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-)
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)
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 (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’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 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
Hicks Uniform 1812-25. ZBA4957, ZBA4958, ZBA4959 and ZBA4960.
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.
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)HMS Rodney (1833) Warship Second rate 92 guns designed by Sir Robert Seppings
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 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 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.
Return of fleet into Plymouth Harbour 1766
Thomas Lockyer (1756-1806) was a successful Sailmaker and Ship Riggings Merchant 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)
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.
Lt John Milligen Seppings (1770-1826) entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1780 on the Dunkirk under the command of his uncle Capt John Milligen. 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.
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 …
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 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.
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
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 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’.
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, 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 five uncles in military service on his mother’s side. 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.
Captain Nicholas Lockyer (1781-1847), Thomas 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)
Capt 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)
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.
(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.
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 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.
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 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) http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/140791.html
‘HMS Ville de Paris (1803)’ http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/
‘Plymouth’s shipyards, depicted in an 18th-century illustration’ (Photo: Getty Images) http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/news/genealogy-news-round-plymouth-and-west-devon-electoral-records-revealed
‘Midshipman. No.5.; Hand-coloured etching by Artist: Thomas Rowlandson, Engraver: Henri Merke, Publisher: Rudolph Ackermann. Depicts clothing, outerwear: uniform [Royal navy] 1799’ http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/129105.html
‘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’ http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/129109.html
‘Admiral. Hand-coloured etching by Artist: Thomas Rowlandson, Engraver: Henri Merke, Publisher: Rudolph Ackermann. Depicts clothing, outerwear: uniform [Royal navy] 1799’ http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/129110.html
‘Royal Navy midshipman uniform coat 1780s’
‘Epaulette. Part of the naval lieutenant’s uniform of Lt. William Hicks, 1812-25’ http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/557246.html
‘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’ –http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/66703.html
‘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’ –http://fromthenewyorkpubliclibrary.blogspot.com/2017/07/halifax-nova-scotia-of-emmet-collection.html
‘Return of fleet into Plymouth Harbour 1766’ Oil painting by Dominic Serres (1766) – http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/13391.html
‘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 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/13747.html
‘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’ –http://www.frigateunicorn.org/history/sir-robert-seppings
‘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’ –http://www.frigateunicorn.org/history/sir-robert-seppings
‘The Royal Society Copley medal’ –
‘HMS Unicorn moored at Dundee, Scotland’ –
‘HMS Unicorn’s figurehead’ – http://www.frigateunicorn.org/hms-unicorn
‘HMS Conway at Rock Ferry’ – http://www.dgvmatthews.co.uk/dgv_c002.htm
‘HMS Sophie’ – http://patrickobrian.wikia.com/wiki/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’ –
’19th Regiment of Foot and ’57th (West_Middlesex) Regiment of Foot badge’ –http://ceylondatabase.net/military.html
‘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’ –http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/L%C3%A9gion_d%27honneur
‘Medaille_de_crimee’ – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Medaille_de_crimee
‘Peninsula & Orient steamer SS Ripon’ –
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) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS Victory
(18) https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Lockyer, Nicholas
(20) https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Lockyer, Nicholas
(24) Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 16 November 1860, page 1
National Maritime Museum – www.nmm.ac.uk
“Uniform and Medals:Research guide U1: Uniforms: The National Maritime Museum Collection”. National Maritime Museum
“Officer ranks in the Royal Navy”. Royal Naval Museum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal Navy ranks, rates, and uniforms of the 18th and 19th centuries
https://www.wikizero.com/en/History of the Royal Navy
http://www.emersonkent.com/wars and battles in history/battle of trafalgar 1805.htm
https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/England 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 https://books.google.com.au/books?id=dWXGN1p3lewC&pg=PA483&lpg=PA483&dq=captain+John+Milligan&source=bl&ots=Zlvpyd0oEO&sig=PRbtEGHkxrPet5mW4fAeF9wENXo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBjLSGybTaAhUHurwKHSMADksQ6AEITTAF#v=onepage&q=captain%20John%20Milligan&f=false
Lt John Milligen Seppings (1770-1826)
‘Memorandum of the Services of Lieutenant John Milligen Seppings’ –
from Frank Seppings (original source – Royal Navy records)
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) http://www.frigateunicorn.org/history/building-hms-unicorn
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)
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, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lockyer-edmund-2366/text3103.
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