Remembering the Peninsular War


In general, the naming of farms in Norfolk was a simple affair. Examples here in Forncett include two Corner Farms, both predictably located on a corner, or Church Farm, near St. Peter's church. However, there are some notable exceptions and the origins of their names recall a war on foreign soil.

In the early 1800s most of the land around what is now Station Road in Forncett St Peter was owned by General Sir Robert Harvey (1785-1860). Sir Robert had inherited the estate, which included land in Forncett, Tharston, Hapton, Stoke Holy Cross and Poringland, from his uncle who died in 1816.

Robert had a very distinguished military career. He served under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War which was fought in the Iberian Peninsula by Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom against Napoleon's occupying forces. Robert Harvey was sent to Portugal in March 1809 and he remained there until the end of the war in 1814.

On his return Robert married his cousin, Charlotte Harvey, and they lived at Mousehold House which he built on what was then part of Mousehold Heath, on land given him by his father. Like his father he was a partner in the Norwich bank of Harvey and Hudson, later the Crown Bank. Subsequently he became a deputy Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and a Justice of the Peace.

Robert Harvey's military career is still commemorated in Forncett because he gave many of his properties names evocative of the Peninsular campaign. So, as you drive up Station Road today you pass by:

Nivelle Farm, which is named after the Battle of Nivelle (10 November 1813) in which Robert Harvey fought. The battle took place near the river Nivelle in southern France and it was won by Wellington's troops.

Somerset Farm, which is named after General Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset (1776 – 1842) with whom Robert Harvey served.

Beresford Farm, which is named after General William Carr Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford. Robert Harvey served under Beresford who was both a general in the British Army and a Marshal in the Portuguese Army.

Unfortunately, the Harvey Estate came to an abrupt and sad end in 1870. When Robert Harvey died in 1860 he left a total of £350,000 (worth around £50m today) to his son, Robert, who was a senior partner in the Crown Bank. However, Robert managed to lose his fortune, and that of the bank, by backing France to win the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. When he realised his mistake, he shot himself on his estate at Crown Point.