Gibraltar from Spain ( 1828 - Edmond Patten )
So who was Henry Sandham?
What little information is available suggests that he was life-long military man who spent his entire career as a Royal Engineer in the British Army. He was born in Midhurst, Sussex around 1795 and by the time he was 18 he was already a second lieutenant. By 1837 he was a Second-Captain. Promoted to Colonel in 1855 by 1866 he had made it to Lieutenant-General - as well as the head of the artillery department at Chatham.
Going back a bit, he also crops up as brigade-major in 1847:
. . . . when medals were granted to the veterans of the last war, Brigade-Major, now Colonel Sandham, observed the readiness with which I spoke of historical events in which the corps was concerned, and of the services of particular individuals who had belonged to it. . . . This induced him, after some little conversation on the subject, to direct me to prepare for publication a history of the corps. (T. J. W. Connoly )
Henry Sandham possibly in his 60s ( National Portrait Gallery )
But his unusual - if rather uninspiring - claim to fame as a Royal Engineer involved experiments with batteries. But perhaps it would be best to quote from the History of the Corp of the Royal Sappers which at Sandham's behest Connoly did go on to write:
In the experiments which from time to time were made with the voltaic battery, sergeant-major Jones was always appointed to assist. . . . The operation of passing the priming wires through water into the bursting charges of powder was brought to perfection by Captain Sandham R.E. . . . the improved arrangement consisted . . . of smearing over with sergeant-major Jones’ composition, the wires themselves as well as every other part of the other materials used in this junction . . .
However . . . my interest in him in so far as this essay is concerned, lies in his series of wonderfully detailed sketches of the Rock all of them vaguely dated as from the 1820s. He does appear in a list of subscribers of the Garrison Library (see LINK) dated 1837 but of course this does not necessarily mean that he was still in Gibraltar at the time.
His artwork is perhaps rather naive - and no less attractive for it, but it is his obsessive - dare I say almost autistic - penchant for including every detail he could cram into each sketch that make him such a worthy contributor to an understanding of what Gibraltar was like in the early 19th century.
Two pictures cropped from Sandham's sketches that might just possibly be self-portraits
As regards his private life, in 1831, perhaps just back home from Gibraltar, he married Augusta Catherine Anne in Brighton. She was the youngest daughter of a doctor - J. White of the Royal Navy. Information about him either at work or at play while in Gibraltar is more or less restricted to what one can deduce from the following sketch.
An annotated drawing of members of the Royal Calpe Hunt - including Sandham - having fun - although apparently not yet in full pursuit of the uneatable. The sketch is unattributed and although the style is similar to Sandham's my guess is that it is not another of his efforts ( 1979 edition - Hounds are at Home )
The sketch shows Sandham in the company of other contemporary individuals, some of whom may have been his friends. Recognisable names from left to right are:
Captain James Bucknall Estcourt - An infantryman and an interesting inclusion as Estcourt was also producing his own personal set of Gibraltar sketches, paintings and watercolours during the same period as Sandham (See LINK)
Captain William Fenwick - Royal Welch Fusilier and Master of the Hounds at the time
Lieutenant Henry Sandham - The definitive book on the Calpe Hunt - Hounds are at Home - tells us that Sandham may have been Fenwick's predecessor as Master. The fact that he is wearing a hunting cap suggests that he still held a position of some importance in the Calpe Hunt.
Captain J.C. Harrison - Royal Welch Fusiliers
Captain G. Grierson - RE officer
Horatio Sprague - American Merchant who became US consul in 1832 (See LINK)
A hunter and his horse on the ferry across the River Guadacorte undoubtedly on his way to join his fellow fox-hunters somewhere in the Campo area
( 1820s - James Bucknall Estcourt )
An additional point of interest is the fact that most of Sandham's sketches have hand-written captions on them. Both the handwriting and the language used suggest that they were not written by Sandham but added subsequently. Nor do all of them appear to have been written by the same person and in certain cases the author does not appear to have been either a Gibraltarian or overly familiar with Gibraltar.
Finally, as regards my commentary on the sketches, these have relied heavily on information supplied to me by Alex Panayotti and by local historian Kenneth Busuttil. More than half the actual digital copies of the sketches - the originals of which I believe are held by either the local Marrache Foundation or the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham - or both if that were possible - were supplied by Kenneth.
Thank you Alex and Kenneth.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW HENRY SANDHAM'S SKETCHES
CLICK HERE TO VIEW HENRY SANDHAM'S SKETCHES