Progressive reclamation of the Wash’s salt marshes has pushed the coastline back by about five miles from what was once the ‘sea front’ near Long Sutton.
As recently as 1820, as mentioned in last month’s column, sales particulars for the old manor house reported that it was possible to see ship masts from the bedroom windows.
The upper floors of the terrace of three fine Georgian houses on Market Street (once known as Brunswick Terrace) would also have had a distant sea view. The houses were built around 1780 by the Admiralty for occupation by senior commanders of the area and their families. England was at that time at war with Holland with the Royal Navy blockading the North Sea.
The occupiers of the houses and their naval careers are lost to history, but apart from the many local boys who served their Country in the Royal and Merchant Navy, Long Sutton has an association with at least two Admirals and a tenuous link to one of the most famous, Lord Nelson.
A branch of the Bertie family, the Dukes of Ancaster, lived in Long Sutton and were major landowners in the 1800s. The daughter of Peregrine Bertie, Catherine Dorothy, married Commander Thomas Hoare RN in 1788. Hoare took the name Bertie, becoming Sir Thomas Bertie, rising through the ranks to Vice Admiral in 1808, serving in the Baltic.
Bertie was a life-long friend of Nelson, who he served with when they were both junior ranks.
Another local lad destined for naval command was Reginald Skelton, son of another of the local prominent land-owning families.
Reginald William Skelton was born in Long Sutton in 1872. He joined the Naval Engineering College at Devonport in 1887 and after various postings oversaw the construction of the Royal Research Ship Discovery.
He was subsequently chosen by Captain Scott to be chief engineer for the ship for the historic explorations of Antarctica 1900-1904. He assumed the role of official photographer for the trip and many of the iconic photographs of the historic voyage are attributed to him.
He was involved in the first discovery of a breeding colony of Emperor Penguins and of perfecting the design of a motorized sleigh for polar regions. Four Antarctic features are also named after him – Skelton Glacier, Skelton Inlet, Skelton Neve and Skelton Icefalls.
He then served as a submariner and on various surface ships during WW1, receiving the DSO for services in the Battle of Jutland. He later, became Fleet Engineering Officer Mediterranean Station and later Atlantic and, in 1923 was appointed Engineering Rear Admiral.
In 1928 he was promoted to Vice Admiral on his appointment as Engineer in Charge of the Fleet. Admiral Skelton was knighted in 1931 and retired from the navy in 1932.