Researched by Bill Ricalton
William Lacey is buried in Longhorsley Churchyard and the headstone reads:
"Erected by Mary LACEY in memory of her beloved husband William LACEY
who died at Longhorsley Aug 6th 1877 aged 58 years. He served 24 years in the
5th Dragoon Guards & was all through the Crimean Campaign. His end was peace.
The above Mary LACEY died 6th March 1881 aged 70 years also went through the
William Lacey was born at Winchcombe Gloucestershire in 1819 he married Mary Ann (Wilson?), who was born at Ulgham in 1816. They married at Newcastle in 1846.
One village historian reported that Mary dressed as a soldier and went with William when he was posted to the Crimea. The subterfuge was not discovered until they were on the journey, aboard ship. I have been unable to confirm the 'rumour', but as can be seen from the gravestone Mary was there. Was she simply a nurse? Was she one of Florence Nightingale's assistants? Or was she, having stowed away, just employed as a general factotum?
The Crimean War is remembered in many ways, in the names of articles of clothing or design, the 'Raglan' sleeve, the 'Cardigan', which is associated with officers who led British Regiments, and the 'Balaclava' itself the place where a famous battle took place. But probably not least by the Victoria Cross. To this day every VC awarded is made from the bronze cut from a Chinese cannon, seized from the Russians, during the Crimean War.
Probably the most readily recalled recollection, from school days, is to be found in the poetry of Lord Tennyson, "The Charge of the Light Brigade".
"Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the Valley of Death
Rode the six hundred."
It was on the same day the 25th October 1854 that the Heavy Brigade charged the Russians, but with more success. That also is recorded in a poem by Tennyson.
The Charge of the Heavy Brigade
"The charge of the gallant three hundred, the Heavy Brigade!
Down the hill, down the hill, thousands of Russians,
Thousands of horsemen, drew to the valley–and stay'd;
For Scarlett and Scarlett’s three hundred were riding by
When the points of the Russian lances arose in the sky;
And he call’d, ‘Left wheel into line!’ and they wheel’d and obey’d.
Then he look’d at the host that had halted he knew not why,
And he turn’d half round, and he bade his trumpeter sound
To the charge, and he rode on ahead, as he waved his blade
To the gallant three hundred whose glory will never die–
‘Follow,’ and up the hill, up the hill, up the hill,
Follow’d the Heavy Brigade."
Alfred Lord Tennyson
The 4th, 5th, and the 6th Dragoons, who had last fought together at the Boyne, rode together in the charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava. In this action, eight hundred men, commanded by General James York-Scarlett, himself a past Commanding Officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards, utterly routed nearly three thousand five hundred of the Tsar's finest Cavalry, with a minimal loss to themselves.
William Lacey was in the 5th Dragoon Guards so would almost certainly have taken part in the successful charge. Below is a photograph of William's shoulder fish, which may/probably have been worn on that day.
Private 633 William Lacey was awarded 5 good conduct medals and the Crimea medal with clasps for the battles of Balaclava, Inkerman, and Sevastopol. When William retired from the army, he and Mary came to live at Longhorsley. They set up home in a cottage on Longhorsley Moor called Ruffle, which no longer survives. About forty or fifty years ago the remains could still be seen, they were about halfway across on the south edge of the moor. William worked as an agricultural labourer nearby until he died.
William and Mary had no family and was not wealthy, indeed Mary died in the workhouse in Morpeth. Who erected the memorial to them in the churchyard is unknown. There must have been someone who cared, and admired them enough, not only to erect the stone in memory of William, but also too add Mary's name upon her death.