The Buckle family were originally settled in the county of Westmorland, residing at Brough-under-Stainmore, and owning estates which bordered on the North Riding of Yorkshire in the reign of Henry VII. (The Biographer, No. 4, Vol. 1, p. 41 (see Buckle MS. 405))
The interests of the family were not confined to the north, however, and from the early 16th century they were possessors of properties in the City of London. Sir Cuthbert Buckle (1533-1594), a Vintner, was a Citizen and Alderman of London, and served the offices of Sheriff in 1582 and Lord Mayor in 1593-4. He lived in Mark Lane, and owned lands and houses in the parishes of St. Mary-at-Hill and St. Dunstan-in-the-East. (Buckle MS. 25.)
His only son, the first Sir Christopher Buckle (1590-1660), migrated to Surrey, and acquired lands at Mitcham. In 1614 he purchased from William Merland the estate of Burrough, since called Burgh, in Banstead co. Surrey, together with the mansion house built by the Merlands in 1550 and known as Burgh House. This became the centre of the Buckle estate until the sale in 1846 to the sixth Earl of Egmont. Sir Christopher evidently spared nothing in his endeavours to build up the family fortunes, and is reputed to have sold his father's chain of office so as to buy a flock of sheep. (The Biographer, op. cit., p. 41; Buckle MS. 1. See Catalogue of the Cowdray Archives (W.S.C.C. 1964) for references to the Banstead estate after 1846.
Sir Christopher had three sons and seven daughters by his marriage to Catherine, the daughter of Sir Martin Barnham of Hollingbourne in Kent. His eldest son, the second Sir Christopher Buckle (1629-1712), married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir William Lewis, Bart., of Borden, East Meon, in Hampshire, who had been imprisoned by Cromwell after the Civil War. His eldest daughter, Judith (1612-1676), married Robert Mason of Greenwich, Doctor of Civil Law, and so began the Mason line of the family which produced two important naval commanders. (Buckle MS. 25; Buckle MS. 1.) The surviving papers of Captain Christopher Mason (born c1634) include his commission to the command of HMS Oxford signed by Charles II and Samuel Pepys, diarist and clerk to the Admiralty. (Buckle MS. 92.)
The second Sir Christopher Buckle was succeeded in 1712 by his grandson, also Christopher Buckle (1684-1759). The property in London had suffered severely during the Great Fire, but Christopher was able to finance the building of Nork House in Surrey in 1740 and to give Burgh House to his eldest son. His fifth and youngest son, Mathew Buckle (1718-84), entered the navy in 1731 at the age of 13, and was one of five members of the Buckle family ultimately to rise to Flag Rank.
Mathew Buckle was one of the most distinguished naval officers of the 18th century, and was in continuous command of fighting ships for nineteen years from 1744. His career is unfolded in a fine series of Log Books which survives for the period 1731-62 (excepting the years 1743-44), and in his Letter and Order Books for 1744-48. (Buckle MSS. 96-103, 105-106.)
His first command was HMS Russell, a third rate ship of 80 guns and 650 men, of which he was appointed Captain on 29 May 1745. The country was then at war with France and Spain, and the navy was blockading their fleets in Toulon and Cartagena. England maintained a large fleet in the Mediterranean and on the coast of Spain, mostly employed in cruising and intercepting enemy trade. Under the command of Mathew Buckle, the Russell became the Flag Ship of Admiral Henry Medley, but when the Admiral removed his Flag to the Boyne in May 1747, it was intended that the Russell should return to England. About 200 of her men were discharged to other ships, and her sail and gun power were reduced. On leaving Gibraltar she gave chase to the Glorioso, a Spanish man-of-war of 70 guns and 760 men, and on 8 October 1747, after a close action of six hours off Cape St. Vincent, she succeeded in capturing her prize. The engagement is described in detail in the log book of the Russell and in the despatches copied in the Captain's Letter and Order book. (Buckle MS. 6; Buckle MS. 98; Buckle MS. 105.)
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed in October 1748, but the peace was an uneasy one. The French continued to hamper British trade and settlement on the west coast of Africa, and Captain Buckle commanded several vessels in the protection of British interests in Africa. Hostilities were resumed in 1756, and in January 1758 Buckle was appointed Flag Captain to Admiral Sir Edward Boscawen in the Namur, a vessel of 90 guns. He took part in the siege and capture of Louisburg, Cape Breton, in July of that year, and served in the same ship when Boscawen defeated the French fleet under de la Clue off Lagos on 17 August 1759. In November 1759 the Namur was part of Admiral Sir Edward Hawke's fleet which destroyed the French fleet under de Conflan in Quiberon Bay. Mathew Buckle remained in command of the Namur until 13 February 1762, and during that time was employed in maintaining the blockade of the French coast. (Buckle MS. 6.) Apart from the Log Books and the Letter and Order Books, a series of miscellaneous papers survive relating to the naval engagements of this period. (Buckle MSS. 107-110, 201-213.)
Mathew Buckle was made a Rear-Admiral on 18 October 1770, and was second-in-command at Spithead in 1770-71. He was promoted to Vice-Admiral of the Blue on 31 March 1775, and commanded the fleet in the Downs in 1778-79. On 19 March 1779 he was promoted to Admiral of the Blue, and in 1783 was offered the command of the Fleet, which he declined on account of ill health. (Buckle MS. 6; The Biographer, op. cit., p. 41.
The house at Nork was made over to Mathew Buckle by his father, but after his death in 1784 the house was let to Lord Arden on a long lease, and was eventually sold to him in 1812. His elder and only surviving son, Mathew (1770-1855), was apprenticed as Captain's servant with his first cousin Christopher Mason in 1777, but it is not thought that he went to sea until 17 April 1786, when he entered service as Able-Seaman on board HMS Salisbury, a 50 gun ship engaged on the Newfoundland station.
Mathew was rated Midshipman in 1787, and for the next six years was chiefly employed on the Newfoundland and West India stations, receiving his first commission as Lieutenant on 21 January 1791. In February 1793 he joined the Royal Sovereign, flagship of Vice-Admiral Thomas Graves, second-in-command of the Channel Fleet under Admiral Earl Howe, and was aboard that ship during the celebrated actions against the French fleet under Villaret Joyeuse on 29 May and 1 June 1794. Despite having been deprived of the use of his limbs by rheumatic fever, he remained at his post throughout those actions, and earned the favourable notice of his commanding officer. (Buckle MS. 6; Buckle MSS. 149, 153.)
He was appointed Commander of the sloop Ferret on 6 December 1796, and commanded the store ship Camel on the North American and West India station from 24 November 1800 to 24 September 1802. In the latter year he was promoted to the rank of Post Captain, and from 3 May 1804 to 28 February 1810 he was in charge of the Portsmouth division of the Sea Fencibles. During these six years Buckle constantly applied for a command at sea, and was eventually induced to descend on the Admiralty, commissions in hand, to state his case. He subsequently received two commands on the Leith station between 1810-1813, but as he had not served sufficient sea-time he was, to his intense mortification, placed on the Retired List of Admirals. He became a Rear-Admiral on 10 January 1837, a Vice-Admiral on 9 November 1846, and an Admiral on 30 July 1852. (Buckle MS. 6; Buckle MSS. 149, 153.)
Buckle evidently suffered disillusionment during his career, being denied the sea command to which he felt he was entitled, and his disenchantment was no doubt enhanced by the progressive deterioration of eyesight which diminished his prospects of active service and ultimately culminated in blindness. During the latter part of his life he looked to his second son, Claude Henry Mason Buckle (1803-1894), to fulfil the ambitions he had set for his own career, and his correspondence reflects the endeavours he made to further his son's prospects in the navy.
Though the surviving papers of Admiral Buckle are far fewer than those of his father, his commissions, together with certificates and memoranda of service, do survive, and provide a sketch of his naval career. (Buckle MSS. 127-149, 153.) Moreover, his correspondence includes letters from Lieutenant Charles Mathew Buckle written on board HMS Vengeance, and describing the battles of Odessa and the River Alma conducted during the Crimean War. (Buckle MS. 237.)
Mathew Buckle's efforts to advance his son's career in the navy were not without avail, and ultimately his son received a knighthood and attained the rank of Admiral.
Claude Henry Mason Buckle began his career at Portsmouth Naval College in 1817, and first went to sea as a Volunteer aboard HMS Heron on 30 March 1819. He was promoted to Midshipman on 1 April 1820, and to Mate on 16 February 1825. (Buckle MS. 154.) He served on the Liffey, a 50 gun vessel which led the fleet at the capture of Rangoon, and subsequently served in her boats in numerous affairs with Burmese stockades and flotillas. In 1827 he was promoted to Lieutenant and served aboard the Ganges, an 84 gun ship, on the South American station. He afterwards served in the North Sea in the West Indies, and in the San Josef, flagship at Plymouth. He was Flag-Lieutenant in the latter ship to Sir William Hargood, and when that officer hauled down his flag in 1836 he was, in accordance with the practice of those days, promoted to Commander. (Buckle MS. 6.)
In 1840-1 he spent four months at Robert Napier's Vulcan Foundry in Glasgow studying the theory and construction of the marine steam engine, and subsequently applied to the Admiralty for command of a ship. (Buckle MS. 237.) On 7 December 1841 he was appointed to the command of the Growler, a new steam sloop, in which he served for nearly four years on the African station employed in the suppression of the slave trade. (Buckle MS. 6.) His surviving papers include an account of an action with a Spanish slavetrader off Shebar in 1845. (Buckle MS. 156.) Upon his return he was, on 6 November 1845, given a commission as Post-Captain, and four years later, in command of the Centaur, a six-gun steam frigate, he assisted in the recovery of the Grant, a merchant schooner captured by Spanish pirates in the River Seba. (Buckle MS. 6; Buckle MS. 158.)
However, it was as Captain of the paddle frigate Valorous that Claude Henry Mason Buckle most distinguished himself. He was appointed to her at the end of 1852, and at the outbreak of war with Russia proceeded to the Baltic. In May 1854 the Valorous took part in the destruction of 34 vessels at Uleaborg, in the Gulf of Bothnia, and later in the summer of that year she was involved in the bombardment of the fortress of Bomarsund in the Aland Islands. At the end of the year the Valorous went to the Black Sea, where she assisted in the defence of Eupatoria, in the blockade and forcing of the Strait of Kertch, and in the capture of Kinburn. Captain Buckle retained his command throughout the Crimean War, and had the honour of being three times gazetted. (Buckle MS. 6; Buckle MS. 159-163. Life of Vice-Admiral Lord Lyons, S. Eardley-Wilmot (Sampson Low & Co., 1898), pp. 308-9.)
In 1857 he became Captain Superintendent at Deptford Dockyard, and held that position until shortly before his promotion to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 14 November 1863. His enforced retirement under the Order in Council of 24 March 1866 soon afterwards put an end to his period of active service. He became a Vice-Admiral on the retired list on 1 April 1870, and an Admiral on 22 January 1877. (Buckle MS. 6.)
His only son, Claude Henry Shute Buckle (1848-1912) followed his father into the navy, entering Royal Naval College at the age of 14, and attaining the rank of Lieutenant, before being placed on the retired list with the rank of Commander in 1893. (For details of the career of Claude Henry Shute Buckle see Buckle MS. 7.)
Returning to the domestic scene, the Burgh estates of the Buckle family passed from Christopher Buckle (1711-1783) to his only son, also called Christopher (1742-1816). The latter died without issue, and the estates passed to his cousin, the Reverend William Buckle (1759-1832). William Lewis Buckle (1790-1865) succeeded his father to the Burgh estates and to the living of Banstead, and it was he who sold the Burgh estates in 1846 to George James Perceval, 6th Earl of Egmont, the eldest son of Lord Arden. (Buckle MS. 25.)
William Lewis Buckle married Mary Freeman Manley, daughter of William Manley of Henley, Sergeant-at-Law, in 1823, and by her had eleven children. Several of his seven sons achieved distinction in military and naval service, and papers relating to their careers survive in this collection.
Christopher Buckle (1824-1887) was the second son of William Lewis Buckle, and served in the 3rd Queens Bombay Light Cavalry and in the Bombay Staff Corps. When political agent in Rewah Kantah District he distinguished himself during the Mutiny of the Indian Native Army, and received the thanks of the Queen for his services. A number of his letters survive, and these contain information on British policy in India. (Buckle MSS. 244-245.)
Cuthbert Robert Buckle (1837-1901), the sixth son of William Lewis Buckle, entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1851. In July 1853 he was promoted to Midshipman aboard the sloop Comns [sic] employed on the China station, and while serving on board that ship was involved in protecting the factories at Canton during the rebellion against the Viceroy. He served aboard HMS Winchester, the Flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir James Stirling, Commander-in-Chief on the China station, and during the Indian Mutiny saw action on board the steam sloop Assurance. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 19 May 1859, and for the following three years served in the Mediterranean and in the West Indies aboard HMS Aboukir. In November 1867 he was nominated Flag Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Claude Henry Mason Buckle, and two years later was promoted to Commander. He commissioned H.M. Steam Gun Vessel Cracker in 1873, and served in her on the South American station, principally on the River Plate, until ill health caused his return to England and retirement from active service in 1875. (Buckle MS. 7.)
Though accounts of his career can be found in the manuscript biographies of the Buckle family, none of the personal papers of Commander Buckle survive in this collection, with the exception of letters amongst the correspondence of his elder brother, Charles Mathew Buckle. (Buckle MS. 250.)
Charles Mathew Buckle (1828-1914) was perhaps the most prominent of the seven sons of William Lewis Buckle, and enjoyed a long and distinguished naval career. It was he who first undertook the task of compiling a history of the Buckle family, and of arranging and preserving the surviving records of the family. His own papers are to be found in this collection, and provide a valuable insight into his naval career and his researches on the family history.
Charles Mathew Buckle was born on 14 October 1828 at the Vicarage House in Pyrton, near Watlington, co. Oxford, and he lived there until 1832 when his father succeeded to the Burgh estates and to the living of Banstead. He developed an interest in the navy at an early age, and in 1838 was sent to Gosport to a preparatory school for boys destined for a naval career. In his very detailed auto-biography, contained in the Memorials of the Naval Members of the Family of Buckle, he describes the type of education received at the school, and comments on the cruelties inflicted by the headmaster. (Buckle MS. 6.)
He was nominated a Volunteer of the 1st Class and appointed to the Cambrian, a 36 gun frigate, in September 1841, before his thirteenth birthday. This ship was employed initially on the China station, and was in Chinese waters during the latter year of the war with China. After the peace settlement, the Cambrian was engaged in combatting piracy off the coast of China, and later proceeded to the East Indies. (Buckle MS. 6.)
In 1845 Buckle was appointed to the Vernon, the Flagship of Rear-Admiral Samuel Hood Inglefield, Commander-in-Chief on the Brazils and River Plate station. He served on shore for eight months with a strong detachment of seamen and marines landed from the Squadron to assist in the defence of the city of Montevideo against the forces of the rebel General Oribe. In the autumn of 1846 Inglefield was transferred to the command of the East India and China station, and accordingly Buckle sailed with him to Hong Kong and Singapore. On 6 December 1847, at the age of 19 years 7 weeks, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, and appointed to the Ringdove, a 16 gun brig employed in the East Indies. (Buckle MS. 6; The Biographer, op. cit, p. 41.
Lieutenant Buckle returned to England in 1849 and spent a period in the study of gunnery on board the Excellent at Portsmouth. In January 1852 he was appointed to HMS Vengeance, and continued in that ship during the operations in the Black Sea and in the Crimea. Amongst the surviving correspondence of the Lieutenant are letters written aboard the Vengeance to his father and mother at Banstead containing detailed accounts of the naval campaigns, the embarkation of troops, and the besieging of Sebastapol. (Buckle MS. 248.) Other letters, written to Lieutenant Mathew Buckle, contain reports on the battles at Odessa and the River Alma during the same war. (Buckle MS. 237.)
Immediately after the Vengeance was paid off, in March 1855, Buckle applied for an appointment to a ship in the Black Sea or Baltic. To his intense disappointment he was eventually appointed to the Indefatigable, Flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir William James Hope Johnstone, Commander-in-Chief on the Brazil station. Nevertheless, under that officer he was successively appointed Acting Commander of the Harrier, steam sloop of 17 guns, of the Siren, 16 gun brig, and of the Indefatigable itself, and in March 1858 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander of the Caradoc, a despatch vessel in the Mediterranean. (Buckle MS. 6; The Biographer, op. cit., p. 42.
On 6 August 1860 Buckle was advanced to the rank of Commander, and on his return to England undertook a course on steam at the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth.
In 1861 the American Civil War was at its height, and the affair of the Trent enhanced the prospect of war between England and the States. Four transatlantic steamers were requisitioned to transport troops to the St. Laurence to protect the Canadian colonies, and, on the promise of a command on returning to England, Buckle was persuaded to join the Adriatic. For a period of twelve weeks in the winter of 1861-62 the ship was frozen in the Gulf of Sydney, Cape Breton. (Buckle MS. 6.)
Seven days after returning to England in the Adriatic the promise was honoured and Buckle was appointed to command the Cormorant, a steam sloop of four guns bound for the China station (16 May 1862). His autobiography reveals the problems encountered in fitting out and provisioning the ship, and in finding adequate crewmen. He sailed for Madeira in July 1862, and for the following three and a half years was employed in Chinese and Japanese waters. Naval presence was required to enforce payment of indemnities imposed upon the Japanese government for outrages committed upon British subjects, and the resistance to these demands led to occasional engagements between the fleet and the Japanese forts. Buckle was in these waters at the time of the attack on Kagosima in 1864, and also during the forcing of the Straits of Simonoseki in the same year, but the Cormorant was not directly involved in either of these actions, much to the disappointment of her commander. (Buckle MS. 6.)
In January 1866 the Cormorant was paid off at Hong Kong, and Commander Buckle returned home by mail steamer. On 11 April 1866 he received his promotion to the rank of Captain, but, with the country now at peace, he was destined to six years of forced inactivity. On 21 May 1872 he was appointed to HMS Research, a small iron clad corvette carrying a central battery of four rifled guns, on the Mediterranean station.
In Spain the abdication of King Amedeo in 1873 was followed by a period of political unrest, and during the inter-regnum of 1873-4 the Carlists were in arms in all the north-eastern provinces of the country. The rebels captured the important fortress of Cartagena, and took possession of Spanish men-of-war to make raids upon coastal towns. The Mediterranean fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Hastings Yelverton, was ordered to protect British interests and British subjects on the coast of Spain. The Memorials include detailed accounts on the political situation in Spain and of the role of the Mediterranean fleet. In addition there survives a series of letters addressed to Captain Buckle on board the Research, some from Hastings Yelverton and his successor Vice-Admiral Sir James Robert Drummond, and these refer in detail to the unrest in Spain and to British naval policy. (Buckle MS. 7; Buckle MS. 252.)
The fall of Cartagena in January 1874 marked the end of the rebellion in Spain, and thereafter the Research resumed more routine duties in the Mediterranean. In August of the following year Captain Buckle's commission came to an end, and he returned to England. In December 1876 he was appointed to command the Hector, an iron clad of 18 guns, employed in the Newhaven district of the Coastguard. A few months later he was transferred to the Lord Warden on the Queensferry district of the Coastguard, but was compelled to resign the command on account of ill health in July 1877. (Buckle MS. 7.)
On 6 March 1878 Charles Mathew Buckle received his commission to command the Revenge, a steam screw battleship carrying 28 guns, and successively the Flagship of Admirals Henry S. Hillyar, Sir William Montagu Dowell, and Sir Richard Vesey Hamilton. This was a harbour appointment, the ship being employed as Guardship at Queenstown, Co. Cork, and Captain Buckle's authority theoretically extended all round the coast of Ireland. His commission lasted three years, and in March 1881 his career as an active officer ended. On 27 March 1883 he was promoted to Flag Rank, becoming a Rear-Admiral on the retired list, and six years later he was advanced to the rank of Vice-Admiral on the retired list. (Buckle MS. 7.)
The career of Charles Mathew Buckle is recounted in detail in the autobiographical notes contained in the two volumes of Memorials, and to supplement this there survive his commissions, certificates of service, records of sea time, and communications with the Admiralty. His correspondence too contains many letters describing naval engagements and naval policy, and letters from other members of the family serving in the navy.
Charles Mathew Buckle was a prolific writer, and a fine series of journals survives for the period 1851-1891. The first volume covers his years aboard the Vengeance and Indefatigable, on the Black Sea and Brazil stations respectively, and the second covers his service on the Caradoc in the Mediterranean, recording among other things the insurrection in Italy led by Garibaldi in 1860. (Buckle MSS. 267-268.) His third journal includes the period at Naval College in Portsmouth, a brief tour of the continent in the summer of 1861, and his service as Agent aboard the Adriatic in 1861-2. (Buckle MS. 269.) The journals resume after his retirement from active service in 1881, and record details of a number of pleasure trips made by the Vice-Admiral between 1882-91. In October 1882 he embarked on a seven-month tour of Egypt, Palestine, and Europe, (Buckle MS. 270.) and in 1883-4 followed this by two shorter tours of Italy, Spain, and France, and North Germany and Scandinavia respectively. (Buckle MSS. 271-272.) In July 1885 he sailed from Liverpool to New York on board the Cunard steamer Etruria, then the fastest transatlantic steamer, and began a three-month tour of the north-eastern and mid-western states of America. (Buckle MS. 273.) The final volume contains notes made on a brief tour of the Netherlands in August 1891. (Buckle MS. 274.)
The travel journals of Charles Mathew Buckle are a rich source of information on the countries visited by him in this period. The volume containing the notes on the American tour is particularly detailed on topography, urban development, transport, industry, and education, and is liberally illustrated with photographs, postcards, and cuttings from guide-books.
Charles Mathew Buckle was deeply interested in the history of the family, and in the latter part of his life, after his travels were over, he devoted much of his time and interest to research into the ancestry of the Buckle family. He was helped in this task by the historical and biographical notes on the family compiled by Martha Buckle in 1810, and supplemented this by research of his own on records in family possession and in Somerset House.(Buckle MSS. 1-4.) He employed A. S. Scott-Gatty, York Herald at the College of Arms, to draw up a pedigree of the family, and copies survive in this collection.(Buckle MSS. 19-25.) He himself drew up the extremely detailed biographies of the naval members of the family, and also left behind voluminous notes in exercise books and on scraps of paper which provide an abundance of historical and biographical information on members of the family as well as details of places with Buckle connections.(Buckle MSS. 6-12.)
The family memorials and the notes on family history provide the principal references to the Sussex branches of the Buckle family--Rogate Lodge and Norton House, Aldingbourne, being homes of members of the family in the 18th and 19th centuries--but there are some surviving papers of Charles Edward Stewart Buckle of Horsham (b. 1876), who continued the work of his uncle on the history of the family.(Buckle MSS. 14-18; Buckle MS. 266.)
The Rogate estate was purchased by Lewis Buckle (1758-1818), the eldest son of Lewis Buckle of Borden, East Meon, co. Hants (1713-1785). In 1782 he married Frances Bachelor of Priors Court House in Cheveley, co. Berks, and it was by means of her fortune that he was able to buy the property at Rogate. However, the Hampshire and Sussex estates soon came to be charged with heavy settlement debts, and in 1830 an Act of Parliament was obtained to enable the estates to be sold, as they later were to Colonel Charles Wyndham.(See W.S.R.O. Add MS. 2193 for a terrier of the Rogate estate belonging to Lewis Buckle in 1803. The Petworth House Archives also include records relating to the Rogate estate.)
Mathew Buckle (1760-1837) was the third son of the said Lewis Buckle of Borden, and in 1802 he married his cousin Hannah, only daughter of Admiral Mathew Buckle of Nork House. After his marriage he purchased Norton House and surrounding lands in Aldingbourne, and this property remained in the family until the present century.