The Northeys Of Woodcote House - Part 7

Part 7 - Francis Vernon Northey ('Frank') (1836-79)

Note: This section is partially based on an account by Liz Manterfield, which was published on the website in 2006. Portions of the text are from that original account.

Frank as a young man
Frank as a young man.
Image courtesy of Martin Northey © 2012.

Frank was the youngest surviving son of Edward Richard and he was born on 14 October 1836 in Epsom. He was always destined for the Army and, after attending Eton, he became an officer cadet at Sandhurst and passed out as an Ensign in the 60th Rifles (the Royal American Regiment, also known as the King's Royal Rifle Corps, later becoming part of the Royal Green Jackets). His first taste of action was as a Lieutenant during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, when his battalion was stationed at Meerut and narrowly avoided being massacred. He remained in India and was involved in the Oude campaign, being present at the capture of Fort Mittowlie (between Sittapore and Lucknow) and the Battle of Biswah. He was promoted to Captain in 1860.

Frank was a keen cricketer and played wherever he went. His teams were Eton College (1851-1854), Dublin (1856), Ireland (1856), United Ireland Eleven (1856), Officers of Ireland (1861), North of Ireland Cricket Club (1863), Knickerbockers (1863), Lansdown (1863-1865), Military (Canada) (1863), Gentlemen of West Kent (1868), Aldershot Division (1874) and North Kent (1875).

In the 1861 census he was at home in Woodcote House. By 1869 he was in Canada and was involved in the Red River expedition of 1870 - see Wikipedia.org.

Frank Northey
Frank Northey.
The insignia on his chest is the badge of the King's Royal Rifle Corps/60th Foot

On 21 January 1869 at St James's Church, Toronto, Canada he married Charlotte Belinda Gzowski, born on 28 April 1842 at Erie, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of a most interesting man, Kazimierz (Casimir) Stanislaus Gzowski (1813-98, a Polish lawyer turned engineer, sometime Aide-de-Camp to Queen Victoria and ultimately knighted) and Maria Miller Beebe - see Wikipedia.org and, in particular, www.biographi.ca)

Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski
Signed portrait of Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski.
Image source: 'The Canadian Portrait Gallery' by John Charles Dent, via Project Gutenberg

Frank continued his army career, becoming a Brevet7 Major in 1873 and then a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1878 he can be placed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The end was near for him, for, after the terrible catastrophe that befell the British at the Battle of Isandlwana (January 1879) in the Zulu War, the 3rd Battalion of the 60th was ordered to embark for South Africa. Frank landed in Durban on 20 March 1879. His battalion advanced to the Front to join the column which aimed to relieve Etshowe (now called Eshowe, in KwaZulu Natal, about 85 miles from Durban).

The Etshowe relief column crossing the river
The Etshowe relief column crossing the river.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

They halted at a place called Gingindoluvu (promptly renamed 'Gin Gin I love you' by the men), which means 'swallower of the elephant'. A square laager was formed - an encampment surrounded by wagons and a trench-, containing 5,670 men and about 3,000 animals. There were no tents and heavy rain turned the camp into a quagmire, churned up by thousands of feet and hooves.

At 6 a.m. on 2 April 1879 a huge Zulu force attacked.

The scene at Gingindlovu
The scene at Gingindlovu.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Frank was shot in the right shoulder and helped to the surgeon's wagon, where the wound was dressed, but he insisted on returning to his position, where he soon collapsed, blood spraying from a ruptured artery. The battle was over and the Zulus routed by 7.30 a.m. and it was sadly all over for Frank too. Four days later he died and was buried at Gingindlovu with a grave marker made from a packing case.

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.
Image courtesy of Liz Manterfield/Bourne Hall Museum © 2006.

There is still a grave for Frank at Gingindlovu, marked by a cross, but it is empty. At the request of his family, his body was exhumed and shipped home in December 1879 and he was re-interred at Epsom Cemetery. His sisters erected a memorial plaque in St Martin's and there is also a memorial in Eton College Chapel. His widow erected a stained glass window in Christ Church, Epsom.

F V Northey's headstone in Gingindlovu cemetery
F V Northey's headstone in Gingindlovu cemetery
Image courtesy of Tim Needham © 2014.

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.

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.
Image courtesy of Liz Manterfield © 2006.

Frank's grave in Epsom Cemetery
Frank's grave in Epsom Cemetery before the packing case inset was removed for safe-keeping.

Frank's grave after removal of the packing-case insert.
Frank's grave after removal of the packing-case insert.
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2012

Close-up of the inscription on Frank's grave
Close-up of the inscription on Frank's grave
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2012

Eton College Chapel
Eton College Chapel.
Image source: WikiGallery.Org

The stained glass window in Christ Church was erected by Francis' widow
The stained glass window in Christ Church was erected by Francis' widow
Image courtesy of Roger Morgan © 2014.

As Liz Manterfield wrote in her original article, '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 its 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 Northeys' 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.'

The Army and Navy Gazette of 11 May 1879 said of Frank that 'he was devoted to his profession and in him were combined, in a high degree, the best qualities of an English Officer with a thorough knowledge of his work. Throughout the four Battalions of the Regiment he was loved and respected by Officers and men alike. Strict, firm and exceedingly just in all matters of discipline, he was ever ready with a kindly word of sympathy and encouragement for anyone who needed it. To all who knew him he endeared himself by his gentle courtesy, his great unselfishness and by many acts of kindness not soon to be forgotten.'

Frank's widow, Charlotte, moved to Dover, where she lived at 12 Maison-Dieu Road. She died there on 4 February 1891 and was interred with her husband in Epsom Cemetery. There were no children.

FV Northey
Lieutenant Colonel FV Northey
The Graphic 14 June 1879

Links to the Previous and next parts.

Linda Jackson © February 2012
Footnotes

7. Brevet = acting


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