The Walker Family of the Depperhaugh and the Loss of the HMS Captain

In the church at Hoxne is a stained glass window as a memorial to Charles Sinclair Walker [1849-1870] the brother of Evelyn Laura Walker [1844-1890]. He attended school in South Africa when his family were at Simon’s Town [1861-1864]. Charles attended the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, but did not continue his military training due to a minor misdemeanour. He then decided to join the civil service and passed the entrance exams and was waiting to be offered a position.

Charles was then at a loose end in August/September 1870 when Captain Hugh Burgoyne invited Charles to join him whilst the ship HMS Captain was completing her naval exercises. Evelyn was married in August 1864 to Captain Hugh Talbot Burgoyne [1833-1870] at Paddington, London. The Walker family had a residence in Paddington, London before they moved to The Depperhaugh in Hoxne.

Hugh Burgoyne

Hugh Burgoyne

Evelyn was born at Constantinople during the period when her father Baldwin was working for the Turkish Navy. From 1861-1864 she was with the Walker family in South Africa at Simon’s Town which was the naval base were Baldwin was commander in chief. Hugh had been born in Dublin, Ireland and was the only son of the army officer Sir John Fox Burgoyne [1782-1871] and his wife Charlotte Rose the daughter of Hugh Rose 13th of Holme.

On the 27th September 1865 Hugh was given command of The Wyvern and remained with this ship for 2 years. In 1867 he took command of the frigate Constance until 1868, when he was appointed to superintend the building and fitting out of HMS Captain. In Hoxne Church are two plaques recording details about the ill-fated HMS Captain, sadly the two naval flags from the ship which used to be displayed in the church were disposed of a few years ago as they were beyond restoration. The flags had been picked from the sea off Cape Finisterre and presented to Captain Burgoyne’s widow who had given them to Hoxne Church.

Charles Sinclair Walker and Evelyn Laura Walker were the children of Sir Baldwin Wake Walker and his wife Mary Sinclair Walker [nee Worth] who resided at Oakley House, Oakley, Suffolk. From the 1860s the Walker family resided at The Depperhaugh a large Victorian white brick mansion at Chickering a hamlet of Hoxne.

Hugh Burgoyne had already distinguished himself in the Crimean War [1853-1856] at Sevastopol in 1855, having been awarded the Victoria Cross, when he had volunteered with Lieutenant Cecil Buckley [1828-1872] of HMS Miranda and gunner John Robarts [1818-1888] of HMS Ardent to set fire to the Russian stores at the Russian post on the coast in the Sea of Azov.

Hugh had joined the Royal Navy in 1847 and was promoted to lieutenant on the 11th January 1854 and on the 20th March was appointed to the Boscawen which saw active service in the Baltic. On his return to England he was appointed to The Swallow on the 16th September which went on tour to the Mediterranean. The Swallow was then attached to the fleet off the coast of Sevastopol. On the 29th May 1855 Hugh was involved in the actions, which later lead him and his two companions to be awarded the Victoria Cross which was instituted in 1856.

Afterwards he took command of the gunboat Wrangler during the remainder of the war with Russia. In May 1856 he was appointed to the position of commander on board HMS Ganges. On the 15th May 1861 Hugh was promoted to the position of Captain and in 1863 was involved with the Anglo-Chinese flotilla.

Evelyn and Hugh were married in 1864, but how much time they were able to spend together is not clear. It is not clear how Evelyn and Hugh met, but as a naval family the Walker’s mixed with other naval families, so the paths of the Walker and Burgoyne families had crossed at some stage. In 1868 HMS Captain was being built by the Laird Brothers at Birkenhead so Hugh and Evelyn may have been able to see each other whilst he was stationed on land. Evelyn and Hugh did not have any children.

HMS Captain was laid down in 1867 and launched on the 27th March 1869. She had been designed by Cowper Phipps Coles and was a low-freeboard, full-rigged turret ship, but the design was compromised by the shipbuilders and design faults made by Cowper Coles. Initial trials in the Bay of Biscay were good but the ship was overweight, lacked stability and was too low in the water.

On the evening of 6th September HMS Captain was struck by a fresh squall and immediately heeled over and sank. Burgoyne and a few men hung onto the pinnacle, but he refused to jump to safety and was drowned. Various memorials were erected to HMS Captain and her crew with a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and St Anne’s Church, Portsmouth.

49 officers and 402 men were lost and only a handful of men survived the sinking. Evelyn Laura Burgoyne [nee Walker] was remarried at Campsall, Yorkshire on the 30th July 1874 to Dr Wilson Fox [1831-1887] of Mayfair, London. In 1882 Wilson was a physician to Queen Victoria. Wilson and Evelyn did not have any children and lived in London and at Rydal she died in 1890 at Hastings, Sussex. Wilson was a native of Wellington, Somerset and his family owned Tone Dale House in Wellington. Dr Wilson Fox died at Preston on the 3rd May whilst on his way to his house in Rydal and his body was taken for burial at Taunton.

The information about the Walker and Burgoyne families has been collected from various printed sources along with information from Richard Wake Walker.

Article written by Stephen Govier.