Nelson & His World

Horatio Giles
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Author:  tycho [ Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:14 am ]
Post subject:  Horatio Giles

I gave a talk on Lady Hamilton yesterday and afterwards a member of the audience told me that she was researching her family history, in the course of which she had acquired a copy of a Census Return in which one of her ancestors was entered as 'Horatio Giles' and his birthplace was given as 'Battle of the Nile'.

I doubt if the new arrival was listed on the muster rolls but I wonder if anyone, off-hand, knows anything about this. There are numerous reports of babies being born in ships - in his 1806 biography of Nelson, Frederick Lloyd records such a birth: 'his mother was a washerwoman aboard the Minotaur when the baby was born in the Bay of Leghorn.' He was named Horatio and Nelson stood sponsor. (Though this seems odd in view of Nelson's 'No women in ships' rule.)

I told the lady that I knew some very clever chaps and that I would ask them if they had any information and/or lines of enquiry to follow.

Can anyone help?

Author:  Tony [ Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

Well obviously I couldn’t resist digging into this one! And I’m glad I did because it is very exciting – a great story, and although not guaranteed to be true, it checks out in varying degrees in three different ways.

My first search turned up a little boy born on board HMS Romulus during the Battle of the Nile, and christened Owen Nile Reardon Smith, so that was no good.

However this webpage: contains an extract of the 1861 census for the Saracen’s Head Hotel, Temple Gate, Bristol as follows:
Henry H. Giles, head M 62, hotel proprietor, born at the Battle of the Nile, English (1st August 1798)
Charlotte Giles, wife M 45, hotel proprietor, Cambridge
Biddy C. Giles, dau U 2, Somerset Bristol
It also lists the following as proprietors:
1858 - 77. Henry Horatio Giles
1877 - 87. Charlotte Giles
Is that the information your contact already has?

The BMD index has the following death for 1871:
Name: Henry Horatio Giles
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1798
Year of Registration: 1871
Quarter of Registration: Jan-Feb-Mar
Age at Death: 73
District: Bristol
County: Avon, Gloucestershire
Volume: 6a

Of course I did worry that he was a pub landlord (or hotel proprietor), as “born at the Battle of the Nile” just sounds like a great story to tell your customers, and you can write what you like on a census form!

Fortunately four of the ships at the Battle of the Nile have an alphabetical index to their muster books (which is unusual), and it turns out there are two candidate fathers in those four ships, both named Henry Giles, one in the Alexander (entry 488, Henry Giles, from Windsor, Ordinary Seaman, age on entry: 33), and one in the Bellerophon (entry 1044, Henry Giles, from Carlisle, Coxswain, age on entry (1796): 24).

Without needing to look any further, it is the Bellerophon that checks out. In the Gentleman’s Magazine July-Dec 1860 on p.210 in obituaries, we have:
At Portsea, aged 89, Nelly Giles. She was on board H.M.S. " Bellerophon," Capt. H. Darby, at the Nile, and in all subsequent engagements under Nelson, and was a most useful nurse to the sick and wounded. Three days after the battle of the Nile Nelly gave birth to a son. The Government awarded her a pension of £17 per annum for life.

The Bellerophon of course suffered the heaviest casualties in the British fleet, with 49 killed and 148 wounded.

The Malton Messenger for 21st April 1860 puts her death in April 1860:
Last Week, Nelly GILES died at Portsea, being nearly 90 years of age. She was one of the few surviving witnesses of the battle of the Nile, having been on board Her Majesty's ship Bellerophon, Captain H. DARBY, and in all subsequent engagements under Nelson. Three days after the battle Nelly gave birth to a son.

The story also appears in ‘Nelson's Friendships’ by Hilda Gamlin, Vol 2:
Another who merits a place in the record of sea-service is Nelly Giles, who was on the Bellerophon (Captain Darby) at the Battle of the Nile, and at all subsequent engagements under Nelson. Three days after the battle she gave birth to a son. She was a most useful nurse to the sick and wounded. In later life the Government granted her a pension of £17 a year as long as she lived. She ended her useful career in July 1857 at Portsea.

It also appears in ‘The College, the Market, and the Court’, by Caroline Wells Healey Dall, p.164:
There recently died, at Portsea, in England, a woman, ninety years of age, named Nelly Giles. She was one of the few surviving witnesses of the battle of the Nile; having been on board His Majesty's ship " Bellerophon," in the command of Captain Darby, and in all subsequent engagements under Nelson.
During the action of the Nile, she was surrounded by heaps of slain and wounded ; and she nursed the latter tenderly, undismayed by the horrors of the scene. Three days after the battle, she gave birth to a son.
The government, in consideration of her great attention to the sick and wounded, and of the assistance she gave the surgeons, awarded her a gratuity of seventeen pounds a year for her life.

If Nellie Giles really did receive a government pension, there should be something to follow up there.

Having written the above, I just did one final search on the IGI records. The result ties in with Henry and Nellie Giles, but throws a bit of doubt on the birth date – 3 days seems to have become 6 months:
Birth: 14 FEB 1799
Christening: 20 JUL 1800 Saint Thomas, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Source Information:
Batch No.: C062513, Dates: 1770 – 1812, Source Call No.: 0919726, Type: Film, Printout Call No.: 6901162, Type: Film, Sheet: 00

The birth date of 14th February 1799 is while the Bellerophon is still in the Mediterranean, and the christening is three months after she arrived back in England in April 1800.

The IGI also shows Henry Horatio Giles marrying ANN JOYCE on 04 MAY 1818 at Saint Marys, Portsea, Hampshire, England

A son HENRY HORATIO GILES has a Christening: 26 MAR 1847 Great Wilbraham, Cambridge, England

It looks like Charlotte is a second wife – the christening at Cambridge ties in with her birthplace of Cambridge in the 1861 census above.

A grandson (by another son) might be HENRY HORATIO GILES Christened: 10 OCT 1875 at Temple, Bristol, Gloucester, England

So in summary, it looks like we have the father, Henry Giles, from Carlisle, born about 1772, coxswain of HMS Bellerophon at the Nile, the mother, Eleanor (Nellie) Giles, born about 1771, died in Portsea, April 1860, and the son Henry Horatio Giles, born HMS Bellerophon either 4th August 1798 or 14th Feb 1799, died in Bristol, 1871.

The story may have improved with age, but it does seem likely that Nellie Giles was at least pregnant with Henry Horatio during the Battle of the Nile, and that he was born on board before the Bellerophon returned to England. If he was born on 14th February 1799, it is worth noting that Nelson had shifted his flag to the Bellerophon at Palermo on 1st February, and then to back to the Vanguard on the 12th (although Nelson himself might have been otherwise engaged).

Author:  Mira [ Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:42 pm ]
Post subject: 

What a wonderfully rollicking story. I'm enthralled!

I hope your talk went well yesterday Tycho, and you'll undoubtedly take audience satisfaction to an even greater level with all this amazing background supplied by Tony.

A valentines day baby? Yes, I suspect HN was 'thinking of other things much more interesting' to him at the time.

Now, Henry Giles, coxswain of the Bellorophon and erstwhile father. He wasn't a noble-looking, tall, seaman by any chance?

Thanks for a great read.

Author:  tycho [ Tue Nov 18, 2008 8:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

Tony!!!!! What can I say? I am rendered speechless (no easy task!) by the speed and efficiency of your research and by this wonderful, undiscovered story of Nelly the Heroine. Thank you so much for the time and trouble you have taken over this. As soon as I've finished this post, I'll pass on the details.

Yes, the talk went very well. I enjoyed it, anyway! It was 'Ladies only' so I ended by passing round, and inviting the ladies to have a spray from a flacon of 'White Rose' by Floris - the scent that Nelson gave to Emma before he left for Trafalgar.

Believe it or not, there was another lady in the audience last night who told me she was a collateral descendant of Sir William Beatty; and at the last talk I gave, a descendant of Lord Howe introduced herself.

Author:  tycho [ Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:11 am ]
Post subject: 


I believe David Cordingly has written a book, 'Billy Ruffian' about the Bellepheron. Has anyone read it? I wonder if he mentions anything about Nelly and the birth of young Henry Horatio?

Author:  tycho [ Wed Nov 19, 2008 5:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

Tony: I have had a very nice message from Henry & Nelly's descendant who is delighted with all you have discovered. She has asked me to thank you very much for your searches and will update us if anything new comes to light.

Author:  Tony [ Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:24 am ]
Post subject: 

One point I omitted to mention is that Henry Giles was absent for the muster on 3rd August 1798 and subseqent musters in August and September (I only have the muster for Aug & Sep). But he is not marked as discharged or killed in the battle, which suggests a temporary absence. But at the moment we cannot be sure that he was on board the Bellerophon during the battle, even if Nellie was. He joined the Bellerophon from the Adamant as Able Seaman on 7 August 1796 and was promoted Coxswain on 30 October 1796.

Author:  brian [ Mon Nov 24, 2008 11:43 am ]
Post subject: 

David Cordingly's book, 'Billy Ruffian', is in front of me now. Alas, no mention of mother, child or father.


Author:  tycho [ Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:49 am ]
Post subject: 

I came across the first line of a poem by John Clare,

'O Nelly Giles, O Nelly Giles....'

Was it 'our' Nelly'? See the 'Poetry: you have been warned' thread.

Author:  rhigham [ Fri May 31, 2013 11:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Horatio Giles

As surgeon on the Bellerophon, George Bellamy was present at the battle of the Nile, and almost single handed struggled to help the many wounded who were brought to him where he was operating by the light of a swinging lantern in the cockpit of the ship. He was so greatly in need of helpers that he sent a message to the Captain begging him to let some men come to his aid. The battle was at its height and the answer came back that not a man could be spared, but that if he could persuade a woman to come – petty officers at that time brought their wives with them – he was at liberty to do that. The appeal was sent to the handful of women, all together, panic stricken, in some cabin on the ship. At first none of them would come – then one woman dared, and all through those ghastly hours, she bravely stood by the hardworking surgeon, carrying out his orders as far as she could…
Years passed. He met her again but without recognizing her. It was on London Bridge, where she was trying to sell a handful of laces. She recognized him at once and thought he would recognize her. “Don’t you know me Little Doctor?” she cried, using the name the sailors had called their tall doctor. “Don’t you remember me? The cockpit of the Bellerophon?” Only then did he pause and stare at her, a shadow of what she had been when she had helped him on the ship. Her husband had died. Pensions were few and far between. The poor woman was practically penniless when she had suddenly recognized him as he was walking past.
The story ended happily. George Bellamy was in touch with George 111rd (he was physician to the duke of Clarence) and told the King the woman’s story, and she was granted an adequate pension!

this account was written by my aunt years ago

we have otgher stories about George Bellamy, and a copy of his scrawled notes about the people he had to help during the battle (this was used by Cordingly)

Richard higham

Author:  tycho [ Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Horatio Giles

Welcome to the forum!

And many thanks for that delightful anecdote; a wonderful addition to this remarkable story!

If you care to share other stories of George Bellamy, we could start a dedicated thread.

Author:  rhigham [ Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Horatio Giles

re Bellamy the surgeon at the Nile: as I said we have manu stories in the family - which my cousion Dr Michael Langford has been gathering and writing up and will shortly send round the family. I have asked him if we could post it on this site for anyone interested, and I await his reply

re Bellamy as physician to the Duke of Clarence - I found this in the gazette:
St. James-, '^September \; 1813.
"The Duke of Clarence has been pleased to appoint
George Bellamy, Esq. to be Physician Extraordinary
to His Royal Highness

where in mid wales? My wife was brought up in pembrokeshire and we do articles for the local "news and views"

are you in contact with the Giles family descendents now?


Author:  tycho [ Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Horatio Giles

Many thanks for your post.

It would be wonderful if you could post more about Bellamy here in due course.

I recently moved from Somerset to Powys (Llanwrtyd Wells) to be nearer family.

Not in touch with the Giles descendants after our exchange of info - and sadly, I don't have their email since a major computer crash.

Author:  rhigham [ Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Horatio Giles

one of the george bellamy stories in our family. You will known that the Orient caught fire and the sailers saw it and had to get the Bellerophon's cables cut and drift away in case the Orient blew up (which of course it did). The only officer left to give the order was a young fellow aged 17 or 18 with an eyes injured by a flying splinter - and he agreed "cut the cables" which the sailers did, and the boat got away .... well, I told my Auckland MBA class this as a "saga" about twenty years ago and they all agreed it was something impressive. But then three years later one of them phoned me and invited me to lunch - he was a senior banker in town. He handed me his daughter's school essay taken from the family papers, on how a young man cut the cables on the Bellerephon - it was his ancestor John Hindmarsh! An amazing co-incidence. He, ther banker, was also Johnn Hindmarsh - look up the name of the web - the 1800 and the 2000 versions are incredibly similar!!!

Author:  Clare [ Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Horatio Giles

Hi guys Henry Horatio is my partners greatx6 grandfather and him and his sister have been blown away by this information. Ive been doing a lot of family tree research lately and it wasnt until I crossed paths with a lady on genes reunited a couple of weeks ago that i could take the family back further to Horatios father Henry. She had some notes on there that i frantically googled it all and found yr thread and tons of other info. Thanks for sharing this its amazing. I'm still on a mission to find out about Henry and Eleanor. Any more info? Eleanors maiden name was jennings b 1771 x

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