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 Alworth 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 Alworth 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.

(Lt Edmund Henry Seppings’ life in Australia from 1840 and his marriage to Hannah Ann Collis (nee) Staines in 1852 in Wagga Wagga, NSW, and their five children Grace Darling Seppings (1850-1914), Edmund Henry Seppings (1852-1934), Isabella Hannah Seppings (1854-1905), Francis Merewether Seppings (1857-1934), and Clara Seppings (1858-1900), will be looked at in more detail posts to come.)

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 1848 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 Alworth 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. Alworth 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 Alworth 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 Alworth 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 Alworth 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


About Katherine Seppings

Artist, Writer, Photographer
This entry was posted in Seppings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Max Wynne says:

    In 1948 Nicholas was a Clerk of the Second Class for the Store Account Branch. . . .1848 you mean!


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