Collection has in addition to a great deal of great and not so great art,
etchings and drawings, but from the early years of photography, expensive
enough in the late 19th Century to be an art form, and a number of items that
caught the Imperial eye of HM Queen Victoria.
above is a striking example. Taken on 7th June 1880 it is of the five living
veterans of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo who were "in pensioners" of
the Chelsea Hospital. Probably also there were "out" ones living here
and there and other veterans, not pensioners and doubtless a few unknown at the
difficult to know which to look at first, but perhaps starting with the saddest
story, Benjamin Bumstead, from Kent born 1797, of the 73rd Regiment of Foot,
this would have been the 2nd Battalion. Wikipedia says that " The battalion fought in the Battle of Quatre Bras on
16 June 1815 where they lost 53 men killed and wounded.
Two days later at the Battle of
Waterloo on 18 June, the regiment was charged by French Cavalry no
less than 11 times during the battle and bombarded by French artillery. It
remained in square without breaking. The battalion lost 6 officers and 225
men killed and wounded."
By 1841 he is back in Kent married to a
Jane and a labourer, and they have two children. Two years later she moves in
with a William Edwards, has more children and by 1851 Benjamin is in the
Workhouse. In 1861 there is no record of him, but in 1871 he is again in the
Workhouse. He says he is unmarried but there has never been a divorce. It is
not difficult to imagine that by his late 40's he was a broken man.
For Robert Norton, the picture creates a
problem. He is shown as having served with the 34th Regiment of Foot, when in
fact it was the 54th West Norfolk Regiment of Foot. His death on 28 July 1881
was widely reported in the local press in Norfolk. The shifts and
reorganisations of regiments during the 19th Century could lead to confusion
The regiment seems to have had a
relatively minor role at the battle and perhaps the lack of a real study of its
history in the 19th Century means that not enough is known. By 1841 Robert is
back in Norwich and working as a silk weaver. He seems to have been a political
activist. The Norwich Mercury in 1881 says that he was an ardent politician and
never failing attendant at political meetings. The weavers in that day and age
had a reputation for militancy.
Sampson/Samson Webb, who served with the
3rd Foot Guards, the Scots might be thought to be Scots, but regiments could pick
up recruits anywhere in their travels and did. He was born in Ludlow,
Shropshire and returned to Shrewsbury after his service.
He married a Wiltshire girl, Rachel
Attwood, and their first son was born at Westminster around 1831 suggesting
that his battalion was on public duties. The second son was born three years
later at Ludlow. In 1851 he is listed as a Sergeant in the Militia, still Army.
By 1861 he is a furniture polisher and Chelsea Out Pensioner. Rachel died in
1869 and not long after becomes an "In".
There was a Scotsman in the picture,
however, John McKay of the 42nd Regiment of Foot. Better known as The Black
Watch this was one of the finest regiments of the British and for that matter
any army in history. I confess a slight prejudice, an ancestor served with them
in the Peninsular War, but did not make it to Waterloo.
This article deals with him:
A Waterloo Man
- Private John McKay, 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot by Andrew Thornton
attested for the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot at Caithness on 25
February 1810, aged 15. He fought at Quatre Bras and was wounded at Waterloo.
John continued to serve with the 42nd Foot until he was discharged on 22
November 1837, having also seen service in France, Gibraltar, Malta and at home
He married in
1831 and he and his wife Harriott had two sons. Later admitted as an
In-Pensioner at the Royal Hospital, John was one of the last surviving veterans
of Waterloo. The Edinburgh Evening News published the following article about
him in their 12 April 1886 edition: A WATERLOO VETERAN: “The last survivor of
Waterloo in Chelsea Hospital, John Mackay (sic), who fought in the ranks of the
42d Highlanders, enjoys excellent health and is generally in good spirits.
according to the Army and Navy Gazette, little reason to doubt that this sturdy
Scot is actually 103 years old. He is a broad-shouldered, big-chested man,
below middle height, and is still fairly erect. The old boy seldom gets up now,
not from debility, but because he is getting fat and lazy. He likes his pipe
and his glass, and occasionally sings a little song after a fashion.
His memory is
rather “mixed,” but otherwise he is wonderfully well.” John’s good health was
not to last and he died on 7 July 1886. His death was widely reported, this
article being printed in The York Herald on 10 July 1886: A WATERLOO VETERAN. “An
old Waterloo veteran, John McKay, late 42nd Highlanders, died on Wednesday last
at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
He was in his
102nd year. He was wounded in the hand, in the leg, and in the face at
Waterloo. He was a cheery old man and was well up to a few days ago, when
he was struck by paralysis.” John McKay was buried at the West London and
Westminster Cemetery in Old Brompton on 9 July 1886.
The Army and Navy Gazette of 10 July 1886 has a major item on his death
and points out that there were three of that name with the 42nd at Waterloo and
he was certainly one, and injured in the hand and leg.
He was five foot five and three quarter inches tall and described as
big. One source says he was attested, that is signed on in Caithness, but if he
was a labourer after leaving the army it would be difficult to track him
through the Census returns, possibly in Scotland.
An irony of the Gazette report is that after the McKay piece a couple of
items down it lists regiments that are going to India for a tour of duty. One
is the 7th Hussars, see Hannay next.
Last and not least is Naish Hannay, or Nash Hanney etc. for whom there
is a full run of Census Returns from 1841 to 1881. He was a boy from Bath in
Somerset, in 1808 apprenticed to Thomas Halliday to be a joiner. Soon after he
joined the Army instead, the 7th Dragoons/Hussars needing to do some active
recruiting. He was not long in the Army marrying Susannah Daw in 1818, a local
Their locations are Walcot and Lyncombe, then villages on the edge of
Bath, but by the end of the 19th Century becoming suburbs. In 1841 he is a
porter, 1851 a cabinet maker, in 1861 again a porter and in 1871 up a notch to
be an auctioneers porter. Susannah died in 1864, he was granted an out pension
in 1867 and then became an in pensioner in 1877 and died in 1881 being buried
at Brompton. It seems ordinary but it is the Bath that has interest.
Because when he was growing up in Bath and its area the Austen family
were there as was Mrs. Piozzi. She had been Mrs. Hester Thrale and was born a
Salusbury. She was a leading light in the world of literature and the arts,
close to Dr. Samuel Johnson and all his circle. As for the Austen family, did
Jane ever bump into that scruffy little boy destined to be a cabinet maker? Did
Mrs. Piozzi ever send him on errands?
The question in my mind is the surname. One of the heroic figures in
John Buchan's works is the Richard Hannay of "The 39 Steps". How did
he come by that name? GB Shaw famously borrowed his gardener's name for
"Pygmalion". Can there be a connection?
The difficulty with a study of this kind, is once some links are found
in turn they lead to other links in a complex web. There was time when the
Austen's visited Kent and were just along the road from where Benjamin Bumstead
My last comment is that John McKay and Sampson Webb were both at the
Battle of Salamanca in Spain. This was a crucial battle and possibly the
turning point of that campaign and some think the beginning of the end for
Napoleon. Wellesley, the victor of Waterloo and later the Duke of Wellington
was up on the hills watching the counter marching of the armies.
Then he saw a gap open up in the French line of march and seized the
moment for the British to attack. Without that moment there might never have been