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Henry Plowman (1779-1842)
of Dorchester

Royal Navy Surgeon

© Compiled by Michael Russell OPC for Dorchester July 2015
(Last updated Dec 2016/Jan 2017 following new information supplied by descendant Stephen J.F.Plowman)




His Memorial in St Peter's Church Dorchester
© Picture by Michael Russell OPC for Dorchester 2012

1. His Ancestry

His grandfather was the Revd: John PLOWMAN BA. (1695-1768), the son of William PLOWMAN of Winterbourne Steepleton in Dorset and a graduate of Wadham College in Oxford where he matriculated on 4 Apr 1712 at the age of 17 (1). He was awarded his BA Degree at Christchurch in 1716 and immediately joined the church being ordained a deacon at Christchurch Cathedral in Oxford on 27th May 1716. On the 8th Sept 1716 he took up an appointment as curate of St Peter and St Paul's Church in Mapowder in Dorset. He was not ordained as a priest however until 25th May 1719 (2) (also at Christchurch Cathedral in Oxford) when he was made Vicar of Tolpuddle a position he retained until his death in 1768 (3). He married Mary CHAPMAN (d.1745) also from Tolpuddle, at Blandford St Mary on 11 Feb 1723 (4) and they are reputed to have had 8 children, the last being Henry's father John Plowman shown below(5). His grandmother Mary was buried at Tolpuddle on 14th Feb 1745/6 followed by his grandfather on 25th Jan 1768. His grandfather left a will (6) which shows that he was a wealthy man with interests in many properties (particularly at Burleston) which he distributed amongst his children.

His father was John PLOWMAN MA (1741-1784) and had been baptised at Tolpuddle on 28th Oct 1741. He also became a graduate of Wadham College in Oxford (1) having matriculated there on 4th April 1759 at the age of 17. He was awarded his BA degree in 1763 and MA in 1765. He was ordained a deacon at the Grosvenor Chapel in Middlesex on 18th March 1764 and the following day, nominated by his father, he was licenced as a curate to serve the cure of Tincleton in Dorset. On the 29th March 1770 he was appointed Vicar of Toller Porcorum, a position he held until his death there in 1784 (2). John married twice, firstly to Mary WARREN at Dulverton in Somersetshire on 16th July 1767. Under his marriage settlement he was to receive £1,000. He had two children by her both named John Warren Plowman, the first being born in 1768 died the same year, the second born in 1771 lived until 1799 inheriting £1,000 from his father. Mary died young, being buried at Tolpuddle on 28th June 1775. John soon re-married at Toller Porcorum on 7 Nov 1776 to a spinster named Elizabeth GOLLOP from the parish of Holy Trinity in Dorchester. They have 4 more children between 1777 and 1782, the second being Henry Plowman the subject of this biography. His father wrote a long will which he signed on 27th Jan 1784 and was proved at London on 22nd May 1784.

Henry PLOWMAN (1779-1842) was baptised at Toller Porcorum on the 17th June 1779 (1) , the 2nd son by his fathers second wife, Elizabeth nee Gollop. As far as I know his first few years were spent with his parents and siblings at Toller, but being from a wealthy family he would have attended private school from an early age. This was usually from around the age of 8 where he would have studied in preparation for university or some other form of education or apprenticeship - usually attained between the ages 14/18. The most logical place for him to have gone would have been the Free Grammar School in Dorchester, but I have not managed to locate any records which would confirm this. The next firm evidence regarding him is his career in the Royal Navy.
2. Royal Navy Career (1801-1815)


He presumably received some form of medical training in his youth as he joined the Royal Navy serving initially in 1801 as Surgeon's First Mate on HMS Orion. From 1804 he went on to serve on many ships of war as a surgeon - details given below:-

HMS Orion (Picture left licenced for re-use under the creative commons licence)
Surgeons 1st Mate - 31 Mar 1801 to 10th July 1802

HMS Orion was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched at Deptford on 1 June 1787. The Picture left shows a model of the Orion held at the Vancouver Maritime Museum

By the time he joined HMS Orion she had already taken part in all the major actions of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars under a series of distinguished captains.

On the 15th of January 1802, whilst still on board the Orion which was anchored at Spithead, Henry wrote his first will (8) in which he leaves everything to his widowed mother Elizabeth nee Gollop. This will, pictured right, is signed by Henry and witnessed by the Orion's Captain R Cuthbert and Mr Perry the Master. It was forwarded to the Admiralty under cover of a letter which stated "Enclosed I send the Will of Henry Plowman of His Majesty's Ship Orion, under my command for your inspection, and pray your forwarding a cheque accordingly. I am Sir, your most obedient Honourable Servant, Signed John Beddinfield Esq - Orion Spithead Jany 15th 1802"

On 21st October 1805 after Henry had left the Orion, now under Captain Edward Codrington, she took part in the Battle of Trafalgar where, with HMS Ajax, she forced the surrender of the French 74-gun ship Intrépide which they scuttled.

HMS Prince
Surgeon's 1st Mate - 13 Apr 1803 to 5 Jan 1804

HMS Prince was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 4 July 1788 at Woolwich. She also was later present at the Battle of Trafalgar.

HMS Thunder B8 (12)
Surgeon - 26 Jan 1804 to 4 Sep 1805

I had some difficulty identifying this ship. There are a number of vessels that were named HMS Thunder over the years but the only one in 1804 appears to have been an 8 gun bomb vessel which the Royal Navy purchased in 1803 (originally called the 'Dasher' which they renamed HMS Thunder). If this is the correct vessel it was smaller than the previous vessels he had served on, but that might be because it was his first posting as ships surgeon (12).

HMS Amphion
Surgeon - 5 Sep 1805 to 30 Nov 1807

HMS Amphion was a 32-gun fifth rate frigate of the Royal Navy and was launched on 19 March 1798. Recommissioned in 1803 she later transported Horatio Nelson to the Mediterranean to take command of the fleet. After the battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, Amphion was at the blockade of Cadiz. On 25 November, Thunderer detained the Ragusan ship Nemesis, which was sailing from Isle de France to Leghorn, Italy, with a cargo of spice, indigo dye, and other goods. Amphion shared the prize money with ten other British warships so Henry Plowman would have benefited as well.

HMS Barfluer
Surgeon - 7 Mar 1808 to 15 May 1809
(See Also 2nd appointment 6 Oct 1811 below)

HMS Barfleur was a 90-gun second-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy launched at Chatham Dockyard on 30 July 1768. In about 1780, she had another eight guns added to her quarterdeck, making her a 98-gun ship; she possessed a crew of approximately 750 and was a ship of long service and many battles. In 1808, under Capt. D. M'Cleod, she served as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Charles Tyler and was engaged in the blockade of Lisbon and also as the escort to Plymouth of the first division of the Russian squadron commanded by Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin. Henry Plowman's medical journal which he completed whilst on board HMS Barfleur survives and his held at the National Archives at Kew (11). It covers the period 9 March 1808 and 8 March 1809, during which time the said ship was employed in Portsmouth Harbour, Spithead, off the River Tagus, Vigo Bay, Corunna Harbour, Cawsand Bay and off Cadiz. On the 14th January 1809 HMS Barfleur also acted as a hospital ship to receive the military wounded of the battle of Corunna.

HMS Triumph
Surgeon - 16 May 1809 to 10 Aug 1810

HMS Triumph (picture left out of copyright) was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 3 March 1764 at Woolwich. Henry Plowman joined the ships company as surgeon on 16th May 1809.

Following a hurricane on on March 4, 1810, that lasted 4 days, two British ships, HMS Triumph and HMS Phipps, salvaged a large load of elemental mercury from a wrecked Spanish vessel near Cadiz, Spain. The bladders containing the mercury soon ruptured and the mercury soon spread about the ships in liquid and vapour forms. The sailors suffered with neurological compromises: tremor, paralysis, and excessive salivation as well as tooth loss, skin problems, and pulmonary complaints.

Later, in 1823, William Burnet MD published a report on the effects of Mercurial vapour. The Triumph's surgeon, Henry Plowman, had concluded that the ailments had arisen from inhaling the mercurialized atmosphere. His treatment was to order the lower deck gun ports to be opened, when it was safe to do so; sleeping on the orlop was forbidden; and no men slept in the lower deck if they were at all symptomatic. Wind sails were set to channel fresh air into the lower decks day and night.(14)

HMS St Albans
Surgeon - 24 Nov 1810 to 1 Oct 1811

HMS St Albans was a 64-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 12 September 1764 at Blackwall Yard, London. She had a distinguished history having served in the American War of Independence from 1777 and been part of the fleet that captured St Lucia and won victories at Battle of St. Kitts and The Saintes. By the time Henry Plowman joined her however HMS St Albans was being used as a floating battery.

HMS Barfluer
Surgeon - 6 Oct 1811 to 27 Oct 1812

Henry was appointed a second time to HMS Barfleur on 6th Oct. 1811 serving until 27th Oct. 1812 with Captain Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy (1769-1839) in command.

HMS Ramillies
Surgeon 2 Nov 1812 to 28 Aug 1815

On 18th June 1812 President James Madison of the United States signed the declaration of War against Great Britain. In August Captain Sir T M Hardy took command of the RAMILLIES which was being sent to North America and Henry Plowman also transferred to the Ramillies arriving on station on 2nd November 1812. Hardy,led the fleet that escorted and transported the army commanded by John Coape Sherbrooke which captured significant portions of eastern coastal Maine (then part of Massachusetts), including Fort Sullivan, Eastport, Machias, Bangor, Castine. However, on 10 August 1814, a landing party from Ramillies was defeated at Stonington, Connecticut. The party was to have burned Stonington Borough and the shipping, but was repulsed.

During the Battle of North Point, a composite battalion of Royal Marines , from HMS Tonnant, HMS Ramillies , HMS Albion and HMS Royal Oak were landed, under the command of Brevet Major John Robyns. The two fatalities were from HMS Ramillies.


3. Marriage to Mary Elizabeth KIRKHAM - 1817


Having completed 11 years active service in 1815 HMS Ramillies became the last ship that Henry Plowman served on, before he married. He settled in the parish of St Marylebone in London and on 10 Dec 1817 married by licence to Mary Elizabeth Kirkham (1782-1820) in her home parish of Winterbourne Houghton in Dorset The likelyhood is that Mary was born in Winterbourne Houghton around the year 1782 but unfortunately parish registers have not survived. (15) .

They returned to London to live at 9 Portman Street and Mary soon gave birth there to a baby girl on 11th Sep 1818,whom they named Emily Mary Plowman. She was duly baptised the following month at St Marylebone on 9th Oct (16) . Unfortunately Emily died at the age of 8 months being buried there on 27th May 1819 (17) . A year later Mary herself died when she still only aged 38 and buried there on 17th July 1820. (18)

4. Marriage to Frances Louisa TAUNTON - 1822



Henry PLOWMAN soon re-married on 14 Mar 1822 to Frances Louisa Taunton (1800-1857) at Bradford Peverell (20). It is clear from his will that she came from a wealthy family and they had a marriage settlement dated 7th March 1822 under which all her property both real and personal was settled on their respective lives and after their death on their legal issue. Frances was the 7th of 9 children of Thomas TAUNTON (1769-1822) of Wrackleford in Dorset by his wife Agnes SABINE (1767-1844) of Muckleford.

They lived at 9 Portman Street, Portman Square, London until 1826. Thereafter he spent one or two years on the Sussex coast, where he was employed as Surgeon RN, visiting such places as Littlehampton, Bognor, Goring, Worthing etc.. This began about February 1827 and ended on 19 Sept. 1828 when he retired on half pay for life. About Michaelmas in the same year he and his wife went to Charminster in Dorset, and there they resided until the first week in April 1831, when they began residence in South Street, Dorchester. As a medical man of some repute Henry Plowman's views were soon being sought by members of the Corporation who were responsible for the administration of the town. In July 1834 he was a member of the committee set up to look at the proposed railway between Dorchester and Weymouth. In 1836 he was closely involved in the setting up and running of the 'Dorchester Dispensary'. He sat on the committee responsible for drawing up the code, rules and regulations to be followed and on 3rd December 1838 is listed in the Sherborne Mercury as as one of the 160 people who subscribed to the fund established to run the dispensary. Like many others he retained a vote on the board by paying an annual subscription of 1 guinea. In 1838 he was elected as one of the guardians of the Dorchester Union (for the parish of Winterborne Herringston) and is listed in the Register of Voters for Dorset (32) In 1839 he was made a member of the building committee, with the dispensary opening for business in 1841.

He was also subscribed to and was involved in setting up the Dorset County Hospital and on 16th March 1841 elected as a member of the first management committee.

Henry and Frances had 3 children:-

    (4.1) Thomas Henry Plowman MA (1830-1911) Said to have been born on 7th he was baptised at St Mary's Church in Charminster on 28th March 1830 (21) . He was a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge where he matriculated on 12th Jan 1849. He is shown as a student at the college in the 1851 Census (22) and was awarded a BA degree in 1853 and his MA in 1857 (23) . Clearly of independent wealth he is described as a fund holder in the 1861 Census whilst visiting with his younger brother William at his GP practice in Cornwall (24) . He married Mary Carter SMITH in Lewisham on 4th Feb 1862 (25) and they moved to Bath in Somerset to live but she appears to have died following childbirth as she gave birth to a daughter Ruth Plowman on 8th Feb 1865 who died the following day followed by Mary herself on the 16th of the same month (26) . Thomas, now a widower, continued to live in Bath at various lodgings the last being at 68 Puletney street. He died however at Cleveland Kew-Road, Kew Gardens in Surrey on 23rd Feb 1911 (27)

    (4.2) William Taunton Plowman MD, MRCS, GP (1831-1865) He was baptised at St Peters Church in Dorchester on 5th April 1832 and trained to be a doctor, initially as a student at Kings College London (28) . From there he attended St Andrews University in Scotland where he obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree. He became a member of the College of Surgeons in London and became a general practitioner in St Austell Cornwall. He married in 1859 to Catherine Ann HARDSTAFF at Taunton in Somerset by whom he had a son William Henry Monckton Plowman born at St Austell. They moved to live in Brisbane Queensland Australia but William died at sea on 20th April 1865. Administration of his estate of £600 was not granted to his widow however until 1871 by which time she had remarried to James Alexander ROUSE of North Curry Somerset.

    (4.3) John Herbert Plowman MA (1836-1890) He was baptised at St Peters Church in Dorchester on 24 Mar 1836 and also became a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge where he matriculated on 27th Apr 1854 at the age of 18. He was awarded his BA degree in 1864 and MA in 1866. He joined the church being ordained a deacon by the Bishop Lichfield in 1859 and as a priest the following year. Appointed curate of Lee-Brock hurst Salop 1859-61; Rector of St John's Toronto Canada 1862-5; Curate of Heytesbury Wiltshire 1866-79. Domestic Chaplain to Lord Heytesbury 1877-190. Died 28 Mar 1890.
Henry Plowman was buried on 7th March 1842 in a new family vault in the centre aisle of St. Peter's Church (there is also a small mural tablet to the memory of him and his second wife on the south wall of the church a picture of which shown at the start of this account of his life). Henry wrote a second will just after the birth of his first son which was dated 31 Jul 1830. This was later proved by his widow Frances on 25th April 1842. In the 1851 Census taken on 31st March that year, Frances is shown as visiting her sister, Margaret Sophia, and her husband, Rev John Hamilton Williams, the Vicar of Kempston. On 19th August that year she made her annual subscription to the 'Dorchester Dispensary' (which she continued to do despite her husbands death) when she gave her address as 9 Fitzroy Square in London. She died however at Kempston on 27th Feb 1857.



Floorslab in St Peter's Church Dorchester
© Picture by Michael Russell OPC for Dorchester 2012

Genealogical Notes:-

(1). Oxford University Alumni 1500-1886
(2). Church of England Clergy Data Base - Clergy record for John PLOWMAN also John PLOWMAN his son
(3). Parish Register images on ancestry.com for the Parish of Tolpuddle 1741 & 1768 - also OPC transcription - 1768 described as the late Vicar of this parish
(4). Parish Register images on ancestry.com for the parish of Blandford St Mary 1723 - also OPC transcription - both described as being from the parish of Tolpuddle in Dorset
(5). Parish Register images on ancestry.com for the Parish of Tolpuddle show 8 births to the vicar between 1724 and 1740. Their first child was also named John Plowman but was born and died in 1724.
(6). Bristol Consistory Court Ref Bc/W/P/96 available to view for members on ancestry.com under their "Dorset, England, Wills and Probates, 1565-1858" file
(7). PROB 11/1117 available to view at ancestry.com under their file Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills 1384-1858
(8). National Archives Kew: Will of Henry PLOWMAN Rank Surgeons First Mate on HMS Orion Ships Pay Book No. 125 Dated 15th Jan 1802 ADM/48/73/153 (Note:- I have added this reference to the account of the Orion on Wikipedia - R Cuthbert was appointed Captain of the Orion on23rd Nov 1801)
(9). The Naval Chronicle : For the year 1808 Page 174 States: "Mr Leyton Rees is appointed surgeon of the Alexandria; Mr Henry PLOWMAN, surgeon of the Lion; ----etc
(10). National Archives Kew. MS 11936/488/983802: Insured: Henry Plowman 9 Portman Street apothecary. Insured: Henry Plowman 9 Portman Street apothecary Date 11th Oct 1821. (Not viewed no access)
(11). National Archives Kew. ADM 101/89/2/1 - Journal of HMS Barfleur by Henry Plowman, Surgeon, for 9 March 1808 and 8 March 1809, during which time the said ship was employed in Portsmouth Harbour, Spithead, off the River Tagus, Vigo Bay, Corunna Harbour, Cawsand Bay and off Cadiz. HMS Barfleur also acted as a hospital ship to receive the military wounded of the battle of Corunna.(Not viewed no access)
(12). HMS Thunder: I am also not sure of the abbreviated entry after the ships name shown in the image provided of his service record - This looks like 'B8' Perhaps referring to a 'Bomb Vessel' with 8 guns?
(13). Other Sources:- Private Family Tree Descendants of the Rev. William Plowman B.A. of Dorset born c.1647 - died 1712 Prepared by Stephen J F Plowman TD
(14). This report was also referred to more recently in 'The quicksilver prize: Mercury vapour poisoning aboard HMS Triumph and HMS Phipps' by M.J.Doherty published 23 Mar 2004.
(15). Marriages solemnized in the Parish of Houghton (i.e. Winterbourne Houghton) Dorset in the year 1817: Page 6: Entry 16 Henry PLOWMAN Esq of the parish of Saint Mary le Bone in the County of Middlesex and Mary Elizabeth KIRKMAN of this parish were married by licence 10th Dec 1817; both signed in the presence of Thomas Fitzherbert; M.W.Plowman (His younger sister Mary Warren Plowman (1782-1863); Mr Pirdell? ): There is a baptism for a Mary Elizabeth Kirkham the daughter of Lionel & Ann Kirkham at Batsford in Gloucestershire on 14 Dec 1781 but I have no way of knowing if this is her.
(16). London Baptisms for the parish of Westminster London Baptisms for the 9th Oct 1818 Entry 2132 in the register "Emily Mary daughter of Henry & Mary Elizabeth PLOWMAN abode St Marylebone; occupation of father Surgeon born 11th September
(17). London Burials for the parish of Westminster London Baptisms for the 27th May 1819 Entry 855 in the register "Emily Mary PLOWMAN abode St Marylebone; buried 27 May; age Child
(18). Parish Register for St Mary-Le-Bone in the County of Middlesex Page 144 of the burial register for the year 1820 entry 451 "Mary Elizabeth PORTMAN" abode St Marylebone; buried 17th July; age 38
(19). Parish Registers for Toller Porcorum Christenings 1779: "Henry the son of John PLOWMAN Vicar & Elizabeth his wife - June 17th"
(20). Parish of Bradford Peverell in Dorset Marriage Registers Page 5 Entry 15: Henry PLOWMAN Widower of the parish of Saint Mary le Bone in the county of Middlesex and Frances Louisa TAUNTON spinster of this parish were married by Licence 14th day of March 1822 , both signed in the presence of RC Sabine and A Taunton.
(21). Parish Baptism Registers for Charminster for the year 1830 Page 33 Entry 259 Baptised 28th March Thomas Henry son of Henry & Frances Louise PLOWMAN resident at Charminster occupation Surgeon by Rev R.Stone
(22). 1851 Census All Saints Parish Cambridge abode Trinity College Thomas Henry PLowman unmarried age 20 a student born Charminster Dorset
(23). Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900
(24). 1861 Census for St Austell Cornwall Bodmin Road William Taunton Plowman, Head married age 29 MD St Andrews MRCS London Lal London General Practitioner born Dorchester Dorset ; Catherine Ann Plowman wife married age 26 Medical; Mans wife born Shirland Debyshire; William Henry Monckton Plowman son unmarried age 8mborn St Austell; Thomas Henry Plowman Visitor unmarried age 31 Fund holder born Charminster
(25). GRO Marriages 1862 1st qtr Lewisham Ref 1d 784
(26). GRO Births Ruth Plowman 1865 1st qtr District of Bath Somerset Ref 5c/767 : GRO Deaths 1865 1st qtr Bath Ref 5c/579: GRO Deaths Mary Carter Plowman 1865 1st qtr Bath Ref 5c/580
(27). National Probate Calendar: 1911: PLOWMAN Thomas Henry of 68 Pulteney Street Bath died 23rd Feb 1911 at Cleveland Kew Road Kew Gardens Surrey. Probate London 6th April to Arthur Clement Plowman and Thomas Alexander Mc Donald Plowman Esquires effects £8,209. 9s 7d.
(28). 1851 Census St mary-le-Bone Westminster Middlesex; Kings College London; William Taunton Plowman a student unmarried age 18 born Dorchester Dorset
(29). The List of Persons entitled to vote in the Election etc for Winterbourne Monckton Namne: Plowman, Henry Abode South Street Dorchester Nature of qualificatiuon Copyhold House , Cottage and Land Situated: Monckton Village
(30). Parish Burial Registers for St Peter's church in Dorchester for the year 1842: Entry 424 Henry PLOWMAN abode St Peters buried 7th March age 62 by Rev Morton Colson Rector
(31). British Newspaper Archives: (a) 1821 3rd April Morning Post "Surgeon Henry Plowman attended the quarterly meeting of members of the Naval Charitable Society which took place at the Thatched House Tavern in St James Street (b) Dorset County Chronicle 3rd Mar 1842 also Hampshire Advertiser 5 Mar 1842 and Sherborne Mercury 7th Mar 1842 :- " Died March 1st at Dorchester Henry PLOWMAN Esq aged 63"
(32). 1838-9 as voter (No. 5498) qualifying by the "Lease of Land for Years" with a Robert Phelps listed as tenant.
(33). 1841 Census South Street St Peters Dorchester HO 107/294/7
Henry Plowman age 60 to 64 Sugeon R.N. Y; Frances Plowman age 40 to 44 Y; Thomas Plowman age 11 Y; William Plowman age 9 Y; John Plowman age 5 Y

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