James Warden was born in 1736 to Hugh and Sarah Warden. Their Marriage Certificate for the previous year still exists and shows them being married at the Collegiate Church of St. Katherine by the Tower of London. They were living at the time in the Parish of St. Anne’s in Limehouse. although his mother comes from a wealthy family - the Parks, who are later to play an important part in the rise of James Warden.
Limehouse with its position in the Docks of London was an ideal place for the young James to be bought up, especially as his father was a Mariner and his mother’s family has the same background. His Uncle William Parks was mentioned as a Captain in his wife’s Will and both lived in Limehouse with a number of other members of the large family. It was described by Sir John Fielding in 1776 "as a place chiefly inhabited by sailors, where a man would be apt to suspect himself in another country. Their manner of living, sparking, acting, dressing and behaving, are so peculiar to themselves".
James is recorded as attending
Greenwich Hospital School, whose buildings now house The National Maratime Museum. He would have been between the ages of 12 and 14 when he would have taken up the position of Midshipman in one of the many ships that docked in the Port of London. To achieve that position he would have to have come from a good background and no doubt his uncle assisted him in this.
There is a gap now in our knowledge of his career and it is the inscription on the side of his impressive Tomb that provides us with a clue as it details that” He was in 19 engagements during the memorable expedition against the French fleet under the gallant Hawke." This would take us to 1759, when James would have been just 23 years of age. Hawke went on to achieve a victory over a French fleet at the Battle of Quilberon Bay in November of that year during the Seven Years War, preventing a French invasion of Britain. He developed the concept of a Western Squadron, keeping an almost continuous blockade of the French Coast through the war. Again Wardens Tomb mentions that he was there with Hawke at the "surrender by the French of Bell Isle off their coast".
He rose to the rank of Lieutenant, no doubt as a result of his part in these sea battles, a position he was to hold all his Naval Career. After retrurning to these shores he met and married a young lady only known to us as Elizabeth. They were to have their first child, Hannah Parks Warden who was born in 1763 in the coastal village of Wyke Regis, near Weymouth in Dorset. The following year the couple have a daughter, Ann, who was shown as being baptised in the local church.
Records from The Admiralty Archives reveal that his next position in the Royal navy was
as a coastal Customs Officer, apprehending smugglers on the east coast in command of HM Cutter "Adventure",including his presence in Edinburgh in 1764. He sailed from Leith on 15th. October for Portsmouth after receiving orders to enter as many men as possible. The Cutter proved to be leaky and he had to employ a Master Carpenter (Alexander PHILP) at Burntisland to caulk and nail her. He sailed again on the evening of the 25th. In the Downs on 7th. November he reported that with no Master on board he had had to employ a pilot for the North Coast. Once in Portsmouth in December he requested a Master and a Surgeon's Mate. In 1766 the ADVENTURE cutter was based in the Firth of Forth. She was damaged in Leith Harbour at the beginning of August and William EDMOND, Carpenter of the HAPPY, sloop, surveyed the extent of the damage. The damage was confined to the upper works so they could be carried out by John SYME, the Carpenter in Leith. On 29th. November George CLARK, the gunner's mate, was drowned. In March 1767 Thomas RICHMOND, the Master, asked to be replaced due to failing eyesight. In September 1767 Lieutenant WARDEN was superseded by Lieutenant George YOUNGHUSBAND.The Adventure was sold off the following year.
The Public Record Office has thirteen letters from him which cover the time he was Lieutenant on the “Adventure” Cutter. They show him travelling along the coast to ports that include Portsmouth, Leith, Burntisland and Sheerness. They run from December 1764 until July 1767 . It is interesting to see that a son, Wiiiam Weeks Wharton Warden is born at Burntisland, near Edinburgh. As so many of the letters are from there, it may well mean that James and his wife spent some time in that town. They must have returned later to Wyke Regis as there was an entry in their Parish Records detailing the burial of Betty, the wife of James Warden in the year 1773.
He was now just 37 years of age with three young children to bring up. He may well have left the children with his childless Aunt whom he had named his daughter,Hannah Parks after and would eventually be beneficiaries of her Will. A number of letters by him in the Dorset Record Office in Dorchester reveal that from 1774 until 1775 he was sailing to various ports carrying commodities for Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle in Dorset in his Yacht which included Lead,Glass and wine. In February 1775 he was asking Edward to assist him in being appointed to H.M. Cutter Sherborne- a position he did not get, as Edward died in an accident before the year was out.
We now return back to James Wardens Tomb for the next chapter in his eventful life. It records that “on the commencement of hostilities with America he voluntarily came forward to offer his service, and was in the number of those who first landed the British Grenadiers".
A little research shows that must have been in 1776, after his time with Edward Weld, when he would have taken troops to New York before the battle there between the British and Americans.He would have been 39 by then. One wonders what was to become of his three motherless children aged 12, 11 and 10.
We move on now to 1779 when James is in command of H.M. Cutter “Wells”. An incident is recorded of him seizing a Spanish Ship. It was only a quarter of a mile off the coast of Kent when taken and was carrying a cargo destined for a London Merchant in payment of a debt. The merchant had to go to the High Court to get compensation.
On 15th March 1779 H.M. Wells and two armed cutters cruises between the South Sans and Calais to intercept a neutral ship loaded with cannon bound for Toulon. Intercepting neutral merchant ships was just one of the many tasks of the Downs squadron. Ships also had to be deployed to escort vessels carrying flaxseed from Dutch ports to Ireland and Scotland and merchant ships on their way to either London or Spithead.
was to be in this year that James appears to leave the Navy and settle down, when at the age of 43 he marries the local heiress, Elizabeth Crowcher aged 28. Both were widowed. She just a year before on the death of her late husband James after just 8 years of marriage. She is shown as living at Chideock, although her maiden names are Newell Puddicombe, both important Lyme Regis families.
I have as yet not found any records of them in Chideock, but in 1781 they appear in the Land Tax records for that year as renting a house in Charmouth from John Adcock. This property is now known as "Well Head House" at the top of The Street.
One wonders how James met Elizabeth and moved to Charmouth. There are a number of clues. The first is that Elizabeth’s former husband, James Crowcher originated from Wapping, a short distance from where Warden has been bought up. Both may well have known each other before. Another is a letter to Edward Weld dated 6th February 1775 from Lyme Regis, where his future wife’s family lived. Her maiden name was Newell Puddicombe. They were an important family in the town and owned substantial properties including Wood Farm in Charmouth. The couple seem to have settled down in Charmouth and there is no further information regarding his time in the Navy. They are shown as renting Adcocks house and there is a note in the Parish Records of James objecting to Cook standing as Church Warden in 1786. No doubt a sign of things to come with his short temper.
The year 1788 was to be the turning point in James Warden’s fortunes as a result of the death of his Aunt, Hannah Parks in Limehouse. Her Will has survived and in it she leaves substantial properties and money to James, his wife and family. It coincided with the sale of the Manor of Charmouth which included many of its houses and fields by the Henvill’s, who were Plantation owners on the Island of St. Kitts in the West Indies. He was not able to afford all of it and sold all the fields to the north of the Street, to the village Rector, Brian Coombes, which was renamed “Backlands Farm”. This was the same gentleman he took to court the following year with other villagers for taking stones from his beach.
The Wardens were to live in the Old Manor opposite the church, with stables by the side of it. At the same time he started work on a finer mansion at Langmoor on a field that he had bought. His children who were grown up by then must have been living with them as two were to marry local suitors. In 1791 Hannah married William Liddon of Axminster, and her sister, Ann married his cousin, Matthew Liddon, a Captain in the Navy two years before. William Warden was to also seek a career on the seas and reached the position of Commander. James was to attend the wedding of his daughter and records show that he thought highly of his son in law and appointed him as his Gamekeeper in 1790.
It was just four years later that James’s time was to come to an end. He had fallen out with a neighbour, Norman Bond over his dogs barking and their arguing culminated in a duel at Hunters Lodge, near Charmouth. James missed on the first shot and Norman killed him on the return. As a result he fled the country to Jamaica, as it was a criminal offence then. Although he did in time return back.
Elizabeth letters about wanting husband dead
Elizabeth moved into Langmoor Manor with her children and lived there for a further six years before moving at the end of her life to Branscombe to be with her brother, Thomas Puddicombe, Rector of the village. After her death there, her body was bought back and buried by the side of her husband in the stone tomb, still to be seen by the entrance of St. Andrews Church in Charmouth.
Her Will is of interest as it shows substantial properties in Wapping, part of which was left to a family friend, James Pierce and her brother, Thomas Puddicombe. She speaks kindly of her step children and leaves them some of her husbands possessions including a bracelet with his portrait. There is also a ring with his details on which is still treasured by his descendants.
Elizabeth’s daughter was to have five children before the untimely death of her husband in 1803. Her eldest, James was just thirteen in that year, and Ann, 11, Matthew John, 3, Lucy, 5 and Sophia, 7. Although she had inherited the Manor of Charmouth, it became financially difficult for her affording their education and she was forced to rent out Langmoor Manor most of the time and take out a large mortgage on the estate. The year 1812 was to prove an expensive year for her finding the £2000 settlement for the marriage of her daughter, Ann Warden Liddon to Captain Richard Spencer, which resulted in her selling some of her Charmouth properties and taking out a loan with the Rev. Charles Forward.
Tragedy was to hit the family when her eldest son James , a Surgeon in the Navy died at sea in 1830. Two years later she buys a property known as the Stone House ( now called Melbourne House) at the top of the Street and lives there with her family until her death in 1849. Her four remaining children, Ann, Matthew, Lucy and Sophia finally sell the remainder of Charmouth Manor off in an Auction in London where it is bought by a Plymouth quarry man and Baker, George Frean in the year 1853. The Liddons keep their links with Charmouth with Melbourne House, where Lucy and Sophia live to the end of their lives and it is not until 1886 that a descendant sells it. Matthew John Liddon lives his final days in Andover, although he is buried in Charmouth and the Church possesses a fine marble memorial to him.