Northey, Francis Vernon 1836-1879

FV Northey
Lieutenant Colonel FV Northey
The Graphic 14 June 1879

A simple statement in the Times in October 1836 announced the arrival of the third son of Edward Richard Northey and his wife, Charlotte Isabella nee Anson. "On 14th inst [October], Lady of ER Northey Esq., Woodcote House, Epsom, a son." He was baptized, Francis Vernon, a month later in St Martin's church, Epsom on 16 November 1836.

The Northey family was an ancient one, originally established in Essex , but in the seventeenth century moving to Corsham in Wiltshire and then to Surrey.

The Northey Coat of Arms
Or a fesse azure between three panthers
standing and powdered with stars argent with
a pansy or between two lilies argent on the fesse.

Edward had been born on 8 February 1795 in Shropshire and served as an Officer in the 52nd Regiment Light Infantry, seeing action at six engagements including Victoria, Canada where he was wounded by a shell, the Peninsula Wars, and Waterloo. He was to become the Deputy Sheriff of Surrey in 1856 and High Sheriff in 1878. Edward's first wife, whom he married on 29 Mar 1828, was the second daughter of General Sir George Anson MP, who was also a cousin of the Earl of Lichfield.

The couple were to have four surviving children in addition to Francis:
Harriet Isabella, born c. 1830
Edward William, born on 22 May 1832 and baptized on 23 April;
George Wilbraham, born 28 Jan 1835 and baptized 28 February;
Agnes Constance, baptized 11 July 1841
They also had two children who died in childhood:
Charlotte Lucy who was baptized 27 August 1833 and died in 1839 and
Herbert who was baptized on 4 February 1839 and died in 1840.
All the children, with the exception of Harriet, were baptized at St Martin's Epsom. Charlotte and Herbert are buried in the family tomb in the churchyard.

Francis's mother died in Malta in 1842 and was buried there, although there is a memorial in St Martin's churchyard Epsom. His father married his second wife, Louisa Mary Ann Hesketh, of Epsom, daughter of Robert Hesketh, on 20 December 1844 in Marylebone. A detailed marriage settlement was drawn up and this may be seen in the Surrey History Centre (Opens in a new window), reference 4531/1/Part 2.

The young Francis and his brother Edward were educated at Eton and are listed as pupils there in the 1851 census, whilst George was a cadet at Sandhurst. In 1855 Francis followed his father's footsteps and entered the army as an Ensign in the 60th Rifles. According to Harts' Army List he served with the Regiment in the Oude Campaign in 1858. He obtained his commission as a captain in 1860. Whilst in Canada he met Charlotte Belinda Gzowski of Toronto and obtained his commanding officer's permission to marry her on 21 Jan 1869 in St James Church.

His military career continued to progress. He had been promoted to Major in 1873 and by 1877 was a brevet Lieutenant Colonel.

In April 1879 he was commanding six companies of the 3rd Battalion of the 60th Rifles in East Zululand, South Africa under Lieutenant Colonel Pemberton, They formed the rear division in the Battle of Gingindlovu. On 2 April the British troops were surrounded by Zulus at dawn. Francis had been standing by a Gatling gun leading his men when he was hit in the shoulder. He was taken to the medical wagon and a naval surgeon managed to extract the bullet. Unfortunately a severed artery was not detected, so although at first Francis could cheer his men on, he soon collapsed and died four days later on 6 April 1879. He was buried where he fell and the lid of a packing case was used to make a rough marker for his grave. A telegram was sent to England to inform his family.

The original grave marker made from a packing case which is now held by Bourne Hall Museum.
The original grave marker made from a packing case which is now held by Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window). We are very grateful to Jeremy Harte, the Curator of Bourne Hall Museum, for allowing us to photograph this unusual item. Copyright image courtesy of Liz Manterfield/Bourne Hall Museum 2006.

Later in the year his family brought his body back to Epsom. There is a detailed account of his funeral in the Surrey Advertiser for Dec1879, which may be seen in the Surrey History Centre. His body was shipped back to Gravesend, England aboard the "Tom Morton" arriving on 8 Dec 1879. From there it was taken by road to the family home, Woodcote, in Epsom for the funeral on Tuesday 9 December. A procession assembled at the house and the cortège made it way to Epsom Cemetery where the burial service was read by Rev Bockett. Amongst the mourners were his widow; his brother, Rev Edward William Northey and his wife; Major George Northey and Miss Northey; Major and Mrs Sandham.

Although the family had wanted a very quiet ceremony, and the arrangements were unostentatious, the local town's people held the family in great respect and many braved the inclement weather to attend at the graveside. Shops along the route of the procession and in Epsom itself closed for part or all of the day as a mark of respect. The grave was decked with many floral wreaths and crosses including a Maltese cross of flowers from his fellow officers. The press described this as "very tasteful". Francis was laid to rest in the Northey's plot, near to his father who had died exactly a year earlier. The grave was marked with a stone cross incorporating the original wooden marker. This was removed in 1999 for safe keeping.

F V Northey's grave
Photograph of F V Northey's grave.The small cross is in memory of Charlotte his wife who died in 1891.
Copyright images courtesy of Liz Manterfield 2006.

His sisters also put up a tablet commemorating him in St Martin's Church, Epsom and there is a memorial to him in Eton College chapel.

Photograph of tablet commemorating F V Northey in St Martin's church, Epsom.
Photograph of tablet commemorating F V Northey in St Martin's church, Epsom.
Copyright images courtesy of Liz Manterfield 2006.

More information about the Northey Family is held on a supplementary page.

Census returns
Times Digital Archive
Surrey Advertiser 1879
Northey Marriage settlement and probate papers
St Martin's Epsom Parish Registers
Burke's Landed Gentry 1850
Bourne Hall Museum
This article was researched and written by Liz Manterfield, 2006