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Bedfordshire and Trafalgar

At first one might assume that as a small, landlocked County, Bedfordshire would have few connections with the famous Battle of Trafalgar, which took place 200 years ago on 21 October 1805. However, at least twenty men from the County took part in the battle, and the records of Admiral Baynton - of HMS Leviathan - are deposited here at Beds & Luton Archives & Records Service.

Admiral Baynton

Born in Algiers in 1766, William Henry Bayntun joined the Royal Navy as a lieutenant in 1783 and was promoted to command the sloop 'Avenger ' in 1794, serving in the West Indies until 1804. On his return to England he was appointed to the Leviathan, of 74 guns, which was built at Chatham, and then sent to the Mediterranean to join Admiral Nelson, who was blockading Toulon. He joined the pursuit of the French fleet to the West Indies, where his ship was engaged with the French flagship Bucentaur, and with the Santisima and Trinidada.

He returned just in time for the Battle of Trafalgar, for his part in which he was awarded the gold Trafalgar medal and a Sword of Honour.

His connection with Bedfordshire was through his granddaughter, Charlotte Verity, who lived at at Dean House. Admiral Bayntun was a frequent visitor to the house until his death on 17th December 1840. Records from his distinguished career at sea - including maps and charts, muster rolls and log books - were discovered in the attics at Dean House many years later and deposited here in 1950. The full list can be seen at reference X170 via the 'Search our Catalogues' link above.

The most important document in this collection is the original log book of the Leviathan, which - as the water stains show - was the working copy kept on board the ship throughout the battle. A 'fair copy' of this, transcribed in a neater hand, is held at the National Archives in the Admiralty Records.

Leviathan Log book from October 20 1805 

Above: A page from the Logbook of the Leviathan, 21 October 1805 [Ref.X170/1/2]
Duplicates of the Muster Rolls, including that of the Leviathan, are held at the National Archives at Kew. No Bedfordshire men are listed as crew on Admiral Bayntun's ship, but Bedfordshire men did take part in the battle.

The National Archives has a searchable database of those men who served in the battle.
A search on the database under 'Bedfordshire' lists the following 20 Bedfordshire men :
John Attwood, aged 26, from Luton, Rank: Landsman
James Baker, aged 15, from Bedford, Rank: Boy
William Clarke, aged 31 from Bedford Rank: Able Seaman
Daniel Dimock, aged 20, from Bedford, Rank: Landsman
John Gouge, aged 35, from 'Bedfordshire', Rank: Landsman
Thomas Gowers, aged 24, from 'Pullistone, Bedfordshire', Ordinary Seaman
Joseph Hawkins, aged 25, from Millbrook, Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Joseph Hester, aged 39, from Marston, Rank: Ordinary Seaman
William Holt, aged 25, from Bedford, Rank: Ordinary Seaman
George Housdon, aged 34, from Bedford, Rank: Ordinary Seaman
James Mabbett, aged 17, from Bedford, Rank: Landsman
John Marsden, aged 36, from 'Woobury, Bedfordshire' , Rank: Ordinary Seaman
John Miller, aged 23, from Wilden, Rank: Landsman
Thomas Norman, from Willington, Rank: Landsman
John Palmer, aged 23, from 'Pullington, Bedfordshire', Rank: Private, Marine.
James Sayer, aged 30, from Bedford, Rank: Landsman
James Scoats, aged 22, from Biggleswade, Rank: Landsman
Thomas Shepherd, aged 15, from Bedford, Rank 'Boy'
Thomas Sparks, aged 20, from Millbrook, Landsman
William Watson, aged 23, from Biggleswade

Other records of Nelsons navy held here include a detailed minute book kept by Sir Hugh Inglis of Milton Bryant of a Committee of merchants, shipowners, insurers and inhabitants of London formed to take measures to counteract the Mutiny at the Nore 1797 - 1799 Ref.X52/86.