Lieutenant-Colonel John By was born in 1779 and baptised at St Mary Lambeth on 10 August 1779, the second son of George By and his wife Mary, née Bryan. They lived in Archbishop's Walk, Lambeth, and all held positions at the Customs House where his father was chief searcher. After passing through the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, John By was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 1 August 1799 and transferred to the Royal Engineers on 20 December. He was commissioned as a lieutenant on 18 April 1801 and in the same year married Elizabeth Johnson Baines, daughter of Cuthbert Baines of Penzance. In August 1802 John By went to Canada, where he was involved in repairs to the Cascades bateaux canal on the St Lawrence and superintended the construction of four Martello towers for the defence of Quebec. In 1811 he was in Portugal and took part in the first seige of Badajos and in January 1812 he took charge of rebuilding the gunpowder works at Waltham Abbeyand he also became engineer-in-charge of the works at Enfield, Faversham and Purfleet.
John's first wife Elizabeth died in 1814 of cholera and on 14 March 1818 he married Esther, daughter of John March of Harley Street and granddaughter of John Raymond Barker of Fairford Park, Gloucestershire. He remained in charge of the gunpowder works until August 1821 when he was retired on half pay. In January of the previous year John By had purchased Shernfold Park in Frant from James Cranbourne Strode; the house had been built in 1790 by Charles Pigou, a gunpowder manufacturer.
In April 1826 John By went again to Canada, having been selected to design and construct a military canal between the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario, safe from attack by the Americans. The town which grew up around his headquarters, originally named Bytown, was renamed Ottawa after the union of Upper and Lower Canada. The story of this prodigious feat of engineering, of the parliamentary censure of John By, his recall in October 1832 and the subsequent committee of enquiry are told in "Building the Rideau Canal: A Pictorial History" (Robert W Passfield, Parks Canada, 1982) and is depicted on History of the Rideau
In the remaing few years prior to his death on 1st February 1836, John By extended the Shernfold Estate by purchasing numerous adjacent properties. He is buried at St Albans Church in Frant.
In 1924 the Rideau Canal was designated a Canadian historical site and in June 2007 the Rideau Canal was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee. The Rideau Canal World Heritage Site includes the Rideau Canal, Fort Henry and the Kingston Fortifications. The Canal extends 202 kilometres from Ottawa in the north to Kingston Harbour on Lake Ontario in the south.
|Generation No. 1|
|1. Lieutenant-Colonel John By was the son of George By and Mary By [Bryan]. He was born c 7th Aug 1779 at Lambeth, London; christened 10th Aug 1779 at St Mary, Lambeth, London; died 1st Feb 1836 at Shernfold, Frant, Sussex; buried after 1st Feb 1836 at St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex|
|He married (1) Elizabeth Johnson Baines on 29th Nov 1801 at Madron, Cornwall. She was the daughter of Cuthbert Baines, R.N. and Lydia Baines [Veal]. She was born 1780 at Cornwall; christened 5th Oct 1780 at Penzance, Cornwall; died 16th Dec 1814 at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, Died of cholera|
|He married (2) Esther March on 14th Mar 1818 at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. She was born c 1780. They had the following children:|
|2||i||Esther March who was born 18th Feb 1819 at Great Cumberland Place, London; christened 31st Mar 1819 St Mary, Marylebone, London; died 7th Feb 1848|
|ii||Harriet Martha who was born 14th Mar 1821 at Frant, Sussex; christened 7th Apr 1821 St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex; died Oct 1842 Frant, Sussex; buried 13th Oct 1842 St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex|
|Generation No. 2|
|2. Esther March Ashburnham [By] was the daughter of John By and Esther By [March]. She was born 18th Feb 1819 at Great Cumberland Place, London; christened 31st Mar 1819 at St Mary, Marylebone, London; died 7th Feb 1848|
|She married Hon. Percy Ashburnham on 23rd Aug 1838 at St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex. He was the son of George Ashburnham, 3rd Earl of Ashburnham and Charlotte Ashburnham [Percy]. He was born 22nd Oct 1799 at Ashburnham, Sussex; died 25th Jan 1881. They had the following children:|
|i||Esther Harriet who was born 1844 at Frant, Sussex; christened 13th Feb 1844 St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex; died Oct 1845|
|ii||Mary Katherine who was born 1847 at Frant, Sussex; christened 25th Nov 1847 St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex; died Jul 1851 St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex; buried 4th Jul 1851 St. Alban's Church, Frant, Sussex|
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