William Browell

1759-1831. He was the son of William Browell, a midshipman who had served under Admiral of the Fleet Lord George Anson. His brother, Captain Herbert Browell, died of yellow fever in the West Indies in 1796.

In late 1770, Browell entered the navy aboard the sloop Merlin, which was fitting out at Portsmouth under the command of a family friend, Captain Samuel Marshall, for service in the Falkland Islands dispute with Spain. Early in the following year he removed with Marshall to the Princess Amelia 80, which was also commissioning at Portsmouth, and which left harbour in April and sailed for Jamaica where she flew the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney. At the end of May 1773, Browell transferred with Rodney and Marshall to the Portland 50, which returned to Portsmouth on 31 August 1774, prior to being paid off at Sheerness on 29 September.

His next appointment was to the Levant 28, Captain Hon. George Murray, stationed in the Mediterranean and thereafter in the Bay of Biscay. Having taken a prize into Lisbon in early 1777, he had the good fortune to be collected three months later by Captain Marshall, who kept him aboard the Arethusa 32.

The Sans Pareil

Joining the Victory 100, Captain Jonathan Faulknor, the flagship to Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel, Browell fought at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July 1778. On 10 November he was commissioned lieutenant of the Bienfaisant 64, Captain John MacBride, in which he was present at the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January 1780, following which he returned to England with the Spanish prize Fenix 80. He later served with MacBride aboard the Artois 40, fighting at the Battle of the Doggersbank on 5 August 1781, after which engagement he temporarily commanded the Princess Amelia 80 following the death of Captain John Macartney and the wounding of her first lieutenant. Rejoining the Artois, he remained with her until she was paid off in April 1783 at the end of the American Revolutionary War.

During the peace, he served aboard the Portsmouth guardships Princess Royal 98 from April 1783 until May 1784 and the Triumph 74 from September 1784 until she was paid off in April 1786, with both vessels being commanded by Captain Jonathon Faulknor. He saw further employment during the Spanish Armament in the autumn of 1790 when he was appointed the first lieutenant of the Canada 74, Captain Hon. Hugh Seymour Conway, and Acting-Captain Erasmus Gower, prior to her being paid off on 10 December. On 22 February 1791 he joined the Alcide 74, Captain Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, retaining his position aboard her through the Russian Armament until 30 November 1792.

On 21 January 1793, with the French Revolutionary War looming, Browell was appointed the senior lieutenant of the Leviathan 74, Captain Conway, which vessel sailed with the fleet for the Mediterranean in May and was present at the occupation of Toulon from August. For a short while, he temporarily assumed the command of the Leviathan when Captain Conway was sent home with despatches.

Promotion to commander followed on 30 May 1794, but although he was officially discharged from the Leviathan, Browell was invited to remain aboard by her captain, now titled Lord Hugh Seymour, and he took part in the Battle of the Glorious First of June a week later. Thereafter, he commanded the armed ship Prince Edward 14 off Ostend.

On 29 November 1794 Browell was posted captain after attending the Admiralty, and he was appointed to the ancient yacht Princess Augusta, which was fitting out at Deptford for the purposes of conveying Princess Caroline of Brunswick to England for her marriage to the Prince of Wales. A fortnight later, he was one of the officers who kissed hands with the King prior to departing on this duty. In the event, the yacht was not with Commodore John Willett Payne’s squadron which ultimately collected the princess from Cuxhaven on 28 March, but Browell did enjoy some time in the company of the Prince of Wales whilst awaiting his bride’s arrival, and he commanded the yacht which conveyed the princess from Payne’s anchorage off Gravesend to Greenwich.

In June 1795 he became the flag-captain to the promoted Rear-Admiral Lord Seymour aboard the Sans Pareil 80, which ship had been captured at the Battle of the Glorious First of June. Departing with the Channel Fleet on 10 June, the Sans Pareil played a prominent part in the Battle of Groix on 23 June, where she incurred the largest casualties in the fleet of ten men killed and two wounded, the former figure including Browell’s long-standing friend, Lieutenant Charles Morris Stocker.

Over the next two years, Rear-Admiral Seymour spent a good deal of time ashore in his post at the Board of Admiralty, only joining his flagship to cruise in the summer months. During this period the Sans Pareil remained attached to the Channel Fleet, and to confuse the enemy and supplement her French appearance, she often flew the tricolour as a ruse de guerre. At the end of 1795 she put out from Portsmouth with Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Gardner’s squadron for a short cruise, she departed again with that force at the beginning of February 1796, and she was back at Portsmouth with Gardner’s division at the end of March.

On 5 May 1796 Rear-Admiral Seymour arrived at Portsmouth to re-hoist his flag aboard the Sans Pareil, and his squadron of nine sail of the line put out on a cruise shortly afterwards, although their departure was somewhat marred by the Sans Pareil fouling the Imperieuse 38, Captain Lord Augustus Fitzroy, which frigate was but a day out of harbour, and which lost her mizzen mast with Browell’s command also losing her fore-yard. The squadron was back at Spithead on 16 August, and in October the Sans Pareil was taken into harbour for repairs. A second and far more serious incident occurred in December when the Sans Pareil collided at Spithead with the Prince 98, Captain Thomas Larcom, thereby delaying the Channel Fleet’s response to the attempted French invasion of Ireland.

It was to Browell’s good fortune that the Sans Pareil was at sea under Rear-Admiral Seymour’s flag with Rear-Admiral Sir Roger Curtis’ squadron in 1797 when the mutiny occurred at Spithead on 16 April. Shortly afterwards she was sent as part of Curtis squadron to bolster Admiral Adam Duncan off the Texel whilst the North Sea squadron remained under the control of the mutineers. She returned from this duty to Portsmouth on 8 August, and in September was ordered to join the Channel Fleet, although at the end of the month she was still awaiting a fair wind at Torbay to join that force. Once the fleet returned to port, Browell was a member of the procession of officers who attended St. Paul’s Cathedral in London during December for a service of thanksgiving for the various naval victories.

In January 1798 the Sans Pareil put out from St. Helens as a private ship with Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Thompson’s division to cruise off Ushant. In the course of this employment, she was dispatched with the frigate San Fiorenzo 36, Captain Sir Harry Burrard Neale, to look into Brest, but she had to return to Portsmouth in the following month following damage to her rudder which had been incurred in what was described as ‘a hurricane’. Rear- Admiral Seymour rejoined the ship in April when she was off the French coast with the Channel Fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Bridport, and the Sans Pareil was back at Torbay on 13 May before going out with the fleet at the end of the month to resume cruising off Brest.

The eventual docking of the Sans Pareil at Portsmouth in August 1798 resulted in a personal tragedy for Browell, for in returning to the base from his house in the town of Gosport, and despite attempting evasive action, he was crushed under a falling bale of wool. Suffering a bad back injury, his life remained in danger for a long time, and although he eventually recovered and was appointed to the royal yacht Princess Augusta at Deptford, he was never fit enough to resume active service.

In January 1805 he became one of the captains of Greenwich Hospital, and from January 1809 until his death of ‘paralysis’ on 21 July 1831 he was the lieutenant-governor of that establishment.

On 13 December 1795 he married Mary Faulknor, the daughter of Vice-Admiral Jonathon Faulknor and sister of Rear-Admiral Jonathon Faulknor. When she died at Greenwich on 19 September 1809 after an illness of many years, one of Browell’s sisters became his housekeeper. He was living at Gosport up until the time of his appointment at Greenwich in 1805.