Which Admiral Hotham is Honoured in Putney?

Three candidates for being the one the school and the road are named after

The Hotham School sign with shop in the logo. Picture: Hugh Thompson


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Most people in Putney know that Hotham Road and school are named after Admiral Hotham. The school is so proud that it has a Nelson ship of the line in its crest. But which of the three related Admiral Hothams, one uncle and two nephews/cousins, all of Nelson’s generation is being honoured? Confusingly two named William.

All served with our Hero, Horatio Nelson. The elder Hotham (1736-1813) started off well under Rodney in the American War of Independence and bravely acquitted himself as a junior officer. Eventually he rose to be Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean fleet in 1794. It was his level of incompetence. Nelson called his actions off Genoa “miserable”. There was not much he did right, frankly he didn’t have it ,and was more worried about not losing actions than having the energy to win decisively. Relieved after a year and as is the way of the world rewarded with an Irish title.

His nephew (1772-1848) went from strength to strength, his was one of the few ships in the Channel fleet not involved in the 1797 Spithead Mutiny, served with honour at Camperdown, was with Nelson at Toulon and Bastia and in charge of the blockade of Boulogne where in 1808 ill health meant he had to stand down. Buckets of honours and the Navy eventually named two ships after him. We hope it is this Admiral who lived in Putney and not his less reputable uncle. Confusingly an Admiral Sir William Hotham lived in Hotham House in Richmond in 1810. He died in Windsor.

But Hotham school which proudly boasts a tall ship in its crest might have been named after his cousin Admiral Sir Henry Hotham (1777-1833). He joined as a midshipman aged 13 and was a captain aged 18. He was with Nelson in the Med and saw continuous action against the French until he had a very successful War of 1812 against the Americans. He claimed to have captured, burnt or destroyed 82 Yankee vessels . He was promoted to the Board of Admiralty, made an Admiral in 1825 and died and was buried in Malta. Two of his sons went onto to be vicars.

Having checked Thorne’s “Environs of London” and he Lysons, Victoria and Walford’s Histories of Putney one is no more the wiser, which Admiral Hotham? Something to ponder in the week of Trafalgar Day, Thursday, 21 October.

Hugh Thompson

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October 18, 2021

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