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Local Man Signs Wellington’s Death Certificate

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, war hero and Tory statesman, served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As Prime Minister he was very conservative, and resisted pressure for constitutional reform. He is best remembered for his defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in 1815.

The post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports fell vacant in 1828, and it was offered to the Duke. He held this post until he died at Walmer Castle, a place he loved and described as ‘a charming marine residence’.

The Duke breathed his last at Walmer Castle on 14 September 1852, aged 83. Wellington insisted on sleeping on his campaign bed and it was from here that he was moved to his armchair which is where the local Doctor, William Hulke, examined him and suggested he rest and take a little tea and toast. He died later that afternoon. Amongst those with him were his long serving and faithful valet of 25 years, James Kendal, his personal physician Doctor McArthur and Doctor William Hulke and his son, Dr John Hulke.

When news reached her of Wellington’s death Queen Victoria described him as ‘the greatest man this country ever produced.’ 

There can be very few people who didn’t see the enormous queues of people who went to view the Lying in State of our late Queen. So many people wanted to pay their respects. It was the same with the Duke who lay in state, in his coffin  at Walmer castle. His Guard of Honour was mounted day and night by soldiers from his own regiment the 33rd Foot and on the 9 and 10 November the local people, over 9,000 of them, queued to view the coffin after which he was taken by train ( a mode of transport he despised! ) to London where he was honoured with a state funeral and finally laid to rest in St Paul’s Cathedral where he is buried next to another of our country’s heroes, Lord Admiral Nelson.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 died at 3.10pm on September 8 2022 at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. When the death certificate was released to the public we were informed that the death was from Old Age and was registered on 26th September by Princess Anne. It was then signed by the Registrar General for Scotland, Paul Edward Lowe. 

All the death certificates pored over by both professional and amateur genealogists aren’t normally signed by such an eminent person. It is usually the Registrar for the area in which the deceased died or indeed where they were born or married who signs the certificate. This was very much the case when the illustrious Duke of Wellington died. What a moment it must have been for our lowly Registrar, Thomas Vincent Cavell (1802-1873) when he signed his name on that particular death certificate. Did he then contemplate his sad role in this historic moment or did he just view it as part of his job?

Wiltshire Independent 7 October 1852

The surname, Cavell, has always been associated with Deal and the surrounding area since Deal Blacksmith, Samuel Pittock’s daughter, Sara, married Henry Cavell, another Blacksmith who migrated to Deal from Sellindge in the 1620’s. Sadly both Sara and Henry died in 1666 from the Plague but they left 8 children some of whom continued the Cavell line. 

Not only have Cavells been Registrars but have served the community of Deal, Walmer and the surrounding District as Mayors, Bakers, Mariners, Shipwrights, School Teachers, Carpenters, Undertakers, Licensed Victuallers and in numerous other trades throughout the centuries and the family name can still be found trading in Deal today.

Sources and further reading:
Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved.
With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (