About George Grey
Sir George Grey, 1st Baronet, KCB (10 October 1767 – 3 October 1828) was a British Royal Navy officer. He was born at the family home of Fallodon, Northumberland on 10 October 1767, the third son of Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey (1729–1807) and Elizabeth Grey (1744–1822), and younger brother of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and General Sir Henry George Grey. He served as a naval officer in the Royal Navy from the age of 14, and was on active service from 1781–1804, during the latter years of the American war of Independence, during the French Revolutionary War and the first year of the Napoleonic War. He served as Flag Captain for John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent and later as Master and Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet. He also served as Flag Captain for King George III on his royal yacht. From 1804–1806, he was Commissioner at Sheerness Dockyard, and from 1806 until his death on 3 October 1828 he was Commissioner at Portsmouth Dockyard.
Grey served in the Royal Navy from the age of 14 in the West Indies and home waters from 1781.
He was on HMS Resolution under Captain Lord Robert Manners in George Brydges Rodney's action of the Battle of the Saintes against the French on 12 April 1782.
A commission for service at the rank of 4th Lieutenant in the Royal Navy was issued to George Grey in 1784.
Following representations made by Charles Grey, to John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham detailing the career of his son George (a lieutenant in the navy), and requesting he be considered for promotion, On 7 August 1793, confirmation was sent to him that George Grey had been appointed Captain of HMS Vesuvius.
At the commencement of the war with France in 1793, Grey was serving on the 32-gun HMS Quebec, from which he was promoted to the command of the Vesuvius bomb vessel and on 3 October 1793, Sir John Jervis hoisted the flag of a Vice Admiral of the Blue on HMS Boyne; his flag captain was the son of the general commanding the troops, Captain George Grey, from thenceforth associated with his patron's services, and with his affection to the latest hour of his life The combined forces, commanded jointly by John Jervis and Grey's father, General Charles Grey, proceeded to the Caribbean where they captured the French colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Lucia. According to accounts of the time, Charles Grey had troops in the order of 2,400 to attack the French-held forts, and his son, Captain George Grey and Captain Nugent were often employed, with 200 or 400 seamen, to move the heavy guns, ammunition and supplies to the troops, and at times to storm the enemy at the point of bayonet to gain territory.
On their return to British waters on 1 May 1795, HMS Boyne caught fire during Marine exercises while anchored off Spithead. The fire spread quickly, causing the on-board cannons to fire at nearby ships attempting to rescue the seamen on board. Eleven crewmen from the Boyne lost their lives, and two from the Queen Charlotte, anchored nearby. The anchor cables were destroyed by the fire, so that the ship drifted and eventually ran aground. It eventually had to be blown up, and the Boyne Buoy, still marks the position of the wreck near Southsea Castle at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. The accident happened before John Jervis had been able to remove all his papers and belongings, so everything he had on board was lost. George Grey, as captain, was court-martialed but acquitted, as he had not been on board at the time.
In November 1796, Captain Grey sailed with John Jervis and Robert Calder on HMS Lively, to join the Mediterranean Fleet at Gibraltar. Admiral Jervis raised his flag on HMS Victory with the two captains, Robert Calder as Captain of the Fleet and Captain George Grey to command his flag ship The Admiral hoisted his flag on HMS Victory on joining the fleet. During the Battle of Cape St Vincent of the 14 February 1797, despite the heavy fighting, there was only one fatality on HMS Victory, when a Marine was shot alongside John Jervis on the poop deck.
In August 1797, Captain Grey was given the command of HMS Ville de Paris and the following year, in September 1798, he succeeded Robert Calder as Master and Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, the orders coming from George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty on 29 August 1798.
By June 1799, Earl St Vincent had given Captain Grey the dormant position of Adjutant-General of Fleet and requested that he be permitted to have Grey accompany him home on the Ville de Paris. The service record of George Grey as Adjutant General of the Fleet whilst on Argo and Guerrier from June to November 1799 by Evan Nepean 26 Dec 1801.
In April 1800, John Jervis was recalled to command the Channel Fleet, to quell the mutinous spirit of the crews. "Lord St Vincent was desirous of calling to his assistance in the Channel, as many as he could of the Officers formed in the Mediterranean Fleet... That the Admiralty could not, at a moment's notice, comply with these wishes as fully as his Lordship imparted them, may also be as easily supposed." Captain Grey accompanied the Admiral as his Flag Captain on HMS Ville de Paris.
At the beginning of the short peace in March 1801, he accepted the command of one of the royal yachts at Weymouth, and did not again see active service. The Grey family lived at Weymouth for the three years of his service to King George III and a doll's house that was presented to his daughters by the Royal princesses is on display at Kew Palace.
From 1804–1806, Captain Grey was Commissioner of Sheerness Dockyard. During his time there, on 23 December 1805 his official yacht, the Chatham, was used to transfer Horatio Nelson's coffin with his flag flown at half mast, from HMS Victory to Greenwich Hospital. There his body lay in state until 8 January 1806 before being moved by state barge to Whitehall and the Admiralty for a state funeral.
In 1806, George Grey was appointed Commissioner at Portsmouth Dockyard. Besides overseeing the changing face of the Navy and the Dockyard being instigated by the Lord of the Admiralty, Earl St Vincent, Sir George had an important administrative role to play. Some of his correspondence with the Navy Board from 1807–1827 is still kept by National Archives relating to the workers, maintenance and general operation of the dockyard, including major accidents. He also wrote to the Board on behalf of offenders who faced deportation or death for their crimes.
In 1807, the mayor of Portsmouth John Carter, together with the aldermen, Town Clerk and Coroner, arrived at the Dockyard gates to assert the right of judicial process over the whole dockyard. George Grey refused them entry until he had assurances that they were not claiming jurisdiction over the soil of the dockyard.
He became President of the Portsmouth Dock Yard Bible Association in 1817 and was an active supporter, with his wife, of Missions to Seafarers. His wife, Mary Whitbread, took an active role in looking after the dockyard workers' families, sick seamen and seafarer's orphans. She was the first woman to have been recorded as actively supporting seamen's missions by supplying scriptures and other religious reading materials to officers and instructing them to read to or distribute material to their crews at sea. She did this for over 20 years.
In 1814, during a royal visit instigated by the Prince Regent, later King George IV, His Majesty Alexander I of Russia, accompanied by her Imperial Highness Catherine, Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, the Earl of Yarmouth and Count Lieven, his Imperial Majesty's Ambassador all stayed at the Commissioner's residence in Portsmouth Dockyard for the duration.
Sir George maintained his close friendship with Admiral John Jervis until his death in 1823.
In addition to his work as Commissioner of the Dockyard he was also Marshal of the Vice-Admiralty Court at Barbados; an Alderman of Portsmouth and Vice President of the Naval and Military Bible Society.
Death and funeral
Sir George Grey died at the Commissioner's residence, Portsmouth Dockyard, on 3 October 1828. The Hampshire Telegraph reported his funeral on 13 October 1828:
"The remains of the Hon. Sir Geo. Grey, Bart. were this morning deposited in the Chapel of this Garrison, the Burial Service being performed by Rev. W.S. Dusauloy... The pall was borne by Admiral the Hon. Sir Robert Stopford, Vice-Admiral Sir Harry Burrard-Neale, 2nd Baronet, Rear-Admiral Gifford, Major-General Sir Colin Campbell and Captains Loring and Chetham. the principal Officers in his Majesty's Dockyard in mourning coaches, and several hundred of the shipwrights and other artificers of the yard, on foot, followed. On the Grand Parade, a passage to prevent interruption, was formed by the military and the whole was conducted in the most solemn and impressive manner..."
He was buried at the Royal Garrison Church, Portsmouth, where a memorial plaque is displayed in the Chancel.
Sir George Grey was created 1st Baronet of Fallodon on 29 July 1814, following the visit of the Allied Sovereigns to Portsmouth, and was awarded a KCB on 20 May 1820 by King George IV, following a further Royal visit to the Portsmouth Dockyard.
On 18 Jun 1795, George Grey married Mary Whitbread (1770–1858) of Bedwell Park at Essendon in Hertfordshire, daughter of brewer Samuel Whitbread(1720–1796) and Lady Mary Cornwallis(1736–1770), and niece of Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis. Mary's half-brother, Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815) an English politician, was married to Elizabeth Grey, eldest daughter of Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey and George Grey's sister.
George Grey and Mary Whitbread had the following children:
Mary Grey (1796–1863) who married firstly Capt. Thomas Monck-Mason in 1823, by whom she had seven children, and secondly Henry Gray in 1840 in Ireland.
Rt. Hon. Sir George Grey MP (1799–1882) born in Gibraltar and sometimes Home Secretary between the years of 1846 and 1866. He married Anna Sophia Ryder and had one son, Lt. Col. George Henry Grey (1835–1874)
Elizabeth Grey (1800–1818) who married Charles Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough and died after the birth of their son, Charles George Noel, 2nd Earl Gainsborough.
Harriet Caroline Augusta Grey (1802–1889) who married Revd. John Simon Jenkinson and had four children
Hannah Jean Grey(1803–1829) married Sir Henry Thompson, 3rd Baronet of Virkees (1796–1838), and died shortly after the birth of their daughter Hannah Jane Thompson
Jane Grey (1804–1838) married Francis Baring, 1st Baron Northbrook and had five children.
Charlotte Grey (1805–1814)
Charles Samuel Grey (1811–1860) married firstly Laura Mary Elton(died 1848) by whom he had five children and secondly Margaret Dysart Hunter in 1850 by whom he had a further five children. He held the post of Postmaster of the Civil Services in Ireland
a son who died in infancy 1814
Lady Mary Grey died 9 May 1858 at Eaton Place, Pimlico, London.
Descendants of Sir George and Mary Grey include: Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon Thomas Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook Francis Baring, 2nd Earl of Northbrook, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6thEarl of Gainsborough, Sir Peter Curtis, 6th Baronet Curtis. Admiral Francis George Kirby (1854–1951), Lt. Col. Norborne Kirby (1863–1922)