The Sterley's of Oakland Park

Chapter 11
Obnoxious country men

Cape of Good Hope

20th February 1815


Thomas Sterley


Sir Thomas Sterley

Oakland Park Surrey


Dearest Papa,

Having recently returned from the eastern part of the country I must advise you that it was a most significant journey it is a wild place with many strange creatures the great antelope roam freely upon the plains while the elephants of which there are a great number prefer to forage in the forests.

I am sending you a few specimens of the bird life as you requested in particular I would draw your attention to the stuffed ibis which is known here as a Ha did a for its distinctive call. These creatures are indeed the most numerous of all ornithological which I have yet observed in my travels.

Of life at the Cape there is not much to say unless one counts the occasional arrivals from England or India, this very morning arrived here Captain J Aubrey you will recall I wrote to you previously of this officer. It appears that the reason for the captain been aboard a Barberry pirate was to entrap a number of similar vessels. However he chanced upon a French brig which was making its way from the Cape under the impression that old Bonny was out when the same opened fire Captain Aubrey very cleverly pretended surrender upon the approach of the Frenchman he lead a party aboard the Frenchman it was I believe a heated battle for in the course of the occurrence a number of first rate officers and men under the command of the good captain fell never the less notwithstanding the fact the Frenchman was taken. It was this vessel which captain Aubrey then brought back to the Cape.

“I was present when Captain Aubrey and the governor met it was to say a most formal meeting, the governor not been pleased to be placed under an obligation to the dashing captain. Arabella is quite taken by the Captain and has prevailed upon me to ask him to dine with us before he sets out once more for home shores.

I have had occasion to witness a number of incidents under which his lordship has proven to be a very hard man, this I fear will be his downfall for indeed I have on occasion trembled with anger at some of the remarks made by his lordship. On other occasions I have overheard his lordship speaking ill of worthy officers who have displeased him some of the time the reason be exceedingly small yet his lordship takes it as a personal affront and would sooner treat these officers and gentlemen with a slight then speak openly of what irks him.

The disadvantage of Lord Charles’s character was first brought to my attention by a gentleman of the colony one Mr Alexander Aitcheson. Who I believe is related to that family of Musselburg in the Midlothian’s who some time previously have done some service to the crown. I was reliable informed that his lordship has sent about the colony a number of Spies who’s greatest delight is reporting secretly to his lordship on all matters continuing in the colony. As you may imagine this has lead to no end of problems for the officers of the colony having there every step questioned and then confirming it by the word of paid spies. There is a saying of the most infamous of the spies we no not his real name thus he goes about in popular imagination and society as Oliver the spy.

Thus I am certain that as soon as I am able to find advancement out of the colony I will jump at the chance even if it means going further away to India for here life is uncommon hard under Lord Charles.

Your obedient son



Sir Thomas Sterley

Oakland Park



Thomas Sterley

Cape Town

Dear Tom,

In reply to yours of the 2oth instant it is with growing concern I read your words had I but known of the reputation of Lord Charles I would as a matter of course have declined the commission. However that been said it is best that you pursue to the best of your abilities every opportunity that presents itself for the good of your reputation and the good name of the family. I fear Lord Charles is a great man with many important social connections and it would but a trifle to him to spoil your reputation with innuendo and slander. Please sir remember that you have brothers who will soon need to find commissions and as we are of noble house with little to signify us from the countless other small houses I would ask that you try by all means possible to appease Lord Charles. To be honest sir I would advise you to have a care and consider you r family before you act in a way which would bring shame to the name of Sterley.

I have spoken with Lord Hood of the navy in connection with Captain Aubrey he imparted to me that the captain is bound for great things, it would be a good connection to make by all means invite him to dine and offer him every consideration at your disposal.

Give our warmest regards to dear Arabella

Yours affectionately

 Thomas Sterley

“Sir Thomas sealed the letter and sat for a moment considering what he would do next upon the table before him sat the ibis which Tom had sent him it was a most handsome peace. Some thing that he could cherish and display to its best advantage. He was pleased with the bird for he considered it his singular fortune to posses such a wonderful gift.  He was sure that there were very few persons of quality in the whole of England who had such a thin gin there possession.

It was a cold winter morning the crack in the window blew cold air into the chamber Sir Thomas rose and used the poker to build the fire up

 “It is a certainty we the Corsican rouge has escaped Elba” said Sir Thomas “I cannot say it is unexpected” remarked William Parker. ”There have been expecting some thing of the sort for a while now,” said Sir Thomas “No doubt we will soon once more be at war” said Mr Parker. “I f I was a younger man I would volunteer for a command at an instant,” said Sir Thomas. “Dear husband you surprise me for did you not swear you would never take another recommend whilst the Prince regent ruled?” enquired Lady Ann. “Indeed I said that I would never serve in a government with him at the head, this dose not necessarily follow that I would not serve in the navy, he concluded.

I fear dear husband that you have taken leave of your senses for to serve in the navy would be the same as serving the Prince regent” replied Lady Ann.

“Have no fear on my account madam for I have no intention of going off to fight old Bonny, I am aware that there are quite sufficient men of rank who are more adapt at this sort of warfare then I,” he replied. “What say you brother-in-Law Parker shall we adjourn to the gun room and try a snifter of brandy?” he asked of his neighbor.

“That sir is a splendid thought I have often wondered at your ability to procure at short notice the nectar of the god’s,” remarked Mr Parker as he rose from his seat by the fire and walked out of the room.

“It is but an easy commodity if you know the right revenue officers in Notheringay for they have a great store of the stuff set aside for worthies who can pay for it,” said Sir Thomas following him out of the room.

“More tea Emily,” enquired Lady Ann as she lifted the tea pot from the tray.” Thank you sister-in-law that would be nice,” said Mrs. Parker “I believe the lad will be christened next Sunday he is a wonderful child, William is quite taken by our grandson,” remarked Emily Parker. It seems that he is to be named George William after his father and grand father,” she continued. “I am aware of it Thomas was quite upset that he did not receive a passing reference in the naming but I believe we settled the matter when George promised that the next child will be given my husbands name,” said Lady Ann.

The naming of children can be very troubling for it brings the whole family out every one has some thing to say” remarked Emily Parker. “Pray how is young Peter we have not seen much of him these resent months I assume he will return to his regiment now with Bonaparte been free?” said Lady Ann.

“I fear we will not be able to stop him for he is indeed singularly of the opinion that weather it be peace or war he will remain an officer in his regiment a military career is his lot in life,” said Mrs. Parker.

“It is best to leave these men to there own devises for if we interfere to much they will shortly be in the kitchen disrupting the whole household thus if they will play at soldering then let them do it for as long as they so desire,” said Lady Ann who like her companion had experienced life once there husbands had returned from war.

“I have invited Lydia and George to call on us here at Oakland once they have settled the matter of the child’s christening” said Lady Ann. That is quite a wonderful bit of news,” said Emily Parker for it meant that now she would have not so far to go to see her grand child.  “Pray how long will they stay?” she asked. “One is never certain with George for he is not one to leave his estate over long on any excursion but I expect that Lydia will stay for three weeks,” said Lady Ann

In the gun room a conversation of another kind was taking place for the old sea dogs were content to sip there brandy and speak of war.

“I think Sir that you are quite mistaken Wellington will not allow himself to be caught again with his draws down he will fight  he will bring Bonny to his knees,” said Sir Thomas upon a remark that William Parker had made about the services of war not been in  a state of readiness to fight the French.

“I beg to your indulgence Sir Thomas pray remember these twenty years we have been at war most of the men in the service have never known peace and what little they have known of peace will not make them ready for another long and protracted war,” said William Parker

“Have a care sir you speak of England’s greatest asset for with out stout hearts of old England the Corsican tyrant would have long since ruled from London,” replied Sir Thomas growing hot with fighting spirit.

“If you will recall sir,” said Mr Parker when we first went to war none of us believed that the war would continue for such a long time, we further more when it became apparent did not shrink from our duty. I only implied that those regiments that have returned from the continent are not in readiness to proceed to the continent. The Army sir is not like the Navy where you can press men at a moments notice” said Mr Parker

“I beg your pardon brother-in-Law Parker for I did not get your point however I see the truth of your remark plainly now, said Sir Thomas “Pray Sir do not hold it against me, for an old fighting man it is passing difficult to imagine a regiment not in readiness, but mayhap you are right” said Sir Thomas.

“I am not a man to hold grudges Sir pray put your min at rest Sir Thomas for some one had to play the devil’s reprehensive” said William Parker.

‘Quite so, quite so,” said Sir Thomas “More brandy William” he asked of Mr Parker

 “It has seems that that most fortunate of gentlemen Captain James Aubrey has been mentioned in the gazette” said Sir Thomas as he laid aside the broadsheet which his attention had been fixed upon. “I was wondering when you would invite the captain to Oakland’s” remarked Lady Ann her attention upon the piece of needlework before her.  “It is the best news for young Aubrey for he is given command of Redoubtable a first rate ship of the line I am most impressed with his cool head in the resent action” said Sir Thomas.

“Then sir you must make haste for we have daughters in the house who might find the dashing young captain to there liking indeed a proposal of marriage might even come of an invitation to stay” said Lady Ann

“Pray dear wife which of our daughters do you have in mind for the brave Captain Aubrey?” enquired Sir Thomas. “Why husband have you not noticed that your favorite daughter Sophia is of a marriageable age?” asked Lady Ann. “Sophia is but a child admittedly forward for her age but still just a child,” said Sir Thomas defensively. Laughing Lady Ann said “Sir you are very much mistaken for she is out in society and has grown a great deal you see her as a child because you have always counted her as your favorite,” “It is true that it seems like just the other day when I first took her upon my knee and played with her,” said Sir Thomas. “It is time sir that she was married,” said Lady Ann.

“Of course you are right Ann I will write to the good captain and hear weather he is able to come to Oakland’s,” said Sir Thomas.



Sir Thomas Sterley

Oakland Park


1 April 1815

To Captain James Aubrey RN

HMS Redoubtable



Dear Captain Aubrey,

My most heartfelt congratulations upon your resent appointment to Redoubtable, I have followed with the greatest attention your activities since hearing from my son Tom at the Cape of an incident south of Gibraltar.

I would be exceedingly pleased if you find occasion to come to Oakland Park for a visit. I am aware Sir that you might not at this time be able to do this as a result of the war, However when the occasion arises please be aware that the inhabitants of Oakland would not be displeased at your coming.

My wife imparted to me that when you come all efforts will be made to have a number of balls, assemblies and the like so that you might get to know the families of quality that live around our town of Notheringay which has a number of ancient family seats.

Pray sir I would ask that you inform me by return of post when it will be convenient for you. That all may be put in readiness for your visit

Your obedient servant

Thomas Sterley

From: Captain James Aubrey RN

HMS Redoubtable



To: Sir Thomas Sterley

Oakland Park


Sir in reply to yours of the first instant

I would find it a most happy occasion to call upon you at Oakland Park however I must plead duty before pleasure. If it is not too much trouble I would find it very gratifying to visit Oakland upon the completion of my current duty. Which I foresee will take a number of weeks before I will be able to consider joining to Oakland. I have not before been to your part of England but I hope to rectify this grievous oversight with in a short period

I remain

Your humble servant

Capt James Aubrey.

“There we have it my dear it is as I suspected Captain Aubrey is delayed by his loyalty to the Crown,” remarked Sir Thomas as he handed the letter he had just been reading to his wife.

“I suspect that err long we shall see the good captain here at Oakland’s” he continued “he has a fine hand as ever I saw,” remarked Lady Ann as she studied the letter. “It is a fair hand I grant you,” said Sir Thomas “However he is unable at this time thus we will have to forego the pleasure of the captains company until such times that the matter of war is concluded,” remarked Sir Thomas.

“Husband I have never stood against you in any matter of importance since you have retired from government. I can but mark one observation plan to you which has irked me greatly,” said Lady Ann “Pray dear wife speak your mind let the matter which irks you come forth for how else are we to set to rights that which is wrong,” said Sir Thomas.

“Your reasons for leaving the service of your country are no doubt sound but they have brought upon us a whole host of other in convinces which would be but a matter of academics if they were not of such importance that they affect our standing in society,” said Lady Ann.

“I take it that you are referring to the fact that because I hold no seat in government I do not have every lackey or servant of the crown come hither and do my biding when I so desire?” asked Sir Thomas.

“You are correct in your assumption Sir for had you still retained your seat the good captain would immediately have found the occasion to come when you wrote to him,” she replied

“Madam you are mistaken for you will some day realize that men of the service have there duty to do first social occasions if they are not in the first instance a matter of diplomatic engagement will always suffer to come second to duty,” said Sir Thomas

“I am of the opinion sir that if you had remand in parliament you would have still had a greater influence and ability to advance the cause of your family to an even greater advantage then is our current state,” said Lady Ann


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