Stringer Lawrence

Major-General Stringer Lawrence (6 March 1697 – 10 January 1775) was an English soldier, the first Commander-in-Chief, India

Stringer Lawrence
Born6 March 1697
Hereford, England
Died10 January 1775 (1775-01-11) (aged 77)
London, Kingdom of Great Britain
Allegiance Great Britain
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1727–1766
UnitBritish East India Company
Commands heldIndia
Battles/warsJacobite rising of 1745
First Carnatic War
Second Carnatic War
Third Carnatic War
Battle of Golden Rock


Lawrence was born at Hereford, England, the son of John Lawrence of Hereford by his wife Mary, about either of whom little is known. He was baptised in the Church of All Saints, Hereford, on 27 February 1697-98. Concerning his possible ancestry, in 1660 "James Lawrence, junior, gentleman", was admitted to the freedom of the City of Hereford, and became Mayor in 1661. In 1682 "John Lawrence, apothecary", and in 1702 "John Lawrence, brewer", were admitted to the freedom of the city. In the opinion of Biddulph (1901) one of these last "must, almost certainly, have been the father of Stringer Lawrence".[4] In the All Saints' Church burial register is recorded the burial of a certain Michael Stringer on 13 November 1698, from which fact Biddulph (1901) presumed that Stringer was the maiden name of his mother.[5]


He seems to have entered the army in 1727 and served in Gibraltar and Flanders, subsequently taking part in the Battle of Culloden. In 1748, with the rank of major and the reputation of an experienced soldier, he went out to India to command the East India Company's troops. Dupleix's schemes for the French conquest of southern India were on the point of taking effect, and not long after his arrival at Fort St David, Lawrence was actively engaged. He successfully foiled an attempted surprise by French troops at Cuddalore, but was captured by a French cavalry patrol at Ariancopang (modern Ariankuppam) whilst leading forces to assist Admiral Edward Boscawen in enforcing the Siege of Pondicherry in 1748. He was kept prisoner by the French until the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.

In 1749 he was in command at the capture of Devicota, during which one of his subordinate officers was Robert Clive (1725–1774), the future Commander-in-Chief of British India, with whom a lifelong friendship began. When Clive had become famous he honoured Lawrence by refusing to accept a sword of honour unless one was voted to him also, as the creator of the Indian army.

In 1750 Lawrence returned to England, but he was back in India by 1752. Here he found Clive in command of a force intended for the relief of Trichinopoly. As senior officer Lawrence took over the command, but was careful to allow Clive every credit for his share in the subsequent operations, which included the relief of Trichinopoly and the surrender of the entire French besieging force. In 1752 with an inferior force he defeated the French at Bahur (modern: Behoor) and in 1753 again relieved Trichinopoly. For the next seventeen months he fought a series of actions in defence of that place, and finally arranged an armistice of three months, afterwards converted into a conditional treaty. He was commander-in-chief until the arrival of the first detachment of regular forces of the crown.

In 1757 he served in the operations against Wandiwash, and in 1758-1759 was in command of Fort St George, Madras, during the siege by the French under Lally. In 1759 failing health compelled him to return to England, but in 1761 he resumed his command as major-general and commander-in-chief. Clive supplemented his old friend's limited income by settling on him an annuity of £500 a year. In 1765 he presided over the board charged with arranging the reorganisation of the Madras army, and he finally retired the following year.


His retirement years in England were spent as an honoured guest of his friend Sir Robert Palk, 1st Baronet (1717-1798) at Haldon House in the parish of Dunchideock in Devon, a fellow officer of the British East India Company who served as Governor of the Madras Presidency.

Death & Burial

He died in London on 10 January 1775, and was buried in Dunchideock Church in Devon, the parish church of Haldon House.


Lawrence bequeathed the huge sum of £50,000 to his friend Palk, as whose guest Lawrence spent his retirement. Palk erected lavish monuments in Lawrences' memory, namely the 26 metres (85 ft) high triangular 'Lawrence Tower' (at Haldon House), containing a life-size statue of Lawrence dressed as a Roman general and decorated with three large tablets inscribed with details of his career, and also a mural monument in Dunchideock Church. Palk named his son and heir Lawrence in his honour, which became a tradition in the Palk family.


Arms of General Stringer Lawrence: Ermine, a cross raguly gules; left: painted on vestry screen, right: with crest of a victor's laurel crown, detail from his mural monument, both in Dunchideock Church

His arms were: Ermine, a cross raguly gules, as is visible without tinctures on his monuments in Westminster Abbey and Dunchideock, and with tinctures on the vestry screen of Dunchideock Church. These are the arms of Sir John Lawrence (d.1692)[6] Lord Mayor of London in 1665, which in 1839 were visible on the monument to Sir Thomas Gresham in St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate, City of London,[7] apparently a difference of the ancient arms of Lawrence of Ashton Hall, Lancashire. They also feature in the arms of John Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence (1811-1879), Viceroy of India.[8]


Westminster Abbey

The East India Company erected a monument[9] to his memory of white and coloured marble by the sculptor William Tyler (1728-1801), situated in the north aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey. His bust stands on a pedestal at the top, below which is a medal inscribed "Born March 6, 1697; died January 10, 1775". On the left side below is a winged figure of Fame holding an oval shield inscribed: "For Discipline Established, Fortresses Protected, Settlements Extended, French and Indian Armies Defeated, and Peace Concluded in the Carnatic". On the right side below is a female figure seated on a bale, representing the East India Company. She points towards Lawrence's bust and at her feet are shown various French and Indian flags. An heraldic escutcheon on the front of the pedestal shows the arms of Lawrence: Ermine, a cross raguly gules.[10] Further down on the pedestal is a panel containing a relief sculpted perspective of a city and an encampment, inscribed: "Tritchinopoly", which town Lawrence defended against the French from May 1753 to October 1754. The main inscription on the black marble base is as follows:

"Erected by the East India Company to the memory of Major General Stringer Lawrence in testimony of their gratitude for his eminent services in the command of their forces on the coast of Coromandel from the year MDCCXLVI to the year MDCCLXVI".

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A life-size marble statue of him sculpted in 1764 by Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781) stands in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.[11] The statue is 5 ft 8 inches (172 cm) high and shows him dressed as a Roman general. It was commissioned by the East India Company in 1760 and is inscribed on the front: "Major General Stringer Lawrence. A.D. 1764" and on the side: "P. Scheemakers Ft".[12] A drawing of the statue was published in Neill, J.G.S., Historical Record of the First Madras European Regiment, London, 1843, p. 205.

Lawrence Tower, Devon

Statue of Lawrence dressed as a Roman general, in the Lawrence Tower (right), Dunchideock, Devon. On the wall behind is one of three large tablets inscribed with details of his career

A statue made of coade stone similar to the one in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stands in the centre of the ground floor of the 26-metre-high (85 ft) triangular Lawrence Tower, now known as the Haldon Belvedere,[13] one of the most prominent landmarks in South Devon, erected in 1788 to his memory within the Haldon Estate by his friend and fellow East India Company officer Sir Robert Palk, 1st Baronet (1717-1798) of Haldon House, Dunchideock, Devon, at whose house as a guest Lawrence had spent his retirement. On the walls are three large inscribed tablets recounting Lawrence's career, also a reproduction of the Gainsborough portrait in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Memorial tablets

Three inscribed biographical tablets were erected within the tower in 1788 by Sir Robert Palk as follows:

Tablet I

"To the memory of Major General Stringer Lawrence who for the space of twenty years commanded the British armies in India and by his superior genius, consummate skill and unremitted exertion, with an inferior force, extinguished the power of France, restored the glory of the British name and by replacing in the government Mohammed Aly Cawn Behauder, the distinguished son of Anaverdee, in happier times the rightful sovereign of the Carnatic, established the Empire of Britain in Hindostan. Nor were his talents in war more eminent than his milder virtues: he aspired to and obtained a name more glorious than that of Conqueror. He was the Deliverer of India. At his approach every village poured forth its inhabitants, every eye was rivetted with attention on his person and he seemed, while blessings in different languages and from every side were showered on him, to have blended in one family (of which he was the common father) the natives of Europe and the inhabitants of Asia".

Tablet II

"The princes of India revered him as a superior being and to the end of his life their testimonies of affection were unceasing. The following inscription (from the original Persian) sent after his death perpetuates the gratitude of the Nabob of Arcot:

To the memory of the late Major-General Stringer Lawrence. His Highness the Nabob Wallajah, Ameer Al Hind, Sepah Saular, Prince of the Carnatic and ally of His Britannic Majesty, has caused this inscription to be placed in testimony of his friendship and of the high sense he entertains of the important services rendered by the General to himself and to his friends the English in India.

As he was the first founder of the English power in Hindostan the opinion entertained by the East-India Company of his merits and services is best expressed on the monument which at the public expense they caused to be erected to his memory in the Abbey Church of Westminster:

For Discipline Established, Fortresses Protected, Settlements Extended, French and Indian Armies Defeated, and Peace Concluded in the Carnatic".
Tablet III

"This excellent man was born at Hereford in the year 1697. His early days were devoted to that service of which in his following years he was so bright an ornament. He served against the rebels in 1745 as aid-de-camp to Lord Tyrawley and at Gibraltar. He was long the much loved patron of General Wolfe. At the solicitation of the East India Company he accepted the command of their forces in the Carnatic and having saved and extended the Provinces he closed his long career of military glory by his successful defence of Madras, the capital of the British possessions, in the year 1759. He died full of years, fuller of honors, in 1775 and his remains are deposited within sight of this tower in the parish church of Dunchideok. This column was erected in 1788 by Sir Robert Palk, Baronet, sometime Governor of Madras, an eye-witness of the triumphs in war and of the virtues in peace of his illustrious friend".

Dunchideock Church

In St Michael's Church, Dunchideock, in which he was buried, the parish church of Haldon House, survives his mural monument erected by Sir Robert Palk, like his monument in Westminster Abbey also by William Tyler.[14] It displays three groups of inscriptions. At the top on black marble, beneath his portrait bust of white marble, is shown a copy of the inscription in Westminster Abbey:

"For discipline established, fortresses protected, settlements extended, French and Indian armies defeated, and peace concluded in the Carnatic. Mon. by E.I.C, Westmr Abbey".

In the middle on a rhomboid tablet of white marble, beneath a cornice on which are placed items forming a trophy of arms, namely a turban, a captured standard, a drum and a heraldic escutcheon, is inscribed on white marble:

" Major General Stringer Lawrence who commanded in India from 1747 to 1767. Died 10th Jany 1775 aged 78. The desperate state of affairs in India becoming prosperous by a series of victories endeared him to his country. History has recorded his fame. The regrets of the worthy bear testimony to his virtues. Cui pudor & justitiae soror incorrupta fides nudaque veritas quando ullum invenient [sic][15] parem ("When shall Reverence and the sister of Justice, untainted Honour, and naked Truth, ever find one to be his peer?"[16] From Horace, Carminum (Odes), Book I, Carmen XXIV Ad Virgilium, lines 6-8)

At the base is a verse by Hannah More[17] (1745-1833), the religious writer and philanthropist:

Born to command, to conquer and to spare,
As Mercy mild, yet terrible as War,
Here LAWRENCE rests: the trump of honest fame,
From Thames to Ganges has proclaimed his name.
In vain this frail memorial friendship rears,
His dearest monuments: an army's tears.
His deeds on fairer columns stand engrav'd,
In provinces preserv'd and cities sav'd."

By coincidence or otherwise, also buried in Dunchideock Church is Aaron Baker (1610-1683), of Bowhay in the nearby parish of Exminster, also Governor of Madras Province.


  1. Britton, John & Brayley, Edward Wedlake, Devonshire & Cornwall Illustrated, London, 1832, p.101
  2. Per Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32, Lawrence, Stringer by Henry Manners Chichester
  3. Palk Manuscripts, four-volume collection of the correspondence of Sir Robert Palk relating to Indian affairs, Historical Manuscripts Commission: Report on the Palk manuscripts in the possession of Mrs Bannatyne of Haldon, Devon, p.XII
  4. Biddulph, p.17
  5. Biddulph, p.17 & Appendix A
  6. Prestwich, John, Prestwich's Respublica, Or, A Display of the Honors, Ceremonies ..., Volume 1, 1787, p.158
  7. Allen, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and ..., Volume 3, 1839, p.133
  8. Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.667: cross charged with an Eastern crown or, also with a chief
  9. See image
  10. Tinctures as shown on the vestry screen of Dunchideock Church
  11. See image
  12. "India Office Catalogue". British Library.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 September 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. A Short Guide for the Visitor to St Michael's Church Dunchideock, current 2015, p.5
  15. Inveniet (3rd person singular) per Horace, here invenient in plural
  16. Translation from: Lonsdale & Lee (eds.), Works of Horace Rendered into English Prose, Globe Edition, London, 1900, p.37
  17. The monument states erroneously "A. More" (per church leaflet)


Further reading

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander-in-Chief, India
Succeeded by
John Adlercron
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.