Thomas Patton lived quietly and unobtrusively at Bishops Hull about two miles from Taunton during many long years.  He died in 1876 and I remember him as a simple and very kindly old man, whom, after so long an experience of him, the neighbourhood regarded with sincere affection.

Details of his early life might be interesting, but are not to hand.  His name still appears about once a year in the Birth, Marriage and Death columns of the Press and here he is usually described as “The late Captain Patton, RN, JP”.

To the best of my belief both these statements are inaccurate; but he was a lieutenant or lieutenant-commander in the Navy.  He told us that when he set out on his first voyage as a midshipman in November 1805 – his ship met the Victory returning from Trafalgar with Nelson’s body on board.  He saw service in the Napoleonic wars and after a naval engagement at Mauritius, was captured by the French;  they did not ill treat him, but made him cook for them.

He must have retired from the Service early, as he married in 1819 and settled down at Bishops Hull House where his nine children were born, and his wife died in 1889.  My grandmother once told me that when he called to propose to her (at Bishops Hull) he was dressed in a blue swallow-tale coat with brass buttons and white duck trousers.

One little incident in connection with him I may relate; it shows how many miles we are from the paternal influences which used to prevail in English villages.  

Very early on a bright morning in summer Mr Patton, looking forth from his bedroom window, espied a couple of boys busily grabbing apples from his trees.  He hastened down, and identified them. After considering the matter from the point of view of justice and mercy, he gave them a choice of penalties.  Either they were to face the rigours of the police court, or they were to stand for an hour or two secured to the church gate, labelled with a card which published their offence. They chose the latter alternative and the announcement runs somewhat thus:  “These naughty boys were caught stealing apples at 5 am (or whatever the time was) this morning in Mr Patton’s orchard”.  “ I can see them standing there now,” said my father when he told me about it.  

As I have said, he remained plain Thomas Patton, although possessing abundant wealth with which to distinguish himself if he had so desired.  Certainly he knew nothing of the hyphenated Scotticism with which some of us are decorated.  Who the original Bethune (pronounced Bee-ton) was I have not been able to ascertain.  It is certainly an old and pleasant name.

There was a Mary Beton (spelling ad lib)

And Mary Seton

And Mary Carmichael

And me

And there was the ill-fated Cardinal Beaton of James IV’s time.  But these will not serve as ancestors.  Nor can it be suggested that we ever dwelt in the now well-known little place in France called Bethune.  All I know is that in 1747 Mr Patton’s grandfather marked a Miss Bethune.  This lady was a considerable heiress, but the will under which the property would have passed to her descendants was successfully contested in the Courts of Edinburgh in 1815.  The family dwelt for many years at Clatter in Fifeshire and being Scotch, was presumably quite respectable.

Perhaps the fact most worthy of record is that three of Thomas Patton’s brothers – Henry, Peter and James – died in the service of their country during the Napoleonic wars.

Old Mrs Patton, as she was generally called lived in the house at Bishops Hull for at least seventy years, and few indeed were the days when she might not have been found at home.  She never took the slightest interest in anything beyond her home and children.  She was a member of the Winsloe family.  Her father was vicar of Ruishton, Taunton and her brother, Richard Winsloe was the father of Lady Tennant and grandfather of Admiral Sir Alfred Winsloe, of Lord Glenconner and of Miss Tennant who is now Mrs Asquith.  She was a niece of Mr Walter MP the original proprietor of The times and from him she inherited a large interest in the great paper.

Old Mr and Mrs Patton spent many happy years in Bishops Hull, singularly prosperous and free from trouble.  Their children nearly all did well.  Their eldest son gained some distinction in the Crimean and other wars, and became a General and Honorary Colonel of his regiment, the 74th Highlanders.  The second son, Herbert, died in the Crimea. The third son, after seeing service in the Indian Mutiny, devoted himself with remarkable keenness to the organisation of the Auxiliary Forces of West Somerset for about fifty years.  His efforts were recognised and he received the local rank of Brigadier General and was made a CB.  In his eightieth and last year he was fervently addressing recruiting meetings in view of the outbreak of the Great War.  The daughters were happily married to good men of their own position in the upper middle class.

To the father and mother wealth came very easily, and they bought many houses and lands in the village and beyond.  The extensive property at Stoke St Mary was purchased by the old man from Prebendary Smith of whom something is said elsewhere in these pages.  They met one day in the road, and hastily struck a bargain.  Mr Patton repented immediately, but the clergyman had been sharp enough to secure five shillings in part payment and this of course rendered the agreement binding.  And so for many years various members of the family have lived in the houses at Stoke, and the old people and some of their children lie in the churchyard there.  

When at length at the age of 91 old Mrs Patton died, she was taken away from the evil to come.