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Milbourne Marsh


Consul at Port Mahon and Malaga, later of Chatham, Kent

Born: 10 October 1709, christened as Milburn, at St Thomas Church, Portsmouth 14 October 1709 and died at Rochester the 17th of May 1779 aged 69 years.
Son of: George Marsh (1683-1753) and Elizabeth Marsh (nee Milbourne, 1687-17??).
Brother of:
1. Francis Marsh (1708-17??), Army Officer, died unmarried.
2. Mary Duval (nee Marsh, 1712-17??) who married John Duval.
3. George Marsh (1714-171?) who died an infant.
4. Daniel Marsh (1716-17??) Naval Officer or a Shipwright who possibly died in 1740 in an accident at work.
5. John Marsh (1718-17??).
6. Isaac Marsh (1720-17??), Naval Officer.
7. George Marsh (1722-1800) who married Ann Long (1720-1784).
8. Eliza Marsh (1724-17??) who died unmarried.
Milbourne appears to have married either :
1. Elizabeth Evans (widow of Mr Evans) (????-1776) in Kingston, Jamaica, 13 December 1734.  Elizabeth died at Rochester12 January 1776 aged 67 years and 10 months.
2. Katharine (Catherine) Marsh (nee Soan) 18 December 1776 at Chatham.
Milbourne had issue:
1. Eliza Crisp (nee Marsh, 1735-1785) who married James Crisp Esq (????-1779).
2. Maj Francis Millbourne Marsh (1738-1782).
3. Mary Marsh (1739-1739) born 26 Septemeber 1739 at Chatham and died 16 November 1739.
4. John Marsh (1747-1823) who married Lucy Gosling (Gostling) (1759-1845).

We know of Milbourne from the following sources:
1. Various notes in the Greenwich Museum library (I have not seen these yet).
2. Various note in the British Library, Shee Papers (I have not seen these yet).
3. A letter in the Public Record Office at Kew.
4. His will which is held in the Public Record Office in Kew (Prob 11/1053).
5. 'History of the Ancient Family of Marsh' by Joseph J. Green, Archivist and Genealogist, 1903, revised to date by Wm. Ernest Marsh, of Marston, Bromley, Kent, 1912.
6. An excellent book about his daughter 'The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh' by Prof Linda Colley, 2007.
7. Entries copied from the Bible of Rev George Augustus Eliott Marsh.
8. Family letters from the Betty Harrison archive.
9. Captivity, Marriage and Influence: the entangled fortunes of the Marsh and Towry families, 1755-1808, by Roger Knight.


Milbourne sailed as a 23yr old carpenter in the Kingston to Jamaica arriving on 20 July 1732 anchoring off Port Royal and beginning a long family association with Jamaica.

January 1733 joined the crew of the Deal Castle

August 1733 joined as carpenter on the Rupert, a 930 ton ship with a crew of 350 and spent most of next 19 months at sea.

Married Elizabeth Evans (ne Bourchier?) on 12 Dec 1734 at Kingston's Anglican Church.

10 March 1735 Milbourne signed back on to Kingston and left Jamaica with Elizabeth who was already pregnant with their first child of three, who would be Elizabeth Marsh, sailing into Portsmouth 20 August 1735

Their daughter, Elizabeth Marsh was born 14th Sept 1735 at Portsmouth. Their first son Francis Milbourne was born 9th April 1738 at Chatham. Mary Marsh was born 26th Sept 1739 at Chatham but passed away three months later on the 16th November 1739. John Milbourne was born the 5th April 1747 at Chatham.

They spent the next 19 years living in Naval accommodation at Portsmouth in the New Buildings on Portsea Island. Their daughter Elizabeth M christened nearby on 3rd Oct 1735 at St.Thomas's church on Portsmouth's High Street.

September 1735 moved back to the Deal Castle as ship's carpenter with recommendation from Admiral Sir Chaloner Ogle.

1739 moved to the 80 gun Cambridge which was undergoing long repairs at Portsmouth.

1741 six of his workmen accuse him of embezzlement for making a new bed for his pregnant wife. He responded in writing "Honourable Sir the whole being a premeditated thing to do me prejudice, for my using of them ill (as they term it) in making them do their duty. Hope you look on it as such, as will appear by my former behaviour and time to come. My wife having been sick on board (the Cambridge) for five weeks, and no probability of getting her ashore, thought it not fit to lie on my bed till I had got it washed & well cleaned, so got the above bedding to lie on till my own was fit."

1742 - based on the Marlborough and then the Nimur and about thirty other warships in the Royal Navy's Mediterranean fleet

1744 - on the Namur when it engaged the Real, the Spanish flagship which was part of a 27 ship Franco-Spanish fleet. He reported - "I can tell you, exactly to a minute, the time we fired the first gun, I immediately whip'd my watch out of my pocket, and it was then 10 minutes after one o'clock to a moment. The Admiral (Admiral Thomas Matthews) sent for me up and ordered me to see what was the matter with the mizzen topmast. At the time I acquainted the Admiral of the main to mast, I was told, but by whom I can't tell, that the starboard main yard arem was short. I looked up, and saw it, from the quarter deck; I went to go up the starboard shrouds to view it; I found several of the shrouds were shot, which made me quit that side, and I went up on the larboard side, and went across the main yard in the slings, out to the yard arm, and I found just within the life block on the under side, a shot had grazed a slant.. when I went down, I did not immediately acquaint the Admiral with that, for by that time I had got upon the gangway, I was told that the bowsprit was shot, and immediately that the fore top mast was shot. At Toulon he said 'he did not think of the danger,' as the 114 gun Real was only a pistol shot away and firing at them.

1744 Left the sea and spent next 10 years repairing ships at Portsmouth and Chatham dockyards.

Sons Francis and John born at sea, John on the Cambridge in 1741.

1755 became Naval Officer at Port Mahon in Menorca using contacts from his brother George. The post was a clerical administrative one. He left Portsmouth in March 1755 for Menorca in the Mediterranean. Also acted as Clerk of the Cheque which was the senior financial officer for the Menorca dock yard as well as acting as Clerk of the Survey which involved drafting maps and plans for new buildings and defenses. In late November of that year experienced the aftershocks of the Lisbon Earthquake. Due to the Seven Years War naval power was drained naval from the Mediterranean area.

By 1756 Menorca was considered dispensable. Milbourne was busy as Naval Officer in locating and purchasing old ships from around the Mediterranean to be converted in fireships to be sailed against an invading French fleet. He supervised the splicing together of surplus masts and cables to make a 250 yard barrier that could be used to block the entrance of Mahon harbour. In April Milbourne Marsh was summoned by the island's naval commander "Upon the French being landed on the island of Menorca Commodore Edgcumbe gave him an order to proceed from thence in His Majesty's ship the Princess Louisa to Gibraltar, and there to take upon him the duty of Master Shipwright." 120 French ships had landed on one side of the island the British had five ships on the other. They left the following day, 22nd April 1756. They arrived in Gibraltar on 30 April 1756. Three days later Milbourne compiled a report on naval facilities and defenses. His report read, "The capstans, partners and frames entirely decayed, the mast house, boat house, pitch house, smiths shop and cable shed all decayed, and tumbling down; the yard launch wants a thorough repair, and in case there may be a necessity to careen or caulk any of His Majesty's ships, there is neither floating stages for that service, or boat for the officers to attend their respective duties; the shed within the new mole gates that was used for repairing sails in, likewise the shed for the use of the artificers are both decayed and tumbling down." Admiral John Byng informs London, "I have taken upon me to give Mr Milbourne Marsh ... and order to act as Master Shipwright; and have given him orders to use his best endeavours to put the wharf etc in the best condition he can, for very soon they will be wanted. Milbourne's added responsibilities means his salary goes up from £150 to £200 as well as accommodation and food included. By July 1756 Milbourne's son John Marsh is also working for him, working as a clerk to write Milbourne's letters. On the afternoon of 27th July 1756 sees daughter, Elizabeth off on the Ann back to London via Lisbon, but this ship looses its convoy of fourteen other ships and gets hijacked by Moroccan corsairs. The first Milbourne hears of it they see a newspaper report that the Ann has been seized or sunk by the French. He appealed to Lord Anson, First Lord of the Admiralty for help on the matter. Another one of the people on the Ann, Joseph Popham, manages to smuggle out a letter to Milbourne suggesting Milbourne sends over some practical comforts for his daughter while they are stuck at Sla. The occupants of the Ann were unaware that Sidi Muhammad, Sultan of Morocco had ordered his ships to detain all British occupants as slaves. However Side Muhammad wanted to make a point of not having European intervention in Moroccan politics and he later agreed to free the crew and passengers of the ship Ann as a show of moderation and justice, as long as Britain sent a ship to pick them all up. They were all eventually conveyed to Gibraltar on the Portland arriving 27th November 1756.


A letter in the Public Record Office, Kew (ADM106/1131/25) reads as follows:

Victualling Office 24th June 1763


Understanding that Mr Milbourne Marsh is appointed Naval Officer at Minorca, We desire you will please to permit him to take charge of His Majesty's Victualling Office, Bakehouse, Windmills Store Houses and Magazines at the said Island, in the same manner as the Naval Officers did during the last Peace.  We are


Your most humble Servants

Rob Pett, J Stephens, Jonas Hanway


Milbourne Marsh kept his post as Gibraltar until 1763, then returned to being Naval Officer at Menorca. In 1764 he submitted plans to have Menorca's dockyard amenities removed from the existing overcrowded and inadequate site near Mahon to Saffron Island. His report read ".. as also the leveling the island, and that wharfs, careening pits, sheds for stores and other like conveniences may then be erected, the whole expense whereof, he has estimated will amount to £6348 exclusive of timber to be sent from England. And he having also acquainted us, that by performing the aforesaid works, the island will then have upon it six wharfs, each of two hundred feet long and be capable of careening that number of ships at the same time." Here he transformed the dockyards into the most substantial and impressive overseas naval facility controlled by a European power. In October 1765 he gained the position of Agent Victualler at the naval dockyard at Chatham, Kent, probably brought about by his brother, George Marsh's instigation. Here he designed and built a new wharf in the Victualling yard, set up a new seventy-two-foot long storehouse, extended and improved many of the yards other facilities and organized a system of offshore defenses.

In 1766 Milbourne was slightly involved with the land dealings of his daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law in Florida, signing some of the legal documents that would have got them thousands of acres of Florida real estate if things had gone to plan, which they didn't. Her husband became bankrupt and she was left at home with Milbourne in Chatham where she wrote "The Female Captive" about her time in Morocco. Later she went with her daughter to India to meet up with her husband, leaving her son, Burrish behind. However in 1771 her daughter was sent back and her son Burrish was shipped to India with Milbourne paying the cost of £80. However, the ship's chief mate ran off with that money so Milbourne had to pay out another £50 for the passage. Burrish arrived in Madras in 1772 in a not very good state, and then was sent off with a merchant to Tehran for a few years to learn Persian which was the official language of the East India Company and the of the Mughal court.

Milbourne's wife Elizabeth died at Chatham in 1776 and later Milbourne married a younger woman, Katherine Soan in December although he was in a very declining state. He revised his will and left property to the value of £5000.  He provided for his new wife by leaving her all the linen, china, plate and household goods and furniture in the naval house in Chatham while buying a house nearby in Rochester for her to live in. He also left her £700 of consols. He left his eldest son Major Francis Milbourne Marsh the interest in £900 consols of government stock and forgave John Marsh the bulk of the debt owed. Elizabeth was to receive nothing so that it would not end up in the hands of her bankrupted husband, or his creditors, instead leaving £300 to her daughter, Elizabeth Maria. His daughter Elizabeth had come back from India at this time and they do not appear to have been getting on according to the letter he wrote to his brother George. He died soon after on 17 May 1779.

Katherine moved to the house at St.Margarets Bank and a full inventory of the house was done at this time. This may have been to do with Milbourne's will as, while providing for her, he intended his estate to go to his sons and his granddaughter eventually.


Letter Milb Marsh to George Marsh - 11 Feb 1779

My dear Brother,

I have been so ill as not able to you since my last. I now understand the £60 you mentioned was part of the £200 I desired you to advance Mrs Crisp. I was afraid she wanted £60 more, which I will never advance a penny more to her, for had it been £600 instead of £60 she would a gott it all all if she could, and not even left me a shilling to pay for the Victualling dept, or buried me, so much of her Husband's principals has she imbued. I have altered my will and took from what I had left the girl as much as will pay my depts. Indeed brother she has gave me great uneasiness and wish she had not come home. It will be necessary to give her a hint, that should she get Frank Marsh, or anybody else at Portsmouth to advance her any money just before she sails (as she did Mr Ommany when she went out) that I will not answer any bill she may draw on me. I will know my dear brother you will do for me as if it was for your self. God bless you.

Milbourne Marsh.


Note on envelope by William Marsh - Paper relating to my Uncle and his son Major Marsh's affairs and the Copy of the Will of the latter.


Memorandum (from George Marsh). When my Brother died viz 17 May 1779 he had £2000 in the o&C consuls £900 of which he gave Major Marsh, £700 K Marsh to receive the Interest of the £700 only for her life and the remaining £400 was sold agreeable to his Will to pay his Victualling Office and all other his debts. He left his house and goods as / and the inventory herewith to his widow Kath Marsh for her life, then to be sold and divided between his sons the Major, Jno Marsh and his Niece Maria Crisp. The Residue of his effects he left to his said widow.

George Marsh.


19 June 1779.  Mr Mathers account of my Brother's account with the Victualling Board and that he left the Balance in Mrs K Marsh's hands to pay to the Victualling Board. All settled.

On His Majesty's Service

George Marsh Esq.

Commissioner of His Majesty's Navy

Navy Office



In his will Milbourne Marsh is noted as living at his dwelling house at the Victualling Office at Chatham.  As his executors he appoints his brother George Marsh, John Matthew and George Kirby.  His will is written 4 November 1778 and is proved 26 May 1779.




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