Rev Alexander Scott

painting by Siegfried Detlen Bendixen in 1840

Young Alexander

Alexander John Scott was born on the 23rd July 1768 at Rotherhith.

His parents were Lt Robert Scott, a retired Royal Navy Officer on half pay and Jane Scott nee Comyn

As a dowry Jane received a small estate at Prince Rupert's Bay in the island of Dominica in the West Indies.

Alexander was only two years old when his father visited the estate in Dominica but in a double blow to the family on Robert's arrival found that the estate was virtually worthless and he contracted a tropical disease from which he died.

Jane Scott was left with Alexander and two daughters in lodgings at Gosport in very difficult financial circumstances. Fortunately Roberts’s brother Alexander, who was a sloop commander in the navy, stepped in with support for the family although this in turn put a strain on his finances.

In 1772 Uncle Alexander was posted to the West Indies in the sloop HMS Lynx and he took his nephew Alexander with him even though he was only four years of age.

Uncle Alexander was stationed in the West Indies for four years during which young Alexander stayed at the home of Sir Ralph Payne who was Governor of the Leeward Islands.


On the return to the UK of both Alexander Scott's the young Alexander, by then 8 years of age, was sent to boarding school at Alton. Through the contacts of Sir Ralph Payne he soon left Alton to board at Charterhouse.

Contact with his mother and sisters was limited with most of his holidays spent with Uncle Alexander or Sir Ralph Payne's London House.

By consequence of his schooling as holidays he became acquainted with many people of comparative rank that was well above that expected for a boy from a poor family.

From Charterhouse Young Alexander entered University life at St John's College, Cambridge which he found difficult as St John's followed a mathematical direction while Alexander's interests lay in the arts. Being used to the standards of his more wealthy friends Alexander lived above his means and began to run up debts.

On obtaining his degree in 1791 he faced a financial crisis as his Uncle Alexander refused to provide any more financial support and Alexander's had run up debts whilst at University.

Naval Chaplain

The need to secure a financial future was immediate and as a result Alexander was ordained on 30 November 1791 by the Bishop of Chicester and Deacon Scott became a Curate in Sussex and the following year was ordained as a Priest.

The earnings as a curate was still not sufficient to pay the debts from University and accepted the offer from Sir John Collins to become the Chaplain on the 74 gun HMS Berwick when it left to join the Mediterranean fleet in 1793.

Quiet days in the Mediterranean and Scott's natural flair for language led to his acquisition of fluent Italian, Spanish, German and French.

The other major event was a meeting with Captain Horatio Nelson on HMS Agamemnon which brought about an immediate friendship.

Chaplain to Admiral Parker

Admiral Sir Hyde Parker

In 1795 Scott became Chaplin and secretary to Admiral Sir Hyde Parker in the 98 gun St George

By now Alexander had paid off his debts and was even able to provide some financial support for his mother, His Uncle Alexander had risen to the rank of Rear Admiral and he had developed influential friends in the Royal Navy. The future for 27 year old Rev Scott looked secure.

In 1796 Admiral Parker was appointed C in C of the West Indies and departed in HMS Queen taking Rev Scott with his as Chaplain.

The West Indies Squadron saw frequent action and took many Spanish Prizes. The resultant prize money saw Rev Scott financially secure for the first time in his life.

A difficult incident then took place that greatly influenced Scott. Some of the sailors in HMS Hermione took part in a mutiny and were sentenced to death at court martial.

As the only chaplain available Scott was required to attend to the condemned men. In several meetings he grew to like the men and was upset by the waste of life. At their hanging he was unable to watch describing the event as one of the most awful in his life.

As a consequence of service Scott was given the Benefice of St Johns a large inland parish of Jamaica.

In 1801 Admiral Parker transferred his flag to HMS London leading a fleet to the Baltic.

Once again Scott was Chaplain/ Secretary and now officially the translator. Scott added Russian and Danish to his growing list of languages and played an important role in the diplomacy of the mission.

Chaplain to Admiral Duckworth

On his return in 1801 Scott travelled to Jamaica to take up his living at St Johns.

On his arrival the new CIC West Indies Admiral Duckworth appointed Scott as chaplain of Leviathan.

Whilst on station he was able to perform a mission on behalf of the Admiral that saw him meet Pauline Bonaparte on the island of St Domingo but on his return in July 1802 suffered serious injury when he was struck by lighting and paralysed.

During the slow recovery he received the bad news that the living of St Johns had been removed by the Governor due to his absence but good news in that on the 18th August 1802 the Governors of Charterhouse had granted him the Living of Southminster in response to a petition from Nelson.

Chaplain to Nelson

By December 1802 although still weak he was considered well enough to return to England and take up his living.

Once again illness struck and Scott was unable to travel to Southminster being confined to bed in London.

Nelson visited him frequently and Scott agreed to serve as Chaplain to Nelson if required.

In May 1803 when Scott was nearing the end of his convalescence War was declared with France and Nelson was sent to the Mediterranean.

Scott made his way to join up with Nelson on HMS Victory off the cost of Italy. Scott was involved in delicate negotiations and intelligence gathering with the Queen of Naples and local dignitaries in Sardinia and Spain making use of his bilingual skills.

It was June 1805 before Scott and Nelson returned to England for three months leave before the enemy fleet once again became a threat and Victory was readied for anther voyage.

Battle of Trafalgar Alexander Scott is rubbing Nelsons chest in the 1807 portrait by Arthur William Devis

On 21 October 1805 the enemy fleet was sighted off Cape Trafalgar and soon afterwards battle was joined.

In battle Rev Scott's position was to remain in the cockpit and comfort the injured.

The battle was so fierce with so many horrific injuries that in later years Rev Scott never talked about the injured apart from the one observation " It was like the butchers shambles"

His daughter confirmed that years afterwards he suffered nightmares from the incidents that he witnessed.

Scott left the cockpit for some air and as he arrived on the quarterdeck Nelson himself was hit and carried to the Cockpit.

Nelson was in great pain but survived for a further three hours during which Scott gave him lemonade and massaged his body.

Nelson knew that he way dying and discussed private matters that he wished Scott to carry out as well as suggesting courses of action for the battle in between prayers.

After 3 and a half hours Nelson grew weaker and Scott heard him say " God and my country" before he closed his eyes for the last time.

Scott took charge of Nelson's body on it's journey to London and kept vigil every night for a week while the body lay in state before the funeral.

Nelson remembered his good Friend Scott with a legacy of £200 in his will.

Marriage and the Living at Southminster

Scott was then involved in the politics surrounding Nelsons death including a dispute with Nelsons brother , Cambridge University , Canterbury Cathedral and the Admiralty.

Despite support from Nelsons friends including Lady Hamilton who wrote in friendship with strong supporting words " I know full well how he valued you and what he would have done for you" Scott underwent a frustrating time.

He went to Southminster to take up his living but he did not like the climate or the duties and returned to London in the hope that one of his powerful friends would provide a better opportunity.

Over the years Scott had remained in tough with the Ryder family who he had met whilst at Charterhouse and in 1803 paid a visit to the house. He was charmed to meet Mary Frances Ryder who was not born until 1789 well after Scott had known the Ryder's.

Despite their age difference - Alexander was 35 and Mary just 17 there was an immediate attraction between the pair. After Trafalgar he visited the Ryder's regularly and the attraction developed. When Scott formally declared his interest the Ryder's objected given his age, ill health and unsettled prospects.

Mary was pressured to reject Scott's suit but she refused and reluctantly the Ryder's agreed to the marriage that took place on 9 July 1807.

old vicarageScotts home in Burnham-on-Crouch

Scott immediately returned to the living at Southminster moving into the Vicarage at Church Road, Burnham on Crouch which was available as the Curacy of Burnham was included with the living at Southminster.

Financial troubles returned with the money accumulated in the navy having gone and the income limited to half pay from the navy and income from the living.

The couple lived a happy but frugal life and in April 1808 Horatia Scott was born.

Scott tried for several better livings but none materialised despite efforts on his behalf by old friends.

In 1809 illness returned for another few months although this was followed in 1809 by the birth of another daughter called Margaret which was followed in 1810 by the birth of a son who was tragically killed when 4 months old by his nurse who accidently overlaid him.

Margaret went on to gain fame in her own right by becoming a well known writer and artist as Margaret Gatty who's life is described on other pages of this site

Following the birth of her son Mary was in a weak condition and she died on 20 September 1811 which was  her 26th birthday.

Scott was badly affected by grief which was followed by intensive activity in the parishes of Southminster and Burnham on Crouch.

Scott fought local opposition and lobbied the Governors of Charterhouse so effectively that they agreed to provide £350 to finance the building of a school house at Southminster.

The school room for 150 boys was opened on 1 January 1814 and was such a success that within a few weeks 124 boys attended the school which represented every boy in the village.

He followed this by more fundraising to supplement a further grant of £100 from Charterhouse that allowed the opening of a school for girls in the village.

Both schools have now been demolished to make way for a modern school.

He then turned his attention to the existing school in Burnham becoming a trustee and increasing the rental from assets by over £50 per year

Scott preached a high church at a time when attendance at Church was falling. His obvious zeal, education of children, impressive delivery of sermons and general good works brought many of the previous dissenters back into the church


Scott was a committed freemason, probably joining during his initial service in the West Indies.

The mutual bond with another prominent freemason, Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, may have influenced his initial appointment but there is also little doubt that once appointed, his skill and personality would then ensure his progression.

Once installed at Burnham Vicarage, Scott was instrumental in the formation of the Fortitude Lodge at Burnham on Crouch in 1809 and he later held the office of Essex Deputy Provincial Grand Master.


In 1816 he was finally offered a better living at Catterick and decided to take up the offer.

His Parishioners at Burnham on Crouch were so upset at his leaving that they presented him with a large silver salver to mark his 12 years of service to the parish as curate.

Scott was appointed as a Royal Chaplain in ordinary although tin practice this did little to change his circumstances.

Lord Chamberlain's-Office, November 1G, 1816.

The Lord Chamberlain of His Majesty's Household has been pleased to appoint the Reverend Alexander John Scott, DD, Vicar of Southminster, in the county of Essex, to be one of His Majesty's Chaplains in Ordinary, in the room of The Reverend Thomas D'Oyley, deceased.

 The living at Catterick proved to be another disappointment as the income was about half the amount initially indicated.

The Vicarage was dilapidated and as the previous incumbent had died insolvent the responsibility for repairs passed to Rev Scott.

Rev Scott became engrossed in studies with books lining every room and most of his hours were passed in reading or exploring the nearby roman remains at Catterick.

By that time he had become a striking figure with a full head of white hair and a direct manner.

Scott still made occasional visits to London and to his old Parish at Southminster and so when his daughter announced her wedding he journeyed to prepare the vicarage at Southminster for use by his daughter and son in law after their wedding despite being to unwell to actually carry out the work.

The effort proved too much and he taken ill again and became quite emancipated and had to be helped back to Catterick by his daughter Margaret.

During the night of 24 July 1840 Scott died at the age of 72 and a remarkable life ended.

On 31 July 1840 he was buried at Ecclesfield Churchyard where his son in law was vicar.


As befitted a man for whom books meant so much his daughter Mary and her husband Alfred Gatty collated his papers and wrote a sketch of his remarkable life

Recollections of the life of the Rev. A. J. Scott by A and M Gatty (1842)

Traces of Rev Scott still to be seen

St Leonard's Church, Southminster

a large sundial that Rev Scott erected is still to be found at the South Wall

The Church was greatly enlarged by Rev Scott in 1819 with transepts, chancel and sanctuary added

Nelson relics at the church include a gilt framed mirror and a cast iron fireplace in the vestry and a large table that is reputed to have come from the wardroom of the victory. Whilst the mirror and fireplace arrived in the time of Rev Scott the table has been dated at 1820 which would put it beyond the time of Nelsons death and although Scott still held the living of Southminster at this time he was by then living in Catterick and paying occasional visits to Southminster.

St Marys Church , Burnham on Crouch

A tablet has been erected in memory of Rev Scott and his family

Burnham on Crouch Vicarage

The vicarage is called the Old Vicarage and is found on Southminster Road at the Parish Boundaries near to Mangapps

Burnham on Crouch School

The old school has now been converted flats called St Mary's House in High Street. The Landmark Clock tower is attached to the old buildings

Scott's Letters to Lady Hamilton

In 1846 an editor called Thomas Andrew Evans published original letters that had been sent or received by Nelson or Lady Hamilton.

These include the below letter from Scott to Lady Hamilton in which he describes some of his life and expectations at Burnham and exonerates himself for responsibility in an anonymous campaign against Nelson.

Burnham Vicarage
near Southminster Essex
Oct 22nd 1806
my dear Lady Hamilton!!!

It was my intention always to spend this day & yesterday in London & under that idea supposing we should soon meet I did not write to you—my dear Lady Hamilton I am settled here, having no house of my own at Southminster I have undertaken the additional duty of Burnham, which gives me a good house and five acres of land with a garden besides —I have already got a Cow, a horse, a Cat & a dog—I have furnished two bed rooms & 2 sitting rooms but the house is big enough for a large family—my establishment consists of a man & his wife who do everything for me I bake at home and make my own Milk etc etc. in short for the first time in my life I am enjoying all the Comforts Agonies and miseries of housekeeping—I am employed every day both Parishes being populous, but on Sunday I preach three Sermons besides Churchings and Christenings which abound here—some of my furniture is of the best & if I remain I shall improve my establishment by degrees—I am situated about ten miles from South End but there is a Ferry to cross—I understand however carriages usually pass it—as yet I have not had time to go there myself—the Country here at this season is miserable beyond description & most dreadfully unhealthy but it is delightful I’m the Summer Months and very healthy.

My dear Lady Hamilton I will be with you on the 29th without fail kiss Horatia for me & tell her so—I prepare myself for remaining here my books are placed to the tune of eleven thousand and odd volumes & to say the truth I am not uncomfortable—if ministry notice me I shall not mind my expense in settling at this place & if they do not, it is lucky I have fixed myself—What I most earnestly desire is a stall at St. Pauls—unfortunately it is worth more than Canterbury, but the esprit de calcul does not enter my brain in this case—You dear Lady Hamilton will believe me although the World would not—What is thought of for you ? I repeat it you cannot be forgotten—but you tell me nothing of your prospects—most truly I can say as fast as the memory of dear Lord Nelson evaporates from the minds of others it sinks deeper in that of mine, in which I know you join me—God bless you my dear Lady Hamilton remember me to Horatia Miss O'Connor—Miss Bolton & all the young Fry—Kiss Mrs. Cadogan for me very heartily

I hope Earl Nelson does not continue to hint at my being the author of newspaper paragraphs, which I have understood he some time ago did altho' I solemnly denied to him I should he do so I may be able to shew from a comparison of the hand writings that some of the many foolish things in the Papers were put in by the Writer of the Anonymous letter sent against me to Mr Fuller & this writer I can easily ascertain at the Admiralty altho' I have refrained from doing it not liking to repel injury with his complete ruin in the service whoever he may be—Pray tell Earl Nelson it was impossible for me to write such things but very consonant with the disposition of a writer of anonymous letters because by such means he might make himself of consequence to someone who might have interest to serve him—I beg pardon for stumbling on this old story—but I respect too much the name of Nelson to remain liable to such suspicion—The man who has regularly called on Earl Nelson tho' treated by him with indignity, on account of the name he bears, & who will always treat him with respect on account of that name, is incapable of such acts of basdesse—Again I say il Ciel vi benedica sempre dal cuore—Your attached servant