The following is background on the Dunscombe family from "Some Recollections" by Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge. -- London : John Murray, 1918. Bridge was a son-in-law of John Dunscomb. The assertion that the Dunscombe family originated in France and emigrated to England during the sixteenth century runs contrary to the theory that they were of Saxon origin. It is, however, intriguing as it represents a view apparently held by some members of the family circa 1850, hence its validity must be entertained.
"He (Cyprian's father Thomas Finch Hobday Bridge) married Sarah Christiana, youngest daughter of Mr. John Dunscomb, Honorary Lieut.-Colonel and A.D.C. to the Governor. My maternal grandfather and his family were then residing at St. John's, Newfoundland. He had been the owner of considerable estates in Bermuda and the West Indies. The latter, I think, he never saw, as none of his family' seem to have visited the West Indies; but in his younger days he had spent some time at Bermuda. The owners of the West Indian plantation, which, in the eighteenth century and in the early part of the nineteenth, were usually managed by resident agents called "attorneys," imported food for their slaves, and staves for the casks of sugar and rum produced on their estates. These imported commodities came from North America, both from the United States and from the British Colonies. It was worth the while of owners of the larger plantations to keep in their own hands the business of procuring and sending supplies from North America. Consequently, they had business establishments at various ports in the United States and in the British American dominions. My mother's father had one such at St. John's, and also, I believe, in New York and in Prince Edward's Island. He and my grandmother took up their residence definitely in England about 1847 or 1848, and both died there.
The family, though called Dunscomb, was of French origin. The members of it were Protestants who were driven out of France, and came to England in Queen Elizabeth's reign. I have sometimes heard relations say that the family came to England on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. This is a mistake, as it had been in England more than a hundred years. The family was of very ancient nobility, seated near Sedan. The heads of it were Seigneurs of Hault-bois, an old feudal lordship. It was common to speak of them as Marquis de Hault-bois, but they never had the title of Marquis. In France, I find, "the head of a noble family often assumed, at his own hand, the title of Marquis," and his acquaintances usually so designated him, much as people called an ecclesiastic Abbe, though he may not have been an abbot or have ever been near an abbey.
The title of Seigneur was of itself evidence of the antiquity of the Hault-bois. They belonged to the old feudal noblesse de l'epee. They intermarried at least twice with the ducal house of Choiseul. The Hault-bois claimed descent from the family of the famous Godfrey de Bouillon. Godfrey was a recognized Christian name amongst them. A nephew of my mother's, my first cousin, bears it at this moment. They also kept, for many generations, some portions of a gold chain, said to have belonged to Godfrey de Bouillon himself; and two of my mother's sisters had each a finger-ring made out of these fragments.
Some years ago, a nephew of mine was staying at a country house in northern France, when a niece of the lady of the house showed him an old M.S. report, presented to the King (Louis XIV., I think) by an ancestor of the lady, in which the Hault-bois family was declared to be noble et maintenance noble. A commission had been ordered to inquire into the right of certain persons and families to be included amongst the noblesse. Many could not prove the right; but the Hault-bois were shown to have proved theirs.
Those who came to England in the second half of the sixteenth century settled at Dunscomb in Devonshire. They did not hold the freehold; but I cannot say under whom they held the land. The house disappeared long since; but I have a photograph of the ruins of the gateway, taken fifteen or sixteen years ago (1900), which shows that it must, when perfect, have had an imposing appearance.
Like the oldest noble families of France in general, the Hault-bois had no family name, but were called after the estates on which they resided. The members of the family who migrated to England followed this custom and called themselves Dunscomb, which thus became their family name. They did not entirely lose connection with friends of their family in France till a comparatively recent date. My mother, who was for some time at school in Paris, which she left in June 1830, only a few days before the "Revolution of Three Days," was twice visited by the celebrated Lafayette, then an old man. She told me that after the revolution just mentioned, she frequently met refugee French nobles at her father's house in England. As I am recording some of her recollections, I may mention that she remembered having been taken to see Charles X. at dinner, it having been an old custom of the kings of France to dine occasionally in public.
The Dunscombs, as the family was now called, went into business as American and West Indian merchants and prospered exceedingly, acquiring the considerable West Indian properties already referred to. Their business connected them to Bristol, and also with Poole. Besides being at school in Paris, my mother was also at school in Clifton, in a house still standing. In her schooldays it was in a pleasant residential neighborhood. The Lawrence family lived in the same row of houses, and there the celebrated Sir Henry Lawrence and his brother, Lord Lawrence, were born.
My maternal grandfather had a large family, my mother being the youngest of four daughters. The youngest son, George, whom I remember, was one of my godfathers. I have always thought him the handsomest man I ever saw. He was over six feet in height and of a well-proportioned and upright figure. He was an extraordinarily enthusiastic fisherman, for many years of his life spending most of his time with a fishing-rod in his hand. There was no distance, which he thought too great, of covering it would give him a prospect of good fishing. He once told me that he had walked in North-western America five hundred miles in company with some Indians, and five hundred miles back, all for the sake of fishing at a particular place, where, however, the sport proved disappointing. He was probably one of the first Englishmen to go regularly to Norway to fish, as he went there over seventy years ago.
As my godfather, he was always very nice to me; but the only thing he ever gave me was a fishing rod of very excellent quality, which I used for years. The gift was handed to me shortly after his return from a fishing expedition to Norway, just as we were on the point of leaving Paddington terminus for a journey by the Great Western Railway. The difficulties of keeping it without injury in a railway carriage of those days were great enough to make me remember the circumstances.
My mother had three married sisters, all of whom I remember. The eldest, my aunt Eliza, Mrs Camman, whom I knew only as a widow; my aunt Margaret, Mrs Vallance; and my aunt Caroline, Mrs Crowdy, wife of Mr James Crowdy, sometime administrator or Acting Governor of Newfoundland. Like my mother, both Mrs Vallance and Mrs Crowdy were beautiful women. I last saw the later at Southsea, some years after I entered the Navy, when she was in delicate health, not long before her death. Even then, her beauty was striking. A miniature of my mother which we have shows how great was her share of good looks. These were the least of her merits. There never could have been a more perfect parent. She was left a widow, with only a moderate income, and a young and very large family - nine children, of whom seven were dependent on her. The position and welfare of those still living, as well as of those whom we have lost, bear convincing testimony to the admirable manner in which she brought up her children.
It is my sincere belief that she was one of the most accomplished women of her day. She had an exceedingly sweet and engaging manner, which was especially attractive to children. She had very unusual powers of conversation, and was as good a listener as a talker. She had a marked talent for drawing, and some of her water-colours of human figures were admirable. She was quite up to the average as a performer on the piano; and I remember her voluntarily giving some lessons on the harp to a young friend of hers who had been presented with one. She spoke French fluently.
She had complete mastery of all branches of domestic economy; could tell cooks how to do their work; could prescribe for and treat children's ailments; and could also direct their games and amusements. In my early days, many things, now bought in shops, were produced at home - jams, jellies, sauces, butter, cream-cheeses, and bottled fruits. My mother was a skilled superintendent of the manufacture of all such articles. Her hands were rarely idle, as they usually plied sewing, crochet, or knitting needles.
It is difficult, even now, to understand how she found time to read; for she was a great reader. I remember being allowed to look at the illustrations of an English translation of Theirs' "History of the French Revolution" which she was reading. I can also remember the name of Macaulay's "History of England," which was being read by my father and mother as a new book. Fiction was by no means excluded, and I think that I can see now the paper covers and the drawings in the successive monthly parts of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" and Dickens' "Dombey & Son." I believe that I inherited from both my parents my strong liking for reading.
During the latter years of my mother's life, she suffered much from rheumatism and visited many spas to undergo the "cure." She lived long enough to see me reach the rank of captain in the Navy." (pages 19-24)
... "We arrived in Liverpool on Sunday evening when the church bells were ringing. I had never heard the sound of chiming bells across the water, and it seemed to me very beautiful. My maternal grandmother, Mrs Dunscomb, then a widow, and one of her daughters, my aunt Eliza, were living near Liverpool, and I stayed with them until I went to Cheltenham, where I was to meet my father" (page 28).