Major James Johnes Bourchier has this Celtic cross memorial in the churchyard of St. Margaret’s Church in Felthorpe. James was baptised on 24 December 1826 at St. Mary’s Church in Cold Brayfield, Buckinghamshire. He was the son of James Claude Bourchier and Maria Bourchier.
The British had very much a gentleman soldiers approach to the military in the early nineteenth century, where the wealthy could purchase commissions to become officers. This ridiculous state of affairs, along with the quite disgraceful way that the rank and file were treated, wasn’t properly addressed until the long overdue Cardwell Reforms of the late 1860s. Anyway, James was able to purchase his way into the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot on 28 June 1844. In 1847, James purchased himself the rank of Lieutenant, which doesn’t seem an entirely ideal way to run an army.
I can’t find out much about James’s military record, although he was located in Limerick, Ireland between January and March 1851. There were much more dangerous periods to be in the British army, although there was the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856 as well as the Indian Mutiny in 1857. It’s quite likely James went to India during that period, as his regiment spent much of their time there and they were involved with the Siege of Delhi in 1857.
James had some good news in 1852 when he was elevated to the rank of a Captain. And, of course, he purchased that, as he did when he became a Major in 1860. After this series of promotions, James decided to sell off his commission of Major in 1864, to Captain Honourable Ernest George Curzon. This was when he got married to Harrietta Anne Curzon (born on 25 April 1840) in Kensington in London and came to Norfolk to live in Felthorpe Hall.
At the 1871 census, James was living at Felthorpe Hall with his wife Harrietta and their four year old son Cecil. Oh, and Elizabeth Baldwin, Maria Burton, Susannah Alderton, Mary Ann Adcock and George Hall, who were all servants which must have made things somewhat easier. Cecil, who was James’s only son, has a memorial inside the church as he died in Folkestone on 13 February 1919 and was buried in Felthorpe on 22 February 1919.
James died in Brighton on 8 September 1886, at the age of 59. The press at the time reported that he left the sum of £47,000 to his wife which is, according to the National Archives Currency Calculator, around £3 million in today’s money. Harrietta has a memorial inside the chancel of the church, she died on 13 September 1924 at the age of 84.