Hon. William Clement Finch
1753-1794. He was born on 25 May 1753, the third of eight sons and four daughters of Heneage Finch, the 3rd Earl of Aylesford, and of his wife Lady Charlotte Seymour, the daughter of the Duke of Somerset. He was the older brother of Captain Hon. Seymour Finch, and the brother-in-law of the Earls of Suffolk and Dartmouth.. Captain Lord Robert Manners was his first cousin
Finch was educated at Westminster between 1764-5, and having entered the navy was commissioned lieutenant on 7 July 1772, seeing service aboard the Panther 60, Captain Cornthwaite Ommanney, with the broad pennant of Commodore Molyneux Shuldham at Newfoundland, on which vessel his brother also served. He was further promoted commander on 10 April 1776, being ordered to commission the new Cygnet 14 which he took out to Newfoundland in April before returning later that year and paying her off.
Having been ordered to commission the recently purchased Camel 22 at the Nore the previous December he was posted captain on 18 March 1777, and during March sailed out to the Leeward Islands. In June he was sent from New York to Antigua with despatches, arriving on 22 July and being immediately ordered to convoy the Leeward Islands trade home. On 4 September the convoy was attacked by the American frigate Raleigh 32 despite the escort of the Camel, the Weazle 16, Commander Charles Hope, and the Druid 14, Commander Peter Carteret. During the opening stages of the ensuing engagement Commander Carteret was killed, but the American was eventually driven off by the men of war and a number of the armed merchant vessels, and by early October the Camel was back at Spithead.
In December 1777 Finch was ordered to commission, much to his disdain, the new Porcupine 20 at Deptford, this being a distinctly un-weatherly vessel. In March 1778 he went out to North America with urgent despatches for Vice-Admiral Lord Howe, arriving at Philadelphia in early May where his tidings brought about manoeuvres that saw the commander-in-chief defend New York from the French fleet in July. Despite Finch’s contempt for his ship, the Porcupine nevertheless managed to capture a homeward-bound French East Indiaman on 21 September 1778 whilst looking for the Brest fleet subsequent to the Battle of Ushant. The rich cargo aboard this vessel would provide him with a prize purse of some £62,000, which added to another £12,000 or so that he had earned three months earlier meant that he had accumalated a fortune of some £12.5milion pounds in today’s money, and would lead to him being given the nickname ‘Goldfinch’.
He happily left the Porcupine in the early part of 1779, and in the spring was appointed to the Amazon 32 attached to the Channel fleet in which he participated in the August retreat. He was with Captain Francis Reynolds’ squadron in the North Sea during December and then went out to the Leeward Islands with Commodore Hon. Robert Boyle Walsingham’s reinforcements in the spring of 1780, although contrary winds delayed their arrival until July. Here he served under the orders of Commodore William Hotham, his frigate miraculously surviving the Great Hurricanes of October despite being carried out to sea and almost oversetting, and with the loss of twenty men drowned. He later served with Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel Drake’s squadron which was sent to protect Tobago in May 1781, but had to retreat before the French fleet, and thereafter was based at Jamaica.
After exchanging later that summer with Captain Richard Hussey Bickerton, Finch commanded the Terrible 74 at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781, but this vessel was so badly damaged in the action that she was scuttled a week later and he returned home with Graves’ despatches. He later commanded the Polyphemus 64 from May until November 1782, this being her first commission, and he was present at the Relief of Gibraltar on 18 October and the resulting action off Cape Spartel.
Following the war’s end Finch purchased Albury House near Guildford in Surrey from his brother and settled into life as a gentleman farmer who developed the gardens on his estate. He was recalled to duty during the Spanish armament of 1790 when he commissioned the thirty year-old Arundel in September, which vessel was previously the Warspite 74 and had subsequently served as a hospital and receiving ship. She was paid off in December.
From October 1793 until May 1794 Finch had the Portsmouth-based Excellent 74. He was advanced to flag rank on 4 July 1794 but died after a long illness on 30 September.
He married Mary Brouncker of St. Kitts on 2 August 1789 and had three sons and two daughters. His address was given as Albury, Surrey, and he was M.P for Surrey from 1790-4 in the Treasury interest, although he did not speak in Parliament.
Enjoying the most aristocratic of connexions, Finch seems to have held a high level of self-esteem and entitlement.