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1841: Local naval hero from Bolnore

The Battle of Camperdown, painted by Philip de Loutherbourg in 1799

Although we covered this story in October 2020 the following obituary has been found that appeared in national press and gives us more information about our local and national hero.


This Gallant Naval Oficer died on Friday last, at Belnore [sic Bolnore], his residence, near Cuckfield, Sussex, at the advanced age of seventy-eight years, having been in the navy upwards of sixty-five years, and being, with not more than four exceptions, the senior Admiral in the British service.

Towards the conclusion of the American war, Sir John commanded the Raven, of fourteen guns, at the Leeward Islands, on which station he had the misfortune to be captured by two French frigates. he was afterwards appointed to the Wasp sloop, and cruised with so much activity against the smugglers as to call forth the thanks of the Commissioners of Customs, who sent a sum of money to be distributed among his officers and crew as a reward for their exertions. His post commission bears date March 1, 1783, from which period we find no mention of him until the month of October, 1794, when he commanded the Defence of 74 guns.

Captain Wells' Battle of Camperdown medal

Early in 1797, Captain Wells was appointed to the Lancaster, 64, stationed in the North Sea, under the orders of the late gallant Lord Duncan; and on the memorable 11th October, in the same year, he most powerfully contributed to the defeat of the Dutch fleet under Admiral de Winter.

The Lancaster on that occasion had three men killed, and eighteen wounded; and Captain Wells, for his meritorious conduct, was honoured with a gold medal. He afterwards walked in the procession to St Paul’s when their late Majesties went to the metropolitan church to deposit the various colours taken from the enemy during the war.

The solemn ceremonies of this day were devoted to thanksgiving for the splendid triumphs that the Almighty had vouchsafed to the fleets of Britain. It took place on the 19th of December, 1797, when their Majesties, as stated above, with all the Royal Family, attended by the Great Officers of State, and the Members of both Houses of Parliament, went in procession, and returned thanks for the glorious naval victories obtained by Lord Howe, June 1, 1794; by Admiral Hotham, March 13, 1795; by Lord Bridport, June 23, 1795; by Sir John Jervis, Fe. 14, 1797; and lastly by Admiral Duncan Oct. 11, in the same year.

The flags of these actions, as well as the colours of the Dutch fleet captured by Sir G. H. Elphinstone, Aug. 18, 1796, were carried on this occasion. Fifteen Flag Officers and twenty-six Captains attended the procession, and at the end of the first lesson, entered in two divisions, right and left of the King's chair, and advancing to the altar there deposited the trophies of their valour.

Sir John continued to command the Lancaster till the month of May, 1799, since which, we believe, he had not been employed.

His promotion as a flag-officer took place in the following order : Rear-Admiral of the Blue.

Nov. 9, 1805; Vice-Admiral, July 31, 1810; and Admiral, July 19, 1821. He was nominated an extra K.C.B. May 20, 1820.

Sir John Wells married, April 29, 1815, Miss Jane Dealty, of Rottingdean, Sussex.

The Sun, 27 November 1841

Painting: The Battle of Camperdown, painted by Philip de Loutherbourg in 1799. [Public domain image]

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details


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