Some of you may remember the lecture I gave last year, entitled ‘The Lakeman Family’ and its influence in the development of Brixham’. The family owned and ran Lakeman’s Brewery where today the bus services operate. Thomas Lakeman (Senior) was Chairman of the Local Board, Director and founder of the Brixham Gas Company, Chairman of the Preventative Diseases Committee, Chairman of the Local Water Supply Company, Director of the Brixham Ice Company, Registrar of Births and Deaths and Treasurer to the Harbour Commission.
My research has moved to the next generation with surprising results. Thomas had 11 children, the youngest Stephen Charles Lakeman born in 1801 at Brixham. He named his first born Stephen Bartlett Lakeman, who was born in 1823. In 1847, aged 24, he was advising the Duke of Wellington on the advantages of the ‘Minie Rifle’ over the existing smooth bore musket rifle then used as standard issue for British troops. In 1850-2, he was permitted to recruit a private regiment of 200 men and equip them at his own expense. He was then despatched to South Africa to fight in the Xhosa wars. His troops became known as the Death Regiment due to the atrocities they committed, killing without mercy. The regiment was disbanded in 1853 at the end of the conflict. On his return, bulbs and plants collected in South Africa were sent to the family’s residence Grange Wood Hall in Leicester. The animals, including springbox, monkeys, and leopards were found accommodation at London Zoo in Regents Park. He was rewarded with a knighthood at the age of 30 with Queen Victoria performing the ceremony at Windsor Castle on 25th November, 1853. He became a diplomat and while in Romania met and married Princess Marie de Philippesco in 1856, inheriting a fortune, however, his influence dwindled and he died in relative obscurity in London in 1897. He was a true Victorian adventurer, warrior and diplomat with his exploits today now largely forgotten.
Sir Stephen’s father left Brixham early in his life and is next traced to London through the 1851 census. His first bankruptcy was at Dartmouth in 1826 with others in London in 1836 and 1856. The most notorious was in 1836 when, living in Regent Circus, Piccadilly, he and the chief ADC to King Louis Philippe of France, committed fraud on the London Stock Exchange in amounts in today’s values amounting to many millions of pounds. He escaped to France with a £1,000 offered for his capture. Unbelievably, he continued with his business interests, always setting up the deals and taking commission, but never becoming involved to a point where he became liable for debt or any legal consequences of the fraud. He became an embarrassment and then a disgrace to his family, who eventually disowned him. Undoubtedly, he created problems that probably limited his son, Sir Stephen’s, career prospects. He died aged 64 in his son’s house at Dawlish, leaving an estate worth less that £450. This was claimed by his wife, then living at Brighton. It is not known whether the marriage failed, but they were living apart at the time of his death.