Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Caithness and Bell: A Mystery Solved

A View of Greenwich from Deptford

The names Sturges and Bourne occur several times in the Caithness and Bell family lines. William and Mary Ann Bell had a son named Sturges Bourne; one of James Ramsey Caithness’s sons was Douglas Sturgess (with an extra ‘s’); Charles Caithness named his youngest son Christmas Sturges. There are other examples.

North Front of Chapel and Hall,
Greenwich Hospital
The origin of this distinctive nomenclature had been a mystery
until recent research established that the widowed Ann Caithness (b Scorey) turned to a prominent public figure, William Sturges Bourne, for assistance in obtaining admission for her sons, James and George, to the Lower School, Royal Hospital, Greenwich in 1827.

William Sturges Bourne (1769-1845) was the son of Rev John Sturges of Winchester and Judith Bourne of Worcester. After private schooling and attending Christ Church, Oxford, he pursued a career in law and was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in November 1793. He became an MP in 1798. On the death of his uncle Francis Bourne in 1803 he assumed the name Bourne as a condition of his inheritance. 

In 1818 he gave his name to the Sturges Bourne Act, which rearranged the voting rights in vestries to favour property owners who would thereby gain more control over local Poor Law arrangements. He filled a number of ministerial and administrative posts, being a Lord of the Treasury as well as a Commissioner for Indian affairs and for a few months in 1827, under his friend George Canning’s government, Home Secretary before resigning the office and becoming Commissioner of Woods and Forests. He remained in Parliament until 1831.

Testwood House
William Sturges Bourne died 1 February 1845 and was buried in Winchester Cathedral. His residence, Testwood House, was a large part-Georgian part-Elizabethan building on the River Test not far from where Ann Caithness lived at Totton. 

The Salmon Leap, River Test

Though the house was demolished in the 1930s, the Lodge and Keeper's Cottage next to the river at the Salmon Leap are still in existence.

Ann Caithness had cause to be grateful for William Sturges Bourne’s influence in the matter of her sons’ education. His efforts on their behalf at a critical juncture shortly after their father’s death enabled James and George to place their feet on the first rung of the ladder and eventually to become merchant mariners. Their patron would be remembered by a fitting tribute - the inclusion of his name through succeeding generations of the family.

 Old Royal Naval College gate

William Sturges Bourne's signature on a letter re
the Caithness boys' admission to the Lower School, Royal Hospital,

Tom Sheldon

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