Sir John Sutton

1758-1825. He was born on 23 March 1758 at Moulsey, Surrey, the second son of Thomas Sutton, and of his wife, Jane Hankey.

In May 1770 Sutton entered the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth where he remained for three years before joining the guardship Resolution 74 at Chatham, commanded by his maternal uncle, Captain William Hotham. This officer secured him a transfer to Commodore Sir Edward Hughes’ pennant ship Salisbury 50, Captain George Walters, in which he went out to the East Indies in November 1773 before returning to England with Hughes in May 1778.

Having been examined for his lieutenancy he was commissioned on 21 May 1778, and in July was promoted into the sloop Alderney 10, Commander Arthur Kempe. He then returned to the East Indies with Vice-Admiral Hughes in the spring of 1779 aboard the Superb 74, Captain Robert Simonton, distinguishing himself in the action against Hyder Ali in December 1780, although a ship he was in the act of boarding blew up, resulting in him being thrown into the sea whilst several of his wounded men drowned. In the following year he acted as the captain of the Coventry 28 in the absence of the invalided Captain Andrew Mitchell and was sent to Fort Osnaburg in Ceylon to blockade a couple of armed Dutch East Indiamen.

In January 1782, by which time he had risen to become Hughes’ first lieutenant, Sutton set sail for England in command of the sloop Nymph 14 to which he had been appointed on 2 January in order to convey home Captain Henry Ball of the Superb 74 with the admiral’s despatches. Having reached Portsmouth in mid-May after a voyage of under four months the Nymph was paid off, but his promotion was confirmed on 4 July.

Sutton’s early service was predominantly spent in the East Indies with Sir Edward Hughes

In November 1782 Sutton commissioned the Salisbury 50 at Plymouth for the broad pennant of Commodore Sir John Jervis and the command of Captain John Duckworth, for which service he was posted captain on 28 November. In the event the ship did not put to sea before the peace was agreed in 1783.

Sutton remained unemployed until the Dutch Armament of the autumn of 1787 when he was appointed to the re-commissioned Aurora 28 in early October. During the following March he went out from Portsmouth to Jamaica where he remained for the next three years under the orders of Commodore Alan Gardner, returning to England in July 1790 after a passage of thirty-four days to be paid off.

At the beginning of 1793 he joined the Romulus 36, going out of Portsmouth Harbour for Spithead in April, and sailing for the Mediterranean with the first division of the fleet under Rear-Admiral Phillips Cosby. After cruising off Toulon with the fleet he proceeded to Gibraltar and Leghorn in July in the company of the Aquilon 32, Captain Hon. Robert Stopford, and his subsequent duties included a mission to Admiral Don Juan de Langara in Rosas Bay in order to invite the Spanish to assist in the occupation of Toulon in August. He later delivered Captain Hon. William Waldegrave to Barcelona from where that officer travelled overland to Britain with despatches, and returning to Toulon the Romulus shielded the rear-guard in the evacuation of the port in December, before being stationed off the port to prevent the inadvertent entry of any British ships. Early in the new year she joined the fleet that had sailed to undertake the invasion of Corsica in February, and she was placed in blockade of two French frigates at Calvi.

In May 1794 Sutton removed to the Egmont 74, in which he was present at the Battle of Genoa on 13-14 March 1795, suffering casualties of seven men killed and twenty-one wounded, most of them to a burst cannon. He was also present on 13 July at the Battle of Hyères, although he failed to get into the action despite pushing his ship in the chase of the French. For a short while he flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Robert Linzee, and on 9 March 1796, acting under the orders of Vice-Admiral Waldegrave, he directed the cutting-out of the ex-British Nemesis 28, the Sardine 22, and a twenty-gun polacre from the Bay of Tunis.

Re-joining the Mediterranean fleet which was now under the command of Admiral Sir John Jervis, Sutton assisted Commodore Horatio Nelson in the evacuation of Bastia in October 1796, and was present but barely involved at the Battle of St. Vincent on 14 February 1797, his ship suffering no casualties but towing the San Ysidro 74 into Lisbon at the conclusion of the engagement. He was then employed in the blockade of Cadiz, and in October was detached with the Diadem 64, Captain George Henry Towry, to Lisbon to collect a convoy and provide for the embarkation of troops in Portugal before returning with this fleet to Portsmouth in the following month. Despite being in desperate need of a refit the Egmont remained stationed for the winter in the Downs in protection of the coast.

In May 1798 the Egmont was paid off at Chatham and Sutton transferred into the new Superb 74 with a large number of his crew, many of whom were revelling in riches after finally receiving their prize money for the capture five years earlier of the French privateer General Dumourier and her prize, the Spanish register ship St. Jago. The Superb arrived at Sheerness from Chatham on 1 July prior to taking on her ordnance at Blackstakes, and on 26 August she sailed from Portsmouth to join Admiral Lord Bridport’s Channel fleet. On October 9 she entered Limerick with a small squadron that had been cruising off Cape Finisterre, and in January 1799 she was under the orders of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Thompson whose squadron, it was planned, would relieve Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Gardner’s squadron in the Channel. Shortly afterwards Thompson was taken ill, and it appears that a change of plan took place, for the Superb was at Plymouth in the last week of February, and on 1 March she arrived at Portsmouth before rejoining the fleet in Torbay.

At the beginning of June 1799 the Superb was detached with Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Cotton’s squadron to reinforce the Mediterranean fleet following the breakout of the Brest fleet on 25 April, and she served under Vice-Admiral Lord Keith in the pursuit of the French back to their home port. By December she was at Spithead, and on 15 January 1800 she sailed from Portsmouth to rejoin the Channel Fleet with which she remained for the next few months. Upon coming into Plymouth in July she joined Rear-Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren’s expedition to Ferrol, but this force came back to the Devonshire port in October having been unable to achieve its objectives. Once more the Superb was restored to Channel Fleet duty, and during the opening weeks of January 1801 she was harboured at Portsmouth before going out later that month to serve with the fleet.

From the end of February 1801 until the late summer of that year Sutton served as the captain of the fleet in the Channel to Admiral Hon. William Cornwallis aboard the Ville de Paris 110, Commander Tristram Robert Ricketts, which officer was replaced in June by Captain John Whitby. At the beginning of October he hoisted his broad pennant aboard the Leyden 64, Captain William Bedford, in temporary command of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s coastal defence flotilla in the Downs, transferring on the 8th to the Isis 50, Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy, and going out on a cruise with a number of gun-brigs three days later before returning to the Downs on the 19th. For the remainder of the war he acted as a commodore in the Downs with his broad pennant frequently flying on different vessels, although from the middle of November it was predominantly aboard the Nemesis 28, Captain Edward Owen, and from early 1802 aboard the Amazon 38, Captain Sam Sutton, from which vessel it was struck on 7 April.

Sutton held the post of second-in-command at Plymouth from 1804-9

After the recommencement of war with France in 1803 Sutton was attached to the Channel fleet in command of the Mars 74, which came into Plymouth from the squadron off Brest on Christmas Eve. He thereafter served with Commodore Sir Edward Pellew’s squadron off Ferrol, taking command of this force when Pellew went back to Plymouth to refit his ship in March 1804.

Upon being promoted rear-admiral on 23 April 1804, Sutton immediately returned to England aboard the Niobe 38, Captain Matthew Henry Scott, and on 18 May hoisted his flag at Plymouth on the slop-ship Résolue as paying commissioner afloat and second-in-command of that port. For a short period from 23-28 May he held the chief command with his flag aboard the Salvador del Mundo 112, Captain John Dilkes, pending the arrival of Vice-Admiral William Young, and once the latter was installed he shifted his flag into the Windsor Castle 98, Captain Davidge Gould, prior to returning to the Résolue where it remained for the rest of his tenure, although he also had his family living with him in a house in Plymouth Dock.

During his time as second-in-command at Plymouth Sutton presided over most of the court-martials on that station. He also sat on the court martial of Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder aboard the Prince of Wales 98 in Portsmouth Harbour on 23 December 1805 conversant with that officer’s conduct at the Battle of Cape Finisterre, and in March 1807 he briefly commanded at Plymouth whilst Admiral Young attended the court-martial of Commodore Home Riggs Popham at Portsmouth regarding his conduct in South America. In the following month he took leave to visit London. As a result of the disputes arising from the Battle of the Basque Roads on 11 April 1809 Sutton also sat on Admiral Lord Gambier’s court-martial. He was advanced to the rank of vice-admiral on 25 October 1809 and three days later celebrated his promotion by raising his flag aboard the Prince Frederick 64, Lieutenant Abdiel Orseur, before leaving his post shortly afterwards.

Sutton was created a K.C.B. in January 1815, promoted admiral on 12 August 1819 and died at Ramsgate, Kent on 8 August 1825.

On 30 March 1797 he married a maternal cousin, Frances Hotham, the daughter of Beaumont Hotham, who was the brother and successor of Admiral Lord William Hotham. Her own brother was Vice-Admiral Hon. Sir Henry Hotham. Sutton owned a residence at Orford House, Ham Common, Richmond where his eldest daughter, Frances, predeceased him in December 1824.

Sutton was reputedly of a kind and generous disposition.