Your newspaper discoveries: Ordered to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Your newspaper discoveries: Ordered to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure

Gordon Martin recently got in touch to show us what the newspapers have helped him find out about his great-great-uncle Charles Alfred Martin.

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Charles Alfred Martin

I had long known the existence of great-great-uncle Charles, the youngest child of a seaman born in Magdeburg, Prussia who served on HMS Achille at the Battle of Trafalgar of 1805. His father had arrived in England via France in around 1800 and joined the British Navy, but tracing his ancestry is my major stumbling block.

Charles was baptised on 21 February 1824 in the Somerset town of Frome. Unlike his brother James Charles Martin (my great-great-grandfather), a Master Cordwainer who remained in their hometown his entire life, Charles moved to London where he married Mary Ann Flattery in 1850 at St Martin in the Fields. The couple had four children and lived in Marylebone and Bermondsey according to the 1851 and 1861 census.

The trail then went cold until I received an email from the Berkshire Record Office enquiring whether the Broadmoor Asylum records they possess might include my ancestor. It was quickly confirmed on the basis that this Charles Martin had a brother James in Frome who had exchanged correspondence with the asylum regarding his younger sibling.


Using The British Newspaper Archive

The reason for Charles’ incarceration in 1869 was reported in numerous newspapers in The British Newspaper Archive. The article below is just one example:

Article from the London Standard, 1869
London Standard, Friday 26 November 1869 – Click the article to enlarge it

View the whole newspaper page


The British Newspaper Archive also provided an insight into the life of Charles, ‘a small diminutive man’, and his family, which was then significantly enhanced by what was to be revealed in the Broadmoor records at the Berkshire Record Office. Charles had written a long letter regarding his life to Dr Orange, Superintendent of Broadmoor shortly before his release in 1879. The most significant revelation was that his father was a man of colour and thought to be of African descent. A photograph of Charles taken sometime during his 10-year incarceration clearly reveals that he is of dark complexion.

Many of the newspaper articles I found in The British Newspaper Archive provide conflicting accounts of Charles’ origins, such as having Creole parents, being ‘mulatto’ and an account dispelling the notion that he was Spanish.


Visit Gordon’s family history website to read more about his research




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