Sir John Fox Burgoyne was born in 1782, the eldest of four illegitimate children of Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne and the singer Susan Caulfield.
In 1796 Burgoyne entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1798. After fighting in the Peninsular Wars Burgoyne went on to serve with the Royal Engineers in America, France, Portugal until he secured the civil appointment of Chairman to the new Board of Public Works in Ireland on 1830. In the 1844 Burgoyne’s analysis of the measures to secure Ireland against ‘insurgents’ impressed the Master-General of the Ordnance and saw Burgoyne’s appointment as Inspector-General of Fortifications. His role was interrupted by an appointment as President of a Special Commission looking at measures to relieve the distress arising from the famine. He resumed his post at the Ordnance in 1847.
In this role Burgoyne was highly critical of the state of the country’s coastal fortifications. Burgoyne was involved in the military campaign during the Crimean War, but was sent back in 1855, some thought as a political scapegoat due to the criticism Lord Raglan’s staff were receiving in the press. At this time the civil branch of the Ordnance was being absorbed by the War Office, and posts such as Master-General and Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance abolished. In April 1865 Burgoyne was made Constable of the Tower of London, and in 1868 he resigned from the role of Director of Works in the Ordnance branch of the War Office, the role succeeded by the Inspector-General of Fortifications. He remained Constable until his death in 1871.