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Admiral John Fulford RN


A leading figure in the life of Bemerton and Salisbury in the 19th century was Admiral John Fulford, who lived in Riversfield House, Lower Road.


John Fulford was born at Great Fulford in Devon in 1809, entered the Royal Naval College before he was a teenager and spent much of his life at sea.   Clearly a man of talent, John commanded only flagship vessels.  These were ships which were the largest, fastest, newest, or most heavily armed, with the admiral who commanded the fleet also serving aboard. Having served as second-in-command of HMS President, John Fulford went on to command Conway, Hogue,  Ganges and Formidable.

As captain of HMS Ganges, John Fulford served in the Pacific Fleet, operating out of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, serving alongside Admiral Baynes.   He spent a considerable amount of time engaged in the Pig War, a confrontation between the USA and the UK over the border in the San Juan Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland.  The Pig War was so called because it was triggered by the shooting of a pig.  With no shots exchanged and no human casualties, the Pig War was a bloodless conflict. 

In recognition of the contribution to the defence of their land, the Canadian authorities honoured HMS Ganges and a number of their crewThe local mountain peak was named Bayne's Peak; Ganges Harbour took its name from the ship; Fulford Harbour after the Captain, John Fulford; Burgoyne Bay after the ship's second-in-command; Southey Point after the Admiral's secretary; Mount Bruce after the previous commander-in-chief; and even the Admiral's chum had Cape Keppel named after him.

In 1844 John married Isabella, eldest daughter of John Russell Esq, who was Principal Clerk of Session in Scotland, a leading figure in the Church of Scotland.  The Fulfords had two sons and a daughter.  Before John retired from active service he was promoted to rear admiral and, he, Isabella and his daughter Louisa moved to Bemerton and took up residence in Sidney House, later called Riversfield House.  In retirement he was further promoted to vice-admiral and then admiral.


We don’t know why the Fulfords moved to Bemerton, but it is likely that the draw was the Church.  Bemerton was a favoured place for retired clergy and others who had an affinity with George Herbert or who wished to be near to Salisbury Cathedral. 

During his time here, John Fulford donated a piece of his land at Riversfield House for the use of the Rector of Bemerton.  This land was subsequently used to erect the last two properties (39 and 41) at the bottom of Church Lane, next to  St Andrews churchyard. 

When John died in 1888 he was buried at Bemerton, and in recognition of his services to the Church a memorial plaque was erected in his honour in Salisbury Cathedral:


In Reverent Memory of


John Fulford, R.N.

Born at

Great Fulford, Devon

16th February 1809,

Entered into Rest at


15th February 1888.

Full of Good Works for the

Church Of God in this Diocese

And Steadfast In the Faith.


“So He Bringeth Them Unto The

Haven Where They Would Be.”


John Fulford was very protective of the view from Riversfield House and placed a covenant on part of his land opposite, preventing the erection of buildings or felling of trees.  In later years, the covenant was released by the then owner of Riversfield House, enabling the construction of the Red House, blocking the view.  It is said that Admiral Fulford was so incensed that he returned from the grave to haunt the owners of Riversfield House.  Jane Holmes, whose grandmother Lady Holmes had rented the property in the early 20th century before moving to Bemerton House, recalls the tales of the Fulford ghost.  Her grandmother’s cook would complain of the admiral pacing up and down in the night as if on the quarter deck of his ship.  The Rawlence girls, who lived in Riversfield House after Lady Holmes had moved, shared a room and early one morning were awake and aware of a figure coming into the room carrying a lamp.  At first they thought it was one of the maids but to their astonishment the figure vanished through the wall.  The Rawlence family were aware that the spiral staircase put in by the admiral was haunted, as their many dogs raised their hackles and howled, refusing to go up or down them.  Jane said that it had been the same with her grandmother’s dogs previously.

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