Commodore Digby Dent
c1700 - 1762
Commodore Digby Dent, son of Captain (later Commodore), Digby Dent (d1737) was at least the second in a dynasty of naval officers. A son of his brother became Rear-Admiral Sir Digby Dent (1739-1817) and other members of the family entered the navy, including his grandson, Commander Digby Dent who in turn had a son, Captain Digby Dent. The Commander, while a lieutenant on Nelson’s frigate Boreas, acted as Nelson’s Best Man at his marriage to the widow Mrs Frances Nisbet on the island of Nevis on 11 March 1787.
Dent’s naval career is described in Charnock, starting with the appointment as captain of the frigate Kinsale on 9 June 1738. In the following year he was posted captain of the 70 gun Hampton Court and in 1747 he became Commodore of a small squadron at Jamaica, where his father had also served as a Commodore until his death. His ship was probably laid off following the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, ending the War of the Austrian Succession and when hostilities with France resumed in 1755 he was appointed Extra-Commissioner of the Navy, a shore post which he held until his death in 1762 and which probably included accommodation.
During the peace the Commodore made a brief appearance in Twickenham, marrying, as a widower, Sophia Pitt Drake (1733-67) on 1 September 1750 at St Mary's Church. Sophia, a girl of 17 was probably living with her mother and step-father, George Morton Pitt at the house then known as Governor Pitt's, later Orleans House. Sophia was actually born Sophia Drake, daughter of Admiral George Drake (a descendant of Sir Francis Drake). But when her father died her mother married Pitt and she added Pitt to her name. This was not the end of it because when Dent died she married again, Admiral Sir George Pocock and, as Lady Pocock she was able to return to the house as chatelaine in her mother's place.
Dent was a friend of Sir George Pocock: there is a joint portrait of them by Nathaniel Dance made in about 1753. When he died Pocock arranged for a memorial to Dent to be erected in Westminster Abbey.
Dent's residence in Twickenham is somewhat obscure. The only reference to tenure of property is between 1749 and 1751 when a Mrs Ansell paid church rates for “Commodore Dents”, of 13/4d, indicating a substantial house. This has not been identified yet, but Ragman's Castle, conveniently next door to Governor Pitt's is a candidate, with Mrs Ansell as his landlady.
John Charnock, Biographia Navalis, vol.IV, 1796