Topic: John Fane Charles Hamilton (1820-1864)

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Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton (1820-1864) was killed during the Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina) on 29 April 1864. His cousin Robert Thomas Francis Hamilton (1835-1864) was also killed during the battle. Story researched and written by Debbie McCauley.

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John Fane Charles Hamilton was born in Hildersham, Cambridgeshire, England, on 28 September 1820. His parents were Colonel John Potter (1778-1873) and Charlotte Hamilton (nee Fane) (1787-1869) who married on 28 December 1813. John was christened in Hildersham, Cambridgeshire, on 15 July 1821.

Nearing the age of 15, John joined the navy on 28 August 1835. He went on to serve in the Americas and the Crimea. He became a Lieutenant on 8 March 1844, and a Commander ten years later, on 27 November 1854.

In 1855 he married Laura Parry (1831-1918) in Bicester, Oxfordshire, England. Their children include:

  1. Laura Maria Hamilton (1856-?). Laura was christened at St Peter in Kent, England, on 14 September 1856.
  2. John Fane Charles Hamilton (1859-1921). Born in Belmont, Hampshire on 14 August 1859. He was a Lieutenant Colonel. On 3 June 1890 John married Gertrude Catherine Mary Angela Stuart (1870-1919), eldest daughter of John Stuart, D.L. J.P. of Ballechin, Co. Perth. He served in Nile Expedition 1884-85, with 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment; retired pay, 1886; Major 3rd and 4th Battalion (Militia) Lancashire Fusiliers, 1894-1898; Hon Lieut-Colonel, 1898; J.P. (1894) Hampshire; C.A. Isle of Wight Club; Naval and Military. According to the England and Wales Census of 1911, 56-year-old John was living in the Isle of Wight. His address was Spencer Lodge, Spencer-road, Ryde, Isle of Wight. Gertrude died in October 1919. John died on 20 November 1921 and was buried with his mother and Gertrude in Ryde Old Cemetery (Section N Plot 1965a).
  3. Arthur C Hamilton (1862-?). Arthur was born in Ryde, Isle of Wight, in 1862. 

From 6 May 1856 John was Commander in Elk, East Indies and China during the 2nd Anglo-Chinese War.

He was appointed Captain on 26 February 1858. From 22 May 1863 he was Captain of the Esk (from commissioning at Portsmouth). The Esk was sent to New Zealand during the New Zealand Wars.

Captain Hamilton, pre 1864 (Image: Alexander Turnbull Library)

At the Battle of Gate Pā John had under his direct command a detachment of the 43rd regiment and a party of sailors. He was struck in the head by a bullet during the battle and died on 29 April 1864. 

The Daily Southern Cross reported on 3 May 1864:

John Fane Charles Hamilton is son, we believe (says Byrne's "Naval Biography"), of Colonel Hamilton and Charlotte, daughter of John Fane, Esq., of Wormsloy, LL.D., an eminent agriculturist, and many years M.P. for Oxford. His uncle, Rear-Admiral Francis William Fane, died 28th March, 1811. This officer entered the navy 28th August, 1835; and in 1841-42, while attached to the ' Blonde,' 42, Captain Thomas Bourchier was present, either in the boats or on shore, at the taking of Amoy, the storming of Chinghae, the attack on the Chinese entrenched camp on the heights of Segoan, the capture of Chapoo, and the engagement with the enemy's batteries at Woosung. He also, on the 10th March, 1842, served in the boats, under Captain George Goldsmith, at the destruction of ten fire vessels with which the Chinese had attempted to annihilate the British shipping and transports at their anchorage off Chinghae.
Having passed his examination 10th November 1841, and been further employed as mate in the ' Warspite,' 50, Captain Provo William Parry Wallis, and ‘St. Vincent,' 120, flag ship of Sir Charles Rowley, on the Lisbon and Portsmouth stations, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, 8th March 1844, and subsequently appointed 24th May and 1st August 1841 to the 'America,' 50, and ' Racer,' 16, Captains Ilon. John Gordon and Archibald Reed, both on the South American station. He left the latter vessel in the summer of 1846. He afterwards became senior lieutenant of the ' Leander,' and was further promoted for his services while on the Naval Brigade at the siege of Sebastopol. On the 26th February 1858 he received his post rank.
Captain Hamilton wore several momentoes of his gallantry, and the last and fatal act which distinguishes him as a gallant officer cannot be better described than in the words of our special correspondent - "The General, who was in the advanced trench of his position, ordered up the supports almost immediately after the storming party rushed the breach; and the second division of blue-jackets and the gallant 43rd, led by Captain Hamilton, of the ' Esk,' advanced with a ringing cheer to the support of the forlorn hope. They arrived at a critical moment; the storming party exposed to a murderous fire on all sides, and from hidden assailants beneath, and without an officer left to lead them, were wavering; part were outside the pa. Captain Hamilton sprung upon the parapet, and shouting 'follow me, men!' dashed into the fight. That moment was his last. He fell dead, pierced through the brain by a bullet, and many of his officers shared the same fate."

 Grave of John Fane Charles Hamilton (1822-1864) at Mission Cemetery

Grave of John Fane Charles Hamilton (1822-1864) at Mission Cemetery (Photo: Debbie McCauley) 

John was buried at the Mission Cemetery in Tauranga. The city of Hamilton, founded in 1864 at the end of the Waikato War, was named after him as is Hamilton Street in Tauranga.

His probate reads: 2 September 1864 - Letters of Administration of the Personal estate and effects of John Fane Charles Hamilton late a Captain in Her Majesty's Ship "Esk" Esquire deceased who died 29 April 1864 at Tauranga in New Zealand were granted at the Principal Registry of Laura Hamilton of Orkney House Ryde in the Isle of Wight in the County of Southampton Widow the Relict of the said Deceased she having been first sworn.

Laura died, aged 89, on 23 February 1918. She was buried in Ryde Old Cemetery (Section N Plot 1965a).

In 2013 a life-size bronze statue of John was gifted to Hamilton by the Gallagher Group. It was produced by Margriet Windhausen and stands in Civic Square. 


Sources: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.

Biography of John Fane Charles Hamilton R.N.

Daily Southern Cross (3 May 1864, p. 3).

Descendent Roll.

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 Sep 2013), John Fane Charles Hamilton, 28 Sep 1820.

Genealogy Links.

Gibson, L C (March 1964). The Hamilton Cousins (Tauranga Historical Society. Journal No.19, pp.18-20).

McCauley, Debbie (5 August 2011). Identity and the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), 29 April 1864.

The Gentleman's Magazine (Vol II, 1864).

Ryde Social Heritage Group: Mr John Fane Charles Hamilton.

Who's Who in the Isle of Wight (1913). The Vectis Publishing Society, 29 New Bridge Street, London.

Waikato Times (2013). Captain Hamilton's statue given to city.


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2012). John Fane Charles Hamilton (1820-1864). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2012).


This page archived at Perma CC in March of 2017;

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John Fane Charles Hamilton (1820-1864)

First Names:John Fane Charles
Last Name:Hamilton
Date of Birth:28 September 1820
Place of Birth:Hildersham, Cambridgeshire
Country of birth:England
Date of death:29 April 1864
Place of death:Gate Pa, Tauranga, New Zealand
Place of burial:Mission Cemetery, Tauranga
Name of the ship:HMS Esk
Spouses name:Laura Parry
Spouses date of birth:1831
Spouses place of birth:Stokenchurch, Oxfordshire, England
Spouses date of death:23 February 1918
Spouses place of burial:Ryde Old Cemetery
Date of marriage:1855
Place of marriage:Bicester, Oxfordshire, England
Fathers name:John Potter Hamilton
Fathers date of birth:1778
Fathers place of birth:Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Fathers date of death:28 January 1873
Fathers place of death:Wrexham, Wales
Mothers name:Charlotte Fane
Mothers date of birth:26 July 1787
Mothers date of death:1869
Mothers place of death:Bath, Avon, England
Name of the children:Laura Maria Hamilton , John Fane Charles Hamilton , and Arthur C Hamilton
Military Service:New Zealand Wars, Crimea, and 43rd Monmouth (Monmouthshire) Light Infantry Regiment