The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

The Right Honourable Sir Thomas Sewell and his Descendants

by Diana Kennedy

This article was originally published in the May 2006 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


This article is a brief collection of biographies of Sir Thomas Sewell and some of his descendents.


It begins with Sir Thomas, Master of the Rolls who died in 1784 and ends with his great great grandson William Fane Dalzell Dalrymple Sewell who died in 1915. Generations in between became, among other professions, Lawyers, Soldiers, Clergymen, writers and sportsmen. They married into notable families, received awards and decorations for their work and their heroism.


The Right Hon. Sir Thomas Sewell (c1710 -1784)


Sir Thomas Sewell, Master of the Rolls, Lawyer, Politician and Landowner, son and heir of Thomas Sewell a lawyer of West Ham, Essex, grandson of John Sewell. Sir Thomas married Catherine Heath, on the 8th April 1740 at All Hallows, London Wall; she was the daughter of Thomas Heath MP. On his marriage to Catherine, he acquired an estate at Stansted Montfichet, Essex that had belonged to his father in law. Then in 1761 Thomas bought a manor at Chobham and the Manor of Ottershaw, Surrey from the Rev. Thomas Woodford. He built Ottershaw Park Mansion in the Palladian style. He also owned the neighbouring Lands of Ford, Bonseys and Durnford Farms. (History of Ottershaw Park)


Thomas Sewell was called to the bar by the Middle Temple on 24th May 1734 and in 1754 was appointed one of the King’s Counsel. He became the Member of Parliament for Harwich in 1754 and then for Winchelsea in 1761. On the death of Sir Charles Clarke in 1764, Thomas Sewell was very unexpectedly offered the place of Master of the Rolls and Privy Counsellor. A position that he accepted on December 12th 1764 and was thereupon knighted. His acceptance of the position of Master of the Rolls came as a surprise to the bar, as his professional income greatly exceeded that attached to the office. He was reputed to be earning between £3,000 to £4,000 per annum and as Master of the Rolls would have received £2500 per annum. (Dictionary of Judges of England 1870)


The Gentleman’s Magazine writes that, Sir Thomas presided most efficiently in his court for twenty years, however in the latter part of his career “he suffered much from those infirmities the anticipation of which no doubt influenced his determination to quit the laborious duties of a leading barrister.” His offers of resignation, due to his ill-health, were ineffectual, the terms he required being too high to be granted. He therefore died ‘in harness’ on March 6 1784 at Ottershaw Park and was buried in the Rolls Chapel. It was said in his obituary that he owed his advancement to unwearied assiduity, good talents, and respectability of character.


Thomas and his wife Catherine had five sons and four daughters. Their sons were, Thomas Bailey Heath (Thomas BH) born 1746, and Robert born 1751, more of them later. Of their other sons, John Edmund Pyke was christened 26 August 1747, All Hallows, and Commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1766. William Luther, christened 15th December 1748, became a JP and was one of the six clerks in Chancery; he died unmarried 23rd November 1832, at Twyford, Sussex. George christened 15th March 1755, at All Hallows, he married Mary daughter of Sir William Young. George became Rector of Byfleet, Surrey and died in 1801 and was buried at Byfleet. Of Thomas and Catherine’s four daughters, the eldest, Catherine was christened 6th March 1741, All Hallows, London. Their second daughter, Fanny Maria, was christened 21st January 1750, at All Hallows. Fanny married Matthew Lewis, 22nd February 1773 at St Martins in the Fields, London. Their son Matthew Gregory Lewis 1775-1818 became a noted writer. There were also two other unnamed daughters, the first married Lt Gen Sir John Whitelocke and another daughter to Gen Sir Robert Brownrigg.


Their mother Catherine died on 17th January 1769 and Thomas then married Mary Elizabeth Sibthorpe, the daughter of Coningsby Sibthorpe of Canwick, Lincolnshire, and Professor of botany at Oxford. Thomas and Mary had one child that died in infancy. Mary Elizabeth died 16th September 1820.


Lt. Col. Thomas Bailey Heath Sewell (Thomas BH)(1746 -1803)


Thomas B.H. was the second child and eldest son of the Rt. Hon Sir Thomas and Catherine Sewell, and was christened 4th July 1746, at St George, Hanover Square, London. As his father had died intestate, Thomas BH inherited the whole of his father’s estates. He later sold the Essex Manor to Charles Boehm, a London Merchant, and continued to live in Surrey. In 1796 he sold Ottershaw Park to Edmund Beohm.  He was made a Lieut. Colonel of the Surrey Light Dragoons, Fencibles, raised in 1794 to thwart any French invasion.


Thomas BH married the Right Honorable Lady Elizabeth Birmingham 17th January 1774 at St George Hanover Sq. London. They had three children, but in 1779 their marriage was dissolved by an Act of Parliament. Lieut. Colonel Thomas BH Sewell JP, died 19th October 1803 and was buried in the chancel of Chobham church. He asked that his motto, Loyalty ever my guide, be written on his tombstone and also to be used by his eldest son.


Of the children of Thomas BH and Elizabeth their were two daughters, Frances Sewell born about 1776 and Elizabeth Blake, christened 21st  June 1775 at St Bartholomew’s London, Elizabeth married the Rev Francis Hawkins Cole. Their eldest child was Thomas Birmingham Daly Henry (Thomas BDH) born in London, 2nd February 1774. Thomas BDH became a Lieutenant of the 4th Dragoon Guards. He married Harriet Beresford, daughter of the Rev William Beresford, Lord Archbishop of Tuam and first Baron Decies, 25th January 1796. Thomas BDH and Harriet had a son Thomas born 1798 at Chobham Surrey, who died in infancy. A second son also Thomas was christened 26th August 1813 at St Mary Marylebone. Thomas, a Lieutenant of the 13th Light Infantry, died 1st August 1831, at Landour, Bengal.


Of Thomas BDH and Harriet’s daughters, Louisa Araminta born about 1805 in Chobham, married Sir William Edward Leeson, 1st October 1826. Isabella born about 1807 married a cousin, General Marcus Beresford, Henrietta Susan born 14th August 1809, in Dorking Surrey, married firstly in 1822, Col William Nesbitt Burrowes from County Meath, Ireland and secondly George Drummond, 9th August 1847 at St Peter, Pimlico. Their fourth daughter Elizabeth born 27th March 1814 married the Rev Solomon Richards; she died 26th January 1861.


In 1800 the claim of Thomas BDH to the title of Lord of Athenry, Ireland, failed, although he continued to live in county Waterford until his death on 20th March 1852. He was buried in Dublin. Harriet died in Surrey 11th June 1834.


Robert Sewell (1751 -1828)


Robert, the son of Sir Thomas Sewell, was christened 13th December 1751 at All Hallows, London. He became a Barrister at Law and married Sarah Lewis 18th November 1775 at Old St Church, St Pancras. The following February they set sail for Jamaica in the company of Sarah’s sisters who were returning to Jamaica. In 1780 he was appointed Attorney General of Jamaica. Robert and Sarah had three sons and two daughters. Robert died at Oakend Lodge, Buckinghamshire 30 April 1828, and was buried 7th May 1828 at St Peter, Iver.


Robert and Sarah’s daughters were Caroline and Fanny. Caroline married John Zachary Fonnereau on 11th May 1822 at the British Embassy, Paris. However John died the same year and Caroline then married the Rev William Whitelocke. Fanny married Edward Chamier 1833 in India. Edward died 1836 and Fanny then married Hamilton Gray in 1838 in India.


The three sons of Robert and Sarah were Robert, William Henry and Henry Frederick. Robert the eldest son of Robert and grandson of Sir Thomas Sewell, was born about 1773.  He became Lieut. Colonel of the 89th Foot and Governor of the East India Company. Robert married Eliza Sirena MacNaughton 15th May 1813 in Madras. She was the daughter of Sir Francis Workman MacNaughton, Bart., and Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Madras. Robert and Eliza’s sons were, Robert Brownrigg Sewell born 1813 in Madras India; he joined the Madras Civil Service and died 5th July 1840 at Carlsbad. Francis Hill Sewell born 1815 Lindfield, Sussex, awarded M.A Caius College Cambridge and was Perpetual Curate of Lindfield Sussex. He married Julia daughter of John Dent MP 16th July 1841 at St George Hanover Square; they had one daughter Laetitia Sarah 1842. Francis Hill died 9th October 1862. Other sons of Robert and Eliza were, Frederick born 1816, who went into Holy Orders in Madras and Arthur Henry Cole Sewell born 1817 Madras, became a Captain in the 47th Bengal N.I. of the Honourable East India Company, Madras.  Arthur married Isabel Jane Woodward and they had one daughter Letitia Sarah. Arthur died 27 Oct 1856 at Mount Aboo, Ragpootana, in the East Indies. Major General Robert Sewell died 20th October 1835, Twyford Lodge, Sussex.


More of Robert and Sarah’s second son William Henry later, their third son was Henry Frederick,

was born 19th December 1790,  in 1803 he joined the Royal Navy and embarked 7th March 1807 as midshipman on board the Africaine, to Copenhagen. He witnessed the surrender of Madeira and conveyed the future King of France to Malta. In 1810, the Africaine on passage to the East Indies took part in the attempted capture of a schooner, two British were killed and 16 including Henry were wounded. This was followed by action with a French frigate.  In December 1811 he was promoted to Lieutenant, while on board the flagship of Rear Admiral William O’Brien Drury. Later he returned to England where he then took charge of a coast guard station. In 1833 he captured a smuggling smack, crew and cargo. On 9th November 1840 he was presented with a gold medal from the Royal National Shipwreck Institution for having saved the lives of the crew of the smack, Sarah, wrecked 21st September 1839 on St John’s Point, Co. Down. On 1 October 1846 he was instrumental in saving the lives of the passengers and crew of the ship Templeman, wrecked off Kilmore. Henry Frederick married Esther Dawson, on 1st November 1819 at the British Embassy, Paris and had two sons Henry Robert William Frederick and John Augustus George Frederick (John AGF) and two daughters, all christened in Calais. John AGF was born 1826 and became a Captain in the 20th Foot and saw action in the Crimea. He received medal and clasp for action in Sevastapool (Crimea) a medal and clasp in Taku Fort, as well as a Royal Life Boat Institution medal.


Sir William Henry Sewell (c1786– 1862)


Sir William SewellWilliam Henry the son of Robert and Sarah Sewell, grandson of Sir Thomas Sewell and brother of Major General Robert Sewell, was born about 1786.


William Henry commenced his military career on 27th March 1806 and in the following year, having been appointed aide-de-camp to General Beresford, accompanied him to the Peninsular War, and joined the Duke of Wellington’s army in Portugal in 1808. He was present with Sir John Moore’s army in its advance and in its retreat from Corunna, Talavera, Busaco and the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz and St Sebastian, the battles of Niville, Nive, before Bayonne, Orthes and Toulouse, besides other engagements of less importance. Having returned from the Peninsular, he proceeded to India, where he served for 28 years.


Lt General WH Sewell was appointed Colonel, in succession to Lt General James Hay, on 24th March 1854. He was immediately knighted. Previous to the 79th Cameron Highlanders embarking for the Crimea War, the new colours were committed to its keeping by Lt Col Edmund James Elliot, on April 21st 1854. (Queens Own Highlanders). This appointment he continued to hold until his death.


William Henry married Georgiana Hacking Hamilton, daughter of John Dalrymple Hamilton, in 1831 St George’s Cathedral, Madras. Their eldest son William Robert Dalrymple was born 1833 in Surrey. He became a lieutenant in the East India Company and died at sea on board the ship Alnwick Castle, on 6th January 1859. Their second son John Dalrymple William was born 7th May 1836. In 1853 he was appointed to the 12th Madras Infantry and in 1857 was serving in China. He married in 1861 but his wife died ten years later in 1871. Having converted to Roman Catholicism and retiring as a Major he entered as a Novitiate at Madras in 1876. He was ordained a Priest in 1880 and became manager of St Joseph’s College, Trichinopoly in 1882. He became a Fellow of Madras University and in 1903 was awarded the Kaisar-I-Hind medal 1st Class, at Delhi Durbar for his work. The Kaisar-I-Hind medal was instituted in 1900, to reward those who had performed useful public service in India, the 1st Class Gold medal being awarded on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for India.


A third son of William Henry and Georgiana was Henry Fane Haylett (Henry FH) born 1838, more of him later. Their other children were Charlotte Fanny Jane born 2nd August 1840 in Madras, died aged 14 months, Julia Helen born 1844, East Indies. She married 30th July 1863 to the Reverent Euseby Digby Cleaver from Ireland at St Barnabas, Pimlico. Their daughter Caroline was born Madras in 1850. Fitzroy Hamilton Spencer was born 1842 in Bangalore, and married Georgina Ottley in 1870, his occupation given as Gentleman. Charlotte Jane Lindsay Cavendish born 1845 married Richard Norton Harper 1872 a Merchant.


General Sir William Sewell died in Florence on 13th March 1862. His grave at the Protestant Cemetery, Florence reads ‘Under this sacred symbol of salvation repose the mortal remains of General Sir William Henry Sewell, CB., Colonel of 79 Highlanders who departed this life in Florence on 13 March 1862’. According to his obituary in The Times, in actions in which the deceased General took part he had six horses either killed or wounded under him. In recognition of his services he was made a CB, afterward a KCB, and had received the war Medal with 10 clasps. (Times Newspaper Mar 24, 1862, pg. 12 issue 24201, col A)

Some doubt has been cast on the parentage of William Henry, a citation in a list of Officers Died ( said that William Henry Sewell was ‘the godson and natural son of William IV’. It is well known that the Duke of Clarence later William 1V had many mistresses. The most notable was Mrs Jordan (the comedy actress Dorothy Dora Bland). By her he had ten children all born at his house in Bushy Park, Surrey. They were born between 1794 and 1805 and christened in the name of Fitzclarence. It is possible that Sir William Henry was born to an earlier mistress and it has been difficult to find his birth. There is also reference to William Henry taking the Sewell name on joining the army.


His widow Dame Georgina Hacking Sewell died in Richmond Surrey 1st May 1872 and was buried in Florence.


Col. Henry Fane Haylett Sewell  (Henry FH)(1838 – 1910)


Henry FH was the second son of Sir William and Dame Georgiana, born 2nd August 1838 at Berwick, Sussex. He became a Colonel in the East Indies, later holding the appointment of Superintendent of Family Payments and Pensions. Colonel Henry FH died 5 Jan 1910 at Winsford, near Woking in Surrey age 71.


On the 7th May 1860, Henry FH married Violetta Anna Burn. They had seven sons, William George Dalrymple, (William GD) the eldest son born 11th March 1861 in Singapore. He married firstly on 1st June 1895 in Valparaiso, to Edith Maud Dalzell who died 28 Jul 1905 in Valparaiso, and secondly Kathleen Augusta. The children of William GD and Edith were William Fane Dalzell Dalrymple (William FDD), I will talk about separately and Dorothy Mary Elliot Sewell. William GD died 21st Jun 1920 in London


The second son of Henry FH and Violetta was Henry Fane Dalrymple (Henry FD) born Madras 17th May 1862. In 1881 he was age 18years a Bank Clerk and living at Llanduff, Glamorgan. He later moved to Canada where he became known as a Poet and writer. His book The King, Canada and Empire was published in 1910. His most notable poem was The Call to Arms, a commentary on the First World War. He married Margaret Amelia Freer on 14th July 1894 in Vancouver. Amelia was the daughter of Cortland Freer. Henry FD died 5th October 1944 and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, Canada.


 Henry FH and Violetta’s other sons were, Robert Frederick Dalrymple born 27th September 1863 and died 1865, in Singapore, Alexander Campbell Dalrymple born 10th May1865, and John Tyndall Bruce Dalrymple born 8th October 1866. John became Assistant Superintendent Police, at Berar; he married 3rd December 1888, to Lilla Sophia, the youngest daughter of the Rev Silas Crosse. Robert Arden Dalrymple, born 27th Jun 1868, Paddington, became a Railway Civil Engineer and married Helena Rona Carter 7th August 1915. He was also a Captain in the Hyderabad Volunteer Rifles and in 1908 received a Volunteer Officers Decoration.


Edward Humphrey Dalrymple Sewell (Edward HD) (1872 – 1947)


Edward HD was the seventh and youngest son of Col Henry Fane Haylett and Violetta Sewell. He was born 30th September 1872 in Lingsugur, India, and educated at the Rectory, Easthope, Shropshire, and later at Bedford Grammar school. Back in India after his education he became a Civil Servant.


His achievements were on the sports field and in writing. He was known as a good rugby footballer, playing for Blackheath and Harlequins, but was most notable as a cricket player. On his return from India he became a professional cricket player for Essex. In 1904 he reached his highest score under the Capt. W.G Grace, 181 at Crystal Palace against Surrey. For the MCC against Whitgift School at Croydon he had an innings of 142 of 162 in 50mins. It was said that some hits exceeded 150 yards, 147 yards were recorded when he played in Madras. He was also said to be a medium paced bowler and splendid fieldsman. Later he was coach to young players at the Oval for Surrey CCC, and played for Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, also acting as County’s secretary for the latter. His final first class march for the MCC was in 1922. More of his cricketing career can be found in Soul Search December 2005 in an article by John Saul. He wrote for various newspapers, as well as many books on both cricket and rugby. His first book was published in 1911, and he continued to write up until his death in 1947. Among his many books were ‘From a window at Lords’, The log of a Sportsman’ and ‘Who won the Toss?’


He married his wife Annie, nee Sharpe, who was born in Darjeeling, in India, and their only son Douglas Arden Dalrymple Sewell, was born on 11th October 1895 in Coonoor, India. Douglas attended Dulwich College Boys School. Edward HD died 20th Sep 1947 in Paddington, London. His obituary in the Times newspaper wrote of his achievements as a writer and player, both of cricket and Rugby football Death of EHD Sewell (Times Newspaper, Friday 26 Sep 1947,) A friend wrote that he had a kindly and gentle disposition; an alert mind was a good man and a good sportsman.


William Fane Dalzell Dalrymple Sewell

(William FDD) (1896 – 1915)


William FDD was the only son of William George Dalrymple Sewell and Edith Maud, and grandson of Col Henry Fane Haylett Sewell, great grandson of Sir William Henry Sewell and great great grandson of Sir Thomas Sewell. He was born Valparaiso, Chile, on 24th March 1896. He came to England in May 1906, and was educated at Mr Charles D Pridden’s at Walton-cum-Felixstowe, Suffolk and then Lancing College, Shoreham-on-Sea, Sussex. He joined the Officer Training Corp at Lancing College and rose to be Bugler and Lance. Corporal in the band.


In 1913 he began working for the Railway Service. On the outbreak of the First World War he enlisted on the 4th September 1914, as a Private with the 4th Battalion of Seaforth Highlanders and left for France on 5th Nov 1914. The Seaforth Highlanders being the first Highland Territorial unit to cross to France. William FDD was killed in action, having been hit by a shell, at Neuve Chapelle on 11th March 1915, while his battalion were pushing forward an attack in front of the Bois de Blez.


The highest testimony to William FDD aged 19 years, was from his superiors and comrades. A comrade wrote ‘He was popular and brave soldier, and we miss him exceedingly’. The officer commanding of B Coy. Wrote ‘He was a good soldier, and always carried out his orders promptly and well. We buried him on the field of battle’. His Major wrote ‘Young Sewell is shaping well, is a favourite and will be a fine soldier. We’ve got our eye on him.’ His Colonel wrote ‘The boy’s associations with the regt. Were of the very best kind from start to finish, and it was a very real pleasure to do anything I could for him as regards his commission…. The last time I saw your dear son alive was when I took him to see our General about his commission. Would that it had been possible for him to have got his commission before the fight. I know he would have made a good officer and done well for his King and Country.’  From his civilian life, his chief superior on the Great Northern Railway wrote ‘I deeply regret the tragic end of so young and promising a life. Your son was a most likeable fellow, and everyone with whom I placed him spoke most highly of his capability and personality. I can only hope you may be consoled by the thought that he died like a man, and in furthering the great cause so near to all our hearts. His letters are typical of all that is best and bravest in British youth.’ (Roll of Honour)


The above has been gathered using various sources from English records such as IGI, Parish records and census, as well as many Indian records. Many thanks to Sole Society member, Judy Wright for all the help and information she has given me on this family over previous years.  n

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