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Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, Bart.,
1757 - 1833
Edward Pellew entered the Royal Navy at 13 in 1770 and rose steadily in rank in consequence of outstanding personal courage and an unexampled tactical brilliance as a Frigate Captain. When of superior rank he, on several occasions, sprang overboard to support drowning seamen, sometimes with little hope of either being rescued. He was made a Commander for fighting a successful action against a French frigate after his Captain had been killed. In 1782 he became post Captain after an attack on three French privateers. He was Captain of the 'Nymph' which took the first French warship, 'La Cléopâtra' on the outbreak of war with revolutionary France in 1793. By 1794 he was Commodore of the Western Frigate Squadron. In 1796, at Plymouth, he organised the rescue of the complement of the 'Dutton', an East Indiaman.
Meanwhile, the war with France continued and Pellew retook the first British warship the French had captured. He became Commander-in-Chief East Indies in 1806, of the North Sea in 1820 and then succeeded Nelson, Collingwood and Cotton as Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean from 1811 to 1814.
In 1812 the Pellew family, who lived at Canonteign House in the Teign Valley, purchased West Cliffe House, now called Bitton House, Teignmouth. His time as Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean was coming to an end. Typically, in 1814 Pellew landed at Marseilles, which had risen for the Bourbons, and as news of Waterloo put an end to hostilities he was on horseback leading an allied army against the French Revolutionary General, Marshal Brune. Returning to England, he was created Viscount Exmouth in 1815 and settled at his Teignmouth home.
It was not long before his services were required once more. By international agreement at the Congress of Vienna, Lord Exmouth was ordered to suppress trade in Christian slaves, carried on by the Barbary States of Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers. The principal Corsair stronghold of Algiers was selected for attack although protected by some 1,000 guns, lodged in forts with casements five feet thick and served by 8,000 gunners who could be continuously reinforced from an auxiliary arm of 30,000, Lord Exmouth had anticipated the order by earlier requiring one of his captains secretly to survey and plan the Algiers defences. Consequently, he so disposed his force as to be beyond the arc of fire of the main three-tier shore battery. Helped by a Dutch Fleet of five frigates who played an important diversionary role in the battle that ensued, the British ships destroyed the Algerian defences in an eight hour bombardment and secured the release of the 1,000 Christian slaves in the city. It proved a vital blow to the cruel trading in slaves in the Mediterranean.
Two of the cannon captured at Algiers were brought home by Lord Exmouth to embellish his home at Teignmouth were they can still be seen at Bitton House. The day of his Lordship's return was made a local festival day. The inhabitants turned out to greet him "with all the arrangements and display which could manifest admiration and attachment". An illuminated address was presented. Amongst those going out to meet him was Admiral Schack under whom he had fought his first action and who is referred to at the end of the address.
The image displayed above is of a picture now in the National Portrait Gallery in London, painted by Northcote in 1804 and depicts Sir Edward Pellew, Bart., as he then was, in full dress uniform of a Rear Admiral.
After the Algiers victory, Lord Exmouth was made Commander-in-Chief Plymouth and settled in Bitton House, becoming a great benefactor to the town and was responsible for the rebuilding of part of St. James Church, West Teignmouth. In 1832 he was appointed Vice admiral of the United Kingdom. He died at Bitton House in 1833 and was buried at Christow. The flag under which he fought at Algiers was used for the pall and a young oak, to bear his name, was planted near the grave.
Later, a monument was erected to his memory in the church at Christow. The memorial records the many honours bestowed upon him by his country, including Knight of the Order of the Bath, and from Spain, the Netherlands, Sicily, Sardinia and Savoy. He was also High Steward of Great Yarmouth and Elder Brethren of the Hon. Corporation of Trinity House.
Remarkable also the memorial records lines from a poem written to commemorate:
"Lord Exmouth's humane and magnanimous conduct, when, at the imminent risk of his life, he rescued (under the blessing of Divine Providence) near five hundred souls, men, women and children, many of whom were sick, from the wreck of the 'Dutton' East Indiaman, in a tremendous storm, January 26th 1796".
The poem, written by a spectator of the event, was recited at a public dinner given by the Corporation of Plymouth to honour the hero. The event is also recorded in a painting in the Plymouth Museum. Sir Edward Pellew and his wife were in their carriage on their way to dine with the Vicar of Charles, when they saw that the "Dutton", driven into Plymouth Sound by the storm, was in difficulties. He managed to get aboard, though in doing so injured his back. Taking charge, he ensured that all on board, over 500 souls, including women and children were saved.
In his time, a man of great courage and ability.