Commander John Davis Mercer

???? - 1855

Claimant or beneficiary


John Davis Mercer, born c 1786 in St Kitts. Joined the Royal Navy. Father of William Charles Fahie Mercer and Catherine Conway Bridges Mercer. Died London 1855. In the 1828 William McMahon map he was shown ('John Mercer Esq. R.N.') in the key against an estate of 72 acres in St Ann Sandy Point called Pump.

  1. According to the 1851 census, John Davis Mercer was born circa 1786 in St Kitts. Parents unknown though his mother’s maiden name is thought to be Fahie, born Sandy Point, St Kitts, the daughter of John Davis Fahie and Sarah Georges. Siblings Rennie Mercer, Richard Augustus Mercer and George Mollineaux Fahie Mercer. There are gravestones for early Fahie and Georges family members in St Kitts.

  2. John Davis Mercer joined the Navy and his entry in O’Byrne’s Nautical Biography, according to an online correspondence, reads as follows: ‘John David MERCER entered the navy in 1798 as Midshipman on board the Perdrix, 22, Capt. Wm Chas. Fahie on the books of which ship, stationed in the Leeward Islands, his name was borne until the following year. We next, in 1801, find him on board the Beschermer, 54, Capt. Alex Fraser off Harwich; and in 1805 rejoining Capt. Fahie in the Amelia frigate on the West Indies station where, on following him into the Ethalion, he assisted at the capture of the Danish islands of St Thomas and St Croix in Dec. 1807. In 1808 he returned to England in the Ramillies, 74, Capt Robt. Yarker, but being ordered back in the Gloire, 38, Capt Jas. Carthew, was again placed under the orders of Captain Fahie as Masters Mate on board the Belleisle, 74 - following him into the Pompee and Abercromby of similar force. The Belleisle we may observe formed part of the squadron employed at the reduction of Martinique in Feb 1809 and in the ensuing April the Pompee, with a loss to herself of 9 men killed and 30 wounded, proved the captor, in company with the Castor, 32, of the French 74 gun ship d'Haultpoult, between 80 and 90 of whose people were killed and wounded. Attaining the rank of Lieutenant 8 December 1809, Mr Mercer continued employed in that capacity in the West Indies for a further period of nearly four years in the Pultusk sloop Capt Wm. Elliott and John McGeorge; Pelorus sloop Capt Tho. Huskission; Abercromby again, Capt Fahie; Cygnet sloop commanded by various officers; Dragon, 74, and Grampus, 50, flagships of Sir Fras, Laforey and Cleopatra, frigate Capt. Chas Gill. His next appointments were, in 18 March 1821 to the Salisbury, 50, Capt John Wilson on the Leeward Island station and 5 August of the same year to the Forte,44, as flag lieutenant to the late Sir Edward Griffith Colpoys, Commander in Chief at Halifax, where he afterwards, in the Salisbury, 50, filled the like post under his early friend Rear Admiral Fahie. He acquired his present rank (commander) 9 September 1824 and has since been on half pay’. He would have been only 12 years of age on joining and at that time it seems that to become a midshipman a seaman would already have had to have served a three-year apprenticeship. It has been suggested, in online correspondence, that he might simply have been accumulating ‘sea time’ at the beginning and was not actually in the Navy: ‘…. Captain Fahie, probably a family friend, had entered his name on the ship’s books so that he could accumulate 'sea time'. It was a common practice of the day. I would not be at all surprised if he actually first went to sea in 1805 on board the Amelia …’ (though he would have been 12, not 8, years of age as stated in the correspondence).

  3. There is some confirmation for the above information: John Davis Mercer obtained his first commission in 1809 and was awarded the Naval General Service Medal in in the same year on the Belleisle. He was promoted to Commander on 09/09/1824.

  4. At some point, probably before 1814, John Davis Mercer is likely to have married as he is described as a widower in the 1851 census: see note 5 below. There is no obvious evidence for this but the marriage probably took place in St Kitts for which no records are available online. It is possible that his wife’s surname was Bridges: see note 9 below. Two children are attributed to the marriage: William Charles Fahie Mercer, born 1814 St Kitts, and Catherine Conway Mercer, born 1822 St Kitts, though there is no documentary evidence online. William was convicted of fraud in Gibraltar in 1836 and was given a sentence of transportation for life. He sailed on the Sarah, departing for Van Diemen’s Land on 29/12/1836. On 23/12/1844 a pardon was granted: ‘Government Notice – Colonial Secretary’s Office Dec. 23rd, 1844 – The Queen has been pleased to authorise the issue of a Conditional Pardon to William Charles Fahie Mercer, who was tried at Gibraltar, in 1836. – By His Excellency’s Command, J. E. Bicheno.’ Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857). William seems to have died in 1891 in Australia.

  5. In the 1841 census John Mercer, aged 50, with occupation given as Navy H. P. (presumably Half Pay) born out of county, is living in Portsea Cottages, Parish of Stoke Damerel, Devonport, Hampshire. With him is Catherine, aged 20, born out of county, and Mary Lewis, aged 20, Female Servant, born in county. By 1851 John D Mercer, Lodger, Widower, aged 65, occupation Commander R Navy ½ pay, born St Kitts, W Indies, is at 10 Kings Terrace, Portsea, Portsmouth. With him is A Mercer, Daur., Unmar, 29, born St Kitts, W Indies and C Woolgar, Servant, Unmar, 24, born Sussex, Brighton. It seems likely that the A Mercer should be C Mercer, his daughter Catherine as there is no sign of another daughter and Catherine was with him in 1841.

  6. John Davis Mercer died in London, with the death registered in the September quarter of 1855 in Kensington. He was buried 10/07/1855 in All Souls, Kensal Green as Captain John David Mercer, aged 69, his address given as 8 Sheffield Terrace, Kensington. On 15/10/1855 a note was added in the margin: ‘In the 1st column for David read Davis’. His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: ‘Will of John Davis Mercer, Commander in the Royal Navy of Stoke near Devonport , Devon. Date 20 July 1855’.

  7. His daughter, Catherine, remained unmarried. In 1861 she is a lodger, aged 45, occupation Lady, born West Indies, Speldhurst, Kent. Also with her is Cordelia Woolger, aged 28, Lady’s Maid, born Brighton, Sussex, presumably the C Woolgar of the 1851 census. By 1871 Katherine Mercer, aged 56, no occupation, born West Indies, is a boarder with the Ridgway family at 141 Ledbury Road, Paddington, London. The head of household is John Ridgway, Annuitant, born Liverpool, Lancashire, and his wife is Cordelia Ridgway, born Brighton, Sussex. Cordelia Surrel Woolgar, the Lady’s Maid of earlier censuses, married John Ridgway 20/05/1867 at St Stephen’s, Paddington, London. John is described as a Gentleman. Still with the Ridgway family as a boarder in 1881 is Kate Mercer, aged 60, Annuitant, born West Indies. John Ridgeway is now Manager Cacao Factory. In 1891 Catherine Mercer, aged 75, Living on Own Means, born W. I. St Kitts, is listed as a visitor this time in the Ridgway household which is still at 141 Ledbury Road. JohnRidgway is now a retired clerk.

  8. In the June quarter of 1892 there is a death registered in the Paddington district for Catherine Conway B Mercer, aged 70. No burial has been found but probate was granted 10/06/1892: ‘Mercer, Catherine Conway Bridges of 141 Ledbury Road Paddington Middlesex spinster died 6 April 1892 Probate London 10 June to George Henry Bridges retired captain in Her Majesty’s Army and John Strachan Bridges retired captain Royal Horse Artillery Effects £2,217 0s. 1d.’.

  9. Catherine’s middle names of Conway and Bridges could give a link to her mother’s maiden name and it seems possible that this is Bridges. In the East Riding of Yorkshire Archives and Records Service there are the ‘Bridges Family, Deeds and Family Papers relating to Estates in Ellerton and Aughton’. The last item mentioned is a copy of the will of ‘Catherine Conway Bridges Mercer of 141 Ledbury Road Paddington’. The summary of bequests is as follows: ‘Bequests: cousins Captain GH Bridges, Captain John Strachnan Bridges, Bristol; Cordelia Surrel wife of John Ridgway, Caroline Constance Carey, Worthing, widow of Dr Langer Carey; Mary eldest daughter of Captain John Strachnan Bridges; Victor de Freyne, Richard Conway, second and third sons of Captain GH Bridges et ceteras Property: share of estate at Ellerton and Aughton, 141 Ledbury Road, six Boundary Mews, Paddington’. Given that G(eorge) H(enry) Bridges and John Starchnan(sic) Bridges are described as cousins it seems possible that their father could have been a brother to Catherine’s mother. Despite the East Yorkshire link, the 1911 census shows both John Strachan and George Henry to have been born in Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire.


T71/879: St Kitts claim no. 480.

  1. 1851 census online; and [accessed 31/12/2012]; [accessed 31/12/11].

  2. [accessed 31/12/2011];

  3. Royal Naval Biography; Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers ... by John Marshall online at; UK Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 online; A list of the flag officers and other commissioned officers of His Majesty's fleet; with the dates of their respective commissions (1831) available to read online at

  4. [accessed 02/01/12]; [accessed 02/01/12]; [accessed 02/01/12]; [accessed 02/01/12], [accessed 02/01/12].

  5. 1841 census online; 1851 census online.

  6. FreeUKGen, England and Wales Free BMD Database, Deaths, 1837-1983 [database online];, London, England, Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980 [database online]; [accessed 03/01/12].

  7. 1861/1871/1881/1891 censuses online;, London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921 [database online].

  8. FreeBMD Death Indexes online; England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941 online.

  9.; 1911 census online.

Further Information

Name in compensation records
John Davis Mercer
Married but no further details
William Charles Fahie (1814-1891), Catherine Conway Bridges (1822-1892)
Sailor (Royal Navy)

Associated Claims (1)

£107 14s 5d

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1828 [EA] - 1828 [LA] → Not known

John Davis Esq. R.N. was shown as the proprietor of Pump in St Ann Sandy Point in William McMahon's 1828 map. The Slave Registers show the estate as indebted estate but owned by members of the Rawlins' family.

Legacies Summary

Imperial (1)

notes →
William Charles Fahie Mercer, born 1814 St Kitts, son of John Davis Mercer, was convicted of fraud in Gibraltar in 1836 and was given a sentence of transportation for life. He sailed on the Sarah,...

Relationships (1)

Brother → Sister

Addresses (2)