John Faithful Fortescue

1755-1819. He came from a long-established Devonian family and was the eldest son of Faithful Fortescue of Hatherleigh, near Oakhampton, and of his wife Eleanor Pyne of Heavitree.

Fortescue’s early career included stints on the Dispatch 10, Somerset 68, and Salisbury 50, and on 11 June 1778 he was commissioned lieutenant.

On 15 November 1781 he was promoted commander of the Lightning 8 at Spithead, remaining there into the new year, and in May 1782 he was attached to Admiral Lord Howe’s Grand Fleet when it sailed to the eastward. Rather than join the capital ships off the Dutch coast, the Lightning was held in readiness in the Downs, and by 15 June she was back at Portsmouth where she remained throughout the summer.

At the end of August 1782 Fortescue transferred to the newly launched fireship Incendiary 12 which was fitting out at Deptford after her launching in Dover, and on 2 January 1783 his command arrived at Portsmouth having passed through the Downs the previous day. She thereafter appears to have remained at Spithead throughout the spring.

On 21 April 1783 Fortescue was appointed to the newly launched sloop Rattler 16 which was fitted out at Chatham, although it is unlikely that he took her to sea, and on 6 August he was posted captain of the Trusty 50. This appointment seems to have been for purposes of rank only, for a month later it was announced that the Trusty was to carry the broad pennant of Commodore Sir John Lindsay in the Mediterranean.

Fortescue did not see any further service, and he became a superannuated rear-admiral on 21 November 1805. He died on 27 December 1819.

His residence at the time of his death was given as Writtle Lodge, near Chelmsford in Essex.

Fortescue married Elizabeth Fraine of Chelsea, who gave birth to their son during 1785 in Hanover Square, London. In September 1785 she was reported to have died ‘suddenly’ in Richmond, Surrey, and it is believed that she shot herself following the death several weeks earlier of her father, who had long suffered from a painful debilitation, and also the suicide six years earlier of her only brother.