The visit of Samuel Curwen (British Loyalist in exile from American Revolutionaries) to Old Sarum 1776

Samuel Curwen.jpg

Samuel Curwen was born (1715) and died (1802) in Salem, Massachusetts and spent nine years of political exile in England.  He had served the crown by fighting for the British at the Siege of Louisburg 1745 and subsequently as Judge of Admiralty for the New England provinces. He declared his political sympathy in the title of “The Journal of Samuel Curwen, Loyalist.”


Dickens described him as “altogether an excellent example of the class of men out of whom the fathers and founders of that great republic sprang” and he received a pension from the British Government.

He wrote of his visit to Old Sarum in 1776…………


Chapter II pages 64-65

"Tuesday, July 16. Left home at an early hour in the Salisbury coach. On Hounslow heath, through which we passed, three monuments of human folly and divine justice—as many gibbets with the remains of so many wretches, hanging in chains;


The road from Wallop to Salisbury is delightfully pleasant, and hard as a garden gravel walk; at four miles' distance is to be seen the spire of the cathedral, supposed to be the highest in England. The land rising gradually from the plain till the sight is bounded by a ridge of high hills, from the rising filled with enclosures, rows and slumps of trees, and many farm-houses; alighted at Salisbury at seven o'clock in the evening Salisbury,

July 17. Started for Stonehenge, a distance of eleven miles, the first five through highly cultivated grounds. At the distance of three miles from the city, on the right, is to be seen an eminence apparently of an oval figure, lying beyond the improved grounds, enclosed with hedges, etc, which seems to be raised by art, or formed into its present shape or figure, at least, by the hands and industry of man; the ascent to the plain on which its base stands is above the level of the improvements on the either side ; it is an easy slope at an angle of 45°, and measures round one mile; on the rim of the first slope are cornfields; within is a slope of the same figure as the lower, rising nearly to the same height; in a plain on one side is planted a small group of trees; this spot in former days was the site of Old Sarum, containing about sixty acres, unless I am misinformed, without one house on it, now entitled to send two members to parliament. On the lower plain, and bordering on the slope, stands one house, where dwells a family supplying the curious who visit there with punch, wine, and tea. The view under this long range of hills presents a most pleasing and variegated prospect."


As Old Sarum was on his right travelling to Stonehenge he was travelled either along the turnpike from Fisherton to Shrewton and on then across the plain to Redhorn Hill, Urchfont or through Stratford and along the Woodford Valley. His punch, wine and tea was taken at Old Castle House, then as now an inn.


When he visited Old Sarum he would have been unaware of events at home two weeks earlier, the Declaration of Independence by his own colony of Massachusetts and twelve others on July 4th 1776 in Philadelphia, from where he had fled he previous year. He would have been unhappy to know of it, as a loyalist,


"For my native country I feel a filial fondness; her follies I lament, her misfortunes I pity; her good I ardently wish, and to be restored to her embraces is the warmest of my desires,"   S. Curwen, Jan. 10, 1780. Page 831.



Journal And Letters Of The Late Samuel Curwen, Judge Of Admiralty, Etc., An American Refugee In England, From 1775 To 1784, Comprising Remarks On The Prominent Men And Measures Of That Period.

To Which Are Added, Biographical Notices Of Many American Loyalists And Other Eminent Persons.

By George Atkinson Ward, Member Of The New-York Historical Society. New-York

C. S. Francis And Co., 252 Broadway. Boston.  J. H. Francis, 128 Washington-Street 1842.


Kerry O’Connor

Local History Group

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