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Richard Law 1828 - 1912

We don't really know where Richard was born. In 1851 he is based at Dover Heights barracks in Heigham, Kent and the census overview lists his birthplace as Ballaby, Londonderry, Ireland, but the real document says Bellaghy. In 1861 he listed Ireland only and in 1871 he would not say where he had been born. But in 1881 he states that it was Castlebar in Co Mayo. In 1891 he refuses to name the birthplace of any of his family members!! 1901 is illeguble and the last one - 19 is clearly Castlebar.


Wherever he was born, it was about 1828. We have no other details from this time. Castlebar was under a really awful English landowner, and many people left the area to seek their fortunes abroad … or died.

We know that he joined the Royal Navy and he would have learned the trade at HMS Ganges near Harwich in Essex. At home, he had trained to be a carpenter and as a carpenter on board the HMS Rodney. He was also based at Diver Heights in 1851. He was awarded the Crimea medal. He was given the medal personally by Queen Victoria on Monday Aug 20 1855. And he was back in civilian life by 1861.

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Above: the battle of Sebastopol.          Below: HMS Rodney

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The Crimea Medal

The Crimea Medal was a campaign medal approved on 15 December 1854, for issue to officers and men of British units (land and naval) which fought in the Crimean War of 1854–56 against Russia. The medal was awarded with the British version of the Turkish Crimea Medal, but when a consignment of these were lost at sea, some troops were issued with the Sardinian version instead.[2] The Crimea medal was also presented to certain members of allied French forces.[1]


The medal consists of a 36mm silver disk with, on the obverse, the diademed head of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA with the date 1854 below. The reverse has a depiction of a standing Roman warrior about to receive a laurel crown from a flying figure of victory, the word CRIMEA appearing on the left.The medal is notable for its unusually ornate clasps. Each is in the form of an oak leaf with an acorn at each end, a style not used on any other British medal. The ornate, floriated, swivelling suspender is also unique to the Crimea Medal.[2]The 27 millimetres (1.1 in) wide ribbon[1] is pale blue with yellow edges.


Five clasps were authorised but some of these were for land battles. I believe that Richard got the Sebastopol clasp.

Richard in civilian life

The next we hear of Richard Law is that he has turned up in a sleepy little village far away from battles – Layer Breton in Essex. I expect that he fell in love with the place when he was based at HMS Ganges.

In 1857 he married in Colchester to Frances Holland, daughter of the man who owned the White House pub in Layer Breton - he had 4 step daughters and no son. Frances had previously been married to Thomas Holland. Not known yet what Frances's maiden name was.

By 1851 they are living at 57 Magdalen Street in Colchester. Richard (aged only 32) is working as a grocer and draper, which is a bit bizarre compared to his earlier job. A man of many talents.

Richard and Frances had the following children:

  • Fanny Law 1859 - 1909 married Alfred Archer Dixon

  • Frederick W Law 1861 – died 1861

  • Florence Emily Law 1863 - 1894– married Alfred Diss. He  was born in Fordham but from about 180 he lived in West Bergholt. He was a carpenter, then bricklayer and builder and finally master builder for many years living in West Bergholt. He married first to Maria Dils from Monmouthshire in Wales and they had seven children and then he married Florence Law and had a further 6 children! 12 people living in the house in 1881. By 1891 they were living at 21 Stanwell Street, Colchester. By 1911 he was a widower and living with Elizabth Minter at Vine Cottage 47 Butt Road, Colchester. Alfred died 19 May 1920 in Colchester. Executor was Frederick Morris Diss, Gentleman. Fred died in 1923

  • Alberta Law 1865 – 1903

  • Richard H Law 1868 - 1900

However we see that Frances H Law is his wife (could H stand for Holland?) is aged 33 born Hadleigh. Also in the house is Mary A Law – Richard’s sister (???) First time I have seen a sister). She is working as a grocer’s shopwoman. She is aged 27, born in Ireland. And here too is Fanny aged 2, born in Colchester. And finally Havelock (W?) a son aged 1 month.

How long did Richard work as a grocer and a draper – he who is a carpenter and a builder???

Richard and Fanny were living at 187 Prince of Wales Road, Norwich in 1911. Richard aged 81 and Frances 82.

An interesting article appeared in the Essex County Standard dated Saturday November 2nd 1912 - on page 6. 1 quote it in full:

Crimean Veterans Funeral

"The funeral of Mr Richard LAW, whose death was recorded last week took place on Saturday October 26th at Layer Breton Churchyard. As stated he had served in the Navy and was in two engagements, Sebastopol and Alma, being on 'HMS Rodney' at the bombardment of Sebastopol which was the only ship to drop shell over into the forts.

He had in his possession a piece of Russian shell which had been embedded in the mast of the Rodney, and a medal with one bar for Sebastopol and was entitled to another but did not take steps to obtain it. He received a special pension for good conduct. Mr LAW helped to make the coffin for Lord RAGLAN on one Sunday, up on the Heights."

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