The Salkeld Family

August 26, 2005
The Salkeld Memorial

The Salkeld Memorial

Prominent among the memorials in the graveyard of St Andrew’s Parish Church is the one erected for Lieutenant Philip Salkeld, V.C. (1830-1857) of the Bengal Engineers, who died on 11th October 1857 at Delhi. He was ‘wounded mortally’ in blowing open the Kashmir Gate, and received the Victoria Cross on the battlefield. In his dispatch Brigadier Campbell wrote that Lt. Salkeld had ‘personally fastened the powder bags to the gates, fixed the hose, and although fatally wounded, continued to hand to a non-commissioned officer of the Sappers and Miners the light to fire the train …’
Philip Salkeld had been brought up in the village where his father was the rector, and the family history provides interesting insights into family traditions and values.

The attack on the Kashmir Gate

The attack on the Kashmir Gate

Philip’s branch of the Salkeld family had been settled near Alnwick in Northumberland, throughout the 16th and

Memorial at Kashmir Gate, Delhi

Memorial at Kashmir Gate, Delhi

17th centuries. Among its members were Lt.Col. John Salkeld, who served in the armies of Charles 1st, Charles 2nd and James 2nd, and his brother William Salkeld, knighted in 1660. Their cousin Samuel (1636-1698/9) was the direct ancestor of the Fontmell family. He had come to Lincoln’s Inn in London in the 1650s, establishing a family connection with the law that was to be sustained in two later generations. His son William (1671-1715) was a graduate of St. Edmond’s Hall, Oxford University, and went on to became a judge and to be appointed a Sergeant at Law shortly before his death.

It was this generation that created the Dorset connection. In 1700 William married Mary Ryves of Fifehead Neville, the heiress of John Ryves, a wealthy landowner.

Sturminster Newton area

Sturminster Newton area

Fifehead Neville is a village only some 10 miles south west of Fontmell. Their eldest son William (1708-1782) was educated at Christchurch, Oxford and, again, at Middle Temple, but did not marry. Their second son, Robert (1709-1761) practiced law at Lincoln’s Inn. It was Robert’s younger sister Elizabeth who made the first link with our village when she married the rector of Fontmell Magna, James Dibben senior in 1741. The Dibben family provided a clerical dynasty from 1701 until 1812 in Fontmell. Dr Thomas Dibben, who published a number of sermons and was for a time at St Paul’s Cathedral, was succeeded by his son James senior, then by James’s sons James junior and Richard.
Robert Salkeld’s son William (1749-1812) went to Exeter College, Oxford

Robert Salkeld

Robert Salkeld

and then to Edinburgh University to become a physician. William married Anne Clitherow in 1787 and they had five children. The eldest son, William James (1793-1818), was a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers when he died on St Lucia in the West Indies. He was succeeded at Fifehead Neville by his younger brother Robert (1795-1866) who was to become the rector of Fontmell from 1819 to 1866. This Robert was an Exhibitioner at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Elizabeth Salkeld

Elizabeth Salkeld

He married Elizabeth Henrietta Wilson (1802-1879) in 1820 and they had 13 children of whom two died in infancy. Philip Salkeld, V.C. was their seventh born and their fourth son (although his memorial states third, that is, surviving child). His younger brothers, Richard (Major in the 16th Bengal Native Infantry) and Charles (Lt. Col. 2nd Bengal Cavalry) followed him to Addiscombe College and the Indian Army as a direct result of his bravery. Their mother was the daughter of Lt. Col. John Wilson, so, as they say, the army was in their blood. Two later generations of Charles’s family also produced distinguished army officers.

EH Salkeld & grand daughters

EH Salkeld & grand daughters

There is, however, something of a mystery surrounding the Rev. Robert Salkeld. In April 1841 when he had already been at the rectory for 22 years, a writ was issued by the Court of Queen’s Bench at Westminster against Robert Salkeld of Fontmell Magna for the retrieval of debts owed to Philip Matthews Chitty. The dept was for £4000, which in to-day’s values would be about £148,000. There were also extra charges for damages, legal fees and interest on the debt. The official document announcing this was signed by Sir Richard Plumptre Glyn in his capacity as Sheriff of the County of Dorset. But R P Glyn was also the ‘squire’ of the Fontmell estate, which the Glyn family had purchased from the Arundell’s in 1809. R P Glyn had only inherited the estate from his father Sir Richard Carr Glyn in 1838, that is, three years earlier. So the new squire found himself in the no doubt awkward position of having to carry out his Sheriff’s duties against his own rector. Mr Chitty had to pay £654 to Glyn for his part in the proceedings, and receipt of this was witnessed by Charles Mayo, a tenant farmer of 126 acres at Middle Farm, at the time the second largest in the Parish.
The writ contained a very detailed inventory of ‘the goods and chattles’ to be seized. The ‘Best Bedroom’ contained a ‘Mahogany four post bedstead with cotton furniture, feather bed, bolster and two pillows, straw mattress, hair mattress, four blankets, two sheets and counterpane, stump bedstead, mattress and pillow, mahogany chest of drawers, mahogany dressing table, swing glass, 2 pairs of window curtains, walnut secretary, mahogany bureau, mahogany biddet (sic), 3 chairs and stool, painted cupboard and closet, 4 work boxes, 3 baskets, carpet, tender and fire irons, 2 deal boxes and bonnet basket, Wedgwood foot tub, basin and ewer.’ Every part of the house and outbuildings were dealt with in the same level of detail. The rooms included four other bedrooms and a dressing room, a nursery, bedrooms over the dairy (for servants), a drawing room (complete with a square-pianoforte, 9 music books and a music table), an entrance hall, dining room, study. school room (with grand pianoforte), kitchen, butler’s pantry, linen cupboard, cellar (with 15 casks, 4 hogsheads of ale and 4 of cider, 6 dozen bottles or port wine and 12 bottles of brandy), larder, servants’ hall, brew house (with equipment for making beer), dairy house (with all the butter making equipment), stable (with two horses for hackney carriages, three ponies, a donkey and a cart horse), coach house, yard and garden.

The Old Rectory

The Old Rectory

While these details may provide us with an illuminating picture of the domestic arrangements of an early Victorian vicarage, it is difficult to understand what happened next. Were the goods and chattles ever seized? Was the Rector dismissed from his post? Was the family plunged into penury? Were Glyn and the Rector irreconcilable? Clearly not. The Rev. Robert remained in post until his death in January 1866 after 46 years as incumbent. Apparently the dept was incurred as a result of an unsuccessful investment in a Welsh coalmine. We remain ignorant, however, of how, and by whom, the debt was paid. In any event, Sir Richard Plumptre Glyn became a major benefactor of the parish church and the village school before his death in 1863, just three years before Robert Salkeld also died.

We are grateful for the generous advice given us in the preparation of this article by Mr Robert E. Salkeld, a direct descendent of the Rev. Robert Salkeld.

Author: Durotriges