On our way to Castle Rising we stopped at a little village called Whittlesey. This was the birthplace of Harry Smith who was a very well known Rifle Officer and fought in every campaign from 1809 to Waterloo (including New Orleans). He is probably most famous for finding Juana (his future wife), after the siege of Badajoz.
Harry Smith was born and grew up in this house with 10 other brothers and sisters. His Father was a Surgeon. He started his military career in the Whittlesey Yeomanry before joining the 95th as a 2nd Lt in 1809. Due to the available places, his father paid the extra £100 and Harry went straight into the Rifles as a full Lt. His real name was actually Henry but he was always known as, and called Harry. During Napoleons exile on Elba Harry left his Spanish wife (Juana) at this house with his family, while he served briefly in America.
The plaque on the wall indicates Harry' house but we were in for quite a treat. We had a snoop round the back of the house (which still has the small stable block), and a lady who lives next door in the red house asked what we wanted. Thinking the game was up we explained our reason for being there. She indicated that her house (which belonged to her recently died mother), was originally part of the same house and been split into two many years ago. From the back its easier to see they are part of the same which is why from the front we never realised. The lady then invited us in and we had a good look round. The house has many plasterboard walls and all the original 19th c features I believe are hidden behind.
Harry Smith and his wife are both buried in the local graveyard. At the base of the tome is carved all the battles he was in and the small plaque on the front is in memory of his wife Juana. The larger plaque on the side is a memorial from Wellington describing Harry.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/ ... harry.html
This is a digital copy of his book.
The house is up for £129000.00 if you're interested. I would love to buy it and have it as a project.
In 1811 he was serving as a staff officer under the Duke of Wellington in Spain. After the siege of Badajoz, which was the strongest fortress on the Spanish frontier with Portugal, two Spanish sisters escaped and asked for his support. Harry asked Juana, the younger sister to marry him: With the Duke of Wellington’s agreement they were married and she accompanied him throughout the Campaign and on into France.
I never realised when I was in South Africa why they called melon Spaanse peck.....
Juana Maria de los Dolores de Léon Smith was born 27th March 1798 into a noble Spanish family. Her great-grandfather was Juan Ponce de Léon, who was the first to explore Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth.
At the age of 14, in 1812, Juana and her sister were orphaned during the Peninsular War when British troops besieged her native town in the Third Siege of Badajoz. British officers, encamped outside the walls of the city, gave the sisters protection from the sacking and looting that followed the successful assault. One of them was Brigadier-General Sir Harry Smith, of the 95th Rifles Regiment, who married her a few days later.
Rather than going to live with her new husband’s family, she chose to accompany him during the rest of the war. She travelled with the luggage train, sleeping on the battlefield, walking beside the troops and sharing the deprivations of the campaign. The soldiers idolized her for her beauty, courage, amiable character and good judgment. She was admired by the officers including the Duke of Wellington, who knew her well.
With the exception of the Anglo-American War of 1812, Juana accompanied her husband to all his postings, the most noteworthy of which was South Africa where Sir Harry served as Governor and High Commissioner of the Cape Colony.
The Governor enjoyed bacon with his breakfast but Juana Smith preferred cantaloupe. The Afrikaans chefs jokingly referred to the melon they served her as Spanish bacon or, in Afrikaans, Spaanse spek. Cantaloupe is known to this day in South Africa as spanspek.
In December 1848, the British Parliament granted Juana Smith a pension of £ 500 in recognition of her husband’s service to the country.
After Sir Harry’s death, Juana Smith was granted the title Lady Smith in her own right. The towns of Ladysmith and Ladismith in South Africa and Ladysmith in Canada were named after her. She died 12 October 1872.
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