Sir Richard Bickerton 1st Baronet

1727-92. He was born on 23 June 1727, the third son of a captain in the 4th Dragoon Guards, Henry Bickerton of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and of his wife Mary Dowdall of Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He was the father of Admiral Sir Richard Hussey Bickerton and the uncle of Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Hussey Moubray.

After an education at Westminster School Bickerton entered the navy in March 1739 at the outbreak of the Spanish war and served in the West Indies aboard the Suffolk 70, Captain Thomas Davers. He saw further duty for a few months during 1743 in the Mediterranean aboard the Stirling Castle 70, with Captain Davers briefly commanding this ship before giving way to Captain William Cleland. Thereafter he served in the Channel aboard the St. George 90, Captain John Byng, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, the Duke 90, Captain Thomas Davers, and the Victory 100, Captain Samuel Faulkner with the flag of Admiral Sir John Balchen.

In the early months of 1744 he removed to the Cornwall 80, Captain Charles Holmes, which became the flagship to the promoted Vice-Admiral Thomas Davers who had been appointed commander-in-chief at Jamaica. On 8 February 1746 he was promoted lieutenant by his patron, and although Davers died of yellow fever in October Bickerton remained in the West Indies aboard the Worcester 60, Commander Thomas Andrews, until the end of hostilities in 1748.

Further service came from 1753-6 aboard the Fougueux 64, Captains Richard Hughes, George Brydges Rodney, John Douglas and Richard Spry, the Royal George 100, Captains John Campbell and Matthew Buckle flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen, and from the beginning of 1758 the Namur 90, again with Admiral Boscawen and Captain Buckle.

On 2 August 1758 Bickerton was promoted commander of the fireship Aetna, and he commanded her in the Mediterranean under the orders of Admiral Boscawen during the summer of the following year. He was posted captain of the Culloden 74 for purposes of rank only on 21 August 1759 and soon after joined the Glasgow 20 in the Mediterranean, sailing for the West Indies in April 1760 and serving with her at Jamaica until April 1761 when he joined the Lively 20. During June 1762 he commanded the Port Mahon 20 at the reduction of Havana, and after a short spell in the Devonshire 66 he removed in 1763 to the Téméraire 74, returning to England from Jamaica at the peace and being paid off in August 1763.

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Admiral Bickerton received a knighthood for steering the royal barge at the fleet review of 1773. He received a baronetcy for doing the same thing five years later. It certainly paid to be a friend of the first lord of the Admiralty!

In April 1767 he went back out to Jamaica having recommissioned the French-built Renown 32, and he returned to England in July 1768 in command of the Ferret 14 which was promptly paid off. At the beginning of 1771 he commissioned the new Marlborough 74, and on 24 June 1773 was knighted for the honour of steering the King’s barge at the Spithead naval review in his capacity as the captain of the royal yacht Princess Augusta.

For the next three years Bickerton remained with the Princess Augusta before returning to active service by joining the recommissioned Terrible 74 in October 1776, with which vessel he captured the American privateer Rising States in the Channel on 15 April 1777. During the King’s review of the fleet at Spithead during May 1778 he once more steered the royal barge, and as a reward was created Baronet Bickerton of Upwood in Huntingdonshire. On 27 July 1778 he fought at the Battle of Ushant.

Remaining with the Channel fleet, and having escorted a convoy out to sea in company with the Ramillies 74, Acting-Captain Thomas Allen, he had the good fortune to receive intelligence of the course of a homeward bound Martinique convoy from a neutral ship on 13 April 1779. The information allowed the British ships to drive off the accompanying frigates and snap up seven prizes worth about 20,000 guineas apiece. His command later formed part of the Channel fleet under Admiral Sir Charles Hardy in August 1779, during which year Captain Roger Curtis temporarily acted for him.

IIn March 1780 Bickerton commissioned the brand new Fortitude 74, serving in the latter part of the Channel fleet’s June-December campaign. On 12 April 1781 the Fortitude was present at the second relief of Gibraltar, Bickerton leaving the ship in June upon the fleet’s return to Spithead. By the middle of August he was back in command of the yacht Princess Augusta, embarking the King and Prince of Wales at Greenwich for a cruise down the Thames to visit the naval vessels and establishments at Sheerness, the Nore and Chatham.

In 1782 he was ordered to raise a broad pennant as commodore aboard the ex-Spanish flagship Fenix, which had been renamed the Gibraltar 80, and with Captain Thomas Hicks as his flag-captain he was sent with four other sail of the line and two frigates to reinforce Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes in the East Indies. His squadron took many months longer than anticipated to reach its station and when it finally arrived on 21 October the ships were ridden with scurvy. On 20 June 1783 he fought at the indecisive Battle of Cuddalore, and he returned home in the following June.

From 1786-7 Bickerton was commander-in-chief in the Leeward Isles with his broad pennant aboard the Jupiter 50, Captains Thomas Hicks and Christopher Parker, a position he relinquished on his elevation to flag rank on 24 September 1787. During 1789, whilst flying his flag at Plymouth aboard the brand new Impregnable 98, Captain Sir Thomas Byard, he again entertained the King. For a brief while during the Nookta Sound dispute of 1790 he flew his flag aboard the Impregnable with Captain Byard, and he became port admiral at Plymouth later that year with his flag from April-September 1791 upon the Cambridge 80, Captain Thomas Hicks, and thereafter with the same officer aboard the St. George 98.

Bickerton was still holding the position of commander-in-chief at Plymouth when he died of an apoplectic fit in London on 25 February 1792.

He married Mary Anne Hussey of Wrexham on 2 January 1758 and in addition to Sir Richard Hussey Bickerton had another son who died young, and two daughters.

From 1790 until his death Bickerton was M.P. for Rochester in the Admiralty interest. He was a friend of Lord Sandwich, the first lord of the Admiralty from 1771-82.