Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
   Introduction      History      Thomas Hamilton V.C.
Victoria Cross
Thomas de Courcy Hamilton,  V.C.
1825 - 1908
 "A Distinguished Cheltenham Officer"
[Cheltenham Chronicle & Gloucestershire Graphic 7-Mar-1908, p.2]
The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest recognition of military valour in the British Commonwealth, awarded for exceptional acts of courage in the presence of the enemy, without regard to rank, service or length of service.  Established in 1856 by Queen Victoria, she being inspired by the bravery of returning veterans of the Crimean War, the VC takes precedence over all other decorations and is worn nearest the buttons of the tunic. Prince Albert, the Queen’s Consort, contributed to the design of the medal. Each medal is made of bronze from Russian guns captured during the Crimean War.  
Victoria Cross 

Descent of Thomas de Courcy HAMILTON from BLENNERHASSETT
Thomas de Courcy Hamilton was grandson of Susan Blennerhassett
(of Castle Conway, Killorglin, Co.Kerry, Ireland)
John de Courcy, 26th (*19th, 28th) Baron Kingsale (of Kinsale, Co.Cork, Ireland),
premier Lord in the Peerage of Ireland
Major General Thomas de Courcy Hamilton was born 20-Jul-1825 at Stranraer, Wigtonshire, Scotland; 2nd son of James John Hamilton (b.c1788 d.1842) of Ballymacoll, Co.Meath, Ireland, and Anne Geraldine de Courcy (b.c1790 d.20-Feb-1855) of Kinsale, Co.Cork, Ireland.
This Hamilton family traditionally use the middle name de Courcy to show their descent from de Courcy, Lord Kingsale.
On his mother's side of the family Thomas Hamilton was grandson of John de Courcy *26th Baron Kingsale and Susan Blennerhassett
      *26th Baron according to Burke's Peerage [BP] up to the 105th edition (1960)
      *19th Baron according to Burke's Peerage [BP] 106th (1999) and 107th (2003) editions
      *21st Baron according to "The Complete Peerage" [CP vol.VII p.290, note (d)]
Thomas de Courcy Hamilton, V.C. was 2nd cousin, on both de Courcy and Blennerhassett sides of his mother's family,
to Michael Constantine de Courcy (b.1855 d.1931) *33rd Baron Kinsale.
      *33rd Baron according to to Burke's Peerage [BP] up to the 105th edition (1960) and his gravestone inscription at Cheltenham
      *26th Baron according to Burke's Peerage [BP] 106th (1999) and 107th (2003) editions
      *28th Baron according to "The Complete Peerage" [CP vol.VII p.290, note (d)]
two de Courcy brothers married two Blennerhassett sisters
Susan Blennerhassett was sister of Anne Blennerhassett who married Michael de Courcy R.N. "Admiral of the Blue",
               brother of John de Courcy, 26th (*19th, 21st) Baron Kingsale.
Susan and Anne were both daughters of Conway Blennerhassett Jr., of Castle Conway, Killorglin, Co.Kerry and Kinsale, Co.Cork, and sisters of Harman Blennerhassett of Blennerhassett Island in West Virginia.
Michael C. de Courcy, Lord Kingsale, was g.grandson of Michael de Courcy, RN "Admiral of the Blue", and his wife Anne Blennerhassett.
Thomas de Courcy Hamilton V.C. was grandson of John de Courcy, 26th (*19th, 21st) Lord Kingsale and his wife Susan Blennerhassett.  Michael de Courcy RN & John de Courcy were brothers, Anne & Susan Blennerhassett were sisters.
From 1910 to 1924 Michael Constantine de Courcy (b.1855 d.1931), the 33rd (*26th, 28th) Baron Kingsale, also made his home at Cheltenham, residing at The Grange, Evesham Road, Prestbury (a short walk around the corner from "Dunboyne", home of Thomas Hamilton VC and his family until 1913).
Lord Kingsale is interred in a vault at Cheltenham Cemetery (section L plot 966A) not far from the Hamilton grave (section L plot 1143).

Joining the British Army 30-Sep-1842 as Ensign with the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Light Infantry), Thomas Hamilton served in South Africa during the Kaffir War of 1846-47 and in SA was promoted Lieutenant.
In 1848 he exchanged into the 1st Battalion, 68th Regiment of Foot (68th Light Infantry) becoming Adjutant by 1850. By 1854, when his regiment embarked for the Russia he had been promoted Captain. At the Crimea, where British, French and Turkish allies fought the Russians, The 68th Regiment saw action in each of the major battles: Alma (20-Sep-1854), Balaclava (25-Oct-1854), Inkerman (5-Nov-1854) and the siege and fall of Sevastopol (Sep-1854 to Sep-1855).
For his service in the Crimea he was awarded the British Crimea medal 1854 (four clasps - Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman, Sebastopol) and the Turkish Crimea medal. The French appointed him Chevalier (Knight) de la "Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur" [Supplement to the "London Gazette" 4-Aug-1856]. It was in trenches outside Sevastopol on 11-May 1855, towards the end of the seige, that Hamilton was to earn his VC [Supplement to the "London Gazette" 24-Feb-1857]. 
click on image to enlarge
photo from: "Beyond Praise: Durham Light Infantrymen who were awarded
the Victoria Cross" by Stephen Shannon, published by
Durham County Council: Arts, Libraries & Museums Department, 1998
Captain Thomas de Courcy Hamilton was an early recipient of the Victoria Cross, awarded for his courage at the Siege of Sebastopol (Sevastopol) during the Crimean War .
Capt. Hamilton (standing 3rd from left, hand on sword hilt, facing camera) poses with six brother officers of the 68th Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry).  This unusually relaxed, informal group (wearing their undress jackets and caps, one man pouring a drink for another...) was photographed by pioneer photographer Roger Fenton at General Bosquet's headquarters outside Sebastapol, on 19-May-1855, 8 days after the actions for which Hamilton was to be awarded his Victoria Cross.
Stephen Shannon tells us that Captain Frederick Savage of the 68th Regiment "was too late to join the group but seven other officers posed for Mr Fenton".  Capt, Savage kept a diary during his time in the Crimea, he writing on 19th May 1855:
"...Parade at 11 O'Clock. Afterwards all the fellows went over to General Bosquet's Headquarters to have themselves photographed by Mr Fenton.  Started after them on Somerville's horse but went the wrong direction and did not get there until they had departed.  Saw the pictures and thought them very good.  Day dreadfully hot..." 
In this more formal portrait photograph, an older Thomas Hamilton wears his VC above and to the right of his four medal group:
   1. South Africa Medal 1853
   2. Crimea Medal 1854 (clasps: Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman, Sebastopol)
   3. Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, France
   4. Turkish Crimea medal
68th Regiment Victoria Cross holders Thomas de Courcy Hamilton, Corporal John Byrne and Sergeant John Murray were each awarded the same four clasps to their Crimea medal.
This portrait photograph is courtesy of Rev. Brian Torode, Vicar of St Stephens, Tivoli, Cheltenham.  Thomas de Courcy Hamilton was for some years a parishioner of St.Stephen's, being churchwarden 1893-94.  He later attended All Saints Church, Cheltenham, closer to his home - there his daughter married and his funeral was held.
This photograph was first published in the [The Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic" Art and Literary Supplement" No.91, 27-Sep-1902] for an item titled Gloucestershire Victoria Cross Heroes, featuring portraits of VC holders with Gloucestershire connections. The image as reproduced here is from the front cover of the Art and Literary Supplement No.375 7-Mar-1908, to accompany an obituary on p.2 of the CC & GG newspaper.
click on image to see newspaper page
photo: copyright © used with permission               click on image to enlarge
click on image to enlarge
click on image to enlarge
Thomas de Courcy Hamilton at Dunboyne c1900
Major General Thomas de Courcy Hamilton, V.C.
1825 - 1908
68th [Regiment of Foot]   Durham Light Infantry 
 Thomas de Courcy Hamilton
 in retirement c1900, at his home
Dunboyne, Pittville, Cheltenham
Immediately following the end of the Crimean War the commanding officer of the 68th Regiment, Henry Smyth, made eleven recommendations for the newly-created Victoria Cross. Seven of these, including Hamilton, were recommended as a result of that single night's action on 11-May-1855. Among the seven who distinguished themselves that night was Private John Byrne, who with Hamilton was presented his VC by Major General Sir George Buller at Corfu.
Hamilton's citation in [Supplement to the "London Gazette" of 24-Feb-1857 p.661] reads:
"68th Regiment - Captain Thomas de Courcy Hamilton - For having, on the night of the 11th May, 1855, during a most determined sortie, boldly charged the enemy, with a small force, [driving them] from a battery of which they had obtained possession in great numbers, thereby saving the works (i.e. gun emplacements) from falling into the hands of the enemy. He was conspicuous on this occasion for his gallantry, and daring conduct."
click on image to enlarge
Cheltenham's Crimean War Memorial was a pair of Russian cannon captured in 1856 during the siege of Sevastopol, mounted on stands in Imperial Gardens close to the "Queen's Hotel". Both cannon and one stand were given, as scrap metal, for the war effort during WWII. The one remaining stand has been restored.
N. J. Thornicroft, in his 2005 The VC's of Gloucestershire and North Bristol
on pp.16-18 tells us:
"The latter period of the Crimean War, which lasted nearly a year, saw the Allies digging in around the beleaguered garrison of Sebastopol..."
After writing of cannon, cholera and extreme cold conditions, he continues:
"Not only did the Allied soldiers have to confront these sorts of appalling deprivations, the enemy also kept them occupied in other ways by carrying out clandestine operations under the cover of darkness, designed to further harass the besieging army, which included the 68th Regiment and Captain Hamilton, whose heroics from time-to-time were reported in the Gloucestershire Echo soon after his death [as follows]:-
'During the day of May 11th, 1855, continued bustle and excitement were observed within the Russian lines opposite one of the most important of the advanced posts, which was protected by a large body of the British...  A sortie in force was expected, and every precaution was consequently made to resist it...  [When] night fell there was a hush of expectancy on the whole camp...  The day wore on;  the gloom of night approached.
Then all was still.  But the British were not deceived...  Suddenly a deadly roar awoke the night;  a blaze broke forth [and] the Russians came pouring forth in thousands, [advancing] with deadly force against the British, who were too few in number to to resist them.  In the deadly conflict one of [our] artilliery batteries was captured and held, for our men were killed as they stood...'
'Captain Hamilton saw and recognised the peril of the situation, and without waiting to discuss relative numbers, he called upon a few of the 68th...   men, and without pausing...   rushed forward sword in hand, and in less than two minutes drove the enemy out, pursuing them towards the fortress.  It was a sharp and determined conflict - sabre and bayonet flashing through the chests of the foe, men rushing on to death everywhere for the honour of the flag.  The daring deed thus accomplished prevented the spiking of the guns, and the works from passing into the hands of the Russians.  The V.C. thus won by Captain Hamilton was gained in a melee where the enemy outnumbered [the British] ten to one'."
Stephen Shannon, in his 1998 work
"Beyond Praise: Durham Light Infantrymen who were awarded the Victoria Cross", tells us:
"...For over an hour, two companies, no more than two hundred and fifty men, fought off two thousand Russians, keeping them back with bullet and bayonet.  Despite the fierce resistance of soldiers like John Byrne, about 30 Russians were able to fight their way into the trenches to capture a gun (canon).  These Russians were then charged by a small force led by Captain Thomas Hamilton.  The Russians were driven out of the battery at the point of the bayonet, losing two officers and several men killed.  By the time reinforcements arrived, the Russian sortie was over.  The 68th lost five men killed and nineteen wounded in the struggle..."

Returning from the Crimea in 1857 Thomas Hamilton was appointed Brevet-Major at Colchester and accepted a staff appointment at Corfu in the Ionian Islands (a British Protectorate 1815-1865).
His VC was announced in [Supplement to the "London Gazette" of 24-Feb-1857 p.661].  When the first VC medals were personally presented by Queen Victoria, at a ceremony held in Hyde Park, London on 26-Jun-1857, Thomas Hamilton was not among them.  He and Private John Byrne, who both distinguished themselves in the Crimea during the same night, were each presented with their VC at Corfu by Major General Sir George Buller, on 22-Jul-1857.
Thomas married on 8-Sep-1857 at Trinity Church, St.Marylebone, London, to Mary Ann Louisa Baynes (b.1831/2 Macao, China) daughter of Sir William Baynes, 2nd Baronet.  She travelled to Corfu with her husband, making their home on the island for five years, their first two children born there.  There followed another five children, born in India (according to 1881 census), Gibraltar, Malta (2) and Hampshire, England.
In 1862 he was appointed Brevet Major with the 8th Regiment and five years later in 1869 appointed Lt.-Col. commanding the 64th Regiment of Foot (2nd Staffordshire Regiment). In 1873 promoted Brevet Colonel, gaining the honorary rank of Major-General at his retirement on full-pay on 24-February-1874.
The National Archives (PRO - Public Record Office) at Kew, near London, have these document series:
[NA Ref: WO 98/2] War Office: Correspondence and papers concerning the Victoria Cross - this includes:
"Officer Commanding 68th Regt., recommending Capt. T. D. C. Hamilton, Sjt. D. Dwyer, Sjt. T. Gereghty, Sjt. H. Sladden, Cpt. J. Meara, Pte. J. Byrne, Pte. M. Cormick, Pte. F. Daily, Pte. J. Sales, Pte. R. Sandys, Pte. J. Sims, Pte. J. Smith. Correspondence"  Date: 1856
[NA Ref: WO 98/3] War Office: Victoria Cross Register - this includes:
"Medal listing of Hamilton Thomas De Courcy Captain 68th Regiment 11 May 1855 Crimea"  Date: 1856 - 1864
NOTE: Documents in the series WO 98/3 (but not WO 98/2) may be downloaded from National Archives DocumentsOnline. 
The 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot was formed in 1758, amalgamated into the The Durham Light Infantry in 1881.
All 68th Regiment and Durham Light Infantry VCs are listed at these sites:
Retiring from the army on 24-Feb-1874 with the honorary rank of Major-General, Thomas de Courcy Hamilton settled in the fashionable Pittville area of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
He was a founder of the Gordon Boys' Brigade and served as Cheltenham Magistrate (JP) 1881-1893.  A parishioner of St. Stephen's Church, Tivoli, Cheltenham, where he served as Churchwarden 1893-1894 [St.Stephen's Parish Magazine No.88, May 1893 p.6], also of All Saints Church, Cheltenham, where his daughter married and his funeral was held.
The family home from 1874 until the death of his wife in 1913 was "Dunboyne", 3 Beaufort Villas (now West Approach Drive) Marle Hill, Prestbury, at the edge of Cheltenham town. West Approach Drive is one of two access roads for the early 19th century Pittville Pump Room, on the northern edge of Pittville Gardens. Thomas Hamilton is listed among notable residents of Pittville commemmorated on the website of "Pittville History Works Group", a project of "Friends of Pittville - in Cheltenham" at
The district of Pittville in Cheltenham was an early 19th century property development on a grand scale, many large villas built overlooking what was first known as Pittville Gardens, later as Pittville Park. Pittville Pump Room a.k.a. Pittville Spa, erected between 1825 and 1830 on raised ground of Marle Hill overlooking Pittville Park, is the best-known of several spas that flourished in the town of Cheltenham during the late 18th century and the Regency period of the early 19th century, causing the main railway station to be named "Cheltenham Spa".  The Pump Room functioned as an assembly room where people could congregate for social reasons and to improve their health, drinking the strong tasting natural mineral water pumped from the ground beneath using the large hand-pump that may still be seen.  If tempted to taste the spa water try to resist, is very, very saline...

Arrivals and Departures in the "Cheltenham Looker-On" newspaper:
6-Jul-1889 p.531       ARRIVALS       "Major-Gen. & Mrs. de Courcy Hamilton, from London } 3 Beaufort Villas
30-Nov-1889 p.953   DEPARTURES   "Capt. and Mrs. C. de Courcy Hamilton, Karenza, for India" 
click on images to enlarge
photos: copyright © used with permission
Dunboyne, 3 Beaufort Villas, Pittville c1900
photo: BJ
after partition as
Cleeve House & Homewood c1955-57
photo: BJ
West Approach Drive, Pittville, Cheltenham 
Four large houses on West Approach Drive, Pittville were known as 1-4 Beaufort Villas until given individual names in 1891.  The Hamilton home was No.3, third house left-to-right in this recent view. Named "Dunboyne" from 1891 until, following the death of Mrs Hamilton, the house was sold c1915 to J.W. Buckland. At the end of West Approach Drive is Pittville Pump Room (Pittville Spa).
No.1 Beaufort Villas (until 1890), Bexley (1891-1901)
                                               Claremont House (1902-1908)
                                               Claremont (1911-1914)
                                               Rosehill (1915-1929)
                                               Mount Sorrel (1930-1973+)
                                               Richmond (from c1974?)
No.2 Beaufort Villas (until 1890), Beaufort (1891-1971)
                                               Beaufort House (from 1972)
No.3 Beaufort Villas (until 1890), Dunboyne (1891-1914)
                                               Cleeve House (1915-1954)
                                                     subdivided c1955-7
                                               Left - Cleeve House (from 1958)
                                               Right - Homewood (from 1958)
No.4 Beaufort Villas (until 1890), Gundulf (1891-1893)
                                               No.4 Beaufort Villas (1899-1902)
                                               Lorraine House (1903-1975+)
                                               Park Gate (from c1976?)
Plan of the Pittville Estate at Cheltenham, showing those houses built before 1860.
from "Pittville 1824-1860: A Scene of Gorgeous Magnificence"
The Hamilton family resided at "Dunboyne", 3 Beaufort Villas (now West Approach Drive), Marle Hill, Prestbury.
Beaufort Villas are here coloured yellow.

Thomas Hamilton died at his home "Dunboyne" on 3rd March 1908, the funeral at All Saints Church, Cheltenham.  Interred in the family vault at Cheltenham Municipal Cemetery, section L plot 1143 (photographs below).  The cemetery office on request will provide visitors with a plan indicating the location of memorials to the six Victoria Cross holders interred there.
A memorial plaque is in the Staffordshire Regiment Garrison Church, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield, Staffordshire (Whittington Barracks is now a Tri-services Medical Station).  The "Union Jack Club" in London displays portraits of all VC holders.
His obituary appeared in ["The Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic" No.375, 7-Mar-1908] with a portrait photo in the accompanying Art and Literary Supplement No.375. Obituaries also appeared in ["Cheltenham Looker-on" 7-March-1908, pp.17-18], "Gloucestershire Echo" 6-Mar-1908, p.4] and [St.Stephen's Parish Magazine, April 1908].
photos: BJ           Front


Left side
In memory of
Ernest Richard
 Late Act. Sub.-Lieut. R.N.
youngest and beloved
son of Major General T. de Courcy
Hamilton, V.C. Born Sepr. 29th 1869,
Died Decr. 1st 1890, aged 21 years.

Very Loving memory
Major General
Thomas de Courcy Hamilton, V.C.
Born July 20th 1825
Died March 3rd 1908
Also of Mary Ann Louisa
wife of the above
 Died May 12. 1913 in her 82nd year
"Blessed are the dead
   which die in the Lord."
left side 
Roger Baynes
Second son
Born 26th May 1863
Died 8th June 1895,
Aged 32 years.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
S. Matthew. ch.V ver.VIII 
(photo taken before cleaning of c2015)
Thomas de Courcy Hamilton's cousin Constantine de Courcy Lord Kingsale also interred in a vault at Cheltenham Municipal Cemetery 

 ROGER FENTON (1819-1869)
"Roger Fenton was one of the pioneers of photography.  He left England in February 1855 for the Crimea with five cameras and seven hundred glass plates loaded into an old wine-merchant's van, which was to act as both darkroom and home."
from: "Beyond Praise: Durham Light Infantrymen who were awarded the Victoria Cross" by Stephen Shannon, published by Durham County Council: Arts, Libraries & Museums Department, 1998
photo: Marcus Sparling seated on Roger Fenton's photographic van, Crimea, 1855 by Roger Fenton 
(from Wikipedia)

Another Cheltenham Crimean War Tale...
In the Crimea at the same time as Thomas Hamilton, and also photographed by Roger Fenton, was "The Officers' Darling" Fanny Duberly, the only woman present in the Crimea for the entire campaign, the only woman to witness the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava and one of the first to ride into Sebastopol after the seige.  Born Frances Isabella Locke on 27-Sep-1829, the daughter of William Locke D.L., of Rowdeford House, Wiltshire, she is described as “a splendid rider, witty, ambitious, daring, lively, loquacious and gregarious”.
Her husband Captain Henry Duberly (1823-1890) was the paymaster to the 8th Royal Irish Hussars.  In 1854 she accompanied him to the Crimea, remaining throughout his time there despite protest from commanders such as Lord Lucan.  As the only woman at the front-lines she was the centre of much attention, and being told of planned attacks ahead of time gave her the opportunity to be in a good position to witness them, she being present at the Battle of Balaclava.
Mrs. Duberly again accompanied her husband when the 8th Hussars were sent to India in 1856, staying with him throughout his time campaigning during the final months of the Indian Mutiny.  At Gwalior in 1858, while watching the start of a cavalry charge her horse sprung off with the rest and, instead of holding back, she told her husband “I must go!” and so she did.  They both returned to Britain in 1864. 
Her diary of her time in the Crimea was published as "Journal Kept During the Russian War" (later as Crimean Journal) and she also wrote of her experiences during the Indian Mutiny, published as Indian Journal.  Queen Victoria declined to accept the dedication of her first book, which upset her greatly.  She and her husband lived at "St Clair", The Park, Cheltenham 1886-1902 (apart from a brief stay at 31 Promenade, Cheltenham in 1900 when St Clair was unoccupied).
Fanny Dubberly died 19-Nov-1902, buried with her husband
under a polished pink granite headstone in the churchyard of St. Peter's Leckhampton in Cheltenham
(numbered E.163 in the St Peters Leckhampton Headstone Inscriptions project
of  Leckhampton Local History Society, displayed on St.Peter's Church Leckhampton website).
photo: Wikipedia
British Library Add. Ms. 47218A f.146
Mrs Frances "Fanny" Duberly on her horse "Bobs" with her husband Capt. Henry Duberly,
photographed by Roger Fenton
(who also photographed Thomas de C. Hamilton) in 1855 during the siege of Sebastopol
photo: BJ
click on image to enlarge
AGED 64.

AGED 73.
See Eminent Cheltonians Commemorated at Leckhampton by Leckhampton Historian Eric Miller,
published 2007 in [Cheltenham Local History Society Journal No.23].
published 2010 in [ Leckhampton Local History Society Research Bulletin No 4, Summer 2010, pp.22-23].

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