Alberto Bioletti

A man of many parts

Italian by birth, from Turin, English by adoption, having arrived in Wincanton as a PoW during the Napoleonic wars and settling here thereafter, Alberto Bioletti was, indeed, a man of the world.

His experiences were truly incredible. He showed great bravery, unimaginable endurance, persistence, patience, loyalty and trustworthiness, an ability to get on with people and yet was flexible, principled and committed to those he loved, who loved and respected him.

Fired by republican fervour, as were so many of the less privileged and the poor during the late 1700s, Alberto joined the army of Napoleon. Securing a role with the officer class, he is generally referred to as a servant in English records; perhaps “personal assistant” would more closely describe his role as confidential assistant, general factotum and oiler-of-the-wheels for a general and at least one other senior officer. With these fellows he travelled the Napoleonic world taking in much of Europe, Egypt, the West Indies and Russia. He saw some unimaginable horrors during his travels yet remained a balanced individual. During this time, those officers and Bioletti were taken prisoner and brought to England: eventually they were billeted in Wincanton.

Once Napoleon’s career was finally finished by the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Alberto returned to Wincanton, settled down and raised not one but two families during 45 years and a long and successful career. He was a skilled engineer, a clockmaker (when clockmaking was cutting-edge technology), made barometers, was a barber, worked in wood and acted as dentist for those with toothache. Truly a remarkable man.

The death of his second wife led Alberto to leave Wincanton after 45 years to settle near one of his daughters, in Portsea, Hampshire, where he died aged 91, in 1869. He has many descendants who may be found in many countries.

Alberto Bioletti

A book on Bioletti, entitled ‘Surviving Napoleon – The Clockmaker’s Tale’, is available from the Museum at 5 High Street, Wincanton. It was written by our long-time member, John Baxter.