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Durham, Sir Philip Charles Henderson Calderwood (1763–1845), naval officer, was born Philip Charles Durham, third son of James Durham of Largo in Fife and Polton, Edinburghshire, and his wife, Ann, daughter and heir of Thomas Calderwood of Polton and his wife, . He entered the navy on 1 May 1777, on board the Trident, under the protection of Captain John Elliot. In the following year he went to North America in the Trident, where he had the misfortune to come under the command of Captain Molloy, a harsh and tyrannical officer. Under him, and with the ship's company on the verge of mutiny, young Durham's position for the next twelve months was far from pleasant; and in June 1779 he procured his discharge and returned to England, arriving in time to be taken by Captain Elliot into the Edgar, in which he was present at the defeat of Langara and the relief of Gibraltar. He remained in the Edgar until July 1781, when he was appointed acting lieutenant of the Victory, and was selected by Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt to assist with the signals. He continued serving with Kempenfelt during the year, and was present at the capture of a French convoy on 12 December; the following year, still an acting lieutenant, he followed Kempenfelt to the Royal George. When she sank at Spithead, on 29 August 1782, Durham was officer of the watch, and, being on deck at the time, was among those saved, though he spent nearly an hour in the water before being picked up by a boat and taken on board the Victory. Although the verdict of the court martial was that ‘the ship foundered because she was rotten, and a great piece of her bottom fell out’, the real cause was incompetent handling by her officers, and Durham must have known the truth. He was moved shortly afterwards from the Victory to the Union (90 guns). He was present in the Union at the relief of Gibraltar by Lord Howe, and in the subsequent encounter with the combined fleet off Cape Spartel. The Union was then detached to the West Indies, where, on 26 December, Durham was confirmed in the rank of lieutenant, and appointed to the Raisonnable (64 guns), in which he returned to England at the peace of 1783. In the following year he was appointed to the frigate Unicorn, under orders for the coast of Africa. His health prevented his sailing in her; and the next two years he spent in France, learning the language and mixing freely in society.

On his return to England, Durham was appointed to the Salisbury with Commodore Elliot, then going out as governor of Newfoundland. In 1790 he became Elliot's signal lieutenant in the Barfleur, and on 12 November of the same year was promoted to the command of the Daphne (20 guns) for a passage to the West Indies; there he was transferred to the sloop Cygnet, which he brought home in December 1792. He was immediately afterwards appointed to the Spitfire (20 guns), in which he put to sea on 12 February 1793; on the 13th he captured the Afrique, a French privateer, the first prize of the French Revolutionary War. He continued cruising with success; on 24 June 1793, promoted to captain, he was posted to the frigate Narcissus, from which, in October, he was moved to the Hind. In the following spring he was sent out to the Mediterranean with convoy, returning a few months later. This homeward convoy numbered 157 ships; Durham's successful guardianship of it was recognized by his appointment (30 October 1794) to the Anson (46 guns), one of the largest frigates then in the navy. He commanded her for the next six years, during which time he was present at the action off the Île de Groix and Lorient on 23 June 1795, and was with Sir John Borlase Warren in his expedition to Quiberon Bay in July 1795, and again on the coast of Ireland in September and October 1798. He took part in the defeat and capture of the French squadron off Tory Island on 12 October, a service for which he, together with the other captains present, received the thanks of parliament and a gold medal. On 28 March 1799 Durham married Lady Charlotte Matilda Bruce (d. 1816), only surviving daughter of the earl of Elgin.

In February 1801 Durham was moved into the Endymion (40 guns), which was paid off at the peace of Amiens. In April 1803 he was appointed to the Windsor Castle, but was presently moved into the Defiance (74 guns), in which he took part in Sir Robert Calder's action off Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1805. The ship was then sent home to be refitted, but was hurried out to join Nelson off Cadiz. When Calder was ordered home to be tried for retreating in the face of the enemy, he was permitted to name such captains as he desired for witnesses, who thereupon received leave to accompany him to England; Durham was selected but, finding that his going home was optional, he decided to stay. He thus served at Trafalgar, where he was slightly wounded; being ordered home directly afterwards, he arrived in time to give evidence at Calder's court martial. He was next appointed to the Renown, which during 1806 formed part of the Channel Fleet, and for a short time carried Lord St Vincent's flag. Afterwards she was sent to join Collingwood in the Mediterranean, and continued there until 1810, during the latter part of which period Durham wore a broad pennant as a commodore, and on 26 October 1809 was engaged, in company with Rear-Admiral Martin, in the destruction of two French ships, near Cette.

On 31 July 1810 Durham was promoted rear-admiral. During 1811 he commanded a squadron in the North Sea, and had struck his flag only a few days when he was ordered to go to Portsmouth, take command of such ships as he chose, and sail at once in quest of a French squadron that had put to sea from Lorient. The cruise was a short one, for the French returned to port, and Durham, bringing his ships back to Portsmouth, struck his flag. He next had command of a squadron in Basque Roads, and in December 1813 was sent out as commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands station, with his flag in the Venerable. On the outward voyage he cleverly captured two large French frigates, Alcmène and Iphigénie, on 16 and 20 January 1814. Afterwards he cleared the West Indies of American cruisers; and in June and August 1815 he co-operated in the capture of Martinique and Guadeloupe, at which place the last French flag was struck to Durham, as the first had been. The following year he returned to England. On 2 January 1815 he had been nominated a KCB; he was now created a knight grand cross of the order of Military Merit of France, the only English officer, it is said, who received that distinction. On 16 October 1817 Durham married Anne Isabella, only daughter and heir of Sir John Henderson, bt, of Fordell in Fife. On the occasion of this marriage he took the additional name of Henderson, and afterwards, on succeeding, by the death of his brother in 1840, to the Polton estate, took also the name of Calderwood.

On 12 August 1819 Durham was promoted to the rank of vice-admiral, and on 22 July 1830 to admiral; on 17 November 1830 he was made a GCB. He was MP for Queenborough in 1830 and for Devizes from 1834 to 1836, being forced to relinquish his seat on his appointment, in March 1836, as commander-in-chief at Portsmouth—a post which he held until April 1839. He commanded a squadron off Brighton on Queen Victoria's visit in 1837. Lady Durham died suddenly towards the end of 1844. Shortly after her death, Durham started on a tour abroad, but bronchitis, caught during his winter journey, proved fatal, and he died at Naples on 2 April 1845. He had no children, and his estates passed to his niece, daughter of his brother Thomas, wife of Robert Dundas of Arniston.

Durham was an officer with a long, varied, and largely distinguished career. His good fortune was, perhaps, even more noteworthy than his ability.

J. K. Laughton, rev. Andrew Lambert


NMM, Minto MSS · R. F. Johnson, The Royal George (1971) · J. Marshall, Royal naval biography, 1 (1823) · O'Byrne, Naval biog. dict. · Burke, Peerage · A. Murray, Memoir of the naval life and services of Admiral Sir P. C. H. C. Durham (1846) · private information (1888); (2014) [P. van der Merwe]


NA Scot., naval and other corresp. and papers · NL Scot., orders and corresp. · U. Edin. L., corresp. and dispatches |  NL Scot., letters to Sir Alexander Cochrane and Sir Thomas Cochrane · NMM, letters to Lord Keith · W. Sussex RO, letters to duke of Richmond


F. Grant, oils, c.1833, Scot. NPG · J. Wood, oils, c.1840, NMM · F. Grant, oils, Scot. NPG · J. Wood, oils, Scot. NPG · J. Northcote, oils, NG Scot.