 May:

‘The boats … being guided in their approach by the lights and fires in the different batteries, pulled for what proved to be a sixteen-gun brig of the largest class, whose position was of extraordinary strength, and far beyond what I had even imagined possible. All these obstacles, and the tremendous fire of cannon and small arms, kept up during the whole time the boats were in sight, from the illumination caused by the burning vessel … No language that I am master of can convey to you, Sir, an adequate idea of the intrepidity of the attack, which could only be equalled by the cool courage displayed during the time necessary to distribute the fire in all parts of a vessel under such circumstances … The officers’ names engaged in this service are subjoined; for as all did their duty so nobly on this occasion, and have on all former ones given me such perfect satisfaction, I cannot in justice particularize. I have only to report a few men hurt by severe contusions, and none killed, chiefly to be attributed to the masterly manner the business was conducted in …’ (8)

La cite le port et le mole d Alger – Algiers harbour. Engraving (1690)
As a midshipman, Lt Edmund Henry Seppings fought the Algerian dey here on 23 May 1824.

During the dispute with the dey, which saw Neale’s squadrons assembled in the bay of Algiers ready to bombard the town, Capt Spencer was selected to negotiate and make final arrangements to settle the treaty which he achieved. As a result, Naiad was employed in most of the active duties in the Aegean Sea in the Greek War of Independence during 1825. Capt Spencer was entrusted with several important negotiations with the commander of the Turkish forces in the Morea, and with the Greek chiefs in the Archipelago. In March 1826, Naiad was stationed in the Gulf of Patras during the Third Siege of Missolonghi and Spencer informed the Admiralty of the Ottoman forces captures.

When Naiad left Malta for England in August, Neale wrote to Capt Spencer praising his ‘zeal and judgment and good discipline’ and ‘honor to her officers and ship’s company’ which was said ‘never to have been exceeded.’ (9)

HMS Victory in Portsmouth harbour, where Lt Edmund Henry Seppings served in late 1826.

Back in Portsmouth harbour, Edmund Henry Seppings served on HMS Victory from 10 October to 1 November, and HMS Asia a second-rate ship of the line from 2 November to 30 January 1827 under Capt E. Curzon. On 6 January, they prepared to receive Vice Admiral Sir E. Codrington, K.C.B., appointed Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. He also served on HMS Barham from 31 January to 7 February, recently fitted out as the flag ship for the West Indies, and on HMS Nancy from 9 December 1828 to 2 March 1829.

Edmund Henry Seppings became a lieutenant on 11 September, 1828.

HMS Shannon leading her prize the American Frigate Chesapeake into Halifax Harbour, by John Christian Schetky 1830. One of several ships Lt Edmund Henry Seppings served on in the West Indies.

Leaving Plymouth on 3 March 1829 and arriving at Port Royal, Jamaica, on 10 August, Lt Edmund Henry Seppings served on HMS Shannon, a Leda class 38-gun fifth rate frigate, under Admiral E G Colpoys, commander-in-chief at the West Indies & North American Station until 16 August. He also served on HMS Mersey a Conway-class 26-gun sixth rate post ship, in Jamaica, and HMS Magnificent, a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line, hulked as a receiving ship there, from 18 August to 10 November 1829. It had been used as a hospital and possibly still was.

During his time at Jamaica, Edmund Henry served under a succession of commanders – Captain George William Conway Courtenay, Acting Captain Charles Ramsay Drinkwater-Bethune, and Captain Henry Smith. His last appointment on the 1930 Naval Register shows that he served on board HMS Ranger a sixth-rate frigate from 11 November 1829 to 2 February 1830, leaving Jamaica on 12 November for St Jago de Cuba. His last payment from the Royal Navy was made on 19 April.

Somerset House, London 1817. Nicholas Lockyer Seppings worked here as a Stores and Secretary’s Office Clerk from Nov 1825 to 1871.

Nicholas Lockyer Seppings (1810-1887) was a Stores and Secretary’s Office Clerk in the civil administration of the Royal Navy at the Victualling Office in Somerset Place. He began his career as a clerk in the Store Account Branch on 11 November 1825 and then worked as a clerk for the Secretary’s Office from 25 July 1829, which supported the Navy Board and dealt with all correspondence. These offices were presided over by the Comptroller of the Navy until 1832 when the Navy Office was abolished. The administrative staff and all of its functions remained at Somerset House but were overseen by the Admiralty in Whitehall. Nicholas was a Third Class Clerk in 1832 and left the office on 19 June on appointment as Third Class Clerk to the Accountant General of Navy.

Nicholas Lockyer Seppings married Harriet Sarah Blogg (1819-1890) in 1836 at Saint Pancras Old Church, London. According to the 1841 Census, his occupation was ‘Gentleman in The Civil Service’ and his address is given as York Place in the Parish of St James, Clerkenwell, Middlesex. He was 30 years old and his wife, Harriett, age 20. They had two children, Rosa Anna (b. 1836) and Louisa Harriett (b. 1838), and two domestic servants.

In 1948 Nicholas was a Clerk of the Second Class for the Store Account Branch. In the 1851 Census he was listed as Esquire, of the Admiralty, Somerset House. In 1862, he appeared in the Navy List as a Clerk of the Second Class for the Department of the Storekeeper General. By 1871, age 60, he was recorded as a Senior Clerk Admirably Superannuated. In 1881, Nicholas and Harriett, two teenage granddaughters and a servant were living at Sunnyside, Wandsworth, Surrey, where he died in 1887, a Gentleman.

Bengal Troops 1840s

Lt Alsworth Merewether Seppings (1811-1841) joined the East India Company’s Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey, in 1825, as an EIC officer cadet. At age 16 he completed his education and ranked 2nd Lieutenant on 13 December 1827. Alsworth joined the Bengal Army and arrived in India on 9 June 1828. He became a lieutenant on 3 March 1831 and his rank was altered to 1st Lieutenant on 3 March 1835. In Alexander’s East India and Colonial Magazine, 1836, he was recorded as 1st Lieutenant of the 1st company 4th battalion of artillery, and was appointed to do duty with the Assam Light Infantry from Nov 1836 – 26 May 1838. He was listed in The Asiatic Journal on 25 April 1838 as being in Simla with 8th company; 7th battalion to 1st company; and 4th battalion.

HMS Java

On 6 October 1838, Lt Alsworth Merewether Seppings of the Bengal Artillery appeared before a Chief Magistrate at the Police Office in Calcutta for a case of an assault committed on an officer of the ship HMS Java, a 52-gun fourth rate ship of the line, by several of her officers and crew. Thomas John Bell versus Thomas Nelson Howard, Robert Jaques, Lt Seppings and Mr. Morgan.
Thomas Bell, a preventive officer on duty on board the Java, lying off town, was sitting on the poop and leaning against the foot ropes at 9 pm that evening. Mr Howard, the chief mate in command of the ship, came on the quarter-deck and called out ‘keep off the ridge ropes.’ He then went up to Bell and told him to go down from the poop but Bell refused to obey this order. Mr Howard seized him by the collar and tried to force him down the poop-ladder and a struggle broke out between the two. Some of the crew came up and Mr Jaques, Lt Seppings and Mr Morgan parted the two them, seizing Bell and attempting to remove him from the poop.
During the scuffle, Lt Seppings struck Bell several times. Bell’s shirt and coat were torn. Lt Seppings explained he had struck Thomas because Bell had hit Mr Howard. Seppings had been passing the evening with Mr Howard and was about to quit the ship at the time the affray occurred. According to Mr Howard, he had, previous to this, received a letter from Captain Jobbling, the commander of the Java, not to permit Mr Bell to lounge about the ship’s ropes in the disrespectful manner he used to do.
Mr Howard told the magistrate: ‘Mr Bell, at the time he behaved in this strange manner, appeared to have been the worse for liquor. He generally labours under the influence of drink. He brought into the ship a much larger quantity of liquor than he should have done, and made a very free use of it. He once endangered the safety of the ship by his negligent conduct. He got drunk and fell asleep! leaving a candle burning in his cabin all night, which is contrary to the regulations of the ship.’
A summons was sent to Lt Seppings’ regiment at the Royal Artillery headquarters at Dum-Dum, as he was indisposed and wished to have the case against him postponed. A medical certificate was provided and the proceedings resumed on 13 October at 1 pm. Thomas Bell recalled: ‘Lt Seppings struck me twice on the face with his clenched first on several parts of my body. I do not remember on what part of my face he struck me. I did not even remember it the next morning. He could not get at me properly to strike me. He could not strike me severely; for he had to reach over those who were round me.’
Bell’s general conduct was described to have been very violent and outrageous. Lt Seppings was fined 100 rupees, or two month’s confinement in the common jail of Calcutta, in failure of payment. (10)

Lt Alsworth Merewether Seppings resigned 19 August 1840 and had no record of active service.

Military uniforms 1830 – the Madras Horse Artillery, the Madras Light Cavalry, the Madras Rifle Corps, the Madras Pioneers, the Madras Native Infantry – which Ensign William Lawless Seppings would have worn – and the Madras Foot Artillery

Lt William Lawless Seppings (1812-1845) joined the 4th Regiment Native Infantry in Madras, India, and qualified as a Cadet for the Infantry at Fort St George military garrison in 1828. Being in the Madras Army his job involved internal security and support for the civil administration. As the army was multi-ethnic, he was encouraged to learn and speak Hindi. He became a lieutenant on 19 March 1831.

In 1832, Ensign William Lawless Seppings was involved in a Court Martial against another in the 4th Regiment NI, Ensign J A Crawford at Headquarters, Vellore, Madras, 9-17 January. The charge for ‘scandalous and infamous behaviour, unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman’ on 12 December 1831, having submitted to being called a liar by Ensign William Lawless Seppings without taking any measures to remedy the insult. The Court found Crawford guilty and discharged him from the Company’s service. (11)

William Lawless Seppings married Isabella Georgiana Catherine White on 22 Feb 1834 in Bangalore, Madras. They had three children, all born Bangalore: William John Seppings (1835-1891), Catherine Ann Maria Seppings (b. 1836) and Edward James Seppings (b. 1838).

Bellary map. Lt William Lawless Seppings was stationed at the cantonment of Bellary in 1840.

On 6 April 1835, William had to face a second Court Martial. He was placed under arrest by order of the Commander-in-chief, upon the complaint of Lt Philip Annesley Secundus Powys, also of the 4th Regiment NI. Ensign William Lawless Seppings was charged with ‘conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman, in having, at Bangalore, on the morning of the 26th of April, 1835, on the public road, struck his superior officer, a violent blow with his clenched hand in the face.’ Lt Powys was on duty as officer of the day.
On 17 May, the court found that the prisoner was guilty of the charge with the exception of ‘conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman,’ and of which the court acquitted him. They sentenced him to be reprimanded in such manner as his Excellency the Commander-in-chief may he pleased to direct and added that the court was induced to pass ‘so lenient a sentence’ in consequence of Lt Powys having been the aggressor, by laying violent hands on the prisoner, by whom a blow was struck in a moment of irritation, when under great excitement. Commander-in-chief Lt Gen R. W. O’Callaghan, Madras, on 10 June released William Lawless Seppings and he returned to his duty. (12)

Willliam is listed as an ensign with leave to 15 March 1839, to Bangalore, and being on furlough – ranked as lieutenant – on 4 September 1838. On 20 September 1839, he embarked on sick leave for Europe from the western coast with 33rd NI Capt Thomas McLellan to proceed to the Cape of Good Hope.  He was  stationed at the cantonment of Bellary in 1840 and on a sick certificate until 1 May 1841.

Lt William Lawless Seppings resigned from military service 23 September 1842, in India. He died where he was born in Greenwich, 1845. His wife Isabella, died in Bangalore in 1860.

Part 3 of ‘The Age of Sail’ looks at Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ first cousins’ on the Seppings side.

Illustration Credits 

Ships at Port Royal, 1820 by James Hakewill, (1875), published in A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica
Enslaved Africans harvesting sugar cane in Antigua, 1786, by William Clark. Held by British Library
Full title:  Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in which are represented the process of sugar making, and the employment of the negroes (London: Thomas Clay, 1823)
Medal commemorating the abolition of the slave trade 1807 (bronze)
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Michael Graham-Stewart Slavery Collection.
Copper Rum Measure
Serving-grog on HMS Jubille
A First Rate Taking in Stores 1818 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, England ttp://
East India Company grandee (Getty Images)
East India House by Thomas Malton the Younger. (Getty Images)
Blundell’s School, Tiverton, Devon, with keyed floor plan 1857 by T Wellcome
HMS Seringapatam at anchor in Valletta Harbour, Malta, between 1824 and 1827 by Anton Schranz
HMS Naiad towing HMS Belleisle towards Gibraltar, after the Belleisle had been damaged and dismasted at the Battle of Trafalgar two days previously, 23 Oct 1805.
Water colour by P H Nicholas. Height: 14.5 cm (5.7 in); Width: 21.5 cm (8.4 in)
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Map of the Mediterranean Sea with adjacent regions (1785)
La cite le port et le mole d Alger Algiers harbour. Engraving 1690
HMS Victory in Portsmouth harbour
HMS Shannon leading her prize the American Frigate Chesapeake into Halifax Harbour by John Christian Schetky 1830
Somerset House 1817 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd
Bengal Troops 1840s
HMS Java, a 52-gun fourth rate ship of the line
Military uniforms 1830 – The Madras Horse Artillery, the Madras Light Cavalry, the Madras Rifle Corps, the Madras Pioneers, the Madras Native Infantry, and the Madras Foot Artillery

Research Resources

(4) The Hand-book of British India: a Guide to the Stranger, the Traveller, the Resident and All who May Have Business with Or Appertaining to India by Joachim Hayward Stocqueler (1845)
(5) The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to Persia, China and Japan, 1856-7-8 by George Dodd, Adamant Media Corporation (2003)
(6) ibid
(7) New York Times/1861/12/07/archives/the-british-navy
Royal Naval Biography: Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-Officers, Superannuated Rear-Admirals, Retired-Captains, Post-Captains, and Commanders Collection – Naval and Military History by John Marshall (1829)
(9) The Calcutta Monthly Journal XLIX for the month of December, 1838, published Jan 1839,  p502-4
(10) Royal Naval Biography: Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-Officers, Superannuated Rear-Admirals, Retired-Captains, Post-Captains, and Commanders Collection – Naval and Military History by John Marshall (1829)
(11) The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia, Volume 9. Parbury, Allen, and Company, 1832 – Asia
Alexander’s East India and Colonial Magazine: 1835, 7/12
display_type=ships_search pdf
Thirty Years View or A History of the working of the American Government for thirty years from 1820-1850 Vol 1 p454
War and Empire: The Expansion of Britain, 1790-1830 Bruce Collins, Routledge (2010)

Lt John Milligen Seppings (1805-1863)

Lt Edmund Henry Seppings (1807-1858)
The London Gazette, Part 2 p 301 (1353)
1828 List of Flag Officers and other Commissioned Officers of His Majesty’s Fleet by Great Britain. Admiralty. p334
The United Service Journal Monthly Naval Register p518 1829
The United Service Journal Monthly Naval Register p380 1930
The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol V
The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia, Parbury, Allen, and Company, 1842 – p432,_Frederick,_Robert_Cavendish#cite_note-5

Nicholas Lockyer Seppings (1810-1887)
The Post Office London Directory 1843
The Navy List, Great Britain, 1862
London 1841 Census
London 1851 Census
London 1871 Census
The Post Office London Directory p 30
The London Gazette, May 11, 1860, p 1814
The British Navy’s Victualling Board, 1793-1815: Management Competence and Incompetence, Janet W. Macdonald

Lt Alsworth Merewether Seppings (1811-1841)
Alexander’s East India and Colonial Magazine: 1836, 1/5
The Asiatic Journal
British India Office Cadet Papers
The Calcutta Monthly Journal XLIX for the month of December
, 1838, Pub Jan 1839,  p502-4
Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service – Sat 14 Nov 1840
The India Office and Burma Office List
Officers of the Bengal Army 1750-1854 part IV by Major VCP Hodson 1947

Lt William Lawless Seppings (1812-1845)
Baillie-Ki-Paltan: Being a History of the 2nd Battalion, Madras Pioneers 1759-1930 by Lieutenant-Colonel H. F. Murland p 413
Alphabetical List of the Officers of the Indian Army: With the Dates of Their Respective Promotion, Retirement, Resignation, Or Death, Whether in India Or in Europe, from the Year 1760 to the Year 1834 Inclusive, Corrected to September 30, 1837 by Edward Dodwell, Madras Presidency p 4
Alexander’s East India and Colonial Magazine, Volume 10, p 598-599
The Herald of Peace, Volume 8, p 523
The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia, Volume 9. Parbury, Allen, and Company, 1832 – Asia
Alexander’s East India and Colonial Magazine: 1835, 7/12
Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service – Sat 10 Dec 1842
Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service – Sat 23 Nov 1839
Parbury’s oriental herald and colonial intelligencer
UK, Naval and Military Courts Martial Registers, 1806-1930


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Seppings Coat of Arms

On 18 Feb 1825, the Kings of Arms, under Crown authority, granted and assigned a coat of arms and crest to Sir Robert Seppings, ‘to be borne and used for ever hereafter by him and his only brother Lt John Milligen Seppings and by their respective descendants according to the Laws of Arms.’

Seppings_Coat of Arms_18250218 a s

The unique coat of arms consists of a crest on a wreath with a half seahorse adorned with a blue naval crown and holding between its fore fins, a triangle; a shield containing a trident and an ancient galley with oarsmen (a slender warship used by the early Greek, Phoenician and Roman naval powers), above two seahorses holding between their fore fins, a Triangle sable; and at the base, the motto IMMOTUS – the Latin word meaning immoveable.

Sir Robert Seppings petitioned a grant of arms after he received the honour of knighthood on 17 Aug 1819 on board the Royal George yacht ‘under sail, the royal standard flying’ (Heralds’ College), and following many other honours in England and the Continent. The Emperor Alexander of Russia, the kings of Denmark and Holland, all presented him with valuable gifts to mark their appreciation of ‘his various improvements in the constructions of ships of War relative to their form economy and durability’.

The coat of arms, painted on the parchment vellum with the Royal Seals and handwritten Letters Patent – addressed to anyone in the world to whom it may be presented – was mostly used as a seal on legal documents.

Seppings_Coat of Arms & Crest_18250218 a s

Letters Patent transcribed –

to whom these Presents shall come Sir George Nayler Knight GARTER Principal King of Arms and Ralph Bigland Esquire from the River Trent Southwards and Greeting
Whereas Sir Robert Seppings of Somerset Place in the Parish of St Mary le Strand in the County of Middlesex Knight eldest son of Robert Seppings late of Fakenham in the county of Norfolk esquire deceased and Grandson of Thomas Seppings late of Fakenham aforesaid gentleman also deceased both represented unto the Most Noble Bernard Edward Duke of Norfolk Earl Marshal and Sir John Henslow Knight a Surveyor or Commissioner of His MAJESTY’S Navy to learn the Art of Building and constructing Ships and having passed through the various gradations of the Civil Departments of the Dock Yards was in May 1813 appointed Surveyor and one of the Commissioners of his MAJESTY’S Navy that he having during this Period made various improvements in the constructions of ships of War relative to their form economy and durability His MAJESTY’S then Acting as ‘PRINCE’ Regent was on the 17th, august 1819 deemed to confer on him the honour of Knighthood on board the Royal George Yacht while under Sail and with the Royal Standard hoisted on the Deck: That in the same year the select Committee of finance upon Naval Expenditure after examining the Memorialist’s various Medals and improvements on shipping and mentioning the great ability of the same were pleased to conclude their Report in these merits ‘These Services although they have nothing of that brilliancy which forcibly attracts public admiration will continue to confer a lasting benefit to the British Nation long after the period when the beneficial effect of victories however splendid shalt have passed away – That the Memorialist had the honor to receive in the year 1817 from the Royal Society of London the Copleian Gold Medal, and from the Society for the Promotion and Encouragement of Arts Manufacture and Commerce a Gold Medal “for obviating the necessity of lifting Ships” and in addition to then flattering marks of Distinction He has had the satisfaction to be honored with a Jewel Ring presented to him by command of his MAJESTY the Emperor and Judiciator of All the Russias and a Diamond Ring by command of the King of Denmark and being desirous of commemorating these special marks of favor bestowed upon him by his own Sovereign as well as by foreign Monarchs by bearing such Armorial Ensigns as may have some allusion to his professional services. He thereupon requested the favour of His Grace’s Warrant for our granting and assigning such Arms and Crest bearing allusion accordingly as may be proper to be borne by him and by his only Brother John Milligen Seppings a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and their respective descendants according to the Laws of Arms
And forasmuch as the said Earl Marshal did by Warrant under his hand and Seal bearing date the twenty fourth day of December last authorize and direct Us to grant and assign to the said Sir Robert Seppings such Amorial Ensigns accordingly Know Ye therefore that We the said GARTER and CLARENCEUX in pursuance of his Grace’s Warrant and by Virtue of the Letters Patent of our several offices to each of the respectively granted have derised and do by these Presents grant and assign unto the said Sir Robert Seppings the Arms, Mering that is to say Argent two Sea Horses rampant respecting each other proper holding between their paws or fore fins, a Triangle sable a chief wavy azure thereon an ancient Galley and above the same Trident sessways of the first and for Crest on a Wreath of the Colours a Demi Sea Horse proper gorged with Naval Crown Azure and holding between his paws (or fore fins) a Triangle Or as the same are in the Margin hereof more plainly depicted to be borne and used for ever hereafter by him the said sir Robert Seppings and by his Brother John Millgen Seppings and by their respective descendants with due and proper differences according to the Laws of Arms
In Witness whereof We the said GARTER and CLARENCEUX Kings of Arms have to those presents subscribes our Names and affixed the Seals of our several Offices this eighteenth day of February in the Sixth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord GEORGE the Fourth by the Grace of GOD of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and, Ireland, KING, Defender of the Faith .. and in the year of our Lord one thousand eight Hundred and twenty five.

Signed by
George Nayler Knight GARTER Principal King of Arms
Ralph Bigland Clarenceux Kings of Arms

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The Age of Sail – Milligen, Seppings and Lockyer Military Men, England

Lockyer_N_Cpt_HMS sophie on right
HMS Sophie, the British 18-gun brig sloop (on right) under Captain Nicholas Lockyer’s command (1809-14)

Born into the Age of Sail, Edmund Henry Seppings (1807-1858), the first Seppings to arrive and settle in Australia, was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. From the age of thirteen, he served on numerous ships and in numerous battles in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Like his father, Lt John Milligen Seppings, and his uncle Sir Robert Seppings, both adopted as young adolescents by their uncle Capt John Milligen, as well as his uncles on his mother’s Lockyer side, the men in his family were all expected to serve in the Royal Navy, or the British or Indian Army, to ensure Britannia continued to rule the waves, to secure and protect the British Empire’s colonial conquests and trade routes, and to increase revenue whenever they could and wherever they were sent to around the globe.

All Edmund Henry Seppings’ male relatives had roles either directly in military service, or in associated fields. His uncle Sir Robert Seppings was a shipwright, naval architect and Surveyor of the Royal Navy. Other uncles were captains, majors, brigadiers. Three of his brothers were lieutenants. His many cousins were all these and more. Others, (without titles) were in positions such as Comptroller of Customs, naval storekeepers and office clerks, Inspector of Shipping, and Inspector of Naval Hospitals. In the following list of family in military service, I have also included notable members who married into Seppings, Milligen or Dacres families.

Edmund Henry Seppings’ male relatives in the Age of Sail –

Great uncle
Capt John Milligen (1730-1788)
Thomas Lockyer (1756-1806)
Lt John Milligen Seppings (1770-1826)
Sir Robert Seppings (1767-1840)
MD John Pleasance (1759-1793) m. Helen Seppings (1765-)
Thomas Lockyer (1780-1854)
Capt Nicholas Lockyer (1781-1847)
Major Edmund Lockyer (1784-1860)
William Lockyer (1785-1858)
Major Orlando Lockyer (1787-1819)
Brigadier General Henry Frederick Lockyer (1796-1861)
Lt John Milligen Seppings (1805-1863)
Nicholas Lockyer Seppings (1810-1887)
Lt Alsworth Merewether Seppings (1811-1841)
Lt William Lawless Seppings (1812-1845)
First cousins
Edward Laws (1791-)
Robert Laws (1798-1889)
Rear Admiral John Milligen Laws (1799-1859)
Robert Gill (1796-1871)
Major James Hull Harrison (1783-1853) m Martha Milligen Seppings (1796-1840)
John Milligen Seppings (1798-1863)
Lt. William Edmund Lockyer (1808-1886)
Edmund Morris Lockyer (1809-1872)
Henry Merewether Lockyer (1807-1835)
Capt William Nicholas Love Lockyer (1818-1904)
Herbert Walton Merewether (1816-1843)
John Robert Merewether (1818-1841)
Edward Christopher Merewether (1820-1893)
Major General Sir William Lockyer Merewether (1825-1880)
Sir Nicholas Colston Lockyer, C.B.E., I.S.O. (1855-1933)
2nd cousins
Vice Admiral Sir Richard Dacres (1761-1837) m. Martha Phillips Milligen (1766-1840)
Lt Colonel Robert Seppings Harrison (1821-1872)
Lt Henry Laws Harrison (1833-1863)
Capt Horace Sibbald Harrison (1837-1922)
3rd cousins
Rear Admiral Sir William Fairbrother Carroll (1784-1862) m. Martha Dacres
Lt Colonel Henry Stephen Olivier (1795-1864) m. Mary Milligen Dacres (1795-1858)
Field Marshal Richard James Dacres (1799-1886)
Admiral Sir Sydney Colpoys Dacres (1805-1884)
Capt Edward James Seppings (1826-1857)
Colonel Edward Seppings Lock (1837-1886)
Edmund Henry Seppings (1864-1934)
Lt Hugh Henry Yarde (1846-1870)

H.M.S. Calcutta 84 guns, PY0844
HMS Calcutta (84) in a gale off the Gulf of Pechili, China 1858, designed by Sir Robert Seppings (1831)

‘Life at sea during the age of sail was filled with hardship,’ states the Royal Museum, Greenwich, website. ‘Men working at sea had much to endure; cut off from normal life on shore for months, even years, they had to accept cramped conditions, disease, poor food and pay. Above all, they faced the daily dangers of sea and weather. A seaman’s life was hard, and he had to be tough to survive, so ship’s officers kept strict discipline on board. In this way they hoped to keep morale high and prevent mutiny.’

The crew of a typical warship in the Napoleonic era (1793–1815), were a mix of two hierarchies – an official rank and position in the chain of command and a traditionally recognized class distinction between gentlemen and common sailors, seen in the names for jobs such as boatswain, coxswain, seamen, all of Anglo-Saxon origin, while those of officers – captain, lieutenant, admiral, are of Norman-French origin.

HMS_Ville_de_Paris_1803HMS Ville de Paris (1803). Lt John Milligen Seppings served under Lord St Vincent on his 1st Rate (104) Ville de Paris from Oct 1798 to Jan 1801 in the Mediterranean and off the Coast of France in a line of Battle ships off Cadiz and Brest. Ville de Paris was designed by Sir John Henslow

‘Fleets were divided into three squadrons made up of the van (forward), the centre and rear. The rear was commanded by a rear-admiral who was subordinate to the vice-admiral commanding the van. The admiral commanded the centre squadron and had overall command of the whole fleet. The ship of an admiral was known as a flagship.’ (1)

The average third-rate ship of the line of 74-guns during Nelson’s day carried 650 men, all of whom had particular jobs at sea and in battle.
‘Typical jobs on board included cook, parson, surgeon, master gunner, boatswain (in charge of the sails), carpenter and quartermaster. Other members of the crew would, of course, carry out all the duties, including keeping watch, handling sails, and cleaning decks.’ (2) A seaman’s diet included boiled beef or pork, peas, oatmeal, butter, cheese and the ‘ship’s biscuit’.

The earliest record of any Seppings involvement with the Royal Navy is on 1 January 1644, when a Thomas Seppens was fully pardoned for his said Offence in the Journals of the House of Commons, Volume 4 by Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons: ‘Upon the humble petition of Thomas Seppens, a prisoner in Newgate, convicted, and adjudged to Death, by the Court Martial; and reprieved by Order of this House.’ There was also a Captain Seppens, according to the Journals of the House of Lords, Volume 10 1509-1649 by Great Britain House of Lords when ‘his Petition, stating that he had been condemned by a Council of War, for writing a Letter to betray the Island of Guernsey, and praying to be reprieved’ was granted a pardon.

Our Seppings ancestors lived in Fakenham, Norfolk, in the 1600s, with occupations related to food – oatmeal makers, butchers, and a cattle dealer. That changed when Robert and John, the two sons of Robert Seppings (cattle dealer) and Lydia (nee Milligen), moved to Plymouth, Devon. John Milligen, Lydia’s father, was a successful linen draper who left money to his son, John Milligen, a captain in the Royal Navy, based in Plymouth.
‘There must have been something very potent in the Milligen genes. Among John Milligen’s grand and great grandchildren were Sir Robert Seppings, Surveyor of the Navy; Field Marshall Sir Richard Dacres, Governor of the Tower; Admiral Sir Sydney Colpoys Dacres, first Naval Lord; and Rear Admiral John Milligan Laws. There were distinguished members of the Dacres family of high rank in both the Royal Navy and the Army’ wrote Faith Packard in Our Family History.

plymouth_devon_getty_623x400Plymouth’s shipyards (1700s)

In 1780, Robert and Lydia’s youngest son, John Milligen Seppings, was sent with his oldest sister Lydia, to live with their mother’s brother, Captain John Milligen, who placed him in the navy at the age of ten years old as a midshipman on Dunkirk, a store ship under his uncle’s command. A year later, Robert Seppings died age 47. His first son, Robert, was thirteen years old and had already shown himself ‘to be intelligent and full of energy,’ according to Faith Packard. ‘His father had succeeded little better at the chancy business of selling cattle than he had at the hard grind of farming and there was seldom enough for an adequate family budget.’ Young Robert ‘developed a business of his own, and, before he reached his teens was entrusted by the Fakenham folk with carrying letters to Wells nearly ten miles away on a mule.’ His father’s death changed the course of Robert’s destiny. His mother struggled to bring up the family on her own and her brother, Capt John Milligen, offered to adopt Robert, too. Robert Seppings left his home in Fakenham, eight miles from Burnham Thorpe, ‘where a man he much admired, Lord Nelson, was born nine years earlier,’ and 23 miles from King’s Lynn, the birthplace of George Vancouver nine months earlier than Nelson.

Royal Navy Officers (1799) –

midshipman-drawing Lieutenant_1799 Captain_1799 Admiral_1799
Midshipman                          Lieutenant                                   Captain                                      Admiral

As in most wealthy or aristocratic families, the Seppings and Lockyer sons were trained to become commissioned officers. Boys joined the navy at the age of 12 to 14 and served at least three years at sea as a volunteer or able seaman and learned to rig sails, keep watch on deck, relay messages between decks, supervise gun batteries, command small boats, and take command of a sub-division of the ship’s company under the supervision of one of the lieutenants.
Next up the rank from able seaman was a midshipman’s mate who would mess and berth in the cockpit. He wore a blue frock coat with white trim.
A midshipman was a cockpit officer, a probationary rank held by young naval officers under training who would also mess and berth in the cockpit. He wore a blue frock coat with white button collar patch. Midshipmen were taught navigation, astronomy and trigonometry by the ship’s schoolmaster or chaplain and were expected to keep detailed navigational logs, which were shown to the captain to assess their progress.
After serving at least three years as a midshipman, and a total of six years at sea, the young gentleman was eligible to take the examination for promotion to lieutenant, at around the age of 19. Midshipmen often took positions as master’s mates for an increase in pay and more responsibility aboard ship to speed up the promotion. As most midshipmen were from the gentry or had family connections with sailing ships, ‘many used their connections to have their names placed on a ship’s books. This allowed some boys to be promoted to midshipmen, or in some cases lieutenant, without having completed the required amount of time at sea.’ (3)

                          Royal Navy midshipman coat 1780s                Royal Navy lieutenant’s epaulette 1812-25

Lieutenants, commanders and captains were appointed by the Admiralty.
A lieutenant, ranking above second lieutenant and below captain, was in charge of deck watches and in action commanded a gun battery and would be in the wardroom with a master, purser, surgeon and chaplain. ‘They were sometimes despatched on shore to find experienced seamen in ports, who were often taken from merchant ships in port at the time.’ (4)
A commander was a non-rated ship captain. Full title ‘master and commander’, he wore a blue frock coat and white waist coat, the same as a lieutenant.

                     The 1774 captain’s full dress frock coat would have been worn by Capt John Milligan

A captain wore a blue frock coat with gold laced buttons. Both captain and commander would mess and berth in the Great Cabin. The captain was responsible for fitting out his ship for sea and had ‘to use his best endeavours to get the ship manned.’ (5) At sea he was responsible for the ship and all on board.
A major is a military rank used by both the British Army and Royal Marines. The rank is superior to captain, and subordinate to lieutenant colonel.
The captain, lieutenant and second lieutenant are called subalterns. The brigadier, colonel, lieutenant colonel and major are considered Field Officers.

American Privateer PIONEER Taken by HMS SOPHIE_1812a
HMS Sophie, under Captain Nicholas Lockyer, captured the 17-gun American privateer Pioneer and 170 men off the American coast in 1812

‘By the end of the 1700s, pay on a naval ship was less than that on a merchant ship … However, as well as basic wages, sailors would expect to have a share of prize money or booty from captured enemy vessels. In the Caribbean, as Spanish power declined and Britain and France asserted themselves as the dominant regional powers it became obvious that potentially lucrative colonies where slaves were growing tobacco or sugar were threatened by uncertainty at sea and something had to be done to stamp out piracy.’ (6)
‘The Royal Navy went from having just two ships in the Caribbean, in 1670, to 124 by 1718.  When the French lost Haiti to a slave revolt in 1804, Britain doubled its number of ships in the area. The Navy hunted down pirates ruthlessly and dispatched quick and summary justice to anyone they caught.’ (7)F7730 001HMS Rodney (1833) Warship Second rate 92 guns designed by Sir Robert Seppings

Model of 'Caledonia' (1808), 120 guns, three decker ship of the line
HMS Caledonia (1808) First Rate ship of the line 120 guns designed by Sir Robert Seppings

The type and class of vessels our ancestors served on are explained by David Lyon in The Sailing Navy List: all the ships of the Royal Navy – built, purchased and captured 1688 – 1860.
‘From the mid-18th century, most European nations divided their principal warships into six ‘rates’ or divisions, according to the number of guns they carried. The first rate ships carried from 100 (after 1810 this increased to 110) guns upwards; the second rates carried from 84 (later 90) to 100 (110); third rates 70 (80) to 84 (90); fourth rates 50 (60); fifth rates 32 to 50 (60); and sixth rates, any number of guns up to 32 if commanded by a post-captain. Such ships when commanded by a commander were rated as ‘sloops’.
The first three rates, and occasionally the fourth, were recognised as ‘ships of the line’, that is, vessels with armaments sufficiently powerful to be able to form up in the line of battle during a naval engagement. Fifth and sixth rate ships were known as frigates whose duties were varied, ranging from active participation battle as signal repeating ships to convoy duty. All six rates of ships had the standard three masts, square-rigged on each mast. There were subsidiary smaller types of vessels such as brigs, sloops, tenders, snows etc. whose duties were outside the scope and range of the main battle fleets.’

The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805
The Battle of Trafalgar 1805

In ‘A Sailor’s Life For Me – A day in the life of a Royal Navy Sailor from 1806’, an article on the website War History Online, it reads, ‘The life of a sailor has never been easy, and during wartime, it is doubly true. It was particularly so in the Royal Navy at the beginning of the 19th century. Britain was embroiled in a struggle against France, which had recently succumbed to revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte had become ruler and he had a grand vision of spreading French influence across Europe and the British channel. To do that, he needed control of the seas. Britain’s Royal Navy was all that stood between Napoleon and his almost complete control of Europe. It was not until the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805, when his fleet was sufficiently weakened, that the British could rest easy knowing a French invasion was impossible. Across the globe, however, the Royal Navy still fought Napoleon’s ships, which harassed shipping and blockaded ports. Life aboard those ships was always tough, but rarely ever slow.’

Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1777a
Halifax, Nova Scotia 1777

Capt John Milligen’s (1730-1788) first known service was as a lieutenant in 1746 at the age of sixteen. During 1755-56, he served as a second lieutenant aboard HMS Eagle at the same time James Cook began his career in the Royal Navy. Cook served on the Eagle, a 58-gun fourth rate ship of the line, from 1755-57 as able seaman, master’s mate and boatswain. John Milligen was commissioned as a master and commanding officer in his Majesty’s Navy from 1761 and by 4 June 1768 was promoted to captain. He sailed for North America in 1777 to Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the American War of Independence, in command of the flagship Blonde, a 32-gun fifth-rate Royal Navy frigate of war, capturing several American and French vessels including Duc de Choiseul which he ran aground on April 24, 1778. He was also in command of the Dunkirk, a 60-gun, fourth-rate naval warship. During his service, Capt John Milligen sailed with Sir George Collier, Rear-Admiral Francis William Drake and Peter Puget when he entered the navy at age twelve. Capt John Milligen returned to Plymouth in December 1779 and resumed harbour service on the Dunkirk in 1780-82 before he retired. The captain was fifty years old when he adopted his nephew John Milligen Seppings in 1780. He died in 1788 age 58.

Edmund Henry Seppings’ maternal grandfather, Thomas Lockyer, died age 49, two years after Edmund’s father, John Milligen Seppings married Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer, and two years before Edmund was born.

Plymouth_Return of fleet into Plymouth Harbour_D Serres 1766
Return of fleet into Plymouth Harbour 1766

Thomas Lockyer (1756-1806) was a successful Sailmaker, Ship Riggings Merchant and Sworn Broker in Plymouth, with warehouses on Southside Street. The large, wooden sailing ships of the 16th-19th centuries were built mainly in the south of England, in the Royal Dockyards at Deptford, Woolwich, Sheerness and Chatham (Kent), Plymouth (Devon) and Portsmouth (Hampshire). Sails were made from cloth, such as flax (linen), woven from hemp, or cotton, including canvas. Linen had ‘poor resistance to rot, UV light, and water absorption’ (8) and was replaced by cotton during the 19th century. ‘An assemblage of cloths of canvas cut to the necessary length and fashioned to a particular shape … light or heavy according to use in light or heavy winds … (were) numbered according to the thickness and weave.’ (9) The standard length of a canvas bolt was 39 yards and 22-30 inches wide.
‘The hand tools used for making sails 200 hundred years ago are virtually the same as used today.’ (10) Based at ports, the production of sails and ropes were a fundamental industry; essential to both naval and merchant shipping. Thomas Lockyer’s business would have catered to merchant ships trading with Europe and the colonies of North America and the West Indies, the latter two receiving 57 per cent of British exports and supplying 32 per cent of imports by the late 1700s.
‘The Royal Navy had its own Sail Lofts where sails for the RN were made. For Nelsons Victory an outfit of sails prior to Trafalgar was £1300 and it would take 28 men 83 days to manufacture one set of sails.’ (11)
Not long before his death in 1806, Thomas Lockyer advertised in Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, and the Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser, the sale of ‘the handsome fast sailing French private ship of war “L’Intrepide”, 61 feet 2 inches length on deck … Nearly new, has a neat figure head, and well calculated for a privateer, or dispatch vessel’. Plus its cargo of ‘220 hogsheads of red wine; 9 pipes of brandy, 8 hogsheads of brandy and 3 quarter casks of brandy.’ He also had two more condemned prize ships, including L’Aimable Germaine, and the Spanish ship San Pables with its entire cargo, which consisted of ‘Sugar, Cocoa, Jallap, Allspice, Sarsaparella, Corten Eleuthere, Frankincense, Cuchineae, Indigo, Bark, Hides in the hair, Campeachy Logwood, and 1 bale of Plase.’
Five of Thomas Lockyer’s sons had successful careers in the Royal Navy and British Army, one as a captain, two as majors and one as a brigadier general.

Edmund Henry Seppings’ father, Lt John Milligen Seppings, was the first of our Seppings ancestors to join the Royal Navy when he left Norfolk for Plymouth.

Seppings_Lt John Milligen s

Lt John Milligen Seppings (1770-1826) entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman on 1st Sep 1780 on the Dunkirk under the command of his uncle, Capt John Milligen. John was almost ten years old. He had a long career as a commander in the Royal Navy and as a Comptroller of Revenue and Chief of Customs at Plymouth, Chatham and Greenwich. In February 1789, he sailed to America aboard a fifth rate frigate, the Penelope 32, where he spent the next two years at the Leeward Islands (where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean) and at Halifax, Nova Scotia. During the next decade he served mostly in the waters of the British Channel, Newfoundland, Holland, the North Sea, and off the Coast of Spain and Portugal in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

H.M.S. Queen, 110 guns... print... , PY0892
John Milligen Seppings became a lieutenant in the West Indies, 1793, while serving on HMS Queen 

John Milligen Seppings was serving on HMS Queen 98 on 1 February 1793, the day that Revolutionary France declared war on Britain. The 2nd Rate ship became flagship of Rear-Admiral Alan Gardner and was commissioned into the Channel Fleet under the command of Lord Howe. By April they sailed to the West Indies and on 14 Oct 1793, John Milligen Seppings was appointed second lieutenant and lieutenant at arms. As an upgraded officer, he served under Sir Richard King on board HMS Aurora 28 and the 5th Rate HMS Druid 32 (1793-97). From March 1797 to February 1798, he served as lieutenant on HMS Swiftsure 74 and on the 2nd Rate ship Blenheim 90 under Captain Arthur Phillips off Cadiz, Spain. He then served under Capt Cuthbert Collingwood on the 3rd Rate Excellent 74. In the Mediterranean and off the Coast of France in a line of Battle ships off Cadiz and Brest, he served for almost three years under Lord St Vincent on his 1st Rate (104) Ville de Paris. On board the Montague he was briefly given the role of acting captain.

In 1801, under Admiral Cornwallis on the Ville de Paris, Lt John Milligen Seppings’ job was to ‘detain and bring into the nearest portal ships belonging to Russia, Denmark and Sweden.’

In 1802, ‘after the unsatisfactory conduct of the Revenue Cutters attached to Nelson’s attack on Bologna it was decided that a naval officer should superintend their equipment. Much against his will he was nominated by Lord St Vincent then 1st Lord of the Admiralty.’ Lt John Milligen Seppings was ‘compelled to accept’ and appointed as Surveyor for Sloops & Boats in the Service of HM Customs. ‘In 1809 the Revenue cruisers were attached to an expedition against Flushing under Sir Richard Strachan.’ Lt John Milligen Seppings was responsible for the ‘management, equipment and reputation,’ and received an appreciative letter from Sir Richard Strachan about ‘their conduct and equipment.’ (12)

Like his brother Sir Robert Seppings, Lt John Milligen Seppings was a man with good ideas. In 1819, ‘I laid before the Navy Board a proposal amphlifying the steering apparatus in Men of War by dispensing with the Sweep – in toto – shortening the Tiller nearly one half and introducing and securing on the rudder iron on with an Alteration in the wheel by which much expense, freedom and accident from shot are avoided – less liable to be out of order. A great comfort and convenience reduced to the Officers of HM Vessels.’ (13)
When he retired in 1821, Lt John Milligen Seppings was considered ‘a very intelligent and meritorious officer.’ (14) He died age 55 in 1826. His brother, Sir Robert Seppings, had a stone monument erected on the south wall of Chudleigh Church, Devon, with the words – To the memory of John Milligen Seppings esquire. He was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and for many years filled an important post in His Majesty’s Customs. As an officer his conduct was marked with discretion and bravery …

Uncles –

Sir Robert Seppings (1767-1840)

Sir Robert Seppings (1767-1840) was one of the most highly commemorated in the history of the Royal Navy for his numerous and important improvements to the functions of ships and the dry dock. In his nearly fifty years of service as a Master Shipwright, Naval Architect and Surveyor of the Navy, Robert Seppings vastly improved productivity in the dockyards, found more economic ways of using timber in shipbuilding, and designed a stronger British fleet. Seppings was the first person to introduce extensive use of iron into shipbuilding, instigating the birth of the iron steamship.

In 1782, fifteen-year-old Robert Seppings was adopted by his uncle Capt John Milligen who found him work with a friend John Henslow, then assistant Surveyor to the Royal Navy at Plymouth Dockyard. Henslow accepted Robert as an apprentice shipwright. Faith Packard wrote, ‘The care with which he was taught by, and the kindness he received from Mr Henslow were to help bring out in Robert those qualities which were to contribute so much to his success in the future. Robert received a carefully planned education at the hands of Mr Henslow in the various docks, ships and lofts at Plymouth Yard, but it seems probable he had already been given schooling at Fakenham.’ John Henslow was an outstanding shipwright and later knighted for his work.

Plymouth Dockyard_Oil painting_Pocock, Nicholas_1798
Plymouth Dockyard 1798

In 1797, Robert was appointed an assistant Master Shipwright at Plymouth Dockyard and in 1800 he invented a device named ‘Seppings Blocks’ which reduced the time and labour required for inspecting and effecting repairs to the lower hulls of ships in dry dock. ‘Where the old system needed the services of five hundred men, Seppings’s system required but twenty men and two-thirds of the time formerly required.’
For this invention Robert received £1,000 from the Admiralty, a gold medal in 1803 by the Society of Arts, and in 1804 was promoted to be a Master Shipwright at Chatham Dockyard.
Between 1805 and 1813, Robert Seppings launched several ship of the lines, frigates, brig-sloops and sheer hulks. He observed truss design in contemporary bridges and applied the same principles to the hulls of wooden warships to increase stiffness, prevent drooping and arching of the keel, enabling ships to better take the force of cross-winds and improving a ship’s sea worthiness. He also fitted diagonal timbers between the gunports and diagonal carlings between beams and laid diagonal deck planking.

Seppings_Robert_Sir_Conway_nile_binders & iron riders
Sir Robert Seppings’ Conway (Nile) binders & iron riders
A truss of ‘diagonal riders_ stiffened the hullA truss of ‘diagonal riders’ stiffened the hull
A conventional frigate compared with the much longer ship made possible by the ‘Seppings_ system of constructionA conventional frigate compared with the much longer ship made possible by the ‘Seppings’ system of construction

Seppings wrote in his paper On the great strength given to Ships of War by the application of Diagonal Braces, ‘Since the time that I first suggested the principle of applying a diagonal frame-work to ships of war, which was first partially and successfully adopted in the Kent, a seventy-four gun ship, in the year 1805, my mind has been continually and anxiously turned to this important subject.’
Quoted as saying, ‘partial strength produces general weakness,’ Robert Seppings significantly improved the strength and seaworthiness of the Navy’s fleet through the design of the bow and the stern, and by using hollow masts. He also understood the heavy loss of life on the Victory at the battle of Trafalgar was caused by shot passing unimpeded through the boarding of the beakhead. In 1807, Seppings recommended a reinforced circular bow. The round stern also allowed the guns a better arc of fire. The RN favoured his battleship HMS Kent until 1811 when larger ships were able to be built with more stability.

Model of 'Caledonia' (1808), 120 guns, three decker ship of the line The framing of Seppings_ circular sternModel of Caledonia 1808 ship of the line, with square bow and stern next to the round bow and stern system introduced by Sir Robert Seppings.                The framing of Seppings’ circular stern

There was a timber crisis in Britain with the best oak from the Weald forests of Kent and Sussex gone for use in shipbuilding. 8,500 cubic meters of timber was used in the construction of the hull of a first rate ship like the Victory – 6,000 trees from 100 acres of woodland; 90 per cent oak. (15) The great curved pieces needed to construct a wooden warship had become unobtainable. ‘The fleet which fought at Trafalgar had been patched up with timber salvaged from ships captured during earlier wars, and a fresh supply would take many decades to grow.’ (16)
Robert Seppings developed his fundamental reform of ship structure at the height of this crisis. The invention of the blast furnace meant iron could be smelted using coal, both of which were plentiful in the north of England and cheap. Seppings advocated the use of iron strapping and iron structural parts to replace those of wood.
On 14 June 1813, Robert Seppings was appointed to the office of Surveyor of the Navy. In 1815, he designed the two-deck 2nd rate 80 gun ship of the line Canopus Class and in 1816 the 46 gun Frigate Modified Leda Class of which the Admiralty ordered six vessels with his modified design that incorporated a circular stern and ‘small-timber’ form of construction. A further twenty-three ships were ordered to this modified design in 1817.

In 1818, the Royal Society gave Robert Seppings the Copley medal

Robert Seppings was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London on 10 March 1814 and invited to present his ideas on the new system in a paper which he read to them, and supplied details in print. He read a second paper before the Royal Society on 27 Nov 1817 and another in March 1820. In 1818, the Royal Society gave him their oldest and most prestigious award, the Copley medal, for his ‘Papers on the construction of Ships of War, printed in the Philosophical Transactions’.
Robert Seppings received a knighthood on 17 Aug 1819 on board the Royal George yacht ‘under sail, the royal standard flying’.

HMSUNICORN_1968a  2006-0131-IMGP0726modcrop-Unicorn-Figurehead-WRS-phot-good-light-BEST-260x300
HMS Unicorn, one of the six oldest ships in the world, was designed by Sir Robert Seppings and is moored at Dundee, Scotland

In 1824, Sir Robert Seppings designed the Unicorn, purposely constructed for Antarctic exploration. It encompassed all of his innovative designs: the Round Bow, Round Stern, diagonal timber bracing replaced with iron knees, riders and stanchions, and built-up solid bulwarks. The Unicorn represents the last of wooden shipbuilding and the transition, within a few years, from wooden sailing ships to ships built of iron and powered by steam. ‘The complete ‘Seppings’ system was so effective that it allowed wooden ships to be built strong enough to stand the weight of heavy steam engines, boilers and coal, and also long enough to provide the extra space needed for these.’ (17)

HMS Conway at Rock Ferry
HMS Conway at Rock Ferry, designed by Sir Robert Seppings (1828)

From 1825 to 1830, Sir Robert Seppings designed the Satellite Class and the Scout Class, an 18 gun Ship-Sloop, the Conway Class and the Andromache Class, a 28 gun Frigate. He retired on 9 June 1832, however, in 1834, he designed the 18 gun Corvette Daphne Class.
In 1836, Oxford University gave him the degree of D.C.L. He received valuable gifts from the Emperor Alexander of Russia and the kings of Denmark and Holland to mark their appreciation of his professional services. He was a member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, honorary member of the Philosophical Society of Cambridge, and a corresponding member of the Philosophical Society at Rotterdam.
Seppings established an official reference collection of ship models which are kept in the National Maritime Museum. The frigate Unicorn is moored at Dundee, Scotland.
Sir Robert Seppings died at Taunton on 25 September 1840 at the age of 73.
His eldest son, John Milligen Seppings, was the Inspector of Shipping under the East India Company at Calcutta for twenty years. His grandson, Captain Edward Seppings, with his wife and two children, was killed at Cawnpore during the mutiny, ending Sir Robert Seppings’ male line.

Helen Seppings (1765-) married MD John Pleasance (1759-1793) in 1796. He was an Inspector of Naval Hospitals.

Edmund Henry Seppings had seven uncles on his mother’s side, five of whom were in military service. Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer’s brothers in service were Captain Nicholas Lockyer, Major Edmund Lockyer, William Lockyer, Major Orlando Lockyer and Brigadier General Henry Frederick Lockyer. His great uncle Edmund Lockyer, a solicitor and four times notable mayor of Plymouth, had a daughter Eleanor Margaret Penrose who married Rear Admiral Sir Samuel Pym KCB in 1802.

Thomas Lockyer (1780-1854) was the eldest son of Thomas and Ann Lockyer. In 1794, Thomas had been in France for two years for the purpose of learning French but had not been heard of for 16 months and was thought to have been massacred at Noirmoutier. Thomas managed to get from Noirmoutier to Bordeaux and for six months he avoided detection, shifting from ship to ship, all under embargo, in the character of an American sailor, but there was no offering of escape until the American frigate Venus was given permission to sail. Half way across the Channel, the captain put Lockyer into a fishing boat to take him to Falmouth.
Thomas Lockyer married Jane South Rivers in 1803 and they had eight children. He continued his father’s brokerage business and continued to reside at Wembury house. They moved later into South Wembury House which he had acquired in 1804. He became a County magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant of Devon. On 17 September 1806, Thomas was elected Mayor of Plymouth 1806-1807.

HMS Sophie

Captain Nicholas Lockyer (1781-1847), Thomas and Ann Lockyer’s second child, began his naval career at age eleven, serving during the Napoleonic Wars in the Channel and the Baltic, at Newfoundland, in the Expedition to the Scheldt, on the Lisbon and West India stations, including the blockade of St. Domingo. He was promoted to a lieutenant in 1803, a commander in 1806 and a captain on 29 March 1815. His conduct was considered ‘brave and intrepid’. (18)
From 1809-14, Capt Lockyer commanded the 18-gun Cruiser class brig-sloop Sophie 18 on the Channel and Halifax stations. During the War of 1812, he participated in the ‘economic war against American trade,’ capturing or destroying numerous small merchant vessels, two brigs, ten schooners, and two sloops. His was an active career taking prizes and operating against American privateers. Up and down the Eastern Seaboard he made prizes of American schooners bound for New York with cargoes of rice and corn, cotton, flour and bread, sugar and coffee. (19)

Lockyer_N_Cpt_BattleLakeBorgneHornbrookCapt Nicholas Lockyer led the advance in the Battle of Lake Borgne, Louisiana, between British and American naval forces in the War of 1812.

In December 1814, Capt Nicholas Lockyer succeeded in commanding fifty boats, barges, gigs and launches, carrying 980 Royal Marines and seamen, to attack American gunboats in the Battle of Lake Borgne. Lockyer attacked a flotilla of five gun-vessels, ‘with such judgment and determination, that, in spite of the enemy’s formidable force, they were all captured in so serviceable a state as to afford the most essential aid to the operations connected with the expedition against New Orleans.’ Lockyer led the advance to the gunboat of the American commander, most of her crew being killed or crippled and in boarding he was dangerously wounded. (20)
Capt Nicholas Lockyer’s subsequent appointments were to a command on Lake Ontario, in passages to Quebec, the Tagus, the Mediterranean, Sierra Leone and off the coast of Portugal. In 1832, he was part of the Dutch Blockade fleet, in command of Stag, 46. On the Albion 90, Capt. Lockyer served at first as Flag-Captain to Sir David Milne at Devonport, then on the Lisbon station, and finally with the Channel squadron. On 28 June 1845, His Royal Highness Prince Albert was received by Capt Lockyer on board the Albion 90, where they proceeded to the captain’s cabin, across the stern gallery and on deck for the presentations of officers. Captain Nicholas Lockyer wore the ribbon of Companion of the Bath.
He died of bronchitis on 27 Feb 1847 on board and while in command of HMS Albion, at Malta, aged 65. He was Mayor of Plymouth 1823-24 and 1830-31.


Major Edmund Lockyer (1784-1860) was an artist, soldier, explorer, Commandant of Convicts, Police Magistrate and Superintendant of Police, a Serjeant-at-arms to the Legislative Council, NSW, the first Usher of the Black Rod, and captain of the first Sydney Volunteer Rifle Corps. His main claim to fame, however, in his 25-year military service, was in establishing the first British Settlement in Western Australia and hoisting the Union Jack at Residency Point, Albany, on 21 January 1826, formally claiming the western third of Australia, and therefore officially bringing the whole of the New Holland continent under the control of the British Crown.

Edmund Lockyer entered the British Army as an ensign in the 19th Regiment in 1803, was promoted to lieutenant and then captain in 1805, and became a major in 1819. He served in England, Ireland, India, and Ceylon in the Kandian War (1815-16). In 1824 he transferred to the 57th Regiment and sailed with them for Sydney in 1825 with his second wife Sarah and eleven children.
Governor Brisbane instructed the Major to lead an expedition of the Brisbane River as far as he could go ‘with prudence’. He explored the upper reaches in a small boat, reporting on the fauna, minerals and the ‘natives’, and was the first person to identify coal in Queensland. (21)

Lockyer_Edmund_sketch_King Georges Sound_1826_1279_apAustview
Major Edmund Lockyer’s sketch of King Georges Sound (1826)

Fearing the French might colonise the western coast of Australia, the British government instructed Governor Sir Darling to occupy a site at King George Sound, on the southwest coast. In 1926, Darling appointed Major Edmund Lockyer to sail from Sydney on the brig Amity, to establish a military garrison and settlement, which he called Frederick’s Town; re-named Albany in 1831. The expedition included his son, ensign Edmund Morris Lockyer, Lieutenant Festing and a detachment of 20 of the 39th Regiment under Captain Wakefield, 23 convicts, a surgeon, as well as livestock and supplies.

In 1827, Lockyer sold his commission and retired from the Army, having decided to settle in the colony near Sydney. For his service as an explorer and colonial administrator, he was granted 2560 acres near Goulburn in the Southern Tablelands of NSW which he named Lockyersleigh. By 1837, he had added 3635 acres to the property by purchase, and by 1853 the estate totalled 11,810 acres. He also built a house, Ermington, on an estate near Ryde.

In 1828, Darling appointed Major Lockyer Principal Surveyor of Roads and Bridges, then in 1829 he became Police Magistrate at Parramatta and Superintendent of Police. Lockyer went on to do more exploring, mining of iron ore and silver on Lockyersleigh, was involved in the establishment of Albury, the discovery of coal in Ipswich, and the building of the Great South Road. He married three times and had fifteen children. His first son was a lieutenant, his second son an adjutant and his last son was Sir Nicholas Colston Lockyer, C.B.E., I.S.O. (1855-1933), a senior Australian public servant and best known as Comptroller-general of the Department of Trade and Customs.
Major Edmund Lockyer died in 1860 age 76.

William Lockyer (1785-1858) was Comptroller of Customs and Mayor of Plymouth (1815-16).
(The Library and Museum in Plymouth are currently being rebuilt so the Naval records for William Lockyer cannot be checked.)


Major Orlando Lockyer (1787-1819) joined the 2nd Exmouth Company of Volunteers in 1801 and by 1805 he had been appointed as ensign. Orlando Lockyer became a lieutenant without purchase. He was on the ‘Peninsula Roll Call’ of 25 Mar 1808 with the Regiment 5th Foot Infantry which embarked for Portugal in July for service in the Peninsula War. He served in the Peninsula from July 1809 to Jan 1810, possibly at the Battle of Corunna in Spain under Sir John Moore in 1809. He retired in 1810.
‘Following the Battle of Waterloo and the end of the great English wars against the French, Orlando was one of many unemployed English army and naval officers recruited for the conflict in South America known to history as the Latin American War of Independence or the Spanish Patriot Cause. On 9 December 1817, Orlando was one of 80 officers bound from England for South America on the transport Grace waiting at anchor off Cowes for the weather to clear.’ (22)
It was here, on the Isle if Wight, a duel took place at Northwood House between Major Orlando Lockyer and Lieutenant John Sutton, after Lockyer took offense to a comment made by Sutton whilst both were drinking at the Dolphin Inn. In the morning, at the agreed duelling place, Lockyer shot Sutton through the heart. As duelling was illegal, he was found guilty of manslaughter and imprisoned for 3 months. From his defence Orlando was described as an ‘honourable and good tempered man’ and ‘He had been a soldier from his fifteenth year; he had faced death in the various battles of Buenos Ayres, Albuera, Vimiera, Corunna, Busaco, Rodrigues, Badajos, and Salamanca.’ (23)
It appears Orlando became a mercenary serving in South America under general Gregor MacGregor. It was reported in The Times 18th October 1819 – ‘By the Tarantula which arrived at Plymouth on Tuesday from St Domingo we learn that out of 28 Officers who left this country to join the Standard of the South Americans under Macgregor and who escaped with him to the West Indies after his defeat 20 fell victims to the climate. Amongst these was Major Orlando Lockyer a native of Plymouth.’ Orlando Lockyer died in 1819 at sea aboard the Tarantula at San Domingo age 32.

Lockyer_Henry Federick_British Headquarters_photo
Major General Henry Frederick Lockyer, CB, KH, Brigade commander in the Crimea 1854-1855. Seated in middle, at British Headquarters.

Brigadier General Henry Frederick Lockyer CB, KH, (1796-1861), the youngest son of Thomas Lockyer, joined the British Army as an ensign in the 71st Regiment of Foot on 18 Mar 1813. He served in the Peninsular from August that year to the end of the war including in the Battles of Neville, Nivi, Orthes, Aire (where he was severely wounded on the left wrist and elbow joint), and Toulouse, France. He became a lieutenant on 19 Jan 1814 and captain on 20 June 1822.

71st_Foot_uniform  71st Regiment of Foot

On 28 April 1823, Capt Henry Frederick Lockyer and his family departed London on convict ship Henry comprising of the Guard of 32 rank and file of the 3rd Regiment (Buffs) and 160 convicts from England, Scotland and Wales plus some soldiers who were court-martialled at Gibraltar, Chatham and Halifax. The voyage took 120 days, entering Port Jackson on 26 August. The 3rd Regiment had its headquarters in Sydney between 1822 and 1827 and companies were dispatched continuously to various outstations, serving in Tasmania and with other detachments at Newcastle, Liverpool, Parramatta, Port Macquarie and Bathurst. Captain Lockyer and his wife sailed to Hobart on the Mariner in December 1823. The regiment shipped to India at the end of its service.
Henry was promoted to major on 12 June 1835. He joined the 97th Foot Soldiers unit on 26 Oct 1841 and became a lieutenant colonel two days later. In 1847, Colonel H. F. Lockyer, K.C. was commanding H.M. 90th Regiment in garrison at Malta when his older brother Capt Nicholas Lockyer died there while in command of HMS Albion.
On the 20th May 1854, he sailed for the Pireaus, Athens, in command of the British contingent, directed in conjunction with a French force, for the occupation of Greece. In November, he joined the army in the Crimea, and commanded the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, until August 1855, ‘never missing a tour of duty in the trenches.’ (24) According to the Military Gazette War Office in 1855, Lockyer had the local rank of brigadier general in the Army in Turkey. He was a major general from Oct 26, 1858.
He left the Crimea to take up his appointment as Commander of the Forces in Ceylon. There he was appointed acting Governor of the island on 30 June 1860 until 30 July 1860 when his health failed.
It was reported on page one of the Sydney Morning Herald, 16 November 1860, that Henry F Lockyer died 30 August 1860 aged 64 from Atrophy, from the effects of climate, on board the Peninsular and Oriental steamer SS Ripon on his return journey home from Alexandria.

Lockyer_HF_Officier medal of the French Légion d'honneur Lockyer_HF_Medaille_de_crimee
For his services in the Peninsula, Lockyer received the silver war medal and three clasps. He was made a Knight of the Hanoverian Guelphic Order in 1837 and in 1856 was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath. In recognition of his services during the war with Russia, he was awarded the Crimean medal with clasp for Sebastopol; made an Officer of the Legion of Honour of France for ‘Excellent military conduct delivered, upon official investigation’ and received the order of the Medjidie of the third class from the Sultan of Turkey.

Peninsula & Orient Steamer Ripon
Peninsula & Orient steamer SS Ripon (on right) on which Brigadier General Henry Frederick Lockyer CB, KH died in 1860

The next blog post – The Age of Sail – Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ and his brothers in the military – looks at Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ RN service and that of his brothers – John Milligen Seppings, Nicholas Lockyer Seppings, Lt Alsworth Merewether Seppings and Lt William Lawless Seppings.
Illustration Credits –

‘HMS Sophie on right from Jack Aubrey’s Commands by Geoff Hunt, RSMA (left to right) HMS Leopard, HMS Surprise, HMS Bellona, HMS Sophie’
‘HMS Calcutta 84 guns, in a gale on the 22nd April 1858, in the Gulf of Pechili, China.’ Lithograph, coloured by Thomas Goldsworth Dutton and Frederick le Breton Bedwell. Dedicated by permission to His Excellency Rear Admiral Sir Michael Seymour KCB, Commander in Chief of the East India and China Stations (PAH0844)
‘HMS Ville de Paris (1803)’
‘Plymouth’s shipyards, depicted in an 18th-century illustration’ (Photo: Getty Images)
‘Midshipman. No.5.; Hand-coloured etching by Artist: Thomas Rowlandson, Engraver: Henri Merke, Publisher: Rudolph Ackermann. Depicts clothing, outerwear: uniform [Royal navy] 1799’
‘Lieutenant.  No.7.; Hand-coloured etching by Artist: Thomas Rowlandson, Engraver: Henri Merke, Publisher: Rudolph Ackermann. Depicts clothing, outerwear: uniform [Royal navy] 1799’
‘Captain. No.8.; Hand-coloured etching by Artist: Thomas Rowlandson, Engraver: Henri Merke, Publisher: Rudolph Ackermann. Depicts clothing, outerwear: uniform [Royal navy] 1799’
‘Admiral. Hand-coloured etching by Artist: Thomas Rowlandson, Engraver: Henri Merke, Publisher: Rudolph Ackermann. Depicts clothing, outerwear: uniform [Royal navy] 1799’
‘Royal Navy midshipman uniform coat 1780s’
‘Epaulette. Part of the naval lieutenant’s uniform of Lt. William Hicks, 1812-25’
‘The 1774 captain’s full dress frock coat would have been worn by Capt John Milligan’ From the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Royal United Service Institution Collection. Object ID: UNI0011
‘American Privateer Pioneer taken by HMS Sophie, 1812′ – BW Photo of watercolor painting by Warren 1812-15
‘HMS Rodney (1833); Warship; Second rate; 92 guns’ –
‘HMS Caledonia (1808) Warship; First rate; 120 guns’ –
‘The Battle of Trafalgar (1805)’ – Oil on canvas by Richard Henry Nibbs, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
‘Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1777’ –
‘Return of fleet into Plymouth Harbour 1766’ Oil painting by Dominic Serres (1766) –
‘Lt John Milligen Seppings’ – Source unknown
‘H.M.S. Queen’ lithograph, coloured, by Thomas Goldsworth Dutton
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
The Ship Ville de Paris under Full Sail, a painting by Thomas Buttersworth
‘Sir Robert Seppings’ – oil on canvas by William Bradley (1833)
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
‘Plymouth Dockyard’ – oil painting by Nicholas Pocock (1798)
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital
‘Sir Robert Seppings’ Conway (Nile) binders & iron riders’ –
‘A truss of ‘diagonal riders’ stiffened the hull’ –
‘A conventional frigate compared with the much longer ship made possible by the ‘Seppings’ system of construction’ –
‘Model of Caledonia 1808 ship of the line, with square bow and stern next to the round bow and stern system introduced by Sir Robert Seppings.’
‘The framing of Seppings’ circular stern’ –
‘The Royal Society Copley medal’ –
‘HMS Unicorn moored at Dundee, Scotland’ –
‘HMS Unicorn’s figurehead’ –
‘HMS Conway at Rock Ferry’ –
‘HMS Sophie’ –
‘The Battle of Lake Borgne, Louisiana, between British and American naval forces in the War of 1812’ oil painting by Thomas L. Hornbrook
The U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland
‘Major Edmund Lockyer’ – Source unknown
‘Major Edmund Lockyer’s sketch of King Georges Sound 1826’ –,-Western-Australia-Antique.aspx
’19th Regiment of Foot and ’57th (West_Middlesex) Regiment of Foot badge’ –
‘Major Orlando Lockyer’ – Source unknown
‘Crimean War 1854-56 Major General Henry Frederick Lockyer, CB, KH, who commanded a Brigade in the Crimea from November 1854 to August 1855, at British Headquarters. On the left – Lt. Col. Edmund C. Legh, 97th Regiment.’
Royal Archives, Windsor Collection –
’71st Regiment of Foot’ –
‘Officier medal of the French Légion d’honneur’ –
‘Medaille_de_crimee’ –
‘Peninsula & Orient steamer SS Ripon’ –

Research Resources

Our Family History by Faith Packard (1989)

Robert Rowland, Wembury Local History Society
Robert King, Research and Collection Team, Devonport Heritage Centre

9, 10 & 11 from Robert King, Research and Collection Team, Devonport Heritage Centre, referencing  HMS Victory Owners Workshop Manual by Peter Goodwin Haynes Publishing Group (2015) and Oxford Companion to Ships and Sea Edited by Peter Kemp, Oxford University Press (1976)
(12) Notes from Frank Seppings (unknown source)
(13) Notes from Frank Seppings (unknown source)
(14) Notes from Frank Seppings (unknown source)
(15) Victory
(18) Naval Biographical Dictionary/Lockyer, Nicholas
(20) Naval Biographical Dictionary/Lockyer, Nicholas
(24) Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 16 November 1860, page 1

National Maritime Museum –
“Uniform and Medals:Research guide U1: Uniforms: The National Maritime Museum Collection”. National Maritime Museum
“Officer ranks in the Royal Navy”. Royal Naval Museum Navy ranks, rates, and uniforms of the 18th and 19th centuries of the Royal Navy Navy and battles in history/battle of trafalgar 1805.htm Occupations Ship and Boat Building (National Institute)
‘A Sailor’s Life for Me – A day in the life of a Royal Navy Sailor from 1806’
Journals of the House of Commons, Volume 4 by Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons
Journals of the House of Lords, Volume 10 1509-1649 by Great Britain House of Lords
The Sailing Navy List: all the ships of the Royal Navy – built, purchased and captured 1688 – 1860 by David Lyon
British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates By Rif Winfield (2007) Seaforth Publishing

Capt John Milligen (1730-1788)
With Vancouver in Inland Washington Waters: Journals of 12 Crewmen, April–June 1792
Naval Documents of the American Revolution Volume 12, American Theater (1778)
By Navy Dept. (U.S.), Michael J. Crawford, Dennis M Conrad, E Gordon Bowen-Hassell, Nark L Hayes, Naval History & Heritage Command (U.S.), Govt Printing Office

Thomas Lockyer (1756-1806)

Lt John Milligen Seppings (1770-1826)
‘Memorandum of the Services of Lieutenant John Milligen Seppings’ –
from Frank Seppings (original source – Royal Navy records),_1st_Earl_of_St_Vincent

Sir Robert Seppings (1767-1840)
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 51 London: Smith, Elder & Co
Seppings, Robert by Edward Milligen Beloe
On a New Principle of Constructing Ships in the Mercantile Navy, by Robert Seppings © 1820 The Royal Society.
Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars Robert Gardiner, London, Chatham Publishing (2000)
Philosophical Magazine: Volume 48 (1819) Royal Society p 458-459
Gentleman’s Magazine, Or Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 49
Seppings, R. (1818) On The Great Strength Given To Ships Of War By The Application Of Diagonal Braces, From The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Bulmer, p. 6

Capt Nicholas Lockyer (1781-1847),_Nicholas
The Naval History of Great Britain from the Year 1788-1836, Volume 2 by Edward Pelham Brenton P 531
A List of Flag Officers and Other Commissioned Officers of His Majesty’s Fleet; with the Dates of their Respective Commisions.

Major Edmund Lockyer (1784-1860)
‘Lockyer, Edmund (1784–1860)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,
First published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Major Orlando Lockyer (1787-1819)

Brigadier General Henry Frederick Lockyer (1796-1861)
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 16 November 1860, page 1
The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 209, page 443

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The Lockyer Homes – England

Plymouth_map_nile_1820a sMap of Plymouth (1820)

When our Milligen, Lockyer and Seppings ancestors lived in Plymouth, Devon, it was one of the largest seaports in England. ‘On the west bank was Plymouth Dock, renamed Devonport in 1824, the site of a major naval base and dockyard, which had grown spectacularly during the eighteenth century so that by 1801 its population exceeded that of Plymouth.’ Near the smaller town of Stonehouse were the royal marine barracks, naval hospital and victualling yard. Between 1812 and 1844 the mile-long breakwater was constructed, which created ‘one of the largest and safest harbours in Britain’.*1

Lockyer – Plymouth

Plymouth Barbican_Victorian
In the late 1700s, the Lockyer family lived in the Island House, on Southside Quay, Plymouth, the stand alone building in the centre of this photo (1890)

Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer was born in Plymouth, Devon, 1782, the fourth of eleven children, named after her mother, Ann Grose. Her father, Thomas Lockyer (b. 1756 Plymouth) was a successful Sailmaker and Ship Riggings Merchant who rented a ‘Plot of ground on which have been erected warehouses’ on Southside Street, Plymouth, ‘Conventionery rent – 1 pound, 5 shillings; 20 pounds fine paid on last renewal 8 Apr 1801’.*2
He also rented the Island House on Southside Quay, Plymouth, where the family lived. There is a record showing he paid £240 on 23 December 1796 for building and … (possibly adjacent buildings and the lands appropriated to the use of the household).

The Island House_Plymouth_Satelite map_a s Island House_The Barbican_Plymouth_05_crop s
Island House_The Barbican_Plymouth_01_crop s Island House_The Barbican_Plymouth_04_crop s
The Island House is one of the principle buildings of historic interest on The Barbican, Plymouth, today.

Island House, No 9 The Barbican, named because it has a road around it, was constructed by Mr Johnathon Sparke and is dated as early as 1572 when the quayside was built. It was one of the houses where the Pilgrim Fathers lodged prior to their final departure for America on September 6th 1620 in the Mayflower.*3 Sir William Molesworth, an heir of Mr Sparke, leased the Island House to the Bayly family who, in 1786, purchased the freehold. It is possible that Thomas Lockyer rented the house from the Bayly family soon after when they moved to a new property further along the Barbican.

pinsdaddy-plymouth-barbican-island-house-18 Island House_Plymouth_the Blitz_1941_crop
Island House, Plymouth, late 1800s and after the Blitz (1941)

The Elizabethan house survived the destruction of Plymouth in the Blitz, but during an air raid on the night of 13th/14th January, 1941, it sustained considerable damage and was restored in 1948 and again in 1992.

Plymouth_St Andrews Church_handpainted_1832 s
St Andrews Church, Plymouth (1832)

Thomas and Ann Lockyer’s children were all baptised in St Andrews Church, Plymouth. Of the seven boys, one became a mayor of Plymouth, one was the Comptroller of Customs, Plymouth, one became a Captain, one a Brigadier General and two were Majors in the Royal Navy, and one was a solicitor in London. All were married. Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer married Lt John Milligen Seppings at Charles the Martyr, Plymouth, in 1804. Her elder sister had died in infancy but her two younger sisters, Eliza Maria Lockyer (b. 1791), married in 1809 in Wembury to Henry Allworth Meriwether esq. of the Inner Temple, London, an Attorney General and Town Clerk of London, and Jane Edwards Lockyer (b. 1793), married Edward Hobson Vitruvius Lawes esq. of the Inner Temple, London, Barrister at Law, in 1815.

Lockyer – Wembury

WemburyHouse_Devon_1797_ByRevJohnSweteCoastal view of Wembury House ruins high up in the distance. 1797 watercolour by Rev. John Swete

Wembury House

In 1802, Thomas Lockyer bought a property out of Wembury village on the south coast of Devon, close to Plymouth Sound. Wembury is six miles from Plymouth and was an area of  ‘medieval manors, open fields, and the emergence of substantial agricultural estates’.*4 With a population of around 400, they were ‘structured in a strict social hierarchy’. A few prominent landowners controlled the estates; beneath them were their tenant farmers and a large agricultural labour community lived in settlements of rented cottages.

In The History of Devonshire Vol 3 (1806) Richard Polwhele writes that Thomas Lockyer paid £26,500 plus £1,500 for the timber at auction for the property which included the ruins of Wembury House, 890 acres, an additional rental manor, and a ‘valuable fishery’. The immense tidal fishpond on the Yealm Estuary, which ‘contrived so as to be stored with fish by the influx of the tide, and closed by the floodgates, which prevented their return to the ocean’ included ‘every sort of fish that frequented the coast’. *5

‘Wembury Place’ is Wembury House (1809)

The property is described on the Wembury House website as in ‘unspoilt countryside in the South Hams which is designated as an “area of outstanding natural beauty”. Set at the top of a valley it has views down to the Yealm estuary.’ Wembury House has a long and distinguished history dating back to the Augustinian Priory of Plympton, founded in 1121. From the remains of a cell of the priory, the first Wembury House, built by Sir John Hele, was a ‘16th century mansion of legendary grandeur’ and one of the most important houses in the parish. An exceptionally grand multi-storey mansion, it was recorded in the Devon Hearth Tax of 1674 as having 42 hearths – the largest number recorded in any house in Devon. *6

In 1685, John Pollexfen began to remodel and rebuild the Elizabethan house with ‘elaborate gardens and landscaped parks’ but later generations of his family could not afford to maintain it. John Pollexfen’s granddaughter sold Wembury House in 1757 to Sir William Molesworth who had also owned the Island House in Plymouth where Thomas Lockyer and family lived. By 1797, the diarist John Swete described the manor as ‘in a state of great decay if not entirely dilapidated’. Sir William Molesworth’s daughter was the heiress to his estates and married Earl Camden who sold the Wembury House property to Thomas Lockyer in 1802.

In 1803, the recently retired Merchant decided to demolish the ruin and start again. Polwhele recorded the disposal and removal of materials which Thomas sold for eight hundred pounds, including the gilded sash window frames and the Portland stone facing to the walls (possibly reused in Traine Farm). The Barton Farm, in front of the ruin, was also demolished and landscaped as a park. He then built the present Old Barton Farm and New Barton Farms, splitting the land between them. A member of the Wembury Local History Society, Robert Rowland from Traine Farm explained, ‘A Barton was originally a large farm that grew barley ie Barleytown or barleyton. Wembury Barton was about 400 acres so Thomas made two farms of it and built the farmhouses and barns accordingly. There is an L for Lockyer in the centre of the front wall of one of the barns at Old Barton.’

The Devon Rural Archive describes the late Georgian Manor House built for Thomas Lockyer between 1803 and 1806 as ‘on the lower terrace of a split-level site on a very exposed hilltop site, evidently chosen for its wide views … A large walled area to the west, apparently belonging to the late C16 period encloses a garden of varying levels with a gently sloping central lawn, scarped away to the present house. A raised buttressed terrace at its west end was crenellated and seems to have formed part of a formal garden associated with Sir Hele’s mansion. Flanking walls and tree belts protect the house and its gardens from westerly winds, with a small gothic lodge to the north. Many architectural fragments of the earlier houses are built into these walls. Large walled gardens lie in the valley to the east, at the foot of which is the large tidal fishpond.’ There are several outbuildings including gardeners’ bothy, stables and associated buildings, an orangery and well-house. An earthwork Rampart, or raised terrace, located across the lawn in front of the present house are surviving remains from Sir John Hele’s 16th century house, as are the kitchen garden, conservatory and a pavilion.

Wembury House_garden_archway and steps
Steps to Ramparts, Wembury House. An archway beneath the central steps of the terrace, now walled up, is said to have led to the sea via an underground passage.

Thomas Lockyer’s Wembury House is of national importance. In the Wembury Heritage Data Base, it has two storeys plus attic and basement, built of rubble with ashlar dressing, a slate hipped roof, and rusticated quoins. There is also a Tuscan porch with cast-iron balcony. It has a Grade II National Heritage Listing for the building, garden boundary walls and two pairs of gate piers north-west and south-east, two pairs of gate piers and link walls 230 metres north-north-east, kitchen garden walls built of stone rubble and gate piers with moulded caps and ball finials and ornamental wrought iron gates, thirteen buttresses on the outer wall terrace, steps on leading down to lawn and more buttresses at the sides.

Wembury House_Robert Rowland archiveWembury House

On 9 Aug 1806, Thomas Lockyer died after being thrown out of his carriage and the wheel rolling over his leg which became gangrenous. He was buried on 15 August in the floor of the North aisle of St Werburgh’s Church, Wembury. Thomas’s death led to the manor being advertised for sale in Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post on the 14 July 1808, with the land increased to 946 acres. It was described as including ‘a new-built mansion house, with lawn in front, a coach-house and suitable stabling … a bowling green, and a most elegant vinery and plant-house … Also, the Ferriage or Passage over the Haven and River of Yealme, called Shepeing Ferry, with the Tolls and Dues of the said River, and the Water, Piscary, Fishing, Oysterage, and Royalty of, in, and through the same’.

According to Faith Packard in Our Family History, Edmund Henry Seppings was brought up by his grandmother, Ann Lockyer, in Wembury, and kept his cousin, William (Edmund Lockyer’s first born), a year younger, company. Edmund and William also spent time together in Australia in the early 1840s.

Wembury House_website_banner

Wembury House – see for more interior photos

On 23 June 1809, a document was drawn up to enable partial sale of the estate to Thomas’ brother, William Lockyer of Plymouth, merchant. The sale included West Wembury farm – a large farmhouse built of slate rubble with granite quoins and slate hung front; slate roof with gabled ends, (Rider’s, Hercules’ and Willing’s tenements) Lye’s or Warren’s, Luke’s, Witherage’s, and Nicholas’s tenements, Kelly’s Garden and Furze Park, Wembury Mill, cottages and gardens, Rowe’s, Prinn’s and Tregosses’s tenements, North Ditch and Good House or Kimber’s tenement, Saffron Park, Higher and Lower Church Park, the Old Inn public house, Freesland and Wood Park in Wembury.

West Wembury Farm_1927
West Wembury Farm (late 18th century)

‘Thomas junior was in need of funds to complete the building work on the house etc. and to fulfill the terms of his Father’s Will.  In those days they could not just sell the freehold, they had to do something called Lease and Release in two documents,’ explains Robert Rowland. The Lease was 25 shillings and one peppercorn! Listed on the document in The National Archives are Thomas’ brother Edmund Lockyer of Plymouth, esq, John Harris the younger of Radford, Plymstock, esq, Samuel Wroth of Modbury, maltster, Henry Rivers the younger of Stowford, gent, and Thomas Lockyer (junior) of Wembury House, Wembury, esq, who would have been the executors of Thomas senior’s Will. *7
‘It is a bit confusing as to which Edmund, William or Thomas they refer as the names occur in both generations. Edmund 1782-1816 was a very important figure in Plymouth so would have taken the lead as head of the family.’

On 26 May 1814, the manor was again offered for sale in Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, reduced to 550 acres. ‘All the doors of the sitting and best bedrooms, 24 in number, are made of a very beautiful Spanish mahogany’ while to the rear was ‘a mount or terrace, about 300 feet in length, 30 feet wide and 30 feet high, commanding extensive views of the ocean’. The Calmadys bought West Wembury from William Lockyer in 1814, extending the Langdon Estate, but the manor house was not sold until 1822, following the death of Thomas Lockyer’s wife, Ann, in December 1820, to the diplomat Sir Edward Thornton. *8

Thorn House (South Wembury House/Lockyers Cottage)

THORN FROM THE RIVER_1910s_postcard_1914_Thorn House, in isolation on the left_Fishpond Cottage and Boathouse Cottage
A 1914 postcard of Thorn House, on the left, and in the mid ground, on the river bank, Fishpond Cottage and Boathouse Cottage, above them is one of the walled gardens and above that, the stables.

It is possible the Lockyer family lived at Lockyers Cottage while the new Wembury House was being built. Wembury Local History Society member, Robert Rowland, wrote, ‘Lockyers Cottage has had several different names – South Wembury House, South Wembury Court, and now Thorn. It was originally the gate house to the first Wembury House built by Sir John Hele. It is situated by the River Yealm as everything in the early days came via the river. In the Hearth Tax returns of 1662 it was recorded as having 13 fire hearths, quite a substantial property, as most people had one or two. Wembury House was sold off, but the family kept the estate and moved permanently to Lockyers Cottage.’

After Thomas Lockyer’s death, his son, Thomas, moved into what became the new manor house, South Wembury House, overlooking the Yealm, and soon afterwards 536 acres were transfered from the ‘Manor of Wembury’. *9 According to A.G. Collings in A Wembury History – Medieval to Modern, ‘Lockyer’s Cottage’ on the tithe map was depicted as a small structure, but was to be considerably extended by the 1860s. The building was by then the very imposing ‘South Wembury House’ with garden buildings to north and south.’

On the Thorn House and Garden website, it says ‘the exact date of the present house is unknown, however it is on the site of an earlier building which goes back centuries as evidenced by the existence of Tudor cellars. South Wembury House was refurbished in the early 19th century by Thomas Lockyer.’

The ‘Gifthouse’ was the Hele Almshouses. ‘Wembury’ is Wembury House. The other buildings shown are St Werburgh’s Church and Langdon House (1765)

Sir Warwick Hele of Wembury, in his will of 1625, established a charity which ‘appointed and ordained 10 poor people to be kept and maintained in his alms house at Wembury for ever, to be chosen and appointed by him that should be owner of South Wembury House’.*10 In 1806, when Thomas Lockyer succeeded his father in South Wembury estate, there were nine women in the almshouse. In 1812, according to The Charities in the County of Devon, ‘the buildings being in a very dilapidated state, it became necessary to lay out a considerable sum upon them; whereupon Mr. Lockyer, the owner of South Wembury House, advanced the ‘money required, without interest, intending to reimburse himself out of savings arising from vacancies among the alms-people, without discharging any, or stopping their allowances. He has also, at various times, permitted his own materials to be used in the buildings. From his account it appears, that the sum expended in repairs since 1808, amounts to 67 l. 9s. 2; d. The alms people consist of women who are old and very poor … and we are told by Mr. Lockyer, that he proposes to select such poor old persons, of either sex. The alms-people are each paid, quarterly, 15s.’
The Ecclesiastical Chapel at Hele Almshouses in the centre of a row of six rubblestone Residential Hele Almshouses (Listed) were built close to Wembury House by Sir Warwick Hele circa 1590 and are still in use.

The road to Wembury House is described in The Tourists Companion Being a Guide to Plymouth, 1823, as ‘the elegant modern residence of Thomas Lockyer, Esq. commanding extensive prospects over the fertile districts along the banks of the Yealm.’ It then takes us on a short walk ‘to the mouth of that river, where we cross to Newton Ferrers, by the help of a ferry-boat. This village, whose pleasing and salubrious situation renders it a favourite retirement for naval officers, is placed on the banks of the estuary.’

‘The 1851 census confirms the presence of high-status residences in the parish,’ writes A. G. Gollings. ‘Charles Calmady at Langdon Hall farmed 850 acres, while Sir Edward Thornton still occupied Wembury House and Thomas Lockyer occupied South Wembury House’ and owned the Old and New Bartons.

Thorn House_paintingSouth Wembury House (now Thorn House)

The Thorn House and Garden website reveals, ‘In 1876 Richard Cory, a wealthy London coal merchant, bought the South Wembury estate from the Lockyers. The Cory’s added a ballroom and billiard room; guests included the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1920 the house was sold to William Arkwright, who renamed it ‘Thorn’.’ He developed terraces and formal grounds in imitation of those at Sutton Scarsdale. The next owner, the Hon. Mrs Ida Marie Sebag-Montefiore, an enthusiastic horticulturalist, added more. When she left Thorn in 1938, she gave some of the land to the National Trust and the estate was gradually broken up into smaller units. John and Eva Gibson have lived at Thorn since 1981.

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St Werburgh’s church, Wembury (1943)

Thomas and Ann Lockyer, and their son Thomas and his wife Jane Lockyer are buried in St Werburgh’s church, Wembury, and commemorated on wall plaques. The Parish Church, overlooking Wembury Beach, is Grade 1 listed and dates from at least the 14th century.

Lockyer_Thomas_memorial slab Wembury_St Werburgh's Church_North Aisle_Sue Carylon photo_2017 sLockyer memorial ledger inside St Werburgh’s church, Wembury, North Aisle

Transcription –
THOMAS LOCKYER ESQ died August 9th 1806 Aged 49 Years
ANN wife of the Said THOMAS LOCKYER Died 8th of December 1820 Aged 65 Years Also THOMAS LOCKYER ESQ Eldest son of the above named THOMAS & ANN LOCKYER who died April 29th 1859 Aged 76 Years

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Lockyer memorial wall plaques inside St Werburgh’s church, Wembury

Major Edmund Lockyer, the third son of Thomas and Ann, was famous for raising the British flag in Albany, Western Australia, on 21st January 1827 and claiming it for the Crown. In the south aisle of St Werburgh’s church is an Australian flag and Western Australian flag. The WA flag was presented to St Werburgh’s in 1941 by the Australian Government to commemorate Edmund Lockyer’s deed. The Australian flag was presented to the church in 1979. Edmund Lockyer’s first son, William, was christened at Wembury House in 1808.

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In the south aisle of St Werburgh’s church is a plaque and a Western Australian flag commemorating Major Edmund Lockyer.

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In the old yard of St Werburgh’s church is Thomas and Jane Lockyer’s son James Lawes Lockyer’s grave

Members of Thomas Lockyer’s family were Mayors of Plymouth on 9 occasions.
Thomas’ brother Edmund Lockyer was a prominent lawyer in Plymouth and was responsible for building the Royal Theatre and the Plymouth Atheneum in ‘grand Palladian style,’ but it was all lost in WW2.*11 The Lockyer’s are remembered in Plymouth with Lockyer Street, Lockyer Court, Lockyer Road, Lockyers Quay, the once Lockyer Hospital, Lockyers Quay Pub Restaurant and Lockyer House B & B.

a-Wembury-Cliffs-and-Yealm-Estuary_edited-1-492x550 Thorn House_aerial
Wembury House, Thorn House and the River Yealm, Wembury

Photo & Illustration Credits

‘Map of Plymouth, Devon’ Engraved by John Cooke (1820)
‘Southside Quay, Plymouth’ (1890)
Google Maps Images – Island House, The Barbican, Plymouth
‘Island House, Plymouth, late 1800s’
‘Island House, Plymouth, after the Blitz’ (1941)
‘St Andrews Church, Plymouth’ hand-painted steel engraving drawn by Thomas Allom and engraved by Wallis for “Devonshire Illustrated” (1832)
‘Wembury’ watercolour by Rev. John Swete (1797) – Devon Record Office
Wembury map (1809) Ordinance Survey First Series, Sheet 24
‘Steps to Ramparts, Wembury House’
‘Wembury House’ photograph by Robert Rowland, Traine Farm – Wembury Local History Society
Wembury House photos –
‘West Wembury Farm late 18th century’ Wembury Local History Society
‘South Wembury’ postcard (1914)
Benjamin Donn’s map of Devon (1765 )
‘South Wembury House’ (now Thorn House)
‘St Werburgh’s church, Wembury (1943)’ Wembury Local History Society
‘Lockyer memorial ledger’ photograph by Wembury Local History Society
‘Inside St Werburgh’s church, Wembury’ photograph by Sue Carlyon, Wembury Local History Society (2017)
‘Lockyer memorial wall plaques’ photographs by Sue Carlyon, Wembury Local History Society (2017)
‘Plaque commemorating Major Edmund Lockyer’ photograph by Sue Carlyon, Wembury Local History Society (2017)
‘Western Australian flag’ photo by Sue Carlyon, Wembury Local History Society (2017)
‘James Lawes Lockyer’s grave’ two photos by Sue Carlyon, Wembury Local History Society (2017)
‘Wembury House, Thorn House and the River Yealm’ (1946) photograph – Wembury Local History Society
‘Thorn House and the River Yealm, Wembury’ photograph

Research Resources
Wembury Local History Society –
Sue Carlyon and Peter Lugar, Wembury, Devon
Robert & Sheila Rowland Traine Farm, Wembury, Devon

*1 Brian Moseley, Plymouth
*2 The Charities in the County of Devon 1839 James Newman, London
Great Britain. Commissioners for Inquiring Concerning Charities 
*3 Brian Moseley, Plymouth
*4 Wembury Local History Society
*5 The Reverend Daniel Lysons, Topographical and Historical Account of Devonshire, London, 1822, p.549
Wembury House, Devon: ‘a house of legendary grandeur’.
*6 T.L. Stoate, Devon Hearth Tax Returns 1674, Bristol, 1982, p. IX.
*7 Wembury Deeds (Ref 447)
*8 Mills, J., Rowland, R. & M., & Broughton, P. 2000 Wembury at the First Millennium: A Description of the Domesday Manors of Wembury Parish in Devonshire p 21
*9 19th Century Thorn
*10 The Charities in the County of Devon 1839 James Newman, London
Great Britain. Commissioners for Inquiring Concerning Charities
*11 Wembury Local History Society member, Robert Rowland.

Richard Polwhele, The History of Devonshire (3 vols, 1797-1806)

A genealogical and heraldic history of the extinct and dormant baronetcies of England By John Burke 1 January 1838

The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009 Available from Cambridge University Press

The Tourists Companion Being a Guide to Plymouth
The_Tourist_s_Companion_Being_a_Guide_to (Plymouth) pdf

A Wembury History – Medieval to Modern A.G. Collings with contributions by members of Wembury Local History Society

Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1830), 228-30; White’s Devon Dir. (1850), 632-63, 689-91, 696-703; PP (1835), xxiii. 595-6; W. Hoskins, Devon, 208-10, 213-14, 453-60; C. Gill, Plymouth, 77-171.

Devon Gardens Trust

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Where the Milligens Lived

Harleston_Market place_1820
Harleston Market Square, Norfolk

Milligen – Norfolk

The Milligen family came from Glasgow, Scotland, to set up business and settle in the market town of Harleston, Norfolk, England, in the early 1700s. James Milligen was a Linen Draper, as was his son, John Milligen, born in Glasgow, 1694. We don’t know exactly where the family lived in Harleston, but James was buried 9 Oct 1940 at Redenhall near Harleston. The villages of Redenhall and Harleston are now a combined town covering an area of 13.73 km2. In 2001, the population was 4,058 in 1,841 households.

John Milligen married Elizabeth Smith, from Harleston, sometime before 1730. According to Faith Packard in Our Family History, ‘theirs was a happy marriage.’ They had two sons and four daughters none of whom carried on the draper’s business. ‘John retired to Shouldham near King’s Lynn where he bought himself a small estate and lived as a country gentleman.’ Shouldham covers an area of 16.04 km² and had a population of 608 in 246 households when I visited in 2001.

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Harleston, Norfolk                                         Shouldham, Norfolk

John and Elizabeth Milligen’s first born, John Milligen (b. 1730), moved to Plymouth, Devon, to become a Captain in the Royal Navy. Their youngest, Lydia Milligen (b.1740), married the Harleston cattle dealer, Robert Seppings, of Fakenham, Norfolk, in Fakenham, 1760. John Milligen, the father, died on 27 January 1762 aged 68 years at Shouldham, Norfolk, and was buried at the chancel of Shouldham Church in a family vault. The All Saints church is outside Shouldham in an elevated position overlooking the village. Built from a mixture of Carrstone and flint, the tower dates back to the late 13th/early 14th century.

Shouldham Church_Evelyn Simak All Saints church, Shouldham
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In the aisle of the church is a brass plate with an inscription honouring the bodies of John Milligen and his unmarried daughter, Mary (1733-1827), lying beneath.

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Faith Packard made a three cushion canvas work sedilia seat for Shouldham church to commemorate both John Milligen and his grandson Sir Robert Seppings. The sedilia seat was dedicated by the Bishop of Ely on his visit to Shouldham in 1973.

Milligen – Plymouth

Plymouth_The Barbican, Pool & Co_steel engraving drawn by T. Allom, engraved by H. Wallis_1829

Capt John Milligen married Martha Phillips in 1759 in Plymouth, Devon. After his father died in 1762 they were well-off with money inherited from his father’s Will. They had no children of their own, but in 1780, at age 50, the captain adopted two of his sister Lydia’s children – Lydia Seppings (b. 1762) and John Milligen Seppings, age 10 (b. 1770) who was placed in the navy as a midshipman on Dunkirk, a store ship under the command of his uncle. When his father, Robert Seppings, died in 1781, age 47, Capt John Milligen adopted his older brother, Robert, age 14, and their six-year-old sister, Elizabeth. In 1782, he put Robert Seppings to work at the naval shipyards at Plymouth as an apprentice shipwright. He also adopted two orphaned daughters of his brother Thomas Milligen – Martha Phillips Milligen (b. 1766) and Charlotte (b. 1770) who would later marry her first cousin, Robert.
We don’t know where the Milligens and Seppings actually lived in Plymouth – many records were destroyed in WW2 – but it could have been at No 28 Gasken St.

Milligen_Plymouth_28 Gasking St_a Plymouth_Map of WW2 Bombings_1941
Gasken/Gasking St, Plymouth, Devon      WW2 Bombings, Plymouth, 1941

Capt John Milligen died in Plymouth in 1788. In his Will, he bequeathed ‘his house etc, to his wife Martha Phillips Milligen and his niece Charlotte Milligen’. One year later, John Milligen Seppings drew up his Will. At 18 years of age, he wished to leave his worldly estate to his Aunt Martha Milligen who was then residing at No. 28 Gasken Street, Plymouth. The house was probably destroyed during the Plymouth Blitz, 1941, as it no longer exists.

Photo & Illustration Credits

Harleston Market Square, Norfolk (1820)
Google Maps – Harleston, Norfolk
Google Maps – Shouldham, Norfolk
All Saints church, Shouldham, Norfolk, photograph by Evelyn Simak (2010)
Brass plate in All Saints church, Shouldham, Norlfolk, photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
Handwritten inscription of brass plate by Faith Packhard
Cushion sedilia seat by Faith Packhard, All Saints church, Shouldham, Norlfolk, photograph by Katherine Seppings (2001)
The Barbican, Pool & Co, Plymouth
Steel engraving drawn by T. Allom, engraved by H. Wallis (1829)
Google Maps – 28 Gasking St., Plymouth
Map of WW2 Bombings, Plymouth, 1941 – Plymouth Library

Our Family History Faith Packard (1989)
Letter from Frank Raymond Seppings (2001)

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Seppings Ancestral Homes – England

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Where did our Seppings ancestors live?
The earliest record we have is of William Seppings, son of Thomas Seppings, born in Fakenham, Norfolk, 1638. William, an Oatmeal Maker, and his wife Dorothy, had five sons. The second son, Robert, our ancestor, was born in Fakenham in 1666.

Fakenham, on the river Wensum, is 40 km west of Norwich and 30 km north east of King’s Lynn. The Saxon name Fakenham means Hamlet (Ham) on a Fair (Fa) River (Ken). In 2001, when I visited the region to see where our Seppings ancestors had lived, the population was 7,357 in 3,292 households. In the 1086 Domesday Book, Fakenham only had 150 residents. The hamlet was given a Charter in 1250 and became a market town. On the other side of the river was the larger community of Hempton which hosted pilgrims at its abbey. In 1536 Henry VIII abolished the abbey and Fakenham became the dominant centre with market stalls set up around St. Peter & St. Paul’s parish church.

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Coxford Abbey Farm postcard

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Coxford Abbey Farmhouse 2001

Robert Seppings, also an Oatmeal Maker, married Mary Hobbart in East Barsham, north of Fakenham, in 1706. They lived at Coxford Abbey Farm, Kings Lynn, North Norfolk, with their four children. ‘1712’ can be seen on the side of the building.

The remains of Coxford (Cokesford) Priory are in a field out the back, beyond an old brick wall to the south of the house. Founded around 1140, at St Mary’s church, East Rudham, the Augustinian Canons Regular transferred their community of priests to Coxford in 1216. The priory, dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536, was constructed of flint with stone dressings and is a grade II listed ruin.

In 2001, David and Ann Carter lived at Coxford Abbey Farmhouse. They allowed me to photograph the aerial image (1965) and the B/W postcard above.

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Coxford Abbey Farm 1965

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The remains of Coxford Priory are in a field beyond an old brick wall south of the house. Detail above front door of house.

Robert and Mary Seppings’ third son, Thomas (b. 1704), was our ancestor. Thomas, a Butcher, married Elizabeth Ballestone in 1726 at St Margarets church, Norwich, Norfolk. They had six children. Their third child, Robert, our ancestor, was born in Fakenham in 1734. Elizabeth died on the 4th of June 1752 and her husband Thomas died a week later on the 12th. Robert was almost 18 years of age and his youngest sibling was 11 years old. Elizabeth was buried on the 8th of June in the Churchyard at Fakenham, and Thomas was buried there on the 14th.

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St. Peter & St. Paul’s church, Fakenham.
Thomas and Elizabeth Seppings were buried in the Churchyard in 1752.
Robert and Lydia Seppings married there in 1760 and all their children were christened there. Robert was buried in the Churchyard in 1781.

Thomas and Elizabeth Seppings’ son, Robert, became a Cattle Dealer. He married Lydia Milligen, daughter of a Linen Draper in Harleston, at St Peter & St Paul’s church, Fakenham, in 1760. Robert and Lydia Seppings lived in a house in Holt Street, Fakenham, where their seven children were born. All were christened at St Peter & St Paul’s church. Their first two babies died soon after birth. Three girls and two boys survived. The two boys were Sir Robert Seppings (b. 1767) and his younger brother Lt John Milligen Seppings (b. 1770), our ancestor.

England_Norfolk_Fakenham_Holt St house_Seppings_20010911a s
Robert and Lydia Seppings’ home in Holt Street, Fakenham, where their children were born, including Sir Robert Seppings (b. 1767) and his younger brother, Lt John Milligen Seppings (b. 1770), our ancestor.

The home in Holt Street, Fakenham, is eight miles from Burnham Thorpe, where Admiral Horatio Nelson was born in 1758. (Captain George Vancouver was born nine months earlier in nearby King’s Lynn.) Robert Seppings’ cattle dealing business did not prosper, and from the age of twelve, his eldest son, Robert, carried letters to a neighbouring town by mule to contribute to the family.

The father, Robert Seppings, died in 1781, age 47, and was buried in the Churchyard at Fakenham. John Milligen Seppings and his sister, Lydia, had already been sent to live with their mother’s brother, Captain John Milligen, a retired Mariner in Plymouth, Devon. He and his wife, Martha, had no children, so in 1780 they adopted John, age 10, and placed him in the navy as a midshipman on Dunkirk, a store ship under the captain’s command. When John’s father died in 1781, his uncle adopted his older brother, Robert, age 14, and in 1782 put him to work at the naval shipyards at Plymouth as an apprentice shipwright under senior shipwright Mr Hensow. Captain John Milligen also adopted the boys’ six-year-old sister, Elizabeth Seppings, and two orphaned daughters of his brother, Thomas Milligen – Martha Phillips Milligen and Charlotte who would later marry her first cousin, Robert.

Plymouth_map_Engraved by John Cooke_1820
Map of Plymouth, Devon, 1820

Robert and Charlotte Seppings married in 1795 at the Parish church, Charles District, Plymouth. The navy board recognized Robert’s ingenuity and in 1804 moved him to Chatham as a master-shipwright. They lived at the Official house, Dockyard, Chatham, North Kent. When Robert Seppings was appointed to the office of surveyor of the navy in 1813 he worked in the South Wing of Somerset House, a large Neoclassical building on the south side of the Strand in London, overlooking the Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. Robert, Charlotte and their family of five surviving children lived at 6 Somerset Place, one of a row of houses used as dwellings for Admiralty officials on the western edge of Somerset House, until 1832 when he retired. The row of houses was demolished in 1856 for a Victorian wing. In 1989, I visited the North Wing of Somerset House where the Registrar office held all Birth, Marriage and Death certificates in England and Wales.
Robert and Charlotte moved to No 3 Mount Terrace, Taunton, Somerset, in 1832. Charlotte died there two years later and Sir Robert Seppings died there in 1840, age 72.

Seppings_Sir Robert_residence_No 3 Mount Terrace_Taunton_1989a s
Sir Robert and Lady Charlotte Seppings’ home –
No 3 Mount Terrace, Taunton, Somerset (1989)

Lt. John Milligen Seppings married Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer at Charles the Martyr church, Plymouth, Devon, in 1804. They lived at Lime-kiln Lane, Greenwich, Kent, from 1804 to 1819 where nine of their eleven children were born. These children were all christened at St Alphages Church of England, Greenwich. Lt Edmund Henry Seppings, our ancestor, the first Seppings to live in Australia, was born at Lime-kiln Lane, Greenwich, in 1807. In the Baptism Register at St Alphages, John Milligen Seppings is listed as ‘Gentleman’. He was employed by the Royal Navy as Surveyor of Sloops and Comptroller of Revenue Cutters at Customs House, and Chief of Customs Service. Greenwich was a significant riverside town then but the rest of the borough was predominantly rural. Nearby Deptford and Woolwich had royal dockyards. Lime-kiln Lane is now named Greenwich South Street.

UK_Kent_Greenwich_St Alphages Church_1989a s Greenwich map_1805-Ordnance Survey First Series, Sheet 1 - GB Historical GIS_University of Portsmouth
Edmund Henry Seppings was christened at St Alphages Church of England, Greenwich, Kent, in 1808. Map of Greenwich 1805.

In 1819, when Lt. John Milligen Seppings retired from the Royal Navy, he and Ann moved to Budliegh, East Devon, before purchasing Culver House, a classic double-fronted 3-storey plus attic, six bedroom Georgian home at 31 New Exeter Street (formerly Culver Street), Chudleigh, Devon, where their youngest two children were born. According to the Chudliegh History Group, the name Culverhouse Meadow appears in a will of 1679. All large medieval manors had dovecotes and a culver was a keeper of pigeons, a bird often used in cuisine. A ‘For Sale’ advertisement appeared on 29 April 1819 in the Exeter Flying Post. Lt. John Milligen Seppings was the first recorded occupier using the Culver House name and started living there in 1821. The Chudleigh churchwarden accounts records the first time payment received from ‘Mr Seppings for his seat £1 17s 6d’ in that year.

Chudleigh is a small town in Central Devon, between Newton Abbot and Exeter

Lt. John Milligen Seppings lived at Culver House until his death, age 55, in March 1826. In May, his wife Ann put the house on the market and advertised their home in the Exeter Flying Post. Her uncle, Edmund Lockyer Esq., was involved in the handling of the sale. Culver House consisted of ‘conviently attached and detached offices, courtlage, yards, coach-house, stables, and gardens.’ There were also two fields of rich pasture adjoining the gardens – ten acres amply supplied with water ‘in a high state of cultivations.’

Seppings John Milligen - Sale Culver House by widow_a 1838_tithe_map1_culver_houseCulver House advertisement in the Exeter Flying Post 24 May 1826.
Extract from the 1838 Tithe map showing Culver House, Garden and Meadow plots outlined in yellow.

In 1843, Eliza Jane Bicknell Seppings, second daughter of the late Lt John Milligen Seppings, married Thomas Yarde Esq. in the Parish Church, Chudleigh, Newton Abbot, Devon. They had three boys and a girl. The Yarde family bought Culver House and occupied it from 1851 to 1909. Eliza died in 1854. The Chudliegh History Group note the Yarde family were recorded as ‘making improvements’. The house was probably doubled in size for the Yarde family in 1851/52 and extended again in the early 1880s. In the mid-1930s, the house was converted to nine flats and a vicarage was also located there during 1948-1954. By the 2000s all the flats were empty and in 2015 the building was becoming derelict. In 2016, the property was sold as three separate lots (Culver House, The School House & The Old Vicarage) and by September 2017 the three sections were being restored.
The high stone wall fronting the property is an important feature of the New Exeter Street streetscape. The wall and gate piers are Grade II listed (28 April 1987). The gateway is now the main entrance to the public Culver Gardens – previously the garden of Culver House – which included a Victorian rockery thought to have been a fernery and is now restored as such.
The National Buildings Register entry:
A section of wall containing dipping place for drinking water and gate piers to the
drive of Culver House. Local grey limestone rubble with dressed coping stones and
ashlar gate-piers. Tall stone wall with a round-headed niche for dipping place
(disused). Tall gate piers of square section with pyramidal caps. Larger inner gate
piers have deep chamfered inside corners, the chamfers have stops or moulded
corbels at their tops on which there are flat cap stones.

Culver House today in a derelict state
culver-house-230000-2 Culver House_Clive Pearce Property_05 Culver House 1
Culver House, Chudleigh, early 2000s

In the 1841 census, Ann Seppings, age 55, of ‘Independent means’, was living in Main Street, Chudleigh, Devon, with daughters Eliza (25), Augusta (20), Charlotte (15) and Edward (15). In 1851, Ann M Seppings, Lieutenants Widow (68) was ‘Head of House’, living with daughters Augusta M Seppings (30), Charlotte E Seppings (29) and servants Rhode Drinkwater, the cook (63), and Ann Manley, housemaid (23), at 22 Cathedral Yard in the Parish of St Martin, Exeter, Devon.
The parish of St Martins covered 0.7 hectares. In 1821 there were 329 residents in 62 houses which dropped to 207 in 1867. All the houses are now shops and offices. The Seppings residence is currently Michael Spiers Jewellers (2017).

Cathedral Yard map 22 Cathedral Yard_02
Ann M Seppings lived at 22 Cathedral Yard, Exeter, Devon in 1851 (house with blue shutters, now a jewellery shop)

Note: Lt John Milligen Seppings’ brother, Sir Robert Seppings, named his first son John Milligen Seppings (b. 1798) who had two children – Capt Edward James Seppings, born in 1826, Calcutta, India, who died, along with his wife and children, in 1857 at Cawnpore, Utter Pradesh, India, ending Sir Robert Seppings’ male line; and Charlotte Marianne Seppings, born 1828. In the 1841 census, could Charlotte (15) and Edward (15) have been those two children? Lt John Milligen Seppings and Ann M Seppings, had a daughter, Charlotte, but she was 19 years old in 1841. Charlotte E Seppings, age 29, was listed as living with Ann in 1851.

6 Lower Summerlands_02
Ann M Seppings died in 1859 at 6 Lower Summerlands, Exeter, Devon

Photo & Illustration Credits
Google Maps – Fakenham, Norfolk, England
‘Fakenham Sign’ photograph by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Coxford Abbey Farm postcard’ photo courtesy David and Ann Carter
‘Coxford Abbey Farm 2001’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Coxford Abbey Farm 1965’ photo courtesy David and Ann Carter
‘Coxford Abbey Farm old brick wall’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Detail above front door of house’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘St. Peter & St. Paul’s church, Fakenham’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Seppings’ home in Holt Street, Fakenham’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Map of Plymouth, Devon’ Engraved by John Cooke (1820)
‘No 3 Mount Terrace, Taunton, Somerset’ photo by Katherine Seppings (1989)
‘St Alphages Church of England, Greenwich, Kent’ photo by Katherine Seppings (1989)
‘Map of Greenwich 1805’ Ordnance Survey First Series, Sheet 1 – GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Greenwich in Kent | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Google Maps – Chudleigh, Devon, England
‘Culver House advertisement’ Exeter Flying Post 24 May 1826.
‘Extract from the 1838 Tithe map showing Culver House’ courtesy Chudleigh History Group
‘Culver House early 2000s’ Image 1 & 3 – courtesy Clive Pearce Property, Truro, Cornwall; image 2 & 4 – courtesy Woods Estate Agents & Auctioneers, Chudleigh.
‘Cathedral Yard map’ courtesy David Cornforth Exeter Memories
Google Maps – 22 Cathedral Yard, Exeter, Devon
Google Maps – 6 Lower Summerlands, Exeter, Devon

Research Resources

The Gentleman’s Magazine p 422 (1843)

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Seppings Name

Seppings_Coat of Arms_crop

The name Seppings, originally from East Anglia, England, is thought to have derived from the nickname ‘Sevenpence’, someone not very tall.* One of the earliest listed is John Wolman Sevenpens (1403) in the Calendar of Norwich Freemen 1317-1603: Edward II to Elizabeth Inclusive under Henry IV. In 1524, the name was recorded in the form Sevenpennys and Sevynpenys. Through the centuries, Seppings has been spelt Seppens, Sippins (1540), Sypphinge, Sibbinge (1548), Sibbynge (1552), Seppins (1625), Sipins (1674), Sepens (1674), Sipping (1694), Sippons (1761), Sepings, Sippings and Sepping.

In Our Family History (1989), Faith Packard wrote, ‘It may have originated in north Suffolk as it appears in documents from the Halesworth – Blythburgh area in the 14th and 15th centuries. The parish registers of Fakenham in North Norfolk and the parishes round about have frequent mentions of the name from the beginning of the registers in the mid 16th century.’ In Suffolk, the Seppings name was referenced in 1540 when Nycholas Sevenpennys held lands and a family seat as Lord of the Manor.**

In Fakenham, Norfolk, where the Seppings name is deeply rooted, a fire damaged the town on 4 Aug, 1738 and, unfortunately, the early parish registers were lost and in them ancestral information on the Seppings. Other historic documents shedding light on the Seppings name may also have perished in the Norwich Central Library fire in 1994.

If you have the name Seppings in your family and you come across another Seppings you will be related. ‘The name never became widespread,’ wrote Faith Packard in 1989. ‘Though Seppings families are still met with in Norfolk the current London Telephone Directory lists only one Sepping and one Seppings.’ I met that one Sepping in a philosophy class he and I attended at the University of London, 1988.

There are various family history sites on the internet which estimate the numbers of Seppings on record. In 2017, ‘Ancestry’ claims to have 14,107 historical documents with the Seppings name, including 4,751 Births, Deaths and Marriages, 4,089 Census and Voter Lists, 160 Military Records and 112 Immigration Records. ‘My Heritage’ lists 3,141 people with the Seppings name and 917 with the name Sepping. 55% of Seppings lived in Great Britian, 18% in the United Kingdom, 18% in South Africa and 9% in Australia.

‘Research My Name’ states the Seppings name has been established in Europe for nearly 100 years, originally from Britian. They claim records dating back to 1131 suggest there was a contingency of Seppings’s in the county of Leicestershire, though I have not been able to verify this. Neither can I find a reference to their assertion, ‘It is written that a late 18th century Seppings could out drink a Rhino.’ Perhaps so. Many Seppings have been known to enjoy a drop. I agree with their conclusion of Seppings Traits. ‘The Seppings family are well known for their happy personalities.’ Although not all have had happy lives, just look at those smile lines. Listen to a Seppings laugh.

It is interesting to learn that all Seppings were law-abiding – at least there are no criminal records to be found. What the Seppings family name does carry is an extensive military history. Fifteen Seppings men, mostly from England, served in the First World War. Francis Edmund Henry Seppings of Wagga Wagga, NSW, was in the 1st Light Horse regiment at Gallipoli. Edmund Henry Seppings, the first Seppings to arrive in Australia was a Lieutenant with the Royal Navy, as was his father, John Milligen Seppings whose only brother, Sir Robert Seppings, naval architect, is a name well regarded in the history of shipbuilding and one of the most highly commemorated as a surveyor in the Royal Navy.

‘Seppings Blocks’ was a name given, in 1800, to the invention by Robert Seppings, then master shipwright assistant in the Plymouth dockyard, of a device which reduced the time and labour required for inspecting and effecting repairs to the lower hulls of ships in dry dock.

There were two ships named Seppings. The first Seppings, a barque of 393 tons, left Calcutta in 1839 and arrived in Port Jackson, 1840, via Port Phillip, carrying a cargo of sugar and 18 convicts from India, with four soldiers. The second, Sir Robert Seppings, a 628 ton ship, arrived at Van Diemen’s Land from Woolwich, England, in 1852, with 220 female convicts.

In 1826, Major Edmund Lockyer, first cousin of Sir Robert and John Milligen Seppings, hoisted the British flag at Albany and, on claiming Western Australia, an act which officially brought the whole of the Australian continent under the control of the British Crown, he named the freshwater lake there, Lake Seppings. There is a Seppings Island off the west of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, and a Seppings Hill in Ewes, Scotland. Seppings Peak can be found on the island of Naungdaw, Rakhine, Myanmar. The Eskimo village, Kivalinagmiut, on the arctic coast between Point Hope and Cape Krusenstern, was named Seppings Cape by Cpt. F. W. Beechey, in 1827, while exploring the Bering Straight. Seppings Lagoon, Alaska, is on the shore of Chuckchi Sea, 22 miles NW of Kivalina, Kotzabue-Kobuk Low.

Pearson_Maya_The Pines_Kirby Cane_England_20011101068

There is a Seppings Road in Norfolk, England, and in the Bangalore district of Karnataka, India, where Edmund Henry Seppings’ brother, Vice Admiral William Lawless Seppings, served in the military cantonment of the British Raj. In Albany there is a Seppings suburb and a Lake Seppings Drive. There is a Seppings Close in Wilburton, Ely, Cambridgeshire; a Seppings Way in Norwich, Norlfolk; and a Seppings Court in Flagstaff Hill, South Australia.

Various businesses have displayed the Seppings name. A Public House in Norfolk had the name Hogge and Seppings from 1861 into the 1920s. W. J. Seppings Butchers, makers of the famous Seppings sausage, was established in 1919 and still supplies meat to Suffolk and Norfolk from the original shop in Beccles. J. Seppings’ Boot Repairs in Yerong Creek, south of Wagga Wagga, NSW, was destroyed by fire in 1923. There was a Sepping’s Universe Cycle Store in Sydney, NSW, in the 1950s, which expanded to several stores and were run by three generations of Sepping. Alan J Sepping Pty Ltd was a Bicycle Accessories & Repairs shop in West Ryde, Sydney, until 2015.

The Seppings name is found as a fictional character, the butler ‘Seppings’, in the award-winning British comedy Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, and as Samuel Seppings, a ‘stolid-looking working-man’, called as a juror in Chapter 15 of The Red Thumb Mark by R. Austin Freeman. At Dripstone and Mumbil, NSW, in the 1930s, locals played tennis there for the Seppings Cup.

In the first generation of Australian Seppings there were four girls born. One died. The two boys, Edmund Henry Seppings and Francis Merewether Seppings carried on the Seppings name. Edmund Henry Seppings, my great-grandfather, had ten children. Three girls were born and it seems only one survived (though I don’t know when she died). My grandfather, Edgar Shelley Seppings, had five boys and of the three girls born, two survived. From the five boys, three daughters and ten sons were born. All survived. Those ten sons produced fifteen daughters and ten sons. One of those boys has had a son and the name Seppings lives on in a new generation. My grandfather’s brothers produced six sons between them, but of their five sons, one has died and only one boy is born to the current generation.
Francis Merewether Seppings had four sons and four daughters. His boys had five daughters and eight sons between them. The eight sons had five girls and six boys. For some reason, one of Francis Merewether Seppings’ sons, Francis Obediah, dropped the last ‘s’ on his Seppings name and so there is a branch, living in Sydney, with that spelling.

The names Lockyer, Milligen and Staines, from maternal lines, were repeatedly used as middle names for Seppings boys. As was Merewether – due to a family connection. Seppings has been used for a middle name in the Armstrong, Beloe, Buck, Colthurst, Cosens, Harrison, Hook, Howlett, King, Laws, Lock, Mitchell, Moore, Puttock, Tirard, Wilson and Wright families, in England, usually with Robert as the first name. The Seppings name appears hyphenated for the famous artist, Henry Charles Seppings-Wright (1850-1937) and there is currently a Sooväli-Sepping as well as several Sepping in Estonia.

Of all the preferred names in Seppings families, John Milligen was used five times (2 were lieutenants), and in the Laws and Puttock families. Robert Seppings was repeated five times, straight, and once with Seymour added. William was used nine times; Thomas, five. Edmund, Edward, and Francis were used four times each. The most popular girl’s names were Charlotte and Mary. Some of the female names, such as Mary Seppings (nee Rapley), acquired the Seppings name through marriage. When my mother, Joan Katherine Webster (b. 1929), married my father, Edgar Shelley Seppings, she took on the same name as his sister, Joan Catherine Seppings, who died as a baby one month before my mother was born.

In the 1800’s, when a child died, the next born of the same sex was usually given the same name. Edmund Henry Seppings named his first son after himself (there was also another Edmund Henry in the Burma branch) and named his first daughter after Grace Darling, an English lighthouse keeper’s daughter who, in September 1838, became famous for seeing the shipwrecked Forfarshire off the Northumberland coast and helping to rescue nine survivors in a lifeboat. Grace Darling Seppings died in her first year but the name was given to the next daughter who survived. Edmund Henry Seppings’ son, Edmund Henry, named his first born daughter Grace Darling as well, but she, too, died in infancy.

My father, Edgar Shelley Seppings, had the same name as his father, the middle name was attributed to one of the most influential English Romantic poets. Shelley was radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views. Sentiments not lost on the Seppings family or in the passing of time.

*Dictionary of English Surnames by P. H. Reaney
** ‘Research My Name’ website

Our Family History (1989), Faith Packard

‘Seppings Name’ image cropped from Seppings Coat of Arms grant doc. (1825)
‘Seppings Road – Norfolk, England’ photograph by Katherine Seppings (2001)

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