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Henry Browne Mason of Yateley

Text from the Yateley Society's exhibition entitled Yateley's Mansions mounted in Yateley Library in November 2000 to coincide with the 2nd Yateley Library Lecture given by P J Tipton Yateley & John Company - new research into Yateley people working for the East India Company 1600-1858


This is the true story of Captain Henry Browne Mason RN who was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars, made a daring escape, and walked to freedom.  Linked pages also include his descent from the second Earl of Nottingham, his brother living at Yateley Manor, and details of his two mansions in Yateley


Captain HB Mason: A Summary and links to related pages

Henry Browne Mason was born in India in 1791, but was sent by his parents back to his grandparents in Bath when he was 3 years old. He joined the Royal Navy when he was 12½ and fought in the Battle of Trafalgar when he was only 14½. After this he saw action in the Mediterranean and before he was 18 he had his first command -- delivering a captured ship, as a prize, back to Malta.


Unfortunately Henry was captured by a French privateer, and became a prisoner-of-war in France for eighteen months. Henry was placed in close confinement but he and two friends managed to escape by letting themselves down a 60 foot rope. Local guides lead them disguised as French peasants from their prison in northeast France to Rotterdam in Holland. But Henry did not reach Rotterdam with his friends since he was taken violently ill in Belgium. Henry recovered, reached Rotterdam, and was smuggled on a Dutch ship bound for Gravesend. The ship ran aground but was refloated. Henry had to borrow a sovereign to pay for the coach to London. He had been taken prisoner in Italy, and had probably walked all of France, much of Italy and the Low Countries. After 3 days leave he had to report back for duty with the Royal Navy. His father and eldest brother had just been drowned in an EastIndiaman coming home from Calcutta.


After several postings promoted as Lieutenant his new state-of-the-art frigate was dispatched to blockade the US Navy in New York. Henry's ship grounded on rocks off Massachusetts but they refloated by forcing their ship over in a storm.  After arriving back in England, the Napoleon Wars were over. Henry was promoted to Commander at the age of 24, but never commanded his own ship in peacetime.


He remained a Captain on half-pay for the rest of his life.  He purchased the Hilfield estate in Yateley in 1834.  After the death of his third wife in 1843, Henry purchased Robins Grove in Yateley from his brother John Finch Mason.  Henry's brother George Mason purchased Yateley Manor in 1840.  Henry married his fourth wife in 1846 and in 1849 sold Hilfield.  In 1853 he sold Robins Grove, having lived in Yateley almost 20 years.  He lived in Bournemouth where his fourth wife died.  We have recently learned (2007) that he visited Australia in 1856 to attend the wedding of his son Francis Mason.  Henry died at his daughter's house in Winchester in 1870 aged 79.



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