Francis Hosier

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Francis Hosier
at sea, off Vera Cruz
St. Nicholas, Deptford
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch Royal Navy
RankVice Admiral
Commands heldJamaica Station
Battles/warsNine Years' War
Anglo-Spanish War
Spouse(s)Diana Pritchard

Vice Admiral Francis Hosier (1673–1727) was a British naval officer. He was lieutenant in Rooke's flagship at the Battle of Barfleur in 1693. He captured the Heureux off Cape Clear in 1710 and distinguished himself in action with the Spanish off Cartagena in 1711. He is chiefly remembered, however, for his role in the failure of the Blockade of Porto Bello, for which poor Government orders were largely responsible, during which he died of disease with thousands of his sailors.


The Ranger's House, Greenwich. by George Robertson,1791. Built about 1700–20 for Captain Francis Hosier. National Maritime Museum, London. (PT2659)

Hosier was the son of the Clerk of the Cheque (and Muster-Master) to Samuel Pepys who lived at the foot of Crooms Hill, Greenwich. A certain Francis Hosier was the Storekeeper at Deptford in 1684, earning a salary of £305, the highest paid at the Depot.[1] He became a lieutenant in the navy in 1692, when he was appointed to the Winchelsea, a 32-gun new frigate, after being in that station on board different ships for four years.

Captain Francis Hosier was only 26 years old in 1699, when he arranged for the Greenwich residence today known as The Ranger's House to be built,[2] by which time he had commanded only one ship, the Winchelsea, of 74 guns.[3] In 1710, he was appointed captain of the Salisbury upon a cruise off Cape Clear when, by falling in with a 6-gun French ship he was able to capture the French vessel which was then renamed the Salisbury's Prize and taken into service.

In 1719, he was appointed second captain of the Dorsetshire, advanced to be rear-admiral of the white squadron, and afterwards promoted to be vice-admiral of the blue, but the fleet was ordered to be dismantled before it was put to the sea. In 1720, he was appointed second captain of the Dorsetshire with the honorary rank of rear-admiral of the blue squadron.[4] After the War of the Spanish Succession, he was suspended as a suspected Jacobite until 1717, but became vice-admiral in 1723.[5]

Blockade of Porto Bello[edit]

Francis Hosier is located in Panama
Francis Hosier
Location of Porto Bello in Panama

In March 1726, Hosier was sent to command a squadron on the Jamaica Station with orders to prevent Spain from shipping its treasures home.[6] Viscount Townshend, Secretary of State, consulted the former privateer Woodes Rogers, who was in London at the time, as to the probable means and route the Spaniards would adopt to get their treasure home. From past experience Rogers probably knew more than any other person then in England of the favoured Spanish tactics for evading detection. A report dated 10 November 1726, was delivered, in conjunction with Capt. Jonathan Denniss,[N 1] to prepare Hosier for his task.[7] At first Hosier met with success in his Blockade of Porto Bello. However, under strict orders not to attempt a capture of the town, which he could without difficulty have achieved with his 20 ships, he was forced to loiter and cruise off a mosquito infested coast. Yellow fever broke out and Hosier himself died of the fever (or as is said by some contemporary commentators "of a broken heart"), whilst on the Breda off Vera Cruz,[8] as did between 3,000 and 4,000 of his sailors. Eventually, during the 1730s, the government appeasement policies of men like Walpole, and not Hosier personally, were blamed for the disaster. The episode is described as follows in Percy's Reliques of 1765.

Francis Hosier is located in Panama
Francis Hosier
Location of Bastimentos in Panama

"He (Hosier) accordingly arrived at the Bastimentos near Porto Bello, but being employed rather to overawe than to attack the Spaniards, with whom it was probably not our interest to go to war, he continued long inactive on that station, to his own great regret. He afterwards removed to Carthagena, and remained cruising in these seas, till far the greater part of his men perished deplorably by the diseases of that unhealthy climate. This brave man, seeing his best officers and men thus daily swept away, his ships exposed to inevitable destruction, and himself made the sport of the enemy, is said to have died of a broken heart. Such is the account of Smollett, compared with that of other less party writers".

Hosier was replaced by two further admirals, who likewise successively perished of tropical diseases. Hosier's body was given a temporary burial-place in the ballast of his flagship, the Breda, where it remained, until it was despatched to England, late in the year, on board the snow the Happy Return, under Commander Henry Fowkes.[9] Presumably the body had first been embalmed. He was buried in the family vault, with much funerary pomp, at St Nicholas, Deptford on 28 February 1728.[5]

In 1739, twelve years after Hosier's death, at the start of the War of Jenkins' Ear Admiral Vernon accomplished what Hosier had been denied from doing, and captured Porto Bello with only six ships.

Admiral Hosier's Ghost[edit]

Edition of poem by Richard Glover Admiral Hosier's Ghost, written 1740. This edition with coloured etching by C. Mosley (July 1740). Sheet 415 * 283 mm. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (PW 3959)

(See full text on Wikisource s:Admiral Hosier's Ghost
Vernon's success prompted the poet Richard Glover in 1740 to write the ballad Admiral Hosier's Ghost, sung to the tune of Come and Listen to my Ditty. It is an apology for the failure of Hosier's earlier mission, and seeks to absolve Hosier of having shown a lack of initiative, blaming rather Admiralty orders "not to fight", which were obeyed only "against his heart's warm motion", having been "sent in this foul clime to languish". The Ghosts of Hosier and 3,000 of his sailors appear from the sea to Vernon shortly after his victory and Hosier charges him to "let Hosier's wrongs prevail" by drawing notice to the forgotten affair in Opposition circles in England. Only then will the ghosts find their rest. It is thus an attack on Walpole's half-hearted commitment to the war.[N 2]


Francis Hosier married Diana Pritchard at St Bride's, Fleet Street, 4 July 1710, as recorded in the IGI. In 1743, a William Hosier made a benefaction of £300 in South Sea annuities to the Deptford St Nicholas Charity School established in 1723, to educate 4 children. It has been supposed that this William Hosier was a descendant of the Admiral, but there is no known evidence to support this assumption.[10] Hosier Street, St. Paul Deptford, Greenwich, now lost to WWII bombing, is said to have been named after William Hosier.[11]


  1. ^ Probably the same Capt. Denniss who in 1718 conducted an expedition to Havana, the proceedings of which are in PRO CO 137,13; Denniss was also associated with Leonard Cocke, a factor of the South Sea Co. in Santiago de Cuba. (PRO SP36/25)
  2. ^ The ballad consists of 11 verses which are here quoted for illumination:
    As near Porto-Bello lying
    On the gently swelling flood,
    At midnight with streamers flying
    Our triumphant navy rode;
    There while Vernon sate all-glorious
    From the Spaniards' late defeat;
    And his crews, with shouts victorious,
    Drank success to England's fleet,


  1. ^ "Royal Dockyard Principal Officers, 1684". Retrieved 17 March 2011. (no ref to document provided)
  2. ^ "Occupants of the House". Friends of Ranger's House. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  3. ^ David Male. "Greenwich Day by Day". David Male. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  4. ^ Campbell, John, Naval history of Great Britain: including the history and lives of the British Admirals, Vol. 4, p. 452, London 1818
  5. ^ a b Laughton 1891.
  6. ^ Cundall, p. xx
  7. ^ Rogers, Woodes & Percy G. Adams (1970), A cruising voyage round the world, Dover Publications, p. xxxviii, ISBN 0-486-22304-3
  8. ^ Beatson, Robert, A Political Index to the Histories of Great Britain & Ireland, or a Complete register of the Hereditary Honours, Public Offices, and Persons in Office, from the Earliest Periods to the Present Time. Vol II, London 1806
  9. ^ Clowes, William Laird (1997), The Royal Navy, Chatham Publishing, p. 45 (vol 3), ISBN 1-86176-012-4
  10. ^ 'Deptford, St Nicholas', The Environs of London: volume 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent (1796), pp. 359-385. Date accessed: 19 September 2010.
  11. ^ "Complete Listing of the Streets of London in 1891 - H". Census1891. Retrieved 17 March 2011.

Laughton, John Knox (1891). "Hosier, Francis" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 27. London: Smith, Elder & Co.


External links[edit]

Works related to Admiral Hosier's Ghost at Wikisource

Military offices
Preceded by
(Last held by Edward Vernon)
Commander-in-Chief, Jamaica Station
Succeeded by
Edward St. Lo