Letter: Charge of the Light Brigade’s links to north Northamptonshire

The Charge Of The Light Brigade by Barker Thomas Jones
The Charge Of The Light Brigade by Barker Thomas Jones

It was very interesting to read Sam Wildman’s account of Kettering’s forgotten war hero John Burton, who fought in and survived the famous Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

Some years ago I remember seeing Mr Burton’s grave during a guided tour of Kettering Cemetery and always wondered what his back story was, so it was nice to know about his involvement as an ordinary private in the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade.

In your potted history of the infamous charge against the Russians, you say it was led by Lord Cardigan but I was somewhat surprised no mention was made of his local links to this area, for the swashbuckling seventh Earl of Cardigan lived at historic Deene Hall, near Corby, home to the Brudenell family for almost 500 years.

Cardigan led the charge from the front and, never looking back, did not see what was happening to the troops behind him.

He reached the Russian guns, took part in the fight, and then returned alone up the valley without bothering to rally or even find out what had happened to the survivors.

The brigade lost 118 men, 127 were wounded and 60 taken prisoner.

This arrogant and quarrelsome survivor of Balaclava was a controversial character whose rapid promotion through the ranks of the army, partly due to his wealth and social influence, made him many enemies.

Yet after he died in 1868, his body lay in state at Deene, with more than 5,000 mourners filing past his velvet-lined coffin, and the head of his horse Ronald was stuffed and mounted at the hall.

Lady Cardigan, who outlived her husband by 47 years, had the village church restored in his memory and the long-gone village pub, the Seahorse Hotel, was named after the yacht she kept at Cowes. She also owned homes in London, Melton Mowbray and Newmarket and held a succession of shooting parties at Deene from October to Christmas each year.

In later years Lady Cardigan, who died in 1915, aged 90, was remembered as a witty but eccentric woman, who wore thick make-up, a blonde wig and quite often sported her husband’s regimental uniform!

Tony Smith (by email)