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Title: The Depot for Prisoners of War at Norman Cross, Huntingdonshire. 1796 to 1816

Author: Thomas Walker

Release date: August 16, 2013 [eBook #43487]

Language: English


Transcribed from the 1913 Constable & Company Ltd edition by David Price, email

The Block House, Norman Cross Barracks, 1809, where French Prisoners of War were confined.  Drawn by Captain George Lloyd, 2nd West York Militia, 1809.  Royal United Service Institution, Whitehall

HUNTINGDONSHIRE.  1796 to 1816



Fellow (Member of Council 1908–9) of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Associate of the British Archæological Association.  Past President of
the Peterborough Natural History Antiquarian and Scientific Society.


         “I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice.”












The Urgent Need for Prison Accommodation, Norman Cross, Hunts, selected as the Site, and the Prison built



The Prison and its Establishment



Arrival and Registration of the Prisoners



Administration and Discipline



Prison Life



Les Misérablesof Norman Cross and theRomansof Dartmoor



Employments of the CaptivesStraw Plait ControversyConductEscapes



The Sick and the Hospital



The CemeteryReligious MinistrationsBishop of Moulins



Prisoners on ParoleSocial HabitsMarriagesExchange of Prisoners



British Prisoners in FranceVerdunNarrative of the Rev. J. Hopkinson



The Truce and the PeacePrison Evacuated, 1802—Finally Cleared, 1814—Demolished, 1816







Plate I.—The Block House, Norman Cross Barracks, 1809, where Prisoners of War were Confined

Drawn by Captain George Lloyd, 2nd West York Militia, 1809


Plate II, Fig. 1.—The Washingley Plan of the Depot, 1797 to 1803, East Elevation


Fig. 2.—Mr. Hill’s Plan of the Depot, 1797 to 1803, West Elevation


Fig. 3.—Major Kelly’s Plan of the Depot, 1800 to 1805, (a) North Elevation, (b) Ground Plan, and (c) Pictorial Plan from the East


Fig. 4.—Bird’s-eye View of Norman Cross Barracks and Prison, East Elevation, Executed by Lieut. E. Macgregor, 1813


Plate III.—The Block House which stood in the Centre of the Prison


Plate IV.—The Outer Side of the Wall


Plate V.—The Inner Side of the Prison Wall as it now Stands


Plate VI.—The House of the Barrack Master, Enlarged in 1816, now the Residence of J. A. Herbert, Esq., J.P.


Plate VII.—Lodge removed from the Prison in April, 1816, and re-erected as Cottages in St. Leonard Street, Peterborough


Plate VIII, Fig. 1.—Wooden Tea-caddy richly decorated withPaper Mosaic,” the Work of the Prisoners of War at the Falmouth DepotThe Specimen is in the Collection of Miss Lilley Paull, of TruroFig. 2.  Tea-caddy similarly decorated in the possession of the Countess of Lindsey, Uffington Park (v. p. 133)


Plate IX.—Emblematic Group of Seven Figures arranged in Three Tiers carved in Bone (Peterborough Museum)


p. viiiPlate X.—Model of Guillotine: Bone Work (Peterborough Museum)


Plate XI.—Work-box made by the French Prisoners of War at Norman Cross (Peterborough Museum)


Plate XII.—Pair of Fire Screens decorated in Straw Marquetry (Peterborough Museum)


Plate XIII.—North-west View of Peterborough Cathedral, Executed in Straw Marquetry (Peterborough Museum)


Plate XIV.—Elaborately Carved Ornamental Design in Bone Work, representing a Theatre, with Figures in Carved Bone on the Stage, the Work of the Norman Cross Prisoners of War (Peterborough Museum)


Plate XV.—Desk made from the Bones obtained from the Cook-house by the French Prisoners of War at Norman Cross (Peterborough Museum)


Plate XVI, Fig. 1.—Mechanical Bone Work Group of Moving Figures on Platform and PedestalFigs. 2 and 3.—Groups of Flowers in Paper Work (Peterborough Museum)


Plate XVII.—Plait Merchants trading with the French Prisoners of War at Norman Cross, Hunts.

Photogravure of painting by A. C. Cooke, Esq., and reproduced here by the kind permission of the artist.


Plate XVIII.—The Bell Inn, Stilton

From a photograph by Mr. A. C. Taylor.


Plate XIX.—Facsimile of Order from Board of Transport, 9th April 1802, to Captain Holditch, Owner and Master of CartelArgo


Plate XX.—Model of the Prison of Norman Cross, England, in the County of, andLeagues from, Huntingdon (In the Musée de l’Armée, Hôtel des Invalides, Paris)


Plate XXI.—Key Plan of M. Foulley’s Model of the Prison of Norman Cross, England


One of the Wells on the Site of the Prison

From a photograph by the Rev. E. H. Brown, July 1910.



In April 1894 an exhibition was held at the Grand Assembly Rooms, Peterborough, under the auspices of the Local Natural History and Antiquarian Society, the major portion of the exhibits being articles of various descriptions made by the French prisoners of war at the barracks built in 1796–97 for their confinement at Norman Cross.  On that occasion, Dr. Walker drew up a short account of the buildings and their inmates, derived principally from recollections of old people and from old newspaper files.  Now that most of the relics then exhibited, and many others collected from various quarters, have found a permanent home in the Society’s Museum, it has been thought that the lecture embodying that history, which exists to-day only as a newspaper report, should be expanded and reproduced in the more accessible and permanent form of a small volume.

The lecture was incomplete, and to produce an exhaustive history it has been necessary to carry out systematic researches in the British Museum Library, in the Public Record Office, and in other repositories of information.

The general reader of a book is not concerned with the method of its construction, the complete structure is the only thing regarded, yet a very amusing digression could be given describing the difficulties attending the search, especially in the Government stores, for the p. xmaterial which is incorporated in this volume.  Many of the documents utilised had never been looked at since they were placed in sacks at the close of the war, when Red Tape was more rampant than to-day, and when the jurisdictions of several departments overlapped, causing obstructive friction and consequent confusion.  The official calendars and indices afford little or no indication as to the nature of the contents of bundles and rolls; in several cases valuable information has been obtained from bundles giving no hint of the contents, and simply marked “Various” or “Miscellaneous.”

Under the cumbersome and complicated system in vogue in the various offices at the close of the eighteenth century, the very limited staff employed could not keep pace with the pressure of the war.  At Woolwich, Sir William Congreve reported that in some branches of his department the accounts were three and four years in arrears, in one branch as many as seven years, and pleaded for an extra clerk, which request, after some correspondence, was granted.  This pressure led to laxity of supervision, culminating in corruption even in high places, and at last in 1804 General De Lancey, the Barrack Master-General, the head of the department responsible for the buildings at Norman Cross and other depots, was dismissed for defalcations, and the report of a Commission appointed to investigate his accounts from 1792 to that date, affirms that he had “made the most extravagant bargains both for land and buildings, and actually entrusted the contract for the fittings of barracks to a single individual, upon the easiest and most insecure of agreements. . . .  The Commissioners of Audit were ignored, and the authority of the Treasury set aside on the most ridiculous pretexts; and when inquiry was at last made in 1804, it was found that over nine million pounds of public money had been issued to the Barrack Master-General’s p. xidepartment, and that no accurate account could be produced either of the public or private expenditure of the same.” [0a]  This Report led to an inquiry by an eminent firm of accountants as to the method of keeping the accounts, and the following extract from their long and detailed report may be of interest, as showing the confused nature of the materials through which we have had to search for facts throwing light on our subject:

“The Variety, extent and importance of the Business conducted by the Barrack Department, seems to require perhaps more than any other, that all the Accounts should be entered in the Books in such order, and with such precision as that a true Statement of the whole, or of any particular branch of the business may be produced whenever required without constant recurrence to the Vouchers and papers from which these Books are formed.  This cannot be effected in any way so well as by regular Books kept in a manner that has been in use for many hundred years, is familiar to Men of Business in all Countries, is equally applicable to the finances of a Kingdom as to the Accounts of a private family, and upon which the best Accomptants have not been able to make much improvement: but in the Barrack Office, so far from adopting this method, they have no Waste Book or Day Book, nor have they any Journal which is the most essential of all Books, where there is a number of Entries to make, and without which they cannot record any transfer of property, nor any transaction whatever which does not come through the Cash Book.  Their Ledgers are posted chiefly from Vouchers and accounts, and resemble more what is commonly called a Check Ledger, than one which has a regular reference to a Journal and Cash Book, from which only every Entry in the p. xiiLedger should be made.  Their Ledgers can never be regularly balanced, nor can an error that may be made, by placing a sum of money to a wrong account, be easily detected—indeed no Examination of any Account in the Ledger can be made without referring to the Vouchers.  Much time and labour is often uselessly spent in searching for them, and replacing them.”

This report led to an immediate reform, and research through the documents bearing dates later than 1806 was far easier than that through those of the previous decade, at the commencement of which the Norman Cross Prison came into existence.

It is needless to say that the documents of the various Government departments now concentrated in the Public Record Office are numbered by millions, and of those relating to Prisoners of War there are over 700 volumes, besides hundreds of rolls, bundles, and packets, pertaining to the Admiralty and War Office departments; these include various branches now completely transformed, such as Transport Board, Commission for Sick and Hurt, etc.  Huge Ledgers are not indexed, nor are the accounts entered consecutively.  Rough minute books and letter books on all conceivable subjects are in the same chaotic condition, so that whole days have been wasted on a fruitless search, while on the other hand important results have been unexpectedly obtained in unlikely and unlooked-for quarters.

It may pardonably be allowed to refer to what little has been done by others in the same direction, both with regard to barracks and to prisons.  A comparison with the following pages will show that earlier researches have been of a very superficial character.  Matters have been left doubtful which a little further search would have made certain, and points, which tradition and writers with some claim to authority had left obscure, would have been cleared up.  It would be invidious to go into further particulars, but it may be p. xiiistated that Huntingdon, in which county Norman Cross is situated, although it has an important and eventful history, has as yet no exhaustive County History, and that the local guide books are of little value.

The results of these researches through official documents, through old newspaper files, and topographical works, in the British Museum Library, are, in the following pages, incorporated with information obtained locally from persons who in their early youth knew the prison, from topical traditions, from printed narratives founded more or less on fact, from parish registers, and from old private letters and diaries.

To the officials at the British Museum and the Record Office our thanks are due for valuable assistance courteously rendered.

Unfortunately, for the completeness of this narrative, no record of the life at the Depot, written by a Norman Cross prisoner or by any official, is known to exist.  Such sources of information exist in the case of at least one of the other prisons, and to fill a blank, which must have been left in this history, we are, by the kind permission of the author, Mr. Basil Thomson, enabled to include in this volume a reprint of Chapter V. from The Story of Dartmoor Prison, [0b] and to make other extracts which throw light on the life of Prisoners of War confined in Great Britain between the years 1793–1815.

The Rev. E. H. Brown, Vicar of Yaxley, son of the late Rev. Arthur Brown, author of a tale The French Prisoners of Norman Cross, [0c] and Mr. A. C. Taylor have kindly taken photographs for the illustrations; Mr. C. Dack, the Curator, and Mr. J. W. Bodger, the Secretary, of the Peterborough Natural History and p. xivScientific Society, have been assiduous in collecting information.

Our thanks are also due to other friends too numerous to specify, who have given items of valuable information, or have communicated traditions the greater number of which have some foundation on fact.

The critical reader is asked to bear in mind the circumstances—so ill adapted to literary work, especially of an historical character—under which this book has been conceived and matured, to be lenient in his criticisms, and to accept it as a humble contribution to the history of those eventful twenty-two years, 1793–1815, when the pens of those recording the contemporary history of their country were occupied with the deeds of the British Army and Navy beyond her shores to the exclusion of the minor details of her social and domestic life.

T. J. W.
A. R.

[Without the aid of Mr. A. Rhodes, the author, whose time, except during his rare holidays, is wholly devoted to the active work of his profession, could not possibly have carried out the researches by which so much information has been obtained.  Mr. Rhodes has in these “forewords” described some of the difficulties encountered, and the author is desirous to emphasise his appreciation of the work of the colleague whose services he was able to secure, and who now, unhappily, is totally incapacitated from work by severe illness.—T. J. W.]



I watched where against the blue
   The builders built on the height:
And ever the great wall grew
   As their brown arms shone in the light.

Trowel and mallet and brick
   Made a wedding of sounds in the air:
And the dead clay took life from the quick
   As their strong arms girdled it there.

Laurence Housman: The Housebuilders.

The Depot for Prisoners of War, at Norman Cross in Huntingdonshire, was the first, and during twelve years the only prison specially constructed for the custody of the prisoners taken captive in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars between 1793 and 1815.  The Norman Cross Depot received its first inmates on the 7th April 1797; while of the other great prisons built for the same purpose, Dartmoor (since 1850 the Convict Prison) was not occupied until 24th May 1809, and Perth (converted into the general Prison for Scotland in p. 21839) received its first batch of 399 prisoners on the 6th August 1812.

Eight years before the building of the Norman Cross Prison the French Revolution had commenced.  The storming of the Bastille had taken place in 1789, and during the following years events had advanced rapidly.  In 1792, Louis XVI, yielding to the demands of the assembly, the Girondists, and the populace of Paris, had declared war against Austria.  In 1793 the Republican Government had been established, Louis had been deposed and executed, and on the 1st February of the same year France had declared war against Britain, thus commencing that struggle which lasted, with two short intermissions, to the final overthrow of Buonaparte at Waterloo on the 18th June 1815.

This war—of which the historian Alison, writing in the first half of the last century, said, “It was the longest, most costly and bloodiest war mentioned in history”—cost England above two thousand millions of money, a colossal sum, which represented a proportionate number of lives sacrificed, and a proportionate amount of misery and want, not only to the combatants on both sides, but to the great mass of the civil population of every nation drawn into the conflict.

In recent years there have been wars of shorter duration, more costly and more deadly, but none in which so fierce a spirit of animosity reigned in the breasts of the combatants, none in which the miseries of war were dragged out to the same calamitous length.

The history of the prison at Norman Cross brings forcibly before us those prolonged miseries incidental to war, which are liable to be overlooked by such students as contemplate only

The neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!

p. 3The poet paints the close of a hard-fought day when

Thousands had sunk on the ground overpowered,
The weary to sleep and the wounded to die.

The matter-of-fact chronicler records the exact number of killed, wounded, and missing, and of guns, standards, and prisoners captured on either side; but the after-history of those prisoners is left unwritten, their sufferings are unrevealed!  And yet, between 1793 and 1815, literally hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war were held in captivity by the various nations engaged in the conflict, and this confinement meant for the great bulk of them years of misery, long vistas of monotonous restraint, periods of indifferent treatment, occasionally great physical suffering, and, worse than all, for many, moral deterioration and degradation inseparable from the conditions in which they dragged out their existence.  However humane the captors might be, these consequences to the unfortunate captives were inevitable during the protracted Napoleonic Wars of the close of the eighteenth and commencement of the nineteenth centuries; and there is only too much evidence that when matters on which not only the comforts, but the actual lives of the prisoners depended, were being debated by the two hostile Governments, the political and military interests of the nations concerned were regarded before those of the wretched captives.

The great Napoleon revolutionised the art of warfare, as the great Gustavus revolutionised the military organisations of Europe, and one result of this revolution was that the chivalrous treatment of prisoners of war and non-combatants, which prevailed up to Napoleon’s accession to power, was materially changed.  A great French authority on International Law, writing in 1758, said:

“As soon as your enemy has laid down his arms p. 4and surrendered his body, you have no longer any right over his life.  Prisoners may be secured, and for this purpose may be put into confinement, and even fettered, if there be reason to apprehend that they will rise on their captors, or make their escape.  But they are not to be treated harshly, unless personally guilty of some crime against him who has them in his power. . . .

“We extol the English and French, we feel our bosoms glow with love for them, when we hear accounts of the treatment which prisoners of war, on both sides, have experienced from those generous nations.  And what is more, by a custom which equally displays the honour and humanity of the Europeans, an officer, taken prisoner-of-war, is released on his parole, and enjoys the comfort of passing the time of his captivity in his own country, in the midst of his family; and the party who have thus released him rest as perfectly sure of him as if they had him confined in irons.”

Abundant testimony can be adduced to the truth of what Vattel asserts from contemporary records as to both nations. [4]  But between 1758 and 1773, the dates of the first and second editions of the French work just quoted, there was born, in Ajaccio in Corsica, a man who was to change all this—Napoleon Buonaparte, who, contemporaneously with the building of Norman Cross Prison, was erecting the pedestal on which he afterwards stood as Emperor, who for twenty years hung over Europe as a great shadow, keeping our ancestors in this country in very pressing terror of invasion, whom the British feared and hated, and whose dominant passion, as time went on, was hatred of England as the insuperable obstacle in his path of conquest.  This little history will reveal to some extent the results of his methods as they affected the unfortunate soldiers p. 5and sailors who became prisoners of war.  This is no place for discussing the right and wrong of the devastating Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars; the treatment of the prisoners of war, as shown in their prison life, alone finds its place in a History of the Depot at Norman Cross.

At the commencement of the war the prisoners on either side were comparatively few, but early in its progress embarrassment arose on the British side from the large numbers of French and Dutch taken in the great naval victories of Howe, Jervis, Collingwood, and Nelson.  To maintain these prisoners on a foreign shore or in the face of the enemy was impossible, and as their number increased it became evident that the existing prisons, and the few fortresses remaining in Britain, such as Porchester Castle near Portsmouth, Plymouth, Falmouth, and Fort George in Scotland, which had been hurriedly fitted up and converted into war prisons, were insufficient for the ever-increasing number of captives.  To supplement these it became necessary to fit up special ships and maintain them as hulks, in the harbours of Portsmouth, Plymouth, and the Medway.  These hulks were later used as places of confinement for malefactors among the prisoners, and also to relieve the prisons from overcrowding whenever an extraordinary accumulation took place in the country.

In an article published in Chambers’ Journal in 1854, the writer points out “the ships were large battleships, they were cleared of all obstructions in each deck, and would hold 900 men prisoners and the guard, without much overcrowding; the mortality was very low.” [5]

The French in the hulks and the English prisoners in France had undoubtedly to endure great hardships, but these hardships did not justify the exaggerated charges brought by each nation against the other—Englishmen pointing to Verdun as the embodiment of p. 6French cruelty and oppression, while Frenchmen enlarged with bitter invectives on the condition of their countrymen in the hulks and prison-ships in English harbours.  This exaggeration and these bitter recriminations went on to the end of the war.  Buonaparte himself was never tired of seeking to arouse in the hearts of his soldiers a spirit of hatred towards England by allusions to this subject, and before Waterloo he included these words in his address to the Army: “Soldiers, let those among you who have been prisoners of the English describe to you the hulks, and detail the frightful miseries which they have endured.” [6a]

The number of prisoners of war was so great that their care had been handed over to a new department of the Admiralty thus described:

“The Transport Office is a newly created Board, and was instituted in July 1794 at first for the superintendence of the Transport Service only; but to that employment has since been added the management of the Prisoners of War, in health, at home and abroad.” [6b]

To this department all communications in reference to the prisoners of war had to be addressed, and through them all information reached the Admiralty.  There was another special department of the Admiralty, that for the care of the sick and hurt, into whose charge the prisoners of war passed when they ceased to be “in health.”

The following extract gives further details of the Transport Department, on which for twenty years the lot of the prisoners of war so greatly depended.  The paragraph was written in 1803, when the war was supposed to be at an end.

p. 7“Transport Office, Dorset Square, Westminster, established in August 1794, for the purpose of conducting the transport business which had hitherto been transacted by the Navy Office; it has also the care of the prisoners of war.  It was at first managed by three commissioners, but the business having much increased two more were added in the year 1795.  The salary of each commissioner is a thousand a year.  They have under them, several resident agents at the different sea-ports both at home and abroad, to superintend the particular service of embarking, re-embarking of troops, etc., and seeing that the contracts made in this particular service are strictly adhered to.  These agents are captains and lieutenants of the Royal Navy.  There are also several agents afloat.  The captains have one guinea a day; the lieutenants fifteen shillings, and nineteen shillings more per month for a servant.  At the conclusion of the war in 1802, the Board was reduced to three commissioners; Capt. Schank retired on a pension of £500 per annum, and Joseph Hunt, Esq., was removed to the ordnance as clerk of the deliveries.


Hugh Cloberry Christian, Esq., afterwards Sir Hugh, K.B.

Philip Patten, Esq.

Ambrose Serle, Esq.

September 1795.

Rupert George, Esq.

John Schank, Esq.

Wm. Albany Otway, Esq.

John Marsh, Esq.

Ambrose Serle, Esq.

January 1799.

Joseph Hunt, Esq., vice March. [7]

p. 8In order properly to understand the establishment of the Depot at Norman Cross, it is necessary to briefly review the events which led up to it.  It arose at a very momentous era in our history.  It was not officially called a barracks, or a prison, but a Depot.  At that time there were few barracks in England, practically none, and what we term garrison towns were very scarce.  Our regular army was abroad fighting, and the internal defence was in the hands of the Militia and Yeomanry.  Service in the former was compulsory, but substitutes could be purchased, so that it is easy to judge who would actually serve, especially at a time when scarcity and high prices were the rule, while the Militia were well fed.  In the Yeomanry were enrolled the gentry and well-to-do persons of each locality; this was a very large force.  There was a special troop of Norman Cross Yeomanry, in which the farmers and others from the neighbouring villages gave their services, and there were one or more troops in Peterborough and the neighbouring towns.  The duty mainly consisted in putting down the various small riots that arose in different parts of the country.  In their travels they were “billeted” on the publicans and the public at a tariff fixed by the Government, and which, not being very extravagant, gave rise to much dissatisfaction, oppression, and fraud.

As the foreign wars continued, the number of prisoners sent to Britain multiplied and the military duty increased.  In 1793 the Supplementary Militia Act was passed, and it was determined to spend about £2,000,000 in erecting barracks, and out of this sum Norman Cross was built.  It was always hoped that peace was at hand, and the prisoners of war had hitherto been confined not in places built for, or exactly suitable for, their retention, but in fortresses or castles or ships, and when these became overcrowded, in empty warehouses or similar buildings specially hired.  It was not p. 9considered safe to keep prisoners of war in sea-ports, or even near the coast.  Ireland was in a state of rebellion, and had to be kept down with a strong military force, hence the great Depot at Kinsale was formed.

We must bear in mind that at this period the Parliamentary Reports were very closely watched by our enemies, and information which might be of service to them was suppressed and consequently is sought for in vain to-day.  The country was in a state of turmoil, the Government departments were overladen to a terrible degree, and red tape, far more than now, reigned supreme.  These conditions led to careless supervision and defalcations even in high positions; the Barrack Master-General, General Oliver de Lancey, was dismissed from the Army after a Commission had investigated his accounts.  He was responsible for Norman Cross, and it is in accordance with the finding of the commission referred to in this preface that no official account of the original cost can be found.  The ground was purchased from Lord Carysfort. [9]  It is from measurements of foundations remaining on the site, from plans, and from scattered and brief references to reports, of which the originals cannot up to the present be found, that a history and description of the original buildings can be given.  They were begun in haste, hurriedly built, and in a continual state of repair and alteration during the whole of their existence.

In 1793 a large sum of money was voted by Parliament for barracks both permanent and temporary.  A Barrack Master-General had already been appointed.  The first measure taken by this official was the conversion of existing buildings to meet their new object—viz. the safe custody of the captive soldiers and sailors, and the provision of suitable accommodation for lodging and maintaining them and the troops who guarded them.  p. 10Even in the first three years of the war these efforts were barely sufficient to meet the requirements, and in February 1796 the matter of prison accommodation had become most urgent.  The Dutch Fleet was at sea, and a meeting with the English Fleet being probable, it was reported to the Admiralty, in reply to their inquiries as to the means of disposing of the large number of prisoners expected in the event of a successful battle, that Porchester Castle was capable of containing 2,000 men, and the Dutch prisoners could be kept separate from the French.  Forton would be of little use, as not more than 300 extra could be accommodated; it was already full, 6,000 being incarcerated in the hospital there.

On the 20th June of the same year it was reported that the number of prisoners had increased, until every prison was overcrowded.  At Mill Prison, Plymouth, calculated to hold 3,300, there were confined 3,513, and in consequence of the report 200 were transferred from this prison into a ship; this in turn also became crowded, and another ship had to be pressed into the service.  Fresh prisoners still poured into the country.  Sir Ralph Abercrombie reported that he was sending upwards of 4,000 from the West Indies, and the urgency was such that it became absolutely necessary to construct with the utmost rapidity a new prison.

In selecting a site, several requirements had to be considered.  To be suitable for its purpose the prison must be within easy reach of a port, in order that prisoners might be landed, and conveyed rapidly and at small cost to their place of confinement.  At the same time it must not be too near an unfortified port, as such a situation would offer facilities for escape, and there would be danger of support from the sea, in the event of a general rising, and a combined attempt to restore to the fighting ranks of the enemy the thousands of captive soldiers and sailors who were in captivity p. 11hors de combat.  The site must be healthy, well supplied with water, and conveniently situated for the provision of the necessaries of life—and further, it must be near trunk roads, for convenience of administration, and in order that in the event of a rising, troops sufficient to quell the mutinous prisoners could be concentrated on the spot.

The site chosen for the Norman Cross Depot possessed all these advantages.  It was situated on the Great North Road, one of the most important in the country, the Ermine Street of the Romans, and it was only seventy-six miles from London.  The situation was altogether suitable from a sanitary point of view, although later, at a period when the bulk were ill clad, the poor half-naked French, accustomed to a warmer climate, complained bitterly of its cold and exposed position.  An abundant supply of excellent water could be obtained by sinking deep wells, the surrounding country was agricultural, the land fertile and well stocked; there were small towns near from which supplies could be obtained, and, finally, the transports could be brought to the ports of Yarmouth, Lynn, or Wisbech, and the prisoners landed there could be cheaply conveyed by water to Yaxley, Stanground, and Peterborough, all of which places were within a few miles’ march from the prison gates.  As an alternative the prisoner could march direct from the ports to the prison.

On the 8th December 1796 the Transport Commissioners applied to the Barrack Office for estimates for a building to contain 10,000 prisoners, but official red tape could not be disregarded, and the Barrack Master-General replied that as the Admiralty had not authorised the construction of any such buildings, he could not give any opinion on the subject.  In the Transport Office, however, were officials who recognised the urgency of the situation, and when at length on the 13th February 1797 the Barrack Master-General wrote to the Transport Board, referring to his letter of the 19th December p. 12of the previous year, and asking for an order for the building, he was too late.  The Transport Commissioners were already at work, the prison had been planned, and the work, started in the previous December, was, under the direction of William Adams, Master Carpenter to the Board of Ordnance, already making such rapid progress that portions were nearly complete.

The material selected for the structure was wood; this was economical, and suited to the temporary character of the building.  No one, however pessimistic, thought in 1796 that the prison would be required to house prisoners of war, with only two short intervals, for another nineteen years.  Such wooden buildings, the outer walls constructed of a strong framework, with feather-edged boards overlapping one another covering and casing in the framed work, were much used in domestic architecture at this period, and many houses thus constructed may be seen in the neighbourhood of London.  A good example of a village mansion of this kind may be still seen in Lower Sydenham, where it is at present occupied by Lady Grove, the widow of Sir George Grove.  The wooden buildings were erected on a buried brick or stone foundation.

Above all, wood lent itself to rapidity of construction, which was an urgent and essential requirement at this crisis.

When nine years later, in 1805, fresh accommodation for the ever-increasing number of prisoners flowing into Great Britain was necessary, and Dartmoor was selected as the site for a new prison, granite was the material adopted for its construction.  The stone was obtainable on the spot, while the price of timber was prohibitive, in consequence of the blockading of the Prussian ports. [12]  p. 13The granite prison at Dartmoor, commenced in 1805, received its first batch of prisoners in May 1809.  The stone building took four years to build, it served its original purpose for seven years, stood empty for thirty-four years, and is at the present time, and has been for sixty-one years, a convict prison.  The wooden buildings of Norman Cross, commenced in 1796, were ready for use in four months, served their purpose for eighteen years, and were rased to the ground in 1816.

The earliest official information, as to the plan and the buildings of the Depot, is found in a long report by General Beathand dated 13th January 1797; later official reports and documents, paragraphs in the newspapers, and other sources of information show that the original plans were modified and expanded as the work of the prison progressed.

The timber framework of the building was made in London, and was carted down to Norman Cross, where 500 carpenters and others were employed day and night, and seven days a week, those who would not work on Sunday being discharged.  The erection of the prisons, the accessory offices, and the barracks for the Military Guard progressed very rapidly, and on the 4th February (nine days before the Barrack Master-General applied for the order to start the work!) such progress had been made that the Admiralty instructed Mr. Poore, a surveyor, to proceed to Stilton “to survey the buildings erected near there for the confinement of prisoners of war.”  He did so, and reported that a portion of the building was already complete.  General Nicolls, the officer commanding the district, was sanguine enough to report on the 13th February that the prison at Norman Cross would be ready in about three weeks for the reception of prisoners from the citadel (Plymouth).

This estimate of the date when the barracks would be finished was too sanguine, although the work was being p. 14carried out with all possible speed.  By the end of January the sum of £6,000 had been paid to and disbursed by Mr. Adams in wages alone. [14]

The total amount paid on account of the Norman Cross Depot up to the 19th November 1797 being so large, while the large expenditure on the alterations of old prisons and fortresses in the country was going on simultaneously, it is not surprising that on the 14th April 1797 a question was asked by an economist in the House of Commons as to the extraordinary expenditure on barracks; nor, looking to the rate at which the building of the Norman Cross Depot was being pushed forward, can we be surprised at the curt reply of the Secretary of State: “Extraordinary exertions involve extraordinary expenses.”

There is reason to believe, however, that the question was not put without good reason.  The want of method and the overlapping of departments were not conducive to clear statements of accounts.  The action of the newly appointed Transport Board in commencing the building of the prison, while the Barrack Master was refusing to undertake this urgent work because he considered that official routine had been neglected, has already been alluded to.  The Barrack Master’s Accounts p. 15were very confused.  In the Records of the Audit Office (Roll 354, Bundle 146, Declared Accounts) the total expenditure by the Barrack Master at Norman Cross, from 1st January 1797 to Christmas 1802, is only £5,175 3s., and it is evident that the sum of £34,518 11s. 3d. does not appear in the Barrack Master’s account.  The total expenditure of his department amounted, when an inquiry was held, in 1802 to £1,324,680 12s. 5d. and there was a deficiency of £40,296 9s. 11¼d.

Out of the confused chaos of figures there emerges the interesting fact that, between the 25th December 1796 and the 24th June 1797, £390 10s. 1d. was spent on coals supplied to the Norman Cross Depot!  A large coal bill for half a year, when we consider that in none of the blocks occupied by the prisoners, excepting the hospital blocks, was there any artificial heat.

As the work went on, there were, as has been already stated, various alterations in the plans; thus in February and March 1797 it was ordered, that a hospital for the sick should be provided by adapting some of the blocks originally intended as prisons to this purpose, and that increased accommodation for prisoners should be obtained by adding a storey to each block in course of erection, in preference to multiplying the buildings.

On 21st March a payment was made to Mr. Poore of £142 2s. for his services in surveying and settling the establishment at Norman Cross.  This shows that within three months from the commencement of the buildings they were in a sufficiently advanced condition to make the consideration of the necessary staff for the administration of the prison when it should be opened, a matter requiring Mr. Poore’s immediate attention.

By the 25th March the staff had been engaged, and on that day it was reported that a section of the buildings, sufficient for the custody of 1,840 prisoners, was ready for their reception.  On the day before this report was sent, a portion of the military barracks had p. 16been occupied by the small number of troops considered sufficient for the moment.  These marched in on the 24th, and were ready to mount guard over the expected prisoners.

The work of building went rapidly on during the rest of the year, and nine months from its commencement Mr. Craig, a principal architect of the department, was sent down for the final inspection.  As will be seen by the footnote, page 14, payments to W. Adams, Chief Carpenter, went on up to 29th November 1797, when we may assume that the prison in its first form was complete.

From the time of its occupation, this prison was, like others of its class, known as a “depot”—“The Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War.”  Locally it was frequently spoken of and written about as the Norman Cross Prison, or the Norman Cross Barracks, or even Yaxley or Stilton Barracks.  The term depot included the prison proper, the barracks, and all other Government buildings.  In the succeeding chapter this Depot is fully described, and its necessary establishment touched upon. [16]



It is no flattery to a prisoner to gild his dungeon.

Calderon, Fortunas de Andromed et Persus.

The following description of the Depot is founded on personal observations of the site, on contemporary plans and records, of greater or less accuracy, on the meagre information which could be obtained from the few old people who had in their early days seen and known the place, and who were still alive in 1894, when the materials for the lecture on which this narrative is based were collected, and on facts recorded by recent writers the accuracy of which can be verified.

The site of the Depot was a space of forty-two acres, situated in the angle formed where, seventy-six miles from London, “the Great North Road” is joined, five miles from Peterborough by the old Coach Road from Boston and East Lincolnshire.

The ground rises here, by a rapid slope from the south and east, to a height of 120 feet above the level of the adjoining Fens, and it was in this elevated and healthy spot that the prison and barracks were built.  It had been ascertained that by sinking deep wells an abundant supply of good water could be obtained, and it is said that there were about thirty such wells, although in the best extant plan of the Depot nineteen only are shown.  Some of these are still in use at the present day, and each well is nearly 100 feet deep.  Great attention was paid to the sanitary arrangements, a very necessary p. 18matter, when one considers that it was resolved suddenly to concentrate in one spot a population (including prisoners and garrison) of nearly 8,000 adult males, who were to live for several years on about forty acres of ground.  There is a legend that the site is even now honeycombed with sewers, and that within recent years a ferret turned into one of them, which had been accidentally opened, at once took out 150 yards of line.  This, like many other traditions, is not, I believe, founded on fact.  The main feature of the sanitary arrangements was that all refuse should be removed in soil carts, without the intervention of drains, cess-pools, or middens.  For further information on this and many other matters connected with the structure of the Depot, the reader may study the Report of a Survey by Mr. Fearnall in 1813.  It is evident from this report that the maintenance and repair of the buildings had been greatly neglected during the seventeen years which had elapsed between their erection and the date of the report. [18]

The Peterborough Natural History Society, which has in its museum the finest collection in Great Britain, if not in the world, of straw marquetry work, bone carving, and other artistic manufactures executed by the French prisoners, possesses three plans of the prison.  The earliest of these is a pictorial plan (Plate II., Fig. 1, Plan A), which was bought at a sale at Washingley Hall, and which I therefore call the Washingley Plan.  It was presented in 1906 by the Mayor, T. Lamplugh, Esq.; it is an east elevation.  Another (Plate II., Fig. 2, Plan B) of about the same date is a ground plan, and was presented by Miss Hill, the daughter of the late Mr. John Hill.  This is taken from the west.  Mr. Hill, who was born in 1803, and was thus only thirteen when the prison was demolished, was said to have drawn the plan himself; if he did so, it must have been copied from one made a few years before he was born, as the plan p. 19is that of the Depot in the first period of the war, which came to a close in March 1802.

Plan A.—The Washingley Plan of the Depot, 1797 to 1803. East Elevation


Plan B.—Mr. Hill’s Plan of the Depot, 1797 to 1803. West Elevation


Plan C.—Major Kelly’s Plan of the Depot, 1800 to 1805.  (a) North Elevation.  (b) Ground Plan.  (c) Pictorial Plan from the East


Plan D.—Bird’s-eye View of Norman Cross Barracks and Prison, East Elevation.  Executed by Lieutenant E. Macgregor, 1813


Both these plans are of a very early date in the history of the prison.  A third (Plate II., Fig. 3, Plan C) is that which belonged to Major Kelly, who, as Captain Kelly, was Brigade-Major at the time when the prison was closed; this includes a pictorial plan, or bird’s-eye view, with the Peterborough Road on the south to the left hand and the North Road above, a ground plan, and above this the north elevation of the whole group of buildings.  It is of later date, probably about 1803–4, the commencement of the second period of the war.  A fourth plan (Plate II., Fig. 4, Plan D) was made by Lieut. Macgregor of the West Kent Militia, and dedicated to the officers of his regiment which was quartered at Norman Cross in 1813.  This was engraved and published by Sylvester of the Strand.  An almost perfect copy of the print is in the possession of the Reverend Father Robert A. Davis; it shows the Depot in its final state two years before Waterloo and three years before it was demolished.

In the Musée de l’Armée at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris, is a model of the Depot, the work of a French prisoner named Foulley, who was confined at Norman Cross five years and three months.  M. Foulley constructed the model after his return to France.  It represents the prison as it appeared on the occasion of the rejoicings at the departure of the first detachment of prisoners to France after the entry of the allied armies into Paris, and the abdication of Buonaparte in 1814.  By the courtesy of General Niox, the Director of the Museum, and of his Adjutant, Lieut. Sculfort, a photograph of the model has been taken for me; this is reproduced at page 251, chapter xii., where the final clearing of the prison is described.  The model corresponds in its main features with the plans which I have enumerated.  It is on a large scale, beautifully executed, and its p. 20production must have required months of hard work.  It is the only plan, or model, which shows a prisoners’ theatre in the centre of the south-east quadrangle.

M. Foulley’s model is incorrect in certain details.  It represents the prison wall as quadrilateral inclosing a square, instead of an octagonal space.  It omits the large and deep embrasures, in the recesses of which each of the four gates of the prison stood.  The wide fosse which encircled the prison at the foot of and within the wall is omitted, nor is there a sufficient space left between the wall and the prison buildings to admit of such a fosse being shown in the model.

Outside the wall of the prison M. Foulley had to rely probably on the description of others, as from within the wall the prisoners could only gaze at its dismal brick surface.  Of what was beyond he could have no personal knowledge during the long years of his captivity, unless he was fortunate enough on occasions to be a delegate to the market without the Eastern Gate.  Hence probably it arises that the buildings representing the quarters of the military guarding the prison are huddled together, in confused order, which bears no relation to that which was their actual position.

Although the model is not, as a whole, made accurately to scale, the reader will appreciate its size from the fact that the caserns are modelled on a scale of about 1 to 171—the actual length of each casern was 100 feet, the length in the model is nearly 7 inches.  A key plan of the model and M. Foulley’s description are given with the photograph in chapter xii., p. 251.

To avoid confusion in following the description, the reader must bear in mind that the Washingley Pictorial Plan, Major Kelly’s plans, and Lieut. Macgregor’s plan are all east elevations—that is, the observer is supposed to face the west, with the Peterborough Road to his left hand—whereas in the plan copied by Mr. Hill the figures and their references are all placed to be read as p. 21the observer looks east, with the Peterborough Road on his right hand; therefore the left-hand bottom corner (where the military hospital was situated) in Mr. Hill’s Plan is the right-hand upper corner in the three other plans.

The site was a right-angled oblong, with a small space sliced off at the north-west angle.  It measured in its long diameter from east to west 500 yards (1,500 feet)—that is, 60 yards more than a quarter of a mile—while across from north to south it was 412 yards (1,236 feet), or 28 yards short of a quarter of a mile.  The space enclosed was 42 acres, 7 poles, which is about six times the area of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, and about four times that of Trafalgar Square.  To the south it was bounded in its whole length by the Peterborough Road, on its other three sides it was surrounded with fields.  A strip of land (B B in Mr. Hill’s plan), crossed by a wide roadway leading to the West Barracks, and varying in depth from 125 yards at the Norman Cross corner to 40 yards at the north-west corner, intervened between the western boundary of the site and the North Road.  The prison itself occupied 22 acres in the centre of the space.  It was enclosed by an octagonal brick wall.  Originally the structure was a strong stockade fence, but about the year 1805 the fence was replaced by the brick wall, of which 30 yards are still standing.

The two east and two west sides of the octagonal space, which was the prison proper, were longer than the two north and two south sides; the long diameter of the octagon therefore ran across that of the site, extending almost to its north and south limits, while the short diameter stopping short of the boundary by 300 feet, left, east and west, ample room for the barracks of the military garrison and for other buildings.

In the very centre of the site, which is also the centre of the prison, was an octagonal block house, mounted p. 22with cannon.  This is represented in the illustration, a photograph of one of several models made by the prisoners.  This model is in the possession of Colonel Strong of Thorpe Hall, by whose grandfather Archdeacon Strong it was bought from its maker at the prison.

Plate III.—The Block House which stood in the Centre of the Prison

The frontispiece is from a sketch of the centre of the prison, by Captain George Lloyd of the Second West York Militia, taken in 1809.  The original is in the collection of the United Service Institution, Whitehall; it shows the accuracy of the model of the block house.  In describing the various courts and buildings, it is best to start from the centre, and to trace the arrangement of the parts of the Depot round this point.  Symmetrically arranged round this block house, and commanded by its guns, were four quadrangular courts, each strongly fenced by a high stockade fence.  The area of each of these courts was about 3½ acres; they were separated from one another by four cross roads, each about twenty feet wide.  These roads met in the centre, where the corners of the quadrangular courts were cut off to form the octagonal open space in which stood the block house.

Each quadrangle contained four wooden two-storied barracks, or caserns, 100 feet long and 22 feet wide, roofed with red tiles, the shallowness of their depth from back to front adding to their apparent height.  The sixteen buildings faced the east, eight with their outer ends to the south fence, and eight with their outer end to the north fence.  The four caserns in each square were placed one behind the other, leaving between each block and the next in front a space which was strongly fenced off at either end, forming an enclosure about 100 by 70 feet, in which the prisoners of each casern were confined when the gates opening into the quadrangle, or airing-ground, were locked at sunset.  Each casern was constructed to form the dwelling-place of about 500 prisoners, who slept in p. 23rows of hammocks, closely packed in tiers one above the other.  It is almost certain that each of the two floors in these caserns was divided by partitions into three chambers, as at the sale each of the sixteen was sold in three lots—the north end, the centre, and the south end.  The north end of the hinder block in the north-east quadrangle was bought on the 25th September 1816 by Mr. Dan Ruddle for £32. [23a]  He re-erected it for workshops in his building-yard, where it still stands, and it is thus possible to-day, to look upon the north end of the casern (No. 13, or letter M), which stood behind the three blocks adapted for the prisoners’ hospital, and which in the second period of the war [23b] was occupied by the French petty officers and by civilians who were captured, and whose position did not entitle them to parole.

In the south-east quadrangle, which was on the right of the central south entrance to the prison from the Peterborough Road, there were, in addition to these four caserns and their necessary offices, the superintendent’s, or agent’s offices, a storehouse, a room set apart for the clerks and other officials, a cooking-house, and, as in each of the other quadrangles, two turnkeys’ lodges.

These smaller buildings in each quadrangle were in a court, cut off from the large space which formed the prisoners’ airing-ground by stockade fencing similar to that surrounding the whole quadrangle, the turnkeys’ lodges being immediately behind this fence.  The only exit from the part of the quadrangle occupied by the prisoners was through this court, the gate situated in the inner stockade fence being between the two turnkeys’ lodges, facing another in the main fence of the square, which opened into the road between the quadrangles.  There were in each quadrangle three wells, two in the airing-courts near the caserns, and one in the enclosed space in which were the accessory buildings.

p. 24In the south-western quadrangle, in addition to the caserns, the storehouse, and the cooking-house, there was a straw barn, from which, whenever necessary, fresh straw was served out for the prisoners’ palliasses.  In the enclosed court near the turnkeys’ lodges was the black hole, where prisoners were confined for gross offences.  This den of misery contained twelve cells, each secured by bars and padlocks, and had a cramped strongly fenced airing-court in front of it.

Plate IV.—The Outer Side of the Wall

The north-eastern quadrangle was mainly given up to the hospital.  Of the four caserns in the early years of the Depot, two, but later three, were fitted up for the reception of the sick and wounded and for the accommodation of the surgeon and assistant surgeons, the matron sempstress and the hospital attendants.  Of the hospital blocks, one was set apart for the officers and other prisoners of similar social status.  In the enclosed court behind the turnkeys’ lodges were the special accessory buildings of the hospital, and in the corner behind the caserns was the mortuary, where, between their death and their burial, were laid the bodies of 1,770 unhappy men whose fate it was to end their captivity in a foreign grave.

In this quadrangle, as shown in Lieut. Macgregor’s plan, was, in the year 1805, erected the surgeon’s house, which was a substantial brick building, with an enclosed garden; this was built in the second period of the war after the Peace of Amiens, about eleven years before the demolition of the barracks.  After the closing of the Depot, when peace was declared in 1814, we find Mr. George Walker the surgeon, on vacating his post, making application for permission to remove the young fruit trees which he had planted in the apparently newly laid-out garden. [24]  In each quadrangle p. 25a space of about two acres was unoccupied by buildings, and constituted the airing-ground, in which the prisoners spent the greater part of their waking lives.  This outdoor life, from sunrise to sunset, except in bad weather, was enforced by the Prison Regulations.

These airing-courts were bordered by a flag pavement, which enabled the prisoners to use them in any but the worst weather.

Completely surrounding the four quadrangles, and enclosing around them a vacant space, varying in width from 25 to 30 yards opposite the cross roads, to as many p. 26feet at the abutting angles of each quadrangle, was the prison wall.  This in the earlier years was a strong stockade fence, and is so represented in the three earlier plans reproduced in the plates; but at a later date it was replaced by the brick wall shown in Macgregor’s plan, and it is described in the auctioneer’s catalogue of the sale, when the prison and its contents were disposed of in September 1816, as “a substantial brick wall measuring 3,740 feet round, and containing 282 rods of brickwork more or less.”  Of this wall, 30 yards are still standing, forming a portion of the garden wall of the house originally occupied by the superintendent.  The auctioneer’s description does not altogether agree with that of the surveyor Mr. Fearnall, who in 1813 reported that it was “very indifferently built, and not of the best materials,” and that much of it was in danger of falling, owing to the excavation at its foot within the enclosure of a ditch.  This ditch, for its full length of nearly three-quarters of a mile, can be traced at the present day, with the deep embrasures shown in the plans, at each of the four prison gates.  It was, at the time the buildings were demolished, about 9 yards wide and 5 feet deep, and it was paved with stone flags; this is supposed to be the “silent walk” of the sentries, excavated in 1809.  An item in the barrack master’s accounts for July in that year is £420 19s. 6d., for the making a walk for the “silent sentries.”  The area of the actual prison enclosed within the wall was in 1816 sold in one lot, and is described in the catalogue as “containing by admeasurement 22 acres, 2 roods, and 14 perches more or less.”

Plate V.—The Inner Side of the Prison Wall as it now Stands

In the boundary wall were four gates, opening on to the ends of the cross streets, which separated the four quadrangles.  The north gate opened into a space at the back of the prison occupied by sheds and other accessories; the east and west gates on roadways which ran between the military barracks and the prison p. 27from the Peterborough Road; the south gate was opposite the central main entrance from that road into the Depot.  Later, as shown in Macgregor’s plan, there were, in addition to these four large gates, a door in the south wall adjoining the house of the agent, or superintendent, and another in the north wall, giving admission to a court outside the wall, in which had been erected a separate prison for the boys.

At each gate outside the prison wall was a guard house, a one-storied building fitted with separate rooms for the officers and men of the guard, with cells for prisoners, and with a wide-open shelter, or verandah, in front.

The ground between the boundary wall and the quadrangles was not built upon, but was studded over with the boxes of the sentries, who, with muskets loaded with ball cartridge, day and night patrolled the vacant area, ready to fire on any prisoner attempting to escape across it who did not obey the order to halt.

Beyond the boundary wall of the prison were situated east and west the military barracks.  These comprised at each end three large caserns, similar to those in the prison, built to enclose, with the guard house, the barrack square.  The casern facing the guard house was the officers’ quarters, and was partitioned off into twenty-three separate officers’ rooms, a mess-room, kitchen, and other offices.  Those at either side accommodated the private soldiers; they were divided into ten separate rooms, each with sleeping-berths for sixty men.  There were two smaller buildings for the non-commissioned officers, a large canteen, sutling-house, and various offices.  The whole of these buildings, with the barrack yards, were enclosed by strong stockade fencing.  Outside this fence there was, in the space allotted to the accommodation of the troops, east and west of the prison, a detached house for the field officers, two smaller houses for the staff sergeants, the powder p. 28magazine, a fire-engine house, a range of stabling, with stalls for thirty-five horses, [28a] rooms for the batmen, a schoolroom, and various other necessary offices and sheds.

The Military Hospital occupied the north-west corner of the forty-two acres; it served for the whole of the troops in both barracks, and was complete in itself.  It was enclosed within a separate stockade fence.

On the south side of the area, between the boundary wall and the Peterborough Road, were the houses of the barrack master, and of the agent (or superintendent).  These are still standing, the former having been purchased, when the prison and barracks were demolished and the site and materials sold, by Captain Kelly (Brevet Major, 1854), the last Brigade-Major.  This officer had, in 1814, married the daughter of Mr. Vise, a surgeon practising in Stilton, [28b] and, wishing to settle in the neighbourhood, he purchased the first of the lots into which the freehold was divided, and in which was situated the barrack master’s house, described in the catalogue as “a comfortable house in the cottage stile,” “built of substantial fir carcase-framing and rough weather-boarding on brick footings, and covered with pantiles.”

p. 29To this house Major Kelly made considerable additions.  It was occupied by him for forty years.  He died, aged seventy-eight, in 1858. [29]  His son Captain J. Kelly succeeded p. 30him, and the property has now passed into the hands of Mr. J. A. Herbert, J.P., the present occupant of the house.  It is a useful landmark to those who visit the locality, as with its grounds it occupies the south-east corner of the forty-two acres, which were covered by the prison and barracks, and it forms a useful point from which to start in an attempt to conjure up the Depot as it was at the beginning of the last century.  The first effort of the imagination must be to blot out the charming residence with its well-wooded grounds, and to substitute the bare, treeless (except for one old ash) spot on which stood the “comfortable house in the cottage stile, consisting of one room 20 ft. by 12 ft. 2 in., one ditto 14 ft. 8 in. by 12 ft. 3 in. . . . built of substantial fir carcase-framing and rough weather-boarding on brick footings, and covered with pantiles”—which was what Captain Kelly bought in 1816. [30]

Immediately to the west of the barrack master’s house was the straw barn and yard, in which was stored the straw for the beds of the soldiers.  Beyond the barn was a gate, from which a road or street ran across between the prison proper and the east barracks.  Through this gate passed all those who came to attend the market at the east gate of the prison, or on other business.  Beyond this gate was the house of the superintendent, or agent, who was practically the governor of the prison.  The block contained two houses, the second being occupied by other officials.  These houses, like the barrack master’s, remain at the present time where they stood in the twenty years of the prison’s existence, but they have been much altered, and are now surrounded by trees and shrubs, of which the ground was absolutely bare in the days of the prison.

Plate VI.—The House of the Barrack Master, Enlarged in 1816, now the Residence of J. A. Herbert, Esq., J.P.

The superintendent’s and the adjoining house were p. 31cased with brick in 1816 by the purchaser, Captain Handslip, and were thrown into one house, which is now occupied by Mr. Franey.  In the catalogue of the sale they are described as “two excellent contiguous dwelling-houses, built of substantial fir carcase-framing, and stuccoed, with lead flat top.”  Another range of buildings, 100 feet long, “comprising a large storeroom, coach-house, stable, etc.,” also stood on this south side between the prison wall and the road, while in the centre was the main entrance, with, beyond and to the west of the gate, the south guard house.

On the ground plan are shown four entrances to the depot—three from the Peterborough Road, the centre entrance just mentioned, and two others, one at either end, the roads from which ran between the barracks and the prison.  The fourth entrance was approached from the North Road by a broad drive, crossing the narrow field lying between the prison and the Great North Road, from which it is now, as then, fenced off on either side.  This entrance was exactly opposite the centre of the Western Military Barracks, the main guard facing it.  It was by this western entrance that the stores and provisions were daily brought into the prison, [31] and through it the bodies of those who died were carried to the prison cemetery on the opposite side of the North Road.

Macgregor’s plan shows a paled fence surrounding the forty-two acres and forming the outer boundary of the whole site, but this may have been a mere artistic finish to the plan.

p. 32The prison and barracks were excellently planned, although, as a place of safe custody, the former would have been practically useless without the latter.

The guns of the block house commanding the whole prison, the cordon of sentries frequently changed, always alert, ceaselessly pacing their beats within and without the wall, day and night; the strong guard mounted at each gate of the prison, and the large force of military in the two barracks, ready to act on the slightest alarm, constituted a more efficient safeguard against mutiny or escape than would have been afforded had trust been placed in strong stone structures instead of in the wooden walls and buildings which had been so rapidly run up.

In the summer of 1911, when the heat and drought were exceptional, the stone and rubble footings upon which the wooden buildings were erected were, after the first few showers of rain, in many parts of the site, mapped out clearly in brown on a field of green, the grass upon them having withered, so that it could not spring up fresh as it did in the surrounding pastures.  This enabled the author to demonstrate the actual size of the buildings, and to correct many measurements which had been taken from the plans.  It also proved that none of the extant plans were drawn to scale.

These are the dry details taken from actual measurements on the ground, from surveyors’ plans, and similar documents, but we have a word-picture of the effect produced by these wooden buildings and their inhabitants on the mind of an imaginative and emotional boy, who afterwards became one of the most picturesque writers of the middle part of the nineteenth century.  George Borrow’s father was quartered at Norman Cross in 1812–13, and his little boy, not yet in his teens, was moved from Norwich to this place.  Forty years later, in the pages of Lavengro, he thus describes in eloquent language the vivid, if not absolutely accurate p. 33picture which the prison had impressed upon his receptive and observant brain.

“And a strange place it was, this Norman Cross, and, at the time of which I am speaking, a sad cross to many a Norman, being what was then styled a French prison, that is, a receptacle for captives made in the French war.  It consisted, if I remember right, of some five or six casernes, very long, and immensely high; each standing isolated from the rest, upon a spot of ground which might average ten acres, and which was fenced round with lofty palisades, the whole being compassed about by a towering wall, beneath which, at intervals, on both sides sentinels were stationed, whilst, outside, upon the field, stood commodious wooden barracks, capable of containing two regiments of infantry, intended to serve as guards upon the captives.  Such was the station or prison at Norman Cross, where some six thousand French and other foreigners, followers of the grand Corsican, were now immured.

“What a strange appearance had those mighty casernes, with their blank blind walls, without windows or grating, and their slanting roofs, out of which, through orifices where the tiles had been removed, would be protruded dozens of grim heads, feasting their prison-sick eyes on the wide expanse of country unfolded from that airy height.  Ah! there was much misery in those casernes; and from those roofs, doubtless, many a wistful look was turned in the direction of lovely France.  Much had the poor inmates to endure, and much to complain of, to the disgrace of England be it said—of England, in general so kind and bountiful.  Rations of carrion meat, and bread from which I have seen the very hounds occasionally turn away, were unworthy entertainment even for the most ruffian enemy, when helpless and a captive; and such, alas! was the fare in these casernes.  And then, those visits, or rather p. 34ruthless inroads, called in the slang of the place ‘straw-plait hunts,’ when, in pursuit of a contraband article, which the prisoners, in order to procure themselves a few of the necessaries and comforts of existence, were in the habit of making, red-coated battalions were marched into the prisons, who, with the bayonet’s point, carried havoc and ruin into every poor convenience which ingenious wretchedness had been endeavouring to raise around it; and then the triumphant exit with the miserable booty; and, worst of all, the accursed bonfire, on the barrack parade, of the plait contraband, beneath the view of the glaring eyeballs from those lofty roofs, amidst the hurrahs of the troops, frequently drowned in the curses poured down from above like a tempest-shower, or in the terrific war-whoop of ‘Vive l’Empereur!’”

Another writer records his impression of the Depot, which he visited in 1807.  The quotation is from an article in Notes and Queries, 8th series, vol. x., p. 197, which gives an account of a trip to Peterborough made by the Rev. Robert Forby, vicar of Fincham, and a Mr. G. Miller of the same place.  They started on their tour on the 25th June 1807, and the vicar chronicles his visit to Norman Cross in the following words:

“Pursuing our journey through suffocating clouds of dust, in the evening we reached Stilton, a miserable shabby town, where all we found to admire was some excellent cheese for our supper. [34]  Having disposed of our horses at the inn and secured our own lodgings, we walked back a mile or so to Norman Cross to see p. 35the barracks for French prisoners, no less than 6,000 of whom are confined here.  It is a fine healthy spot.  Among them there is very little disease; their good looks in general prove the excellent care taken of them.  In particular the boys are kept apart and taught, so that in all probability their captivity is a benefit to them.  Their dexterity in little handicraft, nick-nacks, particularly in making toys of the bones of their meals, will put many pounds into the pockets of several of them.  We were very credibly assured that there are some who will carry away with them £200 or £300.  Their behaviour was not at all impudent or disrespectful as we passed the pallisades within which they are cooped.  Most of them have acquired English enough to chatter very volubly and to cheat adroitly.  They are guarded by two regiments of Militia, one of them the Cambridge; we had the advantage of knowing Captain Pemberton of that regiment, who gave us tea in his luggage-lumbered hut.  The country is under very great obligations to gentlemen of family and fortune who will forego the comforts of home for the miserable inconveniences of barrack service.  We had never seen it before, and have not the least wish to see it again.  It is horrible.  The only privacy of an officer by day or night is in these wretched hovels, in which they must alternately sweat and shiver.  The mess-room is open indeed at all hours.  It is a coffee-room, news room, lounging-room, at all times, as well as that of dinner, to the officers of a regiment.  Between eight and nine o’clock we found two who had outstayed the others; they were boozy and still at their wine, merely perhaps from having nothing to do.  Our friend, who is a man of great good sense and exemplary manners, must be strangely out of his element here.”

The wretched hovels of which Mr. Forby speaks were the rooms in the officers’ barracks, the walls of p. 36which were only one thickness of boards.  There were sixty such little rooms, not luxuriously furnished, for at the first day’s sale of the contents of the barracks, on the 18th September 1816, twenty-seven lots of the officers’ furniture, consisting of six Windsor chairs and one deal table, realised for each lot from 9s. to 32s.; for twenty-six lots, each comprising one table and two chairs, the price varied from 2s. to 17s. 6d.; while for sixty lots, consisting of one officer’s shovel, poker, tongs, fender and bellows, the price per lot varied from 1s. to 2s. 6d.  The bellows in each room suggest that the fuel supplied was the peat from the adjoining fens, which was usually burned in the district, and which, although it warmed the thatched cottage with thick walls, would give poor comfort to the shivering officer with only a board between him and the outer air.

The account of the Depot is incomplete without the mention of a detached field, situated a few hundred yards north of the site of the prison, on the opposite, that is the west, side of the Great North Road.  Shortly after the prison was occupied, the lower part of this field was purchased by the Government for a burial place for the prisoners, and was resold in 1816.  To it, during the occupation of the Depot, were carried across the bodies of some 1,750 prisoners, whose fate it was to die within the prison walls.  There is nothing now to distinguish this prison cemetery, except the mounds, called by the inhabitants of the district “The Lows”; it will be dealt with in a further chapter.

It must be borne in mind that the buildings which have been described were originally only intended to be of a temporary character, and that from various causes detailed in the report given in the Appendix, certain portions of the woodwork had perished during the seventeen years of the Depot’s existence before the date p. 37of that report.  That document also shows that there was occasional “scamping” by those employed in the work required to maintain the fabrics.  The general excellence and durability of the materials are however proved by the fact that even now, at the end of a century, portions of them are still serving the purposes of cottages, workshops, or farm buildings in the neighbouring towns and villages to which they were transported at the sale in 1816.

Plate VII.—Lodge removed from the Prison in April, 1816, and re-erected as Cottages in St. Leonard Street, Peterborough

Examples in Peterborough include the portion of a casern, already alluded to as purchased by Mr. Ruddle and re-erected at his works—it still forms part of a carpenters’ shop in the extensive works of the firm of John Thompson, contractors, so famous as cathedral restorers; a group of tenements known as Barrack Yard; and two cottages, the latter being one of the turnkeys’ lodges reconstructed.  These cottages are still inhabited, but are clearly destined to be very shortly improved off the face of the earth.  That they were in old days vulgarly called “Bug Hall” gives a hint as to one minor discomfort which the densely packed French prisoners endured in these wooden buildings.  Such was the Depot, which term included the prison, with its various necessary adjuncts, official residences, offices, etc., and the military barracks, complete for a force of two infantry regiments, with hospital, a sutling-house and canteens, the two latter let to contractors at rents respectively of £12 and £10 16s. a month, bringing into the Government the sum of £270 6s. a year.  The Depot was unfortunately under a divided control, the barrack master-general was responsible for the buildings and a barrack master appointed by him resided in a detached house at the Depot.  The “Transport Office” was responsible for the management of the prisoners of war at home and abroad.  The responsibility of the Transport Commissioners included the arrangements for the feeding and p. 38the discipline of the prisoners.  The details were left to their representative agent, who also resided in the Depot. [38a]

The military commander, the brigade-major, of course had control of the troops (usually two Militia regiments) quartered in the barracks, east and west of the prison. [38b]

As the first portion of the buildings approached completion, it became necessary to make provision beforehand for the reception and maintenance of the prisoners waiting to occupy it, and from the buildings attention must now be directed to the officials and the organisation of the Depot.  To each Depot in the country an agent was appointed, who was at every other prison a post captain in the Royal Navy on full pay; but at Norman Cross in the first instance a departure from this rule was made.  The following extracts from a letter written by the Transport Board to Mr. Delafons on his appointment to the office are of interest as throwing light on the nature of his duties.

p. 39Transport Office,
“18th March 1797.

To John Delafons, Esq.


“We direct you to proceed without delay to the prison at Norman Cross, to which you are appointed Agent, and report to us the present state thereof, as well as the time when in your judgement it will be ready for the reception of prisoners of War.

“We have ordered bedding for six thousand prisoners to be sent to Norman Cross as soon as possible, and we expect it will arrive there before the end of this month.

“As you are provided with a list of such articles and utensils as will be necessary for carrying on the service, we direct you to make enquiry at Peterborough respecting the terms on which those articles may be procured at that place; and you are to transmit to us a list of such of them as you may think are to be obtained at more reasonable rates, or of a better quality in London.  We have appointed Mr. Dent, now one of the clerks at Porchester Castle, to be your first Clerk and Interpreter, with a salary of £80 per annum, and have directed him to proceed forthwith to Norman Cross.  We have appointed Michael Brien as one of the Stewards in consequence of your recommendation.  A supply of printed Forms will be sent to you from this Office, and you are to be allowed ten guineas per annum for the stationery.”

This letter went on to authorise the agent to procure tin mess-cans, wooden bowls, platters, and spoons for 3,000 prisoners at Wisbeck [sic] and Lynn, and to inform him that 1,000 hammocks, 1,000 palliasses, 1,000 bolster-cases, also 5,000 sets of bedding, were on their way from London, and that the prisoners from Falmouth p. 40would bring their own hammocks with them. [40]  At the end of the letter is a note as to stores as follows:

Heath brooms

40 dozen

Large twine

6 ,,

Small twine

4 ,,


50 lb.

Black Paint

4 ,,


1 gall.

Boiled oil

1 ,,


3 dozen


50 bushel


10 ton


1 cwt.

Dirt Baskets

2 dozen

Cartridge paper

6 quire

White brown thread

8 lb.

Also 2 Chauldrons of coal for the dozen offices and Guard Room.

These stores, it must be borne in mind, were only for the use of the occupants of that portion of the prison which was complete, about one fourth of the whole.

Mr. Delafons does not appear to have taken up the duties assigned to him, for on the 26th March, only eight days after the date of the letter appointing him agent, he sent in his formal resignation.  Mr. Dent, the storekeeper, in conjunction with Captain Woodriff, the transport officer, acted till the appointment of James Perrot on 7th April 1797, at a salary of £400 a year and £30 for house rent, until quarters could be built for him in the prison.  This amount was double that of any other agent, but it must be remembered that Mr. Perrot was not a naval officer in receipt of full pay.  There was a difficulty in finding lodgings in the vicinity, and the clerks were allowed 1s. a day extra till accommodation could be found for them also at the prison.

To assist the agent, Mr. Challoner Dent was appointed storekeeper from 1st April 1797 on getting two gentlemen as security for £1,000.  There were clerks and ten turnkeys, twelve labourers at 12s. a week, and a lamplighter at 13s. a week.  The chief clerk and Dutch interpreter was Mr. James Richards.

The transport officer in charge, Captain Woodriff, p. 41had to make arrangements for the conveyance of the expected prisoners to Norman Cross, and for the victualling.  As to the former, he was on the 23rd March directed without loss of time to proceed to Norman Cross near Stilton, and thence to Lynn to report as to the best anchorage there, and the best mode of transporting the prisoners of war expected.  He was to consult a Mr. Hadley, who proposed 1s. a head for removing the prisoners, which was considered exorbitant and quite out of the question.

On 29th March, however, he was directed to enter into an agreement with Mr. Kempt, to convey the prisoners from Lynn to Yaxley at 1s. 6d. per head, and Kempt’s partner was to victual them on the following daily ration: 1 lb. of bread or biscuit, ¾ lb. of good fresh or salt beef.

The time occupied by the barges in which the men were to be conveyed would probably be about three days, and the dietary could not be much varied.  At the date when this contract was made, nearly fifty years before the first railway in this district was opened, the waterways offered the easiest and cheapest channel for the transport of heavy goods across the great Fen district.  The rivers, natural and artificial, and the navigable drains and cuts, fulfilled a double purpose, and were maintained by taxes and tolls not only for the drainage of the Fens, but as waterways for the lucrative traffic which was constant along their surface.

It was by water that George Borrow and his mother travelled to join his father in his quarters at Norman Cross, and we have again a graphic account of the impressions left on the child’s mind by the journey from Lynn to Peterborough when the washes and Fenlands were flooded—an account written long after the child had come to man’s estate, when distance had lent enchantment to the view and certainly depth to the pools on the towing paths.

p. 42“At length my father was recalled to his regiment, which at that time was stationed at a place called Norman Cross, in Lincolnshire, or rather Huntingdonshire, at some distance from the old town of Peterborough.  For this place he departed, leaving my mother and myself to follow in a few days.  Our journey was a singular one.  On the second day we reached a marshy and fenny country, which owing to immense quantities of rain which had lately fallen, was completely submerged.  At a large town we got on board a kind of passage-boat, crowded with people; it had neither sails nor oars, and these were not the days of steam-vessels; it was a treck-schuyt, and was drawn by horses.

“Young as I was, there was much connected with this journey which highly surprised me, and which brought to my remembrance particular scenes described in the book which I now generally carried in my bosom.  The country was, as I have already said, submerged—entirely drowned—no land was visible; the trees were growing bolt upright in the flood, whilst farmhouses and cottages were standing insulated; the horses which drew us were up to the knees in water, and, on coming to blind pools and ‘greedy depths,’ were not unfrequently swimming, in which case the boys or urchins who mounted them sometimes stood, sometimes knelt, upon the saddle and pillions.  No accident, however, occurred either to the quadrupeds or bipeds, who appeared respectively to be quite au fait in their business, and extricated themselves with the greatest ease from places in which Pharaoh and all his host would have gone to the bottom.  Nightfall brought us to Peterborough, and from thence we were not slow in reaching the place of our destination.” [42]

A Mr. James Hay of Liverpool was the first contractor for victualling the prisoners at Norman Cross, p. 43the specification for the quality of the food supplied being as follows:

Beer, to be equal quality to that supplied to H.M. ships.

Bread, to be made of wheaten flour, equal to what is known by bakers as thirds, to be baked into loaves of 4½ lb., each to be weighed 6 hours after baking.

Beef, to be good and wholesome and fresh and delivered in clean quarters.

Butter, to be good salt.

Cheese, to be good Gloucester, or Wiltshire, or of equal goodness.

Peas, to be of the white sort, and good boilers.

Greens, to be stripped of their outside leaves and fit for the copper.

The reader must bear these conditions in mind if he would be in a position to discount George Borrow’s description (in the passage quoted a few pages back) of the food supplied to those prisoners whom he remembered with such sympathy in his later life; and he must, in forming his judgment of the treatment accorded to the prisoners, remember that, as evidence, the stern facts of a contract, with penalties of fine and imprisonment for its breach, are of more value than the recollections of a child, given in the rhetorical language of a romantic enthusiast.

The victualling under the terms of the contract commenced on the 12th April 1797.  The contractor was called upon to supply per head daily, 1 lb. of beef, 1 lb. of biscuit, 2 quarts of beer, and to find casks and water at 11d. per day, being the same terms as those on which the goods were supplied at Plymouth and Falmouth.  Mr. Hay wrote that no butcher within fifty miles of Norman Cross would supply cow, heifer, p. 44or ox beef for less than 44s. per cwt., but he offered to supply it at 43s., and this was agreed to. [44]

No tables or benches were to be provided.  Hammocks were supplied, but no clews nor lanyards (the cords to suspend them by); these the prisoners had to make for themselves, jute being supplied to them for that purpose, one ton to every 400 men.

The new agent, Mr. Perrot, who came from the prison at Porchester Castle, appears to have applied for other comforts, as we infer from the following communication addressed to him from the Transport Office:

“We cannot allow any razors or strops for the use of the prisoners at Norman Cross.  We see no reason for your appointing barbers, to shave the prisoners, the razors sent to Porchester having been intended more for shaving the Negro prisoners from the West Indies.”

Does the fact that the names of the two first agents appointed, Delafons and Perrot, were French, and that they were not naval officers as at other prisons, justify the supposition that our Government in their anxiety to study the interests of the prisoners and to satisfy the French, were trying the experiment of appointing a British subject of French birth or of French origin as agent to this Depot?  Such a supposition might account for the fact of Mr. Delafons’ resignation a few days after his appointment.  A man in sympathy with p. 45the French might well find, on entering into the particulars of his duties, that he could not conform to the regulations regarded by the Government as necessary for the discipline of prisons—regulations, for breaking which, many prisoners lost their lives.  Does not this letter to Mr. Perrot also read as though he were making a frivolous application to the Government?

Whatever the worth of this supposition may be, we find that on the 2nd January 1799, less than two years after his appointment, Mr. Perrot’s name disappears from the books, and that Captain Woodriff, R.N., the transport officer who had been acting for the transport office in the district, was asked to take over the duties of the agent, receiving a small addition to his previous salary.

The duties of the Depot agent and the district agent must have previously overlapped, for it was Captain Woodriff, the Transport officer, who two years before was making all the arrangements for the reception and maintenance of the prisoners, and who shortly after their arrival, having employed some of them to spread the gravel in the exercise yards, paying them 3d. a day for doing it, was called upon by the Government to furnish the information as to the wages and the prices of provisions in the neighbourhood, given in the extract from his report printed in the footnote on p. 16.

Captain Woodriff held the post of agent at Norman Cross from his appointment in 1799 to the Peace of Amiens in 1802, having previously from 2nd September 1796, when he was appointed agent of the Transport Office at Southampton, been engaged in duties associated with the care of prisoners of war.  In July 1808 he was appointed agent for prisoners of war at Forton, holding office until 1813.  He thus spent, in all, eleven years of his long services as a naval officer, assisting the Transport Board in their important work as the custodian p. 46of the prisoners.  In the Appendix will he found a short biography of Captain Woodriff, collated by Mr. Rhodes.  It gives an insight into the adventurous and uncertain career which, during the epoch with which this history has to do, might be that of a naval officer of distinction, and shows that the custodian of the prisoners at Norman Cross and Forton was himself at one time an English prisoner at Verdun. [46]

On the 24th March the troops who were to form the garrison had marched into their quarters, this event being noted in his diary by John Lamb, a farmer and miller living at Whittlesey, about seven miles from Norman Cross—“24th March 1797 the soldiers came to guard the Barracks.  The Volunteers did not much like it; they liked drinking better.”  All arrangements being sufficiently advanced, the prisoners sent from Falmouth, who for several days had been waiting, cooped up in the Transports at Lynn, were disembarked and put into lighters, to be brought by water to Yaxley and Peterborough, and the first prisoners passed through the prison gates on 7th April 1797, just four months from the commencement of the building.

Plate VIII, Fig. 1.—Wooden Tea-caddy richly decorated with “Paper Mosaic,” the Work of the Prisoners of War at the Falmouth Depot.  The Specimen is in the Collection of Miss Lilley Paull, of Truro.  Fig. 2.  Tea-caddy similarly decorated in the possession of the Countess of Lindsey, Uffington Park (v. p. 133)



A prison is a house of care,
   A place where none can thrive;
A touchstone true to try a friend,
   A grave for one alive;
Sometimes a place of right,
   Sometimes a place of wrong,
Sometimes a place of rogues and thieves,
   And honest men among.

Inscription in Edinburgh Tolbooth.

We have now arrived at that stage in the story of the Norman Cross Depot when, although the whole of the buildings were not yet erected, sufficient progress had been made for the occupation of a part of them.  Two quadrangles were ready, each of them containing caserns and the necessary accessory buildings for the care and safe custody of 2,000 men.  The other two quadrangles were rapidly approaching completion, one for 2,000 prisoners, the other, the north-eastern block, for a smaller number, as it was in part devoted to the accommodation of the sick, who slept in bedsteads instead of in hammocks, and therefore occupied a far greater space than the healthy men.

In this north-eastern square each casern was artificially warmed by fires, and in every extant plan these blocks are shown to have chimneys, while all the others have merely ventilators.  The buildings were cut up by partition walls into wards, and surgeons’ and attendants’ rooms, which further interfered with their capacity; but, notwithstanding the limited number of the occupants p. 48of this quadrangle, it is probable that in the most crowded period of its occupation the prison held, including the sick, and the occupants of the boys’ prison outside the boundary wall, at least 7,000 prisoners.

On the 10th April 1810 a return made of all the prisoners of war in England on that day shows 6,272 at Norman Cross.  These returns are few and far between, and may well have missed a period of overcrowding; the lowest of any of them, one rendered in 1799, gives the number as 3,278.

To appreciate the details of the life of the prisoners, the reader must grasp the magnitude of the experiment which was being initiated at this Depot, where a number of men, equal to the adult male population of a town of 30,000 inhabitants, were to be confined within four walls, with no society but that of their fellow prisoners, no female element, no intercourse with the outside world, except that in the prison market, in which they were served by foreigners, whose language they did not understand.  In this community order and discipline had to be maintained, while at the same time ordinary humanity demanded that these unfortunate men, who had committed no crime, who were in a foreign prison for doing their duty and fighting their country’s enemies, must be treated with all possible leniency.

The exigencies of the war, and the circumstances under which many of the men arrived at the prison, were not conducive to peace and order, and the posts of agent of the Depot and of transport officer carried great responsibility.  This we can realise from an occurrence, a vivid example of the horrors of war, concerning which Captain Woodriff had to hold an inquiry as one of his first duties in connection with the Depot.  Among the thousand prisoners who, when the prison was opened, were already on their way to Norman Cross from Portsmouth, Falmouth, Kinsale, and Chatham, were men p. 49who had been conveyed on board the Marquis of Carmarthen transport, on which ship there had been a mutiny of the prisoners.  In the fray seven men were killed and thirty-seven dangerously wounded, but the mutiny was quelled and all the prisoners accounted for, except one, who was the murderer of one of the crew.  Next day he was discovered and placed in irons, with a sentry over him.  He asked to be shot, and in the absence of the captain of the vessel, who protested against his wish being acceded to, the officer commanding the troops, one Lieutenant Peter Ennis of the Caithness Militia, shot the unfortunate man, and had the body thrown overboard.  This happened three days after the mutiny.  The matter was investigated and reported upon by Captain Woodriff at Norman Cross.  The prisoners gave evidence that they had mutinied on account of the badness of the water and provisions, and complained that Inglis, or Ennis, was brutal to them. [49]  The same causes were assigned for another mutiny on the British Queen transport, which had to be reported upon by the agent at Norman Cross.  To quell this outbreak, the mutineers were fired on by the captain’s orders, twelve being wounded, but none killed.

The earliest arrivals on the 7th April 1797 were the sailors from the frigate Réunion and 172 from the Révolutionnaire man-of-war, which had been brought in by The Saucy Arethusa.  These were brought by water to Yaxley.  The next batch arrived on the 10th, and were landed from the barges at Peterborough, proceeding to Norman Cross guarded by troopers.

The latter detachment was landed, according to Mr. Lamb’s diary, at Mr. Squire’s close on the south bank of the river at Peterborough.  This Mr. Squire was p. 50later appointed the agent to look after the prisoners on parole in Peterborough and its neighbourhood.

Other prisoners followed in rapid succession, their names, with certain particulars, being entered in the French and the Dutch registers, which were kept at the prison.  The French registers number six large volumes, ruled in close vertical columns, which extend across the two open pages.  The first column, commencing at the left-hand margin, is for the numbers (the current number), which run consecutively to the end of the series; the second is headed, “Where and how taken”; the third, “When taken”; fourth, “Name of vessel”; fifth, “Description of vessel,” such as Man-of-War, Privateer, Fishing Vessel, Greenlander; sixth, “Name of prisoner”; seventh, “Rank”; eighth, “Date of reception at the prison”; ninth, a column of letters which signify D, “discharged,” E, “escaped,” etc., and the date of discharge.  The Dutch register is in five volumes only, but the entries are fuller than those in the French register, there being thirteen columns across the two pages.  The first, the “Current number”; second, “Number in general entry book”; third, “Quality” (sailor, drummer, gunner, mate, etc.); fifth, “Ship”; sixth, “Age”; seventh, “Height” (range from 4 ft. 11½ in. to 5 ft. 10½ in.); eighth, “Hair” (all brown); ninth, “Eyes” (the majority blue, some brown and a few grey); tenth, “Visage” (as round and dark, oval and ruddy); eleventh, “Person” (middle size, rather stout); twelfth, “Marks or wounds” (e.g.  None—Pitted with small-pox—Has a continual motion with his eyes); thirteenth, “When and how discharged” (Dead; Exchanged; etc.). [50]

In both registers there are occasional marginal notes.  A few examples of the value of these registers as sources p. 51of information will suffice for this history.  Commencing with the French, we find that 190 French soldiers, captured on 7th January 1797 in La Ville de L’Orient, were received into custody 26th April 1797.  Of these, the first one recorded as dead was a soldier Jacques Glangetoy, on the 9th February 1798.  Of ninety-four captured on 31st December 1796 on La Tartuffe frigate, many are only entered by their Christian names, as Félix, Hilaire, Eloy, Guillaume, etc.  On 11th October 1799 there came a batch from Edinburgh, captured 12th October 1798 in La Coquille frigate, off the Irish Coast.  On the 28th July 1800 the garrison of Pondicherry, captured 23rd August 1793, were, after seven years of captivity at Chatham, transferred to Norman Cross.  On the 6th October of the same year, 1,800 prisoners captured at Goree, and other places in the West Indies, were transferred from Porchester.

From the Dutch register we gather that it was the Dutch prisoners who filled the prison to overflowing a few months after it was opened.  The great naval battle already alluded to as imminent when the prison was building, took place on 11th October 1797, off Camperdown, when Admiral Duncan, after a severe engagement, defeated the Dutch fleet under Admiral de Winter, capturing the Cerberus, 68 guns; Jupiter, 74; Harleem, 68; Wassenaar, 61; Gelgkheld, 68; Vryheid, 74; Delft, 56; Alkmaar, 56; and Munnikemdam, 44.  The Dutch fought gallantly, and the ships they surrendered were well battered.

The loss of life was appalling, and the number of Dutch prisoners brought in by the English Admiral was 4,954, the majority of these being ultimately sent to Norman Cross, where they began to arrive in November 1797.  The first entry of prisoners taken in this great battle is a list of 261 from Admiral Ijirke’s ship Admiral de Vries.

Subsequent arrivals were crews of privateers and p. 52merchant ships, fishermen, and soldiers.  Entries in later years show that among the prisoners sent to Norman Cross were many other civilians besides the fishermen; these were not retained in the prison, but were allowed out on parole or were released.  Many fishing vessels were captured, the crew averaging six; these sailors were sent to Norman Cross, and after a few days’ confinement were “released” by the Board’s order.  The soldiers were entered in a separate register.  The first batch were taken from the Furie, captured by the Sirius on the 14th October 1798, they were received at Norman Cross on the 20th November of the same year, and are described in the appropriate column as bombardiers, cannoniers, passengers, etc.  To ascertain what was the ultimate destination of the prisoners, Mr. Rhodes has made an analysis of the information given in the registers for the individual members of the crew of selected ships.  As to the first ship to which he applied this method, he found that of the crew, the quartermaster was exchanged, 7th April 1798, one of the coopers was allowed to join the British Herring Fishery, the majority of the officers were allowed on parole at Peterborough, several seamen joined the British Navy, one was discharged on the condition he elected to serve under the Prince of Orange, one enlisted in the York Hussars, and at various dates many enlisted in the 60th Regiment of Foot.  Of the soldiers, the officers were allowed on parole at Peterborough, some privates joined the Royal Marines at Chatham, nine joined the 60th Foot, and in 1800 the remainder, with the sailors, were sent to Holland under the Alkmaar Cartel. [52]  An analysis of the columns giving the disposal of the next ship’s company shows that nine were on parole at p. 53Peterborough, two were sent to serve under the Prince of Orange, two joined the British Herring Fishery, seven the British Navy, two the Merchant Service, four the Dutch Artillery, three died, ninety-three enlisted in the 60th Foot, and the rest were sent to Holland.

In explanation of the preponderance of recruits for the 60th Foot, it may be pointed out that this regiment was originally raised in America in 1755, under the title of the 62nd Loyal American Provincials, and consisted principally of German and Swiss Protestants who had settled in America, the principal qualification being that they were “antagonistic to the French.”

In 1757 the title was changed to the 60th Royal Americans, which title it bore till 1816.  The regiment is now the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.  It served in America and the West Indies up to 1796.  It was in England till 1808, when it went to the Peninsula.  At Quebec it was described by General Wolfe as “Celer et Audax,” which is now the regimental motto.

The crew of the Jupiter, with the captain, four lieutenants, and the Admiral’s steward, 144 in all, were received 8th November 1797, and were ultimately distributed in much the same manner, fifty entering the 60th.  In December, a month after their reception, the Dutch captain and two lieutenants of this ship were sent to London to give evidence against two British subjects who were taken in arms against this country on board the Jupiter when it was captured.  Coach hire was allowed them, and double the subsistence usually given to officers on parole.

Of the crew of the privateer Stuyver, numbering thirty-eight, captured on 1st June 1797 by the Astrea, eight joined the English Navy.

From the registers we get information as to the length of time the various crews, etc., remained in captivity.  Thus the crew of the Furie, a Dutch frigate, numbering p. 54115, received at Norman Cross on the 4th October 1798, remained there until the Peace of Amiens in February 1802; the officers were out on parole, and the majority of them were released in February 1800, under the Alkmaar Cartel.

Unfortunately the registers are very imperfectly kept; they are filled in without any regularity; the entries appear to have been copied from other documents, and there are weeks and months when column after column is left blank.  There is no doubt that the staff was too limited for the work that was expected of it.  Incomplete and bad clerical work was the result.  The names of several sloops and schooners are duly returned as “Taken,” but in the columns “By whom and when taken,” is the entry “Unknown.”  There is an entry of three names bracketed together, probably the crew of a fishing-boat: “Andreas Anderson, 1st Steerman; Johanna Maria Dorata Anderson, Woman, his wife; Margrita Dorothea Anderson, child.  Received into custody 31st May 1800.”  On 3rd June they are marked as “On parole at Peterborough.”

There are occasional marginal notes, of which the following is an example:

“This man was brought in by an escort of the Anglesea Militia from Peterborough; never been here before.—Ideot.”

The reader must decide for himself, without any assistance from the author, whether the word spelt “Ideot” was intended as a description of the supposed escaped PRISONER, or as that of the officer who had sent him in.

Norman Cross was not one of the prisons to which Americans were consigned in any numbers, and was not affected by the positive order against any natives of America being allowed to enter the British Service, or being exchanged on any account whatever.  The surgeons captured were allowed special privileges in p. 55consideration of their devoting their professional skill to the service of their fellow prisoners.

The registers are sufficient to indicate the nationality and the social position of the population of the prison.  The large number of the Dutch who joined the English service shows that their hatred of imprisonment was stronger than their hatred of the enemy who had captured them.  As to the nationality of the prisoners, they were in the first period of the war, from 1797 to 1802, almost all French or Dutch; in the second period, 1803 to 1814, they were almost all French, and for those eleven years, although there were representatives of various nationalities who had been fighting on the side of the French, either as allies or actually serving in the French ranks, the captives were always spoken of in the neighbourhood as the French prisoners.  There were published, in a recent issue of the Peterborough Advertiser, extracts from newspapers contemporary with the period of the Norman Cross Depot, the following paragraph from a newspaper, the name of which is not given, is included:

“March 25th, 1814, Yarmouth.  Yesterday morning the Dutch Volunteers from Yaxley Barracks, who were organised, and have been in training here about ten weeks, embarked in two divisions for the Dutch Coast.  They amounted to over 1,000 men.  They were completely armed and clothed, and made a soldier-like appearance.  Their uniform was blue jackets, faced with red, white trimmings, orange sash, and white star on the caps.  The cry of Orange Bonon, just after starting from the Jetty, was universal.”

We have found no record of any numbers of Dutch prisoners being at Norman Cross in this or any other year of the second period of the war.  The great bulk of this contingent, going out to serve against Napoleon, p. 56were probably not Dutch, but men of various nationalities, who had gained their freedom by volunteering for service under the allies, who were, on the 25th March, within five days’ march of Paris.  This Dutch contingent was doubtless destined to join the army of Bernadotte.

The consideration of the prison life of our captives at the close of the eighteenth century will serve to accentuate the difference between their surroundings, their life, and their fate, and that of the prisoners taken one hundred years later by either side in the South African War; and the picture of the French and Dutch prisoners in the hulks or even in the Depots in 1800, contrasted with that of the Boers in St. Helena and Ceylon in 1900, must fill us with thankfulness for what the century’s advance inhumanity, together with the altered conditions in which we live, have enabled us and other nations to do to mitigate the miseries of prisoners of war—woes which have existed from time immemorial, and which are recognised in the prayer in the Litany, which has been offered up for nearly two thousand years, invoking God’s pity “for all prisoners and captives.”

In 1900, steam navigation, telegraphic communication, and Britain’s command of the sea made it possible for her to place her prisoners hors de combat in islands whence escape was almost impossible, and where the conditions of life were comparatively comfortable.  In the war in which we were engaged one hundred years before, there is abundant documentary evidence to show that, although the conditions of that time made close confinement within prison walls a cruel necessity, nevertheless, in the treatment of our captives, the dictates of humanity were carried out, as far as was possible, without defeating the main object of our Government—the termination of the war with peace, safety, and honour for England.

In December 1795, M. Charretie, who had resided for some time in England, was appointed the commissary p. 57for France to look after the interests of his countrymen in captivity in this country, and he still occupied the post sixteen months later, when the first prisoners arrived at Norman Cross, Mr. Swinburne being the agent for the British Government in France.

At the time that the Norman Cross Prison was opened, the French and British Governments were mutually accusing one another of inhumanity and neglect in the treatment of their captives; the consideration of the facts which led to these charges must be left until the internal arrangements of the prison, disciplinary and economical, have been described.



Wherever a Government knows when to show the rod, it will not often be put to use it.

Sir George Savile.

Excellent organisation was necessary in order to keep these 6,000 foreign soldiers and sailors in safe custody, in a good state of discipline, and at the same time in the best health and greatest comfort compatible with the circumstances.

To the heads of departments mentioned at the close of the second chapter should be added the surgeon appointed by the Government.  He was responsible for the sick and wounded, to a separate department of the Admiralty, and not to the Transport Board.  He lodged in the hospital, until in the early part of the nineteenth century the house was built for him in the hospital quadrangle.

The subordinate officials were comparatively few in number—clerks, interpreters, storekeepers, stewards, and turnkeys.  These last had sleeping accommodation in their lodges; the others had lodging money, and slept in the neighbouring villages, with the exception of the chief clerk and interpreter, the head storekeeper, the hospital officials, and a few others.

A few selections from the appointments, which are recorded in official documents among the thousands of papers which have been searched by Mr. Rhodes for information, will show the status of these employés; p. 59they are taken from lists referring to the second period of the war, when the records are more numerous than before the Peace of Amiens.  The officials enumerated were all in the establishment at Norman Cross when the prison was finally emptied.

“Mr. Todd, appointed, 27th June 1803, as French Interpreter at £30 per annum, was, on 1st July 1813, appointed Agent’s first Clerk and Principal Storekeeper at a salary of £118 per annum with no abatement for taxes.”

“J. A. Delapoux, entered, 19th August 1803, as Agent’s Clerk at 30s. 6d. per week, and on March 1st 1806, as Steward, at an additional wage of 3s. 6d. per day, was a Roman Catholic, and probably of French birth, as it is recorded that it was necessary to satisfy his mind that the laws anent Aliens would not affect him.” [59]

p. 60“Con. Connell, entered 4th September 1804, as Agent’s clerk at 30s. 6d. per week, and on March 13th, 1810, as Steward at an additional wage of 3s. 6d. a day.”

“Geo. Kuse, entered, 22nd June 1813, as Agent’s clerk at £80 per annum.”

“Wm. Belcher, entered as Steward, 28th June 1803, at 3s. 6d. a day.”

“John Bunn, entered as Turnkey, 30th July 1811, at £50 per annum.”

“John Hayward, entered, 12th March 1812, as Turnkey at £50 per annum.”

“James Parker, 20th April 1812, Turnkey at £50.”

“John Hubbard, 15th September 1813, Turnkey at £50.  (Discharged for misconduct, 17th July 1814.)”

“Wm. Wakelin, 28th December 1813, Turnkey at £50.”

“Samuel Thompson, 17th September 1812, Turnkey at £50, and £10 per annum as superintending carpenter.”

“In March, J. Hayward received a rise of 5s. a week for acting as Lamplighter as well as labourer.”

“In February 1804, Payne Pressland was added to the clerks.  He was discharged in the following June.”

“In 1811, J. Draper signed on as agent.”

p. 61“James Robinette, 10th June 1813, as Mason and labourer at £50 per annum.”

“Benj. Werth, 22nd October 1813, Messenger at 15s. a week.”

“W. Gardiner, 1st July 1813, superannuation £104 per annum.  (Paid at the Head Office, London, after 31st July 1814.)”

“All these were paid off at the end of July 1814, the Board’s Order for the Abolition of the Establishment at Norman Cross being dated 16th July 1814.”

“There were six labourers put on for a few days, varying from three to twelve days in July 1814, at 3s. 4d. a day.”

“The accounts certified by W. Hanwell, Agent.”

For the safe custody of the prisoners, the two regiments of Militia or Regulars were quartered, one in the Eastern, the other in the Western Barracks; they furnished strong guards at each entrance in the prison wall, and cannon were mounted to command the whole area, while sentries were posted in all directions, and lamps were numerous to prevent the opportunity of escape in the darkness.  The regiments of the garrison were continually changed, in order, among other reasons, that the soldiers, who came in contact with the prisoners when on guard, might not get too intimate with them, and render them assistance in their efforts to escape—or in the illicit trading which will be described later.  For the care of the buildings and the maintenance of all connected with them, there was the barrack master and his assistant; the agent, or superintendent, was responsible to the Transport Board for the care and government of the prisoners; the care of the sick and wounded devolved upon the surgeon, who was assisted by French surgeons appointed from those who had been taken prisoners, the nurses being also men selected from the prisoners, who were paid for their services.

p. 62Discipline was maintained in accordance with the following code of regulations laid down for all prisons of war.  Those specially affecting the prisoners were posted up in order that they might be familiar with them.

“By the Commissioners for Conducting His Majesty’s Transport Service, and for the Care and Custody of Prisoners of War.  Rules to be observed by the Prisoners of War in Great Britain, Ireland, &c.:

“1.  The Agent’s Orders are to be strictly obeyed by all the Prisoners; and it is expressly forbidden, that any Prisoners should insult, threaten, illtreat, and much less strike the Turnkeys, or any other Person who may be appointed by the Agent to superintend the Police of the Prison, under Pain of losing Turn of Exchange, of being closely confined, and deprived of half their Ration of Provisions, for such time as the Commissioner may direct.

“2.  All the Prisoners are to answer to their Names when mustered, and to point out to the Agent any Errors they may discover in the Lists, with which he may be furnished, in order to prevent the Confusion which might result from erroneous Names: and such Prisoners as shall refuse to comply with this regulation, shall be put on Half Allowance.

“3.  Should any damage be done to the Buildings by the Prisoners, either through their endeavouring to escape, or otherwise, the expense of repairing the same shall be made good by a Reduction of the Rations of Provisions of such as may have been concerned; and should the Aggressors not be discovered, all the Prisoners confined in the particular Building so damaged, shall contribute by a similar Reduction of their Rations towards the expense of the said Repairs.

“4.  Such Prisoners as shall escape from Prison, and be re-taken, shall be put into the Black Hole, and kept on Half Allowance, until the expenses occasioned by p. 63their Escape are made good; and they shall moreover lose their Turn of Exchange, and all Officers of the Navy or Army so offending shall, from that time, be considered and treated in all respects as common men.

“5.  Fighting, quarrelling, or exciting the least Disorder is strictly forbidden, under Pain of a Punishment proportionate to the Offence.

“6.  The Prisons are to be kept clean by the Prisoners in Turns, and every Person who shall refuse to do that Duty in his Turn, after having received Notice of the same, shall be deprived of his Rations, until he shall have complied.

“7.  The Prisoners are from Time to Time to inform the Agent of the Clothing or other Articles which they may stand in need of, and have Money to purchase; and the Agent shall not only permit them to purchase such Articles, but also take care that they are not imposed on in the Price.

“8.  The Prisoners in each Prison are to appoint Three or Five, from among their own number, as a Committee for examining the Quality of the Provisions supplied by the Contractor; for seeing that their full Rations, as to Weight and Measure, are conformable to the Scheme of Victualling at the Foot hereof: and if there should be any cause of Complaint they are to inform the Agent thereof; and should he find the Complaint well-founded, he is immediately to remedy the same.  If the Agent should neglect this part of his Duty, the Prisoners are to give information thereof to the Commissioners, who will not fail to do them justice in every respect.

“9.  All Dealers (excepting such as Trade in Articles not proper to be admitted into the Prison) are to be allowed to remain at the principal Gate of the Prison from six o’clock in the morning until three in the Afternoon, to dispose of the Merchandize to the Prisoners; but any of the Prisoners who shall be detected in attempting to introduce into the Prison Spirituous Liquors, or p. 64other improper Articles, or in receiving or delivering any Letter, shall be punished for the Abuse of this Indulgence, in such Manner as the Commissioners may direct.”

The punishments inflicted for breach of the regulations and for other offences, were:

1st.  Reducing the ration of the offender, and should his messmates condone his offence, the rations of the whole mess of twelve men, to which he belonged, were reduced.  Thus it became the interest of the whole mess to prevent any breach of discipline or misconduct by a member.  If a whole mess were insubordinate, and the larger body into which the messes were grouped condoned the offence, the penalty was extended to them.

2nd.  A more severe punishment was depriving a man of his chance of exchange by putting him at the bottom of the list; this was a fearful sentence, for although the actual chance of exchange was small, each man was daily longing and hoping for the arrival of the day when his cartel should come.

3rd.  Imprisonment in the Black Hole, a veritable abode of misery, where solitude was added to the ills of imprisonment, was the penalty for serious offences, such as assaults on the staff, violent assaults on other prisoners, attempts to escape, and more heinous offences.

4th.  Incorrigible prisoners, and those guilty of crimes which were considered as warranting even more severe punishment than imprisonment, in the Black Hole, were removed to the hulks, where, in addition to the discomfort of the crowded ships, they suffered all the other hardships experienced at that date by all criminals imprisoned in a gaol civil or military.

In case of heinous offences and obdurate insubordination, these punishments were combined—a man might not only be put into the Black Hole, but also be put on to reduced rations.

p. 65Closing the market at the east gate of the prison, either against the whole body of the prisoners or against those of one only of the four courts, was a punishment inflicted for some general malpractice, or in order to compel their fellow prisoners to disclose the names of some miscreants among them.

No record exists of those who were sentenced to confinement in the Black Hole at Norman Cross, but to show the character of the delinquencies for which this punishment was inflicted, we quote from Basil Thomson’s Story of Dartmoor Prison [65] the following selections from the records of the “Cachot” at that Depot:


February 24th.—Louis Constant and Olivier de Camp, for striking a sentinel on duty.”

May 20th.—Jean Delchambre, for throwing a stone at a sentinel and severely cutting his head.”

June 14th.—F. Rousseau, for striking Mr. Bennet, the store-keeper, when visiting the prisoners.”

June 14th.—C. Lambourg, for striking and cutting open the head of a sentinel, and causing him dangerous injuries.”

August 19th.—F. Lebot, for throwing a stone at the postman, as he was returning from Tavistock.”

August 15th.—A. Creville, for drawing a knife on the hospital turnkey.”

August 25th.—A.  Hourra, for attempting to stab William Norris, one of the turnkeys, with a knife.”

September 4th.—Jean Swan, for drawing a knife on the hospital turnkey.”

September 4th.—F. Champs, for striking R. Arnold, one of the turnkeys, with a stone and cutting his head.”

September 24th.—S. Schamond, for throwing down a sentinel and attempting to take away his bayonet.”

p. 66September 30th.—A. Normand, for striking Mr. Arnold, the steward.”

October 16th.—G. Massieu, for attempting to stab one of the turnkeys.”

October 16th.—Pierre Fabre, for throwing a stone at a sentinel and cutting his face.”

October 20th.—W. Johnson, for throwing stones at a sentinel.”

October 23rd.—B.  Marie, for knocking down a turnkey and attempting to seize the arms of a sentinel.”  (See March 23rd, below.)

November 30th.—N. Moulle and B. Saluberry, for having daggers concealed on their persons.”

The cachot records for March and April, 1813, are even more significant:

March 13th.—P. Boissard, for striking a turnkey and threatening to murder him on the first opportunity.”

March 23rd.—F. Bilat, for striking a prisoner named B. Marie, who died shortly afterwards, and taking away his provisions by force.”

March 28th.—J. Beauclere, for threatening to stab Mr. Moore, because he could not procure employment for him on the Buildings.”

April 6th.—F. Le Jeune, for being one of the principal provision buyers in the prison, and for repeatedly writing blood-thirsty and threatening letters.”

April 10th.—M. Girandi and A. Moine, for being guilty of infamous vices.”

For offences against the laws of the land, more grave than those which could be dealt with by the authorities of the various depots, the prisoners, like British subjects, were liable to be tried at the assizes—thus Nicholas Deschamps and Jean Roubillard were tried at Huntingdon Assizes for forging £1 bank-notes (which they had p. 67done most skilfully).  This was at that time a capital offence, and they were sentenced to death, but were respited during His Majesty’s pleasure, and remained in Huntingdon Gaol under sentence of death for nine terrible years, until Buonaparte was sent to Elba in 1814; they were then pardoned, and sent back to France with the rest of the liberated prisoners.

On the 9th September 1808, Charles François Marie Bourchier, who had been convicted at Huntingdon Assizes of having, in an attempt to escape, stabbed Alexander Halliday with a knife, was hanged at the prison in the sight of the whole garrison, who were under arms, and of all the prisoners.  This is the only recorded civil execution at Norman Cross; there are several recorded instances of summary military justice, prisoners being shot dead in attempts to escape.  It must be borne in mind that the prisoners were still our foes, who would, if they could escape, be at once in the ranks of the enemy’s army fighting against us; and to prevent their escape, there was, at Norman Cross, little beyond the muskets and bayonets of the Norman Cross sentries—sixty of them posted round and about the prison.

The cleanliness, sanitary and domestic, of the prison, the inhabitants of which averaged probably about 5,500 men (6,270 being the highest number of prisoners recorded in any official document as confined in Norman Cross on a specified day), was provided for by systematic fatigue parties from the prisoners themselves, one out of each mess of twelve being told off in regular rotation for the duty of sweeping, washing, scraping, and disinfecting the prisons; probably under this system the prison and courts were kept as clean as a man-of-war.  Each man on leaving his hammock, doubled it over so that both clews hung on one hook, leaving the floor space clear.

The prisoners lived in the caserns day and night p. 68when the weather was too bad for them to live out of doors, but in fair weather they were compelled by the regulations to live outside “in the airing-court” from morning to dusk, except when they were summoned to the casern for their dinner.  The quadrangle is in Foulley’s description of his model always called “pré,” and probably there was more or less grass on the surface.

Within the stockade fence which enclosed each quadrangle, the prisoners, about 1,800 in each square, were left to themselves, no soldiers, no sentries, no free men, except the turnkeys, whose lodges were, with the cooking-house, storehouses, &c., in a special court cut off from the airing-court by the same unclimbable stockade fence.  In each compound the prisoners formed a self-governing community, but all of them subject to the laws which applied to the whole body—viz. the Prison Regulations.

These communities differed from every other community of human beings (except perhaps the inmates of monasteries) in being deprived of any participation in the two essential factors on which the bare existence of every animal race depends—viz. the provision of the actual necessaries of life, food and, in the case of man, clothing, for the preservation of its own generation; and the reproduction of its kind, to insure a future generation.  The necessaries of individual life were provided by the Government.

The feeding of the prisoners and the troops in the barracks was an enormous tax on the resources of the country, greatly as it must have benefited the agriculturists, and purveyors of provisions of all kinds in the neighbourhood.  A paragraph in the Times of 14th August 1814, states that “about £300,000 a year was spent by the Government in Stilton, Yaxley, Peterborough, and neighbourhood in the necessary provision of stores,” and this was not an exaggerated statement, as a calculation based on the average number of the p. 69prisoners and garrison, the dietary, and the price of provisions, shows that bread and meat alone would cost more than half the amount named in the Times. [69]

The exact ration appears to have varied:

The contract for victualling commenced on 12th April 1797, when the contractor was called upon to supply beef 1 lb., biscuit 1 lb., beer 2 quarts—as the daily ration of each prisoner.

This must have been a temporary ration on the first p. 70opening of the prison.  In a later report the following is given as the scheme of victualling for a week:







Tease. [70]










































2 pts. or Greens in lieu.

The ration for the greater period appears to have been beef ¾ lb., bread ½ lb., cabbage 1 lb., or a supply of pease; Wednesdays or Fridays, herrings or cod substituted for the meat, and a pound of potatoes.

This change of the diet on Wednesday and Friday, made on account of the religion of the majority of the prisoners, and also as being more in accordance with their national diet, was recommended by the agent of the prison; but there was considerable delay, and some hardship to the prisoners, before the recommendation was granted.  The fish when it reached the prison must have been several days old, and was no doubt salted.  A new scale later on was fresh beef ½ lb., bread 1 lb., a quart of soup composed of vegetables and pease.  The terms of the contracts with those supplying the food were very stringent.  The conditions in the first contract at Norman Cross have already been given at p. 43 in chap. ii.

When in November 1797 it was agreed by the French and British Governments that each Government should feed its own countrymen in the enemy’s prisons, and p. 71the French took over the feeding of the prisoners in Britain, they made only a slight change in the ration to suit it more to French cookery.  The daily allowance per head being, beer 1 qt., beef 8 oz., bread 26 oz., cheese 2 oz. or good salt butter ⅓ oz., pease ½ pt., fresh vegetables 1½ lb.  The French also allowed each prisoner ½ lb. of white soap and ¾ lb. of tobacco in leaf, per month.

The diet of hospital patients was on a very liberal scale: 1 pt. of tea morning and evening, 16 oz. of white bread, 16 oz. of beef or mutton, 1 pt. of broth, 16 oz. of greens or good sound potatoes, and 2 qts. of malt beer, and, in the case of patients requiring it, beef, fish, fowls, veal, lamb, and eggs might be substituted.

The diet was investigated by a commissioner sent round to the various prisons, who reported that, “although the amount of meat would seem scarcely enough to an Englishman, the French, by their skill in cookery, made such an excellent soup or broth out of it as to afford ample support for men living without labour, such as our labouring poor rarely have at any time, but certainly not during the present scarcity.”  The same commissioner in July 1797 recommended that an alteration should be made in the contracts, so as to insure early delivery, “as the lateness prevents the cookery of the meat as the French desire, which is by boiling it down for four or five hours with a strong and excellent broth, after which the meat is good for but little, and but little regarded by the prisoners.” [71]

The food was prepared by cooks chosen from the prisoners themselves, and paid by the Government.  To p. 72insure the good quality and proper quantity of the goods supplied, and to eliminate the possibility of the storekeepers being bribed by the contractors to pass inferior goods, the prisoners of each block were ordered by Clause 8 of the Prison Rules to appoint delegates to attend when the food and other goods were delivered, and to see that they were up to the standard specified in the contract.

There were in the various prisons occasional complaints, and if they were justified the contractors were punished.  In one instance the defaulting contractor at Plymouth was fined £300 and imprisoned for six months in the County Gaol.  Beer at one time was supplied to the prisoners by the Government, and when this allowance ceased, it could, under certain regulations, be obtained on payment.  This beer was of a very light and cheap quality, as attested by the books of the Oundle Brewery, but half a gallon a day, given in the first ration of which we have found a note, is so large an allowance, even for those bibulous days, that it suggests an error in the memorandum.  Tea and coffee in those days were the luxuries of the well-to-do only, and were not for prisoners or for our own poorer countrymen and women.  There was no tea or coffee.

There can be no doubt that every possible precaution was taken to insure that the food supplied by the Government was good, and sufficient to maintain an average man in good health, and in the market held in the enclosed space at the east gate, to which the prisoners had access, those who had money could buy additional food and luxuries.  But although beyond doubt the allowance of food was sufficient for an average man, there must have been in those twenty years thousands of men with hearty appetites who finished their ration hungry and dissatisfied—and the sequel will show that there were others who actually died of starvation, owing to their own vices.

p. 73Each prisoner was allowed a straw palliasse, a bolster, and a blanket or coverlet, the straw being changed as often as was necessary.

The British Government never withdrew its contention that it was the duty of each nation to provide clothing for its subjects in captivity in the country of its enemy, and maintained that this had been the practice of France and England in all previous wars, even in that in which they were engaged up to the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, only ten years before the outbreak in 1793 of the war under discussion; but as an act of humanity, when the French obstinately declined to discharge this duty, the Government clothed a certain number of the naked in a yellow suit, a grey or yellow cap, a yellow jacket, a red waistcoat, yellow trousers, a neckerchief, two shirts, two pairs of stockings, and one pair of shoes.

In M. Foulley’s model the greater number of the prisoners are represented as clad in this uniform, the conspicuous colours of which were selected to facilitate the detection of an escaped prisoner.  In the first year of the occupation of Norman Cross an order was issued to the storekeeper to supply such prisoners as were destitute of clothing with the articles enumerated above.

There is every reason to believe that the provisions for the maintenance of the prisoners were carried out with the utmost care and fidelity in Norman Cross and all other prisons, but the complaints of the prisoners gave rise to such prolonged controversy and serious disagreement between the Governments of France and England, that a review of the discussion finds an appropriate place here.  The complaints were not confined to one side only, but there is ample documentary evidence that the accusations of the French were greatly exaggerated or absolutely without foundation.  Their hatred of the enemy made the captives suspicious, p. 74and illness from natural causes was attributed to cruelty and ill-treatment. [74a]

The British Government, according to Mr. Dundas, Secretary of State, on 6th October 1797, attributed many of the complaints to passion, prejudice, and animosity (quotation by M. Niou in his letter to Mr. Dundas, 15th February 1799), [74b] and it is certain that the French Government would not object to the fact that the statements made by the French generals, commissaries, and others, whether the effect was intended or not, undoubtedly increased the anger of their nation against the English, and thus infused greater fighting energy into their troops.  The words used by Buonaparte, in his address to his Army on the eve of Waterloo, to stimulate his troops, have already been quoted.  As to his reference to the hulks, we must bear in mind that, except under the pressure of the earlier period of the war, when the prison accommodation was insufficient, and again later on occasions when the prisoners had accumulated to a larger number than could be accommodated on land, even though Dartmoor, Perth, and other smaller prisons had been built, the hulks were the place of imprisonment for the criminal prisoners of war only, and that a century since there was no place of confinement for criminals in which the conditions could entail anything but misery.

Of the worst miseries endured by the prisoners at Norman Cross and other depots, the real sources were the vices of the unfortunate men themselves, especially p. 75gambling and usury, [75] and to the obstinacy of the French Government in their determination to provide no clothing and their neglect to fulfil their promises.  The evidence that this accusation of neglect by the French is well founded, is furnished by M. Charretie, the agent or commissary appointed by the French Directory to look after the prisoners in England, who on the 19th November 1797, in a letter to the Minister of Marine at Paris, after describing the pitiable condition of many of the prisoners, who were half-naked for the want of clothes, proceeds:

“Consolation, Citizen Minister, might be felt by the unfortunate prisoners, if their want and misery had not reached their height, and if assistance could reach them in time to give foundation to their hopes, but, Citizen Minister, after all that I have said to them, after all that I have had the honour of writing to you, concerning their horrible situation and that in which I am myself placed, without resources, at the mercy of a crowd of creditors, scarcely able to find the means of providing for my own subsistence, what would you have me say more when I see you are deceived with respect to the Measures you take in regard to them?

“Five thousand livres have long since been announced to me by your office—you now make mention of sixty thousand livres, but I have no intelligence of the arrival of the first farthing of either of these sums.  If promises remain unexecuted with respect to such sacred and necessary objects in a service which I can no longer continue, when shall I see those realised which relate to the providing of Funds for the clothing of Prisoners,” . . . “and if of about 9,000 confined at Norman Cross near 3,000, sick for want of clothing and an increase of diet, are already on the eve of perishing, what will be the case some time hence?  And upon whom will p. 76the responsibility fall for so many thousand victims?  My correspondence will justify me in the eyes of my country.  However expeditious you may be, Citizen Minister, all you can hope for is to save the remainder, whom strength of constitution may have kept longer alive—what then would be the case if the English Government should order the measure of driving them all [this must refer to the officers on parole—T. J. W.] into horrible prisons, and of reducing the allowance to half rations, to be put into execution.” [76]

The Republic had taken no notice of the propositions of Britain made on the 6th October 1797, “that the prisoners should be furnished in the countries where they were detained with clothing, subsistence, and medicines at the expense of the Government to which they belonged.”  The British Government threatened, in order to compel a reply, that they must put the prisoners on a reduced allowance on 1st December 1797.

M. Charretie’s letter may have assisted the French Government to sanction the proposal of the British Minister.  What it certainly did, by the statement it contained as to the proportion of sick among, and the general condition of, the Norman Cross prisoners, was to enrage the French against the English.  The British Government at once took steps to prove the statement false.  On the 15th December 1797, Mr. James Perrot, the agent for prisoners of war at Norman Cross, Dr. Higgins, p. 77the physician, Mr. James Magennis, surgeon, and Messieurs Chatelin and Savary, the French assistant surgeons, deposed on oath that at no time since the opening of the prison in April had there been more than 5,170 in the prison at one time, that up to that day fifty-nine only had died in the hospital, and that on the 19th November (the date of this letter in which M. Charretie said that out of about 9,000 prisoners near 3,000 were sick) there were only 194 in hospital, in which number were included twenty-four nurses; the doctors in addition certified that, “The prisoners are visited every morning by the chief surgeons or their assistants, and that, whether their disorders are slight or violent, they are admitted into the hospital,” and the French assistant surgeons (themselves prisoners of war) added, “While there, they are treated with humanity and attention, and provided with everything necessary for the re-establishment of their health.” [77]

p. 78In evidence before a commission held on the 2nd April 1798, M. Charretie explained that he had received the information inserted in his letter to the Minister of Marine from prisoners confined at Norman Cross; that he had intended communicating with the Transport Board, but that soon after writing to the Minister he had reason to alter his opinion; that he had informed the French Government that he thought he had been too hasty, especially as the Transport Board provided him with lists giving him the number of prisoners in each prison, but, as fresh prisoners were arriving, he thought the number might have increased from 5,000 to 9,000.  This is a fair sample of the French complaints, and of how little foundation was found for most of them when they were investigated.  The mortality at Norman Cross was exceptionally high during its first occupation, but the majority of the earliest prisoners were those who had been removed from the prisons, the overcrowded and consequent unhealthy condition of which gave rise to the hurried building of Norman Cross; they were therefore specially liable to disease, and unfit to withstand its ravages.  The arrangement for maintaining the prisoners, from the p. 79outbreak of the war in 1793 to November 1797, was that which had been in force in previous wars between the two nations—viz. that each nation should provide the captives detained in its prisons with food sufficient to maintain life and health, while it clothed its own countrymen in the enemy’s prisons.

To put an end to the complaints and the recriminations continually renewed on both sides, relative to the treatment of the prisoners, our Government had in October 1797 proposed the fresh arrangement “that the Prisoners should be furnished, in the Country where they were detained, with clothing, subsistence, and medicines at the expense of the Government to which they belonged.”  The French Government took no notice of this communication, not even acknowledging its receipt, and to enforce its attention to this and other matters connected with the exchange of prisoners (especially of Sir Sidney Smith), the British Government threatened to confine all the officers out on parole, and to reduce the prison ration, which was at that time equal to that of a British soldier, to half—viz. 1 lb. bread, ½ lb. beef, ¼ lb. pease, and ½ lb. cabbage.

This threat, aided possibly by M. Charretie’s letter—the piteous appeal of a servant of the Republic thwarted in the execution of his duties by the neglect of the Directory to fulfil its promises and to discharge its responsibilities—had effect.  The new arrangement was adopted, each nation undertaking to provide food, medicine, and other necessaries for its own countrymen.  While this arrangement lasted, neither combatant could use the weapon, which Britain had threatened to employ, the reduction of the ration of those of the enemy who were captive in its prisons.  M. Gallois, who succeeded M. Charretie as commissary, brought over M. Nettement, to whom the special task of providing the means of subsistence for the prisoners was entrusted, the expense being borne by France.

p. 80The contention that the complaints made by the French as to the food, etc., supplied under the old system, were mostly unfounded, is supported by the fact that M. Nettement, except in one instance, employed the same sub-agents, and, in general, the same contractors, who had been serving the British, and that only slight modifications in the dietary were made to adapt it more to French methods of cooking.  The new arrangement lasted only two years; it was terminated abruptly by an Arrêté of the French Consuls, dated 29th November 1799 (le Frimaire l’an 8 de la République une et Indivisible).  A copy of this edict was sent by M. Niou (the Commissary in England at that date) to Mr. Dundas, Secretary of State for War, with a letter in which he stated that among other reasons why the Consuls did not in any manner feel called upon to continue to observe the arrangement, was the fact “that it was not founded on any authentic stipulation; that the Cartel of Exchange, signed nearly ten months afterwards, took not the least notice of it,” etc.

In consequence of this correspondence on the 15th December 1799, the Duke of Portland, acting in the absence of Mr. Secretary Dundas, communicated to the Admiralty the King’s wishes as to future arrangements.  After protesting against the “departure (on the part of the French Government) from the agreement entered into between the two countries, and which tended so materially to mitigate the calamities of war,” he directed, as to the British prisoners in France, that Captain Cotes, the British agent in Paris, should ascertain exactly the daily allowance made to each man by the French Government, and that he should, at the expense of the British Government, make up any deficiency existing between that allowance and the ration supplied by the British Government during the years 1798 and 1799.  At the same time the Minister directed the Transport Commissioners to supply the French p. 81prisoners in Britain, from the date when the French agent ceased to supply them, with the same rations of provisions as were granted before the arrangement of December 1797, and he adds:

“As no mention is made of Clothing or other necessaries in Captain Cotes’ letter, I think it right to add that the Commissioners of Transports and for taking care of Prisoners of War are on no account to furnish any to the French Prisoners, as this charge has at all times been supported by the French Government.”

From this time to the termination of the war the arrangement as to the feeding of the prisoners remained the same, but a terrible source of misery to the French prisoners at Norman Cross, and to other French prisoners of war in England, was the firm refusal of the French Government to agree to the clause in Lord Portland’s letter, referring to the clothing of the prisoners.

In another Edict, dated March 1800, signed by Buonaparte as First Consul, Article 1, is “The Ministers of War and of the Marine shall ensure by every possible means, subsistence and clothing to the Russian, Austrian and English Prisoners of War”—“they shall take care that they are treated with all Attention and Indulgence consistent with public safety.” [81]  The British Government declined to accept the arrangement implied in this Arrêté, and adhered to what had been the uniform custom in the wars between France and England, and they continued to supply, through their agent in France, all clothing and similar necessaries to the British captives, and even to the Russians who had been serving with them in Holland; while the French, although they were not called upon to clothe the British, refused, notwithstanding the miserable state to which their countrymen in the prisons were reduced by the want of it, to supply them with any clothing.

p. 82That the firmness of the two Governments led to terrible suffering in the British prisons cannot be doubted—a suffering which was not shared by the British in France, who were regularly clothed by the agent of their own Government; and it has been already stated that at certain periods of the struggle, including the latter part of 1797, the British Government did provide, in the last extremity, clothing for the neglected subjects of their enemy, protesting, that they did this only as an act of humanity, and not as a duty.

In looking for the apparent unwillingness of the French to meet the British on equal terms, we must remember certain differences in the great principles in which the two nations conducted war.  Alison, commenting on the Peninsular Campaign, says:

“The British, according to the established mode of civilised warfare, at least in modern times, maintained themselves chiefly from magazines in their rear; and when they were obliged to depend upon the supplies of the provinces where the war was carried on, they paid for their food as they would have done in this country.” [82]

The French, on the other hand, by reverting to the old Roman system, of making war maintain war, not only felt no additional burden, but experienced the most sensible relief by their armies carrying on hostilities in foreign states.  From the moment that his forces entered a hostile territory, it was a fundamental principle of Napoleon’s that they should “draw nothing from the French Exchequer.”  This principle applied to the case of the prisoners of war would certainly never tolerate that France should follow the mode of civilised warfare, at least in modern times, and should maintain her soldiers (varying during the war from 20,000 to p. 8367,000) incarcerated in Britain if, by starving them or leaving them naked, she could thrust the burden of doing so on to the British nation.

The great disparity between the number of the French prisoners in Britain and the British in France must have strongly influenced the First Consul to issue the Edict, which cancelled without ceremony the arrangement in force for the two years 1798–99.  A return made in December 1799, when our Government again took over the victualling of the French prisoners, showed their number to be 25,646, of whom 10,128 were at Portsmouth, 7,477 at Forton (Portsmouth), 3,038 at Norman Cross, and the rest in Liverpool, Chatham, Stapleton, Edinburgh, and Yarmouth.  The number of English in France was about 5,000.  The French therefore, during 1798 and 1799, were feeding and clothing 25,646, while the British had to feed and clothe only a little over 5,000.  This disparity in the number of the captives of France and England lasted throughout the war, and, as will be seen, interfered seriously with the exchange of prisoners.  With the resumption of the old arrangement, there came again the old complaints; that those of the British were in some degree justified, is clear from words of explanation used by the French Commissary, “If the situation of the Finances of the Republic did not allow of the prisoners receiving the whole of what the law allowed them, it was not the less true that they experienced in that respect the benefits of the solicitude of the Government.”  The words in italics practically concede the fact that the British prisoners in France were not receiving what the law allowed them.

The French never lost sight of the hope, by one means or another, of getting the prisoners back into the fighting ranks, and when in answer to a complaint of the French, M. Otto the commissary had been told “That the people here are not better fed than the prisoners,” his retort in writing to the Transport Commissioners p. 84was, “If the scarcity of Provisions is so notorious that the Government [British], notwithstanding its solicitude, cannot relieve the wants of its own people, why should it unnecessarily increase the consumption by feeding more than 22,000 prisoners?”  M. Otto’s solution of all the difficulties was, send us back our soldiers and sailors, and cease to burden yourselves with them.

It may be difficult, even after this long lapse of time, for either a Frenchman or an Englishman to make an impartial summing up of a controversy carried on in hot blood and generating bad feeling which lasted long after Waterloo and the return of the Bourbons.  The British did not shrink from publishing at the time all the facts and correspondence relating to these controversial matters, thus enabling their contemporaries of all nationalities to come to a right judgment and, fortunately for us, if exaggerated and even lying accusations came from French sources, their exaggeration and falsehood could usually be proved by French witnesses.

The piteous letter of M. Charretie has been already quoted as evidence of where the fault really lay in November 1797.

In 1815 a work was published in Paris called L’Angleterre vue à Londres et dans ses Provinces, pendant un séjour de dix années.  An English translation was published in America in 1818, to the title being added, “six of them as a prisoner of war.”  The author was René Martin Pillet, who, according to his account, was taken prisoner at the Battle of Vimiera, 1808.  He was confined at Norman Cross and Bishop’s Waltham, and at Chatham on the Brunswick hulk.  Space forbids an examination of all his statements regarding England and English society; his account of the treatment of prisoners of war alone concerns us.  The nature of his statements can best be understood by the replies made.  There was a pamphlet by some one hailing from Warrington, p. 85issued in 1816, with the title A Defence of our National Character and our Fair Countrywomen.  One paragraph must suffice:

“It has been accurately calculated that not more than one in ten of the French prisoners died during the last two wars: if therefore 150,000, as you state, died in the prison-ships by torture or otherwise, the amount of French prisoners in these ships must have been 1,500,000, to contain which it would have required 2,000 ships of the line, but as not half of the number of prisoners were confined in ships, we must have taken during the last twenty years double that number, namely, 3,000,000!  Any further comment would be idle and superfluous.” (P. 16.)

A detailed examination of Pillet’s book was published in 1816, entitled, Tableau de la Grande-Bretagne.  The author was Jean Sarrazin, a very remarkable man.  He was born in 1770, of humble parentage, and served as a private soldier in the ranks of the French army, but rose very rapidly to high rank, being General of Brigade in the expedition to Ireland in 1798, where he was taken prisoner, and, to use his own words, he was treated as a prisoner of war “with the highest distinction,” and was exchanged for the English Major-General Sir Harry Burral, an ensign, one sergeant, and five privates.  He married an English lady, a native of Exeter, who returned with him to France.

His brilliant military services under Napoleon, with whom he was on intimate terms, were varied with literary works of high value on military subjects.  Now comes the stain on his character.  His subsequent career in England proves that he had a very exaggerated view of his abilities and services, and when holding a high position in the French army assembled at Boulogne, he deserted and came over to this country to sell to the p. 86British Government the secrets of the French plan of campaign.  In his absence he was condemned to death.  The nature of his claims on the English Government were considered extravagant.  They comprised:

1.  Letters of naturalisation.

2.  His wife and son to be considered as prisoners of war in France (thereby entitling them to an allowance from the British Government).

3.  That his rank of Lieut.-General be acknowledged in accordance with the cartel of exchange of 1798.

4.  A pension of £3,000 a year for life.

5.  An indemnity of £10,000 for his losses at Boulogne, to enable him to take a house suitable to his rank, such as he had in France.

6.  A sum of £50,000 in payment of his notes and plans (i.e. his treachery).

He also asked to be appointed a Secretary or Aide-de-camp to Lord Wellington.  The Government altogether gave him £3,000, and he returned to France at the Restoration.  In his book he speaks highly of the English, and defends Captain Woodriff from the charges of embezzlement.  But the most scathing exposure was by one of high rank and a long name—Paul Maximilian Casimir de Quellen de Stuer de Caussade de la Vauguyon, Prince de Careney.  He was a proscribed Royalist, and his French editor calls him “A Frenchman, as distinguished by birth, as by the nobleness and independence of his character, and who has thoroughly studied the country which these writers have feebly pretended to pourtray, is desirous to evince his gratitude to the generous nation which has provided him an asylum, at the same time that it has preserved to the French their King and their Princes.  He has thought it his duty to vindicate the truth which has been wantonly outraged.”

The following short extracts show his method of dealing with M. Pillet’s accusations:

p. 87“When he does not fear to state, that ‘a hundred and fifty thousand Frenchmen have been killed, in the midst of tortures,’ in the British possessions, he states what is impossible, since the total number of the prisoners of war did not amount to above one hundred thousand, and more than eighty thousand Frenchmen were restored to liberty and to their country after the return of the French King to his dominions.

“The nourishment of the prisoners of war was neither so scanty nor so inferior in quality as M. Pillet sets forth, a crowd of Frenchmen, returned from England, attest this.  It is from their authority that we speak.

“The clothing given to the prisoners was of excellent stuff, many persons in France wear it to this day; and if some Commissary’s wife or clerk did turn a few ells of it to their own use, is that any reason to accuse the Transport Board and all England of robbery, per fas et per ne fas?”

He also deals with the alleged malpractices of Captain Woodriff, whom Pillet even hints acted with the connivance of the English Government.

“Have we not seen General Warne, at Verdun, in France, blow his brains out, after having employed the funds, destined for the English prisoners, to his own private purposes, because he saw it was impossible to conceal that prevarication, and to account for his proceedings?”

After dealing in detail with many of Pillet’s reckless assertions, he finishes with the following summary:

“M. Pillet observes a profound silence upon all these occurrences, yet they are perfectly within his knowledge, and he himself laboured to organise the general rising of the prisoners!  M. Pillet complains bitterly of the p. 88numberless sufferings which he underwent at Norman Cross and Bishops Waltham; but he does not mention that he broke his parole of honour; or that placed on board of a pontoon (hulk), the consequence of this violation of his parole, some English Officers consented nevertheless to answer for him, and by them he obtained a security, although he had forfeited his parole.”

A pamphlet—Aperçu du traitement qu’éprouvent les prisonniers de guerre français en Angleterre (Lettre écrite par le Colonel Lebetre, Paris, 1800)—has been quoted by former writers as evidence of the maltreatment by the English, and on the other hand the assertions have been contradicted.  Unfortunately, the copy of the brochure in the British Museum was, with some other French pamphlets, accidentally burned about fifty years ago by a fire in the book-binders’ department, and no other copy is accessible.  So that the opinion that Col. Lebetre’s accusations were unjustifiable and self-contradictory can only be given second-hand.

The evidence which is supposed to establish the charges of inhuman treatment of their prisoners by the British, including that of our own countryman George Borrow, breaks down on examination.  But, when in April 1797 the Dutch and French victims of the war entered the prison at Norman Cross, and started the community which for nearly twenty years had to carry on its life under such strange conditions, the place was already shrouded in this atmosphere of acrimonious contention—a stormy and pestilent atmosphere which influenced for evil the lot of those within its walls.



The worst prisons are not of stone, they are of throbbing hearts, outraged by an infamous life.—H. W. Beecher.

It is on coming to the consideration of the life of the captives in their prison that the want is felt of any contemporary account written by one of themselves; such accounts are extant for the historian of the Dartmoor Prison, but for Norman Cross the only sources from which a description of the prison life can be given, are the meagre information gleaned from the very few persons who had seen the prison and the prisoners, and who were still alive when the writer commenced his inquiries; private letters written during the period of the Depot’s existence; scanty paragraphs in local and other newspapers; official reports and correspondence; and, finally, the evidence of their pursuits, afforded by the extant examples of the work executed by the prisoners during their captivity.

The prisoners were almost all, either soldiers or sailors, belonging to the enemy’s army and navy, or the crews and officers of privateers.  Regulations as to parole varied greatly during the course of the war, but the majority of the officers and the civilians of good social standing, mostly passengers on board ships which had been captured, were out on parole.  In each of three of the quadrangles there must have been an average of about 1,750 prisoners, and in the fourth, the north-eastern, in which two of the caserns were, from the p. 90opening of the Depot, divided off for the hospital, to which a third was added later for the officers’ hospital, there were probably about 500.  This estimate is based upon returns which show that on one occasion only was the number of prisoners returned as low as 3,038.  This was in 1799—when the total number of prisoners in Britain was only 25,646. [90]  The number had at that time been reduced by a considerable exchange, and on other occasions the numbers were much higher.  Thus on the 10th April 1810, out of 44,583 prisoners in Britain, 6,272 were at Norman Cross.  On the 11th June 1811, out of 49,132 in all Britain, 5,951 were at Norman Cross.  From these figures it is a fair deduction that the prison population with which we have to deal averaged, in the eighteen years during which the prison was occupied, about 6,000, distributed in four sections.  Each of the three larger groups occupied a separate quadrangle about 2½ acres in extent, their sleeping-places being four blocks of buildings, in each of which slept 500 men, when they were absolutely packed, 300 in the lower chambers, which were 12 feet high, and 200 in the upper chambers, the height of which was 8 feet 6 inches; they occupied hammocks, arranged in the lower and more lofty rooms, in three tiers, one above the other, and suspended between posts 8 feet apart; in the upper room, the roof of which was below the regulation height for three tiers, in two tiers only.

The size of each block, determined by actual measurement of the rubble foundation, or footing, still lying below the turf, was 100 feet long by 22 feet wide.  The hooks for the clews of one end of the hammocks would be fixed into rails on the wooden sides of the building, while for the clews at the foot of the p. 91hammocks, posts running along the whole length of the building were erected at the regulation distance (8 feet from the wall of the building), and into these hammock-posts the stanchions were driven.  Eight feet on the opposite side of the building was occupied in the same way by the hammocks, and a clear space of 100 feet by 6 would be left in the middle of the chamber through which, on the upper floor, the single stair landed.

In the Royal Navy at the present day the average width of the hammock with a man in it is 18 inches, and they are packed only one or two inches apart (the midshipmen and other junior officers are allowed a foot between each hammock).

Assuming that the prisoners were allowed a little more space than our bluejackets, say, 2 feet for each hammock, there would be fifty hammocks along each side, and as the hammocks were hung in tiers, three in the lower chamber and two in the upper chamber, there would be 150 on each side of the building in the lower chamber, and 100 in the upper chamber, that is, 500 in each of the four caserns in the three quadrangles occupied by the healthy prisoners.  This calculation, which the author had worked out before he had seen M. Foulley’s description of his model, corresponds with the figures he gives.

To the sailors the gymnastic performance necessary to get into the upper hammock of a tier of three might be easy, but the soldier would probably have many failures before he became expert.  When the head turnkey blew his horn at sunrise, the first duty of the prisoners was to fold up the palliasse, rug, and bolster allowed them, and then to take the clew off the hook on the post, and to hang it with the other clew on the hook in the wall, thus leaving the space which had been filled by the stretched hammocks clear.  The general body of the prisoners would then turn out, the fatigue p. 92party, one out of every twelve, that is about thirty-six men for each casern, proceeding with their domestic duties.  These probably in and out of doors gave them little spare time, when once in twelve days their turn for duty came round for either amusement or other occupation.  There were all sorts and conditions of men among those who, starting the day in this way, turned out into the airing-court.

An old Mr. Lewin of Yaxley, born in 1801, two miles from Norman Cross, was accustomed in his boyhood to visit, and get occasional work at, the Depot.  When interviewed by the writer in 1894, he thus described the prisoners: “Some of them were very rich” [Lewin himself had been an agricultural labourer all his life], “others very poor.  The poor ones used to hang out bags, and would cry, as the people passed by, ‘Drop a penny in my bag.’  [See the Frontispiece.]  They were not dressed in uniform, but in ordinary clothes, some like gentlemen, others like ragmen.”  “The place,” said Lewin, “was like a town.  There must have been near 50,000 people there.”  He was ninety-three when he was describing the prison, and to multiply the figures by ten was probably due to the enchantment which distance casts over experiences eighty years agone.

The morning meal was probably the next incident of the day.  The meals can have occupied but little time for those poor fellows, who had nothing more than the daily ration to depend upon; but probably, although the French Government did nothing to supplement this ration, the French people, as well as the relatives of the various prisoners, would remit money, of which the poorer as well as the well-to-do would reap the benefit.

It has already been mentioned that the British agent in Paris had orders to supplement the ration supplied by the French Government to the British prisoners, wherever he thought it necessary, and, beyond this, subscriptions for our captives in France were made in p. 93various parts of the country.  Mr. Maberley Phillips, F.S.A., in a paper “On the escape of the French Prisoners of War from Jedburgh in 1813,” gives the particulars of an entry in the Vestry Book of St. Hilda’s, South Shields, which gives the details of a subscription in 1807, by which the sum of £226 7s. 8d. was collected for British prisoners in France, and remitted to the committee at Lloyds, to be sent with the fund raised by them to the agent in Paris.

The same spirit which influenced the British nation to send succour to their countrymen would doubtless influence the French people, although their Government, in accordance with their system of conducting war, differed from the British Government as to what was the duty of a nation at war towards its subjects in detention in the enemy’s country.  The remittances from abroad to the whole of the prisoners amounted, from 1797 to 1800, to several thousands of pounds, and remittances were still continually arriving (Commissioner Serle’s Report to the Transport Board, 28th July 1800).  This money passed through the hands of the agent in the various prisons, and he was directed not to hand it over except in small amounts, lest a recipient might have sufficient to offer a too tempting bribe to a sentry.

As to how the prisoners prepared their ration for their several meals, how they utilised the vegetables and the various table delicacies which they purchased in the market, we know nothing.  The absence of chimneys in the caserns shows that no fires were allowed in them.  It is possible that under strict regulations they were allowed to make fires in the courts, and abundance of peat from the neighbouring fen would be obtainable at a very low price.  The fact that a cauldron for making the soup, which was removed from one of the cook-houses and is now preserved at Elton Hall, measures 5 feet 1 in. across and 3 feet 6 in. deep, shows p. 94that the appointed and paid French cook made the bulk of the food.  Doubtless in nothing would there be more distinction between the several prisoners than in the way they dealt with the ration.

Plate IX.—Emblematic Group of Seven Figures arranged in Three Tiers carved in Bone (Peterborough Museum)

The prisoners in each casern were divided into messes of twelve, and one of their number attended at the cook-house and brought the ration for the whole mess.

The monotonous recurrence of the roll-call and the visit of the doctors were daily incidents.  Next would possibly come the daily ablutions, more or less extensive, probably performed, with the washing of the clothes, at the wooden troughs, represented in some of the plans, on either side of the wells, the ground around being paved with flagstones to obviate mud and dirt from the slopping.  There was ample room in the airing-court for such amusements and sports as these poor cooped-up young fellows, many only boys (the separate prison for boys was a late addition to the Depot, it is only shown in MacGregor’s plan and in Foulley’s model) could devise, and in these courts was carried on much of the work in which so many of the prisoners were engaged, and which will be discussed later on.

The domestic politics of the various prisons and the various blocks must have run high; the prisoners were of course under a despotism, but the choice of delegates for the market, for inspection of the food, etc., was in their own hands.  The topic of conversation which must have most interested them must have been the prospect of their liberation, and the course of the war, as far as they could gather it, from the gossip of the turnkeys and from what little they could hear in the market.  Each party of fresh arrivals would bring news.  They would have accounts of the escape of prisoners from other prisons, and would have secret confidences and various schemes for their own escape; they would hear of the incessant plots for a general rising of all the prisoners in Britain, of the progress and failure of p. 95the negotiations for exchange, and they would discuss these matters with the intensity of men, over all of whom at all times hung the cloud of captivity, who all felt in a greater or less degree the longing for freedom.

There was also the appointment by themselves of the delegates who were to attend with the stewards of the prison and inspect the bread, meat, and vegetables as they were delivered at the western gate, in order to make sure that the goods were of proper quality.  One of the Prison Regulations speaks of “the turnkey or any other officer” as the head of the prison police.  As from various returns we know that there was no part of the British staff of the Depot, except the turnkeys, who could be acting in the quadrangle as police, it is probable that there was some scheme imposing on individual prisoners the duties of assisting the turnkeys in enforcing the regulations.  The brigade-major could apparently march a patrol where he thought it was needed.  In case of any violence or resistance, the turnkey called in the assistance of the sentries or a squad from the barracks.

Even in the earlier years of the war there were doubtless many of the prisoners who would adopt teaching as their work, and who would, among the 1,500 who shared their quadrangle, find pupils willing to pay for lessons, which would relieve the monotony of their existence.  There would be fencing masters, who would fence with sticks, for any who had clandestinely obtained or manufactured weapons dared not let them be seen; there were many traders who made money legitimately, acting as middlemen between the market at the gate and the prisoners in the enclosure; and there were, the curse of the prison, those illicit traders and usurers who bought the rations and clothes of their fellow prisoners and reduced them to starvation, the unfortunate victims being, as a rule, the slaves to the vice of gambling.  The moral degradation of the gambler p. 96was, from the first, a source of trouble to the authorities, and it was the wretched condition of this vicious class which was the foundation for many of the complaints made by the French agents.  Both the usurious traders and their victims were liable to punishment, as were also the manufacturers of, and dealers in, contraband articles.  These last were assisted by persons outside, who are best described as smugglers, their part in the proceedings being to convey from this foreign community to the British subjects outside, goods which, either from their intrinsic character or from their liability to duty, could not be sold legitimately.

In the reports of the Commissioners of the Transport Board, given in full in Nos. 29 and 30 of the correspondence published in the Appendix to the Parliamentary Report already referred to, it is stated that “the prisoners in all the depots in the country are at full liberty to exercise their industry within the prisons, in manufacturing and selling any articles they may think proper excepting those which would affect the Revenue in opposition to the Laws, obscene toys and drawings, or articles made either from their clothing or the prison stores, and by means of this privilege some of them have been known to carry off upon their release more than 100 guineas each.”

At some of the depots, special restrictions had to be made, on account of objections raised in the neighbourhood on the ground that the prisoners, supported out of the revenue provided by the taxes which people had to pay, were allowed to undersell the inhabitants in their own local industries.  Thus at Penryn the Frenchmen were stopped from making pastry and confectionery, and the prohibition of the manufacture of straw plait at Norman Cross was supposed to be based on the same grounds, combined with the fact that it was thrown on the market duty-free.  This point will be dealt with later.

p. 97For the sale of these goods, and for the purchase of goods from without, there was in each prison square a sort of market, where business was carried on, the sellers putting up stalls.  Among other things, they sold provisions and vegetables, doubtless making a profit on what they had paid in the more important market which was held under strict regulations, at the eastern gate of the prison (at one period of the war twice a week only, at another period daily).  In this market delegates from the prisoners met the dealers from without for traffic in the produce of the neighbourhood and in such goods as the prisoners required—clothes, feeding utensils, tools, and materials for carrying on their work, etc.; here probably were handed out to the village turner portions of bone carefully prepared for the lathe by the prisoner who made the articles portions of which were turned.  Such examples are still extant.  Here also opportunities were found for disposing of the illicit articles, which were a source of some profit to the prisoner, but of far larger profit to the middleman outside.

The market was, as I have said, held under strict regulations; every article made in the prison had attached to it its price, and the name of the prisoner who made it.  But, alas for the fame of the deft individuals, who spent long years in the prison, in the manufacture of these beautiful articles, the name was only attached in temporary fashion, and the names of six only of the artists of the 500 specimens in the Peterborough Museum are preserved: that of Jean de la Porte, the producer of several beautiful pictures in straw marquetry, Peterborough Cathedral being a favourite subject with him and with other accomplished artists in the prison; that of a M. Grieg, whose name appears on a silk holder decorated with figures, birds, and square and compass; Ribout, on a small box; Jacques Gourny, on a similar specimen; Godfrov, on a highly decorated work cabinet; and Corn on a silk holder.

p. 98The price of all the goods brought in from the neighbourhood was also regulated by the agent, who saw that the prisoners were not charged higher than the ordinary market price.  It is evident that there must have been some regulation as to who, from among the prisoners, should be admitted from each quadrangle.  It is certain that the gates of the quadrangle were not thrown open for the whole of the 5,000 or 6,000 to go to the market, and it is probable that certain trusted individuals, delegates from each prison, were marched under guard across the turnkeys’ court, out on to the road between the squares, to the east gate, through which they passed into the prison market held in the space formed by the embrasure of the great outer wall.  Purchases for themselves and for those of their comrades who had given them commissions were made by these privileged men.  On their return to their own prison square, these men probably traded with their fellow prisoners in the small market which was held in each quadrangle.  There appear to have been at one time stalls to which the public were admitted on Sundays to purchase the articles made by the prisoners—that is, if the following paragraph is well founded:

“Barracks were erected on a very liberal and excellent plan for the security of French prisoners who were confined here during the late war, and employed themselves in making bone toys, and straw boxes, and many other small articles, to which people of all descriptions were admitted on Sundays, when more than £200 a day has been frequently laid out in purchasing their labours of the preceding week.  It is capable of containing 7 or 8,000 men, and has barracks for two regiments of infantry.”  (Crosby’s Complete Pocket Gazette, 2nd Edition, 1818, Yaxley.)

The paragraph is somewhat puzzling, but it is certain p. 99that it states that people of all descriptions were admitted somewhere on Sundays, and it can hardly have been into the bone toys, straw boxes, and other small articles.  The extract was sent to me by the Rev. Father A. H. Davis (a connection through his mother of one of the French prisoners).  He remarks that this Sunday trading was “very unusual for the date of the Norman Cross prison”; he suggests that the traffic may have been regarded, on the part of the purchasers, as a pure act of charity, and the sellers were of course accustomed to the Continental Sunday. [99]

The markets and the trading must have afforded one of the chief interests in the prison life, and they have therefore been described as fully as is possible from scanty records.  The daily inspection by the doctors has been alluded to; sickness and death came within the precincts of the Depot as to every other community of men.  These will be dealt with in a later chapter.  There was no prison chapel.  It is possible there were attempts at something like prison worship; it is certain that at one time priests were allowed to reside in the prison, and in the last years of its existence there was a ministering Roman Catholic priest, the Bishop of Moulins, who was banished from France in 1791, and whose brief history, written by himself, will be found in Appendix G.  An examination of the records shows that a large number of the prisoners were from Protestant districts of France, but the majority were, of course, if they professed any religion, Roman Catholics.

This review of the chief factors in the prisoners’ p. 100life will enable the reader to form in his own mind a picture of what that life was, the main feature behind the stockade fences, which were enclosed by the outer prison wall, being that the community lived year after year with no female element—no solace from mother, wife, sweetheart, child, or female friend or adviser of any kind—and yet we have the evidence of Mr. Comm. Serle that they “show their satisfaction in the habits of cheerfulness peculiar to themselves”; [100a] and the American prisoner who, under the nom de plume “Greenhorn,” published his experiences of Dartmoor in 1813, is reported by Mr. Basil Thomson [100b] to have been most struck on entering the prison by “the high spirits of the multitude.”  He had expected “to find hunger, misery and crime, but everything indicated contentment, order and good fellowship.”

Let us hope that, notwithstanding the fact that at Norman Cross many of the prisoners had been confined for ten years, while of those whom “Greenhorn” gazed upon, none had been behind the granite walls of Dartmoor more than four years, the dominant spirit was one of “contentment, order and good-fellowship”; but, unfortunately, it is beyond doubt that there was in the prison a submerged stratum of hungry, miserable, criminal individuals, who had been unable to resist the evil influence of their surroundings on natural or acquired tendencies.

The preceding pages should enable the reader, throwing his imagination back a hundred years to Norman Cross, to conjure up, in place of the photographic picture of forty acres of still and silent pasture, without one human inhabitant, which the camera would produce to-day, a cinematograph series exhibiting a moving panorama, set in the great group of wooden buildings, barracks and prisons, in which lodged nearly 10,000 men, with all the busy life of such a crowd.  On the p. 101roads enclosing two sides of the site (one of which—the great North Road—was then always alive with the ever-flowing streams of traffic going and returning between London and the North) are soldiers passing to and fro, and civilians of all kinds having business at the Depot.  Entering the gate on the Peterborough Road, are seen the prison market on the left and the Eastern Barracks on the right, and in the space between are soldiers off duty, local merchants carrying their goods to the market, the prisoners, officers, and civilians allowed on parole, visitors with orders, friends of the British officers, etc.; while at the western gate on the North Road not only is the busy life of the main entrance to the western barracks thrown on the screen, but also the carts and porters bringing in the daily supplies for feeding the thousands within the walls, passing through the gates, and filling with envy the half-starved British workmen who, from the road, gaze on the piled-up loads of meat, bread, and vegetables; beyond the gates the busy barrack life—companies of soldiers changing guard, sentries on their beat pass by; and then appears the outer wall of the prison, stockade fence or brick wall, according to the year in which the imaginary camera is at work; at the eastern of the four gates appears the busy market, with the vendors of the goods, vegetables, eggs, and farm produce, clothes, hardware, and other necessaries for sale at their stalls, and the prisoners from within making their purchases, and offering for sale products of their skill in handicraft; a cannon with its muzzle directed inwards to the prison commands the gate in the market fence, that of the prison itself, and the roadway to the Central Block House.  Between the wall and the stockade enclosing the separate quadrangles, and on the cross roads which separate the four blocks, sixty sentries, posted day and night, are pacing their beats; while fenced in by the inner stockade are seen in each quadrangle crowds of prisoners, the p. 102majority young, a few old veterans—well fed and half-starved, well clothed and ragged, some in the yellow suit supplied by the British Government, industrious and idle—all forced to live together under the same conditions of isolation from the outer world.

Plate X.—Model of Guillotine: Bone Work (Peterborough Museum)

Here appear, in a somewhat crowded quadrangle, the thickly packed 1,600 or 1,700 men, groups of whom appear on the screen, some availing themselves of a clear space are dancing, others racing, or fencing with single sticks; then is seen a group carrying on, with violent gesticulation, a hot argument, so heated has it become between two of the disputants that it may end in blows, and possibly in a duel, for duels with extemporised weapons were not infrequent and were occasionally fatal; another group are discussing earnestly, but quietly and in subdued tones, the possibility of the general rising of all the prisoners in England, news having been smuggled in to them that a plan for such a rising is under consideration by the French Government.  Then follow pictures of men at work; they are mostly seated on boxes or rough prison-made stools on the flagged pavement which surrounds the airing-court—they are very numerous.  Here a man in the corner, which he has appropriated for months, is cutting, scraping, polishing, and fitting together the pieces of bone which he is building into the beautiful model of the guillotine which now, a hundred years later, has found its way to the Peterborough Museum; he has bought in the market a good assortment of tools, which lie beside him.  Then comes a group of men, who have selected a spot sheltered from the wind, and who are skilled in straw marquetry, employed in coating well-made work boxes, desks, etc., also all prison work, with marquetry pictures of varied and beautiful designs, so beautiful and so delicate, that we who, a hundred years after the workers and their prison vanished from Norman Cross, see the objects, can only marvel at the p. 103skill and the patient perseverance which could accomplish such work in such conditions.

A Dutch sailor appears giving the finishing touch to a marvellous model of a ship made from the bones received from the cooking-house, he is just fastening the Dutch flag to the ship; grouped around him are many of his admiring countrymen.  Then appears on the screen a group who reveal a different side of the life in the quadrangles: a crowd surrounds a party of gamblers, and crushing through them are several anxious, ragged, emaciated men who, having just sold in advance their rations for several days, in order to obtain money for the indulgence of their passion, are eager to join in the game.  Here and there pass by wretched half-naked members of the submerged tenth, which has developed within a year of the opening of the prison, seeking for scraps of food to appease the hunger pangs which have arisen from their selling their rations to the wretch, the usurer, who now appears searching among the losers, in the dispersing crowd for a fresh victim; this man is looked upon by the authorities as a bigger sinner than the starving gamblers themselves. [103]

Another group of young fellows is seen taking lessons in English from a polyglot; and so picture succeeds picture, until we see in another quadrangle more men at work, but the crowd generally engaged in and greatly excited over an election.  The commissary whose duty it is to inspect, in the interest of his fellow prisoners, the supplies of food as they are delivered at the prison, has proved unsatisfactory, and permission has been given for the choice of another prisoner to replace him.  There are several parties in the prison each anxious that one of their own group should be selected, hence the contest and the excited crowd of speakers and listeners.  Some of the prisoners are “mugwumps” and take no interest in politics, even such as would touch their personalp. 104interests, and of these a crowd interested in theology fills the screen; they are listening to a hot argument between a Protestant and a Romanist—an argument frequently interrupted by a little party of those who worship only the goddess of reason.  Then follow on the screen the squad told off for fatigue duties for the day; they have just finished their tasks, and are settling down to their usual occupations, some throwing themselves down to rest, others joining a party whose sides are shaking with laughter, as they listen to two or three young men, excellent actors, who are improvising a scene, caricaturing the English, and introducing the peculiarities of the agent, turnkey, and other officials of the prison. [104]

The pictures of the next quadrangle are much the same.  A man is seen in violent grief with the letter in his hand which has just announced to him the death of wife, father, mother, or child, leaving him more desolate than ever.  At the turnkey’s gate a group of men are being led off with a guard of soldiers to the Black Hole for a brutal assault on one of their fellow prisoners.  But what has happened to alter the characters of the pictures when the fourth quadrangle appears on the screen?  Work has stopped, arguments have ceased, the excellent meal, with numerous luxuries which a party of prisoners well supplied with money have prepared as the great event of their day, lies on the table before them disregarded, the food untasted.  Where men are speaking at all, it is with the intensity of bitter disappointment, here and there with violent expressions of anger against the authors of their misery.

For some months it has been known to these men p. 105that negotiations were going on between the two Governments for a General Exchange of prisoners, and although there have been to the knowledge of the prisoners many hitches, yet for the last few weeks it has been rumoured that these difficulties were all overcome, and the announcement of the day when the exchange should commence has been hourly expected; but, alas! in place of the expected news, one of the turnkeys has just handed in an authoritative statement that the negotiations have fallen through, and that all hope of freedom must again be banished from their thoughts!

To know the agony of despair that must on such a day have seized those 6,000 men, one must have shared their captivity and gone through their experiences.

The news from the outside world, the progress of the war, the successes and defeats on either side, the prospects of peace, must have varied the mood of the prisoners from day to day; we can only hope that the national contentment and cheerfulness was for the majority the usual tone.

This panorama of life in the prison represents only what that life was in good weather.  When the weather was too inclement for the outdoor life commanded by the regulations, and when the prisoners were crowded in the bare and dismal caserns, contentment and high spirits can scarcely have been the dominant tone of the inmates.  In the surveyor’s report, [105] referred to in a former chapter, mention is made of the holes cut by the prisoners in the walls of the caserns; on such a day these would be valued not so much for light and ventilation as for the opportunity which they afforded of a glimpse of the world outside—a view of the traffic on the road and of rustic life which would remind many of similar scenes from which the conscription had torn them to fight the battles of Buonaparte.

p. 106What a tale is told by those holes cut by the prisoners in the outer walls!

’Tis pleasant through the loopholes of retreat
         To peep at such a world.

Poor fellows, the peep they got through the holes they cut was their only share for years of the world outside.

It must be borne in mind that the habits and customs of the various depots would be almost identical; the Government regulations under which they lived and which ruled the life of the prisoners were the same for all.  There might be points of etiquette and social intercourse, derived from local circumstances, traditional in each prison; but there were constant interchanges of prisoners, and these men would take with them to the new prison the habits, including unfortunately the worst vices, which they had acquired in the old one.  At Norman Cross there were, before it was completed, men waiting to be received into the prison who had been captives at the Depot of Falmouth, where they had been distributed in the town itself in Roskoff, Kerquillack, and Penryn, whence they were removed, because, in consequence of this multiplication of the places of confinement, the administration was not only inefficient, but extravagant.  Many others were brought from Porchester and other prisons on account of their overcrowded condition.  Mr. Perrot, the first agent (Mr. Delafons, it will be remembered, though the first agent appointed, served only a few days, ordering the first stores from the immediate locality and from Lynn and Wisbech, but acting only until Mr. Perrot arrived) came from Porchester, and thus both the administrators and the prisoners would bring old prison customs with them.  It was not until the influx of Dutch prisoners, after Duncan’s victory off Camperdown on the 11th October following the April in which the prison p. 107was opened, that any number of prisoners passed, without intermediate imprisonment, direct from the Transports to Norman Cross.

Whatever the cause may have been, whether it was owing to the phlegmatic disposition of the Dutch or the mercurial temperament of the French, all accounts show that the general conduct of the former was much more commendable than that of the latter.  Beyond a few escapes, which were only natural, no offences are attributed to the Dutch.  For the misdemeanours and felonies, great and small, the French were responsible.  The gamblers who arrived from other prisons would doubtless find among the fresh arrivals men, without other resources, ready to relieve the dreary monotony of prison life by the excitement of dice box or cards.  However it may have originated, it is certain that, within three years from the day when the first prisoner entered Norman Cross, the vice of gambling was a curse in the prison, and its slaves had become the victims of cruel, avaricious usurers, whose guilty practices thwarted the efforts of the authorities to insure the health and comfort of those in their charge.  Early in 1800, Captain Woodriff, the agent, sent a report to the Transport Office which induced the commissioners to send to M. Otto, the French commissary in London, a letter, [107] from which the following is an extract:

“There are in those prisons some men, if they deserve that name, who possess money, with which they purchase at the daily market whatever is allowed to enter, and with those articles they purchase of some unfortunate and unthinking Fellow-prisoner, his Rations of Bread for several days together, and frequently both Bread and Beef for a month, which he, the merchant, seizes upon daily, and sells it out again to some other unfortunate being, on the same usurious terms; allowing p. 108the former one halfpennyworth of potatoes daily to keep him alive; not contented with this more than savage barbarity he purchases next his clothes, and bedding, and sees the miserable man lie naked on the planks, unless he will consent to allow him one halfpenny a night to lie in his own hammock, and which he makes him pay by a further Deprivation of his rations when his original debt is paid.”

On the 9th September of the same year, 1800, the approach of winter making the matter very urgent, Captain Woodriff again reported to the commissioners that nothing he could do prevented the prisoners from selling their rations of provisions for days to come, and their bedding, that several of the French prisoners were destitute of clothing and bedding, that one or two had died, and that in his opinion, unless some clothing was issued to the prisoners, many of them would die should the winter be severe.  These poor victims of their vicious passions are called in many documents “Les Misérables.”

There is no reason to doubt that the habits described in these reports were the true explanation of the want of food and clothing, for which the French Government blamed the British; but there is also too much reason to believe that many of these prisoners, the victims of their fellow captives the usurers, and of their own passion for gambling, died of want in our prisons, a fact for which we as a nation can only plead the blinding animosity which filled the hearts and brains of the combatants in the wars from 1793 to 1815.

It is possible that besides these, there were others who, although well supplied with food, were at times clothed in rags owing to the obstinacy with which each Government clung to its own view, as to whose duty it was to clothe the prisoners.

On the 14th March 1800, the First Consul issued an p. 109Edict, in which among other articles was one directing that the British Government should clothe their French prisoners.

To this Edict the French Minister for Foreign Affairs referred Captain Cotes (the English commissary in Paris), in order that he might see, among other things, that Buonaparte had determined “that the said prisoners should be clothed by the British Government.” [109]  This Edict, cancelling an agreement previously entered into between the two Governments, was not communicated direct to the British Government; and from a letter written by the Secretary of State for War to the Lords of the Admiralty on the 4th December 1800, it is clear that the issuing of this Edict, practically an order from the head of the Government of the country with which we were at war, directing the British Government to adopt a certain course, had only increased the determination of the Government to hold its own.  The Secretary for War, Mr. Dundas, in this letter justifies the action of the British Government, and to strengthen his appeal to the French Authorities to do what he considered their duty, and clothe the prisoners, he quotes the fact “that misery, sickness, and a heavy mortality prevail among the French prisoners in the various depots in this country, while the Dutch, under the same management, and with the same allowances in every respect as the French, but clothed by their own Government, continue to enjoy their usual health.”

Those who read this correspondence, now in this twentieth century, when the bitter animosity between the two countries has died away, must feel that the obstinacy was not confined to the French, and must wish that the British had done sooner, what they ultimately did, clothe the prisoners and debit the French Government with the cost.

In the correspondence I have quoted, the usurer, p. 110rather than his victims, is spoken of as the cause of the misery, and no mention is made of gambling.  But in other reports this vice is mentioned as the root of the evil, the result of which was that when an epidemic broke out, the mortality among these naked, starving wretches was terrible.  Among the material relating to Norman Cross, picked out from the miscellaneous thousands of papers at the Record Office, was a bundle of long slips of paper—Certificates—ruled out with columns, eleven in all, corresponding to those in the prison register, and ending with one for the date of death, and another for the fatal disorder or casualty.  Among the large bundle for the year 1800, a year of terrible mortality owing to the presence of an epidemic, is a certificate, dated 14th June, which bears an irregular note in pencil, made apparently by the surgeon when he forwarded the slip to the agent; the pencilled note on this certificate is a terrible revelation of what, in that year, was going on in the prison at Norman Cross.

“You see, my dear Sir, since our selection of the invalids, and the benefit of warm weather, we have had but one death this ten days.  If another batch of those vagabonds, who by their bad conduct defy all the benefits the Benevolence of this country bestows upon them, were to be sent away in September next, we might expect great benefit from it in the winter, for to a certainty all these blackguards will die in the winter.  Compare sixty a week with one in ten days.”

From this scrap we learn how terrible was the mortality, and how bad was the character of these wretched men; we learn also that when all the steps taken to reform them had failed, some system of segregation and removal to the hulks or elsewhere was finally recommended.  There is evidence in a letter of M. Otto’s that a large number of invalids and men of the class spoken of as “Les Misérables,” or less sympathetically p. 111by the surgeon as “these blackguards,” was sent back to France.  Two years after this pencilled note was written, all the prisons, both in Britain and France, were emptied, and the prisoners restored to their native countries; but when they refilled after the renewal of the war in 1803 under the same conditions, the same depravity and suffering developed.

At Dartmoor, 1809 to 1816, there are records, especially those of the Americans, which furnish full particulars of the internal life of that prison, particulars which in the case of Norman Cross can only be gathered from scraps such as the pencilled note just referred to.  Mr. Basil Thomson has permitted the reprint in this history of his chapter on these reprobates in Dartmoor.  It is terrible reading, but I avail myself of Mr. Thomson’s permission, because there is little doubt that much of the description of these self-styled “Romans” at Dartmoor would apply equally to “Les Misérables” at Norman Cross, and that the Norman Cross “Blackguards” were, like the “Romans,” ostracised by their fellow prisoners, and were in a similar, if in a less systematic fashion than their Dartmoor brethren, segregated by natural selection from their comrades, and herded together in special parts of the prisons.

From a careful perusal of the death certificates for the year 1801, when the terrible epidemic, commencing in November 1800, carried off a thousand victims, it would appear that Block 13, that behind the hospital caserns in the north-east quadrangle, was the habitat of “Les Misérables.”  There are constantly recurring notes at the end of the certificate to the effect: “This prisoner had sold his clothes and rations; he was from No. 13.”  The cause of death given was debility.  There are other entries, with the simple note, “Debility, from 13.” [111]



         What are these
So wither’d and so wild in their attire,
That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth,
And yet are on’t?

Shakespeare, Macbeth.

The prototypes of the self-styled “Romans” of Dartmoor were the prisoners of Norman Cross, known and mentioned, ten years before Dartmoor was built, in various official documents as “Les Misérables.”

It has already been stated that the absence of any description of the internal life of the Norman Cross Prison, written by an inmate, renders it impossible to give details which in the case of Dartmoor can be gathered from accounts published by French and American prisoners who were there incarcerated.

The author has, therefore, gladly availed himself of the permission given by Mr. Basil Thomson, to reproduce here the chapter of his book in which he describes “Les Misérables” of Dartmoor.  The incidents in their life presented by Thomson are not, of course, identical with those of the same class at Norman Cross.  The Norman Cross prisoners were not banished to a cockloft, and, although they may have been confined to one floor in one block, probably No. 13, they still retained the hammocks, in which many (during the awful epidemic of 1801) died before they could be removed to the hospital, succumbing at once to the malady owing to the debility resulting from their p. 113nakedness and starvation.  The description of the sleeping arrangements of the “Romans” does not therefore apply to “Les Misérables” of Norman Cross.

Similar vices and similar conditions of life produce similar results, but the impression left after reading Thomson’s graphic and terrible picture of the “Romans” of Dartmoor is only more intense, in consequence of its details, than that left after reading the laconic statements contained in the letters and reports of Captain Woodriff, Commissioner Serle, and others as to the same class at Norman Cross.

The authorities at both prisons were equally powerless to put down the gambling and the usury with all its attendant miseries.  It is somewhat singular that the “Romans” appear to have withstood disease, while in the epidemic at Norman Cross, which was probably enteric fever, a disease at that date not differentiated from other conditions, such as debility, diarrhoea, simple fever, etc., “Les Misérables,” as evidenced by the surgeon’s notes, succumbed. [113]


There were well-defined grades of society among the prisoners.  The first, called “Les Lords,” consisted of men of good family who were drawing on their bankers or receiving regular remittances from home; “Les Labourers” were those who added to their rations by the manufacture of articles for sale in the market; “Les Indifférents” did nothing but lounge about the yards, and had to content themselves with the Government rations; “Les Missables” were the gamblers and hatchers of mischief.  The fifth grade is so remarkable that it deserves a chapter to itself.  It was also composed of habitual gamblers, nick-named ironically “Les Kaiserlies” by the other prisoners, but generally known by the title chosen by themselves, “Les Romains,” p. 114because the cockloft, to which they were banished in each prison, was called “Le Capitole.”  The cock-lofts had been intended by the architect for promenade in wet weather, but they had soon to be put to this baser use.

To the sociologist there can be nothing more significant than the fact that a body of civilised men, some of them well educated, will under certain circumstances adopt a savage and bestial mode of life, not as a relapse, but as an organised proceeding for the gratification of their appetites and as a revolt against the trammels of social law.  The evolution of the “Romans” was natural enough.  The gambling fever seized upon the entire prison, and the losers, having nothing but their clothes and bedding to stake, turned these into money and lost them.  Unable to obtain other garments, and feeling themselves shunned by their former companions, they betook themselves to the society of men as unfortunate as themselves, and went to live in the cockloft, because no one who lived in the more desirable floors cared to have them as neighbours.  As they grew in numbers they began to feel a pride in their isolation, and to persuade themselves that they had come to it by their own choice.  In imitation of the floors below, where a “Commissaire” was chosen by public election, and implicitly obeyed, they elected some genial, devil-may-care rascal to be their “General,” who only held office because he never attempted to enforce his authority in the interests of decency and order.  At the end of the first six months the number of admitted “Romans” was 250, and in the later years it exceeded 500, though the number was always fluctuating.  In order to qualify for the Order, it was necessary to consent to the sale of every remaining garment and article of bedding to purchase tobacco for the use of the community.  The communism was complete.  Among the whole 500 there was no kind of private property, except a few filthy rags, donned as a concession p. 115to social prejudice.  A few old blankets held in common, with a hole in the middle for the head like a poncho, were used by those whose business took them into the yards.

In the Capitole itself every one lived in a state of nudity, and slept naked on the concrete floor, for the only hammock allowed was that of the “General,” who slept in the middle and allocated the lairs of his constituents.  To this end a rough sort of discipline was maintained, for whereas 500 men could sleep without much discomfort on a single floor in three tiers of hammocks, the actual floor space was insufficient for more than a third of that number of human bodies lying side by side.  At night, therefore, the Capitole must have been an extraordinary spectacle.  The floor was carpeted with nude bodies, all lying on the same side, so closely packed that it was impossible to get a foot between them.  At nightfall the “General” shouted “Fall in,” and the men ranged themselves in two lines facing one another.  At a second word of command, alternate files took two paces to the front and rear and closed inward, and at the word “Bas” they all lay down on their right sides.  At intervals during the night the “General” would cry “Pare à viser” (Attention!), “A Dieu, Va!” and they would all turn over.

From morning till night groups of Romans were to be seen raking the garbage heaps for scraps of offal, potato peelings, rotten turnips, and fish-heads, for though they drew their ration of soup at mid-day, they were always famishing, partly because the ration itself was insufficient, partly because they exchanged their rations with the infamous provision-buyers for tobacco, with which they gambled.  Pride was certainly not a failing of which they could be accused.  In the alleys between the tiers of hammocks on the floors below you might always see some of them lurking.  If a man were peeling a potato, a dozen of these wretches would be p. 116round him in a moment to beg for the peel; they would form a ring round every mess bucket, like hungry dogs, watching the eaters in the hope that one would throw away a morsel of gristle, and fighting over every bone.  Sometimes the continual state of starvation and cold did its work, and the poor wretch was carried to the hospital to die; but generally the bodies of the Romans acquired a toughened fibre, which seemed immune from epidemic disease.

Very soon after the occupation of the prison the Romans had received their nickname, and had been expelled from the society of decent men, for we find that, on August 15th, 1809, five hundred Romans received permission to pay a sort of state visit to No. 6 prison.  At the head of the procession marched their “General,” clad in a flash uniform made of blankets, embroidered with straw, which looked like gold lace at a distance.  Behind him capered the band—twenty grotesque vagabonds blowing flageolets and trumpets, and beating iron kettles and platters.  The ragged battalion marched in column of fours along the grass between the grille and the boundary wall without a rag on any of them but a breech clout, and they would have kept their absurd gravity till the end, had not a rat chanced to run out of the cookhouse.  This was too much for them; breaking rank, they chased it back into the kitchen, and the most nimble caught it and, after scuffling for it with a neighbour, tore it to pieces with his teeth and ate it raw.  The rest, with whetted appetites, fell upon the loaves and looted them.

The guard was called out, and the soldiers marched into the mêlée with fixed bayonets; but were immediately surrounded by the naked mob, disarmed with shouts of laughter, and marched off as prisoners towards the main gate amid cries of “Vive l’Empereur!”  Here they were met by Captain Cotgrave hurrying to the rescue at the head of a strong detachment.  The p. 117“General” of the Romans halted his men and made a mock heroic speech to the agent.  “Sir,” he said, striking a theatrical attitude, “we were directing our steps to your house to hand over to your care our prisoners and their arms.  This is only a little incidental joke as far as your heroic soldiers are concerned, who are now as docile as sheep.  We now beg you to order double rations to be issued as a reward for our gallantry, and also to make good the breach which we have just made in the provisions of our honourable hosts.”  Captain Cotgrave struggled with his gravity during this harangue, but the “General” had nevertheless to spend eight days in the cachot for his escapade, while his naked followers were driven back to their quarters with blows from the flat of the muskets.  For a long time after this the life of the soldiers was made miserable with banter, and they would bring their bayonets down to the charge whenever a prisoner feigned to approach them.

Strange as it may seem, there were among the Romans a number of young men of good family who were receiving a regular remittance from their friends in France.  When the quarterly remittance arrived, the young man would borrow a suit of clothes in which to fetch the money from the Agent’s office, and, having handed over £1 to the “General” to be spent in tobacco or potatoes for the community, would take his leave, buy clothes, and settle down in one of the other floors as a civilised being.  But a fortnight later the twenty-five louis would have melted away at the gaming-tables, clothes and bedding followed, and the prodigal would slink back to his old associates, who received him with a boisterous welcome.  During the brief intervals when he was clothed and in his right mind, many efforts were made by the decent prisoners to restrain him from ruin; but either the gambling fever or a natural distaste for restraint always proved too strong, and no instance of permanent reclamation in the prison is p. 118recorded.  It was otherwise when the Romans were restored to liberty.  One would think that such creatures—half-ape and half-hog—had finally cut themselves off from civilised society, and that they ended their lives in the slums and stews of Paris.  That this was not the case is the strangest part of this social phenomenon.  In the year 1829 an officer who had been in Dartmoor on forfeiture of parole attended mass in a village in Picardy, through which he happened to be passing.  The curé preached an eloquent and spiritual sermon, a little above the heads of his rural congregation.  One of his auditors was strangely moved, not by the matter of the sermon, but by vague reminiscences, gradually growing clearer, evoked by the features and gestures of the preacher.  So certain did he feel that he had last seen this suave and reverend priest raking an offal heap in the garb of Adam that he knocked at the sacristy door after the service.  The curé received him formally with the “to-what-do-I-owe-the-honour” manner.  “Were you not once a prisoner at the Depot of Dartmoor?”  The priest flushed to his tonsure and stammered, but at last faltered an affirmative, adding sadly that imprisonment was very harmful both to body and soul.

“Do you remember me?” the officer asked.

“Of course I do.  It was you who so often preached good morals to me.  It is a long time ago, and, as you see, God has worked a miracle in my soul.  Evil example and a kind of fatal attraction towards vice dragged me down; I was young then.  But do not let us talk of that horrible time, which I look upon as an incurable wound in my life.”  An invitation to dinner followed the interview, and the visitor noticed that his host was no anchorite in the matter of food and drink.  As he warmed with wine he became more confidential, and even a little scandalous, though he took occasion more than once to remind his guest that if in his youth his life had p. 119been shameful, at least he had the consolation of remembering that it was never criminal.  Nevertheless, in the later stages of the repast, there seemed to be a faint afterglow of the volcanic eruption of his youth when he lived in the “Capitole.”  This man had been one of those who had received regular remittances from his friends in France, and who, after a brief orgy at the gaming-tables, had rooted his way back to the swine-pen in the cockloft.  His parishioners affirmed him to be a man of great piety and open-handed charity.  They knew nothing of his past, and his guest was careful to respect his secret.

In August 1846 one of the highest administrative posts under Louis Philippe was filled by a man of great ability, one of those officials who are selected by the Press for flattering eulogium.  Yet he, too, had been a Roman, and there must have been many in France who knew that the breast then plastered with decorations had once been bare to the icy winds of Dartmoor.

In 1844 there was in Paris a merchant who had amassed a large fortune in trade.  His little circle of vulgar plutocrats was wearied with the stories of his war service and the leading part he had taken in the internal affairs of the war prison at Dartmoor.  He seemed quite to have forgotten that the “leading part” was an unerring nose for fish offal in the garbage heap, wherein he excelled all the other naked inmates of the “Capitole.”

As they grew in numbers, from being objects of commiseration the Romans became to be a terror to the community.  Theft, pillage, stabbings, and the darkest form of vice were practised among them almost openly.  Unwashed and swarming with vermin, they stalked from prison to prison begging, scavenging, quarrelling, pilfering from the provision carts, throwing stones at any that interfered with them.

It was this formidable body whose condition so p. 120shocked the Americans on their first arrival.  They were the analogues of the “Rough Alleys” in the American prison, but they were more bestial and less aggressive.

As it is not mentioned in the official records, let us hope that one horrible story, told by a French prisoner, is untrue.  He says that when the bakehouse was burned down on October 8th, 1812, and the prisoners refused to accept the bread sent in by the contractor, the whole prison went without food for twenty-four hours.  The starving Romans fell upon the offal heaps as usual, and when the two-horse waggon came in to remove the filth, they resented the removal of their larder.  In the course of the dispute, partly to revenge themselves upon the driver, partly to appease their famishing blood thirst, these wretches fell upon the horses with knives, stabbed them to death, and fastened their teeth in the bleeding carcases.  This horror was too much for the stomachs of the other prisoners, who helped to drive them off.

Occasionally the administration made an attempt to clothe them.  In April 1813, fourteen who were entitled to a fresh issue were caught, scrubbed from head to foot in the bath-house, deprived of their filthy rags, and properly clothed, but on the very next day they had sold every garment, and were again seen in the yards with nothing to cover their nakedness but the threadbare blanket common to the tenants of the “Capitole.”  In 1812 they were banished to No. 4 prison, and in order to keep them from annoying their fellow prisoners the walls were built which separated No. 4 and its yard from the rest of the prison, for it was hoped that where all were destitute, those who would sell their clothing, bedding and provisions would be unable to find a purchaser.  But though new hammocks and clothing were given to them by charitable French prisoners as well as by the Government, p. 121they disposed of them all through the bars of the gate and went naked as before.

Unquestionably, the greatest evil which Captain Cotgrave was called upon to face was the sale of rations.  Serious crime could safely be left to the prisoners themselves to punish, but this inhuman traffic was the business of nobody but the persons who indulged in it.

Each prisoner was served with rations every day, but if he chose to sell them instead of eating them, it was very difficult to interfere.  Certain prisoners set up shops where they bought the rations of the improvident and sold them again at a profit.  Gambling, of course, was at the bottom of the evil.  To get a penny or two to stake at the tables, men who had sold all their clothes would hypothecate their rations for several days, and, having lost, and knowing that to beg would be useless, they would sit down to starve, until, in the last stage of weakness, they were carried to the infirmary to die.  Sometimes these miserable creatures would forestall the end by hanging themselves to a hammock stanchion, rather than be forced out of their beds by the guards.

In February 1813, very much to their surprise, Captain Cotgrave clapped a few of the most notorious food buyers into the Cachot, and kept them there for ten days, on two-thirds allowance.  To their remonstrances he replied as follows:

To the Prisoners in the Cachot for Purchasing Provisions.

“The orders to put you on short allowance from the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Transport Board is for purchasing the provisions of your fellow prisoners, by which means numbers have died from want of food, and the hospital is filled with sick not likely to recover.  The number of deaths occasioned by this inhuman practice occasions considerable expense to the Government, p. 122not only in coffins, but the hospital filled with those poor unhappy wretches so far reduced from want of food that they linger a considerable time in the hospital at the Government’s expense, and then fall a victim to the cruelty of those who have purchased their provisions to the disgrace of Christians and whatever nation they belong to.

“The testimony of your countrymen and the surgeons prove the fact.”

But it was all to no purpose, and in the following month we find him appealing to the whole body of prisoners.

Notice to the Prisoners in General.”

“The infamous and horrible practice of a certain number of prisoners who buy the provisions of some evil-conducted and unfortunate of their fellow-countrymen, thereby tearing away from them the only means of existence they possess forces me to forewarn the whole of the prisoners that on the first appearance of a recurrence of this odious and abominable practice I shall, without any exception prevent any person from keeping shops in the prison, and I will stop the market.

“As it would be entirely against my wishes and inclination to have recourse to these violent measures, I strongly request of the well-conducted of the prisoners to use all their exertions to put a stop thereto.”

The threat was an empty one; the well-conducted prisoners discountenanced the practice, but the Romans bought and sold among themselves.

After their attack upon the American prisoners in July 1813, they were further isolated, by being confined to the small yard on the south side of No. 4 (now the separate cells yard).  For more than four years they had skulked about the yards by day, almost naked, p. 123exposed to the damp fogs of summer and the icy blasts of winter; had huddled by night upon a wet and filthy stone floor, had subsisted half-starved upon garbage until the wind seemed to blow through their skeleton ribs; had neglected every elementary law of sanitation, and yet, strange to relate, every succeeding epidemic had passed them by, and it was notorious throughout the prison that sickness was almost unknown among the Romans.  When General Stephenson and Mr. Hawker held their inquiry in 1813, the scandal of their mode of life was so great that the principal recommendation of the Commission was that “the prisoners calling themselves Romans” should be removed and compelled to live like human beings in some place where they could be kept under strict surveillance.  And so, on October 16th, 1813, the scarecrow battalion of 436 “Romans” was mustered at the gate, decently clothed, and marched under a strong escort to a prison hulk in Plymouth, and kept under strict discipline until the peace.  Fit products of the Terror these Romans, who as children may have hooted after the tumbrils in Paris, and shrieked with unholy glee as the boats went down in the Noyades under the quai at Nantes.



Ye, to your hot and constant task
      Heroically true,
Soldiers of Industry! we ask,
      “Is there no Peace for you?”

Lord Houghton, Occasional Poems.

It is a relief to turn over the last page of the chapter which illustrates the darkest side of the prison’s history, and to pass on to the consideration of what probably was the greatest solace which those in confinement experienced.  This was work.  Not the work done daily by the fatigue parties, but work by which the prisoners could earn something.  By far the largest amount of the earnings was money brought into the prison from without, of which a portion circulated in the prison, finding remunerative work for other inmates.  Much was spent in the market, and again left the prison, but a considerable amount accumulated in the hands of the thrifty, and sent the prisoners back to their own country all the richer for having been in Norman Cross.

Although remunerative is as a rule more attractive than unremunerative work, any work done by the prisoners must have been cheering and elevating to those condemned to the deadly monotony of an idle prison life.  To those gifted with artistic taste, the production of the thousands of specimens of beautiful and ingenious articles of value must have been a positive joy.

p. 125The work open to the industrious prisoners included that of an ordinary labourer, of a skilled artisan, and of a man with a trade, and ranged up to that of a teacher, an actor, an author, or an artist!

A complaint of the French Government was that the British did not employ their prisoners on works outside the walls, as the British were employed in France.  The answer to this is that the French male labour market was exhausted by the serious depletion due to conscription of the adult male population, and that the French Government, in the interests of France, gladly availed itself of the services of the British, under military surveillance, for public works, etc.  No such necessity pressed on the British; there was an ample supply of labour, and the introduction of competing gangs of prisoners of war would have led to trouble, and was in fact a domestic impossibility.  There were occasions when the prisoners were employed on large constructive works connected with their own prisons.  Dartmoor Chapel was built by the prisoners in 1810–14; the masons were paid 6d. a day, it being understood that the money should accumulate, and that should any workman escape, the whole of the pay due to the gang would be forfeited.  By this means every prisoner was made a warder over his fellows. [125]

They were also regularly employed in their prisons as labourers, and those who knew a trade as tradesmen.  From the accounts of Norman Cross Prison (which are scattered among various bundles, and difficult to find) has been selected the wage sheet for the midsummer quarter of 1789.  The total is £408 1s. 6d.; of this £13 7s. 6d. was paid to the Dutch, and £32 to the French prisoners employed as labourers.  Under the head of tradesmen’s bills for the same quarter are entered, French prisoners £35 3s. 4d.; Dutch prisoners £541 6s. 2d.  These sums represent the employment of a considerable number p. 126of men, as, the recipients being lodged and fed at the expense of the State, the wage each man received was very small, much below the normally low wage paid for labour at that date.  The accounts show that the practice of employing and paying the prisoners was in vogue in the first years of the Depot’s existence, and that it went on until its last year is shown in the report of Mr. William Fearnall, the surveyor, [126] who recommends certain repairs, and states that Captain Hanwell, the Agent, can find thirty-six carpenters, two pairs of sawyers, and three masons from among the prisoners.  Further, as already stated, the prisoners held several paid posts, such as cooks, nurses, hospital porters, and the like, within the prison walls.

Plate XI.—Work-box made by the French Prisoners of War at Norman Cross (Peterborough Museum)

In the sketch of the prison life, allusion has been made to the retail traders and merchants; there were also craftsmen—men who knew a trade—tailors, shoemakers, cooks, etc.  These carried on a business, their customers being their fellow prisoners.  The regulation made for the protection of the revenue and in the interests of our own workers, to the effect that in making slippers and shoes, they might use list, but no leather, must have applied only to articles made for sale outside.  The employments by which the prisoners earned money from outside and brought it into the prison have, perhaps, the greatest interest to us.  The greater part of this money was either transmitted for safe keeping to France or Holland, banked with the agent, or hoarded until the hoped-for day of release should come.

The industry, neatness of fingers, skill and artistic taste of the prisoners, enabled them to produce a great variety of ornamental and useful articles.  The materials used in these manufactures were usually very simple, but it has puzzled writers on the subject to account for the possession by the prisoners of the dyes with which they stained the straws used in their brightly coloured p. 127and delicately tinted marquetry decorative work.  One writer or imaginative person started the theory that the colours were all obtained from the tea served out to the prisoners, and this has been repeated in various literary notices on this subject, in magazines, newspapers, and other documents.  The reader may be spared the effort of trying to account for the loss of the art of extracting such colours from such a source, by recognising the fact that no tea was served out to a prisoner, except to those in the hospital, and that it would be far cheaper for the prisoners to buy the dyes in the outside market than to purchase tea—which was at that time a costly article used only by persons with good incomes—from which to extract these mythical dyes.

An entry in the diary of Archdeacon Strong, to whose model of the Block House allusion has already been made, suggests that the work was often bespoken, and that the dyes and other more expensive materials may have been paid for beforehand by the purchaser.  The entry is: “23rd October 1801—Drove Margaret to ye Barracks.  Bought the model of the Block House and provided the Mahogany.  £1 11s. 6d., sergt. 1s., man 1s., soldier 1s. 3d.”  The venerable gentleman’s diary contains other items throwing light on the price received by the prisoners for the fruit of their labours.  From one such entry we learn that the Archdeacon, in 1811, paid two guineas for a marquetry picture of the Minster, now the property of his grandson, Colonel Strong.

The straw undoubtedly was bought from outside, and there can be no doubt that what applied to this “raw product” applied to other material and to tools necessary for the production of the works, by the sale of which we have Commissioner Serle’s authority for the prevalent opinion that within a few years of their confinement many of the prisoners had made one hundred guineas.

The great speciality of the Norman Cross prisoners p. 128was straw marquetry work, in which they greatly excelled, producing beautiful pictures in straw, and manufacturing and decorating with varied, elaborate, and most artistic designs, cabinets, work-boxes, desks, tea-caddies, dressing-boxes, small boxes of various shapes, hand fire-screens, snuff-boxes, silk holders, etc., etc.  It would appear that occasionally the prisoners, skilled in this work, were applied to, to decorate with their marquetry, articles such as picture frames, etc.  There have recently been presented to the museum of the Peterborough Natural History and Antiquarian Society, by a friend, through Mr. C. Dack, the Curator, fourteen examples of straw marquetry work, among them a case containing a telescope which was bought at the sale of Captain John Kelly, son of Major Kelly, the last Brigade-Major at the barracks.  This resembles an ordinary telescope, except that the tube is covered by straw marquetry, the work of a prisoner, instead of the usual leather casing.

Plate XII.—Pair of Fire Screens decorated in Straw Marquetry (Peterborough Museum)

Plate XIII.—North-west View of Peterborough Cathedral, Executed in Straw Marquetry (Peterborough Museum)

The illustrations, which are reproductions of very perfect photographs taken by Mr. A. C. Taylor of articles in the museum, show more convincingly than any verbal description can, the beauty of the designs and the workmanship of the most artistic of these articles, although they fail to show the colour effects produced by the use of dyed straws.

In all there are in the museum 162 examples of straw work, almost all of them being marquetry.  There is one straw bonnet which was found in the roof of a house at Cottesmore, twenty-five miles from Norman Cross.  How it is identified as Norman Cross work the author does not know, but if made at Norman Cross, it was probably carried away surreptitiously by a smuggler and hidden until a safe opportunity for its sale offered itself.  The manufacture in the prison of hats and bonnets was forbidden.

Returning to the legitimate and more artistic work p. 129of the prisoners, it may be mentioned that the joinery and cabinet-makers’ work of the various articles made for decoration by the straw workers, most of it, as it is believed done in the prison, was of the best quality, and has made a durable base for the straw marquetry with which the experts overlaid them, in beautiful formal patterns with delicately coloured designs, human figures, birds, flowers, etc., interspersed.  Pictures on panel, in the same material, are also found in private houses in the neighbourhood, but the most beautiful are now in the museum.  One, a view of the west front of Peterborough Cathedral, bearing the name De la Porte as the artist who constructed it, has been already mentioned, and in the course of the researches made for the purpose of this history, the owner of the name has been identified with Corporal Jean De la Porte, one of the French heroes who on the 12th October 1805 fought against the British at Trafalgar, where Nelson died, but not before he had settled the question of our nation’s supremacy on the sea.  J. De la Porte was taken in L’Intrépide. [129]

p. 130Another manufacture carried on very extensively by the prisoners was bone work, the cooking-houses afforded the material, and in the Peterborough Museum alone are 256 examples of the work produced by the skill and industry of the prisoners in their manipulation of the bones of the animals which were killed for their ration (of these 256 articles, 33 were the gift of Mr. C. Dack’s friend already referred to).  With this material and the simplest tools were produced works, as a rule, more crude and of less artistic design than the works of the marquetry artists, but demanding skill, delicacy of touch, and untiring patience on the part of the artificer, who must in some instances have spent months and even years over their execution.  Such a work was that represented in the illustration.  It appears to represent a stage, on which are placed various figures.

Elaborately Carved Ornamental Design in Bone Work, Representing a Theatre, with Figures in Carved Bone on the Stage, the Work of the Norman Cross Prisoners of War.  Height 14 inches, base 9 inches square.  Peterborough Museum

The largest specimen in the museum of this class of work is the model of a large château, with various mechanically working figures.  It was presented by H. L. C. Brassey, M.P., on the recommendation of Mr. C. Dack, the curator of the museum, who says that he has evidence of its authenticity as a work of the Norman Cross prisoners.  There are nine beautiful models of ships, most elaborate models of the guillotine (Plate X, p. 102), crowded with little carved figures of soldiers, the victim, the executioner, etc.; watch-stands, domino boxes, many elaborately carved, a domino and cribbage box combined, containing cards, dice and teetotum; chessmen, fans, work-boxes, working-models of the spinning-jenny, and so on, down to tooth-picks, tobacco stoppers, apple scoops, and such small articles.

The desk in the illustration (Plate XV) is one of the 256 articles made from bone which are in the Peterborough Museum.

Plate XV.—Desk made from the Bones obtained from the Cook-house by the French Prisoners of War at Norman Cross (Peterborough Museum)

The group of figures on a platform (Plate XVI, Fig. 1), is one of many such mechanical toys or ornaments p. 131known to the author.  This is beautifully preserved, having been kept in the box in which it was purchased for many years.  When the lower wheel below the platform is turned, by an arrangement of the threads passing over the wheels, the various figures move, the lady in the centre turns the winding-wheel, the child moves forward, the soldier and the lady waltz, the mother tosses her baby, turning her head to look at it, while the lady on the left prepares the tea.  The owner of this ornament is the grandson of its purchaser.

Some of the bone articles have parts that have been turned; one of the minor exhibits is a pair of turned cribbage pegs.  This work does not prove that there was a lathe in the prison.  The prisoner who made the carved cribbage box would easily get the turned pegs finished off outside.

Another material in which the prisoners worked was horn, but the examples are few.  H. Akin, late Secretary of the Society of Arts, writing on “Horn and Tortoise-shell,” [131a] says, “Another branch of industry practised by the prisoners was horn work, and here again the artistic ingenuity of the French was manifest at Norman Cross.  (The solid tips were made into handles, buttons, ornaments, etc.)  Of the long pieces, after certain processes the principal uses were for combs, the chief manufactury of which was at Kenilworth, but combs ornamented with open work were not made in England, on account of the expense, being imported in great quantities from France.” [131b]  The passage quoted shows that at the date it was written (1840) the Norman Cross bone work was well known.  The specimens in the Museum are very few; they include horn fans, three p. 132of which were a part of the gift of Mr. Dack’s friend.

Of articles made from wood there are but few in the museum.  The most important is a beautifully carved figure of a Roman warrior, 11 inches high on a bone carved pedestal; others are models of the Block House (Plate III, p. 22), models of ships, domino and other boxes, and one wooden block with the name Louis Chartiée (sic) carved in relief.  This will be referred to later on.  It will be remembered that M. Charretie (whose name was not always spelt correctly, even in official documents) was the commissary for the French prisoners in England in the early days of Norman Cross.

Plate XVI, Fig. 1.—Mechanical Bone Work Group of Moving Figures on Platform and Pedestal.  Figs. 2 and 3.—Groups of Flowers in Paper Work (Peterborough Museum)

One other material in which the French prisoners worked was paper.  It was used to make artificial flowers, and there are two examples in the museum (Plate XVI, Fig. 2).  One, a group representing roses, sweet peas, passion flowers, a most valuable specimen, was among the gifts of Mr. C. Dack’s friend; the other (Plate XVI, Fig. 3) was presented by the late Dr. L. Cane of Peterborough, and has an authentic history.  Another form in which paper was used was its application in strips, one eighth of an inch wide, of stiff, gold-edged or coloured paper, to a surface prepared with flanges, projecting to the exact width of the strip; the latter was wound on its cut edge in a pattern of graceful curves, the cut edge being glued to the wood or other material forming the base and the gilt edge being left on the surface.  In order to complete the pattern, the interstices left between the convolutions were at various parts of the design filled with solidly rolled strips of coloured paper, giving the appearance of cloisonnée work; at other parts a different device was adopted to give variety, a plate of tinfoil, cut to the shape of a leaf or other pattern, was fixed on the foundation before the coils of paper were glued to it, the p. 133reflection giving the appearance of mother-of-pearl. [133a]  A pair of wine slides and a box are the only specimens of the work in the museum, but three other examples, all of them tea-caddies, are known to the writer. [133b]

The collection in the Peterborough Museum embraces 450 articles manufactured by the prisoners of war, but possibly not all at Norman Cross.  It is probably the largest and finest collection in the world, although the model of the Norman Cross Depot in the Musée de l’Armée, Hôtel des Invalides, Paris, excels, both in its size and in the multiplicity of its detail, any one object in the Peterborough Museum.  A photograph of this beautiful model (Plate XX, p. 251) is reproduced in the final chapter of this work, where it naturally finds a place, as it represents the departure of the first detachment of the freed prisoners at the final closing of the Depot.  The size of the model will be appreciated from the measurements of each of the caserns, which are as follows: length 169 millimetres, approximately 7 inches; width 70 millimetres, approximately 3 inches; height, from ground to eave, 9 centimetres, approximately 4½ inches.

The workers in straw did not confine their attention to these works of art, they also manufactured straw p. 134hats and bonnets, although this handicraft was forbidden from the earliest years of the prison’s existence.  The manufacture of straw plait was not forbidden until a later date.  There was good reason for these interdicts.  This branch of trade was a staple industry of the neighbouring counties of Bedford and Hertford, and to a less extent of Huntingdonshire and Northamptonshire, and the prisoners who were fed by the State were competing on advantageous terms with those who had to contribute to their maintenance, but, worse than this, in the eyes of the Government, they were actually defrauding the Revenue.  As the war continued year after year, fresh articles had to be taxed to find the funds for carrying it on.  In his Budget speech on 5th April 1802, the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded to the Schedule of 5,000 articles liable to duty. [134a]  Among these were straw hats and bonnets. [134b]

Various accounts have been given of the part which was taken by the outside accomplices of the prisoners, some speaking of their smuggling the plait in, and others of their smuggling it out.  That they did smuggle in “the Straw Manufactured for the purpose of being made into Hats, Bonnets, etc., by which the Revenue of our country is injured, and the poor who exist by that branch of trade would be turned out of employ,” is proved by Sir Rupert George’s letter, [134c] printed in a report to the House of Commons.  In this letter the Commissioner of the Transport Office goes on to say, “I must observe that this, the manufactured straw plait is the only article which the prisoners are prevented from manufacturing.”  This letter is dated 19th p. 135March 1808; its discovery destroys an illusion which the inscription publicly displayed in the Town of Luton, beneath Mr. Arthur Cooke’s beautiful picture, would establish, if its historical accuracy were not disproved.

The picture hangs in the Free Library of Luton, with the following inscription attached:

“Plait Merchants trading with the French Prisoners of War at Yaxley 1806–1815.  Painted by A. C. Cooke.  Presented to the Town of Luton by J. C. Kershaw, Esq.”

In those years, Sir Rupert George’s letter, which only came to light in 1909, after the picture was painted, proves (without further evidence) that the trade was illicit, that no such open dealing could have taken place at that time, that it was an underground trade, carried on by the help of middlemen and outside accomplices. [135]  The gesticulating Frenchman and the keen, critical merchant at that time never met; between the one in the prison and the other miles away came the old woman, to be mentioned directly, and others like her.  Soldiers, the guards of the mail coaches, innkeepers, p. 136hostlers, and tradesmen in Stilton and elsewhere were not above purchasing the smuggled goods and disposing of them to the Luton merchants.

Plate XVII.—Plait Merchants trading with the French Prisoners of War at Norman Cross, Hunts.  Photogravure of painting by A. C. Cooke, Esq., and reproduced here by the kind permission of the artist

The existence of Macgregor’s plan of the Depot, and various documents examined in the Record Office, also show that the date affixed to the picture makes it an historical anachronism, the market in the years named being held outside the brick wall surrounding the prison, out of sight of any stockade fencing, and with permanent stalls of brick and slate built against the wall in the eastern embrasure.  In the earlier days of the Depot’s existence, although the sale of straw hats and bonnets was forbidden, such a scene as that depicted might possibly have been witnessed.  Mr. Cooke will doubtless insist on the prompt alteration of the dates in the inscription describing the picture.

The artist has kindly permitted the writer to introduce here a photogravure of this work of art.  The typical figures alive on the canvas each telling its own tale, the beautiful grouping, and the background in which they are placed, present to the eye of the reader what this work strives to convey to his mind in words.  An artist’s licence doubtless sanctions the introduction of a tree, the light open-paled fence, instead of the stockade posts and other minor details which conflict with the precise ideas arrived at by the writer, who feels constrained to notice these little inaccuracies.

Included in the Public Revenue Accounts for 1798, [136] among the returns of produce are specified:

Chip hats




Straw hats



On the 18th March 1806 the House of Commons resolved to go into committee to consider the question of charging a duty on imported straw plait.  After formal stages, it was resolved, 26th June, to levy a duty p. 137of 7s. per lb. avoirdupois of plaiting for hats or bonnets, £1 16s. on every dozen hats or bonnets not exceeding 22 inches in diameter, £3 12s. on every dozen exceeding 22 inches in diameter.  The Act received the royal assent on the 10th July.  After this date the sale of straw plait was interdicted as had previously been the sale of hats, the hats and the plait made at Norman Cross being alike regarded as foreign productions and liable to tax.

In official documents constant reference is made to this traffic in the plait as illegal and defrauding the Revenue.

George Borrow’s eloquent description of “the straw plait hunts” (poor little ten-year-old George Borrow—his sympathetic soul went out to the captives!) has helped to throw the glamour of romance over the irregular proceedings of the Frenchmen, whom we were maintaining in our prisons, and whom we would gladly have restored to their own country if only we could be met on fair terms.

Persons in the neighbourhood, soldiers from the barracks, and others were accessories in the illicit trade in straw plait.  They would conceal it about their persons, wrap it round their bodies, etc.  They assisted in two ways, they helped to get the straw into the prison and to carry the manufactured article out. [137]

Although the interdict on the traffic was issued even before the articles were taxed, in the interests of the trade and of the workers in the district, so profitable was the illicit traffic to those who took part in it, that the fact that they were interfering with the living of their own countrymen and women had no deterrent effect, and such was the influence of the merchants p. 138and the various persons in the neighbourhood engaged in the trade that it was difficult to get convictions.  To get the straw ready cut into proper lengths into the hands of the prisoners was doubtless more easy than to get a sack of straw thrown over the prison wall, carried across the open spaces up to the inner stockade fence, and again thrown over them into the court of the caserns.  This proceeding must have needed several soldier accomplices, some giving active assistance and others closing their eyes to what was going on.  These men, when detected, had severe punishment, receiving as many as 500 lashes.  Three civilians tried at Huntingdon for being engaged in the traffic in 1811 were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, one for twelve and the two others for six months.

That the trade in straw plait was an extensive one, and that the prisoners effected an improvement both in the character of the plait and the method of producing it, are almost universally accepted facts.  In Davis’ History of Luton, pp. 152–3, is a small section which, although written under the mistaken conception that the French prisoners were at Norman Cross only about eight years—1806–14—and that the merchants during that period went to the barracks to purchase the plait, is probably correct in saying that the trade is indebted to these prisoners for the invention of the simple machine for splitting the straw from which such great and beautiful varieties of plait are made.  There are two descriptions of machines called splitters.

The writer of an article in Chambers’ Journal, [138] after instancing industries introduced at various places where they were confined by the prisoners of war, such as the knitting worsted gloves at Chesterfield, goes on to say:

“At Norman Cross they revolutionised the straw p. 139plaiting trade.  Up to their time the straw was plaited whole and called ‘Dunstable,’ but it was a case of necessity being the mother of invention.  Their supply not being equal to the demand, one of them invented the ‘splitter.’  This consists of a small wheel, inserted in a mahogany frame, and furnished in the centre with small sharp divisions like spokes.  From the axle a small spike protrudes, on which a straw pipe is placed and pushed through, the cutters or spokes dividing it into as many strips as required.  By this contrivance the plait could be made much finer, the strips could be used alternately with the outside and inside, or even the inside alone, which is white, and is known in the trade as ‘rice’ straw.”

For a full description of this little implement called the splitter, the reader is referred to the article, “Straw Plaiting and French Prisoners,” by Maberly Phillips, F.S.A., The Connoisseur, vol. xxvii., No. 105.

There are in the Peterborough Museum three examples of different varieties of straw splitters.  The neat splitting of the straw was possibly not an invention of the prisoners, although it may have come from France.  If it were, it is likely that it was not originally contrived for the manufacture of straw plait, but for the straw used in the marquetry, for which purpose it had to be most carefully prepared, and much of it dyed, with material bought in the market.

From the first opening of the prison, straw work was carried on, although in going through the copy in the Record Office of the register of deaths of those who died in the prison, the late Mr. W. B. Sands, Secretary to the association “L’entente cordiale,” and Mrs. Sands, the present acting Secretary, found that very few of the prisoners, whose names and native places were there entered, came from districts in France where this industry was prevalent.  So long as the work was confined p. 140to ornamental articles, which paid no import duty, it was allowed, but as early as June 1798 an order was issued prohibiting the introduction of any more straw for the manufacture of hats, and ten years later, in June 1808, there is a record that the general market was put under severe restrictions owing to the illicit traffic in straw.  This restriction evidently pressed harshly upon the marquetry workers, for we find, on the 11th November 1808, a letter from the Admiralty Board, saying that “If the manufacture of Plait could be effectually prevented, it is not our wish to prohibit the Prisoners from making baskets, boxes, or such like articles of straw.  The Prisoners might purchase wool and make frocks, for their own use; if any should be sold, a stop was to be put to the manufacture.”

On the 20th March 1809 a shop was opened for each building, with two prisoners as salesmen, all articles being marked with the price and the owner’s name.  The salesmen were to be searched going and returning, and if any prohibited article were found, the shops were to be closed.  In July of the same year, notwithstanding the precautions, the illicit traffic was so rampant that stringent orders were issued to entirely close one quadrangle for a month.  This was in consequence of the Admiralty having intercepted a letter enclosing a £10 bill, the proceeds of a sale at Thame of illicit articles made by the prisoners at Norman Cross.

The sympathies of the outside public appear to have been with those who made the plait and those who sold it contrary to the law, as was usually the case in the districts on the coast where smugglers carried on their trade.  The number of those actually engaged in the traffic and making profit out of it was no doubt very considerable.  A trial which took place at Huntingdon in 1811 shows the number of hands through which a packet of plait went before it reached the Luton bonnet p. 141makers.  Four Stilton men, one the ostler at the Bell Inn, who had acted as intermediaries between the Luton merchants and the prisoners, had bribed the soldier who came in contact with the prisoners to take packets of straw cut to the proper length into the prison, and to bring the manufactured plait out; they were all four convicted and punished.  Whether the soldier, who was acting in defiance of a special order by the Duke of York, escaped punishment is not known; they were paid by the Stilton men a shilling for getting the straw in and another for getting the plait out.  The merchants, no doubt, took care to escape the hands of the law.

Plate XVIII.—The Bell Inn, Stilton.  From a photograph by Mr. A. C. Taylor

In The Stamford Mercury of 12th February 1812 are related the particulars of an outrage on Sergeant Ives of the West Essex Militia at that time stationed at the Depot.  He was stopped between Stilton and Norman Cross by a number of men, knocked down and robbed of his watch and money, his jaws were wrenched open and a piece of his tongue cut off.  It was said that the sergeant had been active in stopping the plait trade and that this led to the outrage.  Another possible explanation of this outrage is suggested in a later chapter on the health of the prisoners.

The Bishop of Moulins, of whom more shortly, was living at Stilton, and although he has been raised by tradition to a very exalted position of righteousness, he got into trouble by allowing his servant to become an outside agent for those engaged in this illicit traffic.  The good Bishop applied to the Government for another young prisoner to take the place of Jean Baptiste David, and, his request being refused, he pressed into his service the intercession of Lord Fitzwilliam, who had already befriended him in other ways.  The letter from Mr. Commissioner George, to the Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, throws light not only on the particular case of the Bishop, but on this question of the straw p. 142plait manufacture in general, and it is therefore transcribed at length in the text.

Transport Office,
“19th March 1808.

Dear Sir,

“In answer to what is stated in Lord Fitzwilliam’s letter to Lord Mulgrave, I request you will inform His Lordship that the Bishop of Moulins was introduced to me by the Bishop of Montpellier, and at his request I prevailed on my colleagues to release a Prisoner of War from Norman Cross Prison, to attend upon him; this I am sorry to acknowledge was irregular and unauthorised, but I was actuated by motives of humanity as the Bishop complained that his finances were so limited, that he could not afford to keep any servant of a different description.  This should have influenced the Bishop to keep his servant from carrying on any improper traffic with the Prisoners; on the contrary he became the instrument of introducing straw manufactured to the prisoners, for the purpose of being made into hats, bonnets, etc., by which the Revenue of our country is injured, and the poor who exist by that branch of trade would be turned out of employment, as the Prisoners who are fed, clothed, and lodged at the public expense would be able to undersell them.  I must observe that this is the only article which the Prisoners are prevented from manufacturing.  When the Bishop’s servant had established himself in their trade, the Bishop wrote to me that he had found means of getting his livelihood and desired he might remain at large, and that another prisoner might be released to serve him, neither of which the Board thought proper to comply with, for the foregoing reasons, upon which the Bishop of Moulins complained to the Admiralty, who directed us to give such answer as the case called for.  I have only to add that the Bishop experienced greater indulgence from us than any other French p. 143Ecclesiastic ever did, to which, in my opinion, he has not made an adequate return, nor felt himself, as he ought to have done, answerable for the conduct of his servant, and if a strict discipline is not maintained in the prisons, as the prisoners are daily increasing the consequences may be incalculable,

“I am, Dear Sir,
“Very faithfully yours,
Rupert George.

“Captain Morson.”

It was George Borrow who, in the third chapter of Lavengro, published in 1851, reintroduced the Norman Cross Depot to the British public.  A generation had passed away since the buildings were rased to the ground, and of the living inhabitants of these islands, only a very few knew that such a place had ever existed.

In the striking passage, which has been quoted in full in a former chapter, page 33, Borrow conveyed the impression that “England, in general so kind and bountiful,” was guilty of disgraceful conduct in her treatment of the French prisoners, and that the suppression of the illicit straw-plait trade was associated with ruthless inroads into the prison accompanied by acts of callous cruelty.

George Borrow’s father, Thomas Borrow, a Lieutenant in the West Norfolk Militia, was quartered at Norman Cross from July 1811 to April 1813.  His little son George, born in 1803, spent his ninth and tenth years in the barracks, and in those years he received the impressions which led him to publish this passage forty years later.

By a curious coincidence the agent, who, during the two years in which the child was making his personal observations, practically ruled the Depot, and carried out the necessary steps to suppress the traffic in straw plait, had his record cut in stone at the actual time p. 144when the events recorded in Lavengro took place.  On the wall of St. Peter’s Church, Yaxley, is a marble tablet with this legend:

“Inscribed at the desire and the sole expense of the French Prisoners of War at Norman Cross to the memory of Captain John Draper, who for the last eighteen months of his life was Agent to the Depot, in testimony of their esteem and gratitude for his humane attention to their comfort during that too short period, he died Feb. 23, 1813, aged 53 years.”

Was ever a calumny more absolutely disproved than is this aspersion of George Borrow’s upon the fair fame of his country, by the testimony of the very persons whom he said she had maltreated and whose evidence, cut in stone at their desire and sole expense at the very time the boy was in the barracks, appeals to us from that marble slab?

This manufacture of straw plait went on not only at Norman Cross, but in the other prisons, the manufacturers being no doubt assisted by all their comrades in captivity to elude the efforts of the authorities to stop the traffic.  The following amusing incident, narrated in Penny’s Traditions of Perth, is retold by Mr. William Sievwright: [144]

“As much straw plait as made a bonnet was sold for four shillings, and being exceedingly neat it was much enquired after.  In this trade many a one got a bite, for the straw was all made up in parcels, and smuggled into the pockets of purchasers for fear of detection.  The following is an instance of the manner in which the prisoners practised their deceptions.  An unsuspecting man having been induced by his wife to purchase a quantity of straw plait for a bonnet, he attended the p. 145market, and soon found a merchant; he paid the money, but lest he should be observed, he turned about his back to the seller and got the thing slipped into his hand, and then into his pocket.  Away he went with his parcel, well pleased that he had escaped detection.  On his way he thought he would examine his purchase, when, to his astonishment, and no doubt his deep mortification, he found instead of straw plait, a bundle of shavings very neatly tied up.  The man instantly returned and charged the prisoners with the deception and insisted on getting back his money, but the man could not be seen from where the purchase was made.  Whilst hanging on to catch a glimpse of him, he was told that if he did not get away he would be informed on and tried for buying the article.  Seeing that there was no chance of getting amends, he was retiring, when one came forward and said he would find the man, and make him take back the shavings, and get the money.  Pretending deep commiseration, the prisoner said he had no change, but if he would give him sixteen shillings, he would give him a pound note and take his chance of the man.  The unfortunate ‘shavings’ dupe was simple enough to give the money and take the note, thinking himself well off to get quit of his purchase, but to his supreme chagrin he found the note to be a well-executed forgery on the Perth Bank.”

After this story, what further need is there to seek evidence of the cleverness, the versatility, the neat-handedness, and the dexterity of the French prisoners!

In all the prisons, forgery of bank-notes was a business to which the captives applied their skill, and the fate of two who practised this art at Norman Cross has already been alluded to.  The straw plait industry, which probably originated at Norman Cross, would be passed on with the transferred prisoners to Perth and other prisons.  Great embarrassment having arisen p. 146from the increase of French prisoners, who numbered in 1811 50,000 (Norman Cross being greatly overcrowded with nearly 7,000), the Depot at Perth was built, and in 1812 the first prisoners were admitted.

As another instance of the frivolous character of the complaints made by the French Government as to our treatment of the prisoners, it may here be mentioned that the detention of sailors in such a situation was made the subject of loud and frequent complaint by the French Emperor, who said in the Moniteur that “by a refinement of cruelty the English Government sends the French soldiers on board the hulks, and the sailors into prisons in the interior of Scotland.”  Alison alludes to this in his history, [146a] and in a footnote he adds:

“The great Depot for French Prisoners in Scotland, which Napoleon held out as so deplorable a place of detention, was a noble edifice erected at a cost of nearly £100,000 in a beautiful and salubrious situation near Perth on the Tay, which was in 1839 converted into a great central jail for criminals.  It contained 7,000 prisoners, and so healthy was the situation, the lodging, and the fare, that the mortality, only five or six annually, was less than the average for healthy adults in Great Britain.” [146b]

Among the prisoners at Norman Cross were men who, before their enrolment in the French or Dutch army or navy, were workers, skilled in branches of industry unknown in England, and there is a record that, on the 5th April 1808, the agent was instructed to send a French prisoner, Louis Félix Paris, to London, as he was an expert in the “ormolu business.”  To meet the expense, two £1 Bank of England notes were sent.

p. 147The application by the French prisoners at Norman Cross of their skill to the felonious forging of bank-notes has already been alluded to.  So cleverly did they manage this, that it is said, that the only way in which the forgery could be detected was by wetting the notes and observing the different behaviour of the ink used by them and that used by the printers of genuine notes.

A writer in All the Year Round (1892, pp. 41–3) remarks that “when the £1 note was introduced in the last decade of the eighteenth century, forgery from the first was the great trouble, and the hasty manner in which the notes were engraved and issued greatly facilitated the operations of the forger.”  In The Bankers’ Magazine, vol. lxvii., pp. 390–410, [147] is an article by J. Macbeth Forbes, “French Prisoners of War and Bank Note Forging,” in which is an illustration of a partially executed forgery of a Guinea Note of the Bank of Scotland.  Another illustration is that of the words “BANK OF SCOTLAND” carved on a bone by the prisoners in Edinburgh, the letters measuring ⅞ inch, but so rough and irregular are these, that, even if they were successfully reproduced, they could hardly have deceived a simpleton, much less a Pawky Scot.  This block might have been an early effort to make a tool for imitating the water-mark; the type is not reversed, so it cannot have been a stamp for printing.  It is possible, however, that bone was the material used for type by the Norman Cross forgers.  The deft fingers which executed many of their legitimate works of art were sufficiently skilled to carve an imitation of a £1 note.

The resemblance of the oak block with the name “Louis Chartie” carved on it to that referred to in The Bankers’ Magazine, suggests the possibility of its having been a tool for one step in the process of forging M. Charretie’s name.

p. 148The fact that the prisoners were able to have in their possession, and to use a plant and tools necessary for such a trade as forging, illustrates the absence of any but a very casual supervision of the thousands of prisoners concentrated in the four courts of the prison.

One would gladly pass over another illegal traffic which was with difficulty suppressed.  To the disgrace of those British purchasers whose depraved tastes made it worth the while of the prisoners to expend their ingenuity on the production of obscene pictures and carvings, it must be mentioned that an illicit, secret trade in such articles was carried on at Norman Cross.  At one time in the year 1808 the trade in such goods, clandestinely made and sold, reached such a pitch that respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood complained to the Transport Commissioners, and on the 18th December an order was issued totally closing the market.  It was a severe punishment, as it at once stopped the supply of all the little necessaries, luxuries, and comforts the prisoners could obtain—the vegetables, sugar, condiments, tobacco, beer, clothing, which they were in the habit of purchasing—and it also stopped the sale of their legitimate manufactures.  The offence merited such a punishment, and the practice had to be stopped.

The order pointed out that the innocent had to suffer with the guilty, “If they connive at such scandalous proceedings they themselves can no longer be considered free from blame, but if they give the names of those who make or sell the toys and drawings the market will again be opened.”  Prisoners’ letters were intercepted, and a Corporal Hayes of the garrison and a prisoner known as Black Jimmy were found to be concerned in the traffic.  Many articles were seized, and Black Jimmy and others were sent to the hulks at Chatham—such scum were among the men to whom Buonaparte appealed on the eve of Waterloo to tell their comrades how they had suffered in the British hulks.

p. 149In the course of the investigations undertaken with a view to the suppression of this vicious manufacture, it was found that those outside the prison who shared in the profits of the smuggling trade in straw plait, became sufficiently demoralised to assist the makers of these obscene articles in the disposal of their goods, sharing with them the profits of the business.  It was probably in the sacks of straw, smuggled in by the accomplices of the prisoners, that the weapons discovered in the prison were introduced.

Before leaving the subject of the employment of the prisoners, we must again remind our readers that the inmates performed the fatigue duties of their prisons, and that there were other distractions besides, which we have attempted to show in the imaginary views of the life of the quadrangles given in the last chapter.

As to the conduct of the captives, although it has been necessary in the interests of truth to show the seamy side of the prison life, it must in fairness be said that their general conduct was good.

Deeds of violence did occur at times, as was only natural in a community circumstanced and constituted as was this crowd of prisoners of war; such deeds were, however, apparently rare.  Some instances with a fatal termination are culled from entries in the register of deaths.  “A seaman, aged twenty-three, killed from a blow in Prison by the following Black Man”—the next entry being one of a prisoner born in Dominique—“who hung himself in the Black Hole”; this man, “born in Dominique,” being undoubtedly the Black Man of the previous entry.  “A soldier, a French prisoner, killed by one Jean François Pors in self-defence as the verdict at Coroner’s inquest.”  A sailor, captured at Trafalgar, “shot by a sergeant of the West Essex Militia, verdict by Coroner’s Inquest, Chance Medley.”  As to this entry, is it not probable that this sergeant of the West Essex Militia was the victim of the outrage reported in p. 150The Stamford Mercury, 12th February 1812, and that the chance medley may have been a struggle over a bundle of straw plait.  In another entry death is occasioned by a stab from one of the prisoners accidentally; this might well have been a death in a duel, the witnesses of the duel, to exculpate the man who gave the fatal wound, giving evidence which satisfied the authorities that the stab was accidental.

Duels were not infrequent, the weapons usually extemporised from knives which were fastened to sticks, or swords made out of sharpened hoop-iron or other similar material; and although there is no definite entry of a death as occurring in a duel, it is more than probable that the above entry as to the soldier killed by one Jean François Pors in self-defence is a euphemistic way of expressing that he was killed in a duel, and that this was the usual form of verdict on the victim of a fatal duel.  The entries in the registers and in the certificates cannot be accepted as evidence disproving the statements of those who say that such deaths occurred, as there is good reason to believe that neither the registers nor the certificates were at certain periods of the war kept with sufficient accuracy to render them as valuable sources of information as they should have been.  And in the event of a violent death, necessitating an inquest, at which the jury pronounces and the coroner records the cause of death, it was not improbable that the prison surgeon’s certificate, confirmed by the signature of the agent, would be missing from the records.  Mention has already been made of the imperfection and hopeless incompleteness of the registers in the Record Office.

As might have been expected, there were many suicides some of them while insane, and other violent deaths are recorded which do not imply misconduct of any kind.  Several prisoners were shot in attempts to escape.  Inquests were held in all such cases, but the usual verdict p. 151was “Justifiable homicide,” or “No criminality,” and the case went no further than the coroner’s court.  In some instances the sentries were brought before a civil tribunal, this probably depending on whether the death took place within the precincts of the prison or outside.

Inquests were held in the following cases.  One night in 1812, a prisoner carrying a bucket asked leave to pass a sentry on guard at one of the inner gates (that of the Court in front of the casern, in which the prisoners were confined after sunset), saying that he wanted to get some water.  He apparently passed through, and threw the contents of the bucket, which was actually full of water at the time, into the face of the sentry, who dropped his firelock; the prisoner picked it up, and unscrewed and ran off with the bayonet.  The sentry, taking up the firelock, fired and severely wounded the prisoner, who for some reason or other was taken not to the prison hospital, but to the Huntingdon Infirmary, where he died.  The sentry was tried for manslaughter and acquitted.

At the Hunts Lent Assizes 1812, Timothy Wood, aged thirty-three, was tried for shooting a French prisoner of war at Norman Cross, the Grand Jury finding no true bill.  The victim was probably the man whose certificate, one among a bundle of fifty-six, registers as the cause of death, “Wound, Manslaughter, verdict by Coroner’s inquest.”  The prisoner may actually have died outside the Depot, for the date corresponds with the probable date when the mother of the donor to the Peterborough Museum of the wine slides with paper decoration saw the prisoner shot as he was scaling the boundary wall.  He probably dropped on the outside.

Among the causes of accidental death are several entries, “Fall from hammock”; these cases, there is too much reason to fear, were those of the poor debilitated, starving prisoners—victims, according to the p. 152French, of British cruelty, according to the British, of their own vice.  Commissioner Serle was sent down to ascertain what foundation there was for the French complaints, and he reports as follows:

“I have been informed by some who are most qualified to know, that the French prisons have never had so few sick as at the present time.  Some, indeed, who had sported away their allowance in gambling, to prevent which the agents have taken every precaution in their power, are in fact destitute enough, and so they might have been, if their ration had been ten times as great.”  (Commissioner Serle, 25th July 1800.)

These instances will throw as much light on this side of the prison life as if they were multiplied indefinitely.

Escapes and attempts to escape occurred, as might be expected, during the whole eighteen years of the occupation of the prison.  From the records, chiefly paragraphs in local papers, actual escapes or mere attempts to escape do not appear to have been as numerous as in other prisons, which were nearer the coast.  The stockade fencing and the wooden buildings (even the central fort, the Block House, was only wood) gave little idea of strength, and the fence round one of the quadrangles, when on one occasion put to the test, did not withstand a united effort of the prisoners who effected a breach, but the strong military force, the judicious disposition of the guards, and the numerous sentries must have impressed the prisoners with the hopelessness, when once within those lines, of attempting to penetrate through to the fields beyond, where again they had to encounter the inhabitants, who, for the sake of the reward offered, would endeavour to recapture them.  This reward, paid to their captors, was actually paid by themselves, for it will be remembered that among the p. 153regulations posted in the prison, was one to the effect, that any prisoner who shall be taken attempting to escape, shall have his ration reduced, until the amount saved by such reduction shall have made good any expense incurred in his recapture.

In 1804, and again in 1807, after periods of increasing insubordination among the prisoners, combined attempts to escape were made.  On the earlier date there were not more than some 3,000 prisoners at the Depot, and on one day in October the whole of these were in a state of tumult.  The riot began in the morning, and by noon the disorder had reached such a pitch that the Brigade-Major thought it advisable to send to Peterborough for assistance, specifying the need of cavalry to scour the country in case a body of prisoners broke out.  A troop of the yeomanry, who had been having a field day, had not been dismissed, and instantly galloped to Norman Cross, to be followed later by the rest of the yeomanry and the volunteer infantry.  During the night a portion of the wooden enclosure was broken down, and nine prisoners escaped; when daylight broke, it was discovered that the prisoners had excavated a tunnel thirty-four feet towards the North Road, under the ditch, but not quite far enough to answer their purpose.  Four of those who escaped got clear off, five were recaptured.

The engineering work for the construction of the tunnel must have taken a long time; the soil is clay, but how such material, carried out in pocketfuls and scattered about over the airing-court, not much more than two acres in extent, can have escaped the eye of the turnkeys, the doctors, and other officials, will ever remain a mystery.  If the word “pré,” used by Foulley in his description of each court, may be literally translated as “meadow,” implying that, the airing-courts, except where they were paved for a space immediately within the boundary fence, were covered p. 154with grass, it is quite conceivable that the scattering of the soil, skilfully carried out, would scarcely be noticeable.

The other attempt in 1807 occurred on 25th September, when 500 of the prisoners, between ten and eleven at night, rushed simultaneously against the interior paling of the prison and levelled one angle of it to the ground.  From forty to fifty were severely wounded by the bayonet before they were driven back; happily firearms were not used.  It was after this incident, showing the feebleness of the interior paling, that the brick wall was erected in place of the outer wooden fence.

A letter written in 1798, by the agent, Mr. Perrot, to the Transport Officer, Captain Woodriff, illustrates some of the difficulties encountered in this large and understaffed prison by the agent and others holding responsible posts.  A rumour having reached Mr. Perrot’s ears that on a certain day an attempt was to be made by seven prisoners to escape from the south-eastern quadrangle, he had the usual count made that night, and special counts twice on the following day, but the irregularities in the response to the roll-call rendered it futile for detecting any deficiency in the numbers.  To overcome the difficulty, Mr. Perrot at 5 a.m. took all his clerks, a turnkey, and a file of soldiers into that quadrangle, and had a separate muster of those confined within the separate court of each of the four caserns; he thus discovered six prisoners had escaped from the officers’ prison.  How they escaped was not discovered.  In one fence a pale had been removed, and probably bribery had overcome the other obstacles.  Any soldier or other person about the prison who could be convicted of receiving a bribe or even treating with a prisoner on the subject of an escape was severely punished, soldiers having received 500 lashes for the offence.

p. 155How necessary it was for the agent and the garrison to be at all hours prepared for such attempts is shown by the fact that in December 1808, when there were 6,000 prisoners at the Depot, a search brought to light no fewer than 700 daggers of various forms and workmanship.  These had been introduced from outside, as they were evidently not of prison manufacture.

On 26th October 1805, seven prisoners, taking advantage of the dark and stormy night, escaped by cutting a large hole in their wooden prison.  After escaping through this opening, the prisoners would still have to encounter the stockade fence of the quadrangle, the cordon of sentries without it, the outer prison wall (at that time also a wooden fence), the ditch, and another cordon of sentries beyond them.  It must almost of necessity be assumed that these obstacles were overcome by the assistance of others, individual sentries had probably been bribed to connive at the escape, and the prisoners might have had a friend outside to assist them, possibly a tender-hearted Huntingdonshire damsel, whom they had met in the market and with whom they were on terms, which enabled them to speak on more serious questions than the sale and purchase of her wares.

About 8 o’clock on the Sunday night a sergeant and corporal of the Durham Division, out on leave from the Depot, encountered the escaped prisoners near Stamford, recaptured two, marched to the inn and placed them in security.  The prisoners were found to be a French naval captain and a midshipman.  These officers would normally have been on parole; they were probably in prison for having broken their parole, which was a crime punished severely.  Two more were captured near the neighbouring village of Ryhal, having been concealed in Uffington thicket for twenty-four hours without food.

p. 156The following narrative of an escape from Pembroke Prison illustrates the application of the maxim, “Cherchez la femme,” to these cases of escape:

“Five hundred prisoners [156] were confined in a building on Golden Hill, near Pembroke, and, as was the custom, they were allowed to eke out the very meagre allowance voted for their subsistence by the sale of toys, which they carved out of wood and bone.  Two Pembroke lasses were employed in bringing the odds and ends requisite for this work, and in carrying away refuse from the prison.  These girls not having the law of nations or the high policy of Europe before their eyes, dared to fall in love with two of the Frenchmen, and formed a desperate resolve not only to rescue their lovers, but the whole of the prisoners in the same ward, 100 in number.  It was impossible to smuggle any tools into the prison, but a shin of horse beef seemed harmless even in the eyes of a Pembroke Cerberus.  With the bone extracted from this delicacy the Frenchmen undermined the walls, the faithful girls carrying off the soil in their refuse buckets.  When the subway was complete, the lasses watched until some vessel should arrive.  At length a sloop came in loaded with a consignment of culm for Stackpole.  That night the liberated men made their way down to the water, seized the sloop, and bound the crew hand and foot, but unfortunately the vessel was high and dry, and it was found impossible to get her off.  Alongside was a small yacht belonging to Lord Cawdor which they managed to launch.  This would not take them all; but the two women and twenty-five men got on board, taking with them the compass, water casks, and provisions from the sloop.  In the morning there was a great hue and p. 157cry.  Dr. Mansell, a leading man in Pembroke, posted handbills over the whole county, offering 500 guineas for the recovery of these two traitorous women, alive or dead.  In a few days the stern of the yacht and other wreckage being picked up, the patriotic party were satisfied that the vengeance of Heaven had overtaken the traitors.  They were, however, mistaken, for the Frenchmen captured a sloop laden with corn, and, abandoning the yacht, compelled the crew to carry them to France.  When they were safe, it is pleasant to read that the commissary and engineer married the girls.  During the short peace, the engineer and his wife returned to Pembroke and told their story; they then went to Merthyr and obtained employment in the mines, but on the renewal of hostilities went back to France, where it is to be hoped they lived very happily ever afterwards.” [157a]

What happened in Pembroke probably happened in Hunts, and it is a simple sum in proportion.

If 500 prisoners won the sympathy of two Welsh lasses, of how many Huntingdon girls did 5,000 prisoners at Norman Cross win the sympathy?

Seven prisoners got away in April 1801.  Three privateer officers were retaken at Boston, when they had already reached a port; three others stole a boat at Freiston, and were taken, off the Norfolk coast, by a Revenue cutter—one of them had a chart of the Lincolnshire coast in his hat. [157b]

Maps of England showing the best lines of escape were said to be made in the prison and sold at twenty francs each.  Attention was directed in an earlier chapter to the few words in Franco-English designating incorrectly in several instances, some of the buildings in the Washingley plan (Plan A), which makes it p. 158probable that this plan had fallen into the hands of a prisoner, who intended it to be an aid to his escape.  Although the sympathy of the public with the French prisoners was not general, there were many outside Norman Cross who had been in the habit of making money out of them in the straw-plait traffic; these would be willing for a consideration to help them when once they were beyond the prison walls and the lines of sentries.

An extraordinary recapture occurred in May 1804.  Two of the French prisoners who had escaped, on clearing the precincts of the barracks pursued different routes.  One of them was fortunate enough to get clear away; the other, quitting the public road, had pursued his course a few miles when he met with a most singular obstruction.  In crossing a stile he was beset by a shepherd’s dog, “of the ordinary and true English breed,” which absolutely opposed the poor fellow’s progress.  Neither enticement nor resistance availed, the dog repeatedly fastened on the legs and heels of the fugitive and held him at bay, until the continued noise of the quarrel brought some persons to the spot and ultimately led to the detection of the prisoner, and his reincarceration at the Depot. [158]  Whether the dog got any share of the 10s. usually given for the recapture of a prisoner is not recorded.

In the register of the Dutch prisoners confined at Norman Cross between 1797 and 1800, is the record of Jan Cramer, one of the sailors who were taken in the great victory of Admiral Duncan off Camperdown, 11th October 1797; he was received at Norman Cross 23rd December of that year, and the four words in the register which describe the method of his leaving the prison, “escaped in a chest,” are sufficient to enable an imaginative writer to compose an exciting narrative “founded on fact.”

p. 159Mention has already been made of the escape of one prisoner in a “manure cart.”

With the dread of the hulks before them, on 18th August 1809 twelve out of a party of thirty prisoners marching from Norman Cross to Chatham, having nearly reached the place of their punishment, were lodged for the night in a stable at Bow and managed to escape.  A party of the Westminster Militia formed the escort.

The mere dread of the long imprisonment before them and probably the greater facility for the adventure led to several escapes while the prisoners were on the march from the coast to Norman Cross; these were sometimes successful.  Thus in September 1797 a batch of 142 left Yarmouth for Yaxley; but only 141 entered Norman Cross, one having slipped away at Norwich.

A cruel fate awaited some of the unfortunates who made such attempts.  Two deaths occurred in Peterborough.  On the 4th February 1808 a party of prisoners were lodged for the night in a stable in the yard of the Angel Inn, and one of them attempting to escape was shot by the sentinel, dying in twenty minutes; the verdict at the inquest was, “justifiable homicide.”  On another occasion, one of a company of the poor fellows crossing the bridge, leapt over the low rail at the side, into the river, and was shot by the escort.  On the 6th October 1799 a prisoner, Jean de Narde, son of a notary public of St. Malo, escaped and was recaptured on his way to the sea; he was confined for the night in the Bell Tower of East Dereham Church, from which he again attempted to escape, but was shot as he clambered down by a soldier on guard.  He was buried in the churchyard, and fifty-eight years after a tombstone was erected by the vicar and two friends “as a memorial to Jean de Narde and as a tribute of respect to that brave and generous nation, once our foes, but p. 160now our allies and brethren.”  The inscription on the stone is:

In Memory of


OCT. 6, 1799.

Terribly handicapped as were the captives in their efforts to escape, the game was not entirely in the hands of the man with the firelock, if a tradition of the seven years’ war, 1756–63, is to be credited.  An old family mansion at Sissinghurst was in that war used as a place of confinement for the French.  In the Register of Burials is an entry in 1761, “William Bassuck, killed by a French Prisoner at Sissinghurst”; this is supposed to be the sentry killed by a prisoner who, like poor Jean de Narde forty years later at East Dereham, mounted the tower, and dropping a pail of water on the head of the sentry below, killed him on the spot. [160a]

Newspaper paragraphs are not always in strict accordance with fact, but these few examples of escapes which took place may be accepted as types of the many.  A narrative told with much detail and a vraisemblance, which makes it excellent reading, supposed to be written by the prisoner himself, but actually written by Mr. Bell, a schoolmaster of Oundle, who was said to have been familiar with the Depot, where he was employed in his early life, appeared first in Chambers’ Miscellany. [160b]  p. 161This has since been reproduced in other journals and local almanacs.  It was, according to local authorities, founded mainly on facts communicated to its author, Mr. Bell, by a prisoner who had escaped, but at the end of the article in Chambers’ Miscellany the following note is appended:

“The above narrative, which is a translation from the French, appeared a number of years ago, and has been obligingly placed at our disposal by the proprietors.  We believe we are warranted in saying that it is in every particular true.”

The following story would have appeared absolutely incredible had not Basil Thomson [161] recorded the escape of eight prisoners from Dartmoor by the same stratagem as that attributed to a Norman Cross prisoner in a note in The Soldiers’ Companion or Martial Recorder, l. 190.  1824:

French Ingenuity

“A French Prisoner in Norman Cross Barracks had recourse to the following stratagem to obtain his liberty: He made himself a complete uniform of the Hertfordshire Militia, and a wooden gun, stained, surmounted by a tin bayonet.  Thus equipped, he mixed with the guard (consisting of men from the Hertford Regiment), and when they were ordered to march out, having been relieved, Monsieur fell in and marched out too.  Thus far he was fortunate, but when arrived at the guard room, lo! what befel him.  His new comrades ranged their muskets on the rack, and he endeavoured to follow their example; but as his wooden piece was unfortunately a few inches too long, he was unabled to place it properly.  This was observed, and the unfortunate captive obliged to forego the hopes of that liberty for which he had so anxiously and so ingeniously laboured.”

p. 162Before concluding this chapter, which has dealt with the conduct of the prisoners, two other facts may be mentioned.  Shortly after the opening of the prison a disturbance among a batch of prisoners from Chatham led to the construction of the Black Hole and the requisition for two dozen handcuffs.  In October of the following year the Depot narrowly escaped destruction by fire—whether accidental or the work of an incendiary is not known; two thatched huts adjoining the wooden buildings were in flames, but the exertions of the Military were sufficient to prevent the spread of the conflagration which would so easily, in unfavourable conditions as to wind, etc., have consumed the whole building.  It was after this fire that an application was made for a fire-engine.



Dangers stand thick through all the ground,
      To push us to the tomb;
And fierce diseases wait around,
      To hurry mortals home.

Dr. Watts.

The general health of the prisoners was good, but occasional epidemics led to a temporary very heavy mortality, the miserable men who had sold their rations and clothes to provide money for gambling dying off so rapidly, and in such numbers, that no room could be found for them in the well-equipped hospital.

In November 1800 there broke out an appalling epidemic, which raged for five months and then began to abate; the daily average of deaths of the prisoners at this Depot during the four worst months of the pestilence was over eight.  In this epidemic, 1800–01, during the six months with the heaviest mortality, 1,020 died.  In the corresponding six months, 1801–02, when the mortality had been almost restored to what was normal, the deaths were only twenty.  The staff could evidently not keep abreast of their work, the hospital was full to overflowing, and many of “Les Misérables” died in their hammocks in the caserns.

Enteric or typhoid fever was not known as a distinct disease until the last century was well advanced, and the epidemic was probably typhoid to which “Les Misérables” succumbed at the first shock, the cause of their death being registered as debility.  It is a safe p. 164conjecture that some of the wells had been infected.  That the authorities did not take this tragic visitation, without efforts to cope with it, is evidenced by short notes among the certificates of death; delicate prisoners and invalids were apparently sent to France, and others to special hulks.  How inadequate was the meagre staff to meet an exceptional case such as this is proved by the fact that twenty-nine prisoners in the first four months of the year were taken out of their hammocks, dead or speechless, and could not be identified for entry in the register, of which a copy was regularly supplied to the French Government; they were buried unknown.  It was not until the epidemic had abated, and a special investigation had been held, that Captain Woodriff was able to establish the identity of these twenty-nine persons; a special list of them is inserted in the register, and another list of five who were found to be alive in prison, and who had been returned as dead owing to mistaken identity.

In 1804 the total mortality among all the prisoners for the whole year was only eighteen.  On 1st January 1801 nine died in one day, and to this day’s entry there is added the explanatory note, “These men being in the habit of selling their bedding and rations, died of debility in this prison, there not being room in the hospital to receive them.”  This is a terrible indictment against someone, even though the victims were the lost bestial creatures whose fuller history was written at Dartmoor—prisoners ostracised by their comrades, banished to some one compartment of the prison, apparently No. 13, and left to die there by their compatriots who occupied the same quadrangle.  This single day’s record justifies what was said in the introductory remarks as to the lot of prisoners of war, but—Laus Deo—the advance in humanity, and the consequent change of opinion as to the suitable treatment of prisoners of all kinds, and the progress of hygienic, medical, and other p. 165sciences, make it inconceivable that, under any circumstances, similar tragedies could now occur in any European country.

No exact percentage of mortality for the seventeen years during which the prison was occupied can be given, the records being incomplete, and the population of the prison changing continually from week to week and month to month, owing to the accession of fresh prisoners and the departure of others, due to death, transference to other prisons, or exchange.  The reports to the Commissioners for the sick and hurt, except in the incomplete bundles of certificates, do not appear until the second period of the war, although the sick and hurt passed at once under the care of this Board as soon as they ceased to be prisoners in health.  The actual number of deaths certified is 1,770, of which 1,000 occurred during the epidemic 1800–01, the remainder being distributed over the remaining fifteen years in which the prison was occupied.

It is possible that the original register kept at this prison before the Peace of Amiens, 1797–1802, might have been sent to France and may yet be found, but at present separate bundles of single certificates are for many years the only records from which these figures are obtained.  The total number of deaths registered of French prisoners who died at Norman Cross in the second period of the war, 1803–14, was 559.  The highest number recorded in any one year, was 98 in 1806.  The lowest, in any complete year, was 18 in 1804.  One of those whose death is recorded in that year is a boy of ten, a native of Bordeaux, captured on a privateer; he died of consumption.  The diseases, phthisis, hæmoptysis, scrophula, which appear again and again under the heading “Cause of Death,” were all, as well as many of those entered as catarrh and debility, tubercular diseases, due to the condition so favourable to contagion in which the prisoners slept, p. 166herded together in closely packed chambers, ventilated very imperfectly.  In all probability, in cold weather, every aperture by which fresh air could enter was closed by the inmates themselves, who would not be imbued with twentieth-century ideas as to the need of fresh air.

Putting on one side the tubercular cases and the rare epidemics, there was comparatively little sickness among the prisoners.  When an epidemic occurred, “Les Misérables,” whose powers of resistance had been lowered by the semi-starvation which they had brought upon themselves, naturally sickened and in too many instances succumbed.

Owing, doubtless, to three causes—the absence of facility for getting drink, the spare but sufficient diet, and the regulation which appointed that the prisoners should, unless in bad weather, live through the day in the open air [“They have free access to the several apartments from the opening of the prisons in the morning, until they are shut up on the approach of night, with the exception only of the times when they are fumigating, or cleansing for the preservation of health” (Commissioner Serle, Appendix D, No. 31)]—the rate of mortality among the prisoners in confinement was lower than that among those on parole, and, as far as it has been possible to come approximately to the percentage rate of mortality, than that also of the British soldiers who constituted the garrison.  The absurd statements of Mr. Charretie, the falsehood of which he had to acknowledge, and Colonel Lebertre’s lie, that at Norman Cross 4,000 out of 10,000 died, [166] gave rise to an impression which, once made, has not been easily effaced.  Of those who read these statements in France, few read the statement of facts which prove them false.  Taking the total number of those who had been p. 167imprisoned at the Depot, up to 1813, as at least 30,000, and the deaths at 1,800 (these figures being approximate only), the actual proportions of deaths would be 6 per cent., instead of 40 per cent. as affirmed by Lebertre.  A return showing the total number of prisoners and the number of sick in every Depot or other place of confinement for prisoners of war, called for on 10th April 1810, and a similar return presented in the following year, show the extraordinary healthiness of the prison at Norman Cross, and of all the other prisons in Great Britain on each of those days. [167a]

In August 1812, in answer to the calumnies in the columns of the Moniteur, a return was obtained as to the health of the prisoners in the prison ships in Herne Bay and at the Dartmoor Depot.  In the former there were 6,100 in health, 61 sick; in the latter, 7,500 well, 70 sick.  The proportion of sick was less than in other prisons not of war. [167b]

This was at a time when the influx of prisoners from the Peninsula and elsewhere had caused the prisons to be so crowded, that it had become necessary to again spend large amounts in building new prisons.  At the time of the return in 1810, £130,000 was being expended on a new prison at Perth; Norman Cross contained 272 more than the highest number for whom it was calculated to provide accommodation, and there must have been 2,000 men in each quadrangle, except that for the sick.

In these two years the number of deaths at Norman Cross was respectively only forty-one and thirty-three.  When a prisoner fell ill, and was admitted into the prison hospital, he was treated as well as, or better than, the soldiers in the military hospital outside the prison walls.

We have already dealt with the reckless statement p. 168of the French while dealing with Mr. Pillet.  They are wicked calumnies, which, even on a casual examination, carry with them their own contradiction.  The British Government expended an enormous sum on the prisoners, and in 1817 made a claim on the French for the maintenance of French prisoners in England. [168]  The correctness of that claim was never questioned; whether it was settled is another matter.  According to Alison, the British Government generously forgave the debt.

The prisoners in each quadrangle were visited daily by the surgeons, and any prisoner complaining of illness, and found by the doctors to have good ground for his complaint, was removed at once to the hospital, where he was, according to the sworn evidence of the French surgeons themselves, carefully and liberally treated.  From the pay-sheets accompanying the hospital accounts, the earliest of which at the Record Office is for the year 1806, the staff of the hospital appears to have been at that time, the surgeon (Mr. Geo. Walker), two assistant-surgeons (M. Pierre Larfeuil and Mr. Anthony Howard), a dispenser, an assistant-dispenser (prisoner), dispensary porter (do) and messenger (do), two hospital mates and clerk, a steward of victualling, a steward of bedding, with two assistants (prisoners), two turnkeys, matron, and seamstress (the two last named and the wives of the married turnkeys being, up to the advent of the surgeon’s bride in 1808, the only women within the prison walls), a messenger, and the following thirteen, who were all prisoners, two interpreters, one tailor, one washerman, one carpenter (who made bed-cradles and other appliances for the ward and did odd jobs), an assistant lamplighter (a more important post than it sounds, as it would be very convenient for any prisoner or prisoners wanting to p. 169escape to find a careless lamplighter, who would forget to light, or supply with sufficient oil, one or two of the numerous lamps which lighted the prison and its environs), two stocking-menders, two labourers, one barber for the infirm and itchy, and two nurses—in all, thirteen British and twenty French prisoners, the staff of nurses being, of course, increased if necessary. [169]  The hospital was evidently conducted on a liberal scale.  The dietary was ample; it was as follows:

Established Diet

1stFull Diet

Tea, or water-gruel with salt, for breakfast; the same for supper.  Meat 12 oz., with potatoes or greens, and 1 pint of broth, for dinner.  Bread 14 oz., sugar 2 oz., beer 2 pints (of beer at 16s. the 38 gallons), and if any other drink is wanted, water, or toast and water.

2ndReduced Diet

Tea, or water-gruel with salt, for breakfast; the same for supper.  Meat 6 oz., with potatoes or greens, and 1 pint of broth, for dinner.  Sugar 2 oz.  The same quantity and quality of bread and beer as on full diet.

3rdLow Diet

Water-gruel or tea for breakfast.  Water-gruel or barley-water for dinner.  The same or rice-water for supper.  Bread 7 oz.  Patients on low diet are supposed to require no stated meal, drinks only being allowable, or even desirable; a small quantity of beer may be given when anxiously wished for and permitted by their surgeon.  The bread is supposed to be chiefly for toast and water, or, should the patient incline, a bit of toasted bread without butter, with a little of his gruel or tea.  Sugar 2 oz.

p. 1704thMilk Diet

Milk, 1 pint, for breakfast.  Rice-milk, 1 pint and a half (sweetened with sugar when desired), for dinner.  Milk, 1 pint, for supper.  Bread 14 oz.  Drink—water, barley-water, or rice-water.  Sugar 2 oz.

5thMixed Diet

Milk, 1 pint, for breakfast.  Meat 4 oz., with potatoes or greens, and 1 pint of broth, for dinner.  Milk, 1 pint, for supper.  Bread 14 oz.  Drinks as on milk diet.  Sugar 2 oz.  Beer 1 pint.


The meat mentioned in the different diets to be beef and mutton alternately.  Should any patient particularly require a mutton-chop or beefsteak, instead of either the beef or mutton boiled and made into broth, the surgeon may direct it accordingly.

The matron is allowed to purchase ripe fruit, or any other article not comprehended in the several diets, by permission and direction of the surgeon.

Sago, when particularly ordered by the surgeon, will be furnished in the quantity equal to the value of one day’s ordinary diet, but then for that day the matron is to supply nothing else, save toast and water, water-gruel, or barley-water, and any bread which may be ordered by the surgeon.

No beer is to be issued to any patient in the hospital until after dinner, unless particularly ordered by his surgeon, and no patient is allowed to give his allowance of beer to another, for when he does not choose the whole, or any part of it, it is to remain with the matron.

In fact, when we look to the sanitary condition of the hospital, its staff, its furnishing, the diet, the arrangements for the admission, the retention, and the treatment p. 171of the patients, we find in the records sufficient evidence that the provision for the care of the sick prisoners was at Norman Cross equal to, if not superior to, that offered by any civil institution of that date.

To pass from the discomforts of the prison to the luxurious life of the hospital was a temptation which favoured malingering, especially in the case of one of “Les Misérables,” who, having nothing left wherewith to gamble, needed a bed and food.  The agent had in 1801, to issue a special order as to the precautions necessary to prevent prisoners shamming illness in order to obtain admission into the hospital.  This was the year of the epidemic, when the hospital had been in the earlier months overcrowded, and we can only trust that no mistake was ever made, and that no prisoner sickening for the fatal disease was dealt with as a malingerer and denied admission into the wards.

As stated in an early chapter, the prisoners passed out of the agent’s charge when they fell sick, and the order of Captain Woodriff may have been the result of friction between himself and the surgeons.

The excellent arrangements made by the Government department for the care of the sick and wounded gave the sick prisoners the best chance of recovery.  It was, nevertheless, the cruel fate of nearly 1,800 of those incarcerated at Norman Cross between 1797 and 1814 to end a captivity which had endured for a period varying from a few days to eleven years, without the solace of a glimpse of their native land, away from relatives, friends, and home, by death in the prison hospital, whence their bodies were borne to be laid in the prisoners’ cemetery, where they still lie, unknown and unhonoured. [171]

p. 172The succeeding chapter deals with this cemetery and cognate matters.



No column high-lifted doth shadow their dust,
And o’er their poor ruin no willow trees wave;
Yet their honour is safe in the thought of the Just,
And their agony fireth the hearts of the Brave
Unto deeds that shall shine through Oblivion’s rust.

Norman Hill, Père Lechaise.

For a short period after the occupation of the Depot, the prisoners who died were buried outside the prison wall, in the north-east corner of the site.  The discovery of human skeletons by workmen engaged in excavating gravel in this locality gave rise to tales of violent deaths in duels and of surreptitious burials, tales which have to be dismissed as idle since our researches have brought to light the fact that the spot was for a brief period—the exact length of which cannot be determined—the burial-place of the prisoners.  It is certain that very few burials took place in this corner.  Early in the history of the prison, as mentioned in a previous chapter, the Government bought a portion of a field on the opposite—the western—side of the North Road for use as the prisoners’ cemetery, and in this field rest the remains of at least 1,770 of the captives taken by us in that long war.

There is nothing now to distinguish the prisoners’ cemetery from the surrounding fields; it is only by careful observation that the irregularities of the surface can be recognised as the mounds which mark the graves, these in the course of a hundred years having become very ill defined.

p. 174The occasional disturbance of the bones of the dead in agricultural operations, or by irreverent explorations of the graves by the village lads, alone keep alive in the minds of the rustic population the knowledge of this burial-place.  The burial-places attached to other depots for prisoners of war have one after the other been distinguished by a monument erected to the memory of those who lie in them.  Too long has the respect due to the memory of the brave men who fought and suffered for their country, and died at Norman Cross, been forgotten.  Too long, alike by the nation whose foes these prisoners were and by the nation whose sons they were, has this God’s Acre, doubly sacred, because in it lie only patriots who died for their native land, been neglected and left without a mark to show that it is a sacred spot.  Happily the animosity of a hundred years ago has been replaced by L’Entente Cordiale, and a movement originated by Mr. H. B. Sands, the late Secretary of the Association which has adopted that title, is even now in progress, the object of the movement being to acquire a portion of the ground, to fence it, and to erect upon it, close to the North Road, a monument with a suitable inscription to the memory of the foreign soldiers and sailors who, after years of captivity, died in the prison, and were buried in this neglected spot.

The information as to any provision for the spiritual welfare of the prisoners is very meagre.  Marriages and births, calling for the sanctification of a church, there were none, but 1,770 deaths and burials there certainly were, as the certificates show.

Neither in the register nor on the certificate of those deaths, whether the prisoners were Roman Catholic or Protestant, does the name of priest or parson appear.

This applies only to the prisoners who died in confinement, not to the soldiers who guarded them.  The Depot was in the parish of Yaxley, and in the churchyard p. 175of St. Peter’s, the parish church, the majority of the British soldiers who died while quartered at the barracks were buried, and their names are entered in the parish register and signed by the officiating minister.

The first entry connected with the Depot in the Yaxley Register is that of “John Smart, suffocated at the Barracks, February 12th, 1797.”  He was probably a workman employed during the erection of the buildings, which were not occupied until two months later; after this date, and up to 1814, occur entries of soldiers’ burials at the rate of from twenty to thirty per annum.

The last funeral from the barracks was that of Captain Pressland on 21st March 1814.  After fifteen years the soldiers’ graves were crowding the churchyard to such an extent, that in 1813 a plot of land adjoining the barrack-master’s house was purchased by the Government for a special burial-place for the barracks, and the ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Lincoln on 29th October in that year.  The first soldier was buried in it on 4th November 1813, just seven months before the clearing of the barracks and the prisons was accomplished.  This plot has been absorbed into the property on which stands the barrack-master’s house, now owned by J. A. Herbert, J.P.  When and how the absorption took place is not known; it is now an orchard, and the few gravestones there were in it have disappeared.  From the Register of Folksworth, about a mile from the barracks, it would appear that this village was a favourite place for the wives of the married soldiers quartered at Norman Cross to reside; several baptisms of the soldiers’ children, and one or two of the adult soldiers themselves, are there registered.

The prisoners’ cemetery and the barracks were in the mission of the Roman Catholic priest who lived at King’s Cliffe, but no register of deaths kept by him is known to exist, nor is there any record by a minister of religion of any burial service in this cemetery.

p. 176It must, I fear, be accepted that the men who were in captivity at Norman Cross during the seventeen years the prison was occupied received very little spiritual help, and in times of pressure many of those whose bones lie in the prisoners’ burial-place were, too probably, interred without religious rites of any kind, and scarcely ever with a single mourner at the grave side.

From the possibilities, nay probabilities of the burials during the epidemic of 1800–01, let us turn with a shudder and a sigh of regret for whatever blame attaches to our country for that tragic year in the history of Norman Cross.

Mrs. Sands says that, in examining the register in the Record Office, she and her late husband found that a large number of those buried came from Protestant provinces of France.

The Depot being in Yaxley parish, it is probable that during its occupation the vicar would be asked to bury the Protestants and possibly to minister to the sick and others in the prison.  But that no entry of any such burial is found in the parish registers, nor any note by an incumbent of duty performed either in the prison or cemetery, points to the fact that the prison was considered extra-parochial.  The present vicar, the Rev. E. H. Brown, who is keenly interested in the subject of this narrative, has ascertained from a relative of the Rev. T. Hinde that, to her certain knowledge, that clergyman, a former curate of Yaxley, was “Protestant chaplain to Norman Cross Barracks.”  Mr. Brown adds that Mr. Hinde was apparently curate from September 1813 to January 1816; this would cover the last eight months only of the prison occupation.

This statement, from a member of Mr. Hinde’s family, leaves room to hope that the Vicar of Yaxley or his curate actually officiated as Protestant minister for those prisoners who were his co-religionists during their enforced sojourn within the boundaries of his cure.

p. 177But it must be borne in mind that those days were not as ours, and that there was little probability that Britain’s prisoners would be better treated than her soldiers and sailors.  A writer in Notes and Queries quotes, respecting the treatment of the latter:

“Gleig—‘The Subaltern’ of 1813–14, who subsequently took holy orders and wrote a Life of Wellington—assures us that a hundred years ago Tommy Atkins was ‘spaded under’ without benefit of clergy, and it is highly improbable that any existing memorial marks, nay, that any memorial ever marked, the grave of even one of the thousands of British privates who lie among the Spanish hills and valleys.  All that the tourist can hope to find in these distant and lonely spots is the occasional tomb of a British officer, or (quite exceptionally) of a favourite ‘non-com.’” [177]

That priests did frequent the prison in the earlier years of the war, 1797–1802, before the Peace of Amiens, we know from the correspondence of the Transport Commissioners with the agents.  The prisoners themselves petitioned to have priests sent to them, and at length two priests were permitted to reside in the prison.  That these gentlemen did not strictly confine themselves to the spiritual duties of their office we have reason to believe from an instruction given to Captain Pressland, the agent appointed when the prison was reopened in 1803.  He was told that, “profiting by experience gained during the previous war,” the Board had decided that “no priests were to be admitted, except in extreme cases, and then under carefully arranged restrictions, as they had abused the privileges allowed them,” and that “a turnkey or clerk was to be present during the whole time they were in the hospital.”  This memorandum evidently implies that at this time there was no regular provision for the spiritual needs of the general body of p. 178prisoners, no chaplain appointed by the authorities, and that no regular visitation except to the sick and dying was to be permitted.

The Government was not without evidence that many of these priests had supplemented the spiritual aid by acting as go-betweens and secretly conveying correspondence to and from the prisoners.  Any collusion between the prisoners and possible foreign agents outside was provided against by the regulation that all letters should pass through the agent’s hands.

The continual recurrence throughout the war of plots for a general rising, originating with the French Government; the frequent attempts either of single prisoners or a combined body of them to escape, were probably, at the period with which we are dealing, felt to be sufficient reason for an order which in the present day would hardly be tolerated by the British public.  A year later, in 1804, the commissioners, while affirming that they had no power to prevent French priests living in Stilton, were most decided in declining to allow them to live in the Depot, saying that at such a critical time they could not possibly grant such a privilege to foreigners “of that equivocal description”!

The Transport Board must have seen reason to relax the orders, for three years after this direction was given we find the Bishop of Moulins not resident in the Depot, but living at Stilton a mile from it, on an allowance received from the British Government, and earning a high character for his work among the prisoners.  He was also officiating outside the prison, for in the register kept by the neighbouring priest, the Rev. W. Hayes of King’s Cliffe, in whose mission Stilton was, are, among others, the following three entries of baptisms to which allusion has already been made in Chap. IV, p. 59:

1st.  “1807.—John Stephen Felix Delapoux, son of John Andrew Delapoux and of Sarah Mason (his lawful wife), of Norman Cross, Yaxley, Huntingdonshire, was p. 179born July 22 and baptised August 2nd, 1807, following, by Charles Lewis de Salmon du Chattelier, formerly Vicar General of the Diocese of Mans, and Canon of the Cathedral Church.  Sponsor, the Rt. Rev. Stephen John Baptist Lewis de Galois de la Tour, residing at Stilton in the said county, which I, the undersigned, hereby certify from the original.

“W. Hayes.”

2nd.  “1808.—William, son of Hugh and Margaret Drummond, was baptised by the Bishop of Moulins at Stilton, Hunts., May 30th, 1808.  Sponsors, Edward Courier and Margaret Anderson, attested by Mr. Wm. Hayes.”

3rd.  “1814.—Louis Stanilas Henry Paschal, son of John Andrew Delapoux and of Sarah Mason (his lawful wife) of Yaxley, Huntingdonshire, on May 3rd, was baptised May 14th, 1814, by the Rt. Rev. Stephen John Baptist Lewis de Galois de la Tour, residing at Stilton.  Sponsor, Mr. Paschal Levisse of Oundle, Northamptonshire, which I, the undersigned, hereby certify from the original act.

“W. Hayes.”

In the first entry, 1807, the officiating priest is “the late Vicar General of the Diocese of Mans, and Canon of the Cathedral Church,” who was possibly attending to the prisoners until the Sponsor, the Rt. Rev. Stephen John Baptist Lewis de Galois de la Tours (the Bishop-designate of Moulins), took up the work.  John Andrew Delapoux, the father of the child, was a clerk at Norman Cross—many of the officials had French names, and were probably naturalised British subjects, or children of naturalised Frenchmen and familiar with the French language.  He had been married to Miss Mason, in Stilton Parish Church, on 2nd September 1802, and until the research undertaken for the purposes of this work revealed his identity, these were supposed to be entries of the baptisms of children of a French prisoner who had married an English wife.  In the second, 1808, p. 180the Bishop of Moulins is entered as the officiating priest.  In the 3rd the priest performing the ceremony is the Rt. Rev. Stephen John Baptist Lewis de Galois de la Tour.  The priest in whose mission the Baptism took place and who made the entry, gave the Christian and family names of the Bishop-designate of Moulins, but not the episcopal title, as in the second entry.  The prefix Right Reverend marks the ecclesiastical rank claimed by the Bishop; but a letter from Lord Mulgrave [180a] states that he was only Bishop-designate.  He had never been consecrated, and he would therefore not be always recognised by his brethren as Évêque de Moulins.

It is unfortunate that it is the duty of the humblest historian to push aside the glamour that tradition and the writers of romance weave around a man and to show him as he is, and the traditional story of the Bishop of Moulins is not the only illusion which has been dispelled in the course of our investigations.

The Bishop of Moulins has been, by traditions authoritatively reproduced in print, gradually elevated to the position of a saint who voluntarily relinquished his high office in France, and sacrificed its emoluments in order that he might minister to his fellow countrymen in captivity.  In his little romance, [180b] the late Rev. Arthur Brown says, p. 44:

“And the Chaplain was none other than the Bishop of Moulins.  He had voluntarily come to England out of pure compassion for his imprisoned countrymen, and with true missionary zeal was giving himself up to their spiritual welfare.  He was a venerable-looking man, much respected by the prisoners generally.  It was a noble act of self-sacrifice.”

p. 181In a romance it is quite legitimate to adopt a name for an imaginary character, and to endow the fictitious individual with virtues which the real owner of the name did not possess, but Mr. Brown emphatically declares this passage to be history, and not fiction, by a footnote, of which the first sentence is, “This is fact, not fiction.”  The note continues:

“It would be interesting to know the history of this good man after the prisoners were discharged in 1814.  One thing is certain, that he must ever have enjoyed a feast of memory to his dying day, in having been a shepherd and bishop of souls to these poor prisoners.”

The late Rev. G. N. Godwin, in the series of papers on “Norman Cross and its French Prisoners,” published in the Peterborough Advertiser in February and March 1906, says:

“The Depot had a noble Chaplain in the Bishop of Moulins, who voluntarily came over from France, and lived at his own charge and upon remittances from France, in the High Street, Stilton, near the Bell Inn.  (The house which is now shored up. [181])  He walked up every day to Norman Cross, and acted very charitably to the prisoners, doing his utmost to stop their frequent duels.  It is to be hoped that ere long more will be known of this worthy prelate.”

Mr. Godwin’s wish was soon fulfilled.  Two years after this was written there came to light, among the family archives at Milton, near Peterborough, the correspondence which the author is able to print verbatim in the appendix, through the kind permission of Mr. George Wentworth Fitzwilliam, the greatgrandson of p. 182the fourth Earl Fitzwilliam, to whom the Bishop’s letters are addressed, and who is the present owner of the estates and head of the Northamptonshire branch of the family.  This correspondence, with other information gathered from scanty but authentic sources, enables the writer to put before his readers a picture of the one priest of whose work at Norman Cross the memory remained in the neighbourhood for more than a generation after the Depot was destroyed.  The correspondence is of interest as throwing light on other matters also.

The first part of this correspondence consists of letters from the Bishop of Moulins begging for pecuniary assistance and for another favour from Lord Fitzwilliam, with an accompanying document of great interest—viz. a condensed autobiography of the Bishop, and the unfinished draft of the Earl’s reply; these are all in French.  The last mentioned is interesting, as it shows incidentally that the great Whig Earl sympathised with the Bishop in his loyalty to the Bourbons, to whom he was devoted, and in his firm resolve never to acknowledge the government of the Emperor Napoleon, whom he regarded as an usurper.  It also gives first-hand information as to an outside matter, the enormous cost of the famous Yorkshire Election, in which the respective heads in the West Riding of the contesting Whigs and Tories, Lord Fitzwilliam and Lord Harewood, each represented by his own son, kept open house for the fifteen days during which the Poll lasted, Lord Milton, the Whig, beating, by a majority of 188, his Tory rival, the Hon. Henry Lascelles. [182]  The condensed autobiography sent by the Bishop to Lord Fitzwilliam upsets much that has been written to accentuate the saintly character which has been, not altogether without reason, p. 183attributed to him.  The remaining letters, one of which has been introduced in the text in connection with the straw-plait trade, refer to the application made by the Bishop for the release of another prisoner to take the place of his servant Jean Baptiste David.

The autobiography is practically that of an émigré, although the Bishop-designate was a “déporté.”  Most of these aristocrats, ecclesiastics, and others who fled from France at a time when, had they possessed the courage to remain, they might have much altered the course of events, took refuge in Austria, Italy, and other continental Catholic countries.  Comparatively few came to England.  From the Bishop we learn that in 1791, having been designated Bishop of Moulins, he was expelled from France.  He took refuge in Italy, where he had the good fortune to become Chief Chaplain to the Bourbon Princess, Victoire of France, “to whose bounty he owed his existence,” and at her death, in 1799, he was left absolutely without any resources.  Under these circumstances he came to England, where he received the allowance granted to bishops at that time, £10 a month.  In his narrative the Bishop enters into further details as to his misfortunes.  He found his relatives in London in distress; he advanced them moneys which he obtained from money-lenders, who made the loans on the security of his expectations—p. 184expectations which came to nothing.  When the Bishop’s father died, leaving a goodly inheritance, the whole was appropriated by his relatives, who took advantage of the Bishop’s absence from France.  His brother suggested to him that if he would return to France and submit to the Government, they might help him.  This the Bishop would never do, his devotion and loyalty to the Bourbons made it impossible, and in 1808 he is found at Stilton writing a begging letter from the Bell Inn—not there “out of pure compassion for his imprisoned countrymen,” but a “déporté” from France, who, when he arrived in England, was without any resources beyond his great expectations, on the strength of which the Bishop was able to obtain money from usurers, to one of whom this unfortunate prelate was paying 30 per cent. per annum for a loan of £200.  He was not “living on his own charges and upon remittances from France,” but upon £240 a year paid to him by the British Government.

To this payment by the British Government was added the extraordinary privilege of the liberation of a lad from Norman Cross to act as his servant.  This was a further favour from the Government which was feeding him and clothing him.  The Bishop’s return for these acts of grace was to allow the lad to join in the illegal straw-plait traffic, and then to make the application which, reading between the lines of Sir Rupert George’s letter, it was easy to see was regarded by the Transport Board as a gross piece of effrontery.  The sequel was more letters in the effusive begging-letter style of a century ago to the tender-hearted, influential nobleman whose acquaintance he had made, and the ultimate granting of another servant.

In one of his letters the Bishop denies that there is any truth in the accusation that his servant was an accomplice in the illicit trading in straw plait, and there is no extant evidence that he was so; but it is p. 185clear, from the correspondence between the Transport Board and the Secretary to the Admiralty, and between the latter and Earl Fitzwilliam, that the Transport Board had no doubt about the fact.

There is something pathetic in the fact that these letters, in his, the Bishop’s, beautiful handwriting, which is like the finest engrossing, but so small that it is scarcely legible without the aid of a magnifying-glass, should have come to light exactly 100 years after they were written, and only two years after the wish had been expressed by the writers quoted above, that more could be learned of “this worthy prelate” and “this good man,” for in them the Bishop himself rises up to cast off the adornments of self-sacrifice, etc., with which he has been decorated by his biographers.

Divers writers, one after another, have attributed to him the qualifications of a saint, finding everything he did so good and wonderful, that the last, the late Rev. M. C. Godwin, mentions as a merit that the Bishop walked a mile to his duties at the prison.

Mr. Brown, in the footnote just quoted, says: “It would be interesting to know the history of this good man after the prisoners were discharged in 1814.”

The Bishop’s association with Norman Cross entitles him to a prominent place in this narrative, and such further particulars of his life as have after much research been established add something to the little that is known of the émigrés and the déportés who took refuge in England.

Without the halo of a saint, the Bishop is still revealed as a good priest winning the hearts and the esteem of those among whom he ministered, seeking to lighten the lot of the prisoners who were his flock.  What light is thrown on his character by the legend written against the boys’ prison on the prisoner Foulley’s model of the Norman Cross Depot, in the Invalides! [185] p. 186(vide Plate XX, p. 251).  The Bishop was working when many another ecclesiastical emigrant was idle, and there is every reason to believe that he was worthy of his hire, as far as his work was concerned.  Probably the advent of the Bishop to Norman Cross did for the prisoners what Buonaparte’s reinstatement of religion did for the population of France.  The correspondence shows that it was his strong political opinions, his stedfast loyalty to the House of Bourbon, strengthened as it was by gratitude and affection, and his determined refusal to accept office on the terms of the Concordat, and to swear fealty to the Emperor, whom he regarded as a usurper, which kept him in England as a mere Bishop-designate instead of a consecrated endowed Bishop.  So strong were his feelings on these points, that he was one of the ecclesiastics who signed the Remonstrance against the Concordat and thus incurred the Pope’s displeasure.

Outside his office there is good ground for believing that he was an accomplished and learned man, with a fine presence and attractive, courteous manners. [186]  He was apparently persona grata at Milton, the residence of Earl Fitzwilliam, seven miles from Stilton.  But the correspondence reveals the Bishop as a normally imperfect man.  In the opinion of the authorities (with which the historian must agree) he abused the extraordinary privileges granted to him by the British Government, and on his own showing he was, to say the least of it, injudicious in the management of his affairs.  He incurred heavy debts to money-lenders without any certain prospect of being able to repay them.  In extenuation of these financial errors, it may be said that misfortune and over-generosity, not personal extravagance, p. 187led to his impecuniosity and his dealings with usurers, and as to the Bishop’s connivance in the matter of his servant taking up as his occupation illicit dealing in the straw plait made in the prison, Earl Fitzwilliam clearly did not regard it as a heinous offence, when it was brought before his notice by Lord Mulgrave, but continued his pleading for the Bishop, and eventually succeeded in obtaining for him the favour he craved.

The Bishop’s work at Norman Cross continued until he returned with the Bourbons to France after the banishment of Buonaparte to Elba in 1814.  Several articles in the Peterborough Museum are described in the catalogue as presents from grateful prisoners to the Bishop.  If they were, it would be interesting to know why he left them behind instead of taking them to France when he returned.

From other sources we gather that the Rt. Rev. Etienne Jean Baptist, Louis de Galois de la Tour, who was fifty-four years of age at the date of the correspondence, [187] was an ecclesiastic of great distinction.  He was the son of Charles Jean Baptist de Galois de la Tour, who was French Administrator in 1788 at Moulins and first President of the Department of Aix, where the future Archbishop was born in 1754.  He became Vicar-general of the See of Autun and doyen of the College of St. Pierre at Moulins.  He had been designated to the See of Moulins, when in 1791 the order for his arrest was issued, and he was “déporté” according to the official list of émigrés published in Paris in 1793.  In the Bishop’s own narrative he says, “L’Évêque de Moulins, parti de France en 1791.”  Of his life and fortunes from that year until 1808 we have his own account.  In 1814, after twenty-three years of exile, he returned with the Bourbons to France, but he was not at once consecrated or even appointed to the See of Moulins.

His attitude towards the Pope and the French p. 188Government during his banishment can be seen in three rare pamphlets published in London in 1802 and 1803. [188a]  The Pope (Pius VII.) was remonstrated with for coming to terms with the French Government.  To the first remonstrance, dated 23rd December 1801, one archbishop and twelve bishops affix their signatures, to which a cross is prefixed; Etienne de la Tour signs last, as nominated Bishop of Moulins, without the cross.  In April 1803 he signs at the end of three archbishops and thirty-five bishops, this time with a cross. [188b]  The history of the quarrel between the parties and final reconciliation can be seen in Thiers: History of the French Revolution (Shobul’s Trans.), 1895, vol. i., pp. 105–6, 145, 187.

After some correspondence and an acknowledgment of his error the Bishop-designate was consecrated, and two years later he was elevated to the archbishopric of Bourges.

The Archbishop did not live more than four years to occupy the lofty position which he had won by his personal attributes, by his fidelity to the House of Bourbon, by his services to the Church, by his twenty-three years’ banishment from France involuntary and voluntary, by his experiences at Norman Cross, [188c] among which the little incident of his association, through Jean Baptiste David, with the straw-plait smuggling business might, by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and even by the Bourbon Government, not be reckoned as otherwise than meritorious.

The Archbishop, who had for so many years lived at Stilton on a pittance allowed by the British Government, p. 189and had served his fellow countrymen within the walls of the Norman Cross Prison, died in his palace at Bourges on 20th March 1820.

No evidence has been procured, beyond the statement of the relative of the Rev. T. Hinde (p. 176), that, at any time, a Protestant clergyman was officially appointed as chaplain to the Depot.  There is, however, sufficient evidence that, during the first period of the war, between the opening of the prison (1797) and its evacuation (1802), the services of Roman Catholic priests were accepted, a record existing that two priests were for a short time allowed to reside within the walls.  After the resumption of hostilities in 1803, notwithstanding the very strong directions issued to Captain Pressland, on the reopening of the prison, that “no priests were to be admitted except in extreme cases, etc.,” we find the Bishop-designate of Moulins practically established as the priest ministering to his countrymen in captivity, and living on the income derived from the British Government.

The fact that the Vicar-general of Mans and the Bishop-designate of Moulins differed in their politics from the bulk of the prisoners probably led to their obtaining from the British Government the privilege of thus exercising their office—a privilege not apparently without its pecuniary advantages to themselves, for the Bishop in his autobiography tells us that on coming to London he received from the British Government the sum of £10 a month, the usual allowance to a man of his rank, while at Stilton the sum paid to him is doubled, and he has £240 a year.

On the whole, the records of this chapter in the history of Norman Cross, if painful to our national pride and self-respect in many details, would probably not be regarded in the same light by those who, a century since, were engaged in and suffering from this prolonged, sanguinary, bitter, and costly war.



Law that is obeyed is nothing else but law; law disobeyed is law and jailor both.

Philistion, Menandri et Philistionis.

They enjoy a moderate degree of liberty, which, when kept within bounds, is most salutary both for individuals and for communities, though when it degenerates into licence, it becomes alike burdensome to others, and uncontrollable and hazardous to those who possess it.

Livy, Histories, xxxiv. 49.

The conditions of life for prisoners out on parole have hitherto not been considered.  In more chivalrous days a prisoner on parole was allowed to live free in his own country, pledged only on his word of honour to take part in no action which should be directly or indirectly hostile to the country which had captured him.  The spirit of animosity and mistrust which animated the combatants in the struggle which filled with captives Norman Cross and other prisons in both countries, would certainly admit no such arrangement as this, although M. Otto, the French Commissary in London, suggested it, either satirically or knowing that, if accepted, the arrangement would mean that while England would receive back only 5,000, France would receive 22,000.

M. Otto’s words were:

“If the scarcity of provisions is so notorious that the Government” (the British Government), “notwithstanding its solicitude cannot relieve the wants of its p. 191people, why should the Government unnecessarily increase the consumption, by feeding more than 22,000 individuals?  I have already had the honour of laying before you, Two Proposals on this Subject, namely, that of ransoming the Prisoners, or that of sending them back to France on Parole.  Either of these alternatives would afford an efficient remedy for the evil in question; the plan of Parole has already been adopted with respect to French Fishermen.” [191a]

This proposal was not likely to be accepted, and the great bulk of the prisoners in both countries remained in strict durance throughout the war.  Those who were allowed on parole were naval and military officers, commanders and first lieutenants of privateers mounting fourteen guns, [191b] commanders and first mates of merchantmen, and non-combatants.  These latter, in the second period of the war, constituted a considerable proportion of the parole prisoners.  One of the first duties imposed by the regulations for the guidance of the agents at the various prisons was that when a fresh party of prisoners arrived, he should go thoroughly into the question of the rank, social condition, employment, and character of each man, in order to determine who were qualified to go on parole, and the captain of the ship in which the prisoners had been taken was expected to send such information as he could to enable the agents to carry out this duty.

The last sentence of the passage quoted from M. Otto’s letter to the Transport Board shows that for one class of non-combatants, the French fishermen, the p. 192British Government had adopted the plan of returning them to France.

A note in the register of the soldiers received at Norman Cross states that with certain chasseurs français who arrived at the prison on 9th September 1809, arrived two women and a child.  How they were disposed of between that date and 24th December of the same year, when they were discharged to France, is not recorded.  One of the women got only as far as Lynn on her way home, and in the following March returned to Norman Cross; her further adventures are not recorded.

The numbers of those on parole varied greatly in the course of the war.  In the year 1796, in which the building of Norman Cross was commenced, the number was 1,200; on 30th April 1810, out of a total of 44,583 prisoners, 2,710; and on 11th June 1811, out of 49,132 prisoners, 3,193.  The number on parole would greatly increase as more prisoners passed into the country.  The Duke of Wellington, in one of his despatches dated 23rd December 1812, summarising the result of the campaign in Spain, mentions that “In the months which have elapsed since January, this army has sent to England little short of 20,000 prisoners.”  Of these many came to Norman Cross.  The number continued to increase until the total in Britain reached 67,000, that being the number returned to France after the Treaty of Paris was signed on 30th May 1814.

The prisoners on parole were widely distributed in various towns, many of them distant from any large depot. [192]  Agents were appointed in each place to look p. 193after and pay the prisoners who lodged either in the town itself or in the neighbouring villages.  Of the 1,200 on parole in 1797, 100 were in Peterborough and its neighbourhood, and the agent who accepted the responsibility of looking after them, paying them and mustering them at stated intervals when they had to report themselves to him, was Mr. Thomas Squire, a merchant and banker living in the Bridge House, in whose field, on the river bank, the second batch of prisoners consigned to Norman Cross in April 1797 landed from the barges which had brought them from Lynn.  The only parole register relating to Peterborough which the author could find in the Record Office is a volume dating from 1795 to 1800, and refers mainly to the Dutch.  In this volume there are entered, between 10th November 1797 and 3rd July 1800, the names of 100 Dutch prisoners on parole at Peterborough.  The p. 194first French were the captain, four lieutenants, the purser, surgeon, and first pilot of La Jalouse, in June 1797.

No corresponding record has been found as to the disposal of those who arrived at Norman Cross in the second period of the war, 1803–15, and who by their rank or social status were entitled to parole.  It is probable that on the officer who received them at the port where they landed, devolved the duty of selecting the parole prisoners and sending them direct to the towns where they were to be interned when the general body of prisoners went to Norman Cross.

From the general register of the prisoners at Norman Cross between 1803 and 1810 we can, however, gather a few notes which sufficiently indicate that the custom was not to allocate them in the immediate neighbourhood, but at more distant depots for parole prisoners.  Thus we find that Jean Casquar, a boatswain’s mate, was sent to Tiverton; Antoine Sivié, a passenger, to Leek; Pierre Kervain, a servant on parole, to Ashbourne; Eustache, a black, to Ashbourne; Jean C. Le Prince, a clerk, to Montgomery; Captain Nicholas Lanceraux to Lichfield; Jean Maistey, second mate on a privateer, with three passengers taken in the same ship, to Leek.  Then a more complicated transaction is shown: Louis Feyssier, a passenger on parole at Leek, was sent to Norman Cross, it being noted that he had not previously been there; he was probably sent for imprisonment, as a punishment for breach of his parole at Leek.

Another transaction helps us to learn what was going on at home in the long years of this terrible war, when only high polities and the military and naval events beyond our bounds were occupying the pens of historical writers.  Captain A. Strazynski escaped with a midshipman from Ashbourne in September 1810.  The pair of them were retaken at Chesterfield, whence they p. 195were sent to the Norman Cross Prison, where they arrived on 10th December of the same year.  Again, Ensign Louis Pineau escaped from Greenlaw.  He made his way south, until he was retaken and lodged in Northampton Gaol, whence he was sent to Norman Cross.

These are almost all the notes bearing on the question of the parole prisoners which occur in the register.

As has been already mentioned, these registers are very incomplete, and the notes and remarks are few and far between, but there is one long note dealing with the practice of one prisoner assuming the name of another.  This was sometimes done with the object of establishing a man’s right to have the privileges of parole.  One instance noted is that of a man entered as Mathuren Nazarean, his real name being Pierre Dussage; the assumed name was that of the first lieutenant of the Alerte, who was left ill at Lisbon.  Dussage hoped to pass himself off as the lieutenant, and thus to be allowed out on parole.

No record has been found of the precise distribution in the town and the surrounding villages of the 100 prisoners registered as on parole in Peterborough.  On 25th November 1797 the whole of the prisoners on parole in England were ordered, without any distinction of rank whatever, to be imprisoned at Norman Cross.  For the sick and the baggage, covered conveyances were provided.  The others of all ranks marched to the Depot, some of them hundreds of miles.  This step was taken in part fulfilment of the threat already referred to in Chapter V., which had been held out against the French as a means of compelling them to clothe their own countrymen in the English prisons, and to withdraw their opposition to certain proposals of the English Government as to the terms of Exchange, and especially as to the restoration of Captain Sir Sydney Smith, whose liberation no expostulations of the Government could obtain.

In the later plans of the Depot is seen one block in p. 196the south-east quadrangle fenced off for the officers’ prison.  It was probably in this block, or in No. 13 in the north-eastern quadrangle, that Jean de la Porte executed his wonderful straw marquetry pictures.  At what date the order for the reincarceration of the officers was cancelled has not been ascertained, but it is certain that their close confinement was not of long duration, and that the privileges of parole were soon restored.  This was, however, not the only occasion when such an order was issued, and when the prisoners on parole were placed in close confinement.  Parole was very frequently broken by the French officers, and a considerable number were successful in making their escape.  Those who failed to do so or were recaptured were severely treated.  In extreme cases, such as repeated breaking of parole, officers were sent to the hulks.  A cadet of the Utrecht, Dutch man-of-war, who broke his parole at Tenterden, when recaptured was sent to the hulks at Chatham.  Unless there had been some gross misconduct, this punishment cannot fail to be regarded by some as unduly harsh.  On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that the full term was parole d’honneur.  The word of honour of an officer was assumed to be of a specially binding character; the poor, ignorant soldier or sailor was not trusted, the officer was, because his “word of honour” was deemed binding.  In addition, the officer signed a document corresponding to the following parole paper, which was the form used for a prisoner restored on parole to France.  This constituted a legal document.

Form of Parole Engagement.

“Whereas the Commissioners for conducting His Britannic Majesty’s Transport Service, and for the Care and Custody of Prisoners of War, have been pleased to grant me, the undersigned . . . . . . as described on p. 197the back thereof, late . . . . . . and now a Prisoner of War, leave to return to France, upon my entering into an Engagement not to serve against Great Britain, or any of the Powers in Alliance with that Kingdom, until I shall be regularly exchanged for a British Prisoner of War, of equal Rank; and upon my also engaging, that immediately after my Arrival in France, I shall make known the Place of my Residence there, to the British Agent for Prisoners in Paris, and shall not change the same on any account, without first intimating my intention to the said Agent; and moreover, that at the Expiration of every Two Months, until my exchange shall be effected, I shall regularly and punctually transmit to the said Agent, a Certificate of my Residence, signed by the Magistrates or Municipal Officers of the Place.

“Now, in Consideration of my Engagement, I do hereby declare that I have given my Parole of Honour accordingly, and that I will keep it inviolable.

“Given under my Hand at . . . . . . this . . . . . . Day of 17 . . . . . .

On back, Name, Rank, Age, Stature, Person, Visage, Complexion, Hair, Eyes, Marks or Wounds, etc.”

Further it must be borne in mind that military punishments are more severe than civil; they follow more rapidly the crime.  A breach of parole was a military crime as well as a civil offence, for which loss of liberty on a Chatham hulk was perhaps a fitting punishment.  By Clause 4 of Rules to be observed by the prisoners of war in Great Britain, Ireland, etc.—rules with which all prisoners, whether in captivity or on parole, were familiar—very severe punishment for any escaped prisoner who was retaken was laid down for every class.  In the case of officers escaping, it was enacted that if recaptured they “shall from that time be considered and treated in all respects like common p. 198men.”  An officer on parole who escapes, not only escapes, but he breaks his word of honour, and he therefore merits a more severe punishment than he who only breaks his prison bars and does nothing dishonourable.

Both the French and British Governments, to their credit, were ever ready to deal generously and even magnanimously in the way of exchange or release as a reward for some uncalled-for act of bravery or kindness on the part of prisoners in connection with their captors.  The following are a few out of many such instances: In December 1811, twenty-one English prisoners were released for assisting to extinguish a fire at Auxonne; among these was the mate of an English merchant vessel, and for him the mate of the French vessel Achille was released from Lichfield, he having assisted to put out a fire there.  The colonel of the (French) 36th Regiment was allowed to go to France on parole to try to effect the exchange of Colonel Cox, and failing this to return in three months.  In December 1810, Captain Bourde, of the French ship Neptune, was released in consequence of his humanity to the officers and crew of the Comet, a ship in the East India Company’s service.  A French surgeon detained on the prison ship Assistance, at Portsmouth, was exchanged “in consequence of his attention to the British sick soldiers on board the Spence transport as represented by Lieut. J. W. Lloyd of the 8th King’s Regiment.”  A French captain of the land forces being taken prisoner, was allowed to return to France “for his meritorious conduct in saving the life of a British officer in the last war.”  Five French officers were released from Andover “for their exertions in extinguishing a fire at that town.”  A naval lieutenant was released by Admiralty order “for saving a child’s life from a lion at Oswestry.”  In April 1812, Pierre Marie Tong was released from Portsmouth “in consideration p. 199of services offered by his father to assist the Conquisador when on shore on the coast of France.”  About the same date the second captain and clerk of a privateer obtained their liberty “for saving the lives of seventy-nine British seamen wrecked on the coast.”

Nor were these courtesies confined to officers.  A seaman, prisoner at Plymouth, was to be exchanged “for having leaped overboard and saved the life of Alexander Muir on board the Brave, as per letter 3rd June (1810) from Captain Hawkins.”  A number of Lascars, prisoners at Dunkirk, were exchanged for seamen at Norman Cross, the second captain for two, and the captain at Chatham was considered worth three Lascars.  We have, in Appendix B, alluded to the release of Captain Woodriff.  These bright examples serve to illuminate what is otherwise a gloomy episode.

The allowance paid by the British Government to the officers on parole was at first only 1s. a day.  This was increased to 1s. 6d.; but even that amount, although more than was paid by the French to the English prisoners on parole in France, was altogether inadequate, owing to the greater expense of living in England.  The inferior officers and others received only 1s. 3d.  The French scale varied from 7s. a day for a General to 10d. a day for officers of merchantmen.  Frequent complaints being made of the insufficiency of the English allowance, M. Riviere, of the French Admiralty, who nine years before denied the right of our Government to inquire into the treatment of British prisoners in France, adding, “that it (the treatment) was the will of the Emperor,” wrote a long letter to the Transport Board on the subject, stating that the cost at which an English officer could live in France was 9d. a day, while for a similar provision in England, a French officer must pay 2s. a day.  The Board called upon Lieut. Wallis, who had recently escaped from France, to check each item by the market prices of provisions in France p. 200and in England, and he arrived at the following comparison:

An English Gentleman in France will require daily:

A French Gentleman in England will require daily:







1 lb. Bread



⅓ quartern loaf of Bread



1 lb. Beef



¾ lb. of beef, 10d. a lb. at least


¾ of beer (this measure is not known)



2 quarts of beer



Beer, very bad, is 3d. a bottle, wine 7½d.; say they are taken alternately, a bottle a day


A pot of porter



Vegetables and fruit (vegetables are very cheap)


Vegetables, including apples








Expense of cooking



Cooking, at least 2d.



Wood (at Verdun very dear, 36 livres a corde) 2d. per day probably




1 day’s subsistence in France, according to M. Riviere



1 day’s subsistence in England, according to M. Riviere’s information



1 day’s subsistence in France, according to Lieut. Wallis’s price list


More probably


Average of the two estimates




It therefore appeared clear that the least an officer could live on was 2s. a day in England and 1s. a day in France.  To double the allowance to the French officers in England would, it was estimated, cost the Government £43,823, and ultimately it was decided to increase the allowance to 2s. for the higher ranks, coming down to 1s. 8d. in the lower, at an increased cost of £28,000 a year.  When invalided, the prisoners received an extra allowance, and were attended by doctors practising in their neighbourhood selected by, and paid by, the Government.  Their allowance was doubled when a p. 201nurse was required.  These extra charges were borne by the Commissioners for the Care of the Sick and Hurt, not by the Transport Board.

The majority of the officers on parole were not entirely dependent on the allowance received from the British Government, their income being supplemented by remittances sent from France.

Several of the officers of high rank, and other prisoners whose means enabled them to do so, sent for their wives and lived comfortably in lodgings.  Judging from the traditions of the Norman Cross district, and from the literature of the period, the presence of the prisoners on parole made but little change in the social life of the towns and villages in which they were quartered, not sufficient to leave an enduring impression.  This is strange, for the presence of 100 foreigners of varying social position in and round about a quiet little cathedral city, such as Peterborough was a century ago, must certainly have modified the usual routine of the social life of its citizens, and of the dwellers in the neighbouring villages in which some of the prisoners lodged.

Although the bitter antagonism which existed between the French and the British during this long war would militate against it, there is no doubt that occasionally the prisoners on parole visited and formed friendships, and even attachments, among their neighbours according to their degree.  This general statement made to the writer by his parents and other nonagenarians is borne out by the marriages to be mentioned directly, but although the writer has lived in Peterborough, excepting the few years when his education took him away, for three-quarters of a century, he does not recollect ever to have heard of any special instance of the survival of such a friendship in the city or in the immediate neighbourhood of Norman Cross, excepting those to be detailed when the marriages of the prisoners are dealt with.

p. 202It has been thought not irrelevant to the history of Norman Cross to devote the succeeding chapter to the subject of the English Prisoners in France, and it will be there seen that in the letter written by Lieut. Tucker from Verdun, he specially says, “there is no society between the English and the French.”

When in 1814 Napoleon abdicated, and the Treaty of Paris was signed on the 30th May, some 70,000 French prisoners, of whom nearly 4,000 were out on parole, together with hundreds of émigrés, left our shores.  These friendships and close associations were abruptly cut short, and the foreign element in British Society appears to have been speedily forgotten.  The intimacies which were kept up, of which we read in the biographies and family archives of those who lived in the first half of the last century, were almost all between the British and the French émigré, not between the British and the prisoners on parole; they were between persons who, although of different nationalities, agreed in their political sympathies, and who were equally opposed to the existing French Government.

Between 1793 and 1814 about 200,000 Frenchmen and other foreigners (at various periods, not all at one time), either in durance or on parole, spent a longer or shorter period of their lives in Great Britain.  In the second period of the war (1803–15) there were 122,440, and of these probably 4,000 at least were out on parole, including in this estimate not only the commissioned officers, but also the large number of officers of privateers and of civilians of various occupations who were all reckoned as prisoners of war. [202]

p. 203A comparison of the Census Returns and the official returns as to prisoners of war for the year 1810 justifies the conclusion that about 2 per cent. of the adult males in Great Britain of the average age of the prisoners must have been Frenchmen.  Of this 2 per cent., the great majority were, as has been already stated, in confinement; but as those on parole were not scattered broadcast throughout the country, but were concentrated in the various towns enumerated in the footnote to page 192, they would in these towns constitute a far larger proportion p. 204than 2 per cent. of the men of their own age.  In Peterborough the 100 parole prisoners would be about 15 per cent. of their contemporaries in the town and neighbourhood.  It is strange that this considerable element of French in the society of that period figures so little in the pages of contemporary authors who deal with social matters.  In explanation it must be borne in mind that the allowance of the Government to the prisoners on parole was only sufficient for a bare living, and that, except in the case of those with good private means, these officers would have to be very economical in their choice of lodgings, and would be thrown chiefly into the society of persons who were by their circumstances compelled to let cheap lodgings.  The prisoners would form a little circle among themselves.

Mr. John T. Thorp has with infinite pains gone into the question of how far Free Masonry brought the parole prisoners into association with their brethren of the craft. [204]  The result of his investigations is that, although in eleven of the towns in which parole prisoners were detained—viz. Abergavenny, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leek, Melrose, Northampton, Plymouth, Sanquhar, Tiverton, Penicuik, Wantage, and Wincanton—French Lodges were established by the prisoners resident in the towns or their neighbourhood, only in four is there any evidence of association with British masons.  In Abergavenny two English became members of the Lodge.  In Melrose the members of the French Lodge joined with the Brethren of the Scotch Lodge in the ceremonial of the laying of the first stone of a public reservoir, and among the archives of the Scotch Lodge was a memorial presented by twenty of the members of the French Lodge expressing their gratitude for the fraternal manner in which they had uniformly been treated by the Brethren of the Melrose Lodge.

p. 205In Wantage, the Lodge “Cours unis” was formed by the prisoners, and when seven members were transferred to Kelso, it is recorded that they were received as visitors by the Scotch Lodge in that town.

At Wincanton (“La Paix désirée”) two certificates were granted to Englishmen, one as a joining member and the other as an initiate.

Very little more evidence is found in the minutes of the English Lodges.  At Ashburton is the record of the Initiation of a Frenchman.  At Selkirk twenty-three parole prisoners who were masons were enrolled as members of the Lodge, and they were allowed the use of the Lodge Room for their own business and ceremonies.

At Northampton, in the neighbouring county to that in which Norman Cross is situated, a French Lodge (“La Bonne Union”) was established, but there is no tradition of any association with the English Brethren.

At Ashby-de-la-Zouch a French Lodge was formed, but there is no record of any intercourse with the English Brethren.  Ashby was a large depot for parole prisoners, some 200 being located in the town and neighbourhood, and there is a tradition that the French Lodge of Freemasons gave a ball to which they invited many of the inhabitants.

One reason why the Brethren of the French and English nations apparently associated to such a small extent, is that the British masons would, as a rule, regard the French Lodges as irregular and self-constituted, they having no mandate from the Grandmaster of England or Scotland.

In Peterborough there is no record or tradition of a French Lodge.

Mr. Thorp, in the little history from which these facts are drawn, mentions the marriage of a member of the French Lodge at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Brother Louis Jan to a Miss Edwards, in 1809.  The couple went to p. 206France in 1814, returned to England for some years, but went back to Rouen, where M. Jan died.  His widow came back to Ashby, where she supported herself and her children by teaching French.  She died in 1867.

As regards the parole prisoners whose headquarters were at Peterborough, a careful search through the marriage register of St. John’s Church has failed to discover an entry of any marriage which can be identified as that of a French prisoner and English girl; but in the years 1800–01 five marriages between Dutch prisoners and English girls were celebrated in the church and duly registered.

The first three bridegrooms were young officers, who were married on the eve of their restoration to liberty under the terms of the Convention of Alkmaar.  From the register of Dutch Prisoners of War in the Record Office, we have been able to identify these bridegrooms.  In the Parish Church Register there is absolutely no hint that the bridegrooms were prisoners of war.  The names only are given, without any description, although the statement that there are entries of French prisoners, designated as such, in this marriage register having been once made, has been adopted time after time by writers and lecturers on this subject.

1.  On the 17th February 1800, Albertus Coeymans was married to Ann Whitwell.  Witnesses who signed the register, B. Pletsz and James Gibbs.  James Gibbs appears to have been the Parish Clerk, who usually witnessed the marriages.  From the register in the Record Office we find that Albertus Coeymans was 2nd Lieutenant in the Furie, was captured when the ship was taken, received at Norman Cross 19th November 1798, and “discharged to Holland” 19th February 1800.  The witness B. Pletsz was Captain of the Furie, and was received at Norman Cross on the same date as the Lieutenant.

2.  On the 17th February 1800, Adrian Roeland p. 207Robberts Roelans was married to Mary Kingston.  Witnesses, Joseph Little and James Gibbs.  Mr. Roelans was a midshipman on the Jupiter, and was received at Norman Cross, with others of the captured crew, on the 4th November 1797, being released on parole twelve days after his reception.  It is interesting to note that the witness at this wedding was not another Dutch officer, but Mr. Joseph Little of Thorpe, in which hamlet Miss Kingston resided.  That the marriage of his friend was satisfactory to this witness, and that the intimacy between them was kept up after the liberation of the midshipman under the Alkmaar Cartel, may be accepted as established by an entry in the register nine years later of the marriage of Joseph Little of Thorpe to Mary Roelans, probably the sister of his friend the midshipman captured on the Jupiter.

Mr. Joseph Little remained at home with his Dutch bride, and as far as can be traced through the complicated connections of the large clan of Littles, the blood of Roelans still runs in the blood of several of them.  A brother of Mr. Little’s had married a sister of the Miss Kingston who became the wife of Cadet Roelans, thus creating another link in the marriage connection of the Dutch Roelans and the Northamptonshire Littles.

3.  On the 18th February 1800, Charles Peter Vanderaa married Lucy Rose.  Witnesses to the marriage, J. Ysbrands and James Gibbs.  Mr. Vanderaa was Lieutenant on a brig-of-war which was captured.  He was received at Peterborough on parole on 11th June 1798, and was released on 19th February 1800.  The witness J. Ysbrands was the Captain of the Courier, taken prisoner and received at Peterborough on parole 21st June 1798, released 19th February 1800 in accordance with the Alkmaar Convention.

4.  After an interval of six months, on 20th August 1800, is the entry of the marriage of Antoni Staring to Nancy Rose.  Witnesses, E. B. Knogz and James p. 208Gibbs.  The bridegroom was Captain on the Duyffe man-of-war.  He was received 27th May 1800, released 26th August, having been married on the day previous.  The witness E. B. Knogz was surgeon on the Duyffe, and was received at Peterborough and released on the same day as the captain.

5.  The fifth marriage of the Dutch prisoners was that of Berthold Johannas Justin Wyeth to Sarah Wotton.  These marriages were all by licence and not by banns.  In this case the entry is “Licence with consent of Parents,” but this by no means implies that the other marriages took place without such consent; the addition of these words depended upon the habit of the officiating minister.  The witness was B. Pletsz.  Mr. Wyeth was 2nd Lieutenant of the Furie, and was received on parole on 19th November 1798.  He was not exchanged under the Alkmaar Cartel, but remained a prisoner until the 16th October 1801. [208]

p. 209As regards the absence of any evidence of the marriage of the French prisoners and British women, it must be remembered that the vast majority of the French were Roman Catholics, and that mixed marriages of members of that Church with Protestants were discouraged by the authorities of both Churches alike.  There existed also throughout these years a fierce animosity between the French and the English, and when it is added that the French Government did not acknowledge the legality of such marriages, so that in many instances the unfortunate wives when they returned with their husbands at the close of the war were not allowed to land, we can understand that almost irresistible pressure would be exercised to prevent these unions, and that intimacies and flirtations which might ripen into love would very probably be strongly discouraged.

One instance of an attachment between a French prisoner confined at Norman Cross and an English girl, and their subsequent marriage, was that of Jean Marie Philippe Habart to Elizabeth Snow, of Stilton.  In the prison register we find Jean Habart entered as a sailor, captured off Calais, 20th June 1803, in L’Abondance, a small vessel of ten tons.  He was put on board L’Immortalité, and from her transferred to the prison ship Sandwich; was sent thence to Norman Cross, being received 27th August 1803.  He acted as baker to Mr. Lindsay, the contractor, and was discharged on 20th June 1811.  This official statement differs from the family tradition in two points only: the register says (probably incorrectly) that he was a sailor, the family that he was only temporarily on the boat fishing; the register says that he was freed on 20th June 1811, his granddaughter believed that he was freed on the emptying of the prison in 1814 (the register in this case is doubtless correct).  p. 210His granddaughter’s account is, that M. Jean M. P. Habart was the son of a gunsmith in a good position in a town on the north coast of France, and that he was captured while fishing off the coast, and was imprisoned at Norman Cross.  There, as we learn from the register, not being a combatant, but a civilian prisoner of war, he was employed as baker to the contractor.

His future wife, the daughter of a farmer in Stilton, was in the habit of bringing up the milk bought for the prisoners’ use, and she would probably have frequent interviews with the contractor’s assistant, and as her granddaughter says, “she fell in love with him.”  The attachment was mutual, and when after his release he returned to France, he left his heart behind him.  During his imprisonment his father had died, leaving property for his children, [210a] and Jean, when he had realised his share, returned to England, married Miss Snow, and settled in business, as a baker and corn merchant, in Stilton.  The years of his imprisonment had been sweetened by love, but his end was a tragic one.  On 24th January 1840, forty-three years after he passed through the prison gates and first saw the hated caserns and fenced courts of Norman Cross, he was killed within sight of the fields on which they stood.

He was returning from a round, which he had been making to collect money from his customers, and it is supposed that at an inn in Peterborough he had shown his well-filled purse, and was followed on the Norman Cross Road to the spot about three miles from Peterborough, where he was found with his head battered in and his pockets rifled, his empty purse being found some time after in an adjacent field. [210b]

p. 211Such histories as have been here given from the writer’s long and intimate knowledge of the locality might doubtless be collected in the neighbourhood of other prisons, but the danger of assuming that the mere occurrence of French names in the neighbourhood of a depot “still speak of the old war time” has already been dealt with in Chap. IV, p. 59, footnote.

The parole-breakers who managed to escape, varied from the humblest and poorest of the non-combatants, who had to pass through many hardships and trying adventures before securing their freedom, to men in the position and affluence of General Lefebre, who, in May 1812, accompanied by his wife, escaped from Cheltenham.  He personated a German count; his wife, in boy’s clothes, passed for his son, and his aide-de-camp acted as valet.  They put up at an hotel in Jermyn Street, got a passport, and reached Dover in style, whence they were conveyed to the French coast.  From France he wrote an insolent letter to the English Government in justification of his breach of parole.

A slightly different version was that he reached London as a Russian General Officer, with two aides-de-camp, one of whom was his wife dressed in military costume; all conversed in German.

The conduct of the officers on parole both as regards the breaking of their parole and their general orderly behaviour, varied greatly in different districts, as also did the attitude of the surrounding population towards the prisoners when they attempted to escape.  A population which for centuries had been accustomed to receive the benefits of, and to ignore or assist in, the trade of smuggling, would view the attempt to escape in a different light to that in which the quiet agricultural population of the Midlands and East Anglia would regard it.

p. 212The father of the writer, who had seen and heard much of the prisoners of war during his boyhood in Perth, said that while the British prisoners in France contrasted unfavourably with the French in England, because they showed none of the skill and industry which enabled the French to produce work, by the sale of which they raised large sums of money, the French displayed a moral inferiority by the frequency with which they broke their parole, that is, disregarded the pledge given on their word of honour.  The following return shows that in the three years included in the table, about one in every ten of the officers of the army and navy who were on parole broke their pledge.  The proportion cannot be calculated in the case of other persons of promiscuous occupations, as the table does not give the total number of the prisoners of this class, but only the actual number, 218, who broke their parole.

Transport Office,
25th June 1812.



Total No. of Com. Off. on Parole.

No. that broke their Parole.

Been retaken.

Effected escape.

Year ending 5th June 1810





,, ,, ,, ,, 1811





,, ,, ,, ,, 1812










Beside the above Commissioned Officers, other French Prisoners, such as Masters and Mates of Merchant Vessels, Captains, 2nd Captains, and Lieutenants of Privateers, Civilians holding situations connected with the Army and Navy, Passengers and other Persons of respectability, have broken their Parole in the three years above mentioned








N.B.—The numbers stated in this Account include those Persons p. 213only who have actually absconded from the places appointed for their Residence.

A considerable number of Officers have been ordered into confinement, for various other breaches of their Parole Engagements.

(Signed)  Rup. George, J. Bowen, J. Douglas. [213a]


There are no records to show that the conduct of those on parole from Norman Cross, whether they were lodged in the prison or in the neighbouring towns and villages, was otherwise than that of gentlemen, and the records of broken parole are very scanty.

The prisoners reported themselves regularly twice a week, as the custom was, to the agent at Peterborough, when he paid each his allowance; they kept within bounds, and returned to their lodgings within the prescribed hours.

No such amusing incident is told of any of them, as that told of the French officer at Jedburgh, who, being an antiquarian, soon exhausted all places of interest within the circle of one mile radius, beyond which the country was out of bounds.  Being told of a most interesting building a little beyond the first milestone from the town, he nobly struggled against the longing to go beyond that stone, and he was rewarded for his strict adherence to his “Parole d’honneur,” for an inspiration came to him, and, borrowing a spade and a wheel-barrow, he laboriously dug up the milestone, and, putting it into his wheel-barrow, carted it beyond the spot of his heart’s desire, and, replanting it there, revelled in his research with unspotted honour. [213b]

Mr. Palmer, who was born in 1812, three years before Waterloo, and lived on the North Road in a pretty farmhouse at Stibbington, opposite the first milestone from Wansford, told the writer that when his grandfather took the farm in 1797, the house was the Wheat Sheaf, a coaching inn, which came to grief in 1841, killed by the railways, the house being rechristened p. 214The Road Side Farm.  The milestone was the outside limit for those on parole who were quartered at Wansford (it was more than five miles from Norman Cross), and Mr. Palmer pointed out the small room which the prisoners used for smoking and recreation.  His grandmother was renowned for cooking, and could even please the fastidious taste of the French officers.  Mr. Palmer’s little baby eyes must often have looked with wonder at the prisoners, talking in a language he could not comprehend, and he must have gazed after them with childish curiosity, as they turned—after a longing look into the forbidden land beyond—to retrace their steps and reach their lodging within the time prescribed.

One point should be noted, that in searching the records to ascertain the various regiments quartered at Norman Cross, in order to fix the date of Macgregor’s plan, it was incidentally found that while the West Kent Regiment was quartered there in 1813, detachments lay at Peterborough, Whittlesea, and other neighbouring towns; these were probably for the purpose of acting if any difficulty arose with the prisoners on parole.  The punishment for breaking parole was, as already mentioned, if the prisoner were recaptured, very severe.  Not only was the ration allowance reduced until all expenses incurred in the capture were paid off, but committal to one of the prisons or to the hulks was also inflicted.

The local histories of various towns where depots for prisoners of war on parole were established have been consulted with very disappointing results.  There must be local sources of information in some of the ninety-one towns enumerated in the footnote at page 192, and any future writer on the subject of the prisoners of war confined in Britain between 1793–1814 is advised, if he has leisure for research, to seek information from these districts.  The following condensed notes on the prisoners on parole at Leek are given as an p. 215example of what took place in one of the towns where facts have been put on record in a local history.  Unfortunately no such record is available for any of the towns in the Norman Cross district.  It was only within the last fifty years that the following scanty information was collected and recorded.  Sleigh’s History of Leek was published in 1862, only forty-seven years after Waterloo, when Mr. Neau was still alive, and when the children of the few parole prisoners who settled in Leek when their captivity was at an end must have been still only middle-aged people, and yet in this first edition the prisoners are not mentioned.

In 1883 there were published, in Notes and Queries, [215a] some interesting paragraphs dealing with the subject of the prisoners of war, and these were embodied in the second edition of Sleigh’s Leek, published in 1883. [215b]  From these paragraphs the following condensed notes are culled.  The officers received all courtesy and hospitality from the principal inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood.  Those with good private means used to dine out in full uniform, each with his body servant stationed behind his chair.  It is also stated that these prisoners used to go out early and collect snails as a bonne-bouche for breakfast.  There were some men of mark among them.  Of these, three died during their captivity, and were buried with many other parole prisoners in the God’s acre attached to the old church.  There are memorial stones to Joseph Dobee, Captain of La Sophie, ob. 2nd December 1811, æt. 54; to Chevalier J. Baptiste Mullot, Captain of the 72nd French Regiment, ob. 9th June 1811, æt. 43; and to Charles Luneand, Captain in the French Navy, ob. 4th March 1822.  The latter officer must have settled in Leek, the date of his death being seven years after Waterloo.

There are short notes on several others who were p. 216on parole at the Depot.  General Brunet, captured at St. Domingo in 1803, his aide-de-camp, his adjutant, Col. Felix of the Artillery, and Lieut. Devoust of the Navy, son of the Senator of that name, are mentioned.  There is a note that M. Bartin, a French naval officer, prisoner on parole about the space of eleven years, behaved himself extremely well all the time he lived with us.  John Mien, servant to General Brunet, who was living in his eighty-fifth year in 1870, as a boy of seven witnessed the execution of Louis XVI., and heard the drums roll at Santerre’s command to drown the monarch’s speech.

Several of the parole prisoners married.  M. Salvert, commander in the navy, married Helen Govstry of Leek Moor.  Jean Toufflet, a sea-captain, left issue in the town; his widow, née Lorouds, died the 5th February 1870, æt. 84.  M. Chouquet, a sea-captain, left a son living in 1870.  Joseph Vattel, cook to General Brunet, married Sarah Spilsbury.  One, Vandome, a naval officer and a most excellent linguist, used to render the English papers into his native tongue for the benefit of his comrades at the billiard-tables established by the officers.

That the prisoners on parole, like their fellow countrymen in close confinement, added to their means of living by their industry, is proved by the note in the history of Leek that there is in existence an old card, intimating that “James Francis Neau, of Derby Street, sold straw hats, beautiful straw, ivory and bone fancy articles, made by the French prisoners,” and many exquisite models of ships and other nick-nacks, still in existence, testify to the facile talent and marvellously patient industry of these prisoners.

This Francis Neau was a privateer officer who married a Mary Lees; she was living in 1870.

There was a remarkable duel.  A Captain Decourbes had been fishing, and, coming in after curfew bell had p. 217tolled at 8 p.m., had to report himself to Captain Grey, R.N., the Commissary.  He afterwards met a Captain Robert at the billiard-room at the Black’s Head, who grossly insulted him and struck him in the face, so that the duel became inevitable.  Neau, who was present, was deputed to furnish them with firearms; but after ransacking the town, he could only succeed in borrowing one horse-pistol from a private in the Yeomanry.  The two met on Balidone Moor at three the next morning, and tossed for the first shot.  Decourbes won, and hit his adversary in the breast so that the ball entered at one side and came out at the other.  Robert, who was previously lame and had come on to the ground on crutches, then, grievously wounded as he was, gathered himself up and returned the fire, shooting Decourbes in the nape of the neck.  Lieut. Vird of the 72nd Regiment of Foot acted as Robert’s second; he was subsequently killed at Waterloo.

They all walked back together to Leek, the two combatants treating their wounds very lightly; but Decourbes’ wound went wrong, and he died of it in the course of ten days or a fortnight.

The number of prisoners at Leek never exceeded 200, and they came by detachments in 1803, 1805, 1809, and 1812, almost all clearing out after Napoleon’s abdication 5th April 1814.

It will not be forgotten that in the earlier period of the war the prisoners on parole in various parts of the country were all removed to Norman Cross; whether any similar change in their condition was experienced, after the resumption of hostilities in 1803, by the prisoners out upon their parole, remains a matter of uncertainty.

Passing now to the subject of the Exchange of prisoners, and the chances that a prisoner at Norman Cross or elsewhere had of obtaining his liberty by an exchange for an English prisoner of equal rank, it must be borne p. 218in mind that a large number of civilians were in captivity, especially in the second period of the war.

This practice of taking captive so many civilians in the second period of the war, 1803–15, was attributed to the British system of seizing all French vessels of every kind and making their crews captive.  This practice was adopted as a retaliation for the first act of Buonaparte, then ruling France as First Consul, when hostilities were resumed in May 1803.  As a reprisal for what he considered the dishonourable action of two British frigates in seizing in harbour French merchantmen before the formal declaration of war had reached France, the Consul ordered the immediate arrest of every British subject between the age of eighteen and sixty who happened to be in France at that time, thus throwing 10,000 peaceable travellers and others into captivity.

Wellington, replying 4th September 1813 to an application from Mr. J. S. Larpent requesting the General to obtain his release from captivity, wrote:

“In this war, which on account of the violence of animosity with which it is conducted, it is to be hoped will be the last, for some time at least, everybody taken is considered a prisoner of war, and none are released without exchange.  There are several persons, now in my power, in the same situation as yourself in that respect, that is to say, non-combatants according to the known and anciently practised rules of war; among others there is the secretary of the Governor of San Sebastian. . . .” [218]

Such being the spirit of the war, negotiations for exchange continually fell through.

In the early period it was the want of good faith on the part of the French, and the unfairness with which the exchange was conducted by them, that on more than one occasion put a stop to the general exchange p. 219which was going on.  Thus in 1798, when a general exchange had been arranged, and the Depot at Norman Cross was rapidly emptying, the Samaritan cartel took 201 French prisoners to France, but returned with only 71 British.  The Britannia carried over 150, and 450 were conveyed by two other cartels; the three returned without a single British prisoner.  The captains of the vessels were told that there were no British prisoners to return, and they were ordered to sea at once, regardless of wind or weather.

During the early negotiations a return was furnished to show what had been the result of the general exchange up to the date when fresh arrangements were to be made, and it appeared that 6,056 British prisoners had been received from France, while she had received from the British 16,334, including 4,986 captured at Martinique and Guadeloupe.  On 19th March 1798 by the fresh exchange France had received 12,543, Britain only 5,045, leaving a balance of 7,498 due to England.  The earliest prisoners to be exchanged from Norman Cross left on 24th August 1797, only four months after the first prisoners had been received there.  The contingent was sent to Lynn; it numbered 305, and consisted of 7 captains of privateers, 4 sergeants, 6 corporals, 148 soldiers, 127 seamen and 7 boys, and 6 not specified.  They sailed in the Rosine, which had brought the same number of British to England.

The article of the agreement providing that the prisoners for exchange were not to be selected, but were to be taken according to the priority of their capture, was afterwards modified, so as to select the aged, the infirm, such as were not seamen, and boys under twelve years of age!  Amid all the bickering and obstinacy on both sides in the negotiations as to the treatment and exchange of the prisoners, there is one instance which shows that the chivalrous spirit of the French was not dead.

p. 220In March 1797 M. Charretie, the French Commissary in England, enclosed a list of thirty-six British seamen to be released without exchange for their humanity in rescuing and aiding the crew of a French vessel bearing the appropriate name of Les Droits de l’Homme.

Although it was a traffic strictly forbidden, some of the prisoners sold their turn of exchange to their more wealthy comrades, the purchaser assuming the name of the vendor, and vice versa.  If detected, the vendor forfeited his rights of exchange, and was kept a prisoner until the end of the war.  Notwithstanding this regulation, it was said that one man had contrived to carry on these transactions from 1797 to 13th January 1800 without detection.  This voluntary prolongation of the imprisonment surely helps to prove the falsity of the statements of the French as to the treatment of the prisoners by the British.

This practice of personating a fellow prisoner was carried out occasionally under more tragic conditions.

In the course of the investigations to establish the facts of the epidemic of 1800–01, a certificate was found with the name François le Fevre crossed out, and the name of Bernard Batrille substituted, with a note that the name of François le Fevre was assumed by Batrille when he entered the hospital to die of consumption.  This was, doubtless, not the sole instance of such practices among the prisoners.  A prisoner high up in the list for exchange, who knew that he was dying, would, when about to enter the hospital, for a sum of money or from friendship, exchange his current number and his name with another man low down in the list, the dying man, if this was done for payment, thus securing a sum of money for his heirs in France, and the other increasing his chance of release by exchange.

The case of Le Fevre and Batrille would have escaped detection, but for the special investigation made by Captain Woodriff to establish the identity of those p. 221who had died in the epidemic unrecognised.  The investigation led to the identification among the living prisoners of François le Fevre, who had been personating Batrille, since he entered the hospital, and had died, and was buried in the name of the former man.

During the first period of the war, 1793–1802, exchange went on, with interruptions from the causes mentioned.  The prisoners passed in a sluggish stream through Norman Cross, but so sluggish that many of them were there, confined or out on parole, during the whole five years.  Notwithstanding the exchange the prisons were at times greatly overcrowded, and in 1801, when the French army in Egypt surrendered to Abercrombie, such was the burden of prisoners that no attempt was made to claim the troops as captives, but they were transported in British ships to France.

During the second period of the war negotiations for exchange completely failed.  In April 1810, when there were about 10,000 British prisoners in France, and 50,000 French in Britain, Mr. Mackenzie was sent by the British Ministry to treat for a general exchange, the main condition in the British proposal being that for every French prisoner returned to France, a British prisoner of equal rank should be returned to Britain; that this should go on until the whole of the British prisoners were restored; and after that was accomplished, the British Government would continue the restoration of the French, on the understanding that France on her part returned to his native country, man for man, one of the prisoners of Britain’s allies—i.e. a Spanish or Portuguese of equal rank with the French prisoner handed over by Britain.

To this the French Emperor would not agree; he insisted that the British and their allies should be reckoned as one army, and that for four Frenchmen released from the British prisons and returned to France, only one British subject should be returned to England, p. 222and three other prisoners of various nationalities restored to their respective Governments.  On this plan, if the negotiations fell through while the exchange was going on, say, when it was half way through, France would have got back from Britain 20,000 of her veterans, England would have received only 5,000 Britons, the balance, 15,000, being a rabble of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian levies of practically no value, and this contention Buonaparte held to, although it was his opinion expressed a few years later “that while as a fighting unit, you might set against one Frenchman one Englishman, you would require two Prussian, Dutch, or soldiers of the Confederation.”

Buonaparte, referring to the failure of these negotiations, accounted for his firmness by his want of faith in the British, and his conviction that when they got their 10,000 countrymen back, they would find some excuse to stop the further exchange.  Could we, on our part, after the unfair conduct of the exchanges, in the early part of the war, instances of which with the Norman Cross prisoners have been given, rely on the French Government carrying out in good faith even its own scheme, which on the face of it showed a disregard of British rights. [222]  The negotiations fell through, and the great bulk of the prisoners at Norman Cross had to drag out their weary life until the abdication of Buonaparte and his retirement to Elba in 1814.



Oh, to be in England,
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf,
Round the Elm tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the Chaffinch sings in the orchard bough,
In England—now.


It has been necessary in the preceding chapters to allude occasionally to the English prisoners in France, and a short chapter on their experiences may be deemed not irrelevant to the scheme of this little history.  The author having in his boyhood been personally acquainted with the Rev. John Hopkinson, Rector of Alwalton, near Peterborough, who had been, from February 1804 to April 1814, a prisoner of war in France, will avail himself of the kind permission of this gentleman’s son, the Rev. W. Hopkinson, J.P., of Sutton Grange, Northamptonshire, and commence the chapter with a narrative of his experiences which Mr. J. Hopkinson had himself written, and which was found among his papers after his death in 1853.

The prison at Verdun, where Mr. Hopkinson was confined at times closely, at others on parole, was occupied by the subjects of Great Britain and her allies, the British being the great majority.  The prisoners were of the same class as those who were allowed on parole p. 224in Britain and who were distributed either in special prisons such as Norman Cross or in parties, which might vary from a few units to 300 or more, in one of the towns enumerated in the footnote, Chapter X, p. 192.

Mr. Hopkinson was the son of the vicar of Morton, near Bourne in Lincolnshire.  He was born in 1782 within three miles of the home of Hereward the Wake, and early in life he showed that he was endowed with some of that hero’s spirit—a spirit too adventurous for the quiet parsonage.  After various experiences, commencing with his following as a child a recruiting party, and joining it as a drummer boy, he entered His Majesty’s service on the 5th March 1803 as a cadet (first-class volunteer) on board the frigate Hussar.  This vessel, after some brushes with the enemy while cruising in the Mediterranean, was wrecked off the Isle of Saints on the Coast of France.  Mr. Hopkinson’s experiences in this misfortune and up to the date of his entering Verdun are given in his own words, while a brief biography added by his widow brings the narrative up to the date of his release after the first abdication of Buonaparte, and his arrival in England in April 1814, simultaneously with the evacuation of Norman Cross to be described in the next chapter.

“Monday night, February 6th, 1804, weighed from Ares Bay near Ferrol, bound to England with despatches, made sail and worked out of Ferrol Bay.  Tuesday, Fresh breezes for the best part of the day from the Rd.  Wednesday the 8th—At noon by account Ushant bore from us N. 24 Lat: distant 109 miles, towards the Evening the breeze died away and became variable, but sprung up from the Southward and Westward at 6 o’clock.  At 8 o’clock P.M. Ushant distant 50 miles, went on deck to keep my watch, the ship steering N.E. by E. by the Captain’s orders, who had also left orders to be called at 12 o’clock.  The breeze continued, freshening considerably till 10 o’clock, when I was obliged to leave the deck to attend the Gunner in transporting p. 225powder, which duty we were on the point of finishing at 11.30, when the ship struck with great violence, put the lights out immediately and got on deck as soon as possible, where we found every person struck with terror, it being the general opinion, that the violent shock which they had felt proceeded from the powder magazine and expecting every moment to be their last; but when relieved from this dreadful impression by our appearing on deck, they immediately let go the small bower anchor and proceeded to take in sail.

“It appears that at the time the ship struck she was going between 8 and 9 knots, which hurried her on the rocks with such violence, that the tiller was carried away, the rudder unhung from the stern post, and a great hole made somewhere under the starboard bow, and after beating over the reef, the ship was running on an immense rock, which was prevented by the letting go of the anchor.  As soon as the sails were furled we manned the pumps, and found the ship made at the rate of 15 feet water per hour.  At 12, on the turning of the tide, the ship tailed on the rocks and struck with dreadful violence at times: let go the best bower anchor, scuttled the spirit room bulkhead to clear the water from aft.  Fired minute guns and rockets at times, with the signal of distress: discovered a light on our starboard beam, a small island, but no one on board knew for a certainty where we were, employed all night at the pumps, and clearing away booms to get spars out to shore the ship up, as also to be in readiness to get the boats out if requisite.

“At 6 a.m. daylight discovered to us our situation, that we were upon a reef of rocks, extending from the island of Saints Westward in to the Atlantic, ‘Hinc atque hinc vastœ rupes’ at a distance of half a mile from the island.  Got the shores out on the starboard side, lowered the cutter, and sent the master to sound for a passage among the innumerable rocks with which we p. 226were perfectly surrounded.  At 7 the ship had gained one foot on the pumps, and during the last hour had 3 ft. 8 inches water in the hold, at 8 the master returned, and had only found a narrow passage with 10 feet water in the deepest part, which report together with every appearance of an approaching gale from the S.W. confirmed the opinion already formed, that we were precluded from every means of saving the ship.  In consequence of which Capt. W. ordered the third division of seamen, and all the marines to land, and take possession of the island, in order to secure a retreat, and, if possible, the means of escape from the enemy.  Got the boats out and landed the force above mentioned, being given to understand by the Gunner, who pretended to know the place, that it was a Military Station, and consequently, that we should meet with some resistance; but on arriving at the town found it only occupied by a few fishermen.  Took possession of the church and made use of it as barracks for our ship’s company, whom we were occupied landing all the remaining part of the day, the current running with such rapidity between the rocks, that it was with the greatest difficulty and danger the boats could go to and fro.  This was however happily effected without any accident; landed also three days’ provisions: ‘Tum celerem corruptam undis cerealiaque arma expediunt.’

“The wind all this day very boisterous from the S.W. with heavy rain, and every symptom of an approaching gale.  Towards dusk, mustered the ship’s company, put them all into the Church and placed sentries over them, patrol’d the island all night, employed all the forenoon in burning the remnants of the ship, and fitting 13 sail of fishing boats, besides our Captain’s barge for our departure for England: the Captain’s boat distinguished by the Union Jack being destined to lead the way, and the other boats being formed into three divisions, commanded by the three Lieuts. with distinguishing p. 227names to follow in due order, the wind being fresh from the S.W.

“I may now begin to speak on a smaller scale, and only mention the proceedings of our own boat, with occasional remarks concerning the others.  At noon, made sail from the Island, scudding under a fore and main sail alternately.  At 4, finding the wind heading us fast, hauled on a wind to endeavour to keep off shore as much as possible, in order to get on the Beniquet if necessary, most of the other boats being in sight, the Captain’s just perceptible ahead.  At 6, strong gales and squally, with rain and a tremendous heavy sea.  Observed the Hay stacks on our lee beam: at 6.30, observed the oars and rowlock of the Captain’s barge floating to leeward which made us fear, ‘fraguntur remi,’ that he had perished.  At 7, passed to leeward of the Parquet, which was very perceptible by the roaring and breaking of the sea, which was awful in the extreme.

“At 9, finding we could not weather St. Matthew’s, Mr. B. and the commanding Officer, ‘O socii passi graviora,’ of the boat addressed the crew, to consult concerning the best means of saving their lives, when it was unanimously decided to bear up for Brest, a dire, but unavoidable alternative.  Employed continually pumping and baling the boat, over which the seas were continually breaking.  At 10.30, spoke one of our boats, which was laying broadside to the seas dismasted, but could not give her any assistance.  At 11 were hailed by the batteries, did not answer, but hauled close to the land; they fired at us several times, but without effect.

“At 11.30 ran alongside a line of Battle ship which caused an immediate uproar on board of her.  They threw us a rope, but no one could hold it, on account of the cold and numbed state of all on board.  The ship (which proved to be the Foudroyant) immediately manned her boat, and boarded us, and when the Officer p. 228understood who we were, he took us out of our boat, which he left moored to a buoy, and put us on board of L’Indienne frigate, the tide running too strong to regain his own ship.  We were uncommonly well treated on board, one of the Mids made me change my clothes, and they gave us every refreshment in their power, after which I fell asleep till 3 a.m., when I was called to go on board the Foudroyant, the ship to which we had first surrendered.  Here the Captain behaved to us in a handsomer way than we had any right to expect, giving up his own cabin for our use, furnishing us with linen, and every delicacy he had to offer.  Got up at 6 and walked the deck with the French midshipmen, who gave me to understand that our countrymen had been coming in the harbour at all hours of the night, and they also told me that our boat had gone to the bottom.  After breakfast with the Capt. he expressed the greatest concern at being obliged to send us on board the Flagship.  We accordingly at 10 o’clock left him, impressed with the highest sense of his humanity and generosity.

“On our arrival on board the Flagship we had the inexpressible pleasure of meeting with a great many of our shipmates, of whose fate till then we were totally ignorant.  After dining on board, we were all ordered on shore to be confined in the hospital, until the will of the Minister of War should be known.  When in the Hospital we were mustered and found that the following were missing, Capt. W. and his crew making altogether 12, whom some seamen affirmed to have seen sink, which statement was partly corroborated by our having seen his oars.  Mr. Gordon, midshipman and his crew, 15 in number, who, when last seen, were a long way to windward, and Mr. Thomas the En. who was drowned in landing.  The next day to our great astonishment Mr. Gordon and his crew joined us and gave us slight reasons to hope that Capt. W. had reached the Beniquet.

p. 229O’Brien.





















“During the next week we were visited by the Commissary of War, who told us that the Minister of War had given orders for our being removed to Verdun, and advised us to prepare as much as possible for our march to that place; he also had the goodness to send us a banker who gave money for bills on the Government, a thing that was very acceptable, as by the length of time we had been at sea all our Lieuts. had some pay due, and they supplied the Midshipmen with small sums, which, added to the allowance of the French, 1s. 3d. per diem, might enable us to travel very comfortably.

“On the 17th we were told to hold ourselves in readiness to march the next morning at daylight.  We consequently were drawn up in the hospital yard the next morning to the number of 264—21 of whom were officers, the rest seamen.  ‘Unus absit.’  We left Brest at 7 a.m. escorted by a strong guard of infantry and about twenty horsemen.  The morning was fine and pleasant.  After marching about two hours we came to the summit of a hill, whence we had a fine view of Brest harbour and roads, with the adjacent coast, bounded by the Atlantic, on which, at about the distance of 15 miles, we could plainly see our whole Channel Fleet standing in, under easy sail—this sight, mortifying as it was, became still more so, by the jeerings of the French Soldiery, which, to his credit be it spoken, were repressed as much as possible by the Officer who conducted us.  About 1 p.m. reached Landernau, a small town, distant from Brest about 5 leagues.  We went on in this way till the 24th, when our escort was relieved by another of a similar p. 230kind at St. Brieux, a small seaport town.  The officer on leaving us, requested us to give him a paper testifying his good treatment of us, to which we readily assented, his behaviour to us having been uniformly kind.

“To repeat every day’s march would be useless, suffice it to say, that after passing thro’ Rennes, Alençon, Versailles, St. Cloud, St. Denis, within a mile of Paris, and divers other places of less note, we arrived at Verdun on Sunday, March 25th, having marched a distance of 204 leagues.”

Mr. Hopkinson, when liberated; did not continue in the service, but went to Clare College, was ordained, became Precentor of Peterborough Cathedral, and later Rector of Alwalton (about three miles from Norman Cross), where he died in 1853.  The following note was added to the prisoner’s own account by his widow:

“And here with this interesting account of his shipwreck and the consequent imprisonment of himself and shipmates, the narrative ceases, and all that can be told of the eleven years’ captivity must be imperfect.  But, young and full of energy, after the first trial it was a time of mixed pain and pleasure.  From the age of fifteen to twenty-five is not often the period of despondency.  He formed during this time friendships and attachments which only ceased with life: and be it observed the circle which was bound together so closely, was composed entirely of those of honour and principle.  While there were unfortunately very many who by their conduct were a disgrace to their country, this small knot of friends to whom he belonged, who shared each other’s purse and each other’s poverty, left in France a reputation unsullied.

“Many years after when he visited, under such different circumstances, these scenes of his youth with his brother, he was received everywhere with a warmth p. 231of affection and respect affecting to witness.  The friendships formed at this period under mutual hardships and privations were very lasting and peculiar; each saw the other without disguise and selfishness—that bane of worldly friendship could not exist, where all had the same privations.  He would tell of times, when penniless, he positively was without food, and the means of procuring it, till he and his friend, both good fishermen, procured a meal by fishing in the Meuse.  Many were the anecdotes they would relate when meeting under what seemed happier circumstances.  There were times when they heard nothing of home or England for a length of time.  On one occasion on the arrival of fresh prisoners, one of them unloosing his cravat, let fall a piece of newspaper, which he had wrapped in it to stiffen it; how anxiously was it snatched up by those poor captives.  In this piece of waste paper he read of some promotion to his brother in his profession when only to know that he lived was joy unspeakable.

“He always spoke well of the French in general: it is true and must have been mortifying, they were on some occasions led out to be gazed at by the populace, as kind of trophies, and when Nelson died, their grief was embittered by the jeerings of the vulgar, ‘Votre Nelson est mort’—such is the fate of prisoners of war—but as a body he always said they were a kind people.

“At the return of peace in 1814, hailed and welcomed as it was in every quarter of the globe, what must have been the joy of him, who had passed inactive wearisome years separated from his native land!  The long march homeward was never wearisome.  Arrived in London, he repaired to the Hotel, where his brother was expecting him.  He had just stepped out.  Anxious and excited my husband went out too, hoping to find him: in the meantime his brother returned, and being told of his arrival, awaited him on the step of the door.  When he p. 232came back, the foreign look and dress at once assured his brother that it was himself, and he stood in his way.  Impatient at an impediment to entering the house, he hastily begged him to step aside, when the words, ‘John, do you not know me?’ told him he had found his brother.  Both were so changed that they should not have known each other.  How often, and with ever new delight, did he recall this meeting!

“He returned home, and tho’ much, very much had happened to cloud his happiness, the feeling of liberty so long unknown, was in his heart!  He brought home, not only from his own superior Officers, but also from those of the French, testimonials of good conduct, having most rigidly preserved his parole, tho’ with a fair chance of escape often urged to break it, and having suffered by close imprisonment for the breach of it in others.”

Mr. Hopkinson, during his imprisonment at Verdun, kept a register of his fellow prisoners, and in his later years he filled in as far as he could the after history of his prison comrades.  This, being probably a unique document, is, by the kind permission of his son Mr. W. Hopkinson, reproduced in the appendix. [232]  From this register it will be seen it was not only the French prisoners at Leek and elsewhere who fought duels.  Four deaths from fatal wounds received in these affairs of honour are recorded.  The duel, one hundred years ago, was the customary and generally acknowledged method of settling questions of honour, libels, etc., which are now in this country settled in the law courts.  As Mrs. Hopkinson says in her note, the naval cadet never broke his parole, but on three occasions when held captive, not by his word of honour, but by bars and bolts, his respect for these did not prevent his attempting to escape; for the first attempt he was confined in a cell for p. 233one month, for his second attempt two months, and for his third, three.

Thirty-eight years after the termination of the war, Mr. Hopkinson thought he would take his son to Verdun, to the spot where he, the lad’s father, had spent ten years of what should have been the best period of his life.  He found the chamber in which he had been confined unaltered, and utilised as a barrack room.  Examining a bar in one of the windows, he showed his son a cut three parts through it.

“That,” said Mr. Hopkinson, “was made by me and some comrades with a file made from a watch-spring more than forty years ago, when we were on the eve of an attempt to escape.  We had almost finished cutting the bar, and a little midshipman was in the act of coiling the rope which one of our party had managed to secure from the well in the barrack yard, when the tread of the guard was heard coming to our room; the poor little midshipman dropped it, making sure that he would be killed.  The steps came nearer, and another of the party, quick as lightning and with the skill of a seaman, coiled it in the high earthen pitcher-shaped jar, in which was our supply of water.  Hardly had he finished, when the guard entered and looked round, for the rope had been missed; they searched in the bedding, but not in the jar, and we escaped detection.”

This sketch of a young naval cadet’s experiences at Verdun represents, no doubt, fairly faithfully what was going on at Norman Cross, and in many another part of England, in those days of the terrible war. [233]

p. 234Before quitting Verdun, we may mention that it was not the only town where English prisoners were confined.  They were also at Amiens, Auxonne, Dunkirk, Saumur, Tangiers, Tours, Vitré, Givet, Saarlouis, and other places.

For those guilty of misconduct, breach of parole, or attempts at escape, the subterranean dungeons at the Fortress of Bitche were reserved.  If the accounts of the lives of French prisoners in England are scanty, those of the British in France are meagre in the extreme, being confined principally to short notices of the détenus in Verdun, generally well-to-do people, and naval and military officers, who were fairly well treated.  As to the prisoners in general we read:

“The distress under which the British seamen suffered in France was excessive.  The scanty pittance allowed each man daily consisted of a small square piece of bullock’s liver, a slice of black bread, and a glass of new brandy.  Had it not been for the relief they received from the Patriotic Fund, forwarded to them through a private channel, many of them must have perished from want.

“The object of the French, in treating our seamen with such inhumanity in this respect, was to make them dissatisfied with their own Government, by inducing a belief that they were neglected by it, and thus to tempt them to enter the French service.  Numerous were the offers made to them for that purpose, which, to the honour of our brave but unfortunate tars, were usually rejected with contempt and indignation.

“They resolved to perish, rather than prove traitors to their country.”

The following extract from a letter from Lieutenant p. 235Tucker, who was captured with Captain Woodriff, gives a brief and good description of the life of a prisoner of his position:

“Lieutenants were allowed 56 francs a month from the French Government, which just paid their lodging.  No cause to complain of indulgence, allowed to walk or ride 6 miles in every direction, provided they were in before the shutting of the town gates at 9 o’clock at night.  Captains were obliged to sign their names every 5 days, Lieutenants once a day, all other prisoners twice a day.  No other restrictions, could lodge where they pleased, and as they liked.  There was a first class of society, very good, but very extravagant; they are chiefly people of fortune, who were detained when travelling at the commencement of the war.  The senior naval English officer was Captain Gower, late of the Shannon, then Captain Woodriff and 5 others, besides 38 Lieutenants.

“There were 2 clubs, where there were all the French, and sometimes the English newspapers: in short, if a prisoner has health, he may spend his time pleasantly enough.

“There is no society between the English and French; the latter are a few Military, and tradesmen, who had made their fortunes by the extravagance of Englishmen since the war.”

A fairly reliable picture of the life at Verdun may be gathered from a comedy in two acts, called The Prisoner of War, by Douglas Jerrold, produced at Drury Lane in 1812; the scene of the play is laid at Verdun.  Making allowance for dramatic licence, the situations are probably fairly accurately described from the recollection of people known to the author.  There is the competition among landlords for prisoner lodgers, there is the Jew money-lender who fattens on p. 236them, there are the breaches of regulations, the escapes and punishments at the Fortress of Bitche, the latter corresponding to the hulks at Chatham for delinquents in England.

From various detached sources we obtain other fragmentary glances of Verdun, and learn that only British were confined there, the Austrians and Prussians being at Chalons.  As late as 1805 ordinary sailors were also confined there, as it is recorded that a party managed to escape to England in May of that year.

In the latter part of the same year a party of 150 were removed from Verdun to Valenciennes.  “The march took eight days.  The real gentlemen were allowed on parole; the négociants, or merchants, were confined.”  The best account is from the portfolio of a détenu, published in 1810.  One quotation must suffice:

“The number of prisoners of war at Verdun has generally amounted to 400, consisting chiefly of naval officers and masters of merchant-ships, and including a few officers of the Army, who had been shipwrecked on the French coast, and some passengers who had been taken on their voyage from the East Indies.  Add to these some common seamen, who, instead of being sent to Givet or Saarlouis, the usual depots for sailors, were permitted to remain at Verdun at the intercession of any persons of respectability who would take them into their service.”

There is another brief account by James Forbes, a member of the Society of Antiquaries, who was detained for some months.  Beyond the fact that he was a prisoner in the town, and had to answer the daily roll-call, his lot was not a hard one.  By the interest of Sir Joseph Banks, the “Savant Anglais” was released.

p. 237His book is valuable as giving the text of the release forms, etc.  As throwing light on the lot of the rank and file of the army and the ordinary seamen, information has been culled from the article, “Prisoners of War,” published in Chambers’ Journal, 1854.  This article deals shortly with the treatment and conduct of the British prisoners in France.  The writer says that on the long march into the interior they were often treated cruelly and harshly, occasionally handcuffed; they were escorted by soldiers of the line, the character of their treatment depending, naturally, greatly upon the officer in command.  This writer confirms the dietary mentioned already.  The prisoners were paid by the French Government a sou and a half (not quite three farthings) a day; this was supplemented by a penny a day from a fund raised by public subscription in England, the masters and mates of merchantmen participating in this small but welcome addition to their subsistence.  In accordance with the directions of Othello quoted on our title page, we must quote from the article the remarks on the conduct of our countrymen in captivity.

“Brandy and spirits being cheap, the Britishers often got intoxicated and gave endless troubles to the incensed officials.  Their conduct was that of the proverbial, reckless British seaman.  They did no work, but spent their time in playing rough games of every description, singing, speechifying, fighting, drinking, and taunting and defying the French, Frog-eating Mounseers, all and sundry, who, by the way, often made them rue their rough pranks.  Insubordination was commonly punished by separate confinement with bread and water, and worst of all, and unendurable to English Jack, a total deprivation of tobacco. . . .  Any personal assault on the soldiers or the gendarmes was a most serious offence, the punishment of death being assigned to the striking p. 238a gendarme.  In some instances this terrible and outrageous penalty was actually carried into effect.”

It will be in the recollection of the reader that the British Government provided the clothing of their subjects who were captives in a foreign prison of war.  The dress is described by the author of the article in Chambers’ Journal as a gray jacket and trousers and a straw hat; it contrasted favourably with the suit of many colours in which our Government clad their French prisoners.

In the paragraphs in which the article deals with the British prisoners in Denmark, the anonymous writer shows a sympathy with Denmark which may account for the severe language in which he deals with the British prisoners in that country.  In describing their gambling propensities and consequent moral depravity he uses almost the actual words used by Captain Woodriff and others when they described Les Misérables and their class in the English prisons.

Possibly some future searcher in the bypaths of history may take up the subject of British prisoners of war in the countries of their captors, and we may hope that the result of his researches will form a picture of our countrymen more agreeable to the British eye than that depicted by the writer in Chambers’ Journal. [238]



Joyous presage of ultimate bliss
   For the heart long depressed by vain yearning;
Timely token of pardon—the kiss
   That reviveth Faith’s innermost burning;
Peace prevailing o’er War’s artifice,
   Love o’er Hate, and delight over Mourning.

Norman Hill, Lingering Winter.

With what feverish anxiety must the occupants of the courts and caserns of Norman Cross have listened to the garbled accounts of the progress of the war which reached their ears towards the close of the eighteenth and the dawn of the nineteenth centuries.  How their hopes must have been raised when they heard of the defeat of the Austrians by Moreau at Hohenlinden, of the sudden crossing of the Alps by their hero Buonaparte, his swoop on to another Austrian army and its defeat at Marengo.  When they learned that in 1800 Austria had signed a Treaty of Peace with France (The Treaty of Lunéville, Feb. 1801) and that England was left to fight single-handed, they must have thought delivery extremely near.  To cheer them further would come the news of the alliance of Russia, Denmark, Sweden, and Prussia to constitute “the armed neutrality,” which though not actually at war with Great Britain, was formed to check her progress and paralyse her navy.  The time when the French Army would have England under its foot and the prison doors would be thrown open must be close at hand.

Then would come to discourage them, and to dash p. 240their happy anticipations to the ground, the news of Abercrombie’s victory at Alexandria, and the defeat and surrender of the French Army of Egypt in March of the same year.  This would be followed rapidly by the report that Nelson had in April attacked the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen, destroying or capturing the greater part of it, and thus breaking up the Armed Neutrality. [240]  The more astute of the prisoners may have seen that a pause in the hostilities must come, but after five years’ confinement within a fence enclosing two and a half acres of ground, despair must have prevailed and almost drowned hope.  France’s prospect of defeating Britain in the Mediterranean was slight, and on the other hand England, having taken almost all the French colonies, and being compelled to hold them, although supreme on the sea, had no army with which to attack France itself.  Even though the news reached Norman Cross that in October 1801 the preliminaries of a treaty of peace had been signed, the prisoners could feel no certainty that these would come through the troublesome negotiations which must follow, and that peace would actually be concluded.

Therefore when at length the Treaty of Peace was signed at Amiens in Picardy on 27th March 1802, and the news reached the captives, it was received with frantic demonstrations of joy.  The great uncertain terror had gone; captivity was at an end; France, Holland, Spain, with parents, wives, children, sweethearts, and all they loved, were in sight.  At once preparations for departure were made: the prisoners forced the sale of their manufactures, they drew out p. 241their money, and got together their various belongings ready to leave at the first chance.  The prisoners’ joy was unbounded, and left no room for a disturbing thought or feeling; but great as was the sense of relief to the British nation at large, there was much dissatisfaction as to the terms of the Treaty, and naturally the storekeepers and prison officials, suddenly thrown out of employment, had a dash of bitterness in their cup.

Plate XIX.—Facsimile of Order from Board of Transport, 9th April 1802, to Captain Holditch, Owner and Master of Cartel “Argo”

After Amiens the Government took instant steps to relieve the country of the expense and responsibility of the prisoners, the object being to get the prison empty and the establishment closed at the first possible moment.  Immediately after the signature of peace, cartels to carry 2,600 prisoners were chartered at Norman Cross.  The Admiralty allowed 15s. 6d. per man as payment for conveying the prisoners to France.  A facsimile of the order to Captain Holditch, Master of the Argo, is, by the kind permission of his grandson, Mr. Share of Truro, here reproduced, and it will be seen that it is dated only twelve days later than the Treaty of Peace. [241]

The number of captives at Norman Cross was at that time very low, about half the number of those confined at the time of the second clearance, twelve years later.  They left in four detachments, the first 1,000 strong, the second 1,040, the third 600, the last 100.  p. 242With what joy did they take that journey, cheered on their way by the good wishes of the country folk, even if they did shout “Good-bye, Froggies!”  This return of 3,100, as the number of those confined at Norman Cross on 27th March 1802, indicates the difference in the matter of exchange during the first period of the war, 1793–1802, and the second, 1803–14.  In this second period there was no steady outflow from the prisons to keep down the numbers, and they were ever filling with the captives sent in by Wellington and others.

On 29th April 1802 the prison was emptied, and although the Government had not sufficient confidence in the permanence of the peace entirely to dismantle the Depot, it was ordered that while all stoves, ranges, and grates, with the large iron boilers, were to remain until further orders, the copper boilers were to be sold, lamps and lamp irons were to be securely locked up, the furniture to be delivered to the barrack master, the hammocks to be sold at 1s. 3d. each, the coverlets at the best price obtainable, and as the barrack master refused to take the soil carts, these also were to be disposed of for what they would fetch. [242]  All books, letters, papers, etc., were to be sent to the Transport Office in London.

The net proceeds of the sale amounted to £757 4s. 10d., to which must be added £15 for old store at the Port of Lynn.  In the Stamford Mercury of the 17th September 1802 appeared the following advertisement:

Norman Cross-Barracks to Let

“Sixteen large buildings, lately occupied as prisons, with sundry convenient buildings thereto belonging; p. 243with square yards, comprising about an acre of land in each, with good wells in the centre, and a quantity of land round the prisons fit for grazing sheep, etc.  Also sundry good dwellings, comprising Turnkeys’ lodges, stewards’ rooms, also two good houses lately occupied by the superintendents, well calculated for small families—may be viewed by applying to Mr. Henderson, Auctioneer, New Inn, Norman Cross.”

In their instructions to the auctioneer, the Government made conditions that the tenants were to keep the buildings in repair, and to deliver them up on three months’ notice if required.  The property does not read in the advertisement as one that there would be a rush for.

The landlord of the Old Bell Inn, still in the glory of the coaching and posting days, apparently treated for the wooden building, containing the two houses occupied one by Captain Woodriff the agent and the other by the steward and another officer, the rental of Captain Woodriff’s house to be £12 and that adjoining £10; but even at that rent he did not close.

In January 1803 the whole was let to Mr. Henderson, on condition that he lived on the premises, the barrack master keeping one key of the great gate.  Mr. Henderson paid an extra sum of £10 for Captain Woodriff’s house, which he probably wished to fit up either for his own residence or for the man whom he proposed to leave in charge when he was in London attending to another business which he had there; he also agreed to level the huts, which are not represented on any of the plans, and to sow the ground covered by them with grass seeds.

His tenancy lasted only six months.  Hostilities recommenced in May 1803, and on 3rd July Henderson had to hand over everything to two clerks appointed by the Admiralty.  He pleaded that he had ploughed and sown crops, and claimed £30 18s. compensation; he received p. 244£18 13s.  On the whole the Government would probably have saved money if they had locked the gates when Captain Woodriff, their agent, left the empty depot in June 1802, kept the keys themselves, and unlocked them on the 3rd July 1803.

Between those dates much had taken place to affect the history of the Depot.  The complete supremacy of the British Fleet, the blow given to the Northern Alliance (the Armed Neutrality) by Nelson in the battle of Copenhagen, and on the other hand the defeats inflicted on Austria, England’s continental ally, on whom she relied for her land forces, and the consequent Treaty of Lunéville, left England and France alike in a position which made them in 1802 anxious for a cessation of hostilities, the Treaty of Amiens being the result.

But its conditions were not such as to satisfy the British, who gave up all their conquests but Trinidad and Ceylon, restored the Cape to Holland, with the condition that it should be a free port, and agreed that Malta was to go back to the Knights of St. John, under the guarantee of one of the Great Powers.  France also made sacrifices and withdrew claims, but to the British nation these did not appear to balance those made by their own Government.  Buonaparte had no intention of allowing the peace to be more than a truce.  Among other objects he had in view, he recovered his veterans from their confinement in English prisons, and he never paused in his ambitious schemes.  He strove to increase French influence in Switzerland, Holland, and Italy.  Under the name of consuls he sent agents to England and Ireland, their real object being to make themselves acquainted with the resources of those countries and the chance of their successful invasion.  Egypt had been restored to the Porte by the Treaty, but instead of evacuating that country, the First Consul was utilising his position there to equip a fresh army.

p. 245In the face of these proceedings Britain did not withdraw her troops from Egypt, nor did she evacuate Malta, which she should have done in fulfilment of the Article which restored that island to the Knights of St. John.  Angry disputes arose over her action, or rather want of action, in this matter.  Commenting on the Treaty of Amiens, Count Guillaume de Garden [245] writes:

“L’article est le plus important de tout le Traité, mais aucune des conditions qu’il renferme n’a été exécutée et il est devenu le prétexte d’une guerre, qui s’est renouvelée en 1803 et a duré sans interruption jusqu’en 1814.”

The complaint of the First Consul against the English Press, and his demands that Britain should alter her laws, putting restraints on the liberty of the Press, and depriving of their freedom those living under her protection, roused the indignation of the country.  The British Government prosecuted under her own laws a Frenchman, M. Peltier, who in articles he had written had brought himself within the arm of the law of the land, but it refused to alter those laws at the bidding of another power.  M. Norvus, Napoleon’s apologist, wrote:

“Napoleon demanded from Great Britain what was nearly the same thing as proposing the sacrifice of its constitution, and to insist upon its abandoning the two pillars of its freedom, the liberty of the press, and the privilege of Habeas Corpus.”

p. 246Some months later Buonaparte in a State paper practically challenged Great Britain to fight him single-handed, as she would be if war broke out again.  After much fruitless negotiation England declared war against France on the 16th May 1803, and eleven years more were added to the active existence of Norman Cross, as one factor in the gigantic struggle between the two nations.  Six days after the declaration of war, France, by the First Consul’s decree, filled her prisons with the 10,000 British men of all degrees, between the age of eighteen and sixty, whom she found within her bounds at that date.  This step she justified as a fair reprisal for the action of an English captain who seized two French merchant vessels before the declaration of war had reached the French Minister.  Buonaparte knew that a bill for a levée en masse had been presented to Parliament, and that to secure, before they could be enrolled, 10,000 of the able-bodied men of the nation, (the whole of the population at that date was only twelve and a half million) was a wise step.

Our Admiralty, immediately after the renewal of the war, called upon the Transport Board to find depots for the parole prisoners, whom we were taking, in merchant vessels and other craft, not ships of war.  Bishops Waltham and Tavistock were suggested, and should the numbers be considerable, Oldham and Tiverton were to be added, while Stapleton Prison was to be prepared for prisoners of war.  This, it will be remembered, was the third and last time that Stapleton had been requisitioned for such a purpose, it having been built originally in 1782 to receive prisoners taken in the war which was ended in the following year by the Treaty of Versailles.  In 1833 it was converted into a workhouse.

The prisons first suggested, being deemed insufficient, Peterborough was proposed to the Transport Board, and the Board replied, that on receipt of an intimation p. 247from the Admiralty, they would make the necessary arrangements for the reception of prisoners at Norman Cross.

On 18th June 1803 the Admiralty appointed, as agents for prisoners of war, Captain Thesiger at Portsmouth, Captain Baker at Stapleton, Captain Pressland at Liverpool, Captain Poulden at Norman Cross.

In consequence of Stapleton being used instead of Liverpool, Captain Pressland, R.N., was sent to Norman Cross, at a salary, in addition to his full pay, of £200 per annum, and 7s. 6d. per diem for expenses. [247]  Thus manned for the work, the Norman Cross Depot started on the eleven years of arduous work which lay before it.  The agents were to be in supreme authority, but were not to interfere with the medical or surgical treatment p. 248of the sick, this being entirely in the hands of the Board of the Sick and Hurt.

Mr. Hadley of Lynn contracted to convey prisoners to and from Norman Cross on lighters at 1s. 9d. each, and to victual them at 7d. each, the military guard being carried on the same terms.

Prisoners soon arrived, the first detachment being 179 Frenchmen on 28th August.  Then came 250 from Portsmouth.  They arrived at Portsmouth on board the Pegasus, but deprived of the winged horse and reduced to Shanks’ pony, their journey from Portsmouth to Norman Cross took them from the 5th to the 18th September.  In October several detachments arrived, among them one of over 200 French and 5 Dutch.

Between the years 1803 and 1814 no fewer than 122,440 prisoners of war of various nationalities were brought to Great Britain, most of them during the years 1805–10; of these 10,341 died in prison, and 17,607 were exchanged or paroled to France as invalids. [248]  Norman Cross had its full share of this enormous crowd of prisoners, and the discipline of the prison, the life, and occupation of the prisoners can have differed little from that of the previous seven years.  The greatly diminished chance of a prisoner obtaining his freedom by exchange, and the longer duration of each man’s term of durance, must, however, have greatly aggravated for the worse their mental misery and physical discomfort.

On the other hand, experience had suggested to the authorities various details in the treatment of their captives, which were adopted with the object of bettering their lot.  In the structure of the prison itself there were, during this period, several important changes.  The outer stockade fence was replaced by the brick wall, within which ran the dry, paved ditch.  The boys’ separate prison was built in a bricked-in enclosure, outside the prison wall, through a door in which was p. 249the only entrance into the new enclosure.  In 1805 the surgeon’s new brick house was built in the hospital quadrangle, but beyond these points there is nothing special to add to the description already given.

There would necessarily be the same anxious watching on the part of the prisoners of the events of the war; they would probably mock at the 300,000 volunteers, foot and mounted, who came forward and rendered the levée en masse unnecessary.  With what elation they must have heard of the Grande Armée de Bretagne, ranged opposite the southern shore of England, separated only by the narrow channel, across which 150,000 French soldiers were to be floated by the 2,000 vessels assembled at Boulogne, ready to transport them so soon as the weather and the supporting fleet for which they were waiting combined to favour the enterprise!  That threatened invasion, which hung like a black terror over England in those early years of the nineteenth century, was for them within their prison walls the bright light of hopeful expectation; and when the news of the 21st October reached England, the news which was communicated to Cadet Hopkinson at Verdun, shorn of its glory and its fateful significance to the French in the taunting words, “Votre Nelson est mort,” it would be told to the prisoners at Norman Cross, in words conveying the whole truth, “Our Nelson has fallen, but not before he had destroyed your fleet, and your country is now no longer a naval power.”  What despair must have again filled their hearts!  If they disbelieved the fact at first, the arrival of Corporal de la Porte and his comrades, followed by crew after crew of the captured sailors and soldiers, must have too surely confirmed the news.

As the years of their captivity dragged on, they would hear of the conquests and of the King-making by their idol Buonaparte, now the Emperor Napoleon, and they would look forward in the near future to a Buonaparte p. 250on the throne of George III, and to their triumphal progress through the conquered country on the way back to their own dear France.  Then their hopes would fade again (as, alas! their bodily comfort would be decreased) as there came crowding in the prisoners sent from the Peninsula by Wellington, who although he had been ordered on the 3rd February 1811 not to send any more prisoners on account of the crowded state of the prisons, in 1811–12 sent 20,000. [250]  Later on would spread through the courts the story of the disastrous invasion of Russia and the awful retreat from Moscow.  In the next year, 1813, they might hear that Wellington had crossed the Bidassoa, and thus secured for England—their hated hostess in their accursed abode at Norman Cross—the honour of being the first of the European powers to plant its victorious standard on French soil.

Hurtful as such items of news—which reached them solely through English sources or through equally unsympathetic French sources, such as the Bishop of Moulins, whose France was not their France—were to their patriotic feelings, they were all tending to bring about the day of their release.  In 1814 the Allies invaded France, and successfully advanced upon Paris.  Napoleon abdicated, and was allowed to retire to Elba, and at length the news reached Norman Cross that on p. 251the 30th May the Treaty of Paris, which meant freedom for all prisoners of war, had been signed.

Plate XX.—Model of the Prison of Norman Cross, England, in the County of, and 4½ Leagues from, Huntingdon (In the Musée de l’Armée, Hôtel des Invalides, Paris)

Plate XXI.—Key Plan of M. Foulley’s Model of the Prison of Norman Cross, England

Deeply as many an old soldier among the 4,617 of the prisoners at Norman Cross on that date resented the fall of the hero he had worshipped, his great general, the Emperor, bitterly as the majority resented the sight of the white flag of the Bourbons which had been mounted in each quadrangle, the one dominant feeling in the breasts of the prisoners was wild joy at their imminent freedom and restoration to their own loved country; they embraced, they danced, they sang, and they cried for joy.  The military barracks had not been an abode of luxury or comfort, and the garrison caught the infection of exuberant joy; a party of them seized the Glasgow Mail Coach, on its arrival at Stilton, and drew it to Norman Cross, whither the coachman, horses, and guard were obliged to follow.

Among the prisoners who witnessed the scenes of rejoicing at this time was M. Foulley, who had been confined at Norman Cross for five years and three months.  The scene impressed him so strongly, that after his return to France he made a model of the Depot as it appeared during the celebration of the departure of the first detachment of liberated prisoners for France.  This model has already been criticised and described in Chapter II, but the place for the photograph is here, in the last chapter of this volume.  The figures in the quadrangles, the garrison drawn up in line, with its back to the prison, at attention, ready to salute the departing prisoners, who only a day before it had to guard with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, tell of the buried hatchet, of the new-born peace between France and England, which has endured for ninety-eight years, and which is cemented and invigorated by the existing entente cordiale.

The prisoners began to prepare for departure.  Some would set to work with a will to finish articles which p. 252had been bespoken, or which they wished to put in the market before their departure.  Some could afford to take their stock of knick-knacks home, and would have money to draw from the agent and clerks—money they had realised by their work during the past eleven years.  Undoubtedly, in some instances, the sum earned amounted to as much as one, two, or three hundred pounds, but without seeing the banking account, it will hardly be credited that any prisoner had actually made the rumoured thousand pounds. [252]  Others would pack the articles they were taking home as memorials of their long sojourn in the land of their enemy.  Every one would be in some way preparing for departure.  Some permitted on parole would have to bid farewell to the friends they had made within their bounds, others would have to write to friends made in the market or in conversations surreptitiously carried on through the pales of the stockade fences.

Speedily, detachments began to move off.  The Depot had been costing £300,000 a year, and every day it remained full represented a large sum.  The local newspapers, where formerly they described the prisoners making their weary way under a strong escort from the coast to Norman Cross were now filled with reports of parties of released prisoners marching to the coast in comparative freedom.  One paper notes how, of a detachment of 500, some got so drunk (is it much to be wondered at?) that they could not go on; while, on the contrary on 6th May, according to the Cambridge Chronicle, another detachment of 200, which was to embark from Chatham, passing through Cambridge on their way to that port, walked about the town and the University buildings, conducting themselves in an orderly manner.

p. 253So detachment followed detachment, until in the Times of 19th August 1814 appeared a paragraph, “Of all the great body of Prisoners of War, who were lately at Norman Cross Barracks, at this time only one single prisoner remains, and he, in consequence of illness preventing his removal.”  What must have been this poor fellow’s feelings when he knew that all his fellow prisoners had left for their native country.  Was he happily unconscious?  We are sure that everything possible would be done to lighten his sad fate.  Probably he was the last of his countrymen to be laid in the now desolate cemetery. [253a]

One shudders to think that his disappointment may have been as heartrending as that of the poor prisoner whose fate is narrated by Basil Thomson.

“On 20th June, when the last draft was being formed, it happened that one unfortunate man could not produce his bedding; probably it had been stolen by others to make up their complement.  On being refused at the gate, he rushed frantically back into his prison to look for it, and then, fearful of being left behind, he ran back to the gate to plead his cause with the guard.  On being again refused he became frantic with grief, and crying that he had been eleven years in prison, in an agony of despair he pulled out his knife, and there before the guards and his own countrymen cut his throat.  There is no more sorrowful incident in the history of Dartmoor.” [253b]

When the gate closed behind that man who had been left in Norman Cross on the 19th August, it closed for the last time on a prisoner.  The campaign of a hundred p. 254days which followed between the escape of Napoleon from Elba and his final defeat at Waterloo sent no prisoners to the Depot, and in 1816 the buildings were demolished and the site sold.  The sale, including that of the remaining stores, furniture, and fixtures, occupied thirteen days and realised only £11,060 4s. 4d. [254]

One of the Wells on the Site of the Prison.  From a photograph by the Rev. E. H. Brown, July 1910

In Peterborough, Stilton, and the neighbouring villages much of the material sold was re-erected and is still in use; but on the site itself, the houses of the barrack master, the agent, and the steward, the wells, the wide fosse which ran round inside the outer wall, and about 60 yards of the wall itself, alone remain of that Norman Cross Prison which, for twenty years in the most eventful period in the history of Europe, played so important a part; over which, and its inmates, the two Governments, French and English, argued and fought, while the prisoners suffered.  That prison, where these victims of war—our foemen, it is true, but patriots, and foemen worthy of our steel—pined in prolonged confinement, surrounded by prison walls, held down by cannon, muskets, and bayonets, hoping for release which never came, enduring an agonising longing for freedom—a longing so keen that many of them purchased it by enlisting in the ranks of Britain, their country’s enemy—and suffering, alas! other miseries, of which not the least was the moral deterioration and degradation consequent on their condition and surroundings.  p. 255Gone are the prisons and their miseries, gone the barracks and their busy life of active duties, and gone, also, all personal recollection of the great events of 1789 to 1816, of which the life here was a part.

But, standing on the great North Road, between the two fields, the one to the right and the other to the left, nothing to distinguish them from the thousands of similar fields in every county of England, the reader will, if this narrative has in a measure aroused in him the interest with which the writer has hoped to inspire him, be able to call up in his mind’s eye the Norman Cross of a hundred years ago.  The courts, the caserns, and the various other buildings rise before him; he sees them filled with the Dutch and French sailors and soldiers who for years lived in the one field, and of whom nearly two thousand for ever sleep in the other.  The vision fades, and the gazer realises that of it nothing remains but a name, the beautiful works of art made by the prisoners, some musty documents, in the Public Record Office or British Museum, and 1,770 skeletons in the undistinguished field on the North Road.  Before him lies the site of Norman Cross Prison, a typical scene of sylvan calm.

We pass; the path that each man trod
   Is dim, or will be dim with woods:
   What fame is left for human deeds
In endless age? it rests with God.


Now bear in mind, as thou keep’st jogging,
Each one’s a hole to put a cog in;
So should the work seem awkward doing,
The Appendix wheel sets all a-going.

W. Hall, of Lynn.






Report of the Survey of the Depot for Prisoners of War at Norman Cross, 31st May 1813, by Mr. Fearnall, Surveyor



Short Biography of Captain Woodriff, R.N., Agent at the Depot, 1799–1802



Specimens of the Entries relating to the Prisoners of War in the Registers preserved in the Record Office



Extracts from Parliamentary Report Supplement 1801 to Appendix No. 59, Report of the Transport Board to the House of Commons 1798, being Correspondence with French Government relative to Prisoners of War



Return of Number of Prisoners in Health or Sick in the Various Prisons in Great Britain



Full Nominal Return of the Hospital Staff at Norman Cross Prison



Correspondence referring to the Bishop of Moulins, Letters of Earl Fitzwilliam, Sir Rupert George, Lord Mulgrave, and the Bishop, the latter adding a brief Autobiography



Private Register of his Fellow Prisoners at Verdun, kept, during his Confinement there, 1804–1814, by Naval Cadet John Hopkinson, who was later Rector of Alwalton, near Peterborough, with, in the Last Column, Notes added later in his Life




By Mr. Fearnall, Surveyor

The Prisons, or Barracks, are built of fir quartering, and weather boarded on the outside, and have no inside lining, except those appropriated for the hospital, which are plastered.  The innumerable holes cut through all parts of the buildings by the prisoners for the admission of light have caused them to be extremely weak, by the braces being cut through and destroyed in many parts, so as to render it necessary they should be immediately replaced with new, and such regulations adopted towards the prisoners as to prevent a recurrence of the same practice.  The weather-boarding, stair-cases, hammock rails, privies and fence are in a general bad state, as particularly stated in this report, viz.:

Prison No. 1.—The ground floor is paved with stone, which is in many parts broken and very irregular.  The story posts, that support the roof and floor, are so much damaged by being cut by the prisoners, and in parts decayed, as to require to be new in many places.  The upper floor in the gangway, which has hitherto been laid with elm board, is stated to require renewing every twenty months; the other parts of the floor very much decayed.  The hammock rails in many parts worn out.  The braces and quarterings of the building are very much cut and destroyed by the prisoners, and must be new in many places.  The stair-case in very bad condition, quite worn out.  As they are now constructed within the building, they impede a free circulation of air, and occupy a space which would allow p. 260twelve men to be berthed, in addition to the present number, by having an accommodation ladder against the outside of the building, with a landing place and door; this plan would stop the communication between the two prison rooms, facilitate the escape of the prisoners in case of fire, by having two doors instead of only one.  Mr. Walker, the surgeon, is very desirous that the same alteration should be made at the Hospital; it would separate the two wards, which in case of infectious diseases would be attended with beneficial effects, also save the expense of opening another ward in case of contagion.

The weather-boarding, from the prisoners cutting holes through for the admission of light, to each berth, as well as from actual decay, is in such bad condition as to require at least one third to be new.

Privy.—The weather-boarding and wood steps in bad condition, and many pantiles stripped from the roof.  The ground under the privies on which the soil cart stands, from the frequency of its being drawn out, has occasioned deep ruts, so that when the cart is drawn out, it comes up with a jerk, and the soil is thrown out, and becomes a dreadful nuisance, which might be prevented by a few stumps of wood driven into the ground, on which a piece of oak plank might form a railway, and the intermediate space be filled up with stone rubbish at a very trifling expense.

Court between the Buildings.—Are paved next the Barracks only, and in wet weather, the part not paved, from the nature of the soil, is in a miserable condition, and would be very much improved by paving the whole, leaving a gutter-way in the middle of the court; every shower of rain would cleanse it, and add very much to the comfort of the prisoners.

Cook Room.—Stone floor broken; requires to be relayed and raised.  Weather-boarding, quartering and area gutters require repair.  The dressers are of deal and worn out; recommend they should be made of elm plank.

Butchery.—The floor in bad condition, the sashes decayed, the weather-boarding and area gutters require repair.  The paving of the cellar under the butchery should be relayed.  The effluvia from a cesspool under the pavement are very offensive in the Stewards’ apartments immediately above it, p. 261the floor of which should be plugged to prevent the smell passing through the open joists of the floor.

Black Hole.—The roof breaking through.  The fence of the covered walk is in part decayed and should be new.

Outside Fence at the End of the Barracks.—The post rails and paling are generally decayed, and require considerable repair, and in many parts must be new.

Tanks for the purpose of Washing, etc.—They are made of wood, and the greater part decayed.

Gates and Fence to the Quadrangles.—Are very much decayed and were never sufficiently strong and secure for the purpose intended, the gate; require to be all new, the fence needs considerable repair, and in that part next the gates, should be entirely new and raised much higher.

Watch Box.—Required for the Turnkey at the west gate.

Pavement within the Quadrangles.—In indifferent condition, and requires relaying in many places.  A path is paved all round the quadrangles; in the middle where it is not paved, it is impassable in bad weather, except through mud.  Captain Hanwell is desirous that a path should be paved across the middle.

Wells.—Are in tolerable condition, with the exception of one, the brick-lining of which within about forty feet of the bottom has fallen in, and rendered the well useless; the remainder of the brick-work is in such a dangerous state, that no person will venture down to repair it.

French Officers’ Apartments in No. 8.—The floor and staircase in very bad condition, and the circulation of air too much confined.  Might be remedied by having a lattice instead of a close partition.

Offices.—Captain Harwell’s and the other offices in tolerable condition, require painting and whitewashing; the first clerk’s office has been papered long since, and it is falling from the wall.

Storeroom.—Under the same roof as above, the weather-boarding and floors require repair, the hammocks and bales of clothing are liable to injury from being in contact with the inside of the decayed weather-board.  Recommend it should be lined with ¾-inch planed deal, 6 feet above the floor.

p. 262Hospital.—The buildings appropriated for the hospital are in better condition than the other, have lath and plaster lining within, and the weather-boarding, stair-cases, floor, etc., want less repairs.

Officers’ Accommodation.—Agent’s house is built of wood and plastered on the outside, containing a basement, parlour, one pair story, and attics, two rooms on each story, the largest room measures 16 feet by 13 feet, the small room 11 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 6 inches.  The Agent’s house is said to have been partially painted and papered in the year 1808; the attics, the back parlour, and the kitchen were not done at that time, and Mr. Todd informed me that they have not been painted since the house was built.  Mr. Todd, the storekeeper, and Mr. Gardiner, the chief clerk, have their accommodation under the same roof as the Agent and contain the same number of rooms divided as follows: Mr. Todd occupies the one pair story and one garret, Mr. Gardiner the ground floor and one garret, Mr. Todd the back kitchen, Mr. Gardiner the front.  The before mentioned apartments are said to have been painted in the year 1808.  The surgeon has a good brick-built house, the rooms were papered before the walls were dry, the damp has destroyed the paper of four rooms; this house is said not to have been painted since built, about eight years since.  The dispenser has three small rooms, and the hospital-mate two.  The stewards have each two very small rooms under the same roof as, and leading out of the butchery, except the hospital steward, who is not very properly accommodated in prison No. 8, separated from the French Officers by a thin deal partition only; the space formerly allotted for the hospital steward is now the hospital store.  This seems to require that it should return to its original plan for two reasons; first, the hospital steward is removed from his duty, and secondly, he is placed in communication with the French Officers, by the deal partition which separates them being cut through in holes.  There is a vacant space at the end of the building next the dispenser’s and matron’s rooms, on which an hospital store might be built, which would admit of the steward having his proper apartments.

The stewards are respectable men, and with their wives p. 263and children have only a common privy, to which all the French cooks have access, and the path to which is exposed to the whole of the prisoners.  Submit that a small room and privy may be added to the steward’s accommodation, as desired by Captain Hanwell.

The sempstress who is now with the matron, and the clerk of the small beer, who is accommodated in communication with the French Officers in No. 8, being late appointments, have no other accommodation; they might be provided for, by building a small place at the end of the wash-house.  The matron and sempstress have no access to the drying room without passing round the whole buildings, which in bad weather would be more convenient by having an entrance through the tool-house with a door at the end.

Boundary Wall.—From the east gate to the north gate, and from the east gate towards the south, is from 7 inches to 11 inches within a perpendicular, and appears to be very indifferently built, and not of the best materials; and, from the earth outside, being 5 feet higher than that within, the lateral pressure has forced in the wall, which they have endeavoured to prevent by introducing land tyes, and there is no doubt if they had been properly executed, these would have answered the desired purpose.  I sent for the master bricklayer that built the wall, by contract.  He informed me that the piles to the land tyes were at least 7 feet long, but observing that the wall had given way since the tyes were put in, I had the earth cleared and drew one of the piles, when, instead of being 7, they were only 3 feet long, and totally insufficient to hold the wall, and, if not prevented, the wall, land tyes, etc., will all fall into the ditch.  To secure the wall will require that thirty-two new land tyes, and additional piles of at least 10 feet long, should be driven to secure the old tyes, and to be placed as described to Captain Hanwell.  The wall being built in such long lengths, being near 400 feet of straight lines, with a weight of earth against the outside, could not be expected to stand; there should have been a ditch on the outside, the same as that within, not only for the security of the wall, but to prevent the facility now afforded, of communication over the wall, it being only 9 feet high on the outside.  Had it been p. 264built with an angle as marked with a pencil on the plan, it would not only have been infinitely stronger, but it would admit of the prisoners being better guarded, by the sentinels, stationed at the angle, flanking the wall each way.  I submit for the Board’s consideration whether the middle of the wall, that has given way, had not better be taken down and rebuilt with an angle as described, or whether it shall be secured in its present form with land tyes.

I am of opinion it would require the sum of £5,000 to complete the whole of the works mentioned in the aforegoing report of the Survey, one half of which might be expended this year, and the remainder to complete the whole in the year 1814.  Captain Hanwell informs me that he can employ 36 carpenters, 2 pair of sawyers, and 3 masons from among the prisoners; the carpenters’ work can be done by them, but the principal part of the masons’ and bricklayers’ work, I submit, should be done by contract as heretofore, under the direction of the agent; it will also be necessary to contract for a supply of timber and deals, converted into the different scantlings required.



Captain Woodriff belonged to a naval family, his father and brothers and son all being officers of various ranks.  He must have been ninety years old at his death in 1842, as according to the return of his services in the Admiralty records, filled and signed himself, he entered the navy as gunner’s mate on the Ludlow Castle, 12th August 1762.

He served as midshipman in various parts of the world, becoming lieutenant in 1782, and commander in 1795, this commission carrying the brevet rank of captain.

He acted as Agent of Transports at Southampton, being appointed Resident there as from 2nd September 1796 at a salary of 21s. a day, in addition to his half-pay, and £50 a year for a clerk.  This office necessitated his travelling much to the various ports, and in one of his voyages, the vessel carrying cash belonging to him was captured by the Dutch, but the Admiralty reimbursed him.

As we have seen, he was very actively superintending the arrival and distribution of prisoners of war at Hull, Yarmouth and Lynn in the early days of Norman Cross, to which Depot he was appointed Agent in 1799; he filled the post up to the Peace of Amiens, giving every satisfaction to the Admiralty and Transport Board, though on one occasion he was reprimanded for striking a French prisoner, even though the blow was given under great provocation.

His commission as Post Captain was dated 28th April 1802, and he was appointed to command the Calcutta, a ship of 74 guns to convoy convicts to Botany Bay.  He was next ordered to St. Helena, to collect a convoy of East Indiamen; there were four full ships, a Prussian p. 266ship and a Swedish ship which claimed protection.  They sailed on the 3rd August, and on 14th September picked up a leaky ship called The Brothers, which had become separated from another convoy.  The bad condition of this vessel was the cause of all the subsequent trouble.  Her bad sailing delayed the others, and off the Scilly Islands Woodriff was attacked by a French squadron of ten ships, one being a three-decker of 110 guns, with a crew of 1,100 men, four 74-gun ships, three 40-gun, and two brigs.

Finding it impossible to save both the convoy and himself, he ordered the convoy to make all sail to the north and escape, while he stayed and fought for some hours.

Over fifty minutes he was engaged with the three-decker, and the fight was under full sail as he steered to the south to enable the convoy to escape.  The superior strength and overwhelming numbers of the French dismantled the Calcutta, so to prevent loss of life he hauled down his flag and surrendered, and The Brothers, which was leaky and could not escape, was also captured.

The crews were not at once landed in France, but remained on the French ships for four months.  At the end of that time they were landed at Rochelle, and kept at an hotel for eighteen days at great expense.  Then Captain Woodriff and his officers, an East India colonel and his lady, and two gentlemen from the East Indies, hired a carriage to take them to Verdun.  They were escorted all the way by troops; the journey lasted thirty-six days and cost each of the prisoners £40.

In the Admiralty return of his services, there is a modest little note, “Returned from France, June 1807,” but the circumstances attending his return are so extraordinary as to demand attention.  He had made repeated applications to Talleyrand for release, but without avail.  In June 1807, he received an order, signed by Buonaparte, in Poland, directing him to proceed immediately to England, and to take the route of St. Malves, a town no Englishman was permitted to enter.  On his arrival there, he received from an agent of the French Government the letters which had been directed to him at Verdun.  He proceeded to hire a vessel to take him to England, for which he was prepared p. 267to pay forty or fifty guineas, but was told that a vessel was provided for him by the French Government, free of any expense whatever.

Our Government, not to be outdone in this unexpected generosity on the part of the enemy, immediately released a French officer of equal rank, who returned to France on terms of equal liberality.  On his return to England Captain Woodriff was tried by court-martial for the loss of his ship the Calcutta, but after evidence, “The Court agreed that the conduct of Captain Woodriff was that of a brave, cool, and intrepid officer; and did adjudge him, his officers, and ship’s company to be most honourably acquitted.”

The owners and underwriters of one of the East Indiamen he had saved from capture raised a subscription for the officers and crew, which amounted to about £4,000.

On the 29th July 1808 Captain Woodriff was appointed Agent for Prisoners of War at Forton.

In December 1813 he was appointed Commissioner of the navy at Jamaica.  He refused flag rank and was admitted to Greenwich Hospital, 9th November 1830, where he died 24th February 1842. [267]

Captain Woodriff was undoubtedly an able and hardworking officer, and he was fortunate in having to assist him the influence of Sir Evan Nepean, Secretary of the Admiralty, himself an able administrator and industrious official, whose correspondence at times exhibits traits of personal kindness and consideration, as rare as valuable in official letters.




Current number.

By what ship or how taken.

Time when.

Prizes’ names.



Prisoners’ names.


Time when received into custody.



D. or

E. S.

Time when.

How disposed of, and by what order.



24th Oct. 1798



5th Cmp. 3rd Batn. Artily.

Pieter Van Dyck


20th Nov. 1798


19th Feb. 1800

Board’s Order



24th Oct. 1798




Mr. Ritmont


26th Sept. 1799


5th Jan.

1800 19th Feb.

On parole to Peterboro’

To Holland Alkmaar Convention


Current number.

No. on

the G.E.B.



Ship or corps.





Visage or complexion.


Harks or wounds.

When discharged.

















Hannes Lenor


Adml.  De Vries





Oval and Fair

Middle Size






B. Atken

2nd Cooper

Adml.  De Vries




Dark Brown


Oval and Dark

Middle Size

Pitted with Smallpox

D. 20th July 1801 British Fishery


Current number.

No. on the G.E.B.



Ship or corps.

Man-of-war, privateer, or merchant vessel.

Place of nativity.


Time of death.

Disorder or casualty.



Jan Vanderzwet.


De Tonge Leendert

Fishing vessel



28th June 1798

Fever and bad wound in knee



Corns. De Baar.


De Vries

M. War



12th Decem. 1798

Fever, &c.


Current number.

Prizes’ names.

Prisoners’ names.


Of what country.

Time when received.

From whom or whence

D.D.D. or R.

Time when.

How disposed of if discharged.



A. Reins

3rd Lieut.


19th Nov. 1798



7th February 1801




M. Van Meirop






16th Oct. 1801

Permitted to return to Holland


Current number.

By what ship or how taken.

Time when.

Prizes’ names.

Whether man-of-war, privateer, or merchant vessel.

Of what country.

Prisoners’ names.


Time when received into custody.

Ex.  D.D.D. or E.S.

Time when.

How disposed of, and by what order.



21st October 1794




Louis Robert


10th April 1797


10th October 1797

Board’s Order


Current number.

By what ship or how taken.

Time when.

Prizes’ names.



Prisoners’ names.


Time when received into custody.

Ex.  D.D.D. or E.S.

Time when.

How disposed of, and by what order.



14th October 1798

La Résolue


1 Battn. 81st demi-brigade

Edw. André


11th October 1799 from Edinburgh


9th January 1800

To France Martha Cartel


Current number.

Number on the G.E.B.

Prisoners’ names.


Ship or corps.

Man-of-war, privateer, or merchant vessel.

Place of nativity.


Where taken.

Time of death.

Disorder or casualty.



Vincent Lydyer


La Suffisante





3rd August 1797

Killed by a blow in prison by the following black man.



Jean Beautemps







5th August 1797

Hung himself in the Black Hole


Current number.

Number on the G.E.B.

Prisoners’ names.


Ship or corps.

Man-of-war, privateer, or merchant vessel.

Place of nativity.


Where taken.

Time of death.

Disorder or casualty.



Vincent Fontaine


La Sophie


Veli (départ, de L’Aime)


Off Port au Prince

23rd March 1808




Jean Benoist


Le Hardi

Merchant vessel

Ganzeville, near Fécamp (départ. dela Seine Inférieure)


Off Barfleur

24th October 1803



Two years ago I received from Mr. W. T. Mellows, Solicitor of Peterborough, the loan of an imperfect copy of a Parliamentary paper endorsed, “Supplement 1801 to Appendix No. 59, Report of the Transport Board to the House of Commons 1798, being correspondence with the French Government relative to Prisoners of War.”  The fragment contained, as far as I recollect, thirty-eight out of the fifty-eight or fifty-nine letters enumerated in the index of contents.  Those missing were apparently so important that I went to the British Museum to search through the Parliamentary Reports for this appendix.  Failing to find the document, I left the imperfect copy with the assistant librarian, who finally returned it to me, saying that extraordinary as it was, this supplement was not in the Museum library.  A search in the library of the House of Commons, in which I was assisted by Mr. George Greenwood, M.P., gave the same result—this supplement was not to be found.  I have now to acknowledge that last year this unique but imperfect copy disappeared while under my care—my own impression is that it was lost in its travels through an intermediary from my hands to those of the typist.  Fortunately I had already included some of the letters in the text of this work, and Mr. W. T. Mellows, intending to present the document to the Museum when I had done with it, had made his clerk copy six of the letters and an extract from the report of Commissioner Serle; these I reproduce in this appendix, regretting deeply that I am unable to publish the whole of the thirty-eight letters which were once in my possession, but are now lost and probably destroyed.—T. J. W.



At a former period of the present War it became necessary in order to vindicate the Character of this Country for good Faith and Humanity, to render publick the Proceedings and Correspondence of the Governments of Great Britain and France with respect to Prisoners of War.  The whole was submitted to a Committee of the House of Commons and became the subject of a Report, followed by certain Resolutions unanimously adopted by the House.  The following Correspondence may be considered as a Supplement to the Documents which were printed with that Report, and the motives for rendering it publick are the same as on the former occasion.

Downing Street,
         6th January 1801.

Downing Street,
15th December 1799.

My Lords,

In the absence of Mr. Secretary Dundas, I lost no time in laying before the King your Lordship’s Letter to Him of the 12th Instant inclosing the Communication made to Captain Cotes at Paris, respecting the future maintenance of the English and French Prisoners of War, now detained in respective Countries.

It is the less necessary on this Occasion, to recall the Circumstances which gave rise to the Arrangement under p. 272which Two Governments agreed to provide for the wants of their respective subjects during their Detention as they have been submitted to Parliament and published to the World, in Refutation of the false and unwarrantable Assertions brought forward by the French Government on this Subject; but His Majesty cannot witness the Termination of an Arrangement, founded on the fairest principles of Justice and Protection, due by the Powers at War to their respective Prisoners, and proved by Experience to be the best calculated to provide for their Comfort, without protesting against this Departure (on the Part of the French Government) from an Agreement entered into between the Two Countries, and which tended so materially to mitigate the Calamities of War.

To prevent the Effect of this Alteration as much as possible with respect to the British Prisoners not on Parole in this Country, it is His Majesty’s Command that from the Date of the French Agent, ceasing to supply them, the Commissioners of Transports and for taking care of Prisoners of War, should furnish them indiscriminately with the same Rations of Provisions as were granted before the late Arrangement took place.

As no mention is made of Clothing, or other necessaries, in Captain Cotes’ letter, I think it right to add that the Commissioners of Transports and for taking care of Prisoners of War are on no Account to furnish any to the French Prisoners, as this Charge has at all times been supported by the French.

It will be proper that his letter should be communicated to Monsieur Niou the French Agent in London, and to the Agents at the several Depots of Prisoners, in order that the real Grounds of the Change which is about to take place, may not be mistaken or misrepresented.

I am, etc.,
(Signed) Portland.

To the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, &c., &c., &c.



Having received Directions from the Consuls of the Republic to inform you of a Measure they have adopted p. 273upon an important Deliberation, the Principles and Bearings of which they are perfectly well known to you, I have felt it my duty to address myself directly to you in order to guard against delay.

The Consuls of the Republic having been engaged in an Investigation of its Interests, both at home and abroad, have turned their attention to the mode at present observed by France and England with respect to the Subsistence and Treatment of Prisoners of War in the Hands of these two belligerent Powers.

They have caused all the papers relative to the Adoption of this system to be carefully examined and a report having been made to them in this subject they perceive.

1st.  That in your letter to the Lords of the Admiralty of the 6th of October 1797 after having claimed the Admission of Captain Cotes into France and the Exchange or at least the Liberation on Parole of Sir Sidney Smith, you proposed in order to put an end to the Recriminations relative to the Treatment of Prisoners continually renewed on both sides that the Prisoners should be furnished in the Country where they were detained with Clothing, Subsistence, and Medicines at the Expence of the Government to which they belonged.

2ndly.  That the said Arrangement took place in consequence of the Communications respecting this Proposal made to M. Charretie the French Commissary by the Commissioners of the Transport Office on the 12th October and the 13th November following in pursuance of the orders of the Lords of the Admiralty.

I shall not revert here, Sir, to the circumstances which preceded this Arrangement, but it is my Duty to declare to you, that the Consuls of the Republic having remarked that it was not founded upon any authentic Stipulation, that the Cartel of Exchange signed nearly Ten Months afterwards took not the least notice of it and that it was an obvious contradiction of all the usages and Laws of War, were of opinion, that on the one Hand, the further execution of it was derogatory both to the Interests and to the Dignity of the Republic, and, on the other that neither the good Faith the Government wishes to manifest on every occasion, nor p. 274the peculiar solicitude it owes to its Fellow Citizens, did in any manner call upon it to continue to observe this Arrangement.

Indeed, Sir, you have yourself declared, in your letter of the 6th October 1797 the one of the Motives which led you to wish for this Arrangement, was the Difficulty of judging whether the Complaints of the Prisoners were well or ill founded; that some of these Complaints were dictated by Passion by Prejudice or Animosity, whilst others arose solely from the Difference in their Mode of Living, and in the same Letter you acknowledged that the belligerent Powers in preceding Wars when the Account of Expences incurred for their respective Prisoners came to be adjusted admitted only the sums advanced for their Clothing.

The principal Motives alleged by you, Sir, were therefore the necessity of putting an end to the Complaints of the Prisoners and the Benefit they would derive from being subsisted and treated in a Manner conformable to their former Habits.

These motives were undoubtedly sufficient in support of your Proposal and although you added that War, though giving to the Captors an incontestable right over the Discipline and the Police of their Prisoners does not however impose upon them the Obligation of providing for their Wants you would certainly mean to allude to their secondary Wants only and in Proof of this the English Government, as you have already declared, always understood that it must have provided what was absolutely necessary for the subsistence of the French Prisoners even on the Supposition that none of the Demands contained in your letter had been acceded to.  The respect paid by all civilized Nations to the immutable Laws of Humanity and the Empire of those Laws over the English Nation will not allow me to give any other Construction to your statement.

The result of this explanation, Sir, is that the mode adopted since November 1797 for the Subsistence and Treatment of Prisoners of War, had chiefly in view to ameliorate their Condition; the Consuls of the Republic in declining to observe this Mode any longer for the reasons before stated are nevertheless determined to neglect no means in order to ensure the same effect.

p. 275They have, in consequence, ordered me to assure you, that from the 1st of Nivose next when all remittances of money from England to France and from France to England for the Subsistence and Treatment of Prisoners of War are to cease your Countrymen in France shall be treated whether in Health or Sickness with every attention due to their Rank and Situation and that with a View to their Food being better adapted to their Mode of Living in their own Country; they shall receive both ashore and in any other Place of Detention the Ration fixed by the Fourth Article of the Cartel of Exchange.

As this Order of things will place France and England with regard to the Prisoners made by each of the Two Powers on the Footing on which they have stood previous to the 25th of November 1797 the Consuls of the French Republic desire that the English Commissary at Paris and the French Commissary at London may not interfere after the first of Nivose next in any Details relative to the Prisoners of War except in the cases specified in the 3rd Article of the Cartel of the 13th September 1798.

They have particularly directed me to assure you that the said Cartel shall be executed with that strict Attention to good Faith, which will characterize all the Acts of the French Consuls and that, if they have felt it their duty under the present Circumstances to re-establish the former System of Management with respect to Prisoners of War, they at the same time, understand that the two belligerent Powers may on the Return of a General Peace bring forward such Claims for Compensation as may then be deemed necessary.

I have the Honour to be, &c.,
(Signed) Niou.


Transport Office,
10th September 1800.


We inclose for your Information, a copy of a Letter we have this Day received from Captain Woodriff, the Superintendent p. 276at Norman Cross Prison, stating the distressed situation to which many of the French Prisoners confined to that place are reduced, from the want of Clothing and by disposing of their Provisions and Bedding.

We are, &c.,
(Signed) Rupert George.
Ambrose Serle.
W. A. Otway.

M. Otto. [276]


Norman Cross,
9th September 1800.


Inclosed, I transmit a packet for M. Otto from which you will observe, that notwithstanding all I have done, or can do to prevent the Prisoners from selling their ration of Provisions for Days to come, and their Bedding, it has not had, nor is likely to have the desired effect.

Since the commencement of the Wet weather many of them have been taken to the Hospital in a very weak state, in consequence of having sold their Provisions and Bedding and One or Two have died.

Several of the French Prisoners are without Clothing and having sold their Bedding they are destitute of either, and the present wet weather and the approaching winter will if they be not clothed fill the Hospitals.

I have, Gentlemen, thought it prudent to mention these circumstances to you, as I am firmly of opinion, that unless some clothing is issued to the Prisoners who are now destitute many of them will die should the Winter be severe.

I have the Honour to be, &c.
(Signed) D. Woodriff.

Commissioners for the Transport Service.


p. 277Translation

7th Brumaire 9th Year of the French Republick 29th October 1800

The Commissary of the French Republick in England, To the Commissioners of the Transport Office.


I have had the honour of making various Representations to you relative to the insufficiency of the Ration allowed by the British Government to the French Prisoners whom the Fortune of War has thrown into its hands.  The fatal effects of this Diminution of Food are already but too sensibly felt.  I have now before me a list of those who have died and I perceive that the Number is almost Four times greater than that of last year at the same period, for during the course of One month only, the number of deaths has amounted to One Hundred And Ten while they did not exceed twenty during the same month of the preceding year.  But this comparison however afflicting it may appear is only the first outline of the Picture, I shall be obliged to lay before you in a few months unless the most effectual means are speedily adopted in order to prevent the consequences which must otherwise result from the wretched situation of the Prisoners.  Indeed it is impossible to look at the state of the different depots without being convinced of the fate which infallibly awaits them.

“It would be useless to state the misery endured by the Prisoners here (writes my Correspondent at Norman Cross) many of them hasten by their own Imprudence or Misconduct the Fate which awaits them all, if things remain in the state they now are.  Hunger compels them to sell everything they possess and in so doing they only add to their own wretchedness.  Many are literally naked.  Amongst those who by their Fortitude and good Conduct have avoided these excesses are to be perceived the melancholy and slow, but certain Effects of a ruined constitution, and if an immediate remedy is not applied, a cruel death must soon terminate their sufferings.”

p. 278These details, Gentlemen, are accompanied by bitter Reflections which I forbear to repeat.  I shall also pass over in Silence the Accounts received from the other Depots which would only be an afflicting repetition of what you have just read.  The Ration issued to the Prisoners proved insufficient even during the fine weather.  On this Point I appeal to Persons who have seen the Prisons and experience is a sufficient Proof of it.  Urged by the most pressing wants, the Prisoners have employed their small Resources in making up the Deficiency of the Ration.  Those who were without pecuniary means Sold even their Clothing.  They are now naked and enfeebled by Privations of every kind.  The keen air of Winter will sharpen the cravings of Hunger and they must soon experience the Severity of cold Weather without possessing the means of defending themselves against it.

Such is the situation of French Prisoners in England.  In France, on the contrary, the English, the Russians, and the Austrians, who have fallen into our hands, not only receive a wholesome and plentiful Subsistence, but are clothed at the expense of the Republic and enjoy a Degree of Liberty which the French Prisoners are not allowed in this Country.  At every Period of the War, a great Number of Prisoners have had permission to leave the depots to carry on different trades and to earn by the Fruits of their Labour even more than would have provided them with a comfortable support.

Whatever may be the intentions of the British Government with respect to the Frenchmen now groaning in Irons I request, in the name of Humanity, and the sacred Law of Nations that you will lay before that Government this Picture of their Situation.  It cannot fail to affect every feeling mind.  It has already made an impression upon you, Gentlemen, and you have ordered a great number of Invalids to be sent home.  The Agents entrusted with the charge of selecting the Prisoners falling under this description have discharged their duty in the most humane manner and I owe to you as well as to them my grateful Thanks for their Conduct on this Occasion.

I cannot conclude this letter without replying to two Objections which may appear at first sight to palliate the Difference of Treatment experienced by the Prisoners of the p. 279Two Nations “The Republic (it has been said) may easily provide for the subsistence of English Prisoners because there are very few in France.”  But if the Chance of War has thrown a greater number of Prisoners into the Power of Great Britain the Duties of Humanity ought certainly to plead more forcibly in their favour in proportion as their numbers Increase at the respective Depots.  And on the other Hand, ought not the Russians, the Austrians, the Neapolitans and the Bavarians now Prisoners in France to be taken into the account?  Their number is at least equal to that of the French confined in England.  Are they not subsisted at the expence of the Republic?  And do not the Subsidies paid to their respective Sovereigns appear to assimilate them to British Subjects?

I have also been told “That the People here are not better fed than the Prisoners.”  If the scarcity of Provisions is so notorious that Government notwithstanding its Solicitude cannot relieve the wants of the people, why should Government unnecessarily increase the Consumption by feeding more than 22,000 individuals?  I have already had the Honour of laying before you two Proposals on this subject, namely that of ransoming the Prisoners, or that of sending them back to France on Parole.  Either of these alternatives would afford an effectual remedy for the Evil in question; the Plan of Parole has already been adopted with respect to French Fishermen.  No complaint of want of punctuality in this Arrangement has hitherto arisen.  A measure of the same nature for all the other Prisoners would be held equally sacred, for no Government unquestionably would allow itself to break an Engagement of this description.

If neither of these proposals is acceded to by the British Government, there still remains another resource hitherto solicited in vain by the Prisoners themselves, but which however has never before been denied by any Government, to the Greatest Criminals.  The resource of their own Industry.  The ingenious but frivolous Articles manufactured by these unfortunate Persons from the Bones which are left of their Rations are admired.  What advantage might they not derive from their Industry, if they were p. 280allowed to employ it upon Objects of Trade!  Labour would beguile the Hours of tedious Captivity and even the Nation at whose expence they are subsisted would be benefited by their exertions.

I have the Honour to be, &c.,
(Signed) Otto.



We have received your Letter of the 29th of last month relative to the present state of the French Prisoners of War in this Country and have agreeably to your Desire, transmitted it to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, for their consideration; but, at the same time, we cannot help observing that the distressed situation which you represent the Prisoners to be in is entirely owing either to their being totally destitute of clothing or to their own Imprudence in disposing of their Provisions by Gaming and not as you assert, to an Insufficiency of the Rations of Provisions issued to them which is fully enough to keep men living without labour, in a general state of good health and certainly affords more subsistence than a great part of the labouring People of this Country is able to procure, a full pound of bread, eight ounces of fresh beef, and above a quart of soup compounded of Vegetables or Pease for each Man per diem.

We reiterated to you in our several letters of the 21st March, 24th of May, 28th of August, 11th of September, and 17th of last month the miserable situation of the Prisoners at all the Depots from the Want of Clothing and the melancholy consequences that were to be expected to ensue if the French Government did not cause them to be supplied with that necessary article previous to the commencement of the cold weather.

In giving you such timely premonition we certainly did all that was incumbent on us to do, or that Humanity dictated, and we have no hesitation in saying that if the French Government had expended a few thousand pounds in providing clothing for their People in this Country in proper time the greater part of the evils of which you now complain would not have existed.

p. 281As it is certainly the Duty of every State to provide for the support of its people while in Captivity, so whatever may have been its arrangements with respect to victualling it has been the custom in all former wars between Great Britain and France for each Country to provide Clothing for its own Subjects and agreeably to this Custom all the British Prisoners in France as well as the Russian Prisoners taken in Holland, are now actually supplied with clothing by our Agent Captain Cotes at the expence of this Country although you state as a reason for the French Government not clothing their people here that the British Prisoners in France are clothed at the expence of your Government.

Whatever may latterly have been the effects of the prisoners wanting clothing it cannot be denied, that until very lately, the prisoners at all the depots were generally in as good a state of health as at any former period even when victualled by their own Country.  Some indeed had fallen victims to an incurable spirit of Gaming, by sporting away their allowance of Provisions as well as their clothing and the Bedding with which they had been amply supplied by us, but we believe that the number that has suffered has hitherto not been very considerable.  In our letter of the 22nd April and 20th of May last we represented to you fully the effects of this pernicuous Practise, which had become so prevalent in the Prisons and we proposed to you a measure which if adopted we doubt not would have greatly tended to put a stop to it, but for what reason we know not, you have not hitherto taken any notice to us of our communications on that subject and from the want of your concurrence the utmost exertions of our Agents in pursuance of our orders for prohibiting Gaming have as yet proved ineffectual.  While this practise continues it is evident that if the Ration of the Prisoners were tenfold what it is they would still sport it away, and the circumstance of their now disposing of the Rations issued to them is a proof that it is not on Account of the Insufficiency of those Rations, but merely from the Gambling spirit above mentioned, that they also dispose of their bedding and clothing.  Indeed, so far from their being obliged to part with their clothing to purchase provisions it appears even from your own Statement p. 282respecting the Prisoners at Liverpool that they actually dispose of a part of their Subsistence to procure clothes.

With respect to your observation of the Prisoners not being permitted to increase their means of Subsistence by Labour which you say “the most severe Administration would not refuse to the greatest criminals” we think it proper to acquaint you that the prisoners at all the depots in this Country are at full liberty to exercise their Industry within the Prisons in manufacturing and selling any articles they may think proper excepting hats which would effect the Revenue in opposition to the Laws; Obscene Toys, and drawings, and articles made either from their clothing or the Prison Stores and by means of this privilege some of them have been known to earn and to carry off upon their release, more than 100 guineas each.

Upon this occasion it has become highly expedient for us once more solemnly to impress upon your mind the necessity of a speedy relief being afforded to your people with respect to the article of Clothing a supply of which would materially if not entirely remove the principal causes of their present distress.

If you or rather your Government delay to furnish this supply whatever evils may ensue and these may justly be apprehended, cannot, after such repeated notices as we have for a long time, given you, be imputed to this Country but to the state which in this instance has so entirely neglected its own people.

We are, etc.,
(Signed) Rupert George.
Ambrose Serle.
John Schank.

M. Otto.


Extract from a Report made by Commissioner Serle to the Transport Board dated 25th July, 1800.

The Prisoners complained of the smallness of the Ration but not of the Quality supplied.  They wished for more bread and for beer instead of water.  I found however that the ration by their mode of Cookery which is left to themselves p. 283is not quite so insufficient and destitute as some of them chose to represent it.

The French are generally great devourers of Bread and therefore what would be a very competent allowance to an Englishman appears a contracted one to them, while the meat which an Englishman would scarcely think enough is to them a reasonable allowance.  The Ration of a pound of bread with half a pound of meat Vegetables etc. digested into a Broth or soup yielding seven quarts per diem to every six men affords a support which our labouring poor rarely have at any time, but certainly not during the present scarcity, and which to men living without labour seems enough to maintain them in a general state of good health.  And I have been informed by some who are most qualified to know, that the French Prisons had never had so few sick as at the present time. [283]  Some indeed who had sported away their allowance in Gambling to prevent which the Agents have taken every precaution in their Power are in fact destitute enough and so they might have been if their Ration had been ten times as great.  But this is their own fault entirely and it cannot be expected that if a Prisoner be pleased to throw away his food by vice, that Government must be at the expence of supplying him again.  However wherever this has been discovered particularly as it may be in the Article of Bread the whole has been seized by the agent of Officers of the Prison, from the Winners or Purchasers and distributed amongst the Prisoners at large.

Many of the Prisoners have stalls in a kind of Market within the walls in which among other articles they sell Provisions and vegetables and I am told acquire considerable sums of money.  This interior market is supplied by another without where there is a free access of the Country People with all sorts of provisions Beer and Produce which they are not allowed to sell but at the fair Market Price so that Destitution is only to be found among those few who have been weak or wicked enough to lose their allowance by Gambling.  I am also informed that many Thousand pounds have been already remitted, and that sums of money are now continually p. 284remitting from France, by the Friends of the Prisoners for additional comforts in their situation.  This affords a considerable supply to many of their requirements.

Their clothing in general for which the French Government has ceased to provide (as well as for the victualling) is getting very bad, and to meet the winter fairly must by some means or other be supplied.

Besides the remittances from France, the Prisoners are allowed to sell any kinds of their own manufactures; Straw Hats (which would interfere with the Revenue) and Articles made from Stores excepted, by which means some have been known to earn and to carry off on their Release more than a Hundred Guineas each.  This with an open Market as above mentioned operates much to their advantage and Comfort and they show their satisfaction in the Habits of Cheerfulness peculiar to themselves.  The Prisoners have free access to the several Apartments from the opening of the Prison in the morning until they are shut up on the approach of night with the exception only of the times when they are fumigating or cleansing for the preservation of Health.  Six Prisoners chosen by the body at large have access to the Cook rooms every morning when the Provisions are brought in that they may witness to their full weight and object to any deficiency.

In case of sickness the patients are immediately removed under the direction of the Medical people, to the Hospital and supplied with the necessary assistance.

Nothing can exceed the cleanliness and decency of the Hospitals.



Brumaire 9th Year of the French Republic, 4th November 1800

The Commissary of the French Republic in England, to the Commissioners of the Transport Office.


I have just received the honour of your letter of the 1st of November in answer to mine of the 29th October.  I shall immediately communicate it to my Government.

p. 285In making mention of the deplorable situation to which the Prisoners are reduced you appear to think that I have given no answer to the Communications you made to me respecting the very censurable practise of such of them as risk the loss of their Rations in Gambling.  I request that you will refer to my letter of the 2nd of May in which you will find the following Paragraph.  “I entirely approve of the Punishment you propose to inflict upon those who according to the information you have sent me, deal in Provisions; and I beg that you will communicate to me a list of the Persons guilty of this conduct.  It even appears necessary in order that the Punishment may be the more felt, to separate them from their comrades and to collect them in a Depot for this purpose.”  I have written to the Secretaries at the different Depots to the above effect, and I Have procured authority from the Minister to treat with the utmost severity those who made a traffic of the Rations of their comrades.  I have done in this respect every thing my situation will admit of my doing, but until I shall know, who are the guilty it will be impossible for me to punish them.

I have the honour to be, &c.,
(Signed) Otto.


Transport Office,
14th June 1811.


DistinguishingThe Prisons in which they were confined in the Month of April 1810, and, according to the Latest Returns, Distinguishing those in Health, from the Sick and Convalescents

In prison.

30th April 1810.

11th June 1811.


Total No.

In health.

Sick. [286a]

Total No.

In health.



Cases of wounds and accidents.





























Norman Cross














Forton Prison and prison ships at Portsmouth









Plymouth and prison ships

















24 [286b]
























On Parole
















(Signed) R. George.
J. Douglas.
J. Harners.



The Hospital accounts seem to commence in 1806; there are none extant before.  The first document in the bundle of papers is a report from Captain Pressland, the Agent, to the Board, enumerating the staff and the date of appointment of each member.

George Walker, Surgeon, allowed for stationery by letter from the Sick and Hurt Board, 12th August 1803, and by warrant from the Transport Board, 11th February 1806, 15s. per diem and three guineas per annum for stationery.

Samuel Waight, Dispenser, S. & H.B. warrant, 4th July 1803, and order for stationery 24th August 1803.

Orbell Fairclough, Hospital Mate, S. & H.B. letter, 21st September 1805.

John Waller, Hospital Mate, S. & H.B. letter, 25th February 1805.

A. Munro, Clerk, 16th September 1803.

John Prethenan, Steward of Bedding, 6th July 1803, order for lodging 22nd September 1803.

Thos. Giffard, Steward of Victualling, 7th October 1803, order for lodging 15th October 1804.

Robert Hobart, Turnkey, S. & H.B. warrant, 22nd December 1803, Supert. Carpenter, order, 30th April 1804.

Thos. Allan, Turnkey, warrant, 1st January 1806.

Ann Key, Matron, warrant, 14th March 1804.

Eliza Munro, Seamstress, letter, 22nd December 1803 (N. B.).  She was formerly Eliza Key, and is the daughter of Mrs. Key.

Abraham Sevan, letter, 27th October 1804, to discharge p. 288the messenger Collins, when Sevan was entered in his place, 3rd November 1804.  This was the only member of the staff who made his mark on the pay-sheet.

Pierre Larfeuil, Asst.-Surgeon, S. & H.B. order, 18th May 1804.

Anty. Howard, ditto, order, 17th September 1804 and 18th April 1805.

Pierre Glize, Asst.-Dispenser, order, 6th March 1805.

P. E. Breand, Taylor.

P. Vanheekhoet, Interpreter.

Yves Gueonet, 26th October 1804.

Pierre Landean, to carry medicines, 26th October 1804.

Pierre Douvre, Washerman, order, 28th January 1805.

Pierre Avey, Carpenter, first employed to make cradles for keeping the bedclothes off injured limbs, etc., and afterwards on odd jobs, then Washerman.

Pierre Gradel, Asst.-Lamplighter, S. & H.B. order, 14th December 1804.

J. B. Anjou, Serving in Dispensary, order, 21st November 1804.

Louis Clairet, to refill beds, etc., employed by Dr. Gillespie.

Pierre Drissan, Asst. to Bedding-Steward, order 11th December 1805.

Pierre Jansen, Shoemender, order, 21st August 1805.

P. A. Daird, Stocking Mender, employed by Dr. Gillespie.

Francis Dening, ditto, 11th December 1805.

Louis Le Besse, Labourer, to clean drains, yards, etc., order, 15th October 1804.

Pierre Andierne, ditto.

Pierre Vennin, Barber to infirm and itchy men, order 29th April and 29th October 1805.

P. M. Langlais, Nurse to ditto.

John Rivet, ditto.

Jean Taste, ditto.  This man was appointed at the request of Mr. Walker, on account of the increased number of patients with Fits and Mania.

The Surgeon, William Walker, quitted the Hospital in February 1806, and was succeeded by George Walker, Surgeon, by warrant, dated 11th February 1806, and entered 21st February 1806.  On 1st October had an allowance of p. 289£10 10s. per annum for coals and candles.  On 6th July 1809 his pay was increased to 21s. per diem.

Orbell Fairclough resigned 20th September 1809.

Daird Povle appointed in his place.

Up to 1811 each had to sign the pay-sheet; this was discontinued, and the payments certified by the Agent and two of the staff.  In the absence of the Agent, the Surgeon and the Clerk certified.

Salaries and Allowances

George Walker, Surgeon, entered 21st February 1806 as Surgeon at £1 1s. per day, £3 3s. per annum for stationery, and £10 10s. per annum for coals and candles.  Had an abatement of 3d. in the £ for Widows’ Pension Fund.

John Watkins, Dispenser, entered 7th May 1810, at 10s. per day, £1 1s. per annum for stationery, and £10 10s. for coals and candles.

Alexr. Gordon, 5th June 1812, Hospital Mate, 6s. 6d. per day.

John Wilkinson, Clerk, 25th December 1810 at 30s. 6d. per week.

Barnard Smith, Victualling Steward, 1st November 1806, 3s. 6d. per day.

A. E. Key, Matron, 1st March 1804, £25 per annum, 10s. 6d. per annum for stationery, 1s. 3d. per day rations.

H. Key, Seamstress, 25th April 1804, at 4s. 6d. per week, and 1s. 3d. per day rations.

After the prison was emptied in 1814 there were still sick in the Hospital, and the pay-sheets show that it was not until the 31st July in that year that the payments of the staff entirely ceased.

The Hospital Mate, Victualling Steward, Matron and Seamstress, were only paid twenty days in July 1814, the Dispenser twenty-three and the Surgeon the complete thirty-one days.








Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam, 21st March 1808






The Note enclosed in the Bishop’s Letter, being a Narrative of his Experiences, from the Date of Nomination to the See of Moulins to that of his taking up his Residence at Stilton






Draft of Portion of Lord Fitzwilliam’s Reply to the Bishop






Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam, 27th March 1808






Mr. Commissioner Rupert George to Captain Moorsom, Secretary to Lord Mulgrave, 19th March 1808



Lord Mulgrave (Admiralty) to Lord Fitzwilliam, 21st March 1808



Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam, 3rd April 1808






Lord Mulgrave to Earl Fitzwilliam, 6th April 1808



Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam, 7th April 1808






Passport of Jean Baptiste David I referred to in the Bishop’s Letters


p. 291I

The Rt. Rev. Stephen John Baptist de Galois de la Tour, Bishop-designate of Moulins, to the Rt. Hon. William, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam.


Vous exprimer combien j’ai été touché de vos bontés et de l’accueil que vous avez daigné me faire me seroit impossible.  Permettés moi de vous offrir le juste hommage de ma reconnoissance.  Depuis vingt ans bientôt que tous les genres de malheurs n’ont cessé de m’accabler, j’ose dire que c’est à vous seul que je suis redevable d’avoir pu les oublier un instant, et depuis ces vingt années les heures que j’ai passées à Milton sont bien les plus heureuses que je puisse compter, ce n’est point ici ni compliment ni phrase, le cœur seul parle dans ce moment et c’est le seul hommage qui puisse vous plaire et qui soit digne de vous, je n’ai point osé vous parler, Mylord, de tous les sentiments qui m’ont fait éprouver la bienfaisance et la noblesse avec lesquelles vous avez daigné venir à mon secours sur ma première demande et sans que j’eusse l’honneur d’être connu de vous j’aurois craint de blesser votre délicatesse—j’ai encore moins osé vous faire connoître tout le malheur de ma position actuelle, mais je vous l’avoue, Mylord, en vous voyant, j’ai tout à la fois été pénétré de respect et de confiance.  Je ne puis vous dire ce que j’ai éprouvé, il n’appartient qu’à un cœur tel que le vôtre de pouvoir le juger: j’ai tout perdu—fortune—amis—famille.  Il ne me reste que l’honneur, en vous j’ai cru tout retrouver.  Pardonnés, Mylord, cet excès de franchise et de liberté, je joins ici une note dont je vous supplie de faire lecture; daignés y donner quelqu’ attention; elle est tout à la fois importune et indiscrette, mais elle ne sauroit vous blesser.  Le malheur a des droits sur une âme aussi grande et aussi élevée que la vôtre, et elle pardonne l’importunité et l’indiscrétion.  La grâce que j’implore de vous par dessus toutes les autres, Mylord, c’est que cette note ne me fasse point tort auprès de vous; soit que vous daigniés y avoir quelqu’ égard, soit que vous la rejettiés ne me privés pas de vos bontés quoique je n’aye aucun titre p. 292pour y prétendre; permettés moi d’espérer que l’excès de liberté que j’ose prendre ne m’en privera pas.  Tout chés vous et dans vous m’a persuadé que je trouvois un père, un bienfaiteur.

J’ai l’honneur d’être avec respect,


Votre très humble et très obéissant serviteur,

L’Evêque de Moulins.

Bell Inn, Stilton,
         ce 21 Mars 1808.



My Lord,

To express to you how much I have been touched by your goodness, and by the reception you have given me, would be impossible.  Permit me to offer you the just homage of my acknowledgement.  For almost twenty years all sorts of misfortune have not ceased to overwhelm me, and I venture to say, that it is to you alone that I am indebted for having been able to forget them for an instant, and during these twenty years, the hours that I have passed at Milton are the happiest that I am able to count up.  This is neither a compliment nor phrase, the heart alone speaks in this moment, and it is the only homage which can please you, and which is worthy of you.  I have never dared to speak to you, my lord, of all the sentiments that have made me feel the goodness and the nobleness with which you have deigned to come to my help on my first request, and if I had not had the honour of being known to you I should have feared to wound your delicacy; I have dared still less to acquaint you with all the misfortune of my actual position, but I confess to you, my lord, that on seeing you I was at once filled with respect and with confidence.  I cannot tell you what I have felt, it only belongs to a nature such as yours to be able to judge; I have lost all, fortune, friends, family—my honour only remains.  In you I have believed to find all again—pardon, my lord, this excess of frankness and freedom.  I enclose a note which I beg you to read, please give it some attention.  p. 293It is both importunate and indiscreet—but I am sure it will not hurt your feelings.  Misfortune has claims upon a soul as great and as noble as yours, and it will pardon the importunity and indiscretion.  The favour which I implore of you, above all others, my lord, is, that this note may not be taken amiss by you; whether you deign to have any regard for it, or whether you reject it, pray do not deprive me of your goodness; although I have no right to lay claim to it, permit me to hope that the excess of liberty that I dare to take will not deprive me of it.  Everything with you and in you has convinced me that I have found a father and a benefactor.

I have the honour to be, with respect, my lord,

Your very humble and very obedient servant,

The Bishop of Moulins.

Bell Inn, Stilton,
      21st March 1808.


The Memoir in the handwriting of the Bishop, inclosed in his letter of the 21st March 1808, addressed to the Earl Fitzwilliam.

L’Evêque de Moulins parti de France en 1791, avec très peu de moyens, a passé en Italie.  Assés heureux pour obtenir la place de premier Aumônier de Mde. Victoire de France, c’est aux bontés de cette auguste Princesse qu’il a dû son existence.  A sa mort arrivée en 1799, il s’est vu privé de toutes ressources.  A cette époque, il a passé en Angleterre, où il a obtenu le traitement fixé pour les Evêques, qui était alors de £10 par mois.  Il s’est établi à Londres chés M. de Pontcarré, ancien Premier Président du Parlement de Rouen, qui avoit épousé sa sœur en premières noces, dont il a en deux enfans; il ne connoissoit point le malheureux état des affaires de cette famille.  Son cœur et le désir de l’obliger, l’ont entraíné fort au delà de ce que ses moyens lui permettoient de faire.  Il ne eraint pas sur cela d’avouer ses torts, et de dire que pour soutenir cette malheureuse famille, il a été jusqu’à se mettre en avant pour plus de £1600, d’après les promesses qui lui étoient faites d’un p. 294remboursement prochain.  Son père vivoit alors, et il avoit lieu de croire qu’il pourroit en espérer quelques ressources.  Son neveu et sa nièce étoient en France, et il avoit quelque droit d’espérer qu’ils auroient égard à ce qu’il faisoit pour aider leur père et sa famille.  Il ne prétend point diminuer ses torts, mais sur ces espérances, il s’est laissé aller à la facilité de son caraetère, et n’ayant par lui-même aucuns moyens, a contracté divers engagements dont il est aujourd’hui la victime.  Son père est mort en 1802 sans avoir fait aucunes dispositions; on l’a frustré de tout ce qu’il pouvoit prétendre, et un frère qu’il a encore en France, ainsi que son neveu et sa nièce se sont emparés de la succession sans lui en rendre aucun compte.  M. d’Aligre, son cousin germain, à qui il a rendu le service de contribuer à lui conserver trois millions qu’il avoit sur la banque d’Angleterre, est venu à Londres pour recueillir cette somme, et lui a promis alors de lui prêter 12,000f. de France sous le cautionnement de son neveu et de sa nièce, et lui en a même donné parole.  La caution a été promise, et de retour en France, M. d’Aligre ainsi que les autres n’ont tenu nul compte de leurs promesses.  Il peut dire avoir éprouvé sous tous les rapports tous les genres de procédés les plus injustes et les moins délicats.  On a été jusqu’à lui faire entrevoir qu’on ne penseroit à le secourir, qu’autant qu’il retournerait en France, et qu’il se soumettroit au gouvernement qui y domine, ce qu’il ne fera jamais, quelque malheureux qu’il puisse être.  Il y a donc bientôt 9 ans que l’évêque de Moulins gémit sous le poids du malheur, et que ses jours ne sont comptés que par ses peines; ce n’est que par des engagemens nouveaux qu’il a pu satisfaire aux plus anciens, et ses embarras, par conséquent, loin de diminuer, n’ont fait qu’augmenter.  Il ose avouer que dans le nombre de ses dettes, il y a une de £200 pour laquelle il paye £60 d’intérêt par an.  Il a tout perdu: rien ne lui reste en France, puisque d’une part le gouvernement, et de l’autre, sa famille lui ont tout enlevé il ne lui reste uniquement pour vivre que les £20 qu’il reçoit par mois de la générosité du gouvernement Britannique.  Il commence à avancer en âge; il est affreux pour lui de penser à l’avenir.  Il ne connoit personne en Angleterre, n’y a ni appui, ni soutien.  Sa seule ressource étoit pour s’assurer une existence p. 295tranquille de trouver une somme de £1000 sterlings à emprunter, et n’ayant point d’autre assurance à donner, il a offert de faire assurer sa vie pour cette somme, et de donner les sûretés nécessaires pour le pavement des intérêts, et pour l’intérêt de l’assurance.  Par ce moyen on seroit sûr à sa mort de ne rien perdre.  Il y a plus de deux ans qu’il cherche ce moyen de se libérer sans avoir pu y réussir.  La somme de £200 pour laquelle il paye £60 d’intérêt par an est assurée au bureau d’assurance.  Telle est la position exacte dans laquelle se trouve l’Evêque de Moulins, sans cesse exposé à des embarras, à des inquiétudes, et menant par conséquent la vie la plus pénible et la plus malheureuse.  Tels sont les faits dans la plus exacte vérité, qu’il ose exposer à Milord Fitzwilliam.  C’est dans ces circonstances, qu’il vient se jeter entre ses bras, et implorer, il ne craint pas de se servir de ce terme vis-à-vis d’un homme tel que lui, non pas seulement ses bontés, mais sa pitié,—si Mylord par quelques moyens peut alléger sa malheureuse situation, il rendra en quelque manière la vie et l’existence à un homme qui ne se croit pas indigne de son estime.


The Bishop of Moulins, who left France in 1791, with very small means, went into Italy and was fortunate enough to obtain the post of first Chaplain to Madame Victoire of France.  It is to the bounty of this august princess that he owed his existence.  At her death, which took place in 1799, he found himself deprived of all his resources.  At this period he went to England, where he got the salary fixed for Bishops, which was then £10 a month.  He settled down in London in the house of M. Pontcarré, the former First President of the Parliament of Rouen, whose first wife was the Bishop’s sister; by her M. Pontcarré had two children.  He had no idea of the unhappy state of affairs in this family.  His kindness of heart and his wish to help them involved him far beyond what his means allowed him to do.  He is not afraid of confessing that in that he did wrong, and of saying that to support that unhappy family he went so far as to advance £1,600 on the strength of the promises which p. 296had been made to him of an early repayment.  His father was still living, and he had cause to believe that he might hope for some resources from him.  His nephew and niece were in France, and he had some right to hope that they would be mindful of what he was doing to help their father and his family.  He did not attempt to minimise his fault, but because of this hope he gave way to the weakness of his character, and, not having any means himself, contracted various bonds of which he is now the victim.  His father died in 1802 without having made any provision; he was defrauded of all to which he could lay a claim, and a brother who was still in France, as well as his nephew and his niece, took possession of the inheritance without taking him into consideration.  M. d’Aligre, his first cousin, to whom he had done a service by contributing to keep for him three million which he had in the Bank of England, came to London to collect that sum, and promised him then to lend him 12,000 francs (of France) on the security of his nephew and niece, and even gave his word for it.  The security was promised.  On his return to France neither M. d’Aligre nor the others kept their promise.  He may be said to have had to endure during this time the most unjust and indelicate behaviour.  They even went so far as to hint to him that they could not help him, unless he returned to France and submitted himself to her government that was then ruling, a thing which he would never do, however unfortunate he might be.  It is now nearly nine years that the Bishop of Moulins has groaned under the load of his misfortune.  His days could only be counted by his struggles, and it was only by fresh bonds that he was able to satisfy the older ones, and his embarrassments consequently, far from diminishing, only increased.  He dares to confess that amongst his debts there is one of £200 for which he pays £60 interest per annum.  He has lost everything, nothing remains to him in France, as the government on one side and his family on the other have taken everything from him.  There only remains for him to live on the £20 which he receives every month through the generosity of the British Government.  He is beginning to advance in age, and it is terrible for him to think of the future.  He knows no one in England who can help or p. 297support him.  His only resource was, to make sure of a quiet existence, to find the sum of £1,000 sterling to borrow, and having no other assurance to give, he offered to have his life insured for that sum, and to give the sureties necessary for the payment of the interests and for the interest of the insurance.  By these means they would be sure of losing nothing at his death.  For more than two years he has been trying to get himself out of debt by this means, but has not succeeded.  The sum of £200, for which he pays £60 interest per annum, is insured at the Insurance Office.  This is the position the Bishop of Moulins finds himself in, always exposed to embarrassments and anxiety, and consequently leading a most difficult and unhappy life.  These are the exact facts, which he ventures to confide to Lord Fitzwilliam.  It is under these circumstances that he throws himself on his mercy and craves, he is not afraid of using such a word to such a man, not only his favour, but his pity.  If his Lordship can by some means alleviate this unhappy situation, he will in some manner give back life and existence to a man who does not believe himself unworthy of his esteem.


Unfinished draft of Lord Fitzwilliam’s reply to the letter of the Bishop of Moulins, dated 21st March 1808, in which letter was enclosed the autobiographical notes.

Depuis la recette de l’exposé que vous m’avez fait l’honneur de me confier, je me suis adonné à faire la revue, de mes propres moyens, préliminaire très necessaire dans les circonstances dans lesquelles moi-même je me trouve actuellement, ayant à payer la dépense de l’élection de mon fils, une occasion que me coûte guère moins de £100,000 sterling.  Après cet aveu, vous voiez bien, monseigneur, qu’il doit me rester que moyens bien serrés.  Cependant, sentant bien l’état embarrassant de vos affaires, monseigneur, et touché du désir d’y porter autant de soulagement que mes propres moyens peuvent fournir, et considérant que l’interêt de £60 per annum que vous payez pour la somme de £200 d’emprunt, doit peser fort, j’ai l’honneur de vous offrir le montant p. 298pour vous libérer de cette charge.  Pour le reste, je suis au désespoir de ne pouvoir aller plus loin, sentant bien que la situation embarrassante dans laquelle vous vous trouvez, provient des circonstances que vous ne pouviez pas avertir d’une conduite, qui ennoblit le caractère, étant l’effet d’une probité patriotique, trop pure et trop sincère, pour chercher faveur et protection des mains impies de l’usurpation.


Since the receipt of the story of your life which you have done me the honour to confide in me, I have been devoting myself to looking into my own private means, a very necessary preliminary step in the circumstances in which I find myself at the present moment, having had to pay the expenses of the election of my son, a transaction which has cost me hardly less than £100,000 sterling.  After this avowal, Monseigneur, you will see that I must be left with very narrowed means.  In the meantime, perceiving clearly, Monseigneur, the embarrassing state of your affairs, and touched with the desire to relieve them to the extent which my circumstances can furnish, and considering that the interest of £60 per annum, that you pay for the loan of £200, must weigh heavily upon you, I have the honour to offer you the amount to free you from that charge.  As to the rest, I am in despair that I can go no further, perceiving well that the embarrassing position in which you find yourself arises from circumstances which you could not have avoided and from a conduct which ennobles your character, being the result of a patriotic uprightness, too pure and too sincere to seek favour and protection from the impious hands of usurpation.


Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam


Les nouvelles bontés dont vous daignes me combler, me pénétrent d’une reconnoissance qu’il m’est impossible de vous exprimer; mais si j’ose vous le dire, ce sont encore moins ces bontés relatives au soulagement et au secours p. 299qu’elles me procurent qui me font éprouver tout ce qu’un cœur honnète et sensible doit sentir, que la lettre que vous m’avés fait l’honneur de m’écrire, tout ce que je craignois, étoit d’avoir pu vous déplaire par mon importunité et par mon indiscrétion et la manière aimable et obligeante sous tous les rapports, dont vous avés daigné me répondre, m’a fait éprouver une satisfaction dont il n’appartient qu’à un cœur tel que le vôtre de juger, si vous eussiés pu être témoin de ce qui se passoit en moi en la lisant, pensant comme vous le faites, je crois pouvoir assurer que vous auriés eu une véritable jouissance vous faites pour moi, Milord, bien au delà de ce que j’aurois pu espérer et en me mettant à portée par vos dons de me libérer de la dette onéreuse de £200 que j’ai contractée c’est me procurer un soulagement tel que je n’aurois pu l’espérer, et me mettre à portée de jouir de beaucoup plus de tranquillité et d’aisance et ce qui y ajoutera infiniment, ce sera de vous en être redevable, il me reste une grâce à vous demander, Mylord, c’est de me permettre d’aller un jour vous dire de vive voix et tout ce que je sens et tout ce que j’éprouve.  J’ai pris la liberté, Mylord, de vous exposer tout ce qui s’étoit passé entre le transport office et moi relativement au jeune prisonnier qu’on m’avoit accordé pour domestique, et dont m’a privé en le faisant rentrer dans la prison, ma position vous est connue, et d’après cela il vous est aisé de juger qu’elle ne me permet pas d’avoir à mon service un domestique au même prix où sont les domestiques Anglois, d’ailleurs je ne parle point assés cette langue pour être servi par un Anglois, et cependant le malheureux état de ma santé, même une sorte de décence ne me permettent pas de n’avoir personne pour me servir, j’ai recours à votre protection, Mylord, et si par celle que vous daigneriés y mettre et l’intérêt que vous avés la bonté de prendre à moi, il étoit en votre pouvoir de me faire accorder soit par l’amirauté principalement, ou du transport office, j’ai pensé espérer non pas, le jeune homme qu’on m’avoit accordé, et que je ne réclame pas, pour des raisons particulières, mais celui que j’ai demandè à sa place nommé Sébastien Lequelleux, Mousse pris â bord de la Marie Françoise âgé d’environ 15 ans, aux mêmes conditions, mises à la liberté du premier, dont je joins ici le passeport en vous priant de ne p. 300pas vous en dessaisir et de le garder entre vos mains, parce qu’il peut m’être utile, passeport qui vous justifiera qu’on n’avoit point le droit de le reprendre, ni d’en user à mon égard comme on l’a fait, je vous en aurois une bien véritable obligation.  Depuis que je n’ai eu l’honneur de vous voir j’ai beaucoup souffert de vomissements de sang auxquels je suis sujet, et il est bien dur—et bien pénible pour moi—si je hazarde cette demande, Milord; ce sont vos bontés seules qui m’inspirent cette confiance.  Mais je vous supplie de la regarder comme non avenue et de n’y avoir aueun égard pour peu qui vous y voyez la moindre difficulté et qu’elle puisse vous compromettre sous le moindre rapport.  Si je puis avoir le jeune homme que je demande c’est à vous seul que je veux en être redevable, c’est à vous seul qu’il sera accordé de manière que le Transport Office ne puisse voir dans tout cela que l’intérêt que vous daignés m’accorder.  Pardonnés moi tant de liberté, tant d’importunités, mais un françois honnête et malheureux qui a le bonheur de vous voir, voit en vous son appui et son soutien.

J’ai l’honneur d’être avec respect, Mylord,

Votre très humble et très obéissant serviteur,

L’Evêque de Moulins.

         ce 27 Mars 1808.


My Lord,

The fresh bounties with which you deign to overwhelm me fill me with a gratitude which it is impossible for me to express, but if I dare say so, it is again, less, the kindnesses, in their relation to the comfort and help they have given me, which make me feel all that an upright and sensitive nature should feel, than the letter which you have done me the honour to write.

All that I feared was to displease you, by my importunity and indiscretion, but the amiable and obliging manner in which under all circumstances you have deigned to reply to me, has made me experience a satisfaction, of which only a heart like yours can judge.  If you had been able to p. 301see what passed within me when reading it, I feel sure that you, thinking as you do, would have had real pleasure, and by putting me, through your gifts, in a position to free myself of this heavy debt of £200 which I have contracted, you have relieved me far beyond my expectations, and made it possible for me to enjoy much more peace and ease of mind—and what will add to it still more, is the fact of my being indebted to you.  There still remains one more request, my lord, and that is to allow me to go and see you some day, and tell you in person all that I feel.

I have taken the liberty, my lord, of telling you all that passed between the Transport Office and me, about the young prisoner, whom they allotted to me, as servant, and of whom they deprived me, by sending him back to prison.  My circumstances are known to you, and therefore it is easy for you to judge that they will not allow me an expensive servant, such as are the English ones, moreover, I do not speak the English language well enough to be served by one of these, and yet the unfortunate state of my health and a sort of propriety do not allow me to have any servants.  I have recourse to your protection, my lord, and, if by what you deign to give me, and the interest which you have the goodness to take in me, it were in your power to have awarded to me, either by the Admiralty principally, or by the Transport Office, I might hope, not for the young man whom they allowed me before, and whom I do not ask back for private reasons, but for him whom I asked in his place, called Sebastian Sequelleux, a cabin boy, taken on board the Marie Françoise, aged about fifteen years, under the same conditions as the first whose passport I enclose, begging you not to give it up, but to keep it in your own hands, because it may be useful to me—a passport which will justify you that they had not the right to take him back again, nor to act in the manner towards me that they have done—I should be under a real obligation to you.

Since I had the honour of seeing you I have suffered much from vomiting of blood, to which I am subject, it is very hard and very trying for me, under these circumstances, p. 302to have no one near me.  If I hazard this request, my lord, it is your kindness alone, which inspires this confidence, and I implore you to consider it null and void, if you see the least difficulty—and if it should compromise you in the least.  If I can have the young man that I ask for, it is to you alone that I wish to be indebted, and to you alone that he will be granted, so that the Transport Office can see in all that, only the interest you have deigned to take in me.  Forgive so much liberty, so much importunity—but an honest and unhappy Frenchman, who has the happiness to see you, finds in you his prop and stay.

I have the honour to be, with respect, my lord,

Your very humble and very obedient servant,

The Bishop of Moulins.

         27th March 1808.


Mr. Commissioner Rupert George to Captain Moorsom, Secretary to Lord Mulgrave

Transport Office,
19th March 1808.

Dear Sir,

In answer to what is stated in Lord Fitzwilliam’s letter to Lord Mulgrave, I request you will inform his Lordship that the Bishop of Moulins was introduced to me by the Bishop of Montpellier, and at his request I prevailed on my colleagues to release a Prisoner of War from Norman Cross Prison to attend upon him; this, I am sorry to acknowledge, was irregular and unauthorised, but I was actuated by motives of humanity, as the Bishop complained that his finances were so limited that he could not afford to keep any servant of a different description.  This should have influenced the Bishop to keep his servant from carrying on any improper traffic with the Prisoners; on the contrary he became the instrument of introducing straw, manufactured, p. 303to the Prisoners for the purpose of being made into hats, bonnets, etc., by which the Revenue of our country is injured, and the poor who exist by that branch of trade would be turned out of employ, as the prisoners who are fed, clothed, and lodged at the public expense would be able to undersell them.

I must observe that this is the only article which the Prisoners are prevented from manufacturing.

When the Bishop’s servant had established himself in this trade the Bishop wrote to me, that he had found means of getting his livelihood, and desired he might remain at large, and that another prisoner might be released to serve him, neither of which the Board thought proper to comply with, for the foregoing reasons; upon which the Bishop of Moulins complained to the Admiralty, who directed us to give such answer as the case called for.

I have only to add that the Bishop experienced greater indulgence from us than any other French Ecclesiastick ever did, to which in my opinion he has not made an adequate return, nor felt himself, as he ought to have done, answerable for the conduct of his servant; and if a strict discipline is not maintained in the Prisons as the Prisoners are daily increasing, the consequences may be incalculable.

I am, Dear Sir,
Very faithfully yours,
Rup. George.

Capt. Moorsom.


Lord Mulgrave to Lord Fitzwilliam

21st March 1808.

My Lord,

On receipt of your Lordship’s letter, I made immediate enquiry at the Transport Board into the circumstances of the case of the Bishop of Moulins.  I enclose the answer of Sir Rupert George, for your Lordship’s information, and p. 304am sorry to find that the conduct of the Bishop of Moulins has not been such as to justify a repetition of the indulgences which have heretofore been extended to him.  I have the honour to be, my Lord,

Your Lordship’s

Most Humble and obedient Servant,


To the Earl Fitzwilliam.


Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam


C’est à votre âme généreuse et bienfaisante qu’il appartient de sentir tout ce que j’éprouve, privé de tout secours, de toutes consolations, plongé dans le malheur depuis près de vingt ans, la providence m’a conduit à Stilton pour y trouver dans vous, ce que je n’aurois jamais osé espérer, sans aucun mérite, sans aucun titre, auprès de vous, vous seul avés daigné me servir de consolation, d’appui, et me procurer des secours, que je n’aurois jamais cru devoir attendre.  Il n’est ici question ni de phrases, ni de tournures Françoises, que ne puissiés vous lire dans mon cœur, vous y verriés tout ce qu’il sent, et de quelle reconnoissance il est pénétré.  Vous avés la bonté de vous intéresser à ma santé: elle a été bien misérable depuis que je n’ai eu l’honneur de vous voir, les accidents de sang auxquels je suis sujet m’ont fort fatigué; ces deux derniers jours-ei j’ai été extrêmement souffrant, comme depuis longues années, je suis accoutumé à souffrir, cela ne m’empêche pas de continuer ma besogne comme à l’ordinaire, et bien certainement, cela ne m’empêchera pas de profiter de vos bontés, et de vous aller faire ma cour à Milton, le jour que vous m’indiquerés; le désir que Monsieur votre fils veut bien avoir de faire connaissance avec moi me flatte au delà de tout ce que je puis vous exprimer, et il sera bien heureux pour moi d’être à portée en lui rendant mes hommages de lui exprimer tout ce que je sens et tout ce dont je suis redevable au père qu’il a le bonheur p. 305d’avoir, et qui en est devenu un pour moi.  A l’exception des dimanches, et du jeudi et du vendredi de la Semaine Sainte, c’est à dire de celle qui précède la fête de Pâques, tous les jours, où vous daigneriés me proposer de venir à Milton seront libres pour moi, parce que je puis m’arranger pour que vers les trois heures ou trois heures et demie après je puisse être libre.

Je ne saurois vous dire, Milord, combien je suis touché de toutes les démarches que vous avés eu la bonté de faire pour me procurer un jeune prisonnier pour me servir de domestique, ce que j’ai souffert dans ces derniers temps m’a encore plus prouvé combien il étoit nécessaire d’avoir auprès de moi quelqu’un pour me servir.  Je désire bien que les démarches que vous avés daigné faire ne soient pas sans succès, c’est à vous, si la chose réussit que j’en serai uniquement redevable, et dès lors j’en sentirai doublement le poids.  J’ose dire qu’il y avoit une véritable injustice à m’en refuser un, car, indépendamment de ce qu’on n’avoit pas le droit à ce que je crois, de m’ôter celui qui j’avois d’après le passeport qui avoit été donne, je puis certifier que les raisons qu’on a mises en avance pour le faire rentrer dans la prison, et surtout celle qu’on a alléguées d’avoir introduit de la paille dans les prisons, est dénuée de toute vérité, et à l’égard de cette dernière raison qui n’est aujourd’hui mise en avant que pour la première fois, je crois pouvoir répondre que l’accusation est absolument fausse.  Mais comme je ne reviens pas sur le passé si l’on m’en accorde un autre par votre protection, j’en aurois une vraie satisfaction, car je suis réellement malheureux, dans la position où je me trouve, de n’avoir personne pour me servir.

Vous avés la bonté de me dire, Milord, que lorsque j’aurai fait mes arrangements pour liquider la somme de £200, vous voudrés bien me faire transmettre cette somme de la manière qui me sera la plue commode.  Comme de raison ce sera à l’époque qui vous sera la plus convenable, ce que vous faites pour moi, est trop au delà de tout ce que je pouvois jamais espérer, pour que le terme qui vous sera le plus agréable ne soit le mien.

A la vérité plutôt je pourrai être libéré de cette dette, plutôt ce sera le mieux pour moi.  Et puisque vous me p. 306permettés de vous parler avec franchise, si cela vous convient, je prendrai la liberté de vous observer que comme dans ce moment-ci il nous est dû quatre mois de notre traitement, ce qui ne laisse pas pour l’instant de rendre la position un peu embarrassante, si vous daigniés me faire passer ici 100 livres sterlings en papiers du pays, ou en papiers de la banque d’Angleterre, et un draft de 100 livres sterlings sur votre banquier à Londres, alors je laisserois les 4 mois qui avec celui qui sera dû au premier mai feroient la somme de £100 pour compléter les £200, et ce que vous auriés la bonté de m’envoyer ici, me serviroit à ma dépense habituelle et nécessaire.  Pardonnés ma franchise et ma liberté, vos bontés seules m’y autorisent, mais d’ailleurs, ce qui vous conviendra le mieux à cet égard, fera toujours mon arrangement.  Pou-vois-je jamais espérer tant de bonté de quelqu’un dont je n’avois pas seulement l’honneur d’être connu.

J’ai l’honneur d’être avec respect, permettés moi d’ajouter avec une reconnoissance qui durera autant que ma vie,


Votre très humble et
très obéissant serviteur,

L’Evêque de Moulins.

Stilton, Bell Inn,
         ce 3 Avril 1808.



My Lord,

It is of the nature of your generous and kind soul to understand all that I feel.  Deprived of all help and all consolation, plunged in the depths of misery for almost twenty years, Providence led me to Stilton to find in you what I had never dared to hope for without any merits, without any title.  Near you, you alone deigned to give me comfort, support, and have secured me the help which I should never have dared to hope for.  There is no language in which I can tell you what I feel.  If you could only read into my heart you would see there all that it feels and with what gratitude it is filled.  You have the kindness to show interest in my health.  It has been very wretched since I p. 307last had the honour of seeing you.  The blood complaint to which I am subject has exhausted me very much, and these last two days I have suffered a great deal; but as I have been used to suffering for many years, it does not prevent me from going about as usual, and it certainly will not stop me from profiting by your kindness to go and pay my respects to you at Milton the day which you name.  The desire that your son has to make my acquaintance flatters me more than I can say, and it will give me great pleasure to pay my respects to him, and to express to him all that I feel and how indebted I am to the father whom he has the happiness to possess and who has become such for me.  With the exception of Sundays, Thursday and Friday in Holy Week, that is to say that which precedes Eastertide, any day which you propose to me for coming to Milton will be free for me, for I can arrange to be free at about three or half-past three o’clock in the afternoon.  I cannot tell you, my lord, how much I have been touched by the steps you have taken in trying to procure me a young prisoner to act as my servant.  What I have suffered lately has proved to me still more how necessary it was to have somebody to wait on me.  I hope very much that the steps which you have so kindly taken will not be without success, and it is to you only, if the affair proves successful, that I shall be indebted, and from then onwards I shall be doubly grateful.  I take the liberty to say, that it was a real injustice to refuse me one, because, independently of the fact that they have not the right as far as I can make out, to take away the one I had, according to the passport which had been given to him, I can certify that the reasons they put forward for sending him back to prison, and especially that of his alleged taking of straw into the prison, is devoid of all truth; and with regard to this last reason, which to-day has been advanced for the first time, I believe that I can take upon myself to answer that the accusation is absolutely false; but as I do not wish to rake up the past, if I am granted another under your protection, I shall have a real satisfaction, for I am really miserable in the position in which I find myself, without anyone to wait upon me.  You had the goodness to tell me, my lord, that when I p. 308had made my arrangements to pay off the sum of £200, you would forward me that sum in the manner which would be most convenient to me.  Of course that would be at the time most convenient to you.  That which you are doing for me is far beyond all that I could ever have hoped, and so the date which is most agreeable to you will be mine too.  Indeed, the sooner I shall be freed from that debt the sooner my position will improve.  And as you allow me to speak to you candidly, if it is convenient to you, I take the liberty of pointing out to you that four months of my salary is owing to me at the present time, which does not make the position less embarrassing at present.  If you will deign to send me here £100 sterling in notes or in English bank-notes and a draft of £100 on your bank in London, then I would lay aside the four months’ salary, which, together with that which I ought to receive on the first of May, would make the sum of £100 to complete the £200, and what you will have the goodness to send to me here will serve me for my usual and necessary expenses.  Pardon my frankness and the liberty; your kindness alone authorises me, but after all, whatever suits you best in this matter will suit me also.  Could I ever have hoped for so much kindness from someone I had not even the honour of knowing?

I have the honour to be with respect, allow me to add with a gratitude which will last all my life.

My Lord,

Your very humble and obedient servant,
The Bishop of Moulins.

Stilton, Bell Inn,
         3rd April 1808.


Lord Mulgrave to Earl Fitzwilliam

6th April 1808.

My Lord,

The earnest interest which your Lordship takes in the Request of the Bishop of Moulins could not fail to determine p. 309me to make further enquiry respecting that person, from Sir Rupert George:—From him I learn, that in point of fact the Bishop of Moulins was only designated as such, and has not, in addition to his other sacrifices, to lament the splendour of a Bishop’s establishment.  The allowance of a servant from amongst the Prisoners was a particular indulgence to the Bishop of Moulins, which has in no instance been extended to any other person, and could not indeed, from the general conduct of the French Prisoners, be admitted as a general practice; under all these circumstances the Bishop of Moulins has certainly not conducted himself with the discretion and propriety which might have been expected from him.  But if I can have the pledge of your Lordship’s assurance that the Bishop of Moulins will not again abuse the indulgence of Government, as a mark of respect to your Lordship I will certainly give directions that a servant shall be again allowed to that Prelate, from amongst the Prisoners.

I have the honour to be, my Lord,

Your Lordship’s

Most obedient Humble servant,

To the Earl Fitzwilliam.


Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam


J’ai reçu avec la lettre que vous m’avés fait l’honneur de m’écrire, les £200 sterl. qui y étoient jointcs, donc £100 en billets de banque, et £100 en une traite sur votre Banquier à Londres.  Vos bontés pour moi sont à leur comble, ma reconnoissance leur est proportionnée, les expressions me manquent pour vous la témoigner.

A tant de choses que vous faites pour moi, My lord, vous daignés encore y ajouter de vous occuper du domestique: je désire si la chose réussit ce sera bien à vous que je le devrai, et ce sera un nouveau bienfait dont je vous serai redevable.  Ce sera un jour bien heureux pour moi que celui qui me p. 310mettra à portée de vous renouveller de vive voix à Milton, l’assurance du respect avec lequel j’ai l’honneur d’être,


Votre très humble et très

Obéissant serviteur,
L’Evêque de Moulins.

         ce 7 April 1808.



My Lord,

I have received with the letter you have done me the honour to write, the £200 sterling which were enclosed—£100 in bank-notes and £100 in a draft on your Banker in London.

Your kindness to me has reached its highest point, and my gratitude is commensurate, I cannot say enough to convince you how deep it is.  To the many things you have done for me, my lord, you still deign to add by busying yourself about the servant I want, and if the affair is successful it will be to you that I owe him, and it will be a fresh kindness for which I shall be indebted to you.  It will be a happy day for me when I shall be able personally to renew to you at Milton the assurance of the respect with which I have the honour to be

Your very humble and obedient servant,
The Bishop of Moulins.

         7th April 1808.


Passport of Jean Baptiste David referred to in the Bishop’s Letters

By the Commissioners for conducting His Majesty’s Transport Service, for the care of sick and wounded seamen, and for the care and custody of Prisoners of War.

These are to certify, that Jean Baptiste David, as described on the back hereof, a French boy taken in the p. 311capacity of Domestic on board L’Aigle, French ship of War, has been released from Norman Cross Prison, for the purpose of his entering into the service of the French Bishop of Moulins, upon his having engaged that he will not enter into any Naval, Military, or Civil Service, which may directly or indirectly tend to hostility against Great Britain or her Allies during the present War, unless he be regularly exchanged for a British Prisoner of the same description and rank with himself.

Given under our hands and Seal of Office at London, the 2nd of June 1807.

Rupert George.
Ambrose Serle.
J. Boman.



Jean Baptiste David.




Sixteen years.


Five feet one inch and ½.


Inclined to be stout.




Rather fair.


Dark brown.


Dark brown.

Marks or wounds

Has a few marks of small-pox, and a scar just below the left ear, cut on the right thigh—another scar under his chin.



Name of the Officer.

Rank or Condition.

Date of Arrival at Verdun.

Date of Capture.

Mode and Date of the Termination of his Imprisonment at Verdun.

Post-Captains and Commanders

Jahleel Brenton

Post-Captain, Minerve

15th Dec. 1803

3rd July 1803

Tours 31st Oct. 1805; returned to England

Simon Miller

Do., Hostage

18th Dec. do.



Ed. Lov Gower

Do., Shannon

10th Jan. 1804

10th Dec. 1803

Returned to England 21st May 1806

Henry Gordon

Commander, Woolverene

1st June do.

24th Mar. 1804

Melun 10th May; escaped Nov. 1810

Will. Lyall

Post-Captain, Passenger in a packet

10th Aug. 1805



Dan. Woodriff

Do., Calcutta

18th Feb. 1806


Returned to England 1807

Sir Thos. Lavie

Do., Blanche

20th April 1807

4th Mar. 1807

Melun 1811

Chs. Strachey

Commander, Dauntless

29th June do.

19th May do.


Ch. Otter

Post-Captain, Proserpine

7th April 1809

28th Feb. 1809


Fr. W. Fane

Do., Cambrian

29th Jan. 1811

18th Dec. 1810

England 1811

Benj. Walker

Do., Passenger Merchantman

14th Mar. do.

1st Feb. 1811


God. Blemverhapet

Commander, Challenger

26th April do.

12th Mar. 1811


Hen. Fanshaw

Do., Grasshopper

7th Feb. 1812

25th Dec. 1811


John Joyce

Post-Captain, Manilla

17th do.

28th Jan. do.


Frederick Hoffman

Commander, Apelles

27th May do.

3rd May do.


p. 313Lieutenants, Sub-Lieutenants

J. Lucas Yeo

Lieutenant, Hostage

20th Nov. 1803


England parole 1804

W. H. Dillon

Do., Africaine

13th Dec. 1803

25th July 1803

England 1807

Jno. Fennell

Do., Minerve

15th Dec. do.

3rd July do.


Wm. Fitzgerald

Do., do.




Wm. Walpole




Paris 1807, then to England

Lewis Nanny

A Détenu

17th Dec. 1803


Escaped Arras 1807

T. L. Prescott




Escaped 1813

T. P. Crosdale




Escaped 1811

G. Gratrix

Lieut., Cruiser

24th Dec. 1803



Jno. Lambert

Do., Shannon

10th Jan. 1804

Dec. 1803


Rod. T. Douglas

Do., do.



England by Russia 1809

G. A. Simer

Do., do.



Died 1806

Jno. Mackenzie

Do., Maidstone


Aug. 1803


A. W. Thomas

Do., Grappler Gp.


30th Dec. 1803


Richard Pridham

Do., Hussar

25th Mar. 1804

10th Feb. 1804


H. T. Lutwidge

Do., do.




Edward Barker

Do., do.



Killed in a duel 18th Feb. 1810

Philip Levesconte

Do., Magnificent


25th Mar. 1804

Escaped 1810; died 1850

Geo. Ingham

Do., Woolverine


24th Mar. 1804


James Wallis

Do., El Vincego

8th May 1804


Escaped 10th July 1813; died 1850

T. S. Hall

Do., do.




T. W. Miles

Do., Mallard

25th Dec. 1804


Killed in duel 13th July 1806

Francis Bassan

Do., Bouncer

22nd Feb. 1805


Died 1811

Aug. Donaldson

Do., Folkestone

4th Jan. 1805



p. 314R. B. Cooban

Lieutenant, Arthur

19th Jan. 1805


Died 1810

W. C. C. Dalzell

Do., Rattler

4th Jan. do.


Left for Greenwich, England 1813

G. L. Ker

Do., Tearer

16th July do.


Died 1809

G. S. Bourne

Sub-Lieutenant, do.




Wm. Richards

Do., Plumper




G. S. Wingate

Lieutenant, Biter

10th Nov. 1805



Thos. Scandlan

Sub-Lieutenant, do.



Escaped 1811

Thos. Innes

Lieutenant, Woodlark

14th Nov. 1805



Richard C. Ross

Sub-Lieutenant, do.




Jno. Essel

Do., Archer



Killed in escaping from Bitche

J. Cotham Penny

Lieutenant, Ranger

19th July 1805



W. Spence

Do., do.



Died at Verdun 1809

Alen Bozark

Do., Dove

5th Aug. 1805



T. G. Westlake

Sub-Lieutenant, do.




W. Tuckey

Lieutenant, Calcutta




Richard Donovon

Do., do.

26th Sept. 1805



John Collas

Do., do.




Nich. Wray

Do., Venus



Died at Verdun 1809

Rich. Ross

Sub-Lieutenant, Rapid



Escaped 1807

Will. Richards

Lieutenant, Constance

12th Oct. 1806



Molyn. Shuldham

Do., Adder

9th Dec. 1806



Edward Johnson

Do., Magpie

18th Feb. 1807



Robt. Basten

Do., Blanche

4th Mar. 1807



Will. Apreece

Do., do.




James Allan

Do., do.




p. 315G. M. Higginson

Do., Pigmy

5th Mar. 1807



John McDougal

Do., Passenger




Will. Japper

Do., Dauntless

19th May 1807



W. B. Fabien

Acting, do.




Will. Arnold

Lieu., Inconstant




Robt. Crosbie

Do., Trompeuse

19th Oct. 1807



Matt. Young

Do., do.




W. I. Dixon

Sub-Lieutenant, Conflict




John Bingham

Lieutenant, Endymion




John Carslake

Do., Proserpine

28th Feb. 1809



R. P. Rigby

Do., do.




V. W. H. Bogle

Do., do.




I. H. Sanders

Do., Statira

2nd June 1809



C. C. Owen

Do., Dreadnought

26th July 1809


Escaped 21st Mar. 1810

Allen Stewart

Do., Alceste




W. C. Jervoise

Do., do.




Alex. Davidson

Sub., Bruizer

3rd Nov. 1808



Wm. Miln

Lieu., Carrier

18th Jan. 1808



Chas. Stewart

Do., Jackall

29th May 1807



Thos. Smith

Do., Lyra

28th Oct. 1809



Henry Conn

Do., Junon

13th Dec. 1809


Escaped 22nd Sept. 1812

Evelyn Norio

Do., Goldfinch




Daniel Nuller

Do., Racer

28th Oct. 1810



Francis Duval

Do., Unité



To England

Gilbert Kennicott

Do., Minorca

27th Nov. 1810



G. W. Brown

Do., Passenger

1st Feb. 1811



John Taylor

Do., Reynard




Robert Snell

Do., Minotaur

23rd Dec. 1810



G. P. Cowley

Do., Challenger

12th Mar. 1811



Joseph Miller

Do., do.




Geo. Norton

Do., Inveterate

18th Feb. 1807



Thos. Connell

Do., Téméraire

12th June 1811


Died 28th Aug. in consequence of a wound received in a duel with Captain Penrice on the 13th

p. 316Geo. V. Jackson

Lieutenant, Junon

13th Dec. 1809



Henry Taylor

Do., Olympia

2nd Mar. 1811



Henry Thrackston

Do., Snapper

14th July 1811



Henry Guy

Sub., do.




James Brown

Lieu., Sceptre

11th Oct. 1811



Edmond Stackpoole

Do., Conquistador

25th Dec. 1811



John Hawkins

Do., Grasshopper

25th Dec. 1811



Alex. McKnockie

Do., do.




J. L. Robins

Do., Manilla

28th Jan. 1812



J. G. Wigley

Do., do.




Fredrick Lloyd

Do., do.




John Brine

Do., Laurel

31st Jan. 1812



Chas. Green

Do., do.




W. W. P. Johnson

Do., Curaçoa

20th May 1812



Chas. Simeon

Do., do.




R. J. Gunnell

Sub., Martial

12th Nov. 1812



John Tracey

Lieu., Linnet

27th Feb. 1813



Geo. Smithers

Do., Goldfinch




Masters, Pilots, and Second Masters

Thos. Price

Pilot, Minerve

3rd July 1803



Henry Gooch

Master, Shannon

10th Dec. do.



Henry Edwards

2nd Master, Redbridge

4th Aug. do.



Jas. Dillon

Master, Woolverene

24th Mar. 1804


Died at Verdun 15th May 1805

p. 317G. L. Bishop

Do., Constance

23rd May 1804



Caleb Hiller

Ac.-M., Vincego

8th May 1804



Richard Skinner

Do., Pass, Serapis

1st Aug. do.


Escaped 1808

Thos. James

Pilot, Woolverene

24th Mar. do.



Philip Bandains

Do. Grappler

30th Dec. 1803



Will. Cochran

Master, Minerve

3rd July do.


Died Verdun 30th Nov. 1807

Geo. Brown

2nd Master, Mallard

25th Dec. 1804


Escaped 22nd May 1811

Jas. Ayles

Pilot, do.



Died Sarrelibre 1807

Fras. Rebour


16th July 1805



Jno. le Rougetelle

Pilot, Plumper



Died Sarrelibre

John Beatson

2nd Master, Woodlark

14th Nov. 1805



John Steedman





Benj. Hazell

Master, Ranger

19th July do.



David Beynon

2nd Master, Minx

28th Feb. 1806



Hugh Ross

Pilot, Ranger

19th July 1805



Joseph Giles

2nd Master, Rapid

16th Sept. 1806



Fras. Hernaman

Do., United Brothers

9th Dec. 1806



John McDougal

Master, Pigmy

5th Mar. 1807



Henry Fraser

Do., Sheldrake

12th Oct. 1806



John Atherdon

Pilot, Inveterate

18th Feb. 1807



Alex. Handisyde

2nd Master, do.




Thos. Knockner

Pilot, Ignition

19th Feb. 1807


Escaped 14th Jan. 1811

John Dear

2nd Master, Jackall

29th Jan. 1807



Roger Taylor

Master, Blanche

4th Mar. 1807



Robt. Adamson

2nd Master, Biser

10th Nov. 1805



John Goodson

Master, Dauntless

19th May 1807



Robert Pope





Henry Brown

Master, Calcutta

26th Sept. 1805



Thos. Menton

Acting-Master, Arethusa

6th April 1809



Ed. Brown

Master, Proserpine

28th Feb. 1809


Died at Verdun 6th Oct. 1813

John le Corney

Pilot, Amelia

16th July 1809



p. 318Jas. Long

Master, Brisies

12th Aug. 1809



John Cowan

2nd Master, Cracker

16th May 1808



Samuel Tuck

Master, Linnet

3rd April 1810



Thos. Foster

Do., Racer

28th Oct. 1810



Richard Vannall

Pilot, do.



Escaped 22nd May 1811

Jer. Mcnamara

2nd Master, Blazer

8th July 1810



J. H. Gillo

Do., Thresher

9th July 1810



Henry Taylor

Master, Podargus

15th Aug. 1809



John Harrow

2nd Master, Sparkler

12th Jan. 1808



Robert Thomson

Master, Minotaur

23rd Oct. 1810



John Filleule

Do., Thunder

24th April 1811



John Sullivan

Do., Challenger

2nd Mar. 1811



Robert Templeton

2nd Master, Bloodhound

22nd Oct. 1810



Jer. Tapley

Do., Olympia

2nd Nov. 1811



Field Moytham

Do., Monkey

28th Dec. 1810



Wm. Walker

Do., Growler

18th June 1811



Peter Priaulx

Pilot, Royal Oak

30th Oct. 1811



Thos. Read

Master, Passenger, Chesterfield Packet, Grasshopper

25th Dec. 1811



John Hales

Master, Manilla

28th Jan. 1812



Andrew Napier

2nd Master, Adder

9th Dec. 1806



Geo. Crockett

Acting-Master, Linnet

25th Feb. 1813



Surgeons, Assistant-Surgeons, and Mates

Alex. Allen

Surgeon, Minerve

3rd July 1803



Robert Gordon

Mate, Do.



Died at Verdun 8th Feb. 1803

p. 319Chas. Taylor

Assistant-Surgeon, Hostage

18th Dec. 1803



John Bell

Do., Shannon

10th Dec. 1803



Alex. Crigan

Mate, Do.



Escaped from Arras

Wm. Porteus

Assistant-Mate, Grappler

30th Dec. 1803


Escaped 1808

John Graham, living at Verdun 1853

Surgeon, Hussar

10th Feb. 1804


As surgeon to the depot to England, 4th Jan. 1814

J. P. Hayden

Surgeon’s-Mate, Hussar



Died at Blois 18th Mar. 1814

Chas. Newman

Do., do.




Wm. Hill

Surgeon, Passenger, M. Vessel

24th April 1804


Escaped 18th Nov. 1809.

Morgan Williams

Do., Woolverene

24th March 1804


Escaped 18th Nov. 1809

John Lawmont

Do., Vincego

8th May 1804



Ed. McGrath

Surgeon-Mate, Acasta

30th June 1804


Died at Verdun 9th June 1808

Bernard Allcock

Do., Mallard

24th Dec. 1804


Died at Metz March 1808

Benjm. Lawder

Assistant-Mate, Bouncer

22nd Feb. 1805


Poisoned himself at Verdun 25th May 1805

Dan. Cameron

Do., Biler

10th Nov. 1804


Escaped 11th May 1809

James Moir

Do., Woodlark

14th Nov. 1805



Alexr. Simpson

Surgeon, Ranger

19th July 1805


Strasburg 5th Jan. 1807; died there

John Roberts

Assistant-Mate, Calcutta

11th Feb. 1806



Robert Stewart

Surgeon, Do.

18th Feb. 1806



Jas. Breman

Do., Blanche

20th April 1807



John Patterson

Assistant-Surgeon, do.




Chas. Mitchell

Surgeon, Pigmy

24th April 1807



Robert Hoggan

Assistant-Surgeon, Inveterate

18th Feb. 1807



David Gray

Surgeon-Mate, Rapid

16th Sept. 1806



John Roberts

Do., United Brothers

9th Dec. 1806


Died Sar Libre 10th Oct. 1808

Jos. H. Hughes

Do., Dauntless

19th May 1807



John Watson

Assistant-Surgeon, Jackall

29th Mar. 1807


Died at Verdun 17th Dec. 1809

p. 320Fras. Connin

Surgeon, Proserpine

28th Feb. 1809



Jos. Hawthorn

Surgeon-Mate, do.



Escaped 10th Nov. 1810

Robert Abbott

Surgeon, Racer

28th Oct. 1810



Lewes Jones

Surgeon-Mate, Minotaur

23rd Oct. 1810



Danl. Godbehere

Assistant-Surgeon, Challenger

12th Mar. 1811



Thos. Wells

Do., Monkey

28th Dec. 1810


Died, 20th Jan. 1812, in consequence of a wound received in a duel on the 27th with Mr. Abbott

P. H. Scott

Acting-Assistant-Surgeon, Olympia

2nd Mar. 1811



M. C. Woods

Assistant-Surgeon, Growler

18th June 1811



Wm. Campbell

Do., Colossus

30th Jan. 1812



Thos. Sanderson

Surgeon, Grasshopper

25th Oct. 1811



Wm. Donaldson

Do., Manilla

28th Jan. 1812



Richard Tobin

Do., Laurel

31st Jan. 1812



Wm. Watts

Assistant-Surgeon, Manilla

28th Jan. 1812



P. T. Maiming

Surgeon, Apelles

3rd May 1812



Jas. Hunter

Assistant-Surgeon, Passenger in Grasshopper

25th Dec. 1811



C. M. Snooke

Surgeon, Linnet

8th May 1813




John Hyslop


10th Dec. 1803



Saml. Trewin


8th May 1804


Died 2nd Mar. 1809

John Innes


July 1805



p. 321Alex. Livie


26th Sept. 1805


Died 12th Aug. 1808

Jas. Wilson


24th Mar. 1806



H. F. Willcocks


4th Mar. 1807



I. C. Cummings


12th Oct. 1807


England, by order of French Government 13th Feb.

Arch. McMillar


12th Feb. 1807



Dan. Sullivan


19th May 1807



Wm. Lamotte

Falcon, Passenger in Dauntless



Escaped 22nd May 1811

Geo. Ellis


28th Feb. 1809



Simon Heley


28th Sept. 1809



W. S. Black


10th Oct. 1809



Hugh Corbyn


10th May 1810



John Boone

Trident, Passenger in a transport




John Richardson


12th Mar. 1811



Chas. Ross


26th May 1811


Died 22nd Nov. 1813

Thos. Bastin


25th Dec. 1811



John Paterson


28th Jan. 1812


Died 31st Oct. 1813

Hugh Hannay


3rd May 1812



Marine Officers

Geo. Aug. Bell

Lieutenant, Minerve

3rd July 1803



Alex. Eckford

Do., Shannon

10th Dec. 1803



Robt. Phillips

Do., Hussar

10th Feb. 1804



Geo. Jones

Captain, Magnificent

25th Mar. 1804



John Ridley

Do., do.




Jasper Farmer

Lieutenant, do.




Chas. Stanser

Captain, Passenger




Wm. Sampdon

Lieutenant, Calcutta

26th Sept. 1805



Robt. Alexander

Captain, Calcutta

18th Feb. 1806



John Campbell

Lieutenant, Blanche

4th Mar. 1807


Escaped 1810

p. 322Henry Loveridge

Captain, Majestic

16th Nov. 1807



R. R. Bignall

Lieutenant, Proserpine

28th Feb. 1809



John Blackeney

Do., Statira

2nd June 1809



Thos. Morgan

Do., Cambrian

25th Mar. 1810



Jerh. Collins

Do., Manilla

28th Jan, 1812



B. Chaproniere

Do., Laurel

31st Jan. 1812




Do., Hussar

10th Feb. 1804



Petty Officers

Chas. Halford

Master-Mate, Minerve

3rd July 1803


Escaped 14th May 1811

John Moore




Died 14th Nov. 1810

John Hawkey





John Nelson




Died 8th March

Geo. Hall Dacre




Escaped in 1809

Robert Sutton




Escaped in 1811

C. S. Ricketts




Escaped in 1809

Sam Mottley




Died in 1809

Robert Burridge




Escaped in 1806

Jack Pearson




Died 11th Mar. 1807

Richard Weatherley





W. J. Bradshaw





Chas. Hare

Midshipman, Minerve

3rd July 1803


Escaped 1809

William Streeting

1st Class, Minerve



Escaped 1811

Frank Cutler




Escaped 12th May 1809

Wm. Wymer





Geo. Fitzgerald




Escaped 9th Nov. 1810

p. 323Robert Marsden





Ed. Dillon

Midshipman, Cruiser

24th Dec. 1803


Escaped 25th April 1809

Wm. Gilpin

Master-Mate, Shannon, made Lieutenant at Verdun

10th Dec. 1803



Abr. Robinson




Escaped 4th June 1805

T. W. Cecil




Bitche escaped when on road, 14th July 1807

Wm. Allen





Fras Little




Escaped 19th July 1805

Edw. Knipp





Maurice Hewson

Midshipman, Diamond



Escaped 1809

John Barclay

Master-Mate, Maidstone

2nd Aug. 1803



Ed. Boys

Midshipman, Phoebe




F. J. Whitehurst




Escaped; retaken on board La Juno

John Murray




Escaped 4th June 1805

Fras. Maxwell

Clerk, Redbridge

4th Aug. 1803


Bitche; escaped on road

Robert Blakeney

Midshipman, Amphion



Returned to England

E. E. Temple




Escaped 19th April 1807

Richard Morris


3rd July 1805



John Whitefield


30th Aug. 1805



Henry Leworthy

A.B., do.

13th Dec. 1803


Escaped from Port Chaussée 1st Dec. 1810; retaken; sent to Bitche

Henry Worth

Midshipman, Argus; Passenger on merchant vessel

Jan. 1804


Run 5th Dec. 1811; retaken; sent to Bitche

R. L. Gordon


10th Feb. 1804


Bitche; escaped on road

W. C. Smithson




Died 30th Nov. 1809

Eran Nepean





Henry Ashworth




Escaped 1808

Edward Nickoll





Arthur Vine




Died at Verdun 24th Oct. 1812

p. 324J. R. Lichford




Died at Gt. Gonesby

Jas. Mathias





Wm. Sutton





John Hopkinson

1st Class



Died 4th Feb. 1853, aged 65

Jas. Mascal




Died at Verdun 4th Nov. 1806

Chas. Parker

Midshipman, Tribune

13th Mar. 1804


Escaped 3rd Aug. 1810

John Parkman

Master-Mate, Magnificent; made Lieutenant at Verdun

25th Mar. 1804



Chas. Shaw




Escaped 1809

John Vale





Robt. Thorley

Master-Mate, Impetueux; made Lieutenant at Verdun



Escaped 10th July 1813; died at Godmanchester

Christ Tutthill

Midshipman, Impétueux

25th Mar. 1804


Escaped 1808

Martin Miller


24th Mar. 1804


Escaped 14th Dec. 1809

Philip Race





Wm. Richards





I. S. Fletcher




Escaped 14th Dec. 1807

Denis O’Brien

Master-Mate, Hussar

10th Feb. 1804


Escaped 1808

Jer. Mahoney





Jas. Wood


8th May


Died 20th May 1806

Robt. Morland

Midshipman, Vincego



Died 16th July 1806

I. R. J. Wright




Escaped 24th Dec. 1810

Geo. Sidney Smith

1st Class, Do.




Wm. L. Mansall




Escaped 1808

John Trewin





p. 325Isaac Brown

Clerk, Vincego

8th May 1804


Died 16th Feb. 1809

Thos. G. Wills

Master-Mate, Acasta

30th June 1804



Thos. Dawson

Midshipman, Morgiana

3rd June 1804


Died at Verdun 15th Oct. 1810

Matthew Low

Master-Mate, Cameleon



Died Nov. 1809

John Adams

Clerk, Woolverene

24th Mar. 1804



John Perryman

Clerk, Grappler

10th Dec. 1803


Died 11th Mar. 1813

B. Belchambers

Do., Leda

31st July 1804



Edward Hunt

Midshipman, Imperial Service

4th Feb. 1804


Escaped 8th Dec. 1813

Geo. P. Potts

Midshipman, Vincego

8th May 1804



Robt. James


11th Aug. 1804



Obediah Waller


24th Dec. 1804


Escaped on the road from Blois to Guéret 14th Feb.; retaken 21st Mar. 1814

Richard Stockings

Clerk, do.




Scroope Ayston

Midshipman, Bouncer

22nd Feb. 1805



John Lynch

Clerk, do.




Thos. Webb

Master-Mate, Nautilus

16th Feb. 1805



Thos. Davies

1st Class, do.




I. M. A. Hervey

Midshipman, Doris

20th April 1805


Died at Metz

Samuel Blackmore

Do., Imperial Service

25th Mar. 1805



Augs. O. Kenessy

Midshipman, Nautilus

16th Feb. 1805



Andrew McDougal

Do., do.



Died Verdun

John Woodroffe

Do., Teazer

16th July 1805



Jas. March

Do., do.




John McGraw

Do., do




W. I. Devonshire

Do., Biter

10th Nov. 1805


Escaped 21st July 1811

John Wingate

1st Class, do.



Escaped 27th April 1809; retaken 29th May 1809

Roger Aitkin

Do., Woodlark

14th Nov. 1805



Wm. Hamilton

Do., do.




Robert Rawlins

Master-Mate, Passenger in Woodlark to join Eagle




p. 326Valent. Stone

Midshipman, Passenger in Woodlark to join Eagle

14th Nov. 1805



R. B. Robertson

Do., do.



Died 1810

John Crick

Do., do.



Died 1808

Joseph Harries

1st Class do., Eagle




John Robertson

Clerk, do.




Patrick Nairne

Midshipman, do., Eagle




Aug. Arabin

Do., do.




Robert Legg

Master-Mate, Calcutta

25th Sept. 1805



Andrew Munro

Master-Mate, Ranger; made Lieutenant at Verdun

19th July 1805



Robert Ed. Hunter

Midshipman, Ranger



Escaped 1808

Geo. Bissett

Do., do.



Escaped Dec. 1809

Chas. Robinson

1st Class, do.



Escaped do.

Theos. Thomson

Midshipman, Dove

5th Aug. 1805


Killed 21st Mar. 1811

Robt. Rochford

Master-Mate, Calcutta

26th Sept. 1805


Escaped 1809

John Low

Midshipman, Calcutta; made Lieutenant at Verdun




Thos. Denniston

Do., do.



Died at Verdun 29th June 1806

Rich. Nason

Do., do.



Escaped 28th Jan. 1811

W. W. Kingstone

Do., do.



Escaped 14th Sept. 1807

Donald Mackey

Clerk, Dove

5th Aug. 1805



Geo. C. Chappell

Do., Calcutta

26th Sept. 1805


Died at Verdun 19th Feb. 1813

J. F. Hughes

Midshipman, do.




John Hallows

1st Class, Ranger

19th July


Escaped 9th Nov. 1810

J. H. Wall

Midshipman, Calcutta

26th Sept. 1805



p. 327Andrew Scott

Do., do.



Killed in a duel 14th Oct. 1811, by M. P. Morris

Wm. Hall

Do., do.




Thos. Sheers

Do., do.




Geo. Carter

Do., do.

26th Sept. 1805



Cornels Randel

Clerk, Ranger

19th July 1805


Escaped 1809

Henry Lewis

Master-Mate, Diana



Escaped 1809

Lochlan Grant

Midshipman, Growler

10th Mar. 1806



Richard Dew

Master-Mate, Impétueux



Died at S. Libre Feb. 1811

Wm. Campbell

Clerk, Teazer

16th July 1805



Thos. Blackinston

Midshipman, Revenge



Escaped 1809

Thos. Marriott

Clerk, Adder

9th Dec. 1806


Escaped and retaken

Jas. H. Glasscott

Midshipman, do.



Died at Verdun 3rd Mar. 1807

Isaac Haberfield

Do., United Brothers




J. B. Tatnall

Do., Impérieuse



Escaped 1809

Roger Hall

Midshipman, do.



Escaped 1809

Roger Grant

Master-Mate, Renown

10th Feb. 1807


Escaped 1809

John Wildey

Midshipman, do.




W. Herniman

Do., United Brothers

9th Dec. 1806



Joseph Stingsby

Master-Mate, Blanche

4th Mar. 1807



Henry Stanhope

Midshipman, do.



Escaped 14th May 1811

J. S. P. Masters

Do., do.



Escaped 27th Nov. 1808

John Rootes

Do., do.

4th Mar. 1807


Died 22nd April 1813

F. C. L. Viret

Do., do.




W. T. Williams

Do., do.




Chs. Street

1st Class, do



Escaped 21st July 1811

Geo. Gordon

Do., do.



Escaped do.

Robert Hoy

1st Class, do.

4th May 1807



J. F. Secretan

Do., do.




J. C. G. Mowatt

Clerk, do.




Wm. Moyses

Master-Mate, Pomone; Passenger in Blanche




p. 328Wm. McLeod

Midshipman, Pigmy

4th May 1807


Escaped in 1809

John Butterfield

Do., Impétueux



Deserted and retaken

Chas. Turrell

Do., Minerva

16th Dec. 1806



Joseph Meek

Clerk, Inveterate

18th Feb. 1807


Escaped in 1809

David Wilson

Master-Mate, Magpie




Wm. Heard

Midshipman, Magpie



Escaped and retaken

Robert Mortimer

Do., do.



Entered French service 1809; quitted it in 1880

Jas. H. Gale

Do., Ignition

18th Feb. 1807



Alfred Parr

Do., do.



Entered French service 1809; quitted it in 1810

Chas. F. Thompson

Do., Kangaroo

24th Feb. 1807



H. J. Hill

Do., Speedwell

26th Dec. 1806



John Sheckleton

Master-Mate, Dove

5th Aug. 1805



J. N. Lyall

Ord.-Midshipman, Blanche

4th Mar. 1807



Thos. Greg

Do., do.




Simn. Ounkovesky

Midshipman, Egyptienne

26th June 1807



John Wier

Do., Inconstant

12th July 1807



Reuben Paine

Master-Mate, Jamaica

4th Mar. 1807



Andr. Russel

Do., Hydra

30th Oct. 1807



Lord John Boyle

Do., Gibralta

22nd July 1807



Wm. Brander

Do., Amphion

10th Sept. 1807



Jas. S. G. Caffry

Do., Monkey

19th Oct. 1807



Geo. Blake

Midshipman, Lively

14th Oct. 1807



Wm. Heywood

Do., Alfred

6th Jan. 1808



Edward Brydges

Do., Rose

26th Dec. 1807



Wm. Hutchinson

Master-Mate, Rose

Jan. 1808


Escaped 14th Jan. 1811

p. 329Wm. Astley

Midshipman, Pomona

20th Feb. 1808



John McFee

Master-Mate, Alfred

30th April 1808


Escaped 14th Jan. 1811

W. Hearbour

Midshipman, Carrier

18th Jan. 1808



David Littlejohn

Master-Mate, Shannon

6th Dec. 1808


Escaped 21st Dec. 1810; died

J. W. Dupre

Do., Melpomone

7th Jan. 1809



E. P. Montague

Midshipman, Proserpine

28th Feb. 1809


Escaped 21st July 1811

Wm. Pratt

Do., do.



Died 6th Jan. 1810

Chas. Lardner

1st Class, do.

28th Feb. 1809



R. G. M. Darrocott

Midshipman, Bonne Citoyenne

18th Feb. 1809


Escaped 15th Dec. 1811; retaken to Blois

N. J. Reynolds

Master-Mate, Proserpine

28th do.



Jos. Petfield

Do., do.



Escaped 21st Dec. 1810

John Wilcke

Midshipman, do.




W. H. Savigny

Do., do.




Geo. Forbes

1st Class, do.



Escaped 20th Feb. 1810

Peter Allen

Do., Proserpine




Thos. Rodnell

Midshipman, Arethusa

6th April 1809


Afterward in Customs at Hull

Henry Thomas

Do., do.



Escaped 20th July 1810

Edward Crowe

1st Class, do.



Do., do.

Geo. Back

Do., do.




Jas. Reid

Midshipman, Statira

2nd July 1809



Robert Hemer

Midshipman, Dreadnought

26th July 1809



John Bee

Do., Padmus

29th May 1809



Ed. Herbert

Do., Amelia

16th July 1809



Geo. Powell

Master-Mate, Amphion

28th Sept. 1809


Escaped 20th July 1810

H. B. Mason

Midshipman, do.



Escaped 9th Nov. 1810

J. R. Drew

Do., Belle poule

28th Sept. 1809


Escaped do.

Wm. Randal

Master-Mate, Wizard



Escaped 24th Dec. 1809

Jas. P. Parker

Midshipman, Alceste

30th Sept. 1809


Escaped 20th Jan. 1810

Edward Walker

Master-Mate, Herald

14th Dec. 1808



Fredk. Lacaste

Do., Thames

2nd Mar. 1808



p. 330Geo. Cordry

Midshipman, Polyphemus

20th Dec. 1805



Geo. Bateman

Do., L’Aimable; made Lieutenant at Sarrelibre

12th Jan. 1807



Thos. Lowis

Midshipman, Calcutta

26th Sept. 1805



Peter Stark

Do., Eudymion

19th Nov. 1809


Escaped 9th Nov. 1810

Saml. Kneeshaw

Master-Mate, Alcmène

15th Jan. 1809



John Atkinson

Do., do.

30th Mar. 1809



Wm. Walker

Clerk, Jackall

28th May 1807



John Taylor

Midshipman, do.




Henry Richardson

Do., Rapid

14th Nov. 1807


Died 23rd Feb. 1812

Wm. Baker

Do., Strenuous

27th June 1808



Thos. Morris

Do., Inveterate

19th Feb. 1807



H. E. Hawkins

Master-Mate, Raleigh

9th Sept. 1809



Ralph Cornutt

Midshipman, Lyra

28th Oct. 1809



Chas. Mayo

Do., Jackall

29th May 1807


Escaped 28th Jan. 1811

Hamilton Davies

Do., Conqueror; made Lieutenant at Verdun

20th Jan. 1808



Robert McWha

Do., Sylvia

10th Sept. 1807



John Coulson

Do., Guerrière

25th Feb. 1808



Thos. McDougal

Do., Medusa

11th Sept. 1809



Wm. Radford

Master-Mate, Hydra

3rd Oct. 1809



Adam Gordon

Midshipman, Seahorse

21st Oct. 1809



Ed. Bold

Master-Mate, Virginie

16th Jan. 1810



Godfrey Fosbery

Midshipman, do.




Wm. Thomas

Master-Mate, Junon

13th Dec. 1809



Chas. Paynter

Midshipman, Indefatigable

14th Jan. 1810


Escaped 27th Dec. 1813

Peter Morris

Master-Mate, Goldfinch

April 1810



p. 331P. H. Mollett

Midshipman, Escort

20th June 1810


Died in hospital at Fontainebleau 1814

John Brothers

Midshipman, Goldfinch

8th May 1810



Wm. Handby

Do., Atlas

8th Mar. 1810



John Webster

Master-Mate, Parthion

10th Nov. 1810



Henry Jackson

Midshipman, Pacer

28th Oct. 1810



Thos. Jackson

Do., do.




E. F. Price

Midshipman, do.

28th Oct. 1810



Geo. Jenson

Clerk, do.



Died 1st June

I. C. Taylor

Midshipman, Bruiser

9th July 1810



Robert Holder

Do., Spencer

10th Jan. 1811


Escaped 28th Jan. 1811

I. P. Campbell

Do., Blazer

9th Nov. 1808



John S. Smith

Master-Mate, Kent

13th Dec. 1810



John Parsons

Do., Podargus

15th Aug. 1809


Escaped 24th Dec. 1813

Benj. Hart

Midshipman, Minotaur

23rd Dec. 1810



Jos. O’Brien

Do., do.



Escaped 24th Dec. 1813

G. T. Mitchell

Do., do.




Geo. Elry

Do., do.




I. I. Hamilton

Master-Mate, Minorca

27th Nov. 1810



Wm. Lyth

Clerk, Biter

10th Nov. 1805


Died 15th May 1811

Wm. Hains

Midshipman, Impétueux

13th Oct. 1810



Jos. Barrett

Do., Cadmus

6th Mar. 1811



Henry Davis

Do., Challenger

12th Mar. 1811



Thos. Jennings

Do., do.




Francis Stevenson

1st Class, do.




Wheatley Byass

Do., do.

12th Mar. 1811



Stephen Green

Clerk, do.




Geo. Norton

1st Class, Inveterate

18th Feb. 1807



F. Wahtstrand

Midshipman, Olympia

2nd Mar. 1811



Jas. I. Sullivan

Do., do.




Thos. Rowe

Master-Mate, Challenger

12th Mar. 1811



Anth. Gibbs

Midshipman, Pioneer

21st Feb. 1811



Chas. Blissett

Do., Vesuvius

20th Nov. 1809



p. 332F. I. Whitehurst

Midshipman, Junon; made Lieutenant at Bitche

13th Dec. 1809



Ed. Turner

Master-Mate Boyne

21st May 1811



Henry Kirkpatrick

Midshipman, Poictiers



Deserted from Gueret 30th Mar. 1814

Jas. Barton

Master-Mate, Snapper

14th July 1811



Richard Pickersgill

Midshipman, do.




Robert Furze

Do., Semiraris

16th July 1811



I. P. Were

Do., Sceptre

15th Sept. 1811



Jas. Woolcock

Do., Hibernia

15th July 1808



Dal. Baird

Master-Mate, Conquistador

27th Dec. 1811



Fra. Sutherland

Midshipman, do.




Geo. Peard

Do., do.

17th Dec. 1811



Edwin I. Caulfield

Do., do.




Donet O’Brien

Vol.. do.




John Franklyn

Midshipman, Colossus




Peter Hodder

Do., do.; made Lieutenant at Verdun




Niel Malcolm

Do., do.




H. L. Parry

Master-Mate, Grasshopper

25th Dec. 1811


Escaped 11th Feb. 1814

Edw. Yelland

Midshipman, do.




Thos. W. Tyler

Do., do.




John Strong

Clerk, do.




Dk. Sarsfield

Midshipman, Flypass, do.




Phil. Harvey

Master-Mate, Porcupine

16th Dec. 1811



W. C. Robins

Vol., Manilla

28th Jan. 1812



W. A. Willis

Do., do.

17th Feb. 1812



p. 333David Harrop

Midshipman, Christian

7th Feb. 1812



John Gowdie

Master-Mate, Manilla




Wm. Hubbard

Do., do.



Escaped from Blois 11th Feb. 1814

Geo. Bland

Midshipman, Do.




M. W. Batty

Do., do.

28th Jan. 1812



J. H. Johnstone

Do., do.




Henry Randall

Do., do.




Henry Sadler

Do., do.




I. M. Johnson

Vol., do.




John Ward

Clerk, do.




Geo. Maryon

Midshipman, Arrow

28th Aug. 1811



Jos. Townsend

Do., Rose

23rd Jan. 1812


Escaped 24th Dec. 1812

Hanbury Clements

Do., Laurel

31st Jan. 1812



Danl. Galway

Vol., do.




Montg. Digges

Do., do.




Thos. Pettigrew

Do., do.




Robert Tighe

Do., do.




Danl. McCarthy

Clerk, Laurel

31st Jan. 1812



G. E. Davies

Midshipman, Alacrity

26th May 1811


Escaped 27th Dec. 1818

J. E. Sterling

Do., Grasshopper

25th Dec. 1811


Escaped 11th Feb. 1814

J. Lechmere

Do., do.




Chas. Jeaffreson

Do., Manilla

31st Jan. 1812


Escaped Feb. 1814

W. S. Johnston

Do., Apelles

3rd May 1812



Jas. Craggs

Do., Calypso

25th Dec. 1811



W. B. Hare

Do., St. Finengo

14th Dec. 1810



John Downey

Master-Mate, Nieman

22nd July 1812



Jas. Birch

Midshipman, Alban

8th July 1812



Henry King

Do., Venerable

17th July 1812



J. J. Lane

Do., do.




Arch. Grant

Do., New Magnificent




Richard Rosser

Do., Volontaire




Henry Barrow

Do., Strenuous

25th June 1812


Escaped 27th Dec. 1813

p. 334Henry Carrique

Midshipman, Wizard

24th Aug. 1812



A. W. Nicholls

Clerk, Pigmy

24th Nov. 1812



H. A. Whitcomb

Do., Apelles

5th Mar. 1807



J. H. Hindley

Clerk, La Constance

2nd Oct. 1806



Henry Jho. Callaghan

Midshipman, Arrow

26th Jan. 1813



Geo. Simmonds

Clerk, Osprey

29th July 1812



John Barnes

Midshipman, Britonart




Saml. Cornish

Do., Linnet

25th Feb. 1813



Hugh Carroll

Clerk, do.




Bendon Sharvell

Master-Mate, Horatio

23rd Dec. 1812



Robert O’Neil

Do., Dispatch

14th April 1813


Escaped Feb. 1814

Geo. Evans

Midshipman, Cretan

13th Jan. 1813



Thos. Keith Steward

Master-Mate, Clarence

18th Sept. 1813


Escaped Feb. 1814

Wm. Alex. Longmore

Midshipman, Hannibal

21st Sept. 1813



John Frith

1st Class, Désirée

3rd Dec. 1813



Wm. Litheby

Midshipman, Telegraph

4th Mar. 1814



Saml. Edwards

Do., Impérieuse




Warrant Officers

Wm. Little

Gunner, Minerve

3rd July 1803


Died 26th Sept. 1806

Andrew Brown

Boatswain, do.




Wm. Rice

Carpenter, do.




John Johnson

Gunner, Woolverene

24th Mar. 1804



Robert Bulger

Boatswain, Vicengo

8th May 1804



Andrew Allen

Carpenter, do.




p. 335Wm. Cliff

Boatswain, Woolverene

24th Mar. 1804


Escaped from Bitche

John Richards

Carpenter, Woolverene




Ed. Gilligan

Boatswain, Shannon

10th Dec. 1803



Rd. Carne

Gunner, Vincego

8th May 1804



Danl. Chadwick

Do., Shannon

10th Dec. 1803



Jas. Dobbins

Do., Shark; taken in a Cartel

20th April 1805



Wm. Lennard

Do., Calcutta

26th Sept. 1805



Geo. Heard

Carpenter, do.




Tim. Quin

Gunner, Ranger

19th July 1805



John Windham

Carpenter, do.



Died 1st Oct. 1809

Wm. Richardson

Boatswain, do.



Died Jan. 1810

Wm. Carey

Do., Hussar

10th Feb. 1804


Died 25th May 1808

Thos. Simpson

Gunner, do.



Escaped 1809

John Treacher

Do., Diligence

24th Mar. 1806



Thos. Strong

Do., Dauntless

19th May 1807



Thos. Gray

Boatswain, do.




Peter Lunn

Carpenter, do.




John Osborn

Boatswain, Flora

18th Jan. 1808



Alex. Henderson

Do., Proserpine

28th Feb. 1809



Field Officers of the Army

Henry de Bernier

Lieutenant-Colonel, 9th Foot

3rd Jan. 1806



George I. Hall





Campbell Callender

Captain, 88th Foot

18th Feb. 1806



Guy L’Estrange

Major, 31st Foot

1st Jan. 1809



Thos. W. Gordon

Captain, 3rd Foot Guards

3rd Nov. 1809



Wm. Guard

Lieutenant-Colonel, 45th Foot




Thos. Fotheringham

Lieutenant, 3rd Foot Guards

6th Dec. 1809



S. T. Popham

Major, 24th Foot

13th Dec. 1809



Sir W. W. Sheridan

Captain, 2nd Foot Guards

17th Jan. 1810



Thos. N. Wyndham

Major, 1st Dragoons

19th Oct. 1810



p. 336Wm. Cox

Lieutenant-Colonel, late 61st Foot

12th Nov. 1810



Andw. Lord Blaney

Major-General, 61st Foot

15th April 1811



Redmond Morris

Captain, 13th Dragoons

20th June 1811



Geo. Hill

Captain, 1st Foot Guards

7th Aug. 1811




H. Falconer

Captain, 1st Foot

12th Jan. 1804



Thos. Roberts

Do., 30th Foot

3rd Jan. 1806



P. R. Hawker

Do., do.




P. W. Lambert

Do., 9th Foot

8th Jan. 1806



Danl. Orchard

Do., do.




G. H. Sarjant

Do., do.




Samps Godfrey

Captain 1st Foot

4th May 1807



Geo. Barrow

Do., 15th Foot

7th May 1808



Chas. de Haviland

Do., Royal Malta

26th Sept. 1809



J. Somerfield

Do., 83rd Foot

26th Oct. 1809



J. Laing

Do., 61st do.

27th Oct. 1809



Jas. Allen

Do., 23rd Dragoons

31st Oct. 1809



D. Goodsman

Do., 61st Foot

2nd Nov. 1809



T. H. Blair

Do., 91st Foot

3rd Nov. 1809



Wm. Cowran

Do., 21st Foot

18th Nov. 1809



Andv. Patison

Do., 29th Foot




Savil Spear

Do., 1st Foot

26th Nov. 1809



F. M. Milman

Lieutenant-Colonel Guards

1st Dec. 1809



p. 337Hartley

Captain, 61st Foot

9th Dec. 1809



Geo. Coleman

Do., 31st Foot

12th Jan. 1810



Geo. Brice

Do., 3rd Dragoon Guards

13th May 1810



Chas. Collis

Do. 24th Foot




Henry Stephens

Do., 66th Foot

6th July 1810



J. A. Wolff

Do., 60th Foot

15th Aug. 1810



H. J. Shaw

Do., 4th Foot




J. W. Hewitt

Do., 6th Foot

12th Nov. 1810



L. Lazzarini

Do., Royal Malta

29th Dec. 1810



P. Jestaferrati

Do., do.




Fredk. Albaldini

Do., do.




F. Kertsberg

Do., do.




J. P. Howard

Do., 23rd Dragoons

7th May 1811



John Taylor

2nd Captain, Royal Artillery




P. Matthews

Captain, 47th Foot

26th May 1811



Jas. Reynolds

Do., 83rd Foot

4th June 1811



— Belli

Do., 13th Dragoons

20th June 1811



Thos. Andrews

Do., 24th Foot




Lieutenants and Ensigns

Thos. Prater

Lieutenant, 21st Foot

21st Jan. 1804



C. E. Freeman

Ensign, 29th Foot

1st Mar. 1805



Robert Howard

Lieutenant, 30th Foot

3rd Jan. 1806



Wm. Sullivan

Ensign, do.




Alex. Simpson

Lieutenant, 9th Foot

8th Jan. 1806



Geo. Saunderson

Do., do.




Wm. Armstrong

Do., do.




R. G. Thomson

Ensign, do.




Edward Worth Newenham

Do., do.



Living at Verdun 1853

Peter Sutton

Do. and Adjutant




p. 338Joseph Smith

Lieutenant, 65th Foot

6th Sept. 1806



H. Bermingham

Do., 29th Foot

8th May 1807



Joseph R. Welsh

Do., 6 W. I. Regiment

7th May 1808



Alex. Fraser

Do., Royal Engineers




John Harper

Do., do.




J. E. De Lappinot

Ensign, 16th Foot




Robert Lewis

Lieutenant, 15th Foot

15th do.



John Seaver





Edward l’Estrange

Lieutenant, 71st Foot

6th May 1809



John Penrice

Do., 15th Hussars

21st May 1809



Rd. M. Brennan

Do., 14th Foot

26th June 1809



Colin Campbell

Ensign, 26th Foot




Wm. Laurie


12th July 1809



G. L. Davies

Do., 9th Foot

6th Sept. 1809



Angus Mackay

1st Lieutenant, 21st Fusiliers

25th Sept. 1809



Henry Perry

Ensign, Royal Malta




Peter Wallace

Lieutenant and Adjutant

26th Sept. 1809



Wm. Auhagen

2nd Dragoon Guards

1st Oct. 1809



G. L. Shipley

Lieutenant, 97th Foot

2nd, do.



Fras. Abell

Do., 83rd Foot

27th do.



Fras. Johnstone

Do., do.




Rd. Kirwan

Do., 7th Foot

30th do.



Thos. Allen

Do., 24th Foot




Henry Tench

Do., 61st Foot




Robert Mitchell

Do., 60th Foot




W. E. Page

Do. and Adjutant, 7th Foot

12th Nov. 1809



John Clarke


18th Nov. 1809



p. 339Jas. McNab

Do., 21st Fusiliers




Fredk. Gaban

Do., 1 Batt.




Lewis Mordaunt

Do., 61st Foot

3rd Dec. 1809


Died at Verdun 17th April 1850

Wm. Friess

Do., 60th Foot

1st Jan. 1810



Robert Muter

Do., 7th Foot

5th Jan. 1810



Wm. Pennyfather

Ensign, 3rd Foot




Chas. Jackson

Lieutenant, do.




Henry Letoler

Ensign, 83rd Foot




Thos. Boggie

Lieutenant, do.




Henry Altenstein

Ensign, 60th Foot




A. W. Gamble





Geo. Mackay

Do., 48th Foot

9th Jan. 1810



E. P. During

Do., 5 Batt.




Geo. Beamish

Do., 31st Foot

14th Jan. 1810



Add. Beamish

Do., do.




Fredk. Kitcher

Do., Royal Malta

29th Mar. 1810



Fredk. Clossiers

Do., do.




Lewis Schlozer

Do., Royal Malta

3rd April 1810



Graves Collins

Do., 61st Foot

13th May 1810



Theod. Butler

Ensign, 87th Foot



Died 1st July 1813

Chas. Stanhope

Lieutenant, 29th Foot




App. Morris

Do., 66th Foot

29th May 1810



John Nicholson

Do., 83rd Foot




Wm. Graham

Ensign, 4th Foot

13th July 1810



W. H. Scott

Ensign and Lieutenant, 3rd Guards

18th July 1810



Geo. Richardson

Lieutenant, 4th Foot

20th July 1810



Edmd. Field

Do., do.




J. M. Foley

Do., 28th Foot

12th Nov. 1810



L. Canehi

Do., Royal Malta

29th Dec. 1810



Fras. Bucere

Do., do.




J. H. Rodmer

Do., do.




p. 340Ph. Prochaska

Lieutenant, Royal Malta

29th Dec. 1810



Chas. Saintcroix

Do., Royal Artillery

9th Mar. 1811



R. H. Daley

Do., 64th Foot




Jas. Fulcher

Do., York Vol.

14th Mar. 1811



Roger Sheehy

Do., 89th Foot

22nd Mar. 1811



Chas. Watts

Ensign, do.




Thos. Reeve

Lieutenant, 48th Foot

26th Mar. 1811



E. P. Dormer

Do., 14th Dragoons

11th April 1811



Edward Moulson

Ensign, 89th Foot

15th April 1811



Alex. Skeen

Lieutenant, 24th Foot

5th May 1811



I. I. Moss

Do., 13th Dragoons

20th June 1811



Fredk. Wood

Do., 11th do.




Geo. Baker

Do., 16th do.




Frs. Grant

Do., 24th Foot




— Binney

Do., 13th Light Dragoons




Herbert Morgan

Do., 66th Foot




Surgeons, Paymasters, etc.

Jas. Johnston

Surgeon, 9th Foot

8th Jan. 1806



H. W. Hall

Pay-Master, 9th Foot




Renny Langley

Artillery Store Keeper

18th Feb. 1806



Andrew Blake

Assistant-Surgeon, 98th Foot

28th April 1807



Wm. Bartley

Artillery Store Keeper

7th May 1808



John Gregory

Assistant-Surgeon, Royal Artillery




p. 341Arch. Armstrong

Do., 26th Foot

26th June 1809



Joph. Brown

Surgeon, do.




Geo. Winter

Hospital Purveyor

12th July 1809



John McCoy

Quarter-Master, Royal Malta

25th July 1809



Clement Banks

Surgeon, do.

26th July 1809



Thos. Walker

Assistant-Surgeon, 52nd Foot

28th July 1809



James Dunn

Do., 53rd Foot

30th July 1809



Henry Cowan

Do., 23rd Dragoons




Fredk. Fiorillo

Assistant-Surgeon, 9th Hussars, Ks. Gn. Ln.

2nd Nov. 1809



Jas. O’Meally

Do., 16th Dragoons

8th Nov. 1809



John Glasco

Do., 83rd Foot

28th Nov. 1809



Montn. Mahoney

Do., 7th Foot

5th Jan. 1810



Edward Kirby

Do., 29th Foot

12th Jan. 1810



J. G. Elkington

Do., 24th Foot

14th Jan. 1810



Alex McDowall

Surgeon, Staff

17th Jan. 1810



Saml. Higgins

Do., do.




Thos. Rule

Assistant-Surgeon, 87th Foot

19th Jan. 1810



John Herriott

Do., 61st Foot

20th Jan. 1810



Fredk. Depper

Do., 5th Battalion, K. Han. Legion

20th Jan. 1810



Henry Bruggeman

Do., 7th Battalion D.

3rd Doc. 1810



Fras. Camillere

Do., Royal Malta

29th Dec. 1810



J. Bertis

Chaplin, Royal Malta




Thos. Richards

Quarter-Master, 4th Foot

11th June 1810



— Coleman

Assistant-Surgeon, 3rd Dragoon Guards




p. 343INDEX

Abercrombie, Sir Ralph, prisoners of war sent home, 19

Admiral de Vries, ship, capture, 51

Akin, H., on horn work of prisoners, 131

Aligre, M. d’, referred to, 294

Alison, Sir Archibald:

   British mode of obtaining supplies in war, 82

   Perth Depot for French prisoners, 146

Alkmaar Cartel, references to, 52, 54

Amiens, treaty of, 1802:

   Release of prisoners of war under, 240–242

   Terms, 241

Ashby-de-la-Zouch, depot for parole prisoners, 205


Baker, Captain, agent for prisoners of war, 247

Banks, Sir Joseph, reference to, 236

Baptismal register at Peterborough, 59

Barracks, sum allotted for building (1793), 8, 9

Bartin, M., parole prisoner, 216

Bathorse, meaning of term, 28

Batman, meaning of term, 28

Batrille, Bernard, personated by Le Fevre, 220–221

Beathand, General, report on construction of Norman Cross Prison, 13

Beef, rations allowed, 69

Beer, rations allowed, 69, 72

Bell, Mr., schoolmaster of Oundle, on attempt of a prisoner to escape, 161

Bitche, fortress of, prisoners of war sent to dungeons, 234

Black Hole at Norman Cross, 24, 64, 162

Bone work by prisoners, 130–131

Borrow, George:

   Description of Norman Cross Prison, 32–34

   Journey across the Fens described, 41–42

   Statement respecting prisoners’ food, 33, 71

   “Straw-plait hunts” mentioned, 34, 137, 143–144

Borrow, Thomas, at Norman Cross, 143

Bourchier, Charles François Marie, hanged at Norman Cross, 67

Bourde, Captain, release, 198

Bradley, Rev. E., on illicit trade in straw plaits, 135

Brassey, H. L. C., M.P., reference to, 139

British Queen, transport ship, mutiny of prisoners, 49

Brown, Rev. Arthur, romance on Norman Cross prisoners, 28, 180–181, 185

Brown, Rev. E. H., information on Norman Cross prisoners, 176

Brunet, General, parole prisoner, 216

Burral, Major General Sir Harry, exchange of, 85


Camperdown, battle of, 51

Cane, Dr. L., reference to, 132

Capitole, at Dartmoor Prison, 113–121

Careney, Prince de, refutation of Pillet’s accusations as to British treatment of prisoners, 86–88

Cartel, meaning of term, 52

Carysfort, Lord, sale of site for Norman Cross Prison, 9

Caussade, de la Vauguyon, Prince de Carency: See Carency, Prince de

Cawdor, Lord, reference to, 156

p. 344Cemetery at Norman Cross, 173–176

Charretie, M., commissioner for France:

   Appointment, 56–57

   Correspondence on maintenance of prisoners of war, 75–79, 166, 273

   Forging of name, 132, 147

   Release of British seamen without exchange, 229

Chartiée, Louis, name carved on block, 132, 147

Chatelin, M., French surgeon at Norman Cross, 77–78

Chouquet, M., marriage, 216

Christian, Sir Hugh Cloberry, transport commissioner, 7


   British prisoners in France, 238

   Correspondence with French government relative to provision of, for prisoners, 75–88, 108–109, 272–285

   Uniform provided by British Government, 73

Coeymans, Albertus, marriage with Ann Whitwell, 206

Cooke, Arthur, picture of plait merchants and French prisoners, 135–136

Coquille, La, frigate, capture, 51

Corn, prisoner, name on a silk holder, 97

Cotes, Captain, British agent in Paris, correspondence relative to treatment of prisoners of war, 80, 81, 109, 271–272, 281

Cotgrave, Captain, agent at Dartmoor, treatment of the “Romans,” 116–117, 121–123

Cox, Colonel, effort to effect exchange, 198

Craig, Mr., inspection of Norman Cross Prison, 16

Cramer, Jan, escape, 158


Dack, C., curator, references to, 128, 130, 132

Dartmoor Prison:

   Account of the “Romans,” 111, 112–123

   Chapel built by prisoners, 125

   Cheerfulness of prisoners, 109

   Date of construction, 1

   Granite used for, 12–13

   Health of prisoners, 167

   Numbers at, in 1811, 286

   Records of the “Cachot” quoted, 65–66

   Tragic suicide of a prisoner in 1814, 253

David, Jean Baptiste:

   Engaged in illicit trade, 141, 183, 184–185, 187, 188

   Passport of, 310–311

Davis, Rev. Father A. H., on Sunday trading at Norman Cross Prison, 99

Davis, Rev. Father Robert A., reference to, 19

Davis, History of Luton, on straw plait industry, 138

Decourbes, Captain, duel with Captain Robert, 216–217

Delafons, John, appointed agent, and instructions to, 38–40, 44

De Lancey, General, defalcations and inquiry into, x.–xii., 9

De la Porte, Jean: See La Porte, Jean de

Delapoux, John Andrew:

   Appointment at Norman Cross, 59, 247

   Baptism of children, 178–179

   Marriage register, 59


   British prisoners of war in, reference to, 238

   Prisoners of war in England, 249

Dent, Challoner, storekeeper at Norman Cross, 49

Deschamps, Nicholas, trial for forgery, 66–67

Devoust, Lieut., parole prisoner, 216

De Winter, Admiral, defeat of Camperdown, 51

Dobee, Joseph, Captain of La Sophie, parole prisoner, 215

Draper, Captain John, R.N.:

   Agent at Norman Cross, 38

   Humane treatment of prisoners, 143–144

Drummond, Hugh, baptism of son, 179

Du Chattelier, Charles Lewis de Salmon: See Salmon du Chattelier


   Frequency, 159

   Record of those at Verdun, 315, 320, 327

Duncan, Admiral, battle of Camperdown, 51

p. 345Dundas, Mr., Secretary of State, prisoners of war controversy with France, 71, 80, 109

Dussage, Pierre, assumed name of Nazarean, 195

Dutch prisoners of war:

   English service joined by, 55

   Good conduct of, 107

   Marriages to English girls, 206–209

   Number in England, 203

   Parole prisoners at Peterborough, 194

   Registers at Norman Cross, 268

   Sent to Norman Cross, 51


Ennis, Lieutenant Peter, 49

Entente Cordiale, L’, proposal of association to erect monument at Norman Cross, 174

Exchange of prisoners:

   Failure of negotiations, 217–222

   Punishment by deprivation of chance, 64


Fearnall, William, report on Norman Cross Prison, 18, 26, 126, 259–264

Felix, Colonel, parole prisoner, 216

Fens, the waterways the cheapest mode of transport, 41–42

Fitzwilliam, George Wentworth, 181–182

Fitzwilliam, William, Fourth Earl:

   Correspondence with and relative to the Bishop of Moulins, 141, 180, 181–187, 291–311

   Yorkshire election of 1807, 182–183

Folksworth, village, residence at, of wives of soldiers, 175

Fontaine, Vincent, death certificate, 172


   Contracts for and rations allowed, 69–72

   Correspondence with French Government on provision of, for prisoners of war, 270–285

   Cost to the country of providing, 68–69

   Diet allowed to British prisoners in France, 234, 237

   Hospital diet, 169–179

   Insufficiency of rations complained of, 270–285

   Prices in 1797, 19

   Prisoners’ committee of inspection, 63, 72

   Punishment by reduction of rations, 64

   Sale of rations, and measures to prevent, 121–123

   Specifications for quality for Norman Cross Prison, 43

Forbes, James, prisoner at Verdun, 236

Forbes, J. Macbeth, on forgery by prisoners, 147

Forby, Rev. Robert, description of Norman Cross Prison, 34–35

Forgery of banknotes by prisoners, 145, 147–148

Foulley, French prisoner, model of Norman Cross Prison, 19–20, 91, 251

Fowkes, Mr., references to, 182, 183


   Correspondence with British Government relative to prisoners of war, 73–88, 108–109, 270–285

   Exchange of prisoners, failure of negotiations, 217–222

   Treaty of Amiens and return of prisoners of war, 239–242

   War of 1793, cost to England, 2

   See also Norman Cross Prison and Prisoners of War

Franey, Mr., house at Norman Cross, 31

Freemasons, Masonic Lodges of prisoners of war, 204–205

Furie, capture, 52, 53–54


Gallois, M., appointment as French agent, 79

Gambling, misery and evil from, 95–96, 107–111, 113–123, 276, 280–282, 283, 285

Garden, Count Guillaume de, on treaty of Amiens, 245

Gardiner, William, clerk at Norman Cross, 247, 262

George, Sir Rupert:

   Appointment as Transport Commissioner, 7

   Correspondence on maintenance and treatment of prisoners, 275–282

   Correspondence relative to the Bishop of Moulins, 141–143, 302–303, 309

   p. 346Letter on manufacture of straw plait, 134–135

Godfrov, prisoner of war, 97

Godwin, Rev. G. N.:

   On the Bishop of Moulins, 181, 185

   Reference to, 241

Gourny, Jacques, prisoner of war, 97

Govstry, Helen, marriage with M. Salvert, 216

Gower, Captain, prisoner of war, 235

Grieg, M., artistic work, 97


Habart, Jean Marie Philippe, marriage with Elizabeth Snow, 209–219

Hadley, Mr., of Lynn, contract for conveyance of prisoners, 248

Halliday, Alexander, stabbed by a prisoner, 67

Hammocks, use of by prisoners, 90–91

Handslip, Captain, purchase of house at Norman Cross, 31

Hansell, Captain W., R.N.: See Hanwell

Hanwell, Captain W., R.N.:

   Agent at Norman Cross, 38

   Death certificate of Vincent Fontaine, 172

   References to, 126, 263, 264

Harewood, Lord, Yorkshire Election of 1807, 182–183

Hawker, Mr., inquiry into condition of prisoners, 123

Hawkins, Captain, reference to, 199

Hay, James, of Liverpool, contractor for Norman Cross, 42–44

Hayes, Corporal, reference to, 148

Hayes, Rev. W., of King’s Cliffe, baptismal register kept by, 178–179

Henderson, Mr., lease of Norman Cross Barracks 1802, 243–244

Herbert, J. A., J.P., house at Norman Cross, 30, 175

Higgins, Dr., physician at Norman Cross, on condition of prisoners, 76–78

Hill, John, plan of Norman Cross Prison, 18–19

Hinde, Rev. T., Protestant Chaplain to Norman Cross Barracks, 176

Holditch, Captain:

   Conveyance of released prisoners to France, 241

   Kindness to French prisoners, 241

Hopkinson, Rev. John:

   Career, 224, 230–233

   Narrative of English prisoners at Verdun, 223–233

   Register of fellow prisoners at Verdun, 312–341

Horn work of prisoners, 131–132

Hospital at Norman Cross Prison:

   Description of building, 24–25

   Diet allowed, 71

   Number of patients (1797), 76–79

   Staff, 168–169, 287–289

   Treatment of prisoners in, 168–171

Howard, Anthony, assistant surgeon at Norman Cross, 168, 288


   Criminal prisoners of war imprisoned in, 74

   Fitted up for prisoners of war, 5–6

   Health of prisoners in Herne Bay, 167

   Offences punished by removal to, 64

   Parole breakers sent to, 196

Hunt, Joseph, Transport Commissioner, 7


Ijirke, Admiral, capture of ship, 51

“Indifférents, Les,” grade of society among prisoners, 113

Inquests, 151

International Law, on treatment of prisoners of war prior to Napoleon’s wars, 3–4

Intrépide, L’, surrender, 129

Ives, Sergeant, outrage on and probable cause, 141


Jan, Louis, marriage with a Miss Edwards, 205–206

Jerrold, Douglas, comedy of The Prisoner of War, 235–236

Jupiter, capture, 53


“Kaiserlies, Les”: See “Romans”

Kelly, Captain John, 29–30, 128

p. 347Kelly, Major:

   Lines written on death of, 29

   Plan of Norman Cross Prison, 19

   Purchase of house on sale of Norman Cross Prison, 28–39

King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 53

Kingston, Mary, marriage with Adrian Roelans, 207

Knogz, E. B., surgeon on the Duyffe, 208


“Laboureurs, Les,” grade of society among prisoners, 113

Lamb, John, diary quoted, 46

Lambertini, Petronio, death at Norman Cross, 253

Lamplugh, T., reference to, 18

La Porte, Jean de, straw marquetry work, 97, 129

Larfeuil, Pierre, assistant surgeon, 168, 288

Larpent, J. S., application for release, 218

Lascelles, Hon. Henry, defeat in Yorkshire election of 1807, 182–183

La Tour, Stephen John Baptiste de Galois de, bishop of Moulins:

   Career, 182–189, 293–297

   Correspondence with Earl Fitzwilliam, 181–187, 291–319

   Religious ministrations at Norman Cross, 99, 178–189

   Servant engaged in illicit trade, 141

   Traditional story erroneous, 180–185

Lavengro, by Borrow:

   Journey across the Fens described, 41–42

   Norman Cross Prison described, 32–34

   “Straw-plait hunts” described, 34, 137, 143–144

Lebetre (Lebertre), Colonel, pamphlet on British ill-treatment of prisoners of war, 88, 166–167

Leek, parole prisoners at, 214–217

Lefebre, General, breaking of his parole, 211

Le Fevre, Francis, personation of Batrille, 220–221

Leviathan, in action at Trafalgar, 129

Lewin, Mr., of Yaxley, description of prisoners, 92

Little, Joseph, of Thorpe, marriage with Mary Roelans, 207

Lloyd, Captain George, sketch of Norman Cross Prison, 22

Lloyd, Lieutenant J. W., 198

“Lords, Les,” grade of society among the prisoners, 113

Luneand, Charles, parole prisoner, 215


Macgregor, Lieutenant, plan of Norman Cross Prison, 19

Mackenzie, Mr., exchange of prisoners’ negotiations, 221

Magennis, James, surgeon at Norman Cross, 77–78

Mansell, Dr., of Pembroke, 157

Markets in prison walls:

   Closed by Transport Commissioners, 148

   Offences punished by closing, 65

   Permission to hold, 72, 283

   Regulations, 63, 97–99

Marquetry work:

   Dyes used in, discussion on, 126–127

   Straw, skill of prisoners, 128–129

Marquis of Carmarthen, transport ship, mutiny on, 49


   Dutch prisoners to English women, 206–209

   French prisoners to English women, reason for opposition to, 209

Marsh, John, Transport Commissioner, 7

Mason, Sarah, marriage with J. A. Delapoux, 179

Mellows, W. T., parliamentary paper relative to prisoners of war, 279

Mien, John, servant to General Brunet, 216

Militia, service compulsory, but purchase of substitutes, 8

Milton, C. W. Wentworth, Viscount, defeat of Tory rival in 1807, 182–183

“Misérables, Les,” of Norman Cross, account of, 111, 112–123

Moorsom, Captain, secretary to Lord Mulgrave, 302

Moulins, Bishop of: See La Tour, S. J. B. de Galois de

p. 348Muir, Alexander, life saved by prisoner, 199

Mulgrave, Lord, correspondence on the Bishop of Moulins, 180, 187, 302–309

Mullot, Chevalier J. Baptiste, parole prisoner, 215


Napoleon Buonaparte:

   Abdication and retirement to Elba, 250–251

   Change in treatment of prisoners of war under, 3–6

   Edict as to treatment of prisoners of war 1800, 81, 83, 108–109

   Exchange of prisoners, failure of negotiations, 221–222

   Mode of obtaining supplies in war, 82

   Re-opening of hostilities with England 1803, 244–246

Narde, Jean de, attempts to escape and shot, 159–169

Neau, James Francis, sale of articles made by prisoners, 216

Nepean, Sir Evan, secretary of the Admiralty, 267

Nettement, M., entrusted with provision of supplies for prisoners of war, 79–89

Nicolls, General, construction of Norman Cross Prison, 13

Niou, M., prisoners of war controversy, 74, 80, 272–275

Norman Cross Prison:

   Arrival and registration of prisoners, 47–57

   Borrow’s description, 32–34

   Burials, 173–175

   Clothing and maintenance, provision of and controversy over, 73, 75–88, 108–109, 276–285

   Conduct of prisoners, 149–162

   Construction of, 1–16, 17–38

   Demolished and site sold, 254–255

   Discipline, regulations, 62–68

   Employment of prisoners, 124–149

   Escapes and attempts to escape, 152–161

   Establishment, 37–46, 58–61

   Exchange of prisoners, negotiations, 217–222

   Exhibition at Peterborough of articles made by prisoners, ix.

   Hospital staff, 287–289

   “Los Misérables,” account of, 111, 112–123

   Life of the prisoners, 89–111

   Model of, by M. Foulley, 251

   Mortality and sickness at, 110–111, 163–172

   Numbers at, 1811, 286

   Parole prisoners sent to, 195–196, 213–215

   Rations allowed, 68–72

   Registers, specimens of entries, 268–269

   Release of prisoners 1802 and 1814, 239–242, 251–253

   Religious ministration at, 174–189

   Re-opening 1803, 247–251

   Report on survey by Fearnall, 259–264

   Sale of goods and barracks let 1802, 242–244

Norvus, M., on Napoleon’s demands on Britain, 245


Obscene pictures and carvings, traffic in, 148–149

Otto, M., correspondence on treatment of prisoners of war, 83–84, 111, 190–191, 276–285

Otway, Wm. Albany:

   Appointed Transport Commissioner, 7

   Correspondence on treatment of prisoners of war, 275–282


Palmer, Mr., on parole prisoners, 213–214

Paper work by prisoners, 132–133

Paris, Louis Felix, expert in the ormolu business, 146

Paris, Treaty of, 1814, release of prisoners of war, 251–253

Parole prisoners:

   Allowance to, 199–201

   Breaking of parole, 211–214

   Conditions of life of, 190–222

   Form of engagement, 196–197

   French suggestions for liberating, 279

   Imprisoned at Norman Cross, 195–196, 213–215

   Masonic Lodges, 204–205

   Number and distribution, 89, 192–195, 202–203, 212, 286

   Patten, Philip, Transport Commissioner, 7

   p. 349Paull, Miss, of Truro, 133

   Peltier, M., prosecution by British Government, 245

   Pemberton, Captain, at Norman Cross, 35

   Pembroke Prison, escape of prisoners, 156–157

Perrot, James:

   Agent at Norman Cross Prison, 38, 40, 44–45, 106

   Escape of prisoners, 154

   Statements as to condition and treatment of prisoners, 76–78

Perth Prison:

   Date of construction, 1–2

   Description, 149

Peterborough, buildings constructed from Norman Cross material, 37

Peterborough Museum:

   Plans of Norman Cross Prison, 18–19

   Specimens of prisoners’ industries, ix., 97, 128–133, 139

Phillips, Maberley, F.S.A., reference to, 93

Pillet, René Martin, misrepresentations as to British treatment of prisoners of war, 84–88

Pineau, Ensign Louis, escape and recapture, 195

Pius VII., pope, remonstrance with on French policy, 188

Pletsz, B., Captain of the Furie, 206

Plymouth Mill Prison, number of prisoners at, 19

Pondicherry, captured garrison sent to Norman Cross, 51

Pontcarré, M. de, and the Bishop of Moulins, 293–294

Poore, Mr., construction of Norman Cross Prison, 13, 15

Porchester Castle, prisoners of war sent to, 19

Pors, Jean François, French prisoner killed by, 149, 159

Portland, Duke of, treatment of prisoners of war, correspondence, 80, 271–272

Poulden, Captain, agent for prisoners of war, 247

Press, English, Napoleon’s demand for restricting liberty of, 245

Pressland, Elizabeth Colinette, marriage to G. H. Walker, 24

Pressland, Captain Thomas, R.N.:

   Agent at Norman Cross Depot, 24, 38, 247

   Death at Norman Cross and burial, 175

   Hospital staff report, 287–289

   Instructions to, respecting religious ministrations to prisoners, 177

Priests, prisoners’ request for and attitude of Government, 177–189

Prisoners of War:

   Accommodation of, difficulties and arrangements, 8–16

   Agents for appointed, 38, 247

   Allowances made to British in France, 234, 235, 237

   Code of regulations, 62–65

   Controversy between France and Britain over treatment of, 73–88, 108–109, 270–285

   Employments, 96–99, 124–149

   Escapes and attempts to escape, 152–161

   Exchange of, negotiations, 217–222

   “Les Misérables” and the “Romans,” 112–123

   Managed by Transport Office, 6–7

   Modern improvement in manner of treating, 56

   Mortality and sickness among, 110–111, 163–172

   Napoleon’s influence on treatment of, 3–6

   Narratives of British in France, 223–238

   Norman Cross Prison: See that title

   Number of, 5–6, 83, 90, 248, 286

   Parole prisoners: See that title

   Personation of fellow prisoners, 220–221

   Register of prisoners at Verdun kept, by Rev. John Hopkinson, 312–341

   Release after Treaty of Paris, 251–253

   Seized by Napoleon 1803, 246

Punishments, enumeration of, 64–65


Rations of prisoners: See under Food

p. 350Registers:

   Description and value of those at Norman Cross, 50–56

   Verdun prisoners, kept by Rev. J. Hopkinson, 312–341

Réunion, frigate, sailors from, sent to Norman Cross, 49

Révolutionnaire, man-of-war, sailors from, sent to Norman Cross, 49

Ribout, prisoner of war, 97

Richards, James, chief clerk and interpreter at Norman Cross, 49

Riviere, M., of the French Admiralty, 199

Robert, Captain, duel with Captain Decourbes, 217

Robinette family, family tradition erroneous, 59–69

Roelans, Adrian Roeland Robberts, marriage to Mary Kingston, 206–207

Roelans, Mary, marriage to Joseph Little, 207, 208

“Romans” of Dartmoor Prison, 111, 112–123

Rose, Lucy, marriage with C. P. Vanderaa, 207

Rose, Nancy, marriage with Antoni Staring, 207–208

Roubillard, Jean, trial for forgery, 66–67

Ruddle, Dan, purchase of block of Norman Cross Prison, 23, 37


Salmon du Chattelier, C. L. de, formerly Vicar-General of the Diocese of Mans, 179

Salvert, M., marriage with Helen Govstry, 216

Sands, H. B., proposal to erect monument at Norman Cross, 174

Sands, Mrs., 139

Sarrazin, Jean:

   Career, 85–86

   Refutation of statements made by Pillet, 85–86

Savary, M., French surgeon at Norman Cross, 77–78

Schank, John, Transport Commissioner, 7

Seamen, British:

   Conduct as prisoners of war, 237–238

   Efforts to induce prisoners to enter French service, 234

Serle (Searle), Ambrose:

   Appointed Transport Commissioner, 7

   Correspondence and report on treatment of prisoners, 100, 127, 152, 275–284

Sievwright, William, on illicit straw-plait trade, 144

Sissinghurst Prison, 109

Sixtieth Foot (60th): See King’s Royal Rifle Corps

Sixtieth Royal Americans: See King’s Royal Rifle Corps

Sleigh, History of Leek, on parole prisoners, 215–217

Smith, Captain Sir Sidney, efforts to obtain release, 79, 195, 273

Snow, Elizabeth, marriage with Jean Habart, 209–219

Spilsbury, Sarah, marriage with Joseph Vattel, 216

Squire, Thomas, agent for supervision of parole prisoners, 49–50, 193

Stapleton Prison, prisoners of war sent to, 246

Staring, Antoni, marriage with Nancy Rose, 207–208

Stephenson, General, inquiry into condition of prisoners, 123

Stilton cheese, origin of name, 34

Story of Dartmoor Prison, quoted, xiii., 65–66, 112–123, 253

Straw hats and bonnets, illicit trade by prisoners, 133–145

Straw marquetry: See Marquetry work

Straw plait:

   Manufacture by prisoners, 134–145, 302–319

   Splitter machine invented by prisoners of war, 138–139

   “Straw-plait hunts” described by Borrow, 34, 137, 143

Strazynski, Captain A., escape and recapture, 194–195

Strong, Archdeacon, 22, 127

Stuyver, privateer, capture, 53

Suicides, large number, 159

Sunday trading at Norman Cross Prison, 98–99

Swinburne, Mr., agent for British Government in France, 57


Tableau de la Grande-Bretagne, by Jean Sarrazin, 85

Tartuffe, La, frigate, capture, 51

Taylor, A. C, 128

p. 351Thesiger, Captain, agent for prisoners of war, 247

Thomson, Basil:

   Indebtedness to, acknowledged, xiii.

   Story of Dartmoor Prison, quoted, 65–66, 111, 112–123, 253

Thornhill, Cooper, sale of Stilton cheese, 34

Thorpe, John T., on Masonic Lodges of prisoners, 204–205

Todd, William, store-clerk at Norman Cross, 59, 247, 262

Tong, Pierre Marie, release of, 198–199

Toufflet, Jean, marriage, 216

Trafalgar, battle of, 129

Transport Office:

   Creation and duties, 6, 37–38

   Prisoners’ traffic in obscene articles reported to, 148

Tucker, Lieutenant, description of life as prisoner of war, 234–235


Usury, misery caused by, and efforts to prevent, 107–111, 113–123, 276, 281, 283, 285


Valenciennes, prisoners of war sent to, 236

Vanderaa, Charles Peter:

   Career, 208

   Marriage with Lucy Rose, 207

Vandome, naval officer, linguist, 216

Vattel, Emérie de, on treatment of prisoners of war, 4

Vattel, Joseph, marriage with Sarah Spilsbury, 216

Verdun, British prisoners of war at:

   Experiences of, 223–238

   Register kept by the Rev. John Hopkinson, 312–341

Vergette family, descent, 69

Victoire, Mme, of France, patroness of the Bishop of Moulins, 183, 293

Ville de L’Orient, La, capture, 51

Vinter, Mr., 133

Vird, Lieutenant, 217



   Paid to prisoners of war, 125

   Rates of, in Norman Cross district (1797), 16

Walker, George, Surgeon:

   Appointment, salary, and allowances, 168, 287, 288, 289

   Marriage, 24–25

   Reference to, 260

Wallis, Lieutenant, on allowance to parole prisoners, 199–209

Warne, General, suicide at Verdun, 87

Wellington, Duke of:

   On exchange of prisoners, 218

   Prisoners of war sent from the Peninsula, 259

Whitwell, Ann, marriage with Albertus Coeymans, 206

Wilberforce, William, Yorkshire election of 1807, 182–183

Wood, Timothy, tried for murder, 151

Wood carving by prisoners of war, 132

Woodriff, Captain, R.N.:

   Agent at Norman Cross, 38, 40, 45–46

   Biography, 265–267

   Charges against, refuted, 86

   Epidemic among prisoners, 164

   Gambling and usury in prison, report on, 107–108

   House at Norman Cross let (1802), 243

   Inquiry into causes of mutiny on the Marquis of Carmarthen, 48–49

   Letter on clothing for prisoners, 275–276

   Order to prevent malingering, 171

   Price of provisions and rates of wages, report on, 16

   Prisoner of war in France, 235

Wotton, Sarah, marriage with Berthold Wyeth, 208

Wyeth, Berthold J. J., marriage, 208


Yeomanry, class enlisted from and duties of, 8

Yorkshire election 1807, 182–183

Ysbrands, J., Captain of the Courier, 207




[0a]  Fortescue: History of the British Army, iv. 904–6.  Clode: Military Forces of the Crown, i. 240.

[0b]  The Story of Dartmoor Prison, by Basil Thomson.  (London: William Heinemann. 1907.)

[0c]  The French Prisoners of Norman Cross.  A Tale by the Rev. Arthur Brown, Rector of Catfield, Norfolk.  (London: Hodder Brothers, 18, New Bridge Street, E.C.)

[4]  Vattel, Les Droits des Gens, book iii, chap, iii, sec. 49, p. 150.

[5]  “Prisoners of War,” Chambers’ Journal, No. 21, 1854, p. 330.

[6a]  It will be seen in a later chapter what class of men the prisoners were to whom these words would come home.

[6b]  July 1797—Reports House of Commons, “18th Report of Committee of Finance.”

[7]  Schomberg, Naval Chronology, chap. v., p. 213.

[9]  In 1803 the Earl of Carysfort of the Irish Peerage took the title of Lord Carysfort of Norman Cross, as a Peer of the United Kingdom.

[12]  The price of timber had risen in December 1806 to £8 8s. a load; at one date the contractor complained that even by paying £12 a load he could not obtain fifty loads in Plymouth.  The Story of Dartmoor Prison, Basil Thomson.  (London: William Heinemann, 1907.)

[14]  The sum of £14,800 was paid to Adams between the 1st January 1797 and 29th November 1797 in the following instalments:




April 12th 1797



2nd 1797


May 5th 1797



6th 1797


Aug. 5th 1797



13th 1797


„ 15th 1797



17th 1797


Sept. 28th 1797



31st 1797


Oct. 6th 1797



9th 1797


,,  9th 1797



21st 1797


,, 13th 1797



5th 1797


Nov. 23rd 1797



19th 1797


,, 28th 1797



26th 1797


„ 29th 1797



30th 1797




The total amount paid to 19th November 1797 for the Norman Cross Prison was £34,518 11s. 3d., for Hull £22,600, for Lewes £12,400, and for Colchester £15,620.

[16]  As illustrating the hardship which, already in its fourth year, this war had imposed upon the nation, the following extract from the report furnished to the Transport Office, by Captain Woodriff, R.N., agent to the Commissioners, of the average price of provisions and the rate of wages in the district in which the Depot had been established, during the time that the prison and barracks were erecting, may be of interest.  Mutton was 10½d. per lb., beef 1s. per lb., bread 1s. per quartern loaf.  Carpenters’ wages were 12s. per week, shoemakers’ 10s., bakers’ 9s., blacksmiths’ 8s., and husbandmen 7s.  Starvation wages were then a literal truth.  Four years later from a Parliamentary Report we find the Government granting a bounty on all imported wheat, in order to keep the price down to £5 a quarter, other grain being treated in the same way.  We can well understand that, as the price of provisions went up, and the taxation increased with the prolongation of the war (a war which, however it originated, was prolonged for years by the ambitious projects of Buonaparte for the aggrandisement of himself and of France), the animosity not only of the actual combatants, but also of the suffering men, women, and children, steadily grew against the man and the nation whom they regarded as the authors of all their misery.

[18]  Appendix A.

[23a]  Auctioneer’s Catalogue, (Jacobs’ Peterborough, 1816).

[23b]  M. Foulley’s description of his model on Key Plan, Pl. xx., p. 251.

[24]  The following entry in the Register of Marriages in St. John’s Church, Peterborough, probably explains the reason for the housing of the surgeon in a comfortable brick house within those prison walls, instead of in the very indifferent quarters in the hospital casern:—

“October 18th, 1808, George H. Walker of Yaxley to Elizabeth Colinette Pressland of St. John’s.—Witnesses: Thomas Pressland, Thomas Alderson Cook, James Gibbs.”

Mr. George H. Walker was the surgeon to the Prison, which was in the Parish of Yaxley, and Captain Pressland, R.N., had been for some years, after the renewal of the war in 1803, Superintendent of the Prison, so among all these dry details crops up the picture of our human life.  We see the young medical officer passing through the door in the Prison wall which communicated with the Superintendent’s house (the door over which the wall is seen rising with a ramp in the photographs of the only fragments of the wall now remaining) to spend happy hours with Captain Pressland’s family.  We see friendship ripening into love, the story told by the entry in the Register of St. John’s Church, Peterborough, and then in the Register of St. Peter’s, Yaxley, we are brought face to face with a tragedy, for the last entry of a burial from the Depot is “Captain Thomas Pressland, Norman Cross.  March 21st, 1814.  59 years.  Signed, J. Hinde, Curate,” and there can be little doubt that from the house to which, mainly through his future father-in-law’s influence, Surgeon Walker was able in the third year of its existence to bring Elizabeth Colinette Pressland as his bride, while the bells of Yaxley Church rang out a merry marriage peal, six years later passed the body of Captain Pressland himself to be laid in Yaxley Churchyard, while the death bell tolled its solemn note.  For six years this house was the house of the couple for whom it was built.  It was in the auctioneer’s catalogue, when it was sold on the 2nd October 1810, nothing more than “An excellent brick dwelling-house, containing a cellar 12 ft. 6 in. by 11 ft. 2 in., parlour 13 ft. 3 in. by 13 ft. 8 in., etc., etc.”  To us, 100 years later, it is a part of the great tragedy of Norman Cross, and by the light of the registers we see it in those short eight years from its building to its destruction the scone of the brightest joys and the deepest griefs of men and women whose names we know, whose persons we can imagine, and who help to clothe those cold, dry records with the warmth of human life.

[28a]  On a range of the stabling purchased in 1816 to be re-erected as farm buildings in a neighbouring village, over one of the doors there stands out in bold relief, owing to the protective influence of the paint, the letters B. A. T., and in the auctioneer’s catalogue the Range is described as Bathorse Stable Range.  From Stœqueler’s Military Encyclopædia, we learn that “Bat” signified a pack saddle; “Bathorse,” one which carried a pack; “Batman,” the man in charge of the Bathorse.  The latter term came to be used for an officer’s servant, while the Bathorse Stable was applied to a military stable for draught and other horses.

[28b]  In his interesting romance, The French Prisoners of Norman Cross, the Rev. Arthur Brown speaks of Mr. Vise as Chief Surgeon at the Prison; this, of course, is an error, the prisoners were not attended by the neighbouring practitioners.  The statement that the surgeons were all English is also erroneous.

[29]  Major Kelly was highly esteemed and at the time of his death (when the Indian Mutiny was not yet quelled) the following lines were published in a local newspaper:—


Peace to the virtuous brave!
   Another son of chivalry lies low:
Not in the flush of youth he finds a grave,
   Not stricken to the dust by foreign foe
He fainting falls;—but laden with full years,
   With white-hair’d glory crown’d, he lays him down
   In earth’s maternal lap, and with him bears
   Benevolence, high honour, renown,
And love-begetting mem’ries, such as throw
A halo round the thoughts of mortals here below.

Earth! keep thy treasured dead
   Awhile, in holy trust!  Not with vain tears
Wail we the loss of him who bravely bled
   For England’s might and weal, in early years,
When life’s warm pulse beat high, and buoyant hopes
   On tip-toe look’d afar at distant fame;
When views of greatness fill’d his vision’s scope,
   And daring deeds lent glory to a name:
Here on our soldier’s grave no tear should fall;
All hidden be our grief, as ’neath a funeral pall.

O! that in this, our need,
   This hour of trial, when the swart Sepoy
Blurs the fair front of nature, with each deed
   Of villainy conceiving; when the joy
That, like the sun, lights up affection’s eyes,
   Is blotted out by Indian hate and lust—
O! that a host of Kellys could arise,
   And with avenging steel, unto the dust,
Smite down the Smiter, that the world might know
How true the Briton as a friend, how mighty as a foe!

O. P.

The Peterborough Advertiser, 13th February 1858.

This monody not only shows the esteem in which the Major was held by the local poet and his neighbours, but in the last stanza it revives the memory of a crisis in the history of the empire, and of the throes of the Indian Mutiny, from which our country was suffering when Major Kelly died.

[30]  Auctioneer’s Catalogue (Peterborough: G. Robertson, Bookseller.  1816!)

[31]  The most valuable direct evidence as to the appearance of the barracks and prison which I was able to obtain in 1891, was from an old Mr. Lewin of Yaxley, who was born in 1802, and had been very familiar with the Depot in his childhood.  He used frequently to ride in through this west gate in the tradesmen’s carts, but he spoke always of the entrance on the south front as the main entrance.  This old gentleman’s memory was wonderfully clear, and his accounts I regarded as thoroughly trustworthy.

[34]  The well-known Stilton cheese was never made at Stilton, which was not in a dairy district; it was made in Leicestershire and sent to Stilton, where Mr. Cooper Thornhill, the sporting landlord of the old sixteenth-century coaching inn, The Bell (he once for a wager rode 218 miles on horseback in 12 hours and 15 minutes), used to supply it to his customers, selling the cheeses, it is said, at half a crown a pound.

[38a]  To the post of agent at Norman Cross there were appointed, during the seventeen years in which the prison was occupied, two civilians and four naval officers.  Of the two civilians, Mr. John Delafons sent in his formal resignation eight days after his appointment.

Mr. James Perrot, appointed on the 7th April 1797, held his office until January 1799.

Captain Woodriff, R.N., appointed January 1799, held his office until the Peace of Amiens, April 1802 (see Appendix B).

Captain Thos. Pressland, R.N., was appointed after the War was renewed in May 1803, and served from 18th June 1803 until August 1811.

Captain J. Draper, R.N., succeeded to the post, and held it until his death in February 1813.

Captain W. Hansell, R.N., became agent on the death of Captain Draper, and relinquished the post in August 1814 after the Abdication of Buonaparte and his retirement to Elba.

[38b]  There is evidence in correspondence still extant, that much friction arose between the commander of the Military Guard and the agent, as to the power of the latter to interfere in the steps required for the safe custody of the prisoners.

[40]  This shows that about 4,000 prisoners were to be removed from Falmouth to Norman Cross, their hammocks, added to the 1,000 on the way from London, making the number correspond with the 5,000 sets of bedding.

[42]  Lavengro, chap. iii.

[44]  Evidence that two years later meat could be obtained at a much lower rate has come under my notice, from an unexpected source.  On the fly-leaf of a copy of Batty’s Bible, in the possession of a descendant of Mr. W. Fowler, is written below the name W. Fowler (in the same writing, but in paler ink), “Came down to Norman Cross March 10th, 1799, to serve the prisoners of War at Yaxley.”  In a different handwriting has been inserted after “Came down,” “from London,” and after Yaxley, “with Beef at 28s. the cwt.”  The date 1799 has also been altered in dark ink to 1795, which was of course a wrong correction, as there was no prison at Norman Cross until 1797.—T. J. W.

[46]  Appendix B, Biographical Sketch of Captain Woodriff.

[49]  So slowly did the Government inquiry which followed on Captain Woodriff’s report progress, that it was not until two years later that judgment was pronounced.—Naval Chronicle, vol. i., pp. 523–6.

[50]  For examples of the individual entries in the General Register, the Death Register, and the Register of Prisoners on Parole, see Appendix C.

[52]  Cartel is an agreement between foreign states as to the exchange of the prisoners; its meaning was extended to the document authorising the exchange of an individual prisoner, and it was even used to signify the transport vessel engaged to convey the exchanged prisoners to their native country.

[59]  In All Souls’ Church at Peterborough is preserved the Register, kept by the resident Priest at King’s Cliff, of the baptisms performed by priests within the mission of his church.  Stilton, the Depot, and the surrounding villages were within that district.  Two of the entries are baptisms of the sons of Delapoux; they will be referred to in a future chapter.  They have always been supposed to be those of the baptism of the children of a French prisoner, who had married an English wife (these marriages were of rare occurrence), and the discovery in the Record Office of this entry of John Andrew Delapoux’s appointment as a clerk is an instance of the way in which research upsets old traditions.  I find the entry of Delapoux’s marriage to Sarah Mason on the 2nd September 1802, in the Register of Stilton church.  His children were baptized as Catholics, and the priest specially calls Sarah Mason his lawful wife.  Another instance in this list, selected haphazard by Mr. Rhodes from papers in the Record Office, shows how in two generations a false family tradition may arise.  In 1894 I visited, in search of information, the daughter-in-law, then a widow aged eighty-six, of the James Robinette whose engagement as a permanent mason and labourer at the Depot is recorded on page 61.  She told me her husband’s father was a French prisoner, who had been made a turnkey at the Barracks!  On searching the church Register, 1 found that the Robinettes had been residents in Yaxley fifty years at least before the arrival of the prisoners at Norman Cross, and between 1748 and 1796 the records of three generations appear in the register—James, the son of James and Catherine Robinette, born in 1780, was doubtless the man appointed in 1813 to the job at the Barracks.

The Robinettes were probably some of the many French Huguenots who came over after the repeal, on the 15th October 1685, of the Edict of Nantes, and settled in the neighbourhood of Peterborough to further reclaim and cultivate the lately drained fens.  The fallacy of coming to conclusions, founded on names only without other evidence, is illustrated by the following sentence in a series of papers on Norman Cross published in the Peterborough Advertiser by the late Rev. G. N. Godwin: “At Stilton the names of Habarte, of Drage, and of Tesloff, and near Thorney the name of Egar, and at Peterborough, among others, the name of Vergette, still speak of the old war time.”  Of these names, Habarte alone is that of descendants of a French prisoner, the majority of those bearing the others are of the old Huguenot stock, while the Vergettes, who formerly believed themselves to be descendants of an ancestor of this same stock, now know that they were an old-established English family in 1555, when their ancestor, Robert Vergette, was Sheriff of Lincoln.

[65]  Loc. cit., 93–95.

[69]  In a Parliamentary Report for the year 1800 it is stated that the price of wheat was only kept down to £5 a quarter by the system of bounties on imported wheat, the same applying to the prices of other grain.  The present proprietor of “The Oundle Brewery” kindly extracted from the Books of the Firm particulars as to the beer supplied to the Regiments quartered at Norman Cross in the year 1799.  The total amount was 4,449 barrels of 36 gallons each.  This gentleman adds, the beer could not be very good, the price being about 6d. a gallon.  His father said that he had often been told by his father, that the great expansion of the business was due to the contract with the Barracks.  Buckles Brewery, a Peterborough business, also flourished on a large contract to supply the prisoners with “Small Beer.”  Mr. George Gaunt, who was formerly in a large business as a butcher, informed me that, taking the figures which I gave him as a basis, and the average weight of a bullock at about 850 lb., he considered that from five to six would be required every day, if beef alone and no other meat were supplied.  These figures give some idea of the advantages derived by the neighbouring traders from this great Government Establishment.

The following extract from a letter addressed to me by Mr. Samuel Booth shows how many people in one family group alone found employment in connection with the Depot:

“I send you a few particulars about my relatives, which may, or may not, be useful to you.

“My great-grandmother, Mrs. Allen, who lies in the old graveyard, used to carry green-grocery to sell to the prisoners.

“My father’s father was Pay-Sergeant at the Barracks.

“My grandfather, Samuel Briggs, of Ailsworth, was constable; he was also in the Militia, and was told off to keep guard on Thorpe Road, at the entrance to Peterboro’, on the escape of some prisoners, but who went the way to Ramsay.  I have a box made by the prisoners, presented to my grandfather, who was also a carpenter, and at times went to work there.  The prisoners used to beg pieces of wood and other materials of him.  He used to speak of their cleverness in the making of fancy articles, and of their endeavours to escape—one got in the manure cart, and got away.”

[70]  When Greens are issued in lieu of Pease, one pound stripped of the outer leaves and fit for the copper shall be issued to each prisoner.

Each prisoner shall receive two ounces of Soap per week.

[71]  Knowing how dogs as a rule refuse to eat meat impregnated with herbs and condiments, we probably have here the explanation of little George Borrow’s impression of the food of the prisoners, which forty years later made him write of it, “Rations of Carrion meat and bread from which I have seen the very hounds occasionally turn away.”  Every one who knows the habit of dogs, knows that many of them would turn away from the meat which had been boiled for four or five hours with a broth impregnated with herbs.

[74a]  In the light of modern science, we can well understand the origin of the accusation by the British that the wells had been purposely poisoned in order to kill the English prisoners.  Enteric fever had not then been differentiated from typhus, the mode of its spread was unknown, and probably defective sanitation had led to poisoning of the well, as it has done and still is doing in many a British town and village.

[74b]  Correspondence with the French Government relative to Prisoners of War Supplement, 1801, to Appendix No. 59.  Report of the Transport Board to the House of Commons, 1798.

[75]  This will be dealt with in the following chapter.

[76]  Report of the Transport Board to the House of Commons, 1798, Appendix No. 59—Most valuable information on the merits of the dispute between the two Governments has been obtained from the Report and its Appendix, and from an imperfect copy of a Supplement to the Appendix, issued from Downing Street, 6th Jan. 1801.  This supplement is not to be found either in the Library of the House of Commons or in the British Museum, and the Fragment which contained thirty-nine out of fifty-three letters indexed in the table of contents, in the course of its travels through my hands and my agents’ and the typewriters’, has been lost.  This loss is irreparable, but I am able to publish in the text or in the Appendix five of the fifty-three letters which were printed in this supplement to the report.  Appendix D.


Copy of an Affidavit made by Mr. James Perrot, Agent for Prisoners of War at Norman CrossDated Peterboro’, 15th December 1797.

These are to certify, that James Perrot, Agent for Prisoners of War at Norman Cross, voluntarily maketh Oath, that to the best of his knowledge and belief, the Certificate and Affidavits given by Dr. Higgins, Physician, Mr. James Magennis, Surgeon, and Messiours Chatelin and Savary, the French Assistant Surgeons to the Hospital at Norman Cross Prisons, are strictly true, and corresponding with the accounts, daily brought to him; and that the number of Patients in the said Hospital on the 19th day of November last, were one hundred and ninety-four, including twenty-four nurses, and the whole number of Prisoners, including the Sick, were on that day confined in the said Prisons, 5028, and from the first the establishment never exceeded 5178, and that to the present date only 59 have died in the said Hospital; and further to the best of his knowledge, neither contagious or epidemic disorders have ever prevailed in the said Hospital or Prisons.

(Signed) J. Perrot, Agent.

Given under my hand at Peterboro’ this 15th day of December 1797.

(Signed) H. Freeman.

Copy of an Affidavit made by Dr. Higgins, Physician, and Dr. Magennis, Surgeon.

We the undersigned do voluntarily certify upon Oath that the number of Sick in the Hospital under our care at Norman Cross, on the 19th November last, was 194, including 24 nurses; that the daily number from the 7th August was always less; and that at no one period since the commencement of the establishment did the actual number exceed 260.  That the prisons are systematically visited and searched every morning by the surgeon or his assistants, and that every prisoner having feverish symptoms, however slight, is immediately removed to the hospital.

No epidemic or contagious Fever.

(Signed) James Higgins, M.D., Physician,
James Magennis, Surgeon.

Translation of a certificate by the French Surgeons, M. Savary of the Hardy, and M. Chatelaine, Surgeon-Major of the Ville de l’Orient.

The 24 men were employed as nurses.  Whenever the prisoners are sent to the Hospital, they are admitted, whether their disorders are slight or violent, and while there, they are treated with humanity and attention, and provided with everything necessary for the re-establishment of their health.  No epidemic or contagious distemper.

(Ref. Parly. Paper, 1797–8, vol. 50. pp. 131–3.)

[81]  These extracts are from the lost supplement of date 1801 to the Parliamentary Report, 1798.

[82]  Alison’s History of Europe, from the commencement of the French Revolution in 1789 to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815.

[90]  The total number of prisoners in Britain increased greatly during the second period of the war, until in 1814, after the abdication of Buonaparte, there were 67,000 prisoners to be returned to France.  To provide for this vast body, Dartmoor and Perth, each capable of holding as many prisoners as Norman Cross, had been built.

[99]  My mother, who remembered being driven over at the age of five to the stalls at the prison gate to buy a toy, could recall the appearance of the stalls and the toys, but nothing more.  It was probably one of the fixed stalls shown at the eastern gate in MacGregor’s plan.  The materials of the stalls, the pebble paving, and the paled fence in front of the market were sold, when the prison was demolished, for £20.

—T. J. W.

[100a]  Appendix D.

[100b]  Loc. cit., p. 131.

[103]  Capt. Woodriff’s letter, Appendix D.

[104]  In July 1799 the Dutch prisoners applied for the use of a building for theatrical exhibitions, but “My Lords” would not hear of such a thing, as “not being according to law, and might be attended with inconvenience to the neighbourhood”; but about ten years later, as seen in Foulley’s model, there is a theatre in the centre of the south-west quadrangle.

[105]  Appendix A.

[107]  Appendix D.

[109]  No. 10, Appendix D.

[111]  When M. Foulley knew the prison seven years later, this block was set apart for petty-officers and civilians.

[113]  The remainder of this chapter is quoted verbatim from the Story of Dartmoor Prison (Basil Thomson).

[125]  Basil Thomson, loc. cit., chap, xix., p. 202.

[126]  Vide Appendix A.

[129]  In the great action off Cape Trafalgar on 21st October 1805, the Leviathan, seventy-four guns, under Captain Bayton, was next to the Victory.  After passing through the enemy’s line she dismasted her opponent, raked the Santissima Trinidad, and passed on to the San Augustin, one of seven coming to surround her; this ship was silenced in fifteen minutes, and the crew of the Leviathan, making her fast with a hawser, towed her into the English Fleet with the English Jack flying.  The French ship L’Intrépide had by distant firing cut into the sails and rigging of the Leviathan, but three more British ships coming up, L’Intrépide was, after a noble resistance, also compelled to surrender, and was set on fire by the Britannia.  The crews were landed at Portsmouth and transferred to Norman Cross, where they were received on 8th January 1806.  One was Corporal Jean De la Porte, whose name appears as the maker of signed straw marquetry pictures, and to whom are attributed many other unsigned pictures of the same character.  Mr. Jean De la Porte is spoken of as an officer; had he been of that rank he would not have been in the prison, but out on parole.  He was a Petty Officer, and would be in the Petty Officers’ prison.  He was confined at Norman Cross for nearly nine years, and during this long captivity his artistic skill and taste must have enormously mitigated his suffering.

[131a]  On Horn and Tortoiseshell, by H. Akin, late Secretary of the Society of Arts, London.  Journal of the Franklin Institute, London.  Series vol. xxvi., pp. 256–9.  1840.

[131b]  I have a drinking-horn, given to me by the daughter-in-law of the man for whom it was made, engraved with his name—J. Bates—surrounded by a floral pattern.—T. J. W.

[133a]  This art was practised by amateurs in the 18th century.  In 1875 an attempt was made to reintroduce the work.  “Mosaicon, or Paper Mosaic,” W. Bemrose, jun.  (Bemrose & Sons, 10, Paternoster Buildings, E.C., and Irongate, Derby.)

[133b]  The authenticity of the wine slides as Norman Cross work is absolute.  Mr. Vinter, who gave them to the author for presentation to the museum, affirmed that his mother had known them all her life in the house of her parents, an inn opposite the prison.  Her father had purchased them in the prison market.  Mr. Vinter’s mother had herself seen from a window of the house a prisoner shot by a sentinel as he was attempting to escape.  Of the caddies, one is in the possession of the Countess of Lindsey at Uffington Park, twelve miles from Norman Cross (Plate VII., Fig. 2, p. 40).  Mr. Bodger has the second; it is of beautiful design, but dilapidated.  The third is in the collection of Miss Paull, of Truro, and is known as the work of a French prisoner at the Falmouth Depot (Plate VIII, Fig. 1, p. 46).  It is possible that the three caddies were all the work of the same artist, who may have been one of the thousands of prisoners who were sent from Falmouth to Norman Cross.

[134a]  Parliamentary History, xxxvi. 450.

[134b]  There were two rates for the tax on hats, those of a wider diameter being taxed at the higher rate.

[134c]  Norman Cross.  Correspondence with the French Government relative to prisoners of war, issued from Downing Street 1st January 1801, as a supplement to Appendix 59.  Report of the Transport Board to the House of Commons, 1798.

[135]  The Rev. E. Bradley (Cuthbert Bede), who half a century ago was the incumbent of Denton, a village a little over a mile from Norman Cross, left the following note among the MSS. which were prepared for a history of Huntingdon, or, as he called it, Cromwell’s County, which was never completed:

“The French prisoners at the prison made beautiful straw plaits, which were purchased by people in Stilton and sold at a high rate.  For a long time they were forbidden to sell these plaits, but they found means to do so through the soldiers.  No doubt the soldiers made a great deal of money in this way, although the plaits were sold so cheaply that many people in Stilton made very respectable fortunes by their sale.  The soldiers secretly brought the straw plaits to the houses, sometimes wrapped round their bodies under their clothes; in this case they would go upstairs and undress, and then come down with the straw plaits.

“I do not know how the prisoners got the straw, but as they could no more make straw plaits without straw than the Israelites could make bricks, I suppose the soldiers helped them to it.  Much of the plait (which was more neatly made than the English manufacture) was made up and sold in Stilton.  Other was hawked about round the district; also sent to wholesale houses in London or elsewhere.  One vendor of the straw plaits cleared a thousand pounds in a few years.”

[136]  Vol. 106.

[137]  An old lady friend of mine, recently deceased, remembered in her childhood seeing the children following a woman in the streets of Peterborough, and singing, “Wind or storm, hail or snow, To the Barracks she will go,” a doggerel which had been fastened on to her when she carried over goods for sale at the market, and was supposed to smuggle in cut straw and to bring back concealed about her person straw plait, which she disposed of to the bonnet makers.—T. J. W.

[138]  Chambers’ Journal, xxiii. 327.  In the same journal (issue of September 1908) is an article by A. F. Morris upon straw marquetry, in which the introduction of that art into this country is ascribed to the French.

[144]  Historical Sketch of the Old Depot, Perth, William Sievwright, 1894.

[146a]  Vol. ix., chap. lxiv., par. 127.

[146b]  This information Alison gave from his own personal recollection.  I can confirm his account from what I have been told by my father, who in his sixteenth and seventeenth years was living in Perth, and was in the habit of going to the prison to take lessons in French and in fencing from one of the officers confined there.—T. J. W.

[147]  Curiously this article does not appear in Poole’s original Index, but in the second supplement under “Banker’s Notes.”

[156]  These were a part of the troops who in 1797 landed at Fishguard to invade England through Wales.  This long-planned invasion ended in a fiasco.

[157a]  Laws, Little England Beyond Wales, pp. 373–4.

[157b]  Legends of Huntingdonshire, W. B. Saunders.

[158]  W. H. Bernard Saunders, loc. cit., 1888.

[160a]  Archæologia Cantiana, ix.–xciii.

[160b]  Chambers’ Miscellany, No. 92, vol. vi., p. 32, New Edition.  Story of a French Prisoner of War in England.

[161]  Story of Dartmoor Prison, pp. 32, 33.

[166]  Aperçu du Traitement qu’éprouvent les Prisonniers de Guerre français en Angleterre: Paris, 1813.

[167a]  Appendix E.

[167b]  Naval Chronicle, xxviii., 282.

[168]  The expense of the prisoners’ clothing, provision, and supervision was £1,000 a day exclusive of buildings.—Naval Chronicle, xxxiv., 460.

[169]  Appendix F.  Full return, with names, etc., of the hospital staff.

[171]  The following, copied from a loose paper lying between the pages of Reg. 628 at the Record Office, is evidently an answer to the inquiries of a prisoner’s friends, made ten years after his death.  It gives a chance insight into one of the duties of the agent, and is evidence that the French were at least treated with courtesy:

“Le Soussigné Agent du Gouvernement Britannique Chargé du soin et de la Surveillance des Prisonniers de Guerre au Dépôt de Norman Cross, Certifie que le Nommé Vincent Fontaine, natif de Veli, Pris à Bord du transport La Sophie, en qualité de soldat, entre en Prison au Dépôt de Norman Cross le 25 Septembre 1804, est mort à l’hospital du susdit Dépôt le Vingt trois mars, mil huit cent huit, âgé de Trente ans et demi, ainsi qu’il couste par les Registres de la Prison.

“En foi de quoi j’ai délivré le Présent Extrait pour servir à qui de Raison.

“Norman Cross le 1er Juin 1814.

“(Signed) W. Hanwell, Capt. R.N., Agent.”


“The Undersigned Agent of the British Government in charge of the care and the superintendence of the Prisoners of War at the Depot of the Norman Cross, certifies that the named Vincent Fontaine, native of Veli, taken on board the transport La Sophie, as being a soldier, entered into the Prison at the Depot of Norman Cross on the 25th September 1804, died in the Hospital of the above-mentioned Depot, 23rd March 1808, Age 30½ years, as shown by the Prison Registers.

“In Witness whereof I have delivered the present Extract to be used by Whom it may concern.

“Norman Cross, 1st June 1814.

“(Signed) W. Hanwell, Capt. R.N., Agent.”

Vincent Fontaine was the only prisoner who died during the week ending 27th March 1808.  The certificate was signed by Thos. Pressland, the agent at that date.

[177]  Notes and Queries, Ser. ii., v. 204.

[180a]  Appendix G.—Letter enclosing short autobiography from the Bishop of Moulins to Earl Fitzwilliam.  Reply from Earl Fitzwilliam and correspondence between his lordship and Lord Mulgrave, etc.

[180b]  The French Prisoners of Norman Cross.  A tale by the Rev. Arthur Brown, Rector of Catfield, Norfolk.  (Hodder Brothers.)

[181]  This house is selected by tradition as that of the Bishop, being the one most suited to a wealthy ecclesiastic of high rank.  The Bishop’s letters are dated from the Bell Inn, where he probably could live, en pension, on what was left out of his £240 a year, after paying the interest due to the money-lenders.

[182]  This was a remarkable election, and created immense excitement at the time.  There had been no contested election for forty-six years, and in 1807 there were four candidates for the two seats.  One, a Mr. Fowkes, received two votes.  William Wilberforce, the great advocate for the abolition of slavery, led all the way; the real contest was between Milton and Lascelles.  Wilberforce’s expenses were largely met by subscription; the cost to the other two was enormous.  The Recorder of Leeds said, “The yellow had not only been in the hats, but had also been in the pockets of the voters for Lord Milton.”  The state of the poll at the end was:









Smith, Parliaments of England, ii. 136, 140.  The Times, 26th, 28th, 30th May, 2nd, 4th, 6th June 1807.

Wm. Wilberforce, Esq.; Rt. Hon. Chas. Wm. Wentworth, commonly called Viscount Milton; Hon. Henry Lascelles.

[185]  “Ces jeunes captifs furent instruits par les soins de M. l’Évêque de Moulins.”

[186]  As these pages are passing through the press, the opportunity offers of seeing through the observant eyes of Mrs. Larpent the Bishop as he was when she met him in London, about 1804, and for the “man with a fine presence” we must substitute the “little deformed lively man,” described in that lady’s diary, “Nineteenth Century and After,” No. 438, August 1913, p. 318.

[187]  Appendix G.

[188a]  Mémoire des Évêques français résidant à Londres qui n’ont pas donné leur démission, Londres, May 1802; Biographie des Hommes vivant, 1818, Paris; Biographie des Contemporains, Paris.

[188b]  Mémoire des Évêques français résidant à Londres, pp. 108, 217, 284.

[188c]  The only reference by his French biographer to his work at Norman Cross, which looms so large in this book, is that “he is said to have visited the prisoners of war when in England.”

[191a]  Supplement to Appendix 59, Report of the Transport Board to the House of Commons, 1798.  Issued from Downing Street 6th January 1801.

[191b]  If the commander of a privateer before lowering his flag threw overboard as many of his guns as he could, in order to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, and thus reduced their number below fourteen, he was no longer eligible for parole, but remained in prison.

[192]  List of places where French prisoners of war were allowed on parole at different periods of the war.


































Bishops Castle.



Bishops Waltham.






















Mill Prison Hospital.









Moreton Hampstead.






Norman Cross.




















[200]  Basil Thomson, loc. cit., pp. 28, 29.


Transport Office,
26th June 1812.

On Parole.

French Prisoners.

Danish Prisoners.

Officers, Army


Officers, Navy


Masters and Mates of Merchant Vessels



Captains, etc., of Privateers


Passengers and other Persons of Respectability



Servants to Officers


Women and children





In Confinement





Seamen, taken in Men-of-War



Seamen, taken in Merchant Vessels



Seamen, taken in Privateers



All others



Women and Children







Prisoners belonging to the Army



Prisoners belonging to the Navy









N.B.—There are not any prisoners in Ireland.

Total, French prisoners


Total, Dutch prisoners




(Signed) Rup. George, J. Bowen, J. Douglas.
(Parl. Pap. 1812, vol. ix., p. 225.)

In reference to this return it may be here mentioned that very few of the Danes were brought to Norman Cross, either in the first period of the war, or in the second period in which this return was made.

[204]  French Prisoners’ Lodges, by John T. Thorp, Leicester.  Printed by Bro. Geo. Gilbert, King Street, 1900.

[208]  Of the after history of the young men and maidens who contracted these romantic marriages I can give information in only two cases.  Charles Peter Vanderaa, entered in the register of the Record Office as lieutenant on a brig-of-war, was married on the day of his release.  Whether he took his wife to Holland or not, his grandson, from whom I got my information, did not know.  All he knew was that his grandfather, in some capacity or other, again took to the sea, and that he died of yellow fever in Spain or one of the Spanish colonies, leaving his widow with two sons, Thomas and Peter.  The widow, after his death, lived in Peterborough in very poor circumstances.  The second son, Peter, I well remember earning a living as a schoolmaster in Peterborough, where he had at one time been in the police force; he married and had one daughter, who married a blacksmith named Dawson.  The couple moved to London, where there may be a colony of the cadet’s descendants, recking nothing of their Dutch blood.  The oldest son, Thomas Vanderaa, had two sons, one of whom I knew well.  His mental capacity was not very high; he got his living as a casual, respectable gardener and handy man.  He died a few years since, but I have preserved the letter in which he gave me the information about his relatives.

When in 1894 Mr. Vanderaa gave me the information about his family, he said he had a brother, who was, he believed, alive, but he did not know where he was living.

Of the descendants of the Miss Roelans, who married Mr. Joseph Little, several are living in a good social position; but the Dutch blood does not seem to have passed into the collateral branches of Moores, Buckles, and other well-known families who have intermarried with the Littles.

[210a]  The gunsmith’s business was a good one, and remained in the family, and the grandson, M. Hubert Habart, who had succeeded to it, had an exhibit of guns in the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1851.

[210b]  Several of M. Habart’s descendants are still alive.  One of his granddaughters, Miss Habart, is my consulting-room attendant.  The family of the Rev. Father Robert A. Davis, from whose copy of Macgregor’s plan the plate on p. 18 is taken, is connected by marriage with that of the Habarts.—T. J. W.

[213a]  Parl. Paper, 1812, vol. ix., p. 223.

[213b]  Maberly Phillips, The Connoisseur, xxvii., No. 105, May 1910.

[215a]  Notes and Queries, ser. iv., vol. v., pp. 376, 546.

[215b]  Sleigh, History of Leek, 2nd edn., p. 221.

[218]  Wellington’s Despatches.

[222]  This is how the naval authorities summed up the failure of the negotiations for exchange: “There is no fixing the French Government to any basis of exchange.  Every concession on our part has produced fresh demands.  We have about 50,000 prisoners of war in England, in France there are about 12,000, two-thirds of whom are not prisoners, but détenus, many of them women and children.  Even these our Government were willing to exchange, when the French Government proposed that their 50,000 should be sent over en masse, for the 12,000, and then afterwards the Spaniards would be released.  This would enable it to man twenty-five sail of the line, and still retain the Spaniards, our allies, in his hands.”—Naval Chronicle, vol. xxiv., p. 327.

[232]  Appendix H.

[233]  A good description of Verdun in 1811 will be found in the Narrative of a Forced Journey through Spain and France an a Prisoner of War in the Years 1810 to 1814, by Major-Gen. Lord Blanfrey.  In 2 vols. 1814.  Vol. ii., chaps, xxxvi.-xxxvii., good account, viii., ix., xl., xli., xlii., xliii., xliv.

The author says he was confined for seven weeks as a hostage to prevent the English Government from punishing a French officer who had projected a rising of the French prisoners in England.

[238]  Naval Chronicle, xiv., 17; xv., 122; xvi., 108; xvii., 108; Douglas Jerrold, The Prisoner of War, 1842; A Picture of Verdun, or the English detained in France, from the Portfolio of a Détenue, 1810, 2 vols.; Letters from France, written in the Years 1803 and 1804, including a Particular Account of Verdun and the Situation of the British Captives in that City, 2 vols.  1806; Chambers’ Journal of Literature, Science, and Art, 1854, vol. i., p. 330.

[240]  Few of the Danes were brought to Norman Cross, either at this period of the war or in the second period when there were a considerable number confined in Great Britain.  From a return made to the House of Commons in 1812, it appears that of 54,508 prisoners confined at the various depots, 52,640 were French and 1,868 Danes, but no register of Danish prisoners confined at Norman Cross has been found.

[241]  Mr. Share often heard his grandmother speak of her husband’s acts of kindness to the prisoners who were landed at Plymouth.  One incident which he recollects was, that one day, just as the family were sitting down to dinner, Captain Holditch ran in, seized the large beefsteak pie just placed on the table, and carried it off, saying, “I want this, there are a batch of French prisoners going by, and they look famished, they must have it.”

Mr. Godwin (loc. cit.), mentioning that on Christmas Day 1805 some 250 French prisoners from Porchester Castle marched into Basingstoke on their cheerless way to Norman Cross (probably some of the heroes who had fought against Nelson and his captains on the 21st October), asks the question, “Did the Hampshire folk give them a share in their festivities?”  The above anecdote justifies us, I hope, in saying that the answer to this question would be “Yes.”

[242]  These had been a considerable source of profit to the farmers, who had contracted to remove them regularly from their positions below the latrines, and had used their contents, with the rest of the refuse of the prison, as a guano to the great benefit of their land.

[245]  Histoire générale des traités de paix et autres transactions principales entre toutes les puissances de l’Europe depuis la paix de Westphalie.  Ouvrage comprenant les travaux de Koch, Schoell, etc., entièrement refondus et continués jusqu’à ce jour.  Paris 1848–87, 15 tom., vol. vi., p. 49.

[247]  His staff was as follows:

Wm. Gardiner, entered first clerk 1st September 1803 at £118 per annum, abate taxes 1s. in the pound, £9 6s., Civil List at 6d., leaving £8 19s.d. net per month.

Wm. Todd, 1st September, as store-clerk, at £118 per annum, and an extra £30 as French interpreter, with 18s. abatement; net per month £11 5s.d.

John Andrew Delapoux, extra clerk, 1st September, at 3s. 6d. per diem.  He was very uneasy about the proclamation against aliens, but was assured it would not apply to him.

Wm. Belcher, steward, at 3s. per day.

Thos. Adams, steward, 3rd September, at 3s. per day.

John Hobbs, turnkey, £50 per annum.

John Nolt, turnkey, £50 per annum.

John Belcher, turnkey, £50 per annum.

Alex Halliday, ditto, and as superintendent carpenter, £20, with 2s. 10½d. abatement for Civil List.

John Hayward, labourer, 12s. a week.

Wm. Powell, labourer, 12s. a week.

Captain Pressland was informed that no clothing of any kind was to be served out to any prisoner, though most were captured with none beyond what they stood upright in.  No soup was to be served out, except to the prisoners who acted as barbers.  He asked for some modification of this, but was refused.  He was allowed £25 per annum for coals and candles, and 10s. 6d. each time he went to Peterborough on the Board’s Order or to make affidavits as to his accounts, etc.  A few days afterwards this was increased to 12s. 6d.  The military guard consisted of 400 of the North Lincoln Militia.

[248]  Chambers’ Journal of Literature, etc., loc. cit.

[250]  At this time Norman Cross and the other existing prisons were greatly overcrowded, but Wellington found it impossible to guard and maintain his prisoners on the Continent.  Not only were the troops actually captured overwhelmingly numerous, but to their number were added deserters.  In one of his dispatches, he writes: “Two battalions of the Regiment of Nassau, and one of Frankfort having quitted the enemies’ Army and passed over to that under my command. . . .  I now send these troops to England.”  The long-delayed completion of the prisons at Dartmoor and Perth would relieve the overcrowding of Norman Cross; but the resources of the staff must, in the meantime, have been strained to an extreme point to prevent the evils which might result from the state of matters.  The breakdown of the various negotiations for exchange prevented the relief which was afforded during the first period of the war by the steady drain of prisoners sent back to their own country.

[252]  It is said that a memorandum exists in a private diary that the price paid for a picture of straw marquetry of Peterborough Cathedral was only £2; the picture must have taken weeks to construct.

[253a]  The prison register confirms this paragraph.  The last death certificate is that of Petronio Lambertini, a soldier of the Italian Regiment of the French Army.  He died of consumption, and was presumably the last prisoner buried in the cemetery adjoining the North Road.

[253b]  Loc. cit., p. 120.

[254]  The copy of the catalogue used by the auctioneer, with his note of the purchaser of and the price paid for each lot, is for the time in the writer’s hands, and has afforded much information, especially as to the construction of the buildings and the use to which each was appropriated.

Two years before this sale took place the Depot had been evacuated, and in the Public Record Office is the Barrack Master’s receipt to Captain Hanwell, dated 30th October 1814, for the Depot at Norman Cross, delivered over to him, agreeably to the Transport Board’s order of 24th September 1814.  The document consists of ten pages in double columns.

[267]  Admiralty Records, Transport Department, Minutes No. 38; Records of Captains’ Services, O’ Byrne; Naval Biographical Dictionary; Naval Chronicle, vol. viii., 438; xiv., 283; xvi., 107, 108; xviii., 28; xix., 170–2; The Times, 26th February 1842.

[276]  M. Otto had at the date of this letter succeeded M. Niou as Commissary for the French Prisoners of War confined in Great Britain.

[283]  This was written three months before the fatal epidemic broke out in the prison.—T. J. W.

[286a]  The number stated to be sick, on the 30th April 1810, includes convalescents, cases of wounds, accidents, etc.

[286b]  Parliamentary Papers, 1810–11, vol. xi. (263), p. 115.

[312]  This is not a facsimile copy of the Register, which contains many abbreviations; it has been set out in columns, and abbreviated words have been written in full.