The Joshua Loring commemorated by a plaque on the west wall of the Englefield Chapel was born on 1 November 1744 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, a descendent of Deacon Thomas Loring who emigrated from Devon in 1634. Lorings Meadow in the village probably has some convention with the family.
Joshua’s father, also Joshua, joined the Royal Navy in 1745 after commanding a Boston privateer vessel and being captured by the French and released in a prisoner exchange on account of respect for his gallant resistance to superior force. Joshua Loring snr went on to become a Commodore RN, commanding operations against the French on the Great Lakes until a cannon shot tore the calf of his right leg on 23 August 1760. He then established a large estate at Jamaica Plain near Boston in Massachusetts. The family occupied a prominent and esteemed place in local society until in August 1774 Joshua accepted General Thomas Gage’s appointment to the Governor’s Council by writ of mandamus - contrary to established tradition that Council members were elected by representatives of the people. From that time on never a good word was said about the family, and great many that were bad.
When the Revolutionary War started Joshua was forced to take sides and chose that of the King. Most accounts state that Loring fled to relative safety in Boston either on the morning of the Battle of Lexington (19 April 1775) or the day after but a deposition made by his widow in support of a claim for financial compensation says that he left his home as early as 31 August 1774 and never returned. In any case the departure was hasty. Loring left everything behind: his house with all its furnishings and fittings and his estate with the crops standing and livestock running free.
The family remained in Boston for 18 months, leaving with Sir William Howe’s fleet for Halifax on 17 March 1776. They travelled on to England with Howe in 1778, having been named in the Massachusetts Banishment Act of 1776 and exiled on pain of death. Their property was confiscated by the state and sold at auction. Joshua Loring senior died in at Highgate on 5 October 1781.
Joshua the younger was also forced to flee Jamaica Plain and served as an Ensign and later Lieutenant with the 15th Regiment of Foot in the British Army during the 1760s and then in 1768 became High Sheriff of Suffolk County, Massachusetts. In June 1775 he was appointed “sole vendue-master and auctioneer” by General Gage. Joshua Loring junior went to Halifax with the Army in 1776 and in 1777, as the memorial states, was appointed Commissary General of Prisoners - an appointment it is said owed much to an affair that his wife Elizabeth (née Lloyd) was having with the British Commander in Boston, General Howe. Popular history has it that this dalliance so distracted Howe from his duties that it resulted in the loss of the American Colonies.
As Commissary General, Joshua Loring jnr is said to have brutal towards the men in his charge and was accused being responsible for the death of thousands of American prisoners from starvation and disease while they were held in ships moored in New York Harbour. Other testimony, however, describes him to have been “diligent and attentive to his duty” and “of exceeding good character”. Although his wife left for England in 1778 with her parents in law and her two children, Joshua continued in his post until the end of the war in 1783 when he left America to settle at Englefield. The piece of land at the top of Englefield Street near Appleton's Corner (now occupied by the 5-a-day garden and the school) was known as Loring's Meadow in 1844 so he perhaps lived in the old manor house just just beyond it that may have been the original seat of the Englefields and later was given to the church by Richard Benyon de Beauvoir for use as a Rectory in exchange for the former one beside the church.
Although he was broken in health and spirit and short of money, Joshua and Elizabeth had three more children while in Englefield. Joshua died at the age of only 45 on 18 September 1789 and his widow, with five children to support, was forced to appeal to the British government for financial compensation. Her petition was granted and she received a pension until her death at her house in Reading on 2 October 1835, aged 83.
Three children were born in America but a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1771 died there in 1775. John Wentworth Loring CB was born 13 Oct 1775 and served with the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, rising to the rank of Admiral and becoming Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Naval College in 1819. He died at Ryde in 1852. Another son, Joshua, was also born in America. William Loring served in the Horse Artillery and took part in the retreat from Corunna with Sir John Moore and never recovered, dying in Madeira in 1812. Henry Lloyd Loring, born 1784, became the first Archdeacon of Calcutta and died there from cholera on 4 September 1822. The youngest child, Robert Roberts Loring, was baptised at Englefield just a week after the death of his father and later gained a commission in the 49th Foot (later to become the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment) in 1804. He joined the Regiment in Quebec the following July and married Mary Ann Campbell from Toronto in 1814. He remained in Canada, becoming a distinguished Staff Officer in a succession of posts, returning to England only for about a year in 1827/28 during which time he married his second wife, Ann Smith from Yorkshire, Mary Ann having died in 1822. He died at his residence, called Englefield, in Toronto on 1 April 1848.
The truth about Joshua Loring’s conduct, and that of his wife, is uncertain. Accounts from the time are divided along partisan lines and sources are not particularly reliable. Certainly in the case of Elizabeth’s relationship with Howe there is far more evidence against any impurity that for it. There was a great deal of animosity in America towards the family dating from the time of Joshua Loring senior’s appointment by Gage and accounts have been much embroidered over the intervening years by those with a particular interest. The obituary of his son Henry says that Joshua discharged his office “with humanity and disinterestedness”.