Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Stewart, William Houston

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STEWART, Sir WILLIAM HOUSTON (1822–1901), admiral, third son of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Houston Stewart [q. v.] by his wife Martha, daughter of Sir William Miller, first baronet, was born at Kirkmichael House, Ayrshire, on 7 Sept. 1822. He entered the navy on 29 April 1835, and as a midshipman of the Tweed served on shore in the Carlist war of 1836–7, being present at the different actions in which the royal marine battalion under Col. Owen co-operated with the British legion under Sir George de Lacy Evans [q. v.] and with the Spanish army. He served as a midshipman of the Carysfort during the Syrian war of 1840, was mentioned in despatches for gallant conduct at Tortosa, and was present at the bombardment of St. Jean d'Acre. He received the Syrian medal, with clasp, and the Turkish medal. He passed his examination in April 1841, and as mate served in the Illustrious, flagship on the North America station. On 29 June 1842 he was promoted to lieutenant and moved into the Volage, from which ship he returned, in March following, to the flagship. In 1844 he was first lieutenant of the sloop Ringdove, on the coast of Africa, and next, after a short spell of service as flag lieutenant to Sir E. Durnford King, commander-in-chief at the Nore, was appointed in Nov. 1845 to the Grampus in the Pacific. On his return home in 1847 he passed in steam at Woolwich, a thing which few officers then did, and on 19 May 1848 he was promoted to commander. In August 1851 Stewart was appointed to the paddle sloop Virago, which he commanded in the Pacific till 1853. He retook the revolted Chilian colony of Punta Arenas in the Straits of Magellan, released an American barque and an English vessel with a freight of treasure which had been illegally captured, and received the thanks of the French, American, and Chilian governments for these services. He was promoted to captain on 9 July 1854.

Stewart commanded the steam sloop Firebrand in the Black Sea in 1854, and was specially mentioned for his services at the bombardment of Sevastopol on 17 Oct., when he was wound^. He received the Crimean and Turkish medals, with the clasp for Sevastopol, the fourth class of the Mejidie, and was nominated for the Legion of Honour. In the campaign of 1855 he commanded the Dragon, paddle frigate, in the Baltic and saw much active service. At the bombardment of Sveaborg he had command of a division of the gunboats and mortar vessels; he was again mentioned in despatches and received the medal. For three years from May 1857 he was flag captain to the commander-in-chief at Devonport, and in May 1860 joined the Marlborough, of 131 guns, as flag captain to Sir William Fanshawe Martin [q. v. Suppl. I], commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, where he remained for three years. The rest of his service was in administrative appointments. From Nov. 1863 to Nov. 1868 he was captain-superintendent of Chatham dockyard. On 1 April 1870 he was promoted to flag rank, and from July of that year was admiral-superintendent of Devonport dockyard until Nov. 1871, when he was appointed in the same capacity to Portsmouth dockyard. There he remained until he was chosen to be controller in April 1872. He held that post till 1881, but by the arrangement published in the Order in Council of 19 March 1872 was without a seat at the board. He was promoted to vice-admiral on 12 Nov. 1876, and was awarded the K.C.B. in June 1877. On 23 Nov. 1881 he reached the rank of admiral, and in Dec. was chosen as commander-in-chief at Devonport, where he remained for the full period of three years. On 31 March 1885 he accepted retirement; at Queen Victoria's Jubilee of 1887 he was made an additional G.C.B., and in 1894 he was awarded a flag officer's good service pension. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, served on the council of the Royal United Service Institution, and took part in the work of several naval benevolent societies. He occasionally published his views, contributing to the newspaper controversies which led to the passing of the Naval Defence Act of 1889 and to subsequent programmes for the strengthening of the navy. He died at 51 Hans Road, Chelsea, on 13 Nov. 1901, and was buried at Brompton.

Stewart was twice married: (1) on 20 Feb. 1850 to Catherine Elizabeth (d. 23 Nov. 1867), only daughter of Eyre Coote of West Park, Hampshire; (2) on 11 Jan. 1872 to Blanche Caroline, third daughter of Admiral the Hon. Keith Stewart, C.B., and grand-daughter of George, eighth earl of Galloway. He left issue two sons and three daughters by his first marriage, and one daughter by the second.

[The Times, 14 and 18 Nov. 1901; O'Byrne's Naval Biogr. Dict.; R.N. List; an engraved portrait was published by Messrs. Walton of Shaftesbury Avenue.]

L. G. C. L.