Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tayler, Joseph Needham

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TAYLER, JOSEPH NEEDHAM (1785–1864), rear-admiral, born in 1785, was the son of Samuel Tayler, five times mayor of Devizes and commandant of local volunteers, by Sally, daughter of Joseph Needham, M.D., and niece of Henry Needham, a partner in Child's bank. An elder brother, Samuel, a lieutenant in the 13th light dragoons, was killed in the Peninsula; another, Thomas, major of the 9th Bengal native infantry, died in India.

Joseph entered the navy in July 1796 in the Royal George, flagship of Lord Bridport. In her he witnessed the mutiny at Spithead in April and May 1797. In 1799 he was moved to the Anson with Captain (afterwards Sir Philip Charles Henderson Calderwood) Durham [q. v.], whom he followed in February 1801 to the Endymion. He was promoted to be lieutenant on 29 April 1802, and in October 1803 was appointed to the Leopard, one of the squadron with Lord Keith in the Downs and off Boulogne. In March 1806 the Leopard was sent to convoy six East Indiamen to the southward of the Cape Verd Islands, and when one of them struck on a reef near St. Iago, and became a total wreck, Tayler succeeded in saving thirty of the crew, though more than that number were lost. In March 1807 he was moved to the Maida, one of the ships in the expedition against Copenhagen, and was there landed in command of a party of seamen for one of the batteries. In 1808 he was in the Spencer, the flagship of Rear-admiral (afterwards Sir Robert) Stopford [q. v.], on the coast of France. In 1809 he was in the Heroine, and in 1810 in the Goldfinch on the north coast of Spain. On 27 Aug. 1810 he was promoted to be commander of the Sparrow, then in the West Indies, so that he did not join her till the following February. He then cruised in the Mona Passage for several months; he returned to England with a convoy, and during the following year was employed on the north coast of Spain, co-operating with the army. He carried home the despatches after the battle of Vittoria, and returned to take part in the siege of St. Sebastian, where, in the sailors' battery, he was almost torn in pieces by the explosion of a shell. His head was cut open; he had a severe wound in the groin, and his left leg was smashed. He was sent home and, on 9 Aug. 1813, to hospital at Haslar, where he was confined to bed for twenty-eight weeks. It was upwards of two years before his wounds were healed. In November 1814 he was awarded a pension of 200l. a year, which in 1815 was increased to 250l. He was also nominated a C.B. on 8 Dec. 1815, received 100l. from the Patriotic Fund and the freedom of Devizes.

From July 1838 to August 1841 Tayler was captain of the Ordinary at Plymouth; but, with this exception, the greater part of his life was passed at Devizes, where he devoted both his energy and his money to the improvement of the town. He pulled down and rebuilt shops and houses, and stopped only when his funds were exhausted, for the improvements do not seem to have been a paying investment. In 1838 he took out a patent for ‘a certain method of abating or lessening the shock or force of the waves … preventing the injury done to, and increasing the durability of, places exposed to the violent action of the waves;’ and improvements upon his original plan were suggested by him in 1840, 1843, and 1846. In 1840 he published ‘Plans for the Formation of Harbours of Refuge,’ and in 1848 ‘The Defence of the Coast of Great Britain.’ A model of his floating breakwater was seen at the exhibition of 1851, but it appears to have had only a modified success in practice. In 1852 he submitted to the Trinity House a proposal to erect a ‘Shipwreck Asylum’ on the Goodwin Sands. Nothing came of this proposal, but a harbour of refuge seems to have been erected at Havre in 1855 in accordance with his suggestions. Tayler accepted the rank of rear-admiral on the retired list on 10 Oct. 1846. During the later part of his life he resided at Brixton, and there he died on 18 March 1864.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Times, 23 March 1864; Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, 23 Nov. 1893; Papers relative to an Asylum for the Ships and Mariners of all Nations at the Goodwin Sands, 1853; notes kindly supplied by Mr. Cecil Simpson.]

J. K. L.