Lieutenant Colonel Richard Gubbins (22 July 1781 - 2 January 1836)

Younger of the Gubbins Brothers, Officers and Gentlemen.

About 1770, Mary Watts, younger sister of John Constable's mother, married a successful London builder and surveyor, James Gubbins of 25 Surrey Street, Strand, who worked for the 5th Duke of Bedford and Sun Fire Office. Eventually they retired to a house at Epsom, taking a lease on The Hylands, later known as Hylands House, in New Inn Lane, for 21 years from 21 May 1804.

In addition to their two sons, the Gubbins had two daughters Anne Elizabeth, born 6 February 1774 (who died unmarried, 20 January 1852) and a youngest child, Jane (deceased, as the widowed Mrs Archer-Burton, 28 March 1858).

In 1806, Mr Gubbins had been consulted about proposed building works and alterations at St Martin of Tours Church and he was brought back to survey its roof during 1811.

After James Gubbins senior died on 7 June 1814, aged 69, John Constable R.A. made a touching drawing of his uncle's monument in St Martin's churchyard surrounded by iron railings* with spike heads and classical vases. In Constable correspondence during July 1814, it was written "Mrs. Gubbins and her daughters continued for the present to live in their large house in Epsom, having been left well off". The widowed Mary Gubbins occupied The Hylands 1815/1816 but was with her family in Southampton when visited by Constable during his honeymoon in October 1816, and she had moved out of Epsom completely before 27 May 1817. She died 22 May 1827, aged 75, and was interred at Epsom 'from the parish of Southampton' on 29 May. Her will, proved 21 January 1828, described her as 'Widow of Epsom', but, because her health had been poor for some years prior to her demise, she had spent considerable time with her daughter Jane. On 2 September 1817, the latter, 'of Southampton', had married Lancelot South [who subsequently changed his surname to Archer-Burton] from Latton, Essex and they lived in the old family home at 25 Surrey Street, Strand, London, before moving to Woodlands, Emsworth, Hants.

On his mother's side of the family, the artist John Constable had 11 male cousins who entered military service including the Gubbins' sons James and Richard with whom he had been brought up as a child.

Richard Gubbins

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Gubbins
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Gubbins
Painting by John Constable
Image courtesy of

During 1799 Richard volunteered as an Ensign in Second Royal Regiment of Tower Hamlets Militia. He entered the 37th Regiment of Foot with the same rank on 1 January 1803 and became a Lieutenant a month later, in each case 'by purchase'. He transferred to 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot, as a Lieutenant, in 1804 and was promoted to Captain in 85th (Bucks Volunteers) Regiment of Foot, 1813, (having been selected by the Duke of York when the Regiment was reorganised during that year to become Duke of York's Light Infantry, and in an unprecedented step all the officers from the 85th Regiment were replaced by officers from other regiments*).

His cousin, Ann Constable, wrote in a letter of February 1813 to her brother, the artist John Constable, that Richard Gubbins "has been lucky in exchanging his Regiment, which prevents him from going to India - a most desirable event to himself and all his is not unlikely but he may meet his brother James in Portugal or Spain."

In 1813 the 85th Regiment embarked for the Peninsula where they fought Napoleon's armies in the siege and capture of St. Sebastian, the battles of the Pyrenees, and at Nive and Bayonne in the fall and winter of 1813. Afterwards they were sent on to America to try to end the War of 1812. They were at the battle of Bladensberg in August 1814 and the capture and burning of Washington.

Capture and burning of Washington
View from the Potomac River, of Washington, D.C. under attack
by British forces under Major General Ross, August 24, 1814
Image source Library of Congress

On 12 September 1814 the command of the regiment devolved upon Bt. Major Gubbins, (Col. Thornton, Lt. Col. Wood, and Major Brown, having been left at Washington, the severity of their wounds not admitting of their removal)

Richard Gubbins was appointed Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on 29 September 1814 having been left to command his Regiment through the loss of so many other officers.

It is reported "At the Battle of New Orleans, in January 1815, the 85th was part of a joint force under the command of Colonel Thornton and was considered to be the flanking brigade. Their job entailed being ferried across to the west bank of the Mississippi to flank and break the American line on that side of the river. This would do two things, keep the American batteries there from firing enfilade against the British advance on the east side of the river and provide the British with a line of fire into the American rear. After being ferried across, though critically delayed, Colonel Thornton attacked with the minimum of preparation and forced the Americans to fall back. He quickly mounted another all-out bayonet charge to great success, thanks to a decisive 'left hook' by the 85th Regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Gubbins. [At this period the regiment was actually commanded by Major Deshon, and the detached force by Bt. Lt. Col. Gubbins. This force was, immediately after its success, ordered to recross the river and join the troops on the left bank.] However, though they had captured the American line the collapse of the British attack on the eastern shore made the victory nugatory and Thornton was ordered to spike the American batteries and withdraw. The Battle of New Orleans ended in a significant American victory. Richard Gubbins, 'their Colonel', was wounded in the action."

Battle of New Orleans
By Herbert Morton Stoops

Brevet Major (later Colonel) Richard Gubbins had commanded the 85th at Baltimore and for much of the New Orleans campaign.

"The Battle of New Orleans, Jan. 8th, 1815. The British force sailed for Jamaica in October 1814 and here joined a new, larger expeditionary force under Sir Edward Packenham. Their goal was the city of New Orleans - not only to inflict severe economic damage on the USA but also to draw US troops away from the Canadian frontier. The initial operations and advance went very well but the attack on the strongly fortified city was a disaster. A series of simple frontal assaults against the heavily entrenched and well-armed forces of Andrew Jackson were defeated with great loss. Packenham and 2,000 British troops were killed, for a loss of only 21 Americans. The 85th played no part in this. They were detailed to cross the Mississippi and capture enemy gun emplacements enfilading (firing into the flank of) the British force as it advanced. The batteries were easily overwhelmed and the 85th remained in that position as the battle unfolded across the river. With the final defeat of British attempts to break the American defence lines, the 85th re-crossed the Mississippi and joined the general withdrawal to the fleet. It later transpired that the battle had been fought after the signing of a peace treaty between the USA and Great Britain. The 85th arrived back in England on May 9th 1815."
From 15 June 1815 Richard is found serving as a Major in 21st Foot but by 1817 he was on 'half pay'. John Constable had remarked in a letter written during 1815: -"Our cousin, Colonel Gubbins, is preferred above fifty other field officers to command the light companies of the army in Paris"; he had "returned to Southampton by 1 March [1816]".

The Historical Record Of The Twenty-First, or Royal North British Fusiliers shows: -
"1815. ... embarked from Monkstown on the 5th of July, landed at Ostend on the 17th, and proceeding up the country under Lieut.-Colonel Maxwell, joined the army, commanded by Field-Marshal the Duke of Wellington, at Paris.

1816 Having been appointed to remain on the Continent, and to form part of the Army of Occupation in France, the regiment marched to Compiegne, and occupied several villages in the neighbourhood of that place, where it was joined, on the 9th of January, 1816, by a detachment from the second battalion. On the 13th of January, 1816, the second battalion was disbanded at Stirling; transferring the men fit for duty to the first battalion. Towards the end of January, the regiment was removed to Valenciennes, and in October was reviewed, with the Army of Occupation, by Field- Marshal the Duke of Wellington. On the death of General the Honorable William Gordon, Lieut.-General James Lord Forbes was appointed Colonel of the regiment, from the Fifty-fourth foot, by commission dated the 1st of June, 1816.

1817 A considerable reduction being made in the British contingent of the Army of Occupation, the regiment proceeded to Calais, where it embarked for England, and landed at Harwich on the 2nd of April, 1817."

Throughout the following year Richard Gubbins remained a Major but, from 1 April 1818, with the 75th Regiment of Foot that served for periods in the Mediterranean. For eight months during 1818/9 he went on to act as commandant of the garrison and civil governor of the town of Parga in Greece until the enclave was ceded to the Turks in May 1819.

His marriage on 18 October 1819 by Licence, at 'Mary la bonne' church was described as between Lieutenant Col. Gubbins, 75th Regiment of Foot, 'of this Parish' and Mary Breton of All Saints, Southampton. She was the third daughter of the late Peter Breton, Esq. of Southampton (elsewhere, 'of the island of Jamaica'). Peter Breton of Kingston, Jamaica, had married Lucy, sister of Thomas Goldwin, in about 1787/8, and that union produced 10 children. Thomas Goldwin, West India Merchant, late of Jamaica, had died at Vicars Hill, Lymington in 1809.

Richard Gubbins appears in an Army List for 1824 with a substantive rank of Major, effective from 1 April 1818, in the 75th Regiment of Foot. Before 1823, when the regiment was ordered to leave Corfu, however, Gubbins had assumed temporary command acting as Lieutenant Colonel. The Morning Post of 14 June 1824 announced: - "The 75th Regiment commanded by Colonel Gubbins (at present at Windsor [where it had been for 4 months]) will be conveyed for duty at Dublin". Therefore, it was as a Brevet Lieut. Col. that Richard Gubbins became Lieutenant Colonel in 67th Foot on 8 July 1824 by purchase 'vice Mackay who retires'. Some doubt has been expressed whether he actually took command of the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot in India. This Regiment was stationed at Poona, southeast of Bombay in the Maratha, but in 1826 it returned to England for Home service. On its return they were rewarded by King George IV with permission to add the Royal Bengal Tiger, the word 'India' and the figures 21 to their Colours and Badges. The London Gazette 12 June 1826 records: - "Brevet Colonel N. Burslem from half-pay 14th Foot to be Lieutenant Colonel vice R. Gubbins who exchanges".

It is uncertain when Mrs Mary Gubbins, nee Breton, died but a transcription has been discovered of a tombstone in the British Cemetery on the Greek island of Zante/Zakynthos noted as "? Gubbins/d. illegible/Wife of Col. Gubbins 73rd Regiment". Zante was part of the 'United States of the Ionian Islands' formed 1 April 1817 with Sir Thomas Maitland as its first High Commissioner. He and Richard Gubbins, with the rank of Lieut. Col., were together involved in the Parga affair mentioned above and there is evidence that the 75th rather than 73rd Foot had been on the Greek islands at the relevant time. Consequently, it appears Gubbins' first wife died between 1820 and 1823 - very young, since according to family tradition, as a bride she had been 'a 19-year old beauty of large fortune'.

On 28 September 1825, at St James Westminster, Richard married for a second time to Sarah Shard (b.1792 - death 1867) only daughter of the late Charles Shard of Lovell Hill, Berks. A letter from John Constable dated 7 September 1825 had remarked: - "Called at Hamlet's for my medal, met there Richard Gubbins; he was looking at some beautiful bracelets, no doubt for his lady. My poor girl had none of these pretty things, but they go but a little way towards happiness, nor do they always insure a good husband; but Richard will make a good husband, he is so good a son".

On 14 November 1826 the officer's address was given as Harley Street but his son and heir, Richard Shard Gubbins was delivered at Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square, London. A daughter, Sophia Gubbins, was born in Belmont, Hampshire on 23 April 1830. "Colonel Richard Gubbins" took out insurance on Bellmont (sic) near Havant in Hants, 9 September 1830.

On 26 September 1831 Richard was awarded a CB in the Most Hon. Military Order of the Bath, whilst on half pay attached to 14th Foot as he had been since 1826. The 1/14th (Buckinghamshire) Regiment that had itself returned from India during 1831 was stationed at Albany Barracks on the Isle of Wight. In 1832 it went to Haslar Barracks, Portsmouth before a posting to Ireland. An obituary in United Services Journal, however, dated Lieut. Colonel Gubbins retirement from active service to 1824 whilst an Army List for 1835 showed that he had been placed on half-pay from 25 May 1826.

In November 1834 the letters of the Constables began to refer to hopes that "Richard may mend". The Colonel, however, died on 2 January 1836, 'after a long and distressing illness', aged 54. His address given at entry No. 650 in the burial register for All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green, 9 January 1836, was Upper Norton Street, St Marylebone. There is also a MI* at St Martin's, Epsom. Will proved 10 February 1836 - National Archives ref. PROB 11/1857

Obituary from Gentleman's Magazine 1836: - Jan. 2. Lt.-Col. Richard Gubbins, C.B. of Belmont Lodge, near Havant. He was appointed a Lieut. 1803, to 24th foot 1804; served in 1809 as Aid-de-camp to Lord Walsingham on the staff of the Yorkshire district; Capt 85th foot 1813, Brevet Major and Lt.-Col. 1814, Major 21st foot 1815, and of 75th 1818. In 1815 he served in America, and commanded his regiment in the operations against New Orleans, in the dispatches from whence his name was very favourably mentioned.

Evidently the mansion of Belmont near the village of Bedhampton had only been held on a lease and the occupation of 'Mrs Colonel Gubbins' was to be terminated before 12 May 1837. Sarah Gubbins from 59 Westbourne Terrace, Paddington joined her late husband in Kensal Green Cemetery, 13 August 1867, aged 74 [Death reg. Kensington 9/1867]

Brian Bouchard © 2010
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society

* Ewell Library 929.5 EPS The graveyards and church monuments of Epsom Iron railings have been removed from the tomb. Inscription reads: - "Beneath this Stone are deposited the mortal remains of James Gubbins Esq. of Epsom who departed this life on 7th day of June 1814 Aged 69. Also to the memory of his son Captn. James Gubbins of the 13th Dragoons who was killed on the 18th of June 1815 in the battle of Waterloo in Flanders. And likewise beneath this Stone are deposited the mortal remains of Mary the widow of the above named James Gubbins Esq. who departed this life on 22nd day of May 1827 Aged 73 years. And it is also Sacred to the memory of Lt. Colonel Richd. Gubbins C.B. who departed this life 2nd January 1836 Aged 54. His mortal remains are deposited in the Catacombs of the Cemetery at Kensall Green, Middlesex"

** Copy of a Letter addressed by Field Marshal His Royal Highness the Commander in Chief, to Lieutenant General the Earl of Rosslyn, or General Officer commanding the Kent District, dated

Horse Guards, 22 Jan. 1813.


I have to transmit, herewith, my separate letters conveying a communication of the Prince Regent's approval and confirmation, in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, of the finding and sentences of the several Courts Martial which have been held within these few months, upon the Officers of the 85th Regiment, whose names are stated below;*** and I have to acquaint you that His Royal Highness was pleased to remark, that from the whole tenor of the proceedings of the above mentioned Courts Martial, but particularly of those on Brevet Lieutenant Colonel M'Intosh, Captain Hylton, Captain Meredith, and Lieutenant and Adjutant Connor, it appears that the most unfortunate division and dissentions have subsisted for a length of time past, in the 85th Regiment, to an extent which would seem to have sapped the foundation of discipline and subordination among the Officers, to have destroyed their respectability, generally speaking, in the eyes of the men, and to have rendered the services of the regiment, in a great measure, lost to the country.

His Royal Highness was further pleased to observe, that in considering the cause which has led to these disorders, and the reports which have, from time to time, been made upon the state of discipline of this regiment, it is but too apparent that the spirit of party, which has, in a great measure, affected the whole corps, has been allowed to gain ground under an extreme want of firmness and consistency, on the part of the Commanding Officer, Colonel Cuyler, whose acquirements and qualifications as a Commanding Officer, are not of a nature to command such respect to his authority as would have been calculated to repress the course of disorder that has disgraced the discipline of the corps, and have manifested his unfitness for the discharge of the important duties devolving on him as the Commanding Officer of a regiment.

It appeared to His Royal Highness to be unnecessary to enter into a circumstantial detail of the various occurrences, wherein insubordination and disorder have been manifested under Colonel Cuyler's command, and where the interposition of a proper authority, enforced by that steady line of conduct which is required of a Commanding Officer, would have checked and eradicated, if not have entirely prevented, the existence of the evil.

But taking into consideration the whole circumstances of the case, the Prince Regent was pleased, in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, to command, that an intimation shall be made to Colonel Cuyler of the expediency of his retirement from the service: in consideration, however, of the length of time he has served in the army, and of the cause of this proceeding arising in his want of qualification for the command of a regiment, rather than any misconduct as an individual, His Royal Highness was graciously pleased to permit that Officer to sell his commission as Lieutenant Colonel.

The Prince Regent was further pleased to remark, that the spirit of party, which has been so long allowed to exist in the 85th Regiment, appears to have taken such strong hold of the corps as at present constituted, as to leave little hope, that the exertions of any Commanding Officer could now remedy such deep-rooted evil, and bring the regiment back to a due sense of subordination and discipline. His Royal Highness has, therefore, been pleased, in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, to command, that every Officer, without exception, who has joined the 85th Regiment, shall be removed or exchanged to different corps in the service; not only as an example to the army generally, but in order that, by the introduction of other officers, no recurrence can possibly take place of those instances of dissention which have destroyed the discipline of this corps, as well as the respect of the non-commissioned Officers and soldiers for their superiors.

In communicating this decision, I have received the Prince Regent's commands, to desire, that your Lordship will, at the same time, explain to the officers, that it has been adopted as a general measure of expediency, and not intended as an imputation against any individual: and that your Lordship will assure Brevet Lieutenant Colonel M'lntosh and Major Mein in particular, that the measure does not lessen the feeling of approbation under which their general services are appreciated; and that due consideration is given to the very honourable terms by which the Courts Martial have expressed their acquittals of the charges preferred against Brevet Lieutenant Colonel M'lntosh.

I am, &c.

(Signed) FREDERICK, Commander in Chief.

*** Brevet Lieutenant Colonel M'Intosh, Capt. Hylton, Lieut. Powell, Lieut. Cameron, Captain Meredith, Lieut. and Adjutant Connor.

Huntington William
Wm. Huntington
James Gubbins
James Gubbins
Richard Gubbins
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