Captain John Chamberlayne, RN (c.1793-1861) came from a formidable naval background. William R O'Byrne summarised his connections in A naval biographical dictionary published in 1849: [the third and] only surviving son of the late Admiral Charles Chamberlayne, brother of the late Captain Edwin Henry Chamberlayne, RN, CB, first cousin of Admiral Sir Charles Hamilton, Bart, KCB, Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hamilton, Bart, KCB, Captain Charles Chamberlayne Irvine, RN and Lieutenant Charles Henry Ackerley, RN. He was also grand-nephew of James, Duke of Chandos.

The family home was at Mangesbury in Gloucestershire. Neighbours to the Leigh family of Adlestrop, the family knew the Austens and their two daughters Cassandra and Jane. After attending Rugby School, to which he was admitted in 1804 aged 11 years, John Chamberlayne entered the Royal Navy in July 1807.

Serving initially on the Home station, he was removed in 1808 to serve at the Cape of Good Hope. He became a midshipman on HMS Boadicea in May 1810, taking part in the reduction of the Island of Bourbon and the capture of La Venus (44guns). He was at the reduction of Mauritius in 1810. He was appointed acting-lieutenant of HMS Weasel in August 1813, and took part, as officer in sole charge of his ship, in the reduction of the fortress of Zara on the Adriatic. He was confirmed as lieutenant in January 1814 and was paid off the following October. He later served in the Mediterranean (August 1818 to autumn 1819) and the West Indies (October 1820 to spring 1821). He was promoted to commander in August 1828 (presented to William IV at a levee in 1830) and, later, to captain. In 1849 - when O'Byrne published his naval dictionary - Chamberlayne had been on half-pay for 33 years and, since his appointment as commander, had been unemployed.

John Chamberlayne comes to our notice through the marriage, in 1823, of his youngest sister, Cassandra Cecil Chamberlayne, to the Reverend Herbert Smith, recently appointed curate at East Stratton by Sir Thomas Baring, patron of the living. This curious clergyman is the subject of an article - 'The eccentric and reverend Mr Smith': the Reverend Herbert Smith, 1800-1876 - published in The Journal of the Southampton Local History Forum, no.12, Summer 2007. Commander Chamberlayne is first recorded in Southampton in a directory of 1845 (published December 1844) at Latimer House in Bridge Street. His sister, brother-in-law and their young family were then living in Marchwood Barracks, where Herbert Smith was chaplain. In early 1846, the famille Smith moved into Norfolk House in Shirley (near St James's Church), built by Smith a few years earlier as an asylum for the deserving poor.

John Chamberlayne is, by December 1848 at the latest, a member of the Smith household, recorded in the 1851 census with Herbert, Cassandra and their daughter Margaret. It was an alliance made in hell. Within two years the brothers-in-law were at each others' throats. Herbert Smith lay the blame on his brother-in-law who "having spent the chief part of his days in riotous living - in idleness, drunkenness and profligacy - is full of malice and envy against me, whose days have been very differently employed".

The family split up sometime in or shortly after 1855. John Chamberlayne, with his sister and niece, moved to Berkeley Lodge, in Anglesea Road, Shirley, to escape the increasingly irrational husband. A restraining order was issued in July 1858 banning Herbert from trespass on the property of his brother-in-law. This he broke in March 1859 - entering the house one night through the window of the china closet - leading to an appearance before the county bench. The magistrates ordered a medical examination into the state of his mind. Two years later, on 14 February 1861, John Chamberlayne died in Berkeley Lodge. He was unmarried. His sister was by now a patient in Westbrook House, a private lunatic asylum in Alton. She died there thirteen years later. The 1861 census shows Berkeley Lodge occupied by Charles Harcourt Smith, a son of Herbert and Cassandra who had followed the mother's side of the family into the Royal Navy.

Annabella Chamberlayne [Chamberlain] was a sister of John Chamberlayne. It was probably through her brother that she met Charles Telfair, a naval surgeon who had served with Chamberlayne in the Indian Ocean (both had served in the blockade of Mauritius in 1810). Annabella and Charles were married in 1818. Their pioneering botanical work in Mauritius brought them into correspondence with leading scientific figures of the day. Annabella was a botanical artist of note, with her drawings published in Curtis's Botanical Magazine between 1826 and 1830. She died in May 1832. Charles Telfair (1778-1833) is the subject of an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


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