Barrington Reynolds

Admiral Sir Barrington Reynolds GCB (1786 – 3 August 1861) was a senior and long-serving officer of the British Royal Navy who went to sea with his father aged only nine during the French Revolutionary Wars and was captured by the French aged eleven. Returning to service on his release soon afterwards, Reynolds experienced the successive deaths of his elder brother and his father on active service during the Napoleonic Wars as well as severe bouts of ill-health himself. Leaving the service at the end of the war, Reynolds returned to the Navy in the 1840s after an absence of thirty years and played a major role in the final destruction of the illegal trade in African slaves to Brazil. Reynolds was honoured for this service and retired again to his family seat in Cornwall, where he died aged 75.

Sir Barrington Reynolds
Penair, Cornwall
Died3 August 1861
Penair, Cornwall
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service1795 to 1861
Commands heldCape of Good Hope Station
Plymouth Command
Battles/warsFrench Revolutionary Wars
• Destruction of the Droits de l'Homme
Napoleonic Wars
Bombardment of Acre, 1840
Operations against Brazilian slavers, 1849-1852
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath

Early careerEdit

Barrington Reynolds was the second son of Rear-Admiral Robert Carthew Reynolds, a successful and long-serving Royal Navy officer who had once served under Samuel Barrington who is probably the origin of Barrington's Christian name. Like his elder brother, Barrington Reynolds had been born at the family seat in Penair, near Truro, Cornwall, but aged only nine he was brought onto his father's ship the frigate HMS Amazon for service as a captain's servant.[1] Britain was engaged at this time in the French Revolutionary Wars and Amazon was attached to the squadron under Sir Edward Pellew which harassed French shipping along the Biscay Coast. In February 1797, Amazon and Pellew's ship HMS Indefatigable engaged the much larger French ship of the line Droits de l'Homme in a storm off Brest. During the engagement, skilful manoeuvering by the British drove the French ship onto rocks with the loss of hundreds of lives. Amazon too was wrecked, but Captain Reynolds succeeded in beaching her rather than running her onto rocks and as result, all but six of her crew survived to become prisoners of war.[1]

Barrington Reynolds was released with his father a year later and returned to service on HMS Pomone, before transferring to Indefatigable as a midshipman, his first commission away from his father. When Pellew moved to HMS Impetueux he took the young Reynolds with him and the midshipman gained combat experience in several raiding operations on the French coast under the command of Lieutenant John Pilfold.[1] Late in 1800 Reynolds briefly rejoined his father in HMS Orion before being promoted lieutenant on HMS Courageux he soon moved to HMS Hussar and later transferred again, to the frigate HMS Niobe in which he remained for the next five years until 1808. In 1804 his elder brother, Lieutenant Robert Reynolds, was killed in action off Martinique.[2]

Independent commandEdit

In 1808, Reynolds moved to HMS Russell but less than a year later was given his first command, the hulk HMS Arrogant. In February 1811 he became a commander and took over the sloop HMS Hesper in which he participated in the attack on Java and was promoted to post captain as a reward, taking over HMS Sir Francis Drake. The Admiralty confirmed his promotion in 1812, in recognition of the services of his father, who had died in the wreck of HMS St George on Christmas Eve 1811.[1] He returned to Britain in August 1812 in command of HMS Bucephalus and remained in her for a year before entering semi-retirement due to ill-health. Following the end of the war in 1815, Reynolds was offered continued service as a frigate captain in the reduced Navy, but was forced to turn the post down due to a protracted bout of ill-health.[1]

Anti-slavery operationsEdit

Reynolds settled into an early retirement for his convalescence, marrying Eliza Anne Dick (died August 1832) and living either in London or at his family estate at Penair, Cornwall.[1] In 1838, Reynolds health had sufficiently recovered that he could return to sea, taking command of the ship of the line HMS Ganges in the Mediterranean and being made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.[3] In Ganges, Reynolds participated in the bombardment of Acre during operations against Egyptian forces. Reynolds was promoted to rear-admiral in 1848, and given command at the Cape of Good Hope Station,[4] with instructions to clamp down on the illegal slave traders who operated from West Africa.[1]

Reynolds was so successful off Africa, that at Admiralty dispatched him to cruise off the Brazilian coast on the same service. Over the next three years, Reynolds and his squadron captured dozens of slave ships, boarded and captured more at anchor on the Brazilian coast and, despite loud protests from the Brazilian government, raided Brazilian harbours along the coast, burning the empty slave ships which sheltered in them. In reply to the protests, Reynolds wrote to the Admiralty that "Nothing can be done with the Brazilian government on this matter except by compulsion".[1] The actions of the forces under Reynolds' command have been credited with destroying the Brazilian slave trade completely by 1851.[1]

Promoted to vice-admiral in 1855, he became Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth in 1857 and was promoted to full admiral on retirement in 1860. He was also advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. He died in 1861 at the family home and was buried in St Clement's Churchyard near Truro. He was survived by his wife.[1]


Obituary in the Times newspaper Date 5 August 1861 "We have to announce the death of Admiral Sir Barrington Reynolds, K.C.B., who expired at an early hour on Saturday morning at Penair, his residence, near Truro. The gallant admiral was the son of Rear-Admiral Robert C. Reynolds, who was lost in the St. George, 98, on returning home from the Baltic in December, 1811, and was born in 1785. The deceased officer entered the navy as a first-class volunteer soon after he had completed his tenth year; he was midshipman on board the Amazon, 36, when in company with the Indefatigable, 46, L'Unité, 33, and La Virginie, 44, were captured. In January, 1797, he was wrecked and taken prisoner near Ile Bas, at the close of a gallant action of ten hours with Les Droits de L’Homme, 74, also wrecked. On regaining his liberty in January of the following year he was appointed to La Pomone, in which he assisted in the capture of Le Chéri, French privateer, of 26 guns. He shortly afterwards joined the Indefatigable, Capt. Sir Edward Pelew (afterwards Lord Exmouth), under whom he contributed to the capture of La Vaillante corvette. Under the same famous commander he served with the squadron sent in the summer of 1800 to co-operate with the French Royalists and Chouans, in Quiberon Bay, and the Morbihan, and in August accompanied the expedition against Ferrol. For his gallantry in several successful boat actions with the enemy he was promoted to the rank of Lieut. In the boats of the Diana, on the night of 28 March 1806, Lieut. Reynolds captured Le Néarque, of 16 guns, off L’Orient, the rearmost of a French squadron, without being discovered by the three French frigates, her consorts. Afterwards he proceeded to the East Indies, and early in 1811 he was appointed to the command of the Hesper, 18, part of the force employed in the expedition against Java, where he assisted at the bombardment and storming of Fort Cornelis, and served on shore with a party of seamen throughout all the operations. After the reduction of the town of Cheribon he was appointed Commandant, pro tem., of that place. As a reward for his distinguished services in the subjugation of that island, he was appointed to the command of the frigate Sir Francis Drake, and was in the following year removed by the Commander-In-Chief, Sir Samuel Hood, into the Bucephalus, 32, in which he continued until paid off in 1813. From impaired health engendered by the climate of the East Indies he was not employed for several years. From October, 1833, to April, 1842, he commanded the Ganges, 84, which formed one of the fleet in the Mediterranean. He superintended, during the campaign of 1840 in Syria, the landing of the troops at D’Journie, and assisted at the bombardment of Beyrout, and the blockade of Alexandria. In 1843 to 1852 he was Commander-in-Chief at the Cape of Good Hope and the Brazil station. It was during his command at that station that he obtained the thanks of the Government for his activity and zeal in suppressing the slave trade. Shortly after his return home he was selected by the Admiralty, in May, 1857, for the post of Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, which appointment he filled up to October last. In 1838 he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath, and in February, 1856, was made a Knight Commander of that most honourable order of knighthood. The late Admiral's commissions bore date as follows:- Lieutenant, 18 Sept. 1801; Commander, Oct. 3,1810; Captain, 22 Jan. 1812; Rear-Admiral, Jan. 8,1848; Vice-Admiral, 4 July 1855 and Admiral, 1 Nov. 1860." Ref:

See alsoEdit

  • O'Byrne, William Richard (1849). "Reynolds, Barrington" . A Naval Biographical Dictionary . John Murray – via Wikisource.
  • Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Reynolds, Barrington" . Dictionary of National Biography. 48. London: Smith, Elder & Co.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reynolds, Sir Barrington, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, J. K. Laughton, Retrieved 30 March 2008
  2. ^ Reynolds, Robert Carthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, J. K. Laughton, Retrieved 30 March 2008
  3. ^ "No. 19638". The London Gazette. 20 July 1838. p. 1660.
  4. ^ Hiscocks, Richard. "Cape Commander-in-Chief 1795-1852". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir James Dacres
Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope Station
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir William Parker
Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Fanshawe