The story of the Sunderland war hero who has a statue in Trafalgar Square and a pub in Washington named after him
What links Sunderland’s Mowbray Park, London’s Trafalgar Square, towns as far afield as New Zealand and Canada and a riverside pub at Fatfield?
The answer is the Sunderland-born army commander who was once a national hero in Britain, but is now almost forgotten – Henry Havelock.
Who was Henry Havelock and what was his connection to Sunderland?
The second of four brothers, Henry Havelock was born at Ford Hall, Bishopwearmouth, in April 1795, the son of shipbuilder William Havelock.
After attending Charterhouse School, he initially studied law, but joined the Rifle Brigade as a Second Lieutenant in 1815, with support from his brother William.
He spent eight years stationed in Britain, developing a life-long interest in the theory of war and military history.
Itching to put his studies into action, he decided to go to India and in 1822 transferred into the 13th Regiment (Light Infantry), serving with honour in the First Anglo-Burmese War.
Early military career
The now-Captain Henry Havelock fought in the First Afghan War in 1839, and produced a series of reports about the various actions in which he was involved.
Reported in the press at home, they first brought Havelock to public attention.
He made a name for himself in a number of campaigns over the next 10 years before returning home In 1849.
He was back in the sub-continent three years later, and by the time of the Indian Mutiny in 1857 was Adjutant-General of the British Army in India.
The Indian Mutiny
It was the 1857 uprising that truly made Havelock a national hero, with his background in military theory and lengthy experience making him a formidable commander.
Around 1,700 British and Indian troops had fortified themselves in the British residency there at the outbreak of the mutiny on May 1, and had been surrounded by a rebel force of 60,000 since the beginning of July.
Havelock made two attempts to recapture the garrison but was beaten back. He finally succeeded after the arrival of reinforcements in September, only for a second rebel force to arrive and besiege the town again – this time with Havelock and his men inside.
They were liberated in November, but within days Havelock was dead, having succumbed to exhaustion and dysentery shortly after learning he had been made a Baron.
Havelock's successes during the Indian Mutiny, at a time when the British Empire was at its height, had made him a popular hero at home. News of his death was met with an outpouring of national grief.
Public prescription paid for a statue of Havelock, by sculptor William Behnes, to stand in in Trafalgar Square.
Behnes also designed the statue of Havelock which graces Building Hill in Mowbray Park and is accompanied by two replica cannons. The guns look out over the park, but the statue itself faces west to Havelock’s birthplace in Bishopwearmouth.
He gave his name to Havelock Terrace, Havelock Street, and General Havelock Road in Sunderland, as well as the former Havelock Primary School and Hospital, and the Havelock Pub in Fatfield, while Lucknow Street in the East End was also named in his honour.