John Houlton

1740-1791. His family was long-established in the parish of Grittleton, Wiltshire.

Houlton was commissioned lieutenant on 28 June 1756 and served in Commodore John Moore’s expedition to the Leeward Islands in the early part of 1759 aboard the pennant ship Cambridge 80, Captain Thomas Burnet. On 29 January 1759 he was promoted commander of the sloop Bonetta 10 at Guadeloupe, retaining her into the following year and then joining the Senegal 14 in July 1761. He was posted captain in the West Indies on 4 November 1761, being appointed briefly to the Mercury 20.

Ship_of_the_Line_(74)_Downs (3)

HMS Montagu by Serres, Dominic (artist); Wells, J (engraver); Thompson, John P (publisher)

Shortly afterwards Houlton joined the Enterprise 40, sailing for North America in January 1762 with despatches, serving at the reduction of Havana in the summer, and later escorting the Jamaica convoy back to England. He remained with the Enterprise until she was paid off in January 1764, and in the same year lost a case against an American by the name of Monro who claimed that he had been confined aboard the Mercury against his will for six months. Upon leaving active service Houlton retired to his estate at Seagry, Wiltshire for the next fifteen years.

He returned to the colours by joining the newly commissioned Montagu 74 in August 1779, and he commanded her at the Moonlight Battle of 16 January 1780, forcing the surrender of the Diligente 70 and managing to tow her into Gibraltar despite atrocious weather. The Montagu then proceeded to the West Indies with Admiral Sir George Rodney, and at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780 suffered casualties of nine men killed and twenty-eight wounded, the latter figure including Houlton himself. He was somewhat compensated by being one of a handful of captains publicly praised by Admiral Rodney, although his first lieutenant was accused by the commander-in-chief of withdrawing the ship from the action once Houlton had been injured. This officer was later acquitted on the simple basis that the Montagu had been disabled. Houlton commanded the same ship in the remainder of the Leeward Islands campaign from May-July, including the fleet skirmishes in the former month.

Remaining in the Leeward Islands after the bulk of the fleet had sailed for New York, the Montagu was driven out to sea from her anchorage at St. Lucia during the Great Hurricanes of October 1780 and totally dismasted, having eight feet of water in the hold and losing six men. Houlton later served at the reduction of St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781, and fought at the Battle of Fort Royal on 29 April, but left the Montagu shortly afterwards to return home because of his wounds and poor health.

In 1785 he succeeded his brother in the ownership of Grittleton, Wiltshire, whereupon he sold his estate at Seagry. During August 1790 he was appointed to the Royal Sovereign 100 when the fleet recomissioned on account of the Nookta Sound dispute, but he left her after being promoted rear-admiral on 21 September.

Admiral Houlton died unmarried on 26 January 1791 at Grittleton, leaving his estate to his great-nephew.