no image

John Pilfold RN (1768 - 1834)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Captain John Pilfold RN
Born in Horsham, Sussex, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Warnham, Sussex, Englandmap
Died in Stonehouse, Devon, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 8 Jun 2017
This page has been accessed 115 times.

Categories: Battle of Trafalgar | Glorious First of June | HMS Ajax (1798) | Warnham, Sussex | HMS Crown (1782) | HMS Brunswick (1790) | HMS Queen Charlotte (1790) | HMS Russell (1764) | HMS Kingfisher (1782) | HMS Hindostan (1804) | HMS Dragon (1798).


John Pilfold was baptised on 20 January 1769 in Horsham in Sussex, [1][2] 10 years before his mother Bethia died[3]. Charles, John's elder brother may have just preceded him in to the Royal Navy, with John following "the usual method of introduction to the Royal Navy of the day, joining a ship aged 13 and slowly learning his trade as a midshipman in HMS Crown under the capable guidance of William Cornwallis. In October 1788 he was promoted to Midshipman. Later that month, he went to sea under the command of Sir William Cornwallis to the East Indies, returning in May 1792. Arriving home, Pilfold found that his father had died in 1790 and that his estate, Effingham East Court Manor, had been sold." [4]. His brother had gone to China in December 1791 and died of unknown causes on the ship "Oceana" on 20 August 1792.

War with France broke out in 1794. John was aboard Brunswick at the Battle of Cape Finisterre, and Russell at the Battle of Groix. During the Peace of Amiens he had time ashore to woo and married Mary Ann South, daughter of Thomas South of Donhead in Wiltshire. They were married at Warnham in Sussex on 20 June 1803.[5] [6]

The war broke out again and he served on Hindostan and on 3 July 1805 was posted to the 74 gun HMS Ajax, Captain William Brown. On the 22nd Ajax was engaged at the Battle of Cape Finisterre, put in to Plymouth for repairs then sailed to join the fleet off Cadiz. On 13th of August Captain Brown was summoned home for the trial of Sir Robert Caulder leaving John in command as acting Captain. A thoroughly experienced naval officer it must still have been a daunting moment when the combined fleet sailed in October and it was clear that John was to be in command for the battle that became known as Trafalgar. HMS Ajax was well back in the line and consequently took few casualties. [7]

John returned home to a rapturous welcome but never served at sea again. He received the Order of the Bath at the end of the war. He retired eventually to Wales and Devon with his family, "he divided his time between farming, minor shore-based naval appointments, and funding the lifestyle of his nephew, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelly". [8] Mary died in 1832 and John had a stroke which left him rather childish. He died on 12 July 1834 at Stonehouse in Devon, [9]and was buried at St George's Church in Plymouth. [10][11]

Royal Navy Career
John Pilfold

ShipRankStart dateEnd dateComment................................................................................
HMS CrownAble seaman15 Oct 178831 Dec 1788Joined at Chatham. Commodore Sir William Cornwallis
HMS CrownMidshipman1 Jan 17895 Jun 1792-
HMS BrunswickAble seaman6 Jun 179227 Jan 1793Joined at Portsmouth. 29 October 1792 3 mutineers from HMS Bounty hanged from the yardarms
HMS BrunswickMidshipman28 Jan 179328 Feb 1793-
HMS BrunswickMaster's Mate1 Mar 179314 Jul 1794At the Battle of the Glorious 1st of June. Captain John Harvey died of wounds received in the Battle
HMS Queen CharlotteAble seaman4 Jul 179427 Jul 1794 -
HMS Queen CharlotteMidshipman 28 Jul 179420 Oct 1794-
HMS Queen CharlotteMidshipman8 Dec 179414 Feb 1795-
HMS RussellJunior lieutenant14 Feb 17948 Mar 1795-
HMS Russell5th Lieutenant9 Mar 17955 Jul 179523 June Battle of Groix
HMS Russell4th Lieutenant6 Jul 179520 Aug 1795-
HMS KingfisherLieutenant31 Aug 17953 Sep 1797Commander Alexander Wilson
HMS ImpeteuxLieutenant26 Apr 179815 Apr 1802-
HMS HindostanLieutenant28 Oct 180427 Feb 1805Captain Mark Robinson
HMS Dragon2nd Lieutenant2 Mar 18052 Jul 1805-
HMS AjaxLieutenant3 Jul 180513 Aug 1805Captain William Brown. Battle of Cape Finisterre
HMS AjaxActing Captain14 Aug 180521 Oct 1805Battle of Trafalgar


  1. Baptism: England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014, FHL Film Number: 0416743, 0416749, 0918272-274, 416755.
  2. Baptismal record Warnham (20 January 1769 John Pilfold son of Charles MR Pilfold and Bethia) Viewed at Ancestry. Text only
  3. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Desmond Hawkins, ‘Pilfold, John (bap. 1769, d. 1834)’, first published 2004; online edn, May 2009, 694 words.
  4. John Pilfold, from Wikipedia,
  5. Trafalgar Ancestors: John Pilfold
  6. Marriage record Warnham (20 June 1803 John Pilfold married Mary Ann Horner South) Viewed at Ancestry. Text only
  7. " The Trafalgar Companion " Mark Adkin, Aurum Press 2005 ISBN 1 84513 0189
  8. Wikipedia: John Pilfold
  9. Trafalgar Ancestors: John Pilfold
  10. Wikipedia: John Pilfold
  11. Death: Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-20, 22 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors. Original data: Stephen, Sir Leslie, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922. Volumes 1–20, 22. London, England: Oxford University Press, 1921–1922.
  12. Trafalgar Ancestors: John Pilfold

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Searching for someone else?
First: Last:

No known carriers of John's Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests.

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.


On 25 May 2018 at 07:17 GMT C. Mackinnon wrote:

Pilfold-55 and Pilfold-37 appear to represent the same person because: Sorry. Trafalgar Companion gave his name as Pilford. Trafalgar ancestors has it right.

John is 20 degrees from George Bush, 25 degrees from Rick San Soucie and 8 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

P  >  Pilfold  >  John Pilfold RN