Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (11 & 12 December 2013)

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Date of Auction: 11th & 12th December 2013

Sold for £22,000

Estimate: £15,000 - £20,000

The Gold Seringapatam Medal awarded to Brigadier-General Alexander Walker, late First Resident of Baroda and Quarter-Master-General to the Bombay Army in the field at the capture of Seringapatam 1799, an early explorer of the west coast of North America, and later Governor of St Helena

Honourable East India Company Medal for Seringapatam 1799, gold, 48mm., Soho Mint, glazed within an exquisitely chased gold wreath of laurel leaves, with integral ring and gold loop of similar laurel leaves for suspension from gold bar inscribed ‘SERINGAPATAM’, with finely chased gold ribbon buckle, contained in its original red leather fitted case, the inside silk lining with trade label of Rundell Bridge & Rundell, together with old manuscript label inscribed in ink ‘Gold Medal for Seringapatam awarded by H.E.I.C. to Captn. Alexr. Walker, first Resident at Baroda’, extremely fine and probably the finest example ever offered for sale £15000-20000


Exhibited: Royal Goldsmiths: The Art of Rundell & Bridge 1797-1843, Koopman Rare Art, June-July 2005.

Alexander Walker was born at Collessie, Scotland, on 12 May 1764, eldest son of William Walker (1737-71), minister of Collessie in Fife, by his wife Margaret (d. 1810), daughter of Patrick Manderston, an Edinburgh merchant. He was appointed a Cadet in the service of the East India Company in 1780, he went to India in 1781 in the same ship as the physician Helenus Scott, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. On 21 November 1782, he became an Ensign, and in the same year took part in the campaign under Brigadier-General Richard Mathews directed against Hyder Ali's forts on the coast of Malabar. In the course of this service Ensign Walker was present at the attack and assault of the forts of Rajahmundry, Onore, Cundapore, the Hussorn Ghurry, or Bednore Ghaut, of Mangalore, and at various engagements or skirmishes which occurred during that campaign. In the course of it he was also removed to the 8th Battalion of Sepoys, a distinguished corps, which was afterwards, for its valour and fidelity, appointed ‘The Grenadier Battalion’.

With this battalion he was present at the attack of some batteries which enfiladed the encampment near Mangalore, and which were carried by the bayonet. He also led the attack at the head of the grenadier company of this battalion, and carried a fort or redoubt, of which it was necessary to dispossess the enemy previously to the formation of the siege of Mangalore. At the attack of the Ram Tower, a strong and commanding out-work, Ensign Walker was severely wounded; and although not quite recovered of this wound when Tippoo appeared before Mangalore, he joined his corps, which was posted with some other troops on an eminence, a short distance from the fort, to prevent its close investiture by the enemy. This force, however, overpowered by numbers, was compelled to retreat.

In the course of the remarkable siege which followed in January 1784, Ensign Walker was again wounded, and received repeated marks of approbation from Colonel Campbell, a distinguished and eminent officer, who commanded the garrison. When a cessation of hostilities was concluded with the enemy, Ensign Walker was one of the two hostages who were delivered on the part of the British troops, as a security for the conditions of the truce. For his ‘spirited and zealous’ conduct on this occasion, the government of Bombay bestowed on him the pay and allowances of Captain for the period that he was in the hands of the enemy, nearly four months, and a donation of 2000 rupees from the treasury.

In December 1785 he was appointed to the military command in an expedition undertaken by the Bombay government with a view to establishing a military and commercial port on the north-west coast of America, whence the Chinese were accustomed to obtain furs, and in the hope of opening trade with Japan. After exploring the coast as far north as 62°, however, and remaining a while at Nootka Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver island, the enterprise was abandoned, and, in January 1787, Walker rejoined the grenadier battalion in garrison at Bombay.

On 9 January 1788, he received a lieutenancy, and in 1790 served under Colonel James Hartley as adjutant of the line in the expedition sent to the relief of the rajah of Travancore. He was present at the battle of Tiroovanangary, and at the attack of the fort of Trincalore, which was carried by escalade. In 1791 he served under General Sir Robert Abercromby as adjutant of the 10th Native Infantry during the campaign against Tippoo Sultan. After the conclusion of the war a special commission was nominated to regulate the affairs of the province of Malabar, and Walker was appointed an assistant. In this capacity he showed ability, became known to the Indian authorities, and received the thanks of the Marquis Wellesley. When the commander-in-chief of the Bombay army, General James Stuart, proceeded to Malabar, Walker became his military secretary with the brevet rank of Captain. In 1795 he was present with his regiment at the siege of Cochin, and was also at the taking of Columbo in 1796, when he was appointed military secretary to Colonel Petrie, who commanded the Bombay division of the army.

On 6 September 1797, he attained the regimental rank of Captain, and in the same year was appointed quartermaster-general of the Bombay army, which gave him the official rank of Major. In 1798 he became deputy auditor-general. He took part in the last war against Tippoo, and was present at the battle of Seedaseer in 1799 and at the siege of Seringapatam, which finally terminated the career of Tippoo. Major Walker received one of the honorary gold medals conferred for this service. At the request of Sir Arthur Wellesley, he was selected, on account of his knowledge of the country, to attend the commanding officer in Mysore and Malabar.

In 1800 Walker was despatched to Guzerat by the Bombay government with a view to tranquillising the Mahratta states in that neighbourhood. His reforms were hotly opposed at Baroda by the native officials, who were interested in corruption. The discontent culminated in 1801 in the insurrection of Mulhar Rao, the chief of Kurree. Walker took the field, but, being without sufficient force, could do little until reinforced by Colonel Sir William Clarke, who, on 30 April 1802, defeated Mulhar Rao under the walls of Kurree. In June Walker was appointed political resident at Baroda at the court of the Guikwar, and in this capacity succeeded in establishing an orderly administration. On 18 December 1803, he attained the regimental rank of Major, and in 1805 gained the approbation of the East India Company by negotiating a defensive alliance with the Guikwar. In 1807 he restored order in the district of Kattywar, and with the support of Jonathan Duncan, governor of Bombay, suppressed the habit of infanticide which prevailed among the inhabitants. On 3 September 1808 he attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and in 1809, after he had embarked for England, he was recalled to Guzerat to repel an invasion by Futtee Singh, the ruler of Cutch. Order was restored by his exertions, and in 1810 he proceeded to England, where, in 1812 he retired from the service.

In 1822 he was called from his retirement, with the rank of Brigadier-General, to become Governor of St. Helena, then under East India Company rule, where he arrived nearly two years after Napoleon’s death there in exile. He proved an active administrator. He improved the agriculture and horticulture of the island by establishing farming and gardening societies, founded schools and libraries, and introduced the culture of silkworms. Due to failing health, however, he was compelled to return to Scotland in 1828, and to his estate of Bowland, near Galashiels, where he died on 5 March 1831, soon after retiring from his government.

While in India Alexander Walker formed a valuable collection of Arabic, Persian, and Sanscrit manuscripts, which was presented by his son Sir William in 1845 to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where it forms a distinct collection. His journal, titled Voyage to America, 1785, forms part of a vast archive of some 600 volumes of Walker’s correspondence and letters, many of which he had prepared for publication, and is held by the National Library of Scotland. Edinburgh University Library holds two large volumes of his drawings of the plants and trees of Malabar. His full correspondence on British rule in India was published in the House of Commons papers in 1832, and its incisive conclusions might, had they been heeded, have changed history. A fine portrait of Brigadier-General Alexander Walker, painted by Sir Henry Raeburn in 1819, is held by the Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.