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Rotheram, Edward (1753–1830), naval officer, was born in Hexham, Northumberland, and was baptized there on 27 December 1753, the second of seven children of John Rotheram (c.1719–1787), physician, and his wife, Catherine Roberts (b. 1728). About 1760 the family moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, where his father was physician of the infirmary. Edward attended Head School, Newcastle upon Tyne (c.1761–c.1767) under Charles Hutton. He then went to sea in a collier. His brother was to become a distinguished professor of natural philosophy at St Andrews University.

In April 1777 Rotheram entered the navy, joining the Centaur (74 guns) as a volunteer; he became master's mate a year later. In April 1780 he transferred to the Barfleur (98 guns) and in October, after nearly four years in the Channel Fleet, he went in the Monarch (74 guns) to the West Indies as an acting lieutenant. The Monarch was in Sir Samuel Hood's squadron in the actions off Martinique and the Chesapeake on 29 April and 5 September 1781, at St Kitts in January 1782, and in Admiral Sir George Rodney's victory at the Saints in April 1782. Rotheram was promoted lieutenant on 19 April 1783 and returned to England in June. On 5 March 1785 he married Dorothy Harle (b. 1755, d. in or before 1830) of Newcastle; they had three daughters.

After four years at home Rotheram served for much of the years 1787 to 1791 in the 74-gun ships Bombay Castle, Culloden, and Vengeance, all in the channel. He rejoined the Culloden as first lieutenant in December 1792 and was present at the battle of 1 June 1794. When the French ship Vengeur struck, Rotheram was sent in command of the boats which took possession of her and, by his energy and cool-headedness, saved many of her company as she sank. On 6 July he was promoted commander. From January 1795 to June 1796 he commanded the store ship Camel in the Mediterranean, and from February 1797 to June 1800 the sloop Hawke in the West Indies. He returned home in the Lapwing (28 guns), was promoted captain on 27 August 1800, and commanded her until she paid off in November 1802.

After two years ashore Rotheram joined the Dreadnought (98 guns) in December 1804 as flag-captain to Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood whom he did not impress: ‘He is a man of no talent as a sea officer, and of little assistance to me’ (Collingwood to his cousin Edward Collingwood, 23 Sept 1805, private information). However, on 10 October he followed Collingwood into the Royal Sovereign (100 guns) and fought gallantly at Trafalgar where his ship was hotly engaged, leading the lee division into action.

Collingwood appointed Rotheram to the Bellerophon (74 guns), whose captain had been killed, and he commanded her in the channel until she paid off in 1808. In April 1807 he had been court martialled for unacceptable conduct towards his lieutenants and the chaplain, and reprimanded. ‘I was sorry to hear of poor Rotheram’, Collingwood told his sister. ‘Though I think him a stupid man I was in hope he might have gone on in the ship I put him in, which I believe was the only chance he had of being in a ship’ (Private Correspondence, 1 June 1807, 205).

Rotheram had no further sea time but was appointed CB in 1815 after three times asking, increasingly intemperately, for a knighthood (NMM, LBK/38). In 1828 he was appointed one of the captains of Greenwich Hospital; he died a widower, aged seventy-six, on 2 November 1830 in Bildeston, Suffolk, and was buried there on 6 November.

C. H. H. Owen


TNA: PRO, ADM MSS, ADMI [captain's letters], ADMI/5380 [court martial], ADM34 [ships' paybooks], ADM36 [ships' muster books], ADM51 [captains' logs], ADM9 [officers' services] · NMM, Rotheram MSS, LBK/38 and SPB/12 · The private correspondence of Admiral Lord Collingwood, ed. E. Hughes, Navy RS, 98 (1957) · Naval Chronicle, 14 (1805), 469–70 · J. Marshall, Royal naval biography, 2/1 (1824), 298–300 · GM, 1st ser., 100/2 (1830), 565 · T. Carlyle, Critical and miscellaneous essays, collected and republished, another edn, 6 (1872); repr. (1888), 193–6 · parish register, Hexham, Northumberland, 27 Dec 1753 [baptism] · parish register, Bildeston, Suffolk, 6 Nov 1830 [burial]


NMM, commonplace book, letter-book


R. Pollard, watercolour drawing, c.1806, Lloyds TSB, London, Nelson collection