FIR HILL

1765 – 1850

Admiral Charles Powell Hamilton

Introduction

 

Captain (later Admiral) Charles Powell Hamilton bought the copyhold on 9 October 1797 (HRO: 45M69/87b - much damaged), paying £700 (£59,500/£1,010,000/£4,060,000)  for it. He took out a mortgage for that sum at 5% per annum (HRO: 45M69/88) (£2,975/ £50,500/£203,000) and also acquired a lease of some meadows nearby that had previously been owned by Nicholas Purdue-Smith (HRO: 45M69/66).

Life of Admiral Hamilton

 

Admiral Charles Powell Hamilton was born on 26 December 1747, the third and youngest son of Lord Anne Hamilton (though Anne was also a boy’s name at the time - pronounced Ah-neh, it was undoubtedly chosen for him because Queen Anne was one of his godparents) who was the third and youngest son of James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton.

 

Admiral Hamilton was an officer of the Royal Navy and saw active service during the American War of Independence, as well as during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He was posted Captain on 18 May 1779, then Rear-Admiral on 20 February 1797, then Vice-Admiral on 1 January 1801 and finally Admiral of the Red (meaning that he was the most senior admiral in the navy) on 28 April 1808.

 

There is a rather fine portrait of him wearing a red coat with fur trim and holding a book by Milton, painted in either 1770 or 1776 (the date is unclear) by James Northcote, which was sold through Christies London in 2007. Its present whereabouts are unknown. Two other portraits show him in later years.

Family

 

Admiral Hamilton had married Lucretia Prosser in Portsea on 24 May 1777 and they had four children: Hamilton Charles James Hamilton, usually called Charles Hamilton (1779–1856), Augustus Barrington Price Anne Powell-Hamilton (1781–1849), Lucretia Charlotte Susanna Powell-Hamilton (1783–1848), known as Charlotte, and Elizabeth Sophia (b.1785 and presumably dying in infancy).

 

There are portraits of his two sons, also by James Northcote. If there were portraits of his wife and daughter, they are now lost.

Charles Powell Hamilton, attributed to James Northcote, 1770s.

Inscribed: Admiral Charles Hamilton J Northcote Pinx 1770[6?]’ on reverse. Source: Christies

Charles Powell Hamilton, also by James Northcote.

Source: The Peerage, citing Burke’s Peerage & Baronetage, 106th edition, 1999, Volume I, page 1285

Charles Powell Hamilton.

Source: Douglas History

Cousin William, Nelson & Emma

 

It was during the period that the Hamilton family was living at Fir Hill that the house was visited, apparently on more than one occasion, by its most famous guest, Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, who was probably making his way to Portsmouth. That he would have done so makes perfect sense. Not only was Nelson a naval colleague of Admiral Hamilton, but he had a scandalous and very public relationship with Lady Emma Hamilton, a well-known beauty, with whom he had been living in a ménage à trois together with her much older husband, Sir William Hamilton since 1801. That meant that there was a family relationship as well, since Sir William and Admiral Hamilton were first cousins.

 

Also pointing to the relationship between Admiral Hamilton and Admiral Nelson is a surviving exchange of letters dated 1803 between them in which Hamilton asked Nelson to take his younger son, Augustus, as a junior officer on HMS Victory. Nelson declined because he had sufficient officers already. Admiral Hamilton was one of the official mourners at Nelson’s funeral and, according to one account, was one of the pall-bearers too.

 

There is apparently a letter written by a lady who was a guest at Fir Hill in the 1830s that includes a reference to a bedroom with a plaque on the door to commemorate Nelson’s visit(s). The letter states how surprising it was that he had requested the smallest bedroom but that this was because it reminded him of being on board ship. In addition to being small, this may also have been because the walls of the bedroom were at that time lined with plain pine plank panelling. The lady writer also recorded that members of the public visited the house and asked to see Nelson’s bedroom.

 

A smaller bedroom still exists and this is likely to have been the bedroom chosen by Nelson, with Emma and Sir William perhaps sleeping in two of the two bedrooms across the landing.

 

Since Sir William Hamilton died in April 1803 and Nelson was mainly away at sea from then until his own death at the battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, Nelson’s visit(s) to Fir Hill must have taken place in 1801 or 1802 or possibly early 1803 and he would most likely have been accompanied by both Emma and Sir William.

Admiral Hamilton’s will

 

Admiral Hamilton died at Fir Hill on 12 March 1825 at the age of 77 and is buried in a large tomb in the churchyard of St Mary and All Saints, Droxford, on the left of the path as you approach the church from the square.

 

In his will dated 30 August 1821 and accepted into probate on 8 June 1825 (WRO: 13M64), Admiral Hamilton bequeathed 50 guineas (£73,400/£1,380,000/£4,040,000) to each of his three children and left the residue of his estate, including the copyhold of Fir Hill, to his widow, Lucretia. The value of his estate was noted for probate purposes as under £2,000 (£140,000/£2,620,000,/£7,700,000).

Augustus Barrington Price Anne Powell-Hamilton.

Source: The Peerage, citing Burke’s Peerage & Baronetage, 106th edition, 1999, Volume I, page 1285

 

Hamilton Charles James Hamilton.

Source: The Peerage, citing Burke’s Peerage & Baronetage, 106th edition, 1999, Volume I, page 1285

 

Tomb of Charles Powell Hamilton, churchyard of St Mary and All Saints, Droxford.

Research, words and web design by Matthew & Georgy.

 

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