Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham

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The Lord Barham
Admiral Charles Middleton, later Lord Barham (1726-1813), by Isaac Pocock.jpg
Admiral Charles Middleton, later Lord Barham (Isaac Pocock)
Born 14 October 1726
Leith, Midlothian, Scotland
Died 17 June 1813(1813-06-17) (aged 86)
Barham Court, Teston, Kent, England, UK
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1741–1813
Rank Admiral
Battles/wars Seven Years' War
American War of Independence
French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars
Other work abolitionist

Admiral Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham PC (14 October 1726 – 17 June 1813) was a British naval officer and politician.

He was born at Leith, Midlothian to Robert Middleton, a customs collector of Bo'ness, Linlithgowshire, and Helen, daughter of Captain Charles Dundas RN and granddaughter of Sir James Dundas of Arniston. Brigadier-General John Middleton (1678–1739) was his uncle.[1]

Naval career[edit]

Middleton entered the Royal Navy in 1741 as captain's servant aboard HMS Sandwich and HMS Duke, and later served aboard HMS Flamborough as midshipman and master's mate.[2] He became lieutenant in 1745, serving aboard the frigate HMS Chesterfield, after 1748 on the west Africa station.[2]

During the Seven Years' War, from 1754, Middleton was stationed aboard HMS Anson during her apprehension and capture of two French ships at Louisbourg, after which he was stationed in the Leeward Islands.[2] In January 1757, an incident over rum rations, during which Middleton lost his temper and physically attacked a sailor ended with the sailor being court martialled and Middleton being transferred and promoted to command of the sloop HMS Speaker.[2]

In 1759 he was given command of the frigate HMS Arundel being promoted to post-rank for the first time.[2] The following year, while in command of HMS Emerald, distinguished himself in the West Indies, taking sixteen French ships and several privateers, and received the gratitude of the merchants in the British colony of Barbados.[2] From March 1762 Middleton took command of the frigate Adventure, patrolling the coast of Normandy.[2]

In December 1761 Middleton married Margaret Gambier, niece of Captain Mead, who he had encountered aboard HMS Sandwich some twenty years earlier. Margaret moved to Teston in Kent, to be close to her friend Elizabeth Bouverie. In 1763, after service aboard the Adventure, he moved to join Margaret at Teston, and for the next twelve years he farmed the land belonging to Mrs Bouverie, taking on the role of a country gentleman.[2]

In 1775, at the outbreak of the American War of Independence, Middleton was given a guardship at the Nore, a Royal Navy anchorage in the Thames Estuary, and was subsequently appointed Comptroller of the Navy in 1778, a post he held for twelve years.[2] In 1781 was created a baronet,[2] with a special remainder, failing any male issue, to his son in law, Gerard Noel.

In 1784, Sir Charles Middleton was elected Tory Member of Parliament (MP) for Rochester, a seat he held for six years, and three years later was promoted Rear Admiral. By 1793 a Vice Admiral, he was the following year made a Lord of the Admiralty.[2]

In 1795 became Admiral of the Blue. He was finally, in 1805, appointed First Lord of the Admiralty,[2] and was created Baron Barham, of Barham Court and Teston in the County of Kent, with a special remainder, failing male issue, to his only child, his daughter, Diana Noel, 2nd Baroness Barham, and her male heirs. In September 1805, Lord Barham attained the rank of Admiral of the Red. He died eight years later, aged 86, at his home of Barham Court.

Abolitionist[edit]

In addition to his service in the Royal Navy, Sir Charles Middleton played a crucial role in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. He had been influenced by a pamphlet written by Rev. James Ramsay, who served as a surgeon under Middleton aboard HMS Arundel in the West Indies, but later took holy orders and served on the Caribbean island of St Christopher (now St Kitts), where he observed first-hand the treatment of slaves. On his return in 1777, exhausted by the continuing conflict with influential planters and businessmen, Ramsay returned to Britain and briefly lived with Sir Charles and Lady Middleton at Teston. He later became vicar of Teston and rector of Nettlestead, Kent, the livings being in the gift of Middleton.

Ramsay's pamphlet Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies, published in 1784, especially affected Lady Middleton. Feeling inadequate to take up the issue of the slave trade in Parliament himself, and knowing that it would be a long, hard battle, Sir Charles Middleton suggested the young Member of Parliament William Wilberforce as the one who might be persuaded to take up the cause. (Whether or not this was the first time that the issue had been suggested to Wilberforce or not is debatable). In 1787 Wilberforce was introduced to James Ramsay and Thomas Clarkson at Teston, as well as meeting the growing group of supporters of abolition, which also included Edward Eliot, Hannah More, the evangelical writer and philanthropist and Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London.[3]

Clarkson had first made public his desire to spend his life fighting for emancipation at Middleton's home, Barham Court, overlooking the River Medway at Teston, Kent. In order to make a case for abolishing the slave trade, Clarkson did much research over many years, gathering evidence by interviewing thousands of sailors who had been involved in the slave trade.[3]

Barham Court was effectively used for planning the campaign by Lord and Lady Barham, with numerous meetings and strategy sessions attended by Wilberforce, Clarkson, Eliot and Porteus before presenting legislation to Parliament. While Middleton never played a direct role in the effort to abolish the slave trade (finally accomplished in 1807) and slavery itself (in 1833) he played a very important part as a behind the scenes facilitator. His efforts were motivated by his evangelical faith.

HMS Barham[edit]

The Battleship HMS Barham was named after him.

Fictional portrayals[edit]

He is a character in Treason's Tide by Robert Wilton, set during the summer of 1805. It was published in February 2013 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books, and originally appeared under the title The Emperor's Gold in June 2011.

References[edit]

  • Colquhoun, John Campbell. William Wilberforce: His Friends and His Times (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1866).
  • Laughton, J. K. Middleton, Charles, First Baron Barham from Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: University Press, 1894).
  • Moody, Michael E. Religion in the Life of Charles Middleton, First Baron Barham. In 'The Dissenting Tradition: Essays for Leland H. Carlson' ed. Cole, C. Robert and Moody, Michael E. (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1975). ISBN 0-8214-0176-9
  • Morriss, Roger. Charles Middleton in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: University Press, 2006).
  • Pollock, John. Wilberforce: God’s Statesman. (Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 2001). ISBN 0-85476-907-2.
  • Stott, Anne. Hannah More – The First Victorian (Oxford: University Press, 2003)
  • Talbott, John E. The Pen and Ink Sailor: Charles Middleton and the King's Navy, 1778-1813 (London: Routledge, 1998).

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
George Finch-Hatton
Robert Gregory
Member of Parliament for Rochester
1784-1790
With: Nathaniel Smith
Succeeded by
George Best
Sir Richard Bickerton, Bt
Military offices
Preceded by
Maurice Suckling
Comptroller of the Navy
1778–1790
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Martin
Preceded by
The Viscount Melville
First Lord of the Admiralty
1805–1806
Succeeded by
Viscount Howick
Baronetage of Great Britain
New creation Baronet
(of The Navy)
1781 – 1813
Succeeded by
Gerard Noel
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Barham
1805 – 1813
Succeeded by
Diana Noel