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Major Rollo Gillespie Burslem
Governor of the Military Knights of Windsor - Page 1
Overview Page 1,  Children Page 1   Sources   Pedigree   Grave Image (1)  Grave Image (2)  Grave Image (3)   Grave Image (4)
The Burslems
William Burslem MP
James Bursem
Elizabeth Godolphin
Rev James Burslem DD JP
The Greswalds
Sarah Oldershaw
Humphrey Greswald
Willoughby James Burslem
Marshall William Burslem
Sarah Burslem
William Burslem
Nathaniel Burslem
Major Rollo Gillespie Burslem
Rollo's Wife Sophia
Their children
Lt. Sturt
Nathaniel Burslem VC
Harry Biggs of Stockton, Wilts
Margaretta Biggs
Maj Gen Yeatman Biggs
Bishop Huyshe Biggs

The Cobbes

Richard Chaloner Cobbes (1), (2), (3) & (4)


Major Rollo Gillespie Burslem had an interesting military and personal life spanning much of the 19th century. His military career is fairly well documented with numerous sources including the Army Lists, the London Gazette, census returns, records offices, certificates, parish registers and Newspapers. On this occasion, the London Times on-line has been particularly temperamental, being reluctant to disclose and needing considerable coaxing for it to give up any information. On other occasions, information leaps out at one.

His personal life was particularly interesting involving what can reasonably be described as being, cloak & dagger. Before his marriage to Sophia Fowler in 1851, he and Sophia lived what appears to have been a clandestine life producing probably four children whilst she was still married to Richard Lee of whom not a great deal is as yet known.

At one point with two children arriving at about the same time: Rollo Burslem Buddic[Buddie], their son, arrived at 10 a.m. on 20th August 1843 at St. James Road, Southsea , 10th September 1843, (son Rollo's birth was registered on 11th September 1843), Richard Lee and his wife Sophia were present at the baptism of their daughter Emma Elizabeth Lee at St. Mary, Portsea.

In his 8th October 1895, Last Will and Testament, Rollo Gillespie Burslem, Governor of the Military Knights of Windsor, named Emma Elizabeth as his daughter. If Sophia was leading a double non-bigamous life with Rollo Gillespie Burslem, then their(?) children, Rollo and Emma Elizabeth must have been twins. Another daughter, Flora Buddie[Buddic] Burslem arrived at 6 p.m. 27th February 1847. This time, Rollo and Sophia used their real names. Details appear in the following time-line narrative. A third daughter appears in the 1871 census, Emily, born in the East Indies at Diamond Harbour - which appears to be in West Bengal and a port for Kolkata. Her age of 29 years in the 1871 Census indicates a birth year of around 1842 when Rollo may still have been in India. More research is needed to try and find out where Rollo and Sophia were at around that time as Rollo had been engaged in the first Afghan war of 1838/1840 and whilst probably not in Afghanistan, may not have left for home until 1842.

The writer cannot help but feel a slight hint of Flashman in Rollo Gillespie Burslem and the adventures in the novels of George MacDonald Fraser and of Tom Brown's Schooldays. Rollo's father, Colonel Nathaniel Burslem, did attend Rugby School in the 1780s and Nathaniel's grandson, Nathaniel Godolphin Burslem, of the 67th Regiment, did win a VC at the Taku Forts, China, August 1860. In a similar way, this writer always thinks of Dick Whittington when the Cobbe/Burslem relation Sir Wolstan Dixie (c1525-1595) is mentioned. He left his family in Huntingdon for London where he made the family fortune; probably from the booming trade in skins from the New World - he was Master of the Skinners Company, Lord Mayor of London and President of Christ's Hospital. Two sons of Rev Richard Chaloner Cobbe and his wife and cousin Sarah Burslem, gained entry to Christ's Hospital in the 1790s through consanguinity with Sir Wolstan Dixie. Whilst not lineal, Sir Wolstan, twice married but without issue, left the bulk of his fortune to a nephew of the same name and a lineal ancestor to the Godolphin - Cobbes and Godolphin - Burslems of whom Rollo was one. The two Cobbe sons were; (William) Marshall Godolphin Cobbe (1785-1820), Master RN and Thomas (1796- ?) of whom nothing more is known as yet.

Once again, the writer has to emphasise the caution needed when referring to the 1881 LDS UK Census transcriptions. There is a sloppiness in regard to the Rollo Gillespie Burslem Household. Whilst daughter Emily may have been born at Diamond harbour, Sophia certainly was not. The original page image states clearly that it was Hambledon, Hants. Further, whilst niece Susan may have been born in Limerick, Ireland, Rollo (Junior) was not. He was born in Portsmouth, Hants., UK. Please also note that transcription problems have been found in other documents relating to Rollo Gillespie Burslem and his family. It is hoped that the above information will prepare the reader for the complexities of the following time-line.

Date Narrative Sources
1813 Rollo Gillespie Burslem was born on the island of Java where his father, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Burslem was a Commander of British Forces there. His name "Rollo Gillespie" was derived from the Commander of British Forces, Rollo Gillespie. The LDS family search website gives his place of birth as Welter Vreeden on the Island of Java LDs - Family Search
1813 - 1832 School Years. As yet it is not known as to what schools Rollo attended. His father, Nathaniel attended Rugby School, the Cobbes seemed to have favoured Winchester College of which, the Cobbe ancestor, Bishop Thomas Bilson had been pupil, Master, Headmaster and Warden before becoming Bishop of Worcester (1596 - 1597) and then Bishop of Winchester (1597 - 1616). Thomas Bilson also gave the sermon at the coronation of James 1 in 1603, attended the 1604 Hampton Court Conference and was co-editor with Miles Smith of the King James Authorized Bible of 1611. The Burslems and Chaloners appear to have favoured, Eton. Subject to further research
31 Mar 1816 Sophia Fowler, daughter of Thomas Fowler and his wife Maria was baptised at Hambledon, Hampshire - according to Crockfords the parish church is St. Peter & St. Paul. It is about10 miles north of Southsea which appears to be part of Portsmouth. [Sophia's father's name corresponds to the name given for her father when she married Rollo in 1851 leading the writer to believe that the Sophia of each event were one and the same - GGD] LDS - Family Search, Crockfords Directory 2008-2009
December 1817

Ross [surely Rollo] Gillespie accompanies his father Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Burslem and his mother and Miss Oliver aboard the ship Europe from Calcutta with John Mills as Captain. Jim Burslem of Vancouver quoted The Calcutta Annual Directory of 1818 in regard to this information. Jim also mentioned there were five sibling in total: Francis Henry, George James, Rollo Gillespie, Susan and Anna Marie who died in infancy in India. Jim also states that Nathaniel fathered another child at East Woodhay. She was also called Anna Maria and her mother was Elizabeth Fidler. Jim's further researches show that Miss Oliver was Olivia Flora Burslem, only daughter of Col. Burslem to Rev. D. Dundas, 2nd Son of Captain Dundas RN MP of Barton Court, Hampshire on 13 Feb 1836 at West Woodhay. Jim was unable to find an entry of this event in the West Woodhay Registers. [As well as the all too common problem with transcriptions, a further point of interest; perhaps one would have expected the marriage to have taken place at St. Martin, East Woodhay, 6 miles from Winchester, as being the parish of her family home, rather than at St. Laurence, West Woodhay even if it is just a few miles north west of East Woodhay- according to Crockford's Clerical Directory - 2008/2009, unfortunately the marriage occurred before the Sept 1837 advent of Registration. Since Jim could not find any record of the marriage at West Woodhay, these comments are probably academic. But, who knows? - GGD]

Jim Burslem - Vancouver, Private Communication
Calcutta Annual Directory - 1818
Crockford's Clerical Directory, 2008/2009

13 Apr 1832 Rollo Gillespie Burslem, Gent. to be Ensign without purchase, vice Darlot, promoted. [Ensign Johnston Darlot became Lieutenant without purchase, vice, Thomas deceased. One may wonder how Lt. Darlot got on - maybe one day we'll find out - GGD] London Gazette, Page 827 - War-Office 13 April 1832
4 Jul 1832 Ensign Burslem was presented to the King by Colonel Burslem. [The King would have been William IV who arrived at 1.30 pm, the Ensign must have been Rollo Gillespie Burslem, recently appointed, and the Colonel would have been his father Nathaniel Burslem - they were last on the list so were probably seen by the King just before he left for Windsor at 7 o'clock] London Times, Thurs Jul 5th 1832
12 Oct 1833 Sophia Fowler marries Richard Lee at Hambledon, Hampshire. It is believed that this Sophia was the Sophia Lee that married Rollo Gillespie Burslem in 1851 - see below. LDS Family Search
27 Mar 1835 Ensign Rollo Gillespie Burslem 13th Foot to be Lieutenant by purchase, vice Vigors - War Office 27 March 1835 London Gazette Page 578
1838 - 1840

Rollo Gillespie Burslem was engaged with Sir Robert Sale, or Fighting Bob Sale as he was known, and his 13th Regiment of Foot, the Somerset Light Infantry, later, the Prince Albert's Own Light Infantry, in battles across southern Affghanistan. According to numerous sources, the many engagements Rollo was involved with, included;

The capture of Ghazni [Ghuznee] for which he was awarded the Ghuznee Medal in 1839, the capture of the fortress of Tutmdurrah, the storming of Yulghur, the night attack on Babur Kushghur, the destruction of Karrdurrah and the assault of Perwandurrah. He also accompanied Sir Robert Sale to Girisk. Rollo's Ghunzee Medal was sold in 2004. There are numerous sources for the above information in addition to information from the Archives & Chapter Library, Windsor Castle. They are/will be listed on the Sources pages.

Archives & Chapter Library, Windsor Castle - with thanks
With thanks to http://burslem.org/rollo-gillespie-burslem/ for bringing the sale to my attention GGD


June 1840
7 Nov 1840

Rollo Gillespie Burslem accompanies his colleague and friend Lieutenant John Leigh Doyle Sturt of the Bengal Engineers on his mission to survey the passes of the Hindu Koosh, north of Cabul. As mentioned in Rollo's 1873 letter to the London Times: "On reading General Lawrence's letter in The Times of yesterday, I observed that he advocates a survey of the frontier of Cashmere, which would be of immense importance. If accomplished, it would complete the survey of two approaches to India from the North, the other being the route from the Bhokara desert via Koollum to Cabul.

It was mapped and measured by the late Lieutenant Sturt, of the Bengal Engineers, in the year 1840.

I accompanied him on that occasion, and now remain the only English officer who has visited Koollum by travelling that route to and from the desert of Bhokara".

[To determine the distances travelled, a device similar to a perambulator was used based on the knowledge that each rotation of a wheel would be a distance equal to the circumference of that wheel. From memory, the writer recalls reading that the device did give some problems].

It seems that Lt. Sturt's expedition ended for Rollo on 24th Sept 1840 when he re-joined the 13th Foot, accompanied by the 37th Native Infantry, two squadrons of the Bengal Cavalry and a small body of Affghan under the command of Timour Shah plus an assortment of artillery, all under the command of Sir Robert Sale [Chapter XIX Page 217 of Rollo's "A Peep into Toorkisthan"], the following year Sir Robert became father in law to Lt. Sturt who married his daughter, Alexandrina. The object of the expedition was to quell refractory chiefs of the northern & hilly parts of Kohistan. Rollo refrains from giving details as erroneous statements might expose him to animadversion (become the recipient of hostile criticisms - thank you Oxford Paperback Dictionary! He does mention Vaugh, a place opposite the beautiful Istalif where he waxes eloquent over the luxuriant vineyards and magnificent orchards.

Captain Rollo Burslem, "A Peep into Toorkisthan", London, Pelham Richardson, 23 Cornhill, 1846.

Original copies seem hard to come by, but print to order versions at low cost are available on-line.

London Times, 12 April 1873; pg. 10- Letters to the Editor

Stephen Lewis redcoat@mail.com
with thanks

1842 The First Afghan War came to a terrible climax. There was a retreat from Cabul commencing January 1842. Over 18,000 military personnel of whom some 7,000 were fighting men, perished on the retreat to Jellalabad. In deep winter lacking in food and clothing they were prey to the Afghans with their accurate rifles. Whilst not strictly correct, the one survivor Dr. Brydon, on horseback, is shown by Lady Butler in her painting "The Remnants of an Army". The original is understood to hang in the Regimental Museum of the Somerset Light Infantry in Taunton, Somerset. He arrived at the opened Kabul gate where soldiers rushed out to help him. There are many narratives extant, including Regimental Histories, the work of Lady Sale and Lt. Eyre to mention publications in the writer's collection. There were other survivors: many of the column leaving Cabul were captured and taken into safe keeping by Mahommed Akbar Khan. These included Lady Sale and her daughter Alexandrina; Mrs Sturt. Indeed Alexandrina gave birth to her's and Lt. Sturt's daughter, Julia Florentia Sturt at 2 p.m. 24th July 1842, with her mother and grandmother, Lady Sale, captives of Mahommed Akbar Khan. ."The Somerset Light Infantry", Polpham, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1968.
"Disaster in Affghanistan 1841-1842" Lady Sale. John Murray, London 1843.

or maybe more accurately

21 Feb 1842
First Offspring?

Birth of Emily Burslem in Diamond Harbour, East Indies, declared to be daughter of Rollo Burslem in the 1871 Census return for Salisbury Tower, Windsor where Rollo had been a Military Knight of Windsor since 1870. Searching the Mormon Family Search website failed to produce evidence of such a birth. It seems that Diamond Harbour is a, or even the, port for Calcutta as then which could be argued is not, as we now know, the East Indies.

It is interesting to find that a child named Emily Elizabeth Lee was baptised at St. Mark's, Kennington on 25th August 1842 apparently born at sea on 21 February 1842 with father not named but described as 'soldier'. Could the father have been her husband Richard Lee of her lover(?) Rollo Gillespie Burslem. The various Army Lists of the period show no Richard Lee as an officer in the Army. If "Other Rank", then his name is unlikely to have been listed.

1871 Census Return for Windsor
20 Dec 1843 Lieutenant Rollo Gillespie Burslem to be Captain, vice Vigors 13th Foot - War Office 24 March 1843. This may have been a promotion as opposed to the purchases made in regard to other ranks as seen on this page. London Gazette Page 988
20th Aug 1843
Second Offspring?
At 10 a.m. the Birth at St. James Road, Southsea, of a son Rollo to father, Rollo Burslem BUDDIC and mother, Sophia BUDDIC, formerly FOWLER. Father Rollo declared himself to be a Captain in the 13th Regiment of Foot. Son Rollo was registered by his mother Sophia Buddic of St. James Road, Southsea, on 11th September 1843 in the District of Landport & Southsea in the County of Southampton. Certified Copy from Portsmouth Register Office, 9 Feb 2006

10 Sept 1843
Third Offspring?

At Saint Mary, Portsea, Hampshire, England, Emma Elizabeth Lee was baptised in the presence [assumed - GGD] of her father Richard Lee and mother Sophia. Nowadays, St. Mary is one of more than three churches in Portsea. There appears to be no trace of Emma Elizabeth in the Portsmouth area registers or anywhere else in the St. Catherine House Index of the time which has been carefully studied. The only record remains. the parish records for St. Mary. Of course, at that time non-registration of a birth was not subject to sanction.

LDS - Family Search Crockfords Directory 2008-2009
Bolton Central Library
11 Sept 1843 Rollo son of Rollo Burslem BUDDIC and Sophia BUDDIC, formerly Fowler had his birth registered by his mother in the District of Landport & Southsea. The certificate gives a time of birth which this writer believes is an indication of multiple births. Copy of Birth Certificate
March 1846 Rollo writes the preface to his book "A Peep into Toorkisthan" at Walmar Barracks [Kent]. It was published in the same year by Pelham Richardson, 23, Cornhill, London. [An 1846 copy is owned by this writer & family unfortunately the map(s) were missing - GGD] "A Peep in Toorkisthan", 1746
27 Feb 1847
Fourth Offspring?
At 6 p.m. the birth of a daughter, Flora Buddie, at Water Works Lane, Landport, in the district of Landport and Southsea, to father Rollo Burslem and mother Sophia Burslem, formerly Lee. Rollo declared himself to be a Captain in the 13th Regiment of Foot and the birth was registered by mother Sophia on 3rd April 1847. Flora later added her mother's name, "Sophia", to her own. Her Birth & Marriage Certificates
1851 census There is an entry for Cottage Grove, Lambeth, Brixton, London for Emely Lee (aged 9 years) and Flora Lee (aged 4 years) living with a servant either next door to or with a family headed by John William Cruikshank (surgeon - master). Where were Sophia and Rollo? As can be seen below, Rollo and Sophia were married within a few months of the census. For that matter, where was son Rollo and daughter Emma Elizabeth??? 1851 Census -
HO 107/1467
10 May 1851 Rollo Burslem and Sophia Lee, both of full age were married at the Parish Church in the Parish of St. Mary, Lambeth, in the County of Surrey. Rollo described himself as bachelor and Officer in the Infantry. Sophia declared herself a widow and they lived at 1 Church Street. Nathaniel Burslem was Rollo's father and Thomas Fowler, Sophia's. Her father was also described as (dec?)[deceased?] indicating some uncertainty as to whether he was still alive. Each father was described as a Gentleman. Rollo would have been about 38 years of age and Sophia about 35 years of age. Earlier in the century, Lambeth had been home for Charlotte Godolphin Cobbe, her husband Robert Clay, their son Robert Richard Clay, Surgeon and Elizabeth Hammond, widow of Charlotte's younger brother, (William) Marshall Godolphin Cobbe Master RN (1785-1820) as shown in the 1841 Census Return. St. Marty, Lambeth was where Robert Richard Clay, Surgeon had been baptised, January 1817. Photocopy of Marriage Certificate from General Register Office
14 Feb 2006
8 Nov 1850 Captain Rollo Gillespie Burslem to be Major, by purchase, vice Wilkinson who retires - 13th Foot. Dated 8th November 1850. London Gazette Page 2911
24 July 1857 43rd Foot - Major Rollo Gillespie Burslem, from half-pay, Unattached, to be Major, vice Greene, who exchanges - War - Office, Pall Mall, 24th July 1857 London Gazette 1 Nov 1857 Page 2552
26 July 1857 Interestingly a partnership between Rollo Gillespie Burslem and Alfred Hodge, in the trade or business of brickmaking at Horsham Brickfield, in the parish of Upchurch in the County of Kent, was dissolved by mutual consent - 15th October 1867. [The writer assumes that this Rollo Gillespie Burslem must our Rollo Gillespie Burslem] London Gazette 24 July 1867 Page 5794
10 Apr 1873

R. G. Burslem [Rollo Gillespie Burslem] writes to the London Times.

"On reading General Lawrence's letter in The Times of yesterday, I observed that he advocates a survey of the frontier of Cashmere, which would be of immense importance. If accomplished, it would complete the survey of two approaches to India from the North, the other being the route from the Bhokara desert via Koollum to Cabul.

It was mapped and measured by the late Lieutenant Sturt, of the Bengal Engineers, in the year 1840.

I accompanied him on that occasion, and now remain the only English officer who has visited Koollum by travelling that route to and from the desert of Bhokara..

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,

R. G. Burslem, late Major 13th Light Infantry
Windsor Castle April 10"

London Times, 12 April 1873; pg. 10- Letters to the Editor

A partial Biography of Lt. John Leigh Doyle Sturt who was mortally wounded during the 1842 retreat from Cabul is given elsewhere on this website


18 July 1891 &
26 March 1896


Sophia, wife of Rollo Gillespie Burslem died 18th July 1891 aged 75 years. Sadly she witnessed the death of her son Rollo on 15 March 1891. Rollo died 26th March 1896 aged 83 years. They are both buried in Windsor Cemetery with Tombstone No. G139. The inscription headed - Rollo Gillespie Burslem was provided by Windsor Castle Archives in December 2004. As noted below, it is clear that it paraphrases the actual inscription.

Archives & Chapter Library, Windsor Castle - with thanks & Grave Inscription Windsor Cemetery Plot G 139

Rollo Gillespie Burslem
Major late 13th Prince Albert High Infantry [High is surely Light -GGD]
And 20 years Governor of the
Military Knights of Windsor
Who fell asleep March 26 1896
Age 83
Also his wife Sophia
Died July 18 1891
Age 75

Windsor Cemetery was visited by the writer and his wife, Rollo's "cousin" Rev. Prof. Julia Davies on Sunday 6th December 2015. The visit followed correspondence with the Windsor Cemeteries Authority who kindly emailed images of the inclining headstone to the writer and also planted a marker near to the grave. The lines of the inscription were only partially readable. However, as Sophia died before Rollo, the grave and headstone were originally hers. It can be clearly seen that the inscription commences as follows:

Loving Memory
The Beloved Wife Of
Major Rollo Gillespie Burslem
Who Entered Into Rest July 18th 1891
Aged 75 Years

[There follows details of Rollo's death, not as yet fully readable - we live in hope - GGD 9 December 2015]

Following examination and Photoshop CS6 "manipulation" of the many photographs taken from ground level,it has been possible to partially "decipher" much of the headstone inscription. Images of the grave relative to the Cemetery Chapel will be included on this website
shortly now that an effort has been made to clarify the headstone inscription.


Lieutenant Rollo Gillespie Burslem's 1839 Ghuznee medal was sold at auction. The details are not known and it seems necessary to register with the site to obtain details of the sale. One day this writer will pluck up courage and register with the Warwick & Warwick website which has the web-address:

With thanks to http://burslem.org/rollo-gillespie-burslem/ for bringing the sale to my attention GGD
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