James Malachi Madden, Surgeon Royal Navy

James Malachi Madden was born about 1791 in Ireland according to the census records for England. No record has been found of his birth in Ireland.

James was awarded an Apprentice Licence from the Apothecaries Hall of Ireland in 1805 at the age of about 14. The Apothecaries Hall of Ireland was founded in 1791 to regulate and control the apothecary [pharmacy] trade in Ireland. The Hall registers record [Date] 22 Feb 1805 [Name] Ja[me]s Madden [Address] Ballyderine [County [Mayo] [Certificate] Apprentice [Result] Granted. He probably would have completed his apprenticeship in Mayo and only needed to come to Dublin to sit for separate formal examinations for his Licence of the Society of Apothecaries [LSA] and his Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons [MRCS], probably about the same time. [Note Ballyderine or Balladerine is the phonetic spelling of Ballaghaderreen (sometimes spelt Ballaghadireen), which is now in Co. Roscommon, but before 1898 was in Co. Mayo.]

Ballaghadireen, a market and post-town, in the parish of Kilcoleman, barony of Costello, county of Mayo, and province of Connaught, 12 miles (W.S.W.) from Boyle, and 97 ¾ miles (W. by N.) from Dublin; containing 1147 inhabitants. This town is situated on the new mail coach road from Ballina to Longford, and consists of three principal streets, containing about 200 houses, of which nearly all are neatly built and slated. Here are infantry barracks, adapted to the accommodation of 4 officers and 92 non-commissioned officers and privates. Many improvements have recently taken place in the town, which is rapidly rising into importance. The market is on Friday; and fairs are held on March 25th and 26th, May 1st, June 25th, Aug. 1st, Sept. 8th, Nov. 1st, and Dec. 22nd. The market-house is a commodious building; and a court-house has been erected, in which petty sessions are held every Tuesday. A chief constabulary police and coast-guard stations have been established here, and there is a R. C. chapel. Within a mile of the town are the ruins of Castlemore. [A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837]

James Madden gives his address as Ballyderine, County Mayo. This would have been where he was living at that time. But could well indicate that he was originally from that town or county. [1]

James joined the Royal Navy in 1811, aged 20. His first appointment on 21 Aug 1811 was as ‘Hospital Mate’ at Portchester Castle Hospital for Prisoners [Portsmouth Harbour].

In 1784 Portchester Castle, originally a Norman castle, had been set up as a war prison. It is probably the oldest prisoner of war prison in Britain. The moat was cleared and filled with water and the keep divided into five stories with accommodation for 8,000 prisoners. The large tower housed 1,200 to 1,500 men and there were nine barracks containing 500 men a piece. It remained a war prison up until 1816. [2]

According to the University of Edinburgh Alumni records, James was a student of Medicine there in 1822. [3] James acquired a Licence in Medicine from Edinburgh University according to the 1850 London and Provincial Medical Directory.

The Librarian from the University of Edinburgh found James M Madden's name in three places. He appears in the Medical Matriculation volume where he is listed as studying just 1 year from 1822-23, coming from 'Rosscommon' (in the Republic of Ireland) and studying Chemistry ('Chem') and Materia Medica ('Mat Med'). He also appears in 2 of the Chemistry department's volumes which contain ' Lists of Gentlemen who take out tickets at the College' (class tickets were required to attend lectures). There is no additional information in the chemistry volumes except that the second volume has 'IRV' marked in the notes column.

From 1811 to 1825, James served as Assistant Surgeon, and from 1822, Surgeon, on many ships including the HMS Hamadryad [7 Oct 1811], Malabar [7 Feb 1814], San Juan [15 Apr 1814], Eurotas [20 Jun 1814], Ister [6 Dec 1815], Impregnable [26 Aug 1816], Aid [12 Oct 1818], Ramillies [15 Aug 1820], Melville [5 Oct 1822] and Champion [30 Jul 1824].

The record shows he was appointed to Malta Hospital as Hospital Mate on 1 Sep 1818 after serving on the Ister. He remained at Malta Hospital until he was appointed to the Ramillies on 15 Aug 1820. He also received an appointment on 1 Aug 1822 at Royal Hospital Plymouth as Hospital Mate before he was appointed to the Melville.

James saw some action during his various appointments. On 14 Oct 1812 the Hamadryad [together with the Clio] captured the French privateer Le Pilotin in the Baltic. On the evening of 28 Feb 1813, when off Beachy Head [a headland near Eastbourne, Sussex, England], on her return to the Baltic station, the Hamadryad was fired at by a French lugger, which had been skulking under the land. The Captain of the Hamadryad returned fire but the French lugger overset and sunk trying to escape, along with all her crew. [4] On 20 Oct 1813 the Hamadryad captured the Venus.

On Aug 26, 1816, James was ‘lent’ from Ister to the Impregnable after the bombardment of Algiers to assist with casualties.

The Bombardment of Algiers (27 August 1816) was an attempt by Britain and the Netherlands to end the slavery practices of Omar Agha, the Dey of Algiers. There was a continuing campaign by various European navies and the American navy to suppress the piracy against Europeans by the North African Barbary states. The specific aim of this expedition, however, was to free Christian slaves and to stop the practice of enslaving Europeans. [Wikipedia]

James Malachi Madden is listed in the Naval General Service Medal roll [3] as ‘supernumery assistant surgeon’ aboard the Impregnable with a note saying, “On Medal Roll, but not at Action”. Joined ex Ister 2 Sept 1816. [5]

James was on the HMS Eurotas in July 1815 when it provided a guard ship at Plymouth harbour to the Bellerophon with Napoleon on board after his defeat at Waterloo. The HMS Liffey and HMS Eurotas were charged with keeping the Bellerophon isolated from the throngs of curious sightseers. [Wikipedia]

On Aug 10, 1820, James married by licence Charlotte Shelton in St. James Church, Piccadilly, London. Marriage witnesses were Charles Allnutt and Emma Leatt. Charlotte was born in Trinidad and was from a military family. She father, Robert Shelton, was a major in the 57th Regiment West Middlesex of Foot Soldiers. He was involved in many battles, mainly with the French, in the West Indies, Gibraltar, Portugal, Spain, North America and France. He died in Valenciennces, France on Feb 4, 1816. Charlotte’s mother is unknown.

In 1820 the Edinburgh Magazine, Edinburgh, lists his Naval appointment as Assistant Surgeon on the ship “Ramillies”. The New Navy List of August 1842 shows his seniority as Surgeon dates from 5 Oct 1822. The Morning Post [London] dated 22 Oct 1822 announced that J.M Madden had been promoted from Assistant Surgeon to Surgeon of the Navy.

On Jan 30, 1822, James M. Madden, Esq. Surgeon, testified at the inquest of William Brereton held at Millstreet, Cork, Ireland. William Brereton, Mail Coach Agent, was killed a week earlier by local insurgents, called Whiteboys, at the town of Inchabeg, County Kerry. James Madden had been called in to examine the body of William Brereton, who had been shot and his body mangled in the ensuing conflict after his mail coach had been stopped and searched for arms by the insurgents.

On Jul 1 , 1822, he was placed on half-pay as Assistant Surgeon in the Navy Service.

James and Charlotte’s first daughter, Harriet, was born in Ireland, probably in Cork [6], about 1822. It is not known what James was doing in Ireland at this time. It is possible he was visiting family or friends near Millstreet, Cork where he testified at the inquest above and his daughter Harriet may have been born there.

In the 1891 census, Harriet is lodging with Arthur Carter and his family in Bristol and she was still single, living on her own means and born in Ireland. She died there on 25 Jan 1914. She left her estate of £3562 to Jane Bate widow [her sister] and her niece, Charlotte Elizabeth Bate spinster.

On Aug 1, 1822 James is moved from half-pay and assigned as a Hospital Mate at Plymouth hospital. On Oct 3, 1822, he is assigned to the HMS Melville.

On Apr 7, 1823, James and Charlotte’s first son Robert James is born and baptised on 8 May at St Georges Chapel York Place Edinburg. Presumably James was still completing his medical studies at Edinburgh University at this time.

James’ son Robert enters military service with the East India Company and is appointed, with the rank of Ensign, to Colaba Barracks, Bombay in 1839, at the age of only 16. Within three years he is dead. Read his full story.

In January 1824 James is assigned to Plymouth Hospital.

On Oct 14, 1824, he is assigned to the HMS Champion.

On Nov 18, 1824, James writes a beautiful letter to his wife, which has amazingly survived. [7] James obviously has enormous affection for his wife and misses them greatly. The HMS Champion was then moored at the Spithead near Plymouth. An extract from his letter follows.

“I am disappointed in my most sanguine expectations of seeing you but I must be content and still hope, my only consolation your two last affectionate letters   I have received and I was delighted to hear from you more than a month having elapsed without a letter from you. It would appear we have been ill nearly at the same time for I am only now recovered from severe inflammation of my eyes and my old complaint in the back. I suffered much and suppose all my comforts at home when I had the pain in my back. However, I am now, thank God, getting better though still far from being well. My eyes are weak. In your last letter you did not say a word  about yourself. May I by that conclude that you are better? You are not sufficiently careful of yourself and I am afraid you are too sharing in your expenses and do not live well enough … to make you happy and comfortable is the only earthly consideration I have and it is my delight when I know you and my children are …”
wax seal JMM

The envelope was sealed with James' personal ring signature. The initials JMM are clearly visible. The motto reads "aquila non capit muscas" - the eagle does not catch flies. The  impressed edges of the seal are 7mmx14mm.

In Feb 1825, James was placed on the half-pay list and soon started his private practice in Exeter and Heavitree which lasted until 1861.

In 1801 Exeter had a population of 20,000 and was a large and important town. Heavitree was virtually a suburb of Exeter then. Heavitree became a honey-pot for wealthy Exeter merchants and people returning to England after making their fortunes with the East India Company. One of the main reasons for the building of Baring Crescent, Salutary Mount, Mont Le Grand and Regents Park during the first half of the 19th century was the good health record of the parish. Whilst scores of people died from cholera in Exeter, Heavitree residents escaped almost unscathed. [8]

On Dec 15, 1825, James and Charlotte’s second daughter, Jane, is born in Heavitree, Devon.

Jane Madden went on to marry Robert Bate in Devon in 1852 and had seven children. Her husband died when quite young. In the 1871 census she is a widow resident at Bristol. Her youngest child, John, is then only 3. However, she must have been left reasonably well off as she was employing two domestic servants. In the 1901 and 1911 census, her unmarried sister, Harriet, is living with her at Clifton. Jane died in 1919 at Bristol.

James and Charlotte’s third son William John was born in Heavitree in 1828 and baptised there on 7 Apr 1828. He died on 6 Aug 1853 aged 27 years and buried in the St. Michael’s and All Angels churchyard in Heavitree. He was a dentist and did not marry.

Their third daughter Louisa Madden was born at Heavitree in 1830 and baptised there on 6 May 1830. Sadly she died there on 1 Apr 1845 aged 15 years. She is buried in the St. Michael’s and All Angels churchyard in Heavitree.

In 1832 Cholera, that had been erupting all across Europe, finally reached Exeter.

James appears in residence at 13 Salutory Mount Heavitree Devon in Pigot’s 1830 & 1844 Devon Directories [under Surgeons]; White’s 1850 Devon Directory; and Slater’s 1852 Directory.

A fourth daughter Mary Anne Dickson Madden was born to James and Charlotte in 1832 at Heavitree. She died as an infant on 27 Feb 1834 aged 16 months and is buried in the St. Michael’s and All Angels churchyard in Heavitree.

James is described as the ‘personal and intimate friend’ of a Dr Peter Hennis, as reported in the Taunton Courier of 8 May 1833 [details obtained from the Exeter Gazette]. Dr Hennis was at the time seriously ill following a duel near Exeter. James Madden was ‘constantly with him night and day’ as his condition was so grave due to loss of so much blood. Dr Hennis died of his wounds on May 18. Dr Hennis graduated as a Doctor of Medicine from Edinburgh University in 1825 and commenced his training in the same year that James Madden was a student of medicine there, which is possibly where they met.

Dr Hennis is described as “a truly benevolent physician” who is particularly remembered for his “exertions on the late dreadful visitation of cholera”. Like James, Peter Hennis came from Ireland. He was born in Younghal, County Cork in 1802 and also settled in Exeter in 1830. He was appointed medical officer to the poorest South District of the city where he gained a reputation for kindness and hard work. Following his death, the people of Exeter were outraged. Two hundred and fifty dignitaries attended his funeral service at the Cathedral and 20,000 citizens lined the route to St Sidwell’s Church where he was interred, such was the depth of feeling toward him. [Wikipedia: Peter Hennis] His plaque is on the wall of St Sidwell’s Church, Sidwell Street, Exeter, EX4 6NN. It reads:

“Doctor Peter Hennis.  Behind this wall is the restored grave of Peter Hennis, a much admired and revered physician and the hero of the Exeter cholera outbreak of 1832. He died following a duel on the Haldon racecourse in 1833. This plaque was created by Exeter Civic Society”

James and Charlotte Madden’s third son, Edward Wolseley Madden, was born at Heavitree in 1835.

Edward died at Bristol on 24 Dec 1882. He was then living at 2 the Polygon in the parish of Clifton. His sister, Jane Bate, was one of the Executrixes who proved his Will. He left an estate of £1640. He did not marry. In the 1881 census he is lodging with an Elizabeth May at 2 The Polygon, Clifton. He is unmarried, aged 46 and formerly a Clerk.

In 1837 the North Devon Advertiser reported that ‘Mr Madden, surgeon, Heavitree, was called in to dress the wound of a young Baronet, Sir Richard Gethin, who had recently received his title through his grandfather from Sligo, Ireland. Young Sir Percy accidently exploded the powder flask when ‘amusing himself with firing off a small cannon”.

In 1839 James and Charlotte’s last son, Henry Norman Madden, was born in Heavitree and baptised there 29 May 1839.

Henry Norman Madden married Rhoda Cooksley in Devon in 1864 and had one child, Henry, born on 16 Dec 1866 at Exeter, Devon. Henry Madden snr was accepted as a student at Christ Church, Oxford University in 1859. However, he was absent in his first term because of illness and never went back. Henry snr died of tuberculosis at Torquay, Devon on 11 Dec 1867 late of Heavitree, Devon. Administration of his estate was granted in 1872 to Harriet Madden of 2 Wellington-park Redland in the City of Bristol, the spinster aunt and Guardian of Henry Norman Madden an Infant the Son and only Next of Kin. Rhoda died in 1872 at Torquay. After his mother also passed away, Henry Norman Madden jnr was cared for by his spinster aunt Harriet. At aged 15 he appears in the 1881 census on board the vessel “Worcester” as a Cadet. In 1883 Henry emigrated to America and settled in Stockton, California. Henry married there in 1888. He appears in the 1900 US census for Stockton with his wife Mary and their young family. He died there on 28 Apr 1942.

James and his family are recorded in the 1841 census living at Heavitree , Devon. James is then aged 48, a Surgeon, born Ireland. His wife Charlotte is 40, born ‘foreign place’. Their children are Harriett Madden, 19, born Ireland; Jane Madden, 15, born Devon; William J Madden, 13, born Devon; Louisa Madden, 11, born Devon; Edward W Madden, 6, born Devon; and Henry N Madden, 2, born Devon. Their daughter Louisa above died a few years later in 1845.

In the 1850 and 1860 London and Provincial Medical Directories James is listed as “Madden, James M, Heavitree, Exeter-M. R. C. S. and L.S.A. Dublin; Lic. In Med. Edin.; Surg. R.N.; Reg. Births and Deaths.”

In the 1851 census James and his family are living at 12 Salutary Mount, Heavitree , Devon. This would be their home until James’ death in 1861.

James M Madden is 58, Surgeon R[oyal] N[avy], born Ireland; his wife Charlotte is now, 51 and born Trinidad (B[ritish] S[ubject]). Their children still living with them and all single are Harriett, 29, born Ireland; Jane, 25, born Heavitree; Wm J , 23, Dentist, born Heavitree; Edwd W, 16, Scholar, born Heavitree; and Harry Maddon, 12, Scholar, born Heavitree. They have two servants in residence, both unmarried: Mary A Middleton, 26, Cook, born Broadclist Devon and Selina Combe, 20, Housemaid, born Swimbridge Devon.

The 1861 census is the last census in which James appears. They are now living at 13 – rather than 12 - Salutary Mount, Heavitree, Devon. However, this may be the same property.

James M Madden is aged 70, still a Surgeon R[oyal] N[avy] on half pay and born Ireland. He never does reveal his actual birthplace. His wife Charlotte is 61, born West Indies; their children still with them are Harriet, 39, born Ireland; and Edward W, 26, Accountant, born Heavitree Devon. They have one servant, Elizabeth Woodbury, 21, unmarried, born Heavitree Devon.

Salutory Mount

12 Salutary Mount, Heavitree

On May 21, 1861, James Malachi Madden died from “natural decay of age and chronic bronchitis” according to his death certificate. He was aged 70 and died at his home 13 Salutary Mount, Heavitree. His profession is shown as Surgeon Royal Navy Half-pay. C. Madden, presumably his wife Charlotte, was the informant. His obituary reads, “Surgeon, Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (LRCS), Apothecaries' Hall of Dublin (LAH), Licensed Surgical Assistant, Dublin (LSA). Royal Navy, on the retired list (seniority, 5 Oct 1822). Served as Registrar of Births and Deaths, Exeter.”

James was buried on 27 May 1861 at the parish of Heavitree, Devon. His stated residence was Salutary Mount, Heavitree.

His probate records “1861 June 14. James Malachi Madden. Effects under £1,500. The Will of James Malachi Madden late of Heavitree in the County of Devon Surgeon deceased who died on or about 21 May 1861 at Heavitree aforesaid was proved at Exeter by the oath of Charlotte Madden of Heavitree aforesaid Widow the Relict the sole Executrix.” In his Will his wife Charlotte was both Executrix and sole beneficiary of his estate.

James and Charlotte’s quite substantial house was advertised for sale or rent in the Exeter Flying Post 14 Aug 1861. The house consisted of drawing and dining rooms, three bedrooms, one dressing room, three sleeping and two store attics, kitchens, cellars and a garden.

Charlotte downsized and moved to 2 Wilton Place, Exeter, where she appears in the 1871 census. She is shown as a widow, aged 71, an annuitant, born West Indies. Living with her are her daughter Darant, 49, unmarried, born in Ireland [this is presumably her daughter Harriet who for some reason appears as ‘Darant’] and her son, Edward W., unmarried, 36, born Heavitree and an unemployed clerk.

Charlotte died 8 February 1872 at her home in Wilton Place. Her daughter Harriet was sole Executrix. She left an estate of £2,000.


  1. Research Report on James Malachi Madden, Compiled February 2016, Royal College of Physician of Ireland, Rebecca Ryan
  2. Hampshire History -
  3. University of Edinburgh Alumni records. Edinburgh University possessed by far the largest medical school in early nineteenth-century Britain.
  4. “Royal Naval Biography or Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers”, John Marshall
  5. “The Naval General Service Medal roll, 1793-1840”, Kenneth Douglas-Morris, London, 1982

This medal still exists. It was auctioned a few years ago, but the buyer could not be identified.

  1. In the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census Harriet is living with her parents and her place of birth is stated as just Ireland. In the 1881 census Harriet is a visitor to the Rev Alfred Norman at Bournmoor, Durham, England where he is Rector. She states her birthplace as Cork, Ireland. In the 1891 census Harriet is resident at Bristol and states her birthplace as just Ireland. In the 1901 census Harriet is resident with her sister Jane Bate and her family at Bristol. She states her birthplace as Kildare Cork. In the 1911 census she is still living with her sister Jane and states her birthplace as Cork.
  2. A copy of this letter was quite accidentally identified by Barry Marriott amongst a collection of pre-1840 letters that he purchased some years ago and eventually passed through to Nicholaus Madden who is a direct descendant of James Madden.