In compiling this brief biography of my 1st cousin 5 times removed Pulteney Sherburne (1802 – 1831), I have tried to flesh out the bare record with a few inferences and conjectures but, with little material to draw on beyond names, dates, and the sparse chronology of his army career, I am afraid the portrait I have drawn of the man may be a little distorted. It’s the best I can do.

Born in India

Pulteney Johnstone Poole Sherburne, the son of Joseph Sherburne (1751 – 1805) and Frances Johnstone Sherborne née Dana (1768 – 1832) was born in
north-east India and baptised in Bhagalpur in 1802. Joseph Sherburne was a Magistrate Collector and senior merchant with the East India Company. Pulteney was the oldest child. A sister, Frances, was born in 1803. Joseph Sherburne died in 1805 and Frances Johnstone Sherburne returned to England with her two children.

Army career

On 20 April 1813 Pulteney Sherburne was appointed as an ensign with the South Hants Regiment of Militia. The militia was designed to serve as a home guard or reserve force. In 1813 England was at war with the French. Sherburne was aged 11 and it appears that this was intended as a first step in a military career. In modern terms he had become a part-time officer cadet.

All three of Pulteney’s surviving uncles were in the army at this time:

  • George Kinnaird Dana (1770 – 1837) was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th garrison regiment serving in Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland.; he was promoted to Major-General on 4 June 1813
  • William Pulteney Dana (1776 – 1861) was paymaster in his brother’s regiment, also serving in Ireland
  • Charles Patrick Dana (1784 – 1816) served with the East India Company and was a captain with the 23rd Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry at the time of his death at sea travelling back to England in 1816

On 27 July 1815, a month after the Battle of Waterloo, Volunteer Pulteney Johnstone Poole Sherburne was commissioned as an Ensign (without purchase) in the First Regiment of Foot, the Royal Scots. An ensign was the most junior rank of commissioned officer in the army. Pulteney Sherburne was about 13 years old. At the time the Royal Scots had four battalions. I am not sure which battalion Sherburne served in. The first was stationed in Ireland from 1816 to 1825; the second was in India and involved in the Third Anglo-Maratha War; the third formed part of the Army of Occupation following the Battle of Waterloo. It was disbanded in 1817. The fourth battalion was used mainly as a depot battalion for providing the other three battalions with drafts and it was recruited mainly from the militia. It was disbanded in 1816.

In 1818 Sherburne transferred from the 1st Foot where he had been on half-pay to the 70th Foot. In 1818 and 1819 the 70th Foot was serving in Canada: at Fort George from April 1817, Kingston from June 1819 and Quebec from May 1821.

The Gazette of 18 April 1822 announced the promotion of Ensign Pulteney J. Poole Sherburne, from the 70th Foot, to Lieutenant (without purchase) in the First Regiment of Foot. The Gazette of 11 May 1822 updated the announcement to say the Commission of Lieutenant Sherburne, of the 1st Foot, has been antedated to 18th October 1820, but that he had not been allowed to receive any back-pay. It seems that although Sherburne had been a lieutenant with the 1st Foot from 1820 he had been paid as such only from 1822.

In the Gazette of 24 October 1822 Pulteney J. Poole Sherburne of the 1st Regiment of Foot exchanged with Lieutenant Daniel Keogh of the 58th Foot who was on half-pay. The 58th Foot was in Jamaica, the West Indies, from 1816 to 1828 when it was deployed to Ceylon.

I can find no further notices in the Gazette revealing Sherburne’s military career.

Bruce Bassett-Powell who maintains a website devoted to the study of military uniforms at, commented:

 Lieutenant Sherbourne’s experience as a company officer would be fairly typical. … The dramatic draw down of regimental personnel after the Napoleonic Wars left many career officers without a regiment of their choice, so officers were transferred with or without purchase to any regiment they could find. … [Sherburne’s] career was so very typical of the era in which he served.

email correspondence July 2020

Barrack Master

 From about 1825 (possibly as early as 1822) when he exchanged out of the 1st to the 58th on half-pay, Lieutenant P. P. Sherburne held the position of Barrack Master at Berbice in the British West Indies, now in present-day Guyana.

From 1822 British army barracks were the responsibility of the Board of Ordnance. In 1826 there were 41 barrack masters in the Foreign Departments administered by the Board; the West Indies station had 14 barracks.

Barrack masters oversaw individual barracks and their role was to see
that the blocks were properly equipped, maintained and run in accordance
with a bureaucratic system of regular returns.

In the 1826 Army Ordnance estimates Berbice had 10,000 pounds allocated for a new Barrack, Commissariat and Ordnance Establishment at Canje Point to replace the Barrack Establishment at St Andrews which was not worth repairing.

The army in Berbice used slave labour hired from others. There were several complaints about Lieutenant Sherburne and his treatment of slaves while he was barrack master; in at least one instance Sherburne was investigated for alleged cruelty and the charges were disproved.

New Amsterdam Berbice in the 1830s from Sketch Map of British Guiana by Robert Hermann Schomburgk (1804–65) published in London 1840 retrieved from World Digital Library

British colony in Berbice

The garrison at Berbice was quartered at Fort Canje one mile from New Amsterdam. The 1838 Army Medical Services Report describes the garrison as a small military post of square form bounded by the Berbice River on one side and a small stream called the Canje. The two other sides were protected by trenches and wooden pallisades. The ground on which it is built is low and swampy.

The 1838 report of the Army Medical Services observed that the climate of the whole of British Guiana was noted for its extreme moisture, the rate of annual rainfall being six times that of Great Britain. The average temperature in Berbice was 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a minimum of 75 and maximum of 86. The Berbice district was the most southerly British possession in the West Indies. It extended 100 miles along the coast and the ground was so low that at high-water it would be completely inundated were it not protected by strong dams (dykes).  Where the country was not under cultivation in the 1830s it was a succession of forests, savannahs and marshes. The soil was said not to absorb the moisture and became very muddy. The air was consequently reported as extremely humid.

A 2012 visitor described the location:

It was always a sickly piece of land. Even now, few people live out here, on the swamps formed at the confluence of the Berbice and the Canje. The clay is always weeping oily water, and the air is itchy with mosquitoes. … There was no view beyond,just an enormous burning sky and a fringe of thick mangrove.

Fort Canje near New Amsterdam by John Gimlette
Canje River, Guyana taken from the Canje Bridge in New Amsterdam in 2009 by User:Loriski , CC BY-SA 3.0 retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1838 there was a barrack with an hospital and offices within the fort for the accommodation of the troops. The barrack was an oblong wooden building with a basement used for stores and two upper stories each divided into four apartments for the soldiers with some smaller rooms for non-commissioned officers. The hospital was also built of wood with a basement and two stories.

British Guiana was not a healthy place. In 1826 there were 1162 white
troops and 74 black troops in the colony. In that year there were 115 deaths among those troops. In 1831 there were 968 white troops and 2160 black troops with 113 deaths that year. Most of the deaths among white troops at that time were from fevers, particularly yellow fever.

Leave in England

In 1830 Sherburne was on leave in England and he signed his final will on 7 August 1830 at Burton in Wiltshire. He described himself as “Lieutenant in His Majestys Army and Barrack Master to the forces serving in the Colony of Berbice”. He appointed his cousin Joseph Coxon of Burton, Wiltshire, as executor and the main beneficiary was Joseph Coxon’s daughter Isabella Coxon.

[In 1788 Harriet Sherburne, sister of Pulteney’s father Joseph, had married John Coxon, Esq., Command of the Grosvenor, East Indiaman; the Grosvenor, under the command of John Coxon was shipwrecked in 1782; John Coxon was among those who died afterwards. Harriet’s son Joseph (1779 – 1842) had a daughter Isabella born 1809.]

Death in West Indies

Pulteney Sherburne died in Berbice on 28 June 1831 aged about 28.

At the time of his death he was Barrack Master, with the rank of Lieutenant. His death notices in The Asiatic Journal, Gentleman’s Magazine, and New Monthly Magazine describe him as “late of the “Royals” but the army death notices state he was of the 58th Regiment of Foot on half pay. As the 1st Regiment of Foot was more prestigious than the 58th Foot his family perhaps wanted to retain that association from before he transferred out.


In its Rare Books and Special Collection, the University of British Columbia has a bookplate belonging to P. J. P. Sherburne.  The bookplate is not associated with a particular book and is mentioned in H.W. Fitcham, “Artist and Engravers of British and American Bookplates,” 1897. Fitcham dates the bookplate to 1820. In 1820 Pulteney Sherburne turned 18 and was promoted to Lieutenant. The bookplate has a shield, Quarterly— 1 and 4, Vert, an eagle displayed argent ; 2 and 3, Argent, a lion rampant. Crest : An unicorn’s head. Motto : “Je ne cede a personne.”  The Sherburne coat of arms was discussed in a previous post on The search for the Arms of the Dana family as it appears engraved on a box which Pulteney’s mother left in her will to her niece and goddaughter Charlotte, my 3rd great grandmother.

The motto is unusual but as Arthur Fox-Davies notes in his Complete Guide to Heraldry, mottoes do not form part of the grant of arms in England but are “ left purely to the personal pleasure of every individual”. The phrase “Je ne cede a personne”  or in Latin: Concedo Nulli – I yield to none – appears associated with the Dutch philosopher Erasmus in the 1805 book “Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei : translations from their poetical works: and notes and observations concerning other literary characters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries”.

Miniature Portrait

My father has a miniature portrait of Pulteney Sherborne passed to him
from his grandfather, Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny who received it from his grandmother Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana.  The portrait was left to Charlotte Frances Dana by her aunt and godmother, Frances Sherbourne née Dana, Pulteney’s mother.

The uniform in the miniature portrait could be either the 58th or the 70th regiment. Bruce Bassett-Powell confirms both regiments had black facings with gold lace, evenly spaced.  Bassett-Powell suggests it is possible that the portrait of him was done in Canada, that is when he was serving with the 70th Foot.

Frances Sherburne, Pulteney’s mother, made her will not long after she heard of Pulteney’s death – sadly both her children predeceased her and there are no descendants. She specifically mentioned the portrait in her will, leaving it to her niece and goddaughter.

In his portrait Pulteney Sherburne looks bright, determined and optimistic. The role of Barrack Master in Berbice would have been demanding as he was in charge of constructing a new barracks and dealing with living in a challenging humid climate. Sherburne’s army career, cut short by his premature death aged 28, was not notably successful. He maintained his career despite the army being reduced following the end of the Napoleonic wars. Born in India and serving in Canada and the West Indies, Pulteney Johnstone Poole Sherburne (1802 – 1831) was one of the many men who contributed to the making of the British Empire across the globe.


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