Postcards from Slough
Postcards from Slough

Sir John and Lady Herschel’s family

John and Margaret Herschel had 12 children, many of whom had a direct connection with Slough apart from their parental connection. I could have picked my way through those that did and those that didn’t but as I researched I decided that it was appropriate to explore as much detail as possible. In this way this page will hopefully give an impression of the life and times of them all. In the case of daughters I have followed their spouse’s careers since, in that time especially, wives lives tended to follow their husbands.

Caroline Emilia Elizabeth Herschel

31 March 1830-29 January 1909

Caroline Emilia married Alexander Hamilton-Gordon


General the Honourable Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon KCB (11 December 1817-18 May 1890), was a Scottish soldier and Liberal Party politician.


Hamilton-Gordon was the second son of Prime Minister George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, by his second marriage to Harriet, daughter of the Hon. John Douglas. Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Baron Stanmore, was his younger brother.

Hamilton-Gordon served in the British Army during the Crimean War and saw action at the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854. He went on to be General Officer Commanding Eastern District in January 1872. He later became an Honorary Equerry to Queen Victoria and sat as Member of Parliament for Aberdeenshire East between 1875 and 1885.


In 1852, Hamilton-Gordon married Caroline Emilia Mary, daughter of Sir John Herschel. They had five sons and four daughters. His eldest son Alexander also became a successful soldier. Hamilton-Gordon died in May 1890, aged 72. Lady Hamilton-Gordon survived him by 19 years and died in January 1909.

Isabella Herschel



No known life history at this time.

Sir William James Herschel, 2nd Bt



Sir William did extensive research with fingerprints. Click on fingerprint below to visit his separate page

Margaret Louisa Herschel



Margaret Louisa was an accomplished artist. The selection here shows a variety of subjects. Sadly Margaret Louisa died aged 26.

Anstey Cove, Torquay








Sketch of Margaret’s father John Frederick William Herschel


Prof Alexander Stewart Herschel, FRS, FRAS


The second son and fifth child of Sir John and Lady Margaret Herschel’s twelve children, Alexander was born on 5 February 1836 at Feldhausen, near Cape Town, South Africa. The family left for England on 11 March 1838, returning a few weeks before Queen Victoria's Coronation.


In 1851, after some private education, Alexander was sent to Clapham Grammar School in London. In 1855, he progressed to Trinity College, Cambridge, where in 1859 he graduated BA with first-class honours. He proceeded to MA in 1877.  From Cambridge Herschel passed in 1861 to the Royal School of Mines in London.


He began observations of meteors which he continued to the end of his life. He wrote papers for the British Meteorological Society, and contributed many articles to the Intellectual Observer.


From 1866 to 1871, Alexander was lecturer on natural philosophy, and professor of mechanical and experimental physics in the Andersonian University of Glasgow. From 1871 to 1886, he was the first professor of physics and experimental philosophy in the University of the Durham College of Science.

Alexander with brothers John and William, circa 1870 grandfather, his father, and his younger brother John.

Alexander made accurate records of his observations of meteorites or shooting stars in a series of notebooks. He also worked on the summation, reduction, and discussion of the results of other observers with whom he corresponded in all parts of the world.


Alexander made many contributions on observations of meteors and other celestial objects to publications throughout his career including: Reports of the British Association, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Herschel became fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1867, and on 12 June 1884 was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, an honour already conferred on his grandfather, his father, and his younger brother John.

Later life

In 1888, with other members of his family, he reoccupied the house in Slough, now called Observatory House, where his grandfather, Sir William Herschel, had lived. He resided here absorbed in study. In 1905 Alexander made a journey to Spain to observe the solar eclipse.


Alexander died unmarried aged 71 at Observatory House on 18 June 1907 and was buried in Church of St Laurence, Slough.

Colonel John Herschel FRS, FRAS


John Herschel the Younger was born on 29 October 1837 the third son and the sixth child (of twelve) of Sir John Herschel and his wife Margaret Brodie. The family returned to England in 1838, where John was later educated at Clapham Grammar School, and then attended the East India Company Military Seminary at Addiscombe.


John joined the East India Company as a cadet to serve in the Bengal Engineers. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant, while studying at Chatham on 13 August 1858. On 27 August 1858, with the end of company rule in India, and the assumption of direct administration by the British government from the East India Company, John’s regiment was transferred to the Royal Engineers. In India John joined the Great Trigonometrical Survey and spent the years 1864–1872 engaged in a survey of various parts of Southern India.

John married Mary Cornwallis Power (née Lipscomb) in 1867. She was the daughter of the Reverend F Lipscomb, Rector of Welbury, Yorkshire, and the widow of D. Power, QC. John was promoted to second captain on 10 November 1869.


Apart from his surveying work John also carried out numerous independent astronomical observations. He made spectroscopic observations of the corona of the sun during the total solar eclipse of 18 August 1868, and studied the Carina Nebula in November. John was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1871 and of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1872. He returned to England on leave in late 1873 and he was promoted to major on 10 March 1876.

In April 1882 he arrived in the United States, where he spent a year working with Charles Sanders Peirce on the construction of pendulums to conduct gravimetric and geodesic surveys on behalf of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.


John became the Deputy Superintendent of Trigonometrical Survey. He retired from the army on 10 March 1886 as a major and brevet lieutenant-colonel, with the honorary rank of colonel. John Herschel died, aged 83, in 1921.

Maria Sophie Herschel



Maria married Henry Hardcastle (1840-1922) (82). There is little else known life history of Marae Sophie at this time apart from this painting of her sister Matilda Rose that she created when she was 11 years old.

Portrait of Matilda Rose Herschel aged 7 (1851)


Marie Sophie, like her sisters was taught a variety of subjects at home by her mother, her father, her older sisters, and governesses as well as outside tutors. Art was an essential part of the education of any upper middle class Victorian girl.

Amelia Herschel



Amelia married Sir Thomas Francis Wade, 1818-1895

Sir Thomas Francis Wade, GCMG KCB (25 August 1818-31 July 1895), diplomat and sinologist

Born in London, Thomas Francis Wade was the elder son of Colonel Thomas Wade, CB, of the Black Watch and Anne Smythe. He was educated at the Cape, in Mauritius, at Harrow and at Trinity College, Cambridge. When he was 20 his father bought him a commission in the 81st Foot. Exchanging (1839) into the 42nd Highlanders. He served with his regiment in the Ionian Islands, devoting his leisure to the congenial study of Italian and Modern Greek.

He received his commission as lieutenant in 1841 and joined the 98th Foot and was posted to China in 1942. He took part in the attack on Zhenjiang and in the advance on Nanking. In 1843, he was appointed Cantonese interpreter to the garrison and, two years later, to the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, and, in 1846, assistant Chinese secretary to the superintendent of trade, Sir John Francis Davis. In 1852 he was appointed vice-consul at Shanghai.


Wade continued his career in diplomatic duties in China and also published books designed to assist in learning of the Chinese language. He returned to England in 1883 after working over forty years in the British embassies in China. He donated 4,304 volumes of Chinese literature to the Cambridge University Library's Oriental Collection. In 1888, he was elected the first Professor of Chinese at the University of Cambridge. He held the position as a professor until his death in Cambridge at 76.

Julia Edith Herschel



Julia Edith married Captain (later Admiral) John Fiot Lee Pearse Maclear on 4 June 1878. They had no children.

John Fiot Lee Pearse Maclear

Born on 27 June 1838 in Cape Town, John Maclear is best known for being Commander of HMS Challenger (1858) during the round the world Challenger Expedition of 1872-1876 under commission captain Sir George Nares.

Royal Navy career

Maclear entered the Royal Navy in September 1851 as a cadet on board the frigate HMS Castor. He served during the Kaffir War of 1851. Later he served as a midshipman on HMS Algiers in the Baltic and in the Black Sea from 1854-1856. He received Baltic, Turkish, and Crimean medals, with the clasp for Sevastopol. He passed his Lieutenant's examination in July 1857, and served on HMS Cyclops in the Red Sea as mate during the Outbreak at Jeddah in 1858.


On 19 May 1859 he was promoted to lieutenant, and shortly afterwards was appointed to HMS Sphinx on the China station until 1862, taking part in several engagements during the second Chinese War, and especially at Taku Forts, for which he received the clasp.


In 1863 he went to the shore establishment HMS Excellent to qualify as a gunnery lieutenant. In February 1864, Maclear was appointed to HMS Princess Royal, flagship on the China station. He returned to England on her. In October 1867 He was appointed to First Lieutenant of the frigate HMS Octavia, flagship of Commodore Heath in the East Indies. He took part in the Abyssinian Campaign of 1868 and was promoted to Commander on 14 August 1868.

Challenger Expedition

In 1872, the steam-assisted Pearl-class corvette HMS Challenger was commissioned by Sir George Nares to undertake the first global marine research expedition; a 68,890-nautical-mile journey organized by the Royal Society in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. John Maclear was his commander for the voyage.

HMS Challenger

William Frederick Mitchell

It was an ambitious and important expedition, not well remembered in modern times although the United States Space Shuttle Challenger was named after the ship.


Victorian expeditions of exploration and discovery are often thought of as exciting times with the possibilities for new species being discovered and this one is no exception. Among other things they discovered was a rat and they named it after Challenger’s commander.

Rattus macleari or Maclear’s rat was discovered on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean and it did what rats do everywhere except that it had no fear of human beings. Large numbers would forage everywhere at night including the expedition’s tents and shelters and had no respect to men sleeping, clambering all over them in their voracious search for food.

Maclear's rat may have been responsible for keeping the population of the Christmas Island red crab in check, as recent numbers of the crab are greater than recorded in the past.


The rat appears to be extinct now, the last recorded sighting was in 1903, and it is thought that black rats carelessly introduced by the expedition infected the native species with a disease which contributed to the species decline. It is also possible that Maclear's rats formed hybrids with black rats.

Maclear’s rat Rattus macleari

Thankfully the rat wasn’t the only thing named after Maclear. He is also honoured in the name of Mount Maclear on the east coast of Queensland, Australia (Latitude -20.317°N, Longitude 148.783°E) near Proserpine and Maclear’s Island off the Queensland coast.

The Challenger Expedition led to the science of oceanography. The expedition found the Challenger Deep at the southern end of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean. At 39,994ft or 7·5 miles it is the deepest place in the world’s oceans. HMS Challenger’s figurehead is all that remains of the ship and it is on display in the foyer of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Returning home in 1876, Maclear was promoted to captain. In 1879, He took command of the sloop HMS Alert completing the survey of the Straits of Magellan. From 1883 to 1887 he commanded the Flying Fish on a survey expedition where he was able to revisit some old friends on Christmas Island.


In 1891 he reached flag rank, and two months later retired. He was promoted to vice admiral on the retired list in 1897, and to admiral in 1903. After leaving the sea, Maclear assisted in the compilation of several volumes of the official sailing directions. He became a fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Meteorological Society.

Maclear died from heart failure in a hotel at Niagara on 17 July 1907. His body was taken to England for burial.

Matilda Rose Herschel


Matilda Rose was an accomplished artist and married William Waterfield who served with the Indian Civil Service.

On the road between Muccorice and Simla

11 October 1877

In 1875 Rose, as she became known to her family, arrived in India with Mary Cornwallis, who was her brother John’s wife. She stayed with them at Dehra Dun in the North-West Province and in Mussoorie in the Himalayas where they would go when the summers got too hot.









Study of a girl in peasant costume, knitting

John’s wife Mary died in Mussoorie in October 1876. Rose stayed on to look after her brother. While in India Rose visited Calcutta to visit her other brother William, where they were joined in Christmas 1875 by the man who be her future husband, William Waterfield and his first wife, Louisa.

View of churches in Rome, circa 1873









Young Italian peasant girl

Francisca Herschel



There is no known life history of Francsica at this time.

Constance Ann Herschel



Constance married Neville Lubbock (1839-1914) (75)

Sir Neville Lubbock KCMG (31 March 1839–12 September 1914) President of the West India Committee and an English amateur cricketer.

The third son of Sir John Lubbock, Neville Lubbock was born on 31 March 1839 in Pimlico. He was educated at Eton College from the age of nine but he left early at 15 to join his father's business in the City of London.


In 1862 he joined the firm of Cavan Brothers and Co who were West India merchants. He became a pioneer in the introduction of sugar cane-farming in Trinidad. In 1887 he was invited by the British Government to attend the first Colonial Conference. He became President of the West India Committee and was knighted in 1889. He later became a governor of the Royal Exchange Assurance Company and a company director.


Between 1858 and 1860, Lubbock played six first-class cricket matches. He made his first-class debut in July 1858 playing for Gentlemen of Kent against Gentlemen of England at Lord's.


Lubbock was married twice and had 6 sons and 7 daughters. He died on 12 September 1914 at his home Oakley Park at Bromley Common in Kent. He was buried in Orpington, London. He was aged 75.

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08/03/1961 - 09/04/2019

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