from Somerset, Devon and Dorset


© Andrew Templer 2024

Contact Us Families Home Remembrance Photos Books Research Places & Events Coat of Arms Site Map Contact us

Henry Templer - Mariner

Henry Templer - HEIC - Mariner (b c1784 - d.1838)

Shortly after  his father’s death, in February 1798, Henry (aged 14) and his brother James (11) were sent to Blundell’s School at Tiverton, (where his younger brothers Charles and William were also to be sent in subsequent years).  Two other Templers started at Blundell’s at the start of that same Lent Term 1798 – cousins Charles and John Templer, aged 11 and 9 respectively), sons of James Templer the younger of Stover.  It is interesting to speculate on the friendship between the cousins. After leaving Blundells, Charles (of Stover) decided on an Army career, enrolling as a Bengal Infantry Cadet, while Henry embarked on a maritime career with the Honourable East India Company (HEIC).  

 By 1804, after serving time at sea in the customary way for young gentlemen, Henry had secured his first command at the age of 20. The LADY BURGES (868 tons) had been built five years earlier at Blackwall by Perry, Wells and Green for John Prinsep, being launched on 14 October 1799.  She had made two trips to the Caromandel Coast and Bengal already, the first in 1800 (Capt. Thomas Cock) and the second in 1802 (Capt. John Hine).  Henry captained her third trip to Bengal, this time via St Helena, leaving on 8 May 1804 and returning on 12 September 1805.

Henry did not captain the Lady Burgess on her next voyage out to Bengal and his movements for the next two years are uncertain.  The Lady Burgess sailed out of Portsmouth on 30 March 1806 under Capt. Robert Holmes, but four weeks later on 20 April 1806 she was wrecked on Leyton’s Rock, southwest of the island of Bonavista, Cape Verde Islands, with the loss of 34 lives.

 Henry is next recorded as the captain of the CARNATIC (822 TONS), also built by Perry’s at Blackwall, this time for William Agnew, being launched on 22 September 1808.  He took her to Madras and Bengal on her second voyage.

 In 1811 Henry Templer took command of the ship BARING (2) (756 tons), launched in 1805 by Cooper at Calcutta for Managing Owner, Thomas Garland Murray. Henry would have been approx. 27 years old by then and a seasoned commander on the route to Bengal.  He victualled and made his vessel ready for sea trip to India, commencing in July 1811. His sailing instructions, journal, ledger and pay book are all lodged in India Office Records (IOR/G/9/19 ff59-88 etc))

His voyage lasted 16 months and took Henry from Portsmouth (27 July 1811) via Madeira (14 Aug.1811), the Cape (13 Jan. 1812) and Saugor (23 April 1812) to Madras (8 July 1812) and back again via St Helena (11 Sept. 1812) to Gravesend (11 Nov. 1812).

Lady Maria Nugent was a passenger on the leg out to India.  She kept a journal in which she diligently logged the “violent and distressing outrages” committed by Henry Templer, which eventually led to her confining herself to her cabin.  During the voyage Henry insulted a young officer who demanded satisfaction and a duel was fought on shore near Calcutta.  They fired at the same time and both missed, but honour was preserved.  Lady Nugent’s journal is recorded in “The East Indiamen”, a book by Russell Miller – one of the Time Life Book series on “The Seafarers” – ISBN 7054 0635 0 (relevant abstract attached from Chapter V – A Passage to India).

After this voyage the Baring returned to private trade in India and the Far East and is not recorded again in HEIC documentation.  Her Captain is not recorded, but was not Henry Templer.

In 1813, Henry was in command of the JAVA (1175 tons).  His voyage to Bombay and back is noteworthy because he was given a set of revolutionary, patented, bower and stream chain cables to test; but he returned home with them broken on the outward journey.  The London Gazette reported on 1st April 1815 that “another East Indianman, the extra ship Java, was driven on shore in the late gales, with loss of anchors, cables and rudder”.  The incident occurred at the Cape, after Henry had left Bombay for the return voyage on 21 October 1814 with 12 passengers.  In order to stem any adverse publicity about chain cables, the manufacturers (Messrs Brunton, Middleton & Co.) wrote a letter to the Editor of the Times, published on Tuesday 11th April 1815, and their letter was accompanied by the testimony of Henry Templer, supporting the merits of chain cables. The letter and Henry’s testimony are attached.

 On 7th May 1816 the broken cables etc were sold by auction at Brixham Pier, after the following advert had been placed in Trewmans Weekly News:

In 1818 Henry took his next command - the PERSEVERANCE (2) (1271 tons).  An entry dated February 18th 1818  in the Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany (Jan – June 1818) records “A Court of Directors [of the HEIC] was held at the East India House when the following Captains were sworn into the command of their respective ships: viz [a list containing…]  Captain Templer, to the Perserverance, bound for China direct”

Henry sailed to China, leaving the Downs on 21 April 1818, arriving at Penang on 1 August 1818, returning via Malacca (10 Sept. 1818), Whampoa (11 Oct 1818) the Cape (21 Feb 1819) St Helena (11 March 1819)  to the Downs on 12 May 1819.  Later that year the Perseverance was sold for breaking up. While abroad, he had been admitted to the prestigious Society of East India Commanders (see notes following) and no doubt his reputation had been enhanced accordingly.  The way was therefore open for him to become his own ship owner and to contract his services to the HEIC instead of being its employee.

In 1822 Henry became the Managing Owner of the BOMBAY (3) (1243 tons)(saleprice not recorded) and he was able to appoint his own Captain for the sea trips, remaining at home to organize the necessary trading arrangements.  The Bombay made five trips in the next 11 years, bringing profits to Henry:

§ 1822/22           to China                                   Captain John Hine
§ 1824/25           to China                                   Captain John Charretie
§ 1826/27           to Madras and China                  Captain John Charretie
§ 1830/31           to China                                   Captain James Kellaway
§ 1832/33           to St Helena, Bengal & China      Captain Thomas Alexander Johnson

 In 1827 Henry purchased the WILLIAM MONEY (834 tons), a charter ship which made two voyages for the Company in the next three years:

§ 1827/28           to Bengal                                  Captain William Barker Fulcher
§ 1832/33           to China and Quebec                  Captain John O’Brien

Henry also purchased the MOIRA (650 tons), another charter ship for the HEIC, which made three trading voyages in the same period:

§ 1827/28           to Bengal                                 Captain Robert Thornhill
§ 1830/30           to Bengal                                 Captain Samuel Beadle
§ 1832/33           to China & Halifax                     Captain Thomas Alexander Johnson

On 30 March 1831 Henry executed an indemnity (cost £46.10) for a £1,000 bond in respect of his ship the William Money (IOR ref. Z/O/1/11), describing himself as Henry Templer, London, Ship Owner.  He was at the height of his merchant naval career and a well known merchant in his own right.

In 1831 Henry expanded his fleet further by purchasing the MINERVA (7) (987 tons), from George Palmer.  He paid £9,400 for the ship and another £2,400 for the Captain’s stores at sea.  Originally built in Bombay in 1812, Minerva had made ten voyages between England, Bengal and China over the previous 19 years – a long time for vessels of the day.  She was armed with twenty 18-pound carronades and carried a crew of just over 100.  She would normally carry about ten passengers in addition to her cargo.

There is an interesting chapter in the biography of Francis Cadell (The Incomparable Captain Cadell by John Nicholson; Allen & Unwin 2004 – ISBN 174114 1087), devoted to Henry Templer and the Minerva, which made three voyages to China and back, with Francis Cadell as midshipman.  Henry apparently took personal command of these voyages, trading in tea to China.

Between the first trip to China (ending 27 April 1832) and the second one (sailing 6 May 1833), Henry appears to have been engaged in a spot of bother! The following article was reported in the Morning Chronicle of October 11th 1832:

“The Magistrates of this office were engaged for some time on Tuesday in hearing a charge against four gentlemen for being concerned in fighting a duel.  The Principals gave their names Captain Yates RN and Captain Templer of 31 Queen Street, Grosvenor Square.  The seconds were Mr Joseph Harefield of 2, Hawthornden Street, East India Docks and Mr C. Rivier, student, London University.  It appears that on Tuesday afternoon a hostile meeting was brought about by the parties in a field adjoining Wormwood Scrubs, where an exchange of shots took place, without either taking effect.  The seconds were engaged in trying to bring about a reconciliation when a constable 108, T Division, who had received information on the subject, came up and took them into custody, except Captain Templer, who afterwards surrendered at the office.

 Mr Rawlinson enquired the cause that led to the meeting.  Capt. Templer said that they were aware that they had offended against the law, and were ready to answer for it; but hoped that no questions would be pressed upon them, which were not absolutely required.  Mr Rawlinson directed all the parties to enter into their own recognizences of two hundred pounds to keep the peace, when they were liberated.

 It is hinted that the cause is of a very delicate nature, and concerns a female of some celebrity in the fashionable world.”

 Henry never married, although there is a suggestion in the Templer family archives that he may have married a Sarah Turson on the day of his death on 4th May 1838.  I have not been able to find any formal record to prove or disprove such an event. (This has now been confirmed - AST see post script)

 The duel and fine behind him, Henry made ready for another trip to China, trading in tea.  At the end of the voyage, the Morning Chronicle on May 12 1835 reported that “The Minerva, Captain Templer, from China, January 18, loaded with tea, has arrived in the Dock”. By now he was an eminent naval captain and his experiences were recorded in several books and journals of the day; for instance, there is also a note inThe India Directory – Directions for sailing to and from the East Indies which reads as follows:  “The Minerva, Captain Templer, passed over a bank to the North Westward of the Sea Horse bank in November 1835, having from 10-17 fathoms water on it”.

 In 1836, Henry sold the Minerva to G. Ireland of London and retired from his career as a Ship Owner. His tea trading is recorded in the letters of William Jardine and James Matheson, co-founders of the Hong Kong trading firm Jardine Matheson & Co. where “for some time he had also been “a merchant, speculating in tea and amassed a considerable fortune”

Henry had been diversifying his interests as his considerable fortune was being amassed.

In 1833 Henry became a member of the Provisional Committee of sponsors for the proposed London and Brighton Railway, to be designed by Messrs G & J Rennie.  The advert of 11 October 1833 (Liverpool Evening News and elsewhere) – enclosed - sought £850,000 of share capital and describe the venture, which was a direct route to London from Brighton, requiring tunnels.

A rival proposal, to be designed by Stephenson, was launched by another provisional committee, suggesting £1M share capital, this line being a circuitous route around towns and villages, requiring no tunneling.

 The arguments for and against each scheme were argued publically over a period of three years. Seldom a week passed by without the Brighton Patriot carrying a front page argument from one side or the other – and sometimes both together in the same issue.  Each committee sought an Act of Parliament for incorporation, and Parliament appointed a military engineer to appraise both schemes (1836). Eventually, the Rennie scheme was favoured and the London & Brighton railway Company Ltd was Incorporated by Act of Parliament in July 1837 and tenders for the works were received just after the coronation of Queen Victoria in July 1838.  Sadly, Henry Templer had died three months previously, on 4th May 1838 at Green street, Hyde Park.  His speculation in the railway had cost him dearly and he had over-reached himself with other ventures and had been declared bankrupt the previous year.    The Hampshire post and others reported his obituary simply as “died 4 May 1838, Capt. Henry Templer, late of the East India Company’s naval service, aged 53”.

Looking at the reasons for Henry’s bankruptcy, I find that in 1834 he had purchased and spent a year speculating on one of the most famous and successful ships in the entire East India Company’s fleet, – the SCALEBY CASTLE(1,242 tons).  She had been built in Bombay in 1798 and been in service for 35 years.  She had 26 guns and the compliment had been 15 Officers and 115 crew.  Constructed in teak, the vessel had undertaken 14 voyages before completing her company service in 1832.


 The East Indiamen 'Minerva', 'Scaleby Castle' and 'Charles Grant'

[Artist Thomas Whitcombe
Date unknown
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 812.8 x 1244.6 mm; Frame: 942 x 1346 x 78 mm

A group of ships belonging to the East India Company are shown in fair weather with Table Mountain, Cape Town, in the background on the right. The ship on the right is shown in starboard and stern view with men in the rigging preparing to lower her sails. The one in the centre is in starboard-broadside view. She flies the red ensign from the peak and signal flags and pennants from her three mastheads. She is firing a salute to indicate that the small fleet is preparing to enter Cape Town. The one on the left, painted as a two-decker warship, is shown in starboard-bow view and also flies the red ensign. Another can be seen beyond her. The basis for the identification of the ships derives from the painting's received title and it is currently unclear. The one in the centre is presumed to be the 'Scaleby Castle' and that on the right the 'Charles Grant'. The 'two-decker' may in fact be a Royal Naval vessel, as it appears, with the 'Minerva' beyond.

The first of the named vessels to enter service with the East India Company in 1806 was the 1,242 ton 'Scaleby Castle' which was built in Bombay in 1798. She had 26 guns and sailed on her maiden voyage with some 15 European officers and 115 Indian crew. Constructed of teak, the vessel undertook a record number of 14 voyages before completing its Company service in 1832. In October 1834, it was sold to Henry Templer for £6,900 and repaired, provisioned and made ready for sea, before being sold to James Walkinshaw for £13,500. The 1,246 ton 'Charles Grant' was also built of teak in Bombay and entered service with the Company in 1810. The vessel undertook 11 voyages to the East before completing its service in 1831. In 1834, it was sold for £8,500 to Messrs Hyde and Lennox.

The 'Minerva', 976 tons, was built in Bombay in 1813 and undertook ten voyages for the Company between 1814 and 1831. In August of that year, the vessel was purchased by Henry Templer who paid £9,400 for the ship and £2,400 for the captain's stores at sea. The three vessels did not sail together before 1829. In 1820, the date of the painting, the vessels may have been together at sea but were more likely to have passed in the Bay of Biscay during May rather than off the Cape, since the 'Scaleby Castle' was actually outward bound for China, while the other two were on the return leg of a voyage that had commenced in early 1819. It is also unlikely that the artist ever visited Cape Town. The scene is therefore almost certainly fictional and the painting was probably commissioned in England to demonstrate three of the Company's most successful vessels at the height of their activities, possibly by someone with a commercial interest or otherwise connected with them.

Whitcombe exhibited several paintings with Cape Town as the background between 1789 and 1818. He was born in London in about 1752 and painted ship portraits, battle scenes, harbour views and ships in storms. Although his output was vast, little is known about him. He produced a large number of subjects from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815, and exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1783 and 1824. His depiction of ships implies specific knowledge of life at sea, although he probably spent most of his career in London. Many of his works were engraved and they included 50 plates to James Jenkins's account of 'The Naval Achievements of Great Britain', published in 1817. This painting is signed and dated 'Th. Whitcombe 1820'. The National Maritime Museum also holds a full-hull ship model of the 'Charles Grant'.]

This 1820 painting by Thomas Whitcombe in the Maritime Art collection at Greenwich shows the Scaleby Castle is in the foreground with the Minerva to the left and the Charles Grant to the right, and the Cape in the background.  A full description of the work is attached.   It is to be noted that the first two of these premier vessels in the HEIC fleet had shaped the career of Henry Templer.

 Henry purchased Scaleby Castle simply as a business venture.  He purchased it for £6,900 on 6 August 1834 and repaired it, provisioned it and made it ready for sea, before selling it on to James Walkinshaw two months later on 11 October 1834 for £13,500.  The ship was then to remain in service for another 13 years before being sold as a hulk at Lloyd’s Coffee House on 1 December 1847.

 The Templer family website states that he was also the owner of the INGLIS (1,321 tons) but Henry’s name does not appear in the history of that ship, which made 11 voyages for the Company under two Managing Owners and 4 different Captains.

 On the other hand, Tony Fuller, in his research of original EIC sailing lists has identified the vessel, the   SIR DAVID SCOTT(1,439 tons) as having been built in England in 1821 by Henry Templer.  Rowan Hackman’s Ships of the EIC contradicts this fact, noting that the Sir David Scott was launched by Jabez Bayley, Ipswich, for Joseph Hare. If Fuller is correct, this would be an important fact, which would identify Henry as a boat builder as well as an owner.  However, given that I have found no other references to Henry as a boat builder, I think we should discount the Fuller note, although of course Henry might have played some part in the design and construction process of the Sir David Scott, but not as the builder of it.

 The Society of East India Commanders was founded around 1773 as something akin to a London club and mutual society for East India ships’ captains.  Henry was elected into membership on 31 March 1819, fourteen years after first being recorded as a Captain in the maritime service of the Hon. EIC..  The entrance fee was five guineas, payable on admission and the Society met monthly at the Jerusalem Coffee House.  In the list of members, compiled by seniority in 1820, he is shown 49th out of 52 commanders. Henry later appears in the list of 12 “Chairman of the Standing Committee” for the year running from January to December 1828.  The 12 members of the Standing Committee were elected by an elaborate system of balloting and each of them held office for one month in the year.  By this means, no particular interest or faction could develop within the Society and, in the event of their being abroad, a replacement could be found relatively easily.  It also ensured that the commanders could fit their duties to the Company in with their duties to the Society and vice versa, no captain being detained in London because of his non-maritime commitments. The Society was a powerful body which represented the views of its members and later negotiated pensions and compensation when the Company lost its tea monopoly in 1833.

 Everybody in the maritime service of the HEIC knew their place and to whom they were both superior and subservient.  Equally, where money was concerned, there was strict differentiation and structures, which depended on rank and status.  The sworn officers were allowed to trade on their own behalf and, to facilitate this, were given a set percentage of space in the hold of their ships for the carriage of their own goods.  If they did not use it all they could sell it on, usually to the Company but also to each other.  This enabled them to compensate for the quite appalling wages that the Company paid them and many of their number accumulated substantial fortunes trading on their own behalf.

  BUCKLAND FILLEIGH:  Another link in Henry’s downfall began in June 1835, in happier times and with his fortune in tact, when Henry had purchased the Buckland Filleigh estate in North Devon.

 The estate had long been the seat of the Fortescue family. It was sold as a single lot by public auction on 9th June 1835 when Henry Templer purchased it for 33,000 guineas (£37,650), including 2,000 acres of extensive woodlands, with timber fit for the navy, estimated at 15,000 guineas.

Henry paid the deposit of £3,905, and the auction duty of £1,010. 12s. ld. The sale took place under a mortgage from Colonel Fortescue to Sir Samuel Spry. Abstracts of title were delivered ; but, in the mean time Henry became a bankrupt, his assignees objected to the title in part, and gave notice that the contract was rescinded, and that the vendor had no claim for compensation, because no title could be made to part of the lawn, consisting of a few roods only, but essential to the enjoyment of the mansion. Subsequently the as­signees brought an action against Mr. Robins to recover the amount of auction duty and deposit paid by Captain Templar; and Sir Samuel Spry allowed the money to be returned without defending the action. Mr. Robins, at a former sitting of the court, applied for the return of the duty; but the commissioners were not satisfied that the vendor could not enforce the sale, and refused to admit, as evidence, declarations taken in the country, under the statute. The case was, therefore, adjourned for the production of viva voce evidence. This evidence was produced and the commissioner ordered the auction duty to be returned.

 Eventually, the estate was resold in January 1838 to Lord Ashburton, who paid £40,000 for it.

 The latest reference I have found for Henry is in Miscellaneous Papers on Trade & Finance (IOR/L/AG/50/5/5) – “Assignment of debts of Henry Templer, concerning in particular silk held by the Company on his account, 1837-1840”.

 Postscript:  the revisions which I have made to my 2007 text are due almost entirely to availability of 17C – 19C manuscripts and broadsheets having been digitized and made available on-line through the British Library / Gale initiative.  I commend the reader to visit the Gale website and to read the actual articles which I have quoted from in this updated account of the life of Henry Templer.

Stuart Drabble  -Jan. 2007/revised June 2008

Henry’s private life is a bit of a mystery in that originally it was thought that he never married. Records have now come to light that he married Sarah Thomas in the February before he died in the May of 1838. Sarah had three children (Alpina, Emily & Laura) born in 1831, 1836 and 1837, who have the surname of Templer. It can only be assumed that his relationship with Sarah couldn’t be formalized because of ‘social class’ but married her when he realized that he no longer had much time to live. If this is the case, it mirrors the case of his cousin George Templer of Stover who married Anne Wreyford, his ‘mistress’ after he was forced to sell Stover House and moved to France.

Henry Templer’s sea chest - This will split in half  for ease of storage

To close any picture press Alt + Left Arrow

Captain Henry’s Sea Chest