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The name of Reverend Hugh Salvin will be familiar to a lot of people in Alston, Cumberland. He left his name in Salvin House, opposite the Cumberland Hotel, and generously founded the former Salvin Schools in the Butts, one for girls and one for infants.

Hugh Salvin, RN, MB, was vicar of St. Augustine’s for about eleven years until his death in September 1852. Less well known, in fact almost invisible, is his twin brother Jeffery. In temperament the brothers could not have been more different; Hugh was very gentle and sensitive, while Jeffery was a soldier. After living apart for most of their lives, the twins spent their last years together in Alston.

Hugh and Jeffery were born in June 1773 into the Salvin family of Croxdale Hall in the Parish of Esh in County Durham. Hugh seemed destined for a career in medicine until his extremely sensitive nature made him abandon that and he went instead to Cambridge University to study to become a clergyman. In about 1808 at the mature age of 35 he was appointed curate of Gates-head, where he remained for fifteen years until he received an appointment as a Royal Naval chaplain on 26th December 1823 at the age of 50. On that day he went on board HMS Cambridge to become the ship’s chaplain.

HMS Cambridge, under the command of Captain Thomas Maling, set sail for South America early in January 1824 with a total of seventy-two passengers, to take British Consuls to the newly-independent republics of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Peru. After a three-year voyage the Cambridge returned to England in May 1827, then in 1829 Hugh Salvin published the journal he had kept while on board. (This is available online)

Romance entered late into Hugh’s life, and on 2nd May 1840 in Gateshead, Rev. Hugh Salvin, RN Chaplain, married Julia Alice, the eldest surviving daughter of the late Anthony Surtees of Hammersley Hall. Hugh was 67, Julia was 33.

Almost exactly a year later, on 24th May 1841, Hugh was presented by the Admiralty to the living of St. Augustine’s church at Alston. He soon showed his compassionate, caring nature when, on 21st November 1843, he gave glebe land in the Butts and spent his own money in building a Church of England Girls’ School. This was followed a few years later by an additional classroom and the construction of the Infants’ School that also served as a church hall when it was opened in August 1851. Together they became known as the Salvin Schools.

Hugh Salvin was typical of the well-heeled of Alston Moor, when on New Year’s Day 1852 he gave the inmates of the workhouse a dinner of roast beef with buns, and in the evening tea, coffee and spice cake.

But that year, on 28th September 1852, Hugh Salvin died at the age of 79. Although he was from a landed family in County Durham, he chose to be buried here in the north east corner of St. Augustine’s church yard, as near as could be to his beloved schools. He might actually have been buried in the same plot as his brother, which is next to the north east corner of the church, rather than the north east corner of church yard. Certainly Hugh’s epitaph is on Jeffery’s gravestone, while the memorial tablet in the church remembers his “many benevolent and charitable acts” and his “gentle and guileless spirit”.

Hugh’s twin brother Jeffery could not have had a more different life; he was a soldier who had fought at the front in the Napoleonic Wars. He is first mentioned on 27th March 1804 as an Ensign in the 7th Battalion of Reserve and next as a Lieutenant in the 4th (King’s Own) Regiment of Foot on the 5th February 1805.

During the Peninsular War against France he served in Spain under Wellington with 1/4th Regiment of Foot from August 1808 to January 1809. He was transferred to serve among 40,000 troops in Holland on the Walcheren expedition, which lasted from July to August 1809 but failed to capture Antwerp from the French. The next year, in 1810, for his services Lieutenant Jeffery Salvin of the 4th Foot was among those gazetted “To be captains of companies without purchase”. As Captain Salvin he returned to Spain in November 1810 where he served until April 1814. By then he had taken part in most of the major battles and had been wounded three times, at Salamanca, San Sebastian and Nivelle. From Spain in 1814 he was sent straight to North America to fight in the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, where he was wounded once again.

At some time he retired and came to live in Alston with his brother, Hugh, until his death on 29th November 1850, aged 77.

On a wander around a churchyard, many head-stones with their inscriptions are seen and passed by, and it’s easy to forget that these are not just names and dates, but real people with stories to tell, as this one has proved.