Walker Ferrand’s Father-in-Law

General William Twiss

Many will not have heard about General William Twiss but yet they have passed his work as they travel round the country. This is a brief account of him, his work and his connection with the Ferrands.

General Twiss General William Twiss (1745-1827) was the father of Katherine Maria his only child. Katherine was Walker Ferrand's cousin and they were married 1st September 1805. Twiss was probably born in Kent, he worked in the ordnance office at the tower of London from 1760 before becoming an overseer of works at Gibraltar. Receiving a commission in the army in 1763.

Returning to England he commenced work on the defences at Portsmouth Dockyard before going to Canada in 1776 where he was responsible for a number of defensive programmes. He returned to England in 1783. Over the following years Twiss oversaw the construction of various defences, including the chain of Martello Towers along the Kent and Sussex coastline, defences at the Castle and the Western Heights in Dover, and the Royal Military Canal, running from Hythe to Rye.

In 1825 he was made a full General. After retiring Twiss lived in Myrtle Grove Bingley. By November 1823 Harden Grange's (now St Ives) extension was completed which enabled General and Mrs Twiss to move there permanently as Twiss was now in poor health. General Twiss died 14th March 1827. He was buried in the church of All Saints Bingley.

M.C.W. Ferrand and contributions by S Hart

Editor's note

We cannot under estimate the importance of the work that Twiss did on the South Coast. The early 1800s' must, in many ways, have been like the early 1940's for people living on the South Coast, with invasion expected any day. Napoleon Bonaparte had taken over large parts of Europe and had about 175,000 men (estimates appear to vary, the lowest that I have heard is 130,000 and the highest 200,000 men), camped ready to carry out the invasion of Britain. His main stumbling blocks being the Royal Navy and the weather. The senior officer at this side of the channel, charged with our defence and with whom Twiss worked, was Sir John Moore. As all English school boys will tell you, having been dragged through the poem, Moore later died in action at Corunna. (cf. The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna (1816) by Charles Wolfe)

One story is told, that farmers round Hythe were opposed to the building of a major defence work, the Royal Military Canal. A meeting was held with the Prime Minister Pitt, Moore, Twiss and the Lords and Bailiffs of the Level of Romney Marsh, to discuss the topic of flooding the marsh with salt water in the event of an invasion. As this would have destroyed the land for farming for a considerable period it comes as no surprise that work on the canal went ahead.

General Twiss appears to have been a bit of a character. Travelling round Bingley in a sedan chair, carried by men wearing his own livery. His last journey up to the Harden Grange (St Ives) was done using the sedan chair.