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Edwin Lawrence and Mary Ann Porch

Edwin Lawrence was born on 1st March 1833 in Bath, Somerset, the son of William Lawrence and his wife Eliza. He was baptized on 14th April 1833 in St Thomas a Becket, Widcombe, Bath. He married Mary Ann Porch on 31st July 1869 in Bath. Mary Ann was born on 13th January 1840 at 5 York Terrace, Lyncombe and Widcombe, Bath, Somerset, the daughter of Charles Porch and his wife Harriet, formerly Hill. She was baptized on 19th April 1840 in Lyncombe and Widcombe, Bath. On the 1841 census Edwin and Mary Ann are shown to be living next door to each other at 1 and 2 Lyes Court, Bath.

Mary Ann's father died in 1848 when she was just 8 years old and her mother in 1851 when she was 11. Mary Ann appears on the 1851 census living in the household of her maternal uncle James Hill as a servant. Her 3 surviving brothers William, George and John were sent to the work house. Edwin's father had died when he was an infant in 1833. He does not appear on the 1851 census and no further trace has yet been found of the rest of his family.

Edwin joined the Royal Navy in 1853 and served for 20 years, long enough to qualify for his pension. When he left the Navy he and Mary Ann moved to Dowlais, South Wales where Edwin worked in a steel manufactory. Their first child Edwin John was born there in 1874. They later moved to Stratford, West Ham, Essex, where Edwin worked as a coalman for the Great Eastern Railway Company. They had another 4 children Harriet Ellen and Elizabeth Matilda in 1879, William in 1881 and Emma in 1884. They also had another child but where and when this child was born is not known. The 1911 census shows that Mary Ann had 6 children, 2 of whom had died, one of these was Emma who died aged 16 in 1900, the other probably died as an infant.

Edwin died on 26th September 1893 aged 60 the London Hospital, Whitechapel. On his death certificate the cause of death is stated as

"Violent bronchitis and exhaustion consequent of fractured right arm caused by being knocked down by an engine shunting some trucks between which he was picking up his coat. Accidental"

An inquest was held on 27th September 1893 by the coroner for the County of London. A verdict of accidental death was returned. 

The London Hospital where Edwin died in 1893

Mary Ann moved with her family to Eastleigh, Hampshire in about 1910 when the London and South West Railway Company opened its new locomotive works. Her youngest son William was an engine fitter for L&SWR which was probably the reason for the move. They lived at 174 Southampton Road, Easleigh, right opposite the railway works.

Mary Ann died in 1924 in Eastleigh, Hants and is buried in Eastleigh cemetery along with her son William who died the following year.

Mary Ann Lawrence nee Porch


Edwin John Lawrence was born on 2 December 1874 at 29 Glendower Street, Dowlais, South Wales. Family legend has it that he ran away to sea at the age of 16 and was never heard of again. His fate remained a mystery until recently. He did indeed go to sea and became a ship's cook in the merchant fleet. He married Harriet Caroline Ambridge in 1898 and they lived in Romford, Essex. They had no children of their own but adopted a little girl named Lillian Brown. Harriet died in 1942 in West Ham, Essex and Edwin died aged 90 in 1965 in West Ham.

Elizabeth Matilda Lawrence (known as Auntie) was born on 19th January 1879, one of twins, in Statford, West Ham, Essex. She never married but remained with her mother, brother and sister. She inherited her brothers house in Eastleigh after his death in 1925 and was executor to his will. She died on 16th September 1937 at 174 Southampton Road, Eastleigh. She left a will which was proved at Winchester on 19th October 1937 to her sister and executor, Harriet Ellen Lawrence. Value of effects £918 3 s 4 d.

Harriet Ellen Lawrence (direct ancestor see separate profile)

William Lawrence was born in 1881 in Stratford, West Ham, Essex. He became an engine fitter for the London and South West Railway Company and was the family's main bread winner. He never married but remained with his mother and sisters all his life. He died aged 44 on 29th May in Eastleigh, Hampshire. He left a will which was proved at Winchester on 13th August 1925 to his sister and executor, Elizabeth Matilda Lawrence. Value of effects - £702 16 s 6 d

Emma Lawrence was born in 1884 in Stratford, West Ham, Essex. She died aged 16 in West Ham, in 1900

Edwin Lawrence Royal Navy Service

HMS St Jean Dacre

Edwin Lawrence joined the Royal Navy on 10th June 1853. He spent 6 months "in instruction" on HMS Victory (by that time a Royal Navy training ship) in Portsmouth Harbour as a "Landman". He signed on for ten years continuous service on 5 December 1853 and was appointed to his first ship HMS St Jean Dacre on 6 December 1853 serving as "ordinary seaman".

The St Jean Dacre was a brand new vessel, the first 101 gun screw two-decker line-of-battle-ship. In 1854 she set sail with the Allied Fleet from Spithead, serving in the Baltic theatre of the Crimean War (October 1853 - February 1856) She formed part of the Anglo-French fleet sent to attack the Russian naval base at Krondstadt. By December of 1854 she had retuned to England and lay at Plymouth.

On 3rd January 1855 St Jean Dacre left Plymouth for Cork where she embarked 640 men of various regiments. On 5th January she left Cork bound for the Crimean Peninsula and the Siege of Sevastopol, sailing via Gibraltar, Malta and Constantinople arriving at Sevastopol in February 1855.

In April 1855 as she lay in Kamiesch Bay to the west of Sevastopol there was an outbreak of smallpox on board the St Jean Dacre. The officers and men were sent ashore and occupied huts around the Chersonese Lighthouse whilst the ship was cleaned and lime washed.

French Plan of the Chersonese Peninsula in the Crimea

Detail of the same map showing Kamiesch Bay and the Chersonese Lighthouse in the far Left of the picture (Phare du Cap Chersonese) where Edwin and his ship mates were encamped during a smallpox outbreak in April and May 1855

On 22 May 1855 the St Jean Dacre sailed for Kerch on the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. She lay off Kerch until July and was involved in the Azov campaign in which an Anglo-French naval squadron entered the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait to undermine Russian communication and supply lines to the besieged city of Sevastopol. In August of that year she returned to the Crimea where she took part in the reduction of Sevastopol. The fall of Sevastopol ultimately lead to the Russian defeat by the Allied Anglo French forces.

HMS St Jean Dacre left Sevastopol on 5th October 1855 and on 14th - 17th October was part of the allied force which bombarded the fort on Kinburn Spit which lay to the north west of Sevastopol between Odessa and the Crimean peninsula. The fort protected the delta of the Bug and Dnieper Rivers, at that time these rivers were the main arteries for transportation to southern Russia. After some preliminary preparations the battle commenced at about 09:00 on the 17 October when three French ironclad ships (the first time this untested technological advancement had been used in battle and would change the face of naval warfare forever) opened fire on the fort. As part of the main fleet HMS St Jean Dacre did not become involved until midday when along with HMS Princess Royal and HMS Agamemnon she closed to within 650 yards of the middle battery, "the St Jean Dacre was the first of the line of battleships to open fire". These ships, supported by other British and French ships lying further out, inflicted a heavy bombardment on the fort, firing upwards of 500 rounds in the space of 45 minutes and the smaller frigates in support firing 200 - 300. The Fort in ruins, the Russians ceased fire at 13:50 and the Allies at 14:10. Terms for the Russian surrender were agreed by 15:00 and the Allies occupied the Fort. 

With the end of the war insight the St Jean Dacre left the Black Sea on 15th November bound for the Mediterranean where she spent the winter in Malta. She left Malta in the spring, spending some time at Piraeus and Constantinople before returning to the Crimea where she embarked the men of the Grenadier Guards at Kazatch. She left Kazatch on 5th June bound for home arriving at Portsmouth on 1st July where she disembarked the troops and then headed for Plymouth.

For his service in the Crimean War Edwin was awarded 3 campaign medals, the British Crimea War Medal with 2 clasps (Sevastopol and Azov) the Turkish Crimea War Medal and the Baltic Medal. He was promoted to the rank of " able seaman" on 1st May 1856.

The war now over and peaceful relations restored with Russia, in July 1856 the St Jean Dacre was fitted out to accommodate a number of high ranking dignitaries including Sir Robert Peel, Marquis Stafford and Earl Dalkieth and their staff. At Kiel on 28th July she embarked Lord Granville and his suite at the head of the British delegation to the coronation of Tzar Alexander II of Russia. She arrived in St Petersburg in August 1856 and remained for the coronation, returning to Portsmouth on 19th October and then headed for Plymouth where she was paid off on the 6th November. Edwin was assigned to HMS Plumper on 8th November 1856.

HMS Plumper

Launched in 1848, HMS Plumper was an 8 gun wooden screw sloop. Edwin joined her on her 3rd commission for which she had been converted to a survey ship and her guns increased to 12. Commanded by George Henry Richards, she was commissioned to survey the coast of British Columbia, Canada, charting the Fraser River, Burrard Inlet, Howe Sound, Sunshine Coast, Victoria and Esquimalt.

In 1858 HMS Plumper was involved in the Pig War crisis (so called because it was triggered by the shooting of a pig) a border dispute between the United States and Great Britain. HMS Plumper was one of three British warships, the others being HMS Tribune and HMS Satellite, dispatched by Governor James Douglas to prevent American Soldiers erecting fortifications and landing reinforcements. The Plumper was at times also called upon to intervene in matters of civil unrest. In August of 1858 she was dispatched to Victoria Harbour, Vancouver, to control a group of 3000 "Rowdies" who had gathered in Victoria after the arrest and subsequent rescue of one of their number from the Police. The small Police force were unable to cope with such numbers and called upon the Governor for assistance. On entering the harbour at midnight and landing one hundred men she then anchored off the town. The presence in the harbour of a Royal Navy warship diffused the situation and the police were able to re-arrest the liberated prisoner.

In January 1861 the Plumper was relieved by HMS Hecate and Captain Richards, swapped commands with his counterpart on the Hecate. Edwin was also one of those who remained with his captain and transferred to the Hecate.

HMS Hecate

HMS Hecate was a 4 gun Hydra Class paddle sloop, launched in 1839, she was fitted out as a survey ship in 1860 and assigned to the Pacific Station. She continued the work of the Plumper, undertaking surveys around Vancouver Island and the coast of British Columbia until 1863 when she was assigned to the Australia Station to carry out survey work in Botany Bay, Moreton Bay, the Brisbane River and Torres Strait, returning home in January 1864

By the time he returned home, Edwin had come to the end of his original ten year period of engagement and was transferred for a few weeks to HMS Duke of Wellington, by then a Royal Navy receiving ship which no longer was active service. He also spent a short time on HMS Edgar in the English Chanel until 16th April 1864, when he was discharged to shore. On 22nd April 1864 Edwin re-engaged in the Royal Navy and was assigned to HMS Bombay, volunteering for continuous service on 17th May 1864 to complete for pension. He was promoted to the rank of Leading Seaman.

HMS Bombay

Launched in 1828 at the Bombay Dockyard of the East India Company, HMS Bombay was a teak built, 84 gun second rate ship of the line. In 1861 she was cut asunder, lengthened and fitted with screw propulsion. In 1864 after further fitting out for commission as the flag ship of Admiral Warren, she was assigned to the south east coast of South America. After some delay due to difficulty manning the vessel and an outbreak of small pox on board, HMS Bombay finally left Sheerness on 3rd May 1864 briefly stopping at Plymouth before sailing for the South American station on 10th May, commanded by Captain Colin A Campbell.

The Bombay's service in South America was tragically short lived, however, for on 14th December 1864 she was completely destroyed by fire during target practice as she lay off Montevideo, Uruguay, with the loss of 91 men. The fire, which was reported at 3:35 pm whilst most of the crew were at general quarters, proved impossible to fight and spread quickly through the ship's ventilation system. Many lives were lost when the main mast went over and the stoppers of the anchors being burnt through the anchors fell. The ship sank at around 8:25 when the main magazine exploded. The survivors were picked up by French and Italian warships. Fire on board a wooden ship whilst at sea was the most feared occurrence for a sailor and the loss of the Bombay was one of the worst peace time disasters to befall a Royal Navyal ship in its history. Many men spent hours in the water before they could be rescued. One can only imagine the horror and exhaustion experienced by the 600 strong crew.

On their return home the Captain, officers and crew faced a Court Martial for the loss of the ship, which convened on board HMS Victory, Portsmouth on 8th February 1865. After hearing the many accounts of the valiant attempts to fight the flames and to rescue members of the crew as well as the circumstances surrounding the out break of the fire which was entirely accidental, the Court completely exonerated the Captain and his crew and commended their exemplary behaviour and bravery. The Bombay was officially paid of on 16th February 1865 and Captain Colin Campbell was appointed to the command of HMS Narcissus. Edwin was also assigned to Narcissus.

HMS Bombay On Fire 1864

HMS Narcissus

Launched in 1859 at Devonport Dockyard HMS Narcissus was a wooden hull, screw propulsion Frigate with 51 guns. She replaced Bombay as the flagship of Rear Admiral Charles Elliot and was assigned to the south east coast of South America. She remained in the South American station until returning home in 1869 when she was paid off on 17th July at Plymouth. Edwin was then assigned to HMS Valorous on 18th July but must then have had some shore leave as he married Mary Ann Porch on 31st July in Bath.

HMS Valorous

HMS Valorous was a 16 gun steam powered paddle steamer and was Edwin's last ship in active service from July 1869 to 10th September 1873. There appears to be no documented movements of HMS Valorous during this time, she was stationed in Plymouth and probably patrolled the South Coast. In March 1871 when the census was taken she was in Sheerness Harbour. On that census Edwin is described as being "Captain 2[nd] r[ate] deck men" that is he was a petty officer in charge of a section of crew. On 11th September 1873 he was transferred to the receiving ship, Duke of Wellington until 10th of December 1873 when he was discharged with full pension having served 20 years 184 days in the Royal Navy. Through out his eventful naval career his behaviour is consistently described as "very good" in his record of service. Judging by the badges he was awarded during his career Edwin appears to have been a gunner at some stage, certainly whilst on HMS Bombay.

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