Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Bart., G.C.B
THE BIRTHPLACE AND BACKGROUND OF NELSON’S HARDY.


Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Bart., G.C.B., was born in Dorset on 5 Apri1 1769, but where? Though his parents, Joseph and Nanny, were both natives of Portesham and from families that were long established there, his maternal grandparents, Thomas and Mary Masterman, had for some years resided at Kingston Russell in the parish of Long Bredy, whence Nanny had been married in 1755, and where her mother and father were buried in 1757 and 1763 respectively. It was thus to Long Bredy that Hardy was brought, when only two days old, for private baptism, and where he was formally ‘recd. into the Church’ on 4 May.[1]

Kingston Russell, a remote corner of the parish, contains only two buildings of note. There is the substantial farmhouse known as Kingston Russell Farm; and there is the handsome seat (since 1544) of the Michels (recognisably a Tudor mansion, though they had impressively rebuilt its east front in the reign of Charles II) which is known as Kingston Russell House. The lordship of the manor and all the surrounding farmland had been the property, since 1560, of the Russells, Dukes of Bedford, who even owned ‘the offices and part of the gardens’ that served the Michel house.[2]

The Mastermans were essentially a family of yeoman farmers (even if Thomas describes himself as a ‘Gent.’);[3] and it is surely likely that they were the tenants of the farm (which in 1840 amounted to some 924 acres), occupying the farmhouse rather than the mansion, and paying their rent to the Duke of Bedford rather than to some absentee Michel.[4] Yet it was with Kingston Russell House that Broadley and Bartelot, authors of the delightful, and still indispensable biography of Hardy that they wrote in the centenary year of Trafalgar, unhesitatingly linked both the Mastermans and the Hardys. Undeterred by the lack of any supporting evidence, they confidently asserted that it had been both the birthplace and the childhood home of the future admiral. Perhaps with justification, they assumed that Joseph Hardy had succeeded to Masterman’s holding there, for his eldest child, another Joseph, was also baptised at Long Bredy, on 5 April 1764, and a ‘weather-worn sundial’, brought back by him to his paternal home in Portesham, was inscribed ‘Joseph Hardy, Esq., Kingston Russell, 1767.’ It seemed improbable to these writers that so small an infant would, for purely sentimental reasons, have been brought to Long Bredy for baptism from another parish, or that his family could have occupied anything other than ‘a mansion of more than ordinary importance’.[5]

However, the evidence of Hardy’s first obituary notice, said to have been ‘compiled from particulars from an “unquestionable source” (probably his elder brother)’, is that he was born, not at Kingston Russell, but at Martinstown.[6] The family were lessees there of Carrant’s Farm, which Thomas Masterman had originally held from William Pitt, Esq., bequeathing his remaining interest in it to his son-in-law Joseph Hardy, in a will which incidentally makes no mention of lands in Kingston Russell. [7] It was in the large, old farmhouse for Carrant’s, ‘built, as it appears by a date over the door, 1654, by Sir Francis, son of Denzil Lord Holles, who sometimes resided here’,[8] that Hardy was no doubt born.

Village tradition has it that, as a boy, he broke his leg in a fall from one of the windows;[9] and it was to Martinstown that he addressed from sea a letter to his brother Joseph dated 6th March 1782 - the earliest of his letters to survive.[10] The family would therefore seem to have been in residence at Carrant’s from before the birth of Hardy until at least 1785, when his father died, and perhaps until 1790, when the lease was transferred to their neighbour William Hawkins from Portesham.

The estate was comprised at that time of about 810 acres of land, including Carrant’s, Stevens’s and Rew Farms, and is designated ‘the reputed manor of Martynstown’.[11] It appears that the Hawkins family duly took up residence in Carrant’s House. A pump was ceremoniously installed to the ancient well behind it in 1806. In 1817, William acquired the freehold of the property, and in 1820 handed over Carrant’s and Stevens’s Farms to his younger son, Charles. Sadly, the old house must by this time have been considered inconvenient or was in a poor state of repair. At an unknown date, Charles instructed builders to demolish it. They were ‘To take down the whole of the old manor house clean and stack away the whole of the old materials and take away all to some convenient place’. His purpose was to erect ‘a handsome and commodious residence in its place’. Specifications were prepared for the various tradesmen. The mason, for example, was to ‘Build all walls with the whole of the old materials on the site finding labour, scaffolding, lime the walls to be grouted every two feet all stone and brick to be found by Mr Hawkins for building the whole of the walls with the exception of the free stone dressings for doors and window string ...’

Charles Hawkins proudly moved into his new house, the Manor House of today, in 1851.[12] The date-stone inserted by Sir Francis Holles, with his initials, had been replaced over the back door, and the fine Jacobean staircase had also been reinstated. Otherwise, only the brewhouse (now used as a garage) and the old well have survived from Hardy’s time. According to local tradition, the original manor-house occupied a position closer to the village street, and, indeed, the great retaining wall which still abuts the Winterbourne is said to remain from it. However, the Tithe Map of 1844 shows a building set well back from the street, approached by a circular driveway, which is more or less on the site of the present house; nor do Charles’s specifications allow for the retention of any part of the building, which is to be rebuilt ‘on the site’.Pilgrims in the bi-centenary year of Trafalgar may at least be confident of seeing walls that were touched by Hardy, and in the exact place that he had known them.

Hardy’s Pedigree. Broadley and Bartelot’s account of Hardy’s ancestry is also in need of correction. The family is reliably traced in the Portesham registers from one Anthony Hardy, whose wife Beatrice was buried there on 16 April 1623. Prior to that date, there are many references to Hardys in local records. They appear on the Muster Lists of 1542 (Thomas) and the Subsidy Roll of 1545 (Richard - who reappears as a churchwarden in 1552).[13] According to one source, a Roger Hardy of Rodden in Abbotsbury was the last Abbot of Abbotsbury at the time of its dissolution in 1539,[14] whilst the earliest of the family on record is probably Henry ‘Herde’ of Abbotsbury, who features on the Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1327 and 1332.[15] There are, besides, many references to Hardys in the registers of Portesham and Abbotsbury from late Tudor times.

Anthony is assumed by Broadley and Bartelot to be the son of John Hardy junior and of his wife Ann, daughter of Nicholas Samways, who were married at Portesham in 1596. (Perversely, they describe John as a younger son of Edmund Hardy, of Toller Whelme, whose younger brother endowed the Dorchester Grammar School and whose family is said to have come out of Jersey.) However, as ‘Anthony Hardy of Portisham, yeoman’, was party to a deed dated in 1614, for which purposes he would have been deemed to be of full age (i.e. born by 1593), it is improbable that he was the son of John and Ann who married in 1596.[16] Anthony is more likely to have originated at Askerswell, where ‘Edith widow of Anthony Hardy senior’ was buried in 1598.[17] This is not to say that, ultimately, the Hardys of Askerswell, Abbotsbury and Portesham, the founder of the Dorchester Grammar School and the poet are not all descended from some distant common ancestor, as was Broadley and Bartelot’s firm belief.[18]

Links to: 1769-1839. Naval Officer ("Nelson's Hardy").
.................Hardy Monument
............ ....Martinstown Village Home Page


[1] A.M. Broadley and R.G. Bartelot, The Three Dorset Captains at Trafalgar (London, 1906), pp.12-13 and Genealogical Table.
[2] John Hutchins, History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3rd edition, II, pp.191-2; Broadley and Bartelot, pp.15-16; Arthur Mee, The King’s England - Dorset (London, 1967), article ‘Long Bredy’; Burke’s Landed Gentry, III (1965), p.978, article ‘Worthington of Kingston Russell’.
[3] Broadley and Bartelot, pp.12, 289.
[4] See the Tithe Map and Apportionment, Kingston Russell, 1840, no.16. The farm (here called ‘Kingston Russell House Farm’) was leased from c. 1800 to c. 1907 to a family called Samson, who initially paid 1,000 guineas to the Duke in annual rent: see Rupert Willoughby, Three Dorset Families (Hawkins, Homer, Wood) (Sherborne St John, 2004), p.21. For an illustration of Kingston Russell Farm House during the Samson occupancy, see John Baverstock Knight, The Duke of Bedford’s Dorset Estate, in the Dorset County Museum (an album of pen and wash sketches, presented by the artist to the then Duke in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition).
[5] Broadley and Bartelot, pp.12-16 and Genealogical Table. Answers should be sought in the Duke of Bedford’s Dorset Estate Books (not consulted) which are in the Devon Record Office, ref.1258.
[6] John Gore, Some Account of the Lives and Married Life of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, G.C.B. (‘Nelson’s Hardy’) and of his Wife Louisa, Lady Hardy (London, 1935), Chapter I, with which Hutchins, II, p.760, and the Dictionary of National Biography, happily concur.
[7] For an abstract of Thomas Masterman’s will, dated 12 Feb 1763, see Broadley and Bartelot, Appendix E, p.289. Significantly, it was at Martinstown rather than Long Bredy that a mural tablet was erected in memory of Thomas and of his wife Mary, stated thereon to have been the daughter of Thomas Rawlins. For a transcription, see Hutchins, II, p.578.
[8] Hutchins, II, p.574.
[9] Communicated to the writer by the late H.P. Manton of Rew Manor in 1982.
[10] Broadley and Bartelot, p.--.
[11] Hutchins, II, p.574; Willoughby, Three Dorset Families, pp.46-52 (and cf. SDNQ, XXXIII, pp.58-75). It is perhaps to William or to his brother, Charles Hawkins of Waddon, that Hardy refers in one of his letters to Joseph, dated at Portsmouth 22 Feb 1827: ‘I am sorry to say that I have so many of my own followers unemployed, that I cannot hold out to Mr Hawkins the least hope of success for his friend’ (Broadley and Bartelot, p.199).
[12] Hutchins, II, p.574; Willoughby, Three Dorset Families, p.49; copies of the original specifications, kindly communicated by Mr Gerald Duke and Mrs Ralph Browning. The Manor House remained in the possession of the Hawkins family until 1962.
[13] Dorset Tudor Muster Rolls, ed. T.L. Stoate (Almondsbury, 1978), p.69; ‘Church Goods, Dorset, 1552’, PDNHAFC, XXVI (1905), p.115; R.G. Bartelot, ‘Stinsford and the Hardy Family’, SDNQ, XIX (1927-9), p.109.
[14] John Kelly, Abbotsbury: The History of a Dorset Village (Norwich, 1987), p.8. However, Hutchins, II, p.718, citing a contemporary authority, calls this personage ‘Roger Rodden, alias Corton’. A family called Rodden was for many centuries associated with the farm of that name in the parish of Abbotsbury.
[15] The Dorset Lay Subsidy Roll of 1327, ed. Alexander R. Rumble (Dorset Record Society, VI, Dorchester 1980), p.115, and The Dorset Lay Subsidy Roll of 1332, ed. A.D. Mills (Dorset Record Society, IV, Dorchester, 1980), p.92.
[16] F.J. Pope, ‘The Hardys of Toller Whelme’, SDNQ, X (1907), pp.70-1. Bartelot does not seem to have been persuaded by the debunking arguments of his colleague. More than twenty years later, in ‘Stinsford and the Hardy Family’, SDNQ, XIX (1927-9), p.109, he still clings to his original view of Anthony’s parentage, whilst happily jettisoning the purported connection with Toller Whelme.
[17] I owe this information to Mrs Brenda Tunks (letter of 9 Nov 1992) who is the leading authority on the Hardys of Dorset.
[18] See the remarks in Rupert Willoughby, ‘Some Observations on the Ancestry and Connections of Thomas Hardy’, SDNQ, XXXII (1989), pp.201-8. For definitive accounts of the poet’s ancestry, see Brenda Tunks, Whatever Happened to the Other Hardys? (Bridport, n.d.); idem, ‘A Re-Examination of R.G. Bartelot’s Version of Thomas Hardy’s Ancestry’, and ‘The John Hardys of Puddletown, Owermoigne and Tolpuddle’, SDNQ, XXXIII (1993), pp.154-6 and 181-94.
Published at the request of and with consent from Rupert Willoughby © 2005. To contact the author press here