Gardner, Alan

Gardner was born in 1742 to Lieutenant-Colonel William Gardner and Elizabeth Farrington.1

Gardner started his journey to admiralty in 1755 when he joined the crew of the Medway, aged just 13.2 The Medway was part of the Western Squadron, a fleet of ships charged with defending the British trade sea lanes particularly operating in the English Channel, North Atlantic and western approaches.3 Gardner served on the Medway during the Seven Years’ War, which was fought initially between the British and French in North America but grew to include the Caribbean and India.  The Medway took part in the Battle of Quiberon Bay on 20th November 1759, described as ‘the most decisive naval encounter’ during the war.4

Gardner was promoted quickly, serving as lieutenant on the Bellona, commander on the Fireship Raven and by 1766 he was Captain on the Preston. The Preston was the elected flagship of Rear-Admiral Parry, commander-in-chief in Jamaica (a role Gardner himself would take up in 1785).

Whilst in Jamaica Gardner married Susanna Hyde Gale. Gale was the sole heir to her father, Francis, who owned a sugar estate worked by enslaved people. The Gale family had established themselves as early enslavers in the Caribbean, since their arrival in the expedition of 1655.5  Gardner ’s own connection to the slave trade was both personal and based on his reputation from the navy. For example, Gardner wrote to his siblings about selling cotton estates. Gardner was also commemorated by the East India Company in 1797, when an armed cargo ship was named after him.6

Naval employ involved Gardner leading convoys, escorting merchant ships, capturing several ships and engaging in battles. One of these was the Battle of the Saints in 1782, a planned attack by the French army on Jamaica (which was a British colony at the time) during the American Revolutionary War. 

Satirists of the day, including Gillray and Rowlandson, feature Gardner in several etchings and prints showing his prominence nationally from his naval career to standing as MP for Plymouth and then Westminster.
By the time of his death, he had been created Baron of Uttoxeter and Admiral.

Reviewed by Lisa Kennedy, Consultant, 2023.

  1. Ralfe, James, fl. 1820-1829; Head, Christopher. PRO [Online] Available from: https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_6R_nAAAAMAAJ/page/n425/mode/2up?q=gardner [Accessed 18/05/2023]

    Staffordshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 [database on-line]. Available from: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/discoveryui-content/view/51905:62248?tid=&pid=&queryId=a34639c1cf4ceaba05039aea387176f1&_phsrc=Spm1&_phstart=successSource [Accessed 18/05/2023]

  2. Hisocks, Richard. Alan Gardner 1st Baron, 2018. [Online] Available from: https://morethannelson.com/officer/alan-gardner-1st-baron-gardner/ [Accessed 18/05/2023]

  3. DBpedia, undated. [Online] Available from: https://dbpedia.org/page/Western_Squadron [Accessed 18/05/2023]

  4. National Army Museum, Seven Years War, undated. [Online] Available from: https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/seven-years-war [ Accessed 18/05/2023]

    Royal Museums Grenwich, The Battle of Quiberon Bay , 20 November 1759, undated. [Online] Available from: https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/rmgc-object-11891 [Accessed 18/05/2023]

  5. Cundall, Frank; Studies in Jamaica 1858-1937.[Online] Available from: https://archive.org/details/studiesinjamaica00cund/page/48/mode/2up?q=gardner [Accessed 18/05/2023]

  6. Francis Noel ed. Davey; Heart of Oak: Letters from Admiral Gardner (1742-1809) Paperback – 30 Sept. 2015

     Thomson, Joanna; Admiral Gardner. [Online] Available from: https://goodwinsands.org.uk/admiral-gardner/ [Accessed 18/05/2023]

    The National Trust and Hazzard, Kieran, What was the East India Company, undated. [Online] Available from: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/discover/history/what-was-the-east-india-company [Accessed 08/06/2023]

  7. Ralfe, James, fl. 1820-1829; Head, Christopher. PRO [Online] Available from: https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_6R_nAAAAMAAJ/page/n425/mode/2up?q=gardner [Accessed 18/05/2023]

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