Of all the important families that lived at Freshford Manor, the most famous were the Napier's who resided here from 1831 until 1841. William and Caroline Napier had 8 daughters and one son.. They rented the property from Frances, who was the daughter of Thomas Joyce. The Napier's had moved from Bromham near Devizes where they had rented Battle House.
Today William Napier is best known for his classic work "The History of the Peninsular War", which was mostly written during his time at Freshford. He was one of three Napier brothers who served under Wellington on the Peninsular. They were the nephew's of the Duke of Richmond, their mother Lady Sarah, was the 2nd Duke's fourth daughter. He served with valour under Craufield but returned back to England in 1812 to marry Caroline Fox, who was the sister of Louisa Fox. He returned to the Peninsular just after Badajoz in April 1812 and took command of the 43rd regiment. He went back to Britain again on January 12th 1813 but he returned to take command of the 43rd in August of that year and served to the end of the war in 1814. He was to join the Duke of Wellington in Brussels in 1815 but he made arrangements to leave Dover on June 18th, which as it happened was the day of the Battle of Waterloo. His brother Charles is famous for his quote, "Peccavi" which he sent back to Britain after a battle in India, In Latin , peccavi means "I have sinned"- Napier had just conquered Scinde.
Napier had begun writing his masterpiece in 1823 at the suggestion of Lord Langdale. He was to consult leaders on both sides. For he went to Paris to see Marshall Soult and then to Strathfieldsaye to be near the Duke of Wellington. The Duke gave him the whole of Joseph Napoleon's correspondence which was deciphered by Caroline, Williams `s wife.
In the autumn of 1826 Napier moved with his family to Battle House, where he began a long friendship with the poet, Thomas Moore who lived nearby. In the spring of 1828 the first volume of his "History" was published. Though a success it lost money for his publishers, and Napier himself underwrote the next 5 volumes. The second volume appeared in 1829, when he had a sufficient subscription list. The other volumes were to published during his stay at Freshford., with the final volume appearing in 1840. He was a brilliant Orator and made a number of rousing speeches in Bath whilst here. He was offered a number of seats of parliament , but would turn them all down due to his ill health, large family and small income.A skirmish at Casari had injured his back and he had become increasingly a cripple, often in shocking pain. In 1836 he wrote" I have hardly slept one hour this last fortnight. My pains are horrible and if they continue they will drive me mad"
He and his wife Caroline Fox were first cousins on their Lennox side and two of their nine children were born deaf and dumbtwo others were to die young . His son Johnny's terrible disability roused his father to a fever of protection. Caught fishing in a river , this speechless nine-year-old, unable to hear of what he was accused,unable to explain that he was fishing by permission of the owner, was cuffed and kicked by a water-bailiff, and his rod taken from him, broken, and thrown into the water. The spectacle of his helpless little boy thus abused was too much for William, returning from inspecting a higher beat of the river. The water-bailiff responsible was so mercilessly beaten up that he was fortunate to survive. He comes across today as a man of the people and would stand up for any injustices that he saw. A good example of this is the death due to malnutrition of two wretches in the Poor House at Park Corner in Freshford. He wanted justice to be given to the overseers, and when none was given he fought it through the courts as far as the House of Lords before succeeding. His son in law- Henry Bruce, who was later to become Lord Aberdare wrote a two volume "Life of Sir William Napier" in 1864 which contains a number of interesting anecdotes of his time in the Village.
After leaving the house he stayed briefly in Bath, before his appointment of Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey. During his time there he wrote a book on his famous brother Charles Napier
In a letter to Lady Campbell, he writes, I have lost my poor old man who worked in my garden. He has been killed by the cold, and I have some uneasy feelings on the subject. He was so clean, and brisk, and good-tempered, that I did not know he was ill clothed-he made everything look well. I had given him a blanket and a pair of woollen socks, but one day I was told he complained of cold; I saw him that moment and I gave him a flannel jacket and drawers, and made him put them on, and also I gave him ten shillings to buy a warm coat. He was then, he said, quite well, but in a few hours he fell ill and notwithstanding all our medical care he died. I certainly could not help it; I did not lose five minutes in giving him the flannels after I heard of his being so cold from the children; but I ought to have thought more about him in the frost.
The following extract from a letter written by Colonel Napier to Lady Campbell in October, 1834, shows how constant and terrible were the disadvantages arising from illness under which lie prosecuted his literary task. "What shall I say about not going? I did what I could, but my strength failed me; and I am still so ill, and without one day even of freedom from pain since Guy left us, that I am sure I was right 'hot to stir .My illnesses are not mere weaknesses to be got over by an exertion, they are absolute helplessness; and as they sometimes last for six months, or even more, I cannot inflict myself on my friends in the shape of a visit. I get worse ad worse, and I am truly tired of a life which is nothing but pain and sorrow to me.
At Freshford, as formerly at Bromham, Colonel Napier's family maintained a constant intercourse with their poorer neighbours, always helping them with advice and counsel, and giving them material aid so far as they were able. In 1833 a great part of the village of Freshford was destroyed by fire. The following narrative of this occurrence by one of Colonel Napier's daughters. "In 1833, when my eldest sister was in a late stage of consumption, my father, mother, and I were walking down one of the valleys at Freshford, that leading towards Bradford; there was a violent equinoctial gale blowing us on, so that we did not once turn round as we walked. When we got to a bridge at Avoncliffe, about a mile and a half from home, we met three men running towards us and exclaiming, "There's destruction! Freshford's on fire! 'We turned, and saw long terrace on the top of a ridge where we knew stood a farmyard with many ricks, a timber yard, and six or seven houses, one mass of rolling smoke. Without one word further than" Follow as quick as you can,' my father set off towards home at a long springing run, which was peculiar to him; each stride carrying him along like a greyhound, and was soon out of sight. My mother and I followed; we had a mile and a half to go, with the fire spreading in the high wind, rapidly, in full view the whole way. The great cloud of smoke was soon lifted by the wind and carried to the right, so as completely to conceal our own house, to the left of it, all along the top of the terrace, appeared sheets of wildly- waving flame for half a quarter of a mile in breadth; so fierce, that even the broad (It was just noon) could not dim their flaring yellow brightness. We could not tell whether our own house was not on fire behind the great volume of smokes. Presently smoke burst forth, quickly followed by flames from a cottage at the foot of the Hill, a quarter of a mile nearer to us, and quite unconnected with the great fire. It was not long after the time of the Bristol riots when incendiarism was common, and thus seeing a second fire burst out, we concluded the village had been set on fire purposely in more places than one, and our alarm was enhanced by the fear of finding the village in possession ofrioters. This, however, was not the case; it had originated entirely in accident, and some burning flakes carried down the wind to the thatch of the cottage was the natural cause of its ignition. When we reached the foot of the hil1, and to the comer of our garden wall, the smoke became so thick and stifling we could scarcely proceed, and more than one voice called out, , You can't get in the front gate, go the back way. , This increased terror; we rushed down the lane and got in at the gate the stable-yard. We found our premises safe, and all my little sisters with their maid, huddled together in the dining 'room, except one who was in my sick sister's shaded room to which the alarm had not yet penetrated. My father had dashed into the house half an hour before, throwing his watch and purse on to the table, stripped off his coat, told the servant to wet all the blankets in the house and spread them over the roof, and then rushed out to give what aid he could. No doubt this order ofhis saved our house; the distance between it and the fire was very short, and the furious gale was blowing straight against it, loaded with burning strawand wood. My mother, having heard this much, gave me instructions to have means prepared for conveying my sister to a farmhouse across a field, should our own take fire, and then, quickly throwing offher walking things, arranged her dress and composed her face to perfect calmness, and went to the sick room-where, taking up "Paradise Lost," she read to my sister for two hours, without betraying a sign of uneasiness or that anything unusual was going on: meanwhile enduring her own anxiety as to the safety of our hoUse, and as to my fathers exertions, in which she knew there would be no thought of danger to himself. The success ofher heroism was complete; the dear invalid girl took no alarm and merely noticed the unusual sounds as probably the result of'the fair,' one usually being held in the village about this time of year. We heard afterwards that in the village the wildest confusion had reigned till my father appeared and organised the crowding terrified villagers into an array of serviceable workers. When water failed, he in a moment organised a chain ofboys and women from the gate to our back door, to hand buckets which were filled from the force-pump in our scullery. It was ten hours before the fire was completely got under and all was safe. Two cottages, the whole of a timber-yard, were entirely destroyed, but by my father's exertions under Providence, the fire was prevented from spreading along the row of houses between our gate and the yard; had it turned that comer, the whole village must hive been destroyed. As it was, the heat was so great that the lead in the cottage lattice windows melted and the glass fell out. No life was lost, and, except a slight scorch on the shoulder, my father escaped injury though his shirt was burnt off his back. His woollen vest had saved him. In the midst of the hubbub a villager had run in for the colonel's hat, as "the fire were felling on his hair like snow." Finding next day the farmer and timber-merchant were getting up a subscription selfishly for themselves alone, and ignoring the claims of the poor working-men who had lost their tools and hence their means ofliving, he set to work himself, and set us all, to write to friends, and in three days collected a second subscription for the men which indemnified them all and paid the expenses of the illness of several who had been badly burnt in helping to put out the fire."

" I well recollect," writes another daughter of the occurrence, " when there was a cry of the force pump having failed, one of my sisters, older than myself, throwing up the window and springing out, saying she must help papa, and feeling full of childish indignation that the nurses very properly prevented me doing the same. My Father came down the avenue and placed her in a row to assist in passing the buckets and I think he had before me placed my two elder sisters. " .

" have spoken of the long peculiar bound with which my father ran home on the first sight of the fire. There was a spring and grace combined with a power and dignity that I never saw in anyone else. , Some years later a long piece of new road was opened near us, which ran quite straight for nearly a mile; the turnpike at the end was given to an old 43rd man to keep. The first time my father passed, the old man accosted him. with' Be you Major Na..peer ? , On being answered, he said~ '1 knew it, sure of it; I seed you afar off~ at the end of the road~ afore you was within half a mile; and I says to my wife, If my old major be above qround that be he, I should know his walk among a thousand: and so it be you sure enough; I Knowed I couldn't be mistaken. ~ It was twenty-two years since this man had served under him in the Peninsula."
One more anecdote as an instance of his goodness of nature, and particularly of kindness to children.
"He was one day taking along country walk near Freshford, when he met a little girl about five years old sobbing over a broken bowl: she had dropped and it bringing it back from the :field to which she had taken her father's dinner in it and she said she would be beaten on her return home for having broken it; then, with a sudden gleam of hope she innocently looked up into his face and said, " But yee can mend it, can't ee ?' "My father explained that he could not mend the bow4 but the trouble he could by the gift ofa sixpence to buy another. However, on opening his purse it was empty of silver and he had to make amends by promising to meet his little friend in the same spot at the same hour next day, and to bring, the sixpence with him; bidding her, meanwhile, tell her mother she had seen a gentleman who would bring her the money for the bowl next day. The child, entirely trusting, him, went on her way comforted. On his return home he found an invitation awaiting him to dine in Bath the following evening, to meet some one whom he specially wished to see. He hesitated for some little time, trying to calculate the possibility of giving the meeting to his little friend of the broken bowl, and of still being in time for the dinner-party in Bath; but finding this could not be, He wrote to decline accepting the invitation on the plea of "pre-engagement,' saying to us, "1 cannot disappoint her, she. trusted me so implicitly!"
In the course of this year, 1833, Colonel Napier's eldest daughter aged nineteen, the one alluded to in the account of the fire, died; mention is made of her in his letter to Lady Hester Stanhope in 1839, This was an overwhelming blow to the bereaved fatherand he sought to stun his grief by increased labour at his History, and early in 1834 his fourth volume was published, containing the descriptions of the battle of Albuera and the sieges of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, in language of extraordinary sublimity.