John HEADD 1771

John Head served in the Royal Artillery between 1795 and 1810


John HEADD, son of Thomas HEAD and Sarah WHITEHORN, b. 1771; bc. 25 DEC 1771 Romsey, Hampshire; m. Sophia SMITH 14 MAY 1802 St. Nicholas, Plumstead, Kent (M165101); d. 3 JUN 1855 in Plumstead Common, Kent.

The children of John HEADD and Sophia (SMITH) Head are:

i. William HEAD was born 1 MAY 1803; baptized in St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich, Kent, 22 MAY 1803.

ii. Mari Ann HEAD c. 10 JUN 1810 St Nicholas, Plumstead, Kent (C165101).

iii. Eliza Ann HEAD b. 20 OCT 1812; c. 15 NOV 1812 in St Nicholas, Plumstead, Kent (C165101).

iv. Sarah HEAD b. 11 DEC 1814; c. 24 AUG 1817 St Nicholas, Plumstead, Kent (C165102); m. Thomas BUTCHER 12 JAN 1836 St. Nicholas, Plumstead, Kent (I029066).

Thomas Butcher abt 1837 Plumstead, Kent.
John Butcher abt 1841 Plumstead, Kent.
Alfred Butcher abt 1843 Woolwich, Kent.
Henery Butcher abt 1846 Plumstead, Kent.

+v. Stephen Head b. 29 JUL 1817 Plumstead, Kent; c. 24 AUG 1817 St. Nicholas, Plumstead, Kent; m. Margaret WILKIE 9 DEC 1844 St. Nicholas, Plumstead, Kent; d. 28 DEC 1881 in Plumstead, Kent, at 64 years of age.

Notes for Sophia Smith: b abt 1770 not in Kent (1841 census); died 15 JAN 1846 at Plumstead Common.

Information collected and © 1999 by Pat Lunnon as part of her research into the Head family Tree:

When John joined the 1st Royal Regiment of Artillery he did so directly from the Militia. His name first appears on muster and pay rolls in Aug. 1795, when it was noted that he had served 61 days already. The Battalion mustered at Brighton, Sussex, but where john enlisted is not given.

(It is interesting to note that William Avery, the father of Susannah who married Stephen John Head, grandson of John Head, was born in Brighton.)

In Sep. 1795 the Battalion moved to Portsmouth and on the 13th November Capt. John Rogers' Company embarked on HMSs Arethusa and Concord for passage to the West Indies. John appears to have been on board the Concord as he did not appear on the muster or payroll of the Arethusa. John's pay as a gunner was nine pence ha'penny (equiv. 4p today, or 2.5 cents).

Information received from the RN Museum, Portsmouth:

The Concord was a French built ship which had been captured by the Magnificent on 15th July 1785. it was 143 ft. long by 38 ft. wide and had 36 cannon. It was regarded by the RN as a 5th rate ship. (ships were rated according to size, etc. from 1 to 6, i.e. a ship like the Victory being 1st. rate.)

An extract from Troopships and their History, by Col. H C B Rogers, OBE

"Soldiers carried as passengers the bad old system of feeding them two-thirds rations was still in force. This changed in 1810."

Capt. Rogers' Company landed at Barbados on 5th Feb. 1796 and on 1st April the Company embarked on the Troop ships John, Jane and Arethusa for San Domingo, Haiti. A muster was held on 7th April.

The next muster took place at St. Nicholas Mole, San Domingo, on 8th May. The muster Roll taken at the end of June showed that 28 deaths had occurred in the company that month, including the Captain who died on 30th June.

Extract from Troopships and their History;

"...the Army's casualties from sickness in the West Indies were proportionally greater than the battle casualties in most theaters of war."

Muster rolls do not state whether deaths occurred from sickness or killed in battle.

Sometime during July/August 1786 the main body of the Company moved to Port-au-Prince. However, John Head remained at the command at St. Nicholas Mole where he was stationed until he returned to England.

By March 1797 the Company had been reduced by deaths to under half it's former strength. A new Captain, Capt. Wiltshire Wilson, was appointed and the Company was brought up to strength in May by replacements from other regiments.

In July all NCOs and gunners were awarded Five shillings and Three pence (about 26 pence or about 18 cents) shoe money.

Capt. Wilson was transferred in September and Capt. G. Koehler was appointed to the Company.

John Head had a pay rise of two pence (1/2p or 1/4 cent) per day in Jan. 1798, but this was not in fact paid to him until September.

John Head was part of a detachment that returned to England aboard the Iris which left San Domingo in June.

Information received from the RN Museum, Portsmouth: The Iris was built in Deptfort, Kent in 1783 and was on loan to Trinity House. It was a 5th rate ship.

It was not stated in the muster rolls just whereabouts in England John Head was stationed, but at some time before 1802 he went to the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich, Kent.

On 14th May 1802 John Head married Sophia Smith at St. Nicholas Church, Plumstead, Kent, in the presence of S. Smith and F. Buckingham. John made his mark but Sophia signed the register. Both John and Sophia were living in the parish of Plumstead at the time of their marriage, although John was still with the Royal Artillery at Woolwich (the neighboring parish).

At the time, St. Nicholas Church was half a ruin, with only a former Aisle and cross-wing being used. The tower still stood but the nave was roofless and ruinous. The church was set in pasture land on the northern slopes of the North Downs overlooking the Thames valley.

It has yet to be researched how long John stayed with the Royal Artillery at Woolwich but he was discharged from the First Battalion, the Royal Artillery on 31st March 1810, having served a total of 16 years 45 days, which includes his service in the West Indies prior to him enlisting with the First Battalion. His discharge was due to rheumatism. His description on the discharge papers is given as:
Aged 35 and 3/4; height 5' 8''; brown hair, grey eyes, fair complexion. (Just like Mark, his father and his grandfather). He was granted a pension of One shilling (5p or 3 cents) a day from 1st April 1810. (he was latterly earning something above 11.5 pence a day- so his pension was near his salary in value).

The Children are listed in the tree but it is worth noting that their daughter, Sarah, b. 11th Dec. 1814, and their son Stephen, b. 29th June 1817, were baptized together on 24th August, 1817 at St. Nicholas. This goes to show how baptism dates do not necessarily reflect birth dates.

On 12th Jan 1836 their daughter, Sarah Ann May, married Thomas Henry Butcher by license at St. Nicholas in the presence of John and Jane MacDonald. Thomas signed but Sarah left her mark.

In the 1841 census for Plumstead, John and Sophia Head were living in Plumstead with their son Stephen, aged 20? (24 according to his birth), and grandson, Thomas Butcher, aged 5. (Goodness knows why Sarah and Thomas Butcher were not listed, or why their son was living with his grandparents.)

The Tithe Apportionment for Plumstead, dated 22nd August 1842, John Head occupied a house and garden of 7 perches (A perch is a square rod, where a rod is equiv. to 5.5 yds. A perch is therefore 30.25 sq.yds. John's plot was 211.75 sq. yds (abt 200 sq.m) i.e. small! It was owned by Queen's College, Oxford.

Note: A chain is 22 yds, so a rod is a fifth of a chain. There are 10 chains to a furlong, and an acre is 1 chain by 1 furlong, the medieval unit of land. There are 250 perches to the acre.

John's wife, Sophia, died in Jan. 1846 aged 76 and was buried in Plumstead churchyard on 18th January.

The 1851 census shows John living with his son-in-law, Thomas Butcher and his wife Jane! (What happened to Sarah? did she die early- was that why his son, Thomas, was living with his grandparents in the 1841 census?). Also at this residence were Thomas Butcher, son; John, Alfred and Henry, sons.

Thomas was listed as a farmer's labourer, and Jane as a Laundress. John was listed as a pensioner, Royal Artillery. They were possibly living in an area known as Dawson's Pottery on Plumstead Common. The enumerator for the census called at five houses here and then at the house of Thomas Butcher, another house, and 'The Ship' beer shop.

John Head died in 1855 aged 84 (a very good age, especially considering his exploits abroad and his rheumatism) He was buried in Plumstead churchyard on 3rd June 1855.

© Jerry England 1989 - 2006


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