Bishop’s Waltham’s naval connections are mostly due to its close proximity to the port of Portsmouth. Here we take a look at four particularly fascinating characters connected with the town.

Admiral Edward Vernon ‘Old Grog’ (1684 -1757)

Admiral Vernon’s best-known naval victory came during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, a conflict between Great Britain and Spain that lasted from 1739 to 1742. He captured Porto Bello, a key port in the silver trade situated on the coast of Panama. This considerably damaged Spain’s finances and weakened its naval capabilities. In the British Navy he is perhaps better known for the introduction of ‘grog’. Concerned with the amount of drunkenness, he ordered the customary rum ration to be diluted with water (½ pint rum to ¼ quart water). The drink’s name came from the grogram cloak that the admiral used to wear.

Admiral Edward Vernon by Thomas Gainsborough

Admiral Edward Vernon as depicted by Thomas Gainsborough

Admiral Villeneuve

Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve

Admiral Villeneuve (1763-1806)

During the Napoleonic Wars, Bishop’s Waltham served as a ‘parole town’ for up to 200 captured French and Spanish naval officers. The best known was Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, commander of the French fleet defeated at the Battle of Trafalgar (pictured left). He was first accommodated in The Crown Inn, but was then moved to Vernon Hill House. He was later exchanged for four British captains and returned to France. While staying in Rennes, he was discovered murdered with five stab wounds in his chest. The authorities declared his death a suicide but it is probable that he was assassinated on the orders of Napoleon due to the defeat at Trafalgar.

Admiral Lord Andrew Cunningham (1883-1963)

Before the Second World War, Admiral Andrew Cunningham purchased Palace House, ‘a little house in the country’. Between late 1942 and early 1943, he went on to serve as Supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, commanding the fleet that covered the North African landings. in 1943 he became First Sea Lord of the Admiralty and chief of the Naval Staff responsible for the overall strategic direction of the navy for the remainder of the war. After the war he retired to Palace House and was buried at sea off Portsmouth in 1963.

Andrew Cunningham

Admiral Lord Andrew Cunningham

William Edward Parry

Sir William Edward Parry

Sir William Edward Parry (1790 -1855)

Naval Officer and Arctic Explorer. Parry sailed westward through Lancaster Sound and discovered and named Melville Island and Barrow Strait. Two other unsuccessful attempts were made to find the Northwest Passage, in the course of which Fury and Hecla Strait was discovered and new information about the Arctic was disclosed. By discovering the entrance to the passage and the way to the north magnetic pole, Parry had also found important whaling grounds. On 4 June 1852 Parry was promoted to rear-admiral and retired to Northbrook House, Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire. In January 1854, however, he was appointed Lieutenant.