James Horslen - Laindon Army Veteran

I have been researching the British Newspapers Archive and it is amazing the interesting individual historical facts you come across  – James Horslen for one.

James was born in Writtle, Essex in 1817. The 1861 census has him living at Noak Bridge Farm, Laindon with his wife Elizabeth (nee French) whom he married in 1860. Presumable after he came out of the army. He had joined the army on the 24 October 1840 and served in the 9th Queen’s Royal Regiment of Lancers for nearly 20 years, rising to the rank of Sergeant.  For 16 years of his time he was in India as part of the British East India Company and was actively involved in the Punjab campaign, Anglo-Sikh wars, 1845/1849 and the Indian Mutiny 1857/58.

In addition to receiving four badges for good conduct he was awarded a medal for the Battle of Sobraon (first Anglo-Sikh War), medal for the Punjab Campaign, clasp for the Battle of Chillianwala (second Anglo-Sikh War) and the Indian Mutiny medal (1857/58) with the Delhi clasp which was awarded to those who participated in the capture of Delhi.

Two years later he was discharged in 1860, as unfit for further service. The 1881 census records him farming 53 acres with one man and a boy, presumable Noak Bridge Farm, Laindon.  It would appear that he had taken over the farm from Elizabeth, as the 1851 census has her running the farm with two labourers. By the time of the 1891 census they had both retired and were living at number 7 Church Road, Laindon.

Elizabeth died on the 6 July 1892, aged 78 and was buried at St Nicholas Church and James followed a year later aged 76 and was buried on the 24 July 1893 also at St Nicholas Church, Laindon.

The 1891 & 1901 censuses has Robert John French farming out of Noak Bridge Farm, previously Bungs Farm, Laindon (1881) and later Brewitts Farm, Laindon (1911). Was Elizabeth an ancestor of Robert? The jury is still out on this one.


  • Where are the actual location of the Graves
  • Was Elizabeth part of the current French Farming family in the Laindon area.

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  • Ken, interesting! Piecing a few things together, it seems that James was 23 when he joined the army and after four years was posted to India. I wonder where he was for those four years? Britain did not maintain much of an army at home. Too expensive but there was plenty of work for the army around the empire. It seems quite remarkable that he could serve 16 years in the Indian climate, be discharged as unfit for service, and then go on to the back breaking work of farming 53 acres with the help of one man and a boy. Plus Elizabeth of course. 

    Elizabeth would appear to be 46 when they married. Quite an advanced age for a first marriage in that era. Of course we do not know if she was married before. Do we? If she were married previously, and if there were children, we might expect them to be working the farm with James.

    By Alan Davies (22/06/2017)

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