The Life of John Hawkins (1780-1833) The bells were ringing as a small group of people walked up the hill to the parish church of St. Mary's in Litton Cheney. It was the 4th January 1781 and John HAWKINS a 34 year old yeoman farmer from nearby Looke Farm, his wife Agnes and their two year old son, James had walked to Litton for the baptism of their new baby. Accompanying them was Agnes's father, James Hawkins, who had lived an active life as a blacksmith and victualler and was the inn-keeper at the New Inn in Litton where he had lived all his life. This was the first baptism in the village for two months so probably many locals joined in to see the little baby being named John. In 1793, aged just 13 years of age, the young John said goodbye to his family and friends and travelled to Portsmouth where on the 24th March his name was entered in the books of His Majesty's Ship Culloden as a captain's servant. During his time on board the Culloden he witnessed a mutiny in 1793 following which six sailors were hung from the yardarm, took part in the 'Glorious First of July', the Battle of Cape St Vincent, Santa Cruz where Nelson lost his arm, and the Battle of the Nile in 1798 - all before his 20th birthday. In 1800 he passed his lieutenant's certifiate and whilst serving on board the 16 gun brig, Atalante, he was involved in a cutting out expedition at Quiberon Bay which earned him a Lloyds Patriotic Sword to the value of £50.00. In February 1807 the Atalante ran aground on the Ile de Ré and Hawkins and about half the crew were rescued. After that horrifying experience he served on several ships until he was taken ill whilst serving on board the Electra at Newfoundland in 1812. He made his way home and recovered but by then there were many redundant officers and he was put on half-pay and never served again. When seeking a new ship after 1812 he wrote to the Admiralty saying he was a 'poor naval officer' and he had a 'growing family'; there appears to be no evidence of this being so. Upon his return to Dorset he found that his parents were running the inn at Litton Cheney together with a brother William and sister Elizabeth. In 1820 a certain James Hawkins was committed and brought to court on he 20th September for smuggling. He was described as being 5' 5" tall with brown hair, grey eyes, and a fair complexion with a cut over the left eyebrow. He was a married man from Melcombe Regis aged 39 and he was imprisoned in Dorchester Gaol until £100 be sooner paid. There is no knowing if this is John Hawkins' brother as the date of birth does not correspond, but Hawkins would have had infinite knowledge of seamanship, free-trading was rife in this area and he was certainly bitter towards the authorities. John Hawkins died in 1833 and The Dorset County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette recorded his obituary - "July 24 1833, at Piddletrenthide, sincerely lamented by his disconsolate widow and numerous friends, John Hawkins Esq. Captain of the Royal Navy, aged 52. He was universally esteemed by his brother officers and the men under hiscommand; and was an active and brave officer. In 1803, being First Lieutenant of the Atalante, he cut out and otherwise destroyed three vessels full of troops at anchor, under the enemy's batteries in Quiberon Bay. For this meritorious achievement, his only reward was a sword from the Patriotic Fund, accompanied by a vote of thanks, as a testimony of their approbation of his gallant conduct, as copied in the London Gazette. In 1830 this brave defender of his country was placed upon the list of Retired Commanders." In 1834 his mother, Agnes died at Litton Cheney and his brother, James, died at Tindeton. James's wife and eight children, the youngest of whom was only four, left their home presumably because the breadwinner had died, and trudged to Fordington near Dorchester where they lived in the notorious Mill Street. In later years cholera struck the family and Sarah, James' wife, eventually died as an 82 year old pauper in 1862. On the 25th March 1838, John's wife Elizabeth Hawkins died from apoplexy. Her will reveals that she died a rich woman without any living children. For the wife of a 'poor' naval officer with a 'growing family' this seems very strange and perhaps gives credence to the smuggling theory especially as the village of Piddletrenthide, where John and Elizabeth lived from at least 1830, was well known as a storage centre for contraband. In her will she instructed her cousin, John MILLMAN of the Naval Hospital in Plymouth, to arrange to ship to her sister Sally DUCHEMIN, te wife of Watson Duchemin, pump and blockmaker of Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island, a chest containing many of her effects: a gold watch, jewelery, silverware, her wedding ring, holy bible and clothing etc. Both John and Elizabeth were buried at Piddletrenthide but only the bottom half of the stone can be found and that has been used as a path! The graves of a number of the Hawkins family can be found at Litton Cheney. I inherited the Hawkins watch from my grandmother, Cissie TOWILLS who in turn had been given it by her father, James Hawkins Towills whose mother was Ann Pearce Hawkins, the daughter of John Hawkins's brother. The Lloyds Patriotic Sword is in the Nelson Collection at Lloyds in London. In the 1980s Lillian Duchemin, a descendant of Watson and Sally Duchemin made contact and she had, in her possession, the original packing slip that accompanied the chest shipped out to Prince Edward Island by John Millman. Watson Duchemin was a very clever man and took out the first ever patent for the roller bearing and in his spare time he built pipe organs, one of which has been renovated and is in use at the University of Charlottetown John Callcut
HMS Culloden - aground at the Battle of the Nile
HMS Atalante at Quiberon Bay - October 1803
HMS Atalante in calmer times
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