Trafalgar Square, Sunderland
An edited version of the following appeared in the newspaper Sunderland Echo on Tuesday 13 October 2009. I had no responses to the article.
Thomas Page Wardle – veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar
Thomas Page was born in Sunderland in January 1772, the son of Thomas and Martha Page – the surname being Page. Its likely he became a crew member on boats out of Sunderland. His first marriage was to Mary Gibson in November 1789 and they had two children Robert Wardle in 1791 and Elizabeth in 1793 in Sunderland. Between 1793 and early 1795, either Mary died or Thomas left his wife and took the name Thomas Page Wardle/Wardell (1).
On 1 January 1795 he received the King’s bounty of five pounds for volunteering to enlist in the Royal Navy. His first ship was the HMS Victorious and Tom was promoted to Able Seaman in March 1795.
Tom was probably on board the Victorious when it was part of the small fleet that attacked and captured the then Dutch colony of Cape Town in late 1795. Britain was concerned about the possibility of France establishing new bases around the world. Cape Town was a strategic location and Britain needed to ensue the security of its routes to India and the East Indies.
The Victorious then spent the rest of her time in the warm climates of the East Indies before being broken up at Lisbon in 1803. Many of the crew, including Tom, transferred to the newly launched 36 gun frigate, HMS Euryalus in August 1803. In November 1803 Tom was promoted to Yeoman of the powder room.
Euryalus’ first action was in October 1804 when, captained by Henry Blackwood, she took part in the assault on French vessels off Boulogue Pier.
In September 1805 the Euryalus sailed from Spithead in company with Lord Nelson in HMS Victory to join the blockading squadron off Cadiz. Euryalus was the leading frigate of four watching the movements of the combined French and Spanish fleet at anchor in Cadiz harbour.
The enemy fleet sailed from Cadiz on 20 October and was shadowed by the four frigates with Euryalus reporting the enemy’s position to Lord Nelson in command of the British Fleet sailing beyond the horizon to the west.
Battle of Trafalgar
Nelson decided to attack the combined fleet the next day. His plan broke with tradition by dividing his fleet into two groups, both to attack the enemy line at right angles. During the briefing of captains by Nelson, Captain Blackwood proposed that Nelson transfer from HMS Victory to the faster Euryalus so as to better observe and control the battle. But Nelson declined, and said to his friend “God bless you, Blackwood, I shall never see you again.” Blackwood was a witness to Nelson’s will.
Euryalus and the other three frigates took on the role of supporting the larger ships during the battle. Late that afternoon she took under tow the badly damaged HMS Royal Sovereign, and turned her so that she could engage the French ship Formidable.
Blackwood was on board the Victory when Nelson died in mid afternoon. Second in command Admiral Collingwood transferred his flag from the damaged HMS Royal Sovereign to the Euryalus, which became the flagship of the British fleet.
After the battle Euryalus took on survivors from the French battleship Achille. Blackwood also received the surrender of the Spanish ship Santa Ana. Euryalus later sailed into Cadiz Harbour so that negotiations could take place regarding the exchange of prisoners. On 31 October Euryalus sailed for Portsmouth with the French Admiral Villeneuve as a prisoner.
For his part Tom received his Parliamentary Award of £4 12s 6d. It appears he did not claim his prize money of £1 17s 8d. Many years later the Government decided to award the Naval General Service Medal with the Trafalgar Clasp to any living sailor who had been part of the Battle. This offer was made in 1848 and ceased in 1851. From the register (Class 171/1, page 187) it would seem Thomas or a member of his family had to go to Newcastle to take delivery of the medal.
Less than two months after the Battle, on 12 December 1805, Tom married a local girl Jane Mahone at Portsmouth. In 1806 his promotion to Captain of the Forecastle was confirmed and Tom remained with the Euryalus until 1809 when he transferred to HMS Leydon. By 1811 he was the ship’s Boatswain’s Mate and later served on HMS Royal William, HMS Victory, and HMS Fly.
Tom, with Jane and their two children, returned to Sunderland in about 1815. When their children Martha, Sarah, Margaret and Elizabeth were baptised during the years 1824 to 1831, Thomas was working as a keelman. The River Tyne was too shallow for large ships so small squat boats, known as keels, were used on the river to transport coal to the collier ships. Each keel was manned by a skipper, two crewmen and a boy. This work was physically demanding and most men only worked on the keels to their forties. When dressed to go out, the keelmen would wear a blue jacket, a yellow waistcoat, bell-bottom trousers and a blue bonnet.
Tom and Jane’s children were Charlotte (born Portsmouth 1810), Arundel (born Portsmouth 1814), Thomas (born Bishopwearmouth 1817), William (born Sunderland 1818), Jane Page (born Sunderland 1820), Martha Page (born Sunderland 1824), Sarah (born Sunderland 1826), Margaret Ann (born Sunderland 1829), and Elizabeth (born Sunderland 1831). Thomas Page Wardle, infant, of Wearmouth, was buried in the parish of Bishopwearmouth on 7 January 1818.
In 1841 they were living at Trafalgar Square in Sunderland. The buildings making up the Square were built in 1840 in recognition of the seafaring men of Sunderland and is today administered by the Sunderland Aged Merchant Seaman’s Homes.
The later records relating to Thomas describe him as a pensioner. It is not known who was paying the pension. He appears not to have served long enough to receive a navy pension, so perhaps it was a local seaman’s pension.
Tom, the veteran of Trafalgar, died in March 1856 at the grand old age of 86 years. One can visualise Tom spinning his yarns about the battle to all who listened, including his grandson Tom, son of William (2).
Young Tom became a sailmaker and decided to see the world. He first sailed to New Zealand, married Mary Little in Auckland in 1867, then to Sydney for several years, where their son Sydney was born. Tom and his family returned to New Zealand where more children were born. In about 1885 the Wardle family sailed to Fiji where their last child was born. Then to San Francisco for about ten years, before settling in Perth, Western Australia in the mid 1890s. Their son Sydney did not go to the USA with his parents but settled in Sydney. He used the spelling Wardell while the others used Wardle.
The above was written in 2009 with minor amendments in 2011 and 2012.
The photograph above is of a memorial commemorating the 66 Sunderland sailors who took part in the Battle of Trafalgar and was unveiled on 15 September 2010 in Trafalgar Square, Sunderland. Thomas’ name appears on the left hand side ninth from the bottom.
(1) The link between Thomas Page Wardle and Thomas Page has been deduced from the way Thomas’s details have been recorded in the baptism entries relating to his children, his age given in the Navy and Census records, and several other sources. Addition in January 2012 – Diane Porter found the following on ancestry.com in the National Probate Calendar (Index to Wills and Administration) 1861-1941 – Administrations 1864 –
….. PAGE, Thomas, otherwise WARDELL Thomas Page, otherwise PAGE Thomas Wardell, 26 March, Letters of Administration of the Personal estate and effects of Thomas Page otherwise Thomas Page Wardell otherwise Thomas Wardell Page late of Seaham Harbour in the County of Durham, Greenwich Pensioner (formerly Boatswain) in the Royal Navy, a widower deceased who died 18 March 1856 at Seaham Harbour aforesaid were granted at Durham to William Page otherwise William Wardell of the Borough of Sutherland in the said County Master Mariner the son of the said deceased he having been first sworn.
This confirms the deduction stated above.
(2) Tom’s son William was a merchant seaman based in Sunderland. He first went to sea as an apprentice in 1834 aged 15 years; known ships he served on were Medina 1835-38 , Hinda (Mate 1857), Vanguard (Captain 1858), Wakefield (Captain 1859-60) Humility (Captain 1860), and Richard Mount (Captain 1865-66). After retiring from the sea William was an innkeeper in Sunderland. William and Elizabeth (nee Murphy) married in 1840 and had two sons, Their first, Joseph Thomas, was born on 7 December 1840. Later he was known as Thomas Wardle.
Thomas Page (later Wardell/Wardle added)
Bapt 12 January 1772, Sunderland, Co Durham
Died 18 March 1856, Seaham, Co Durham
Father, Thomas Page
Mother, Martha ?
married 1, Mary Gibson, 4 November 1789, Bishopwearmoth, Co Durham
1, Robert Wardle Page, bapt 14 August 1791, Sunderland
2, Elizabeth Page, bapt 7 May 1793, Sunderland
married 2, Jane Malone/Mahone, 12 December 1805, St Mary’s, Portsea, Hampshire
3, Charlotte Wardell, bapt 25 November 1810, St Mary’s, Portsea
…. married George Moffat, 15 September 1828, Sunderland, Co Durham
4, Arundel Waddell, bapt 1 February 1814, St Mary’s, Portsea
5, Thomas Page Wardle, bapt 22 June 1817, Bishopwearmouth, Co Durham, buried 7 January 1818
6, William Page Wardell, born 11 November 1818, bapt 14 July 1819, Sunderland, died 9 March 1881, Whickham, Co Durham
…. married 1, Elizabeth Murphy, 3 February 1840, died 29 January 1861, Sunderland
…. 1, Joseph Thomas, born 7 December 1840, Sunderland
…. 2, William Edward, baptised 31 January 1847
…. married 2, Ann Eliza Emmerson, 5 April 1863, died 7 December 1888, Monkwearmouth
7, Jane Wardle Page, born 17 October 1820, Sunderland
…. married William Pringle Anderson, 10 December 1839 under the surname Wardell
8, Martha Page Wardle, born 14 January 1824, bapt 8 February 1824, Sunderland
…. married ?, 1844
9, Sarah Wardell, born 11 March 1826, bapt 16 April 1826, Sunderland
…. married ?, 1845
10, Margaret Ann Page Wardell, born 5 January 1829, bapt 8 February 1829, Sunderland, died Lanchester, Co Durham, 1883
…. married 1, John Hodgson, 1846
…. married 2, Nicholas Lockey, 25 May 1856, Lanchester, Co Durham
11, Elizabeth Wardle, born 15 March 1831, bapt 1 May 1831, Sunderland
Nothing is known about the background of Martha ?, Mary Gibson and Elizabeth Murphy, except that Elizabeth’s father was recorded as Edward Murphy.