Untold lives blog

74 posts categorized "Conflict"

04 November 2016

The case of Margaret Duchell, who “died a confessed witch”

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The early modern period in Scotland is well known for the severe persecution of alleged witches, who were detained, tortured and brought before the court to be tried and sentenced. One volume in British Library collections, Egerton MS 2879, provides an insight into the sort of accusations that could lead to a person’s detainment for the crime of witchcraft. It also documents the process of gathering evidence and presenting a case. Between 1658 and 1659 five women were accused of witchcraft at Alloa, a small town in Clackmannanshire. They were interrogated and cases were prepared against the women. Inside this volume are documents on the case of Margaret Duchell, the first to confess and accuse other women as accomplices.

Duchell 1
 Margaret Duchell's confession, written down by J. Craigingelt, Egerton MS 2879, f.15 Noc

This, alongside a document at the National Records of Scotland, records the accusations against Margaret, demonstrating some of the widespread witchcraft beliefs at the time. She was detained for over a month before she “died a confessed witch” (f.15) in her confinement. During this time she was interrogated and likely tortured into denouncing other women and confessing to her own crimes.

Duchell 2
 Details of the witchcraft case against the five women, Egerton MS 2879, f.1 Noc

In order to receive the power to perform malevolent acts upon other people, Margaret claimed to have entered a pact with the Devil. Sources tell us that the Devil tempted Margaret with money, and the two sealed the deal with both a meal, and through sexual intercourse. Once they entered the pact, Margaret was free to commit “many murders and other mischiefs” (f.1), along with other women who had supposedly also entered the Devil’s service.

Disputes with members of the Alloa community seem to have given Margaret rise for causing them harm. She admitted to striking Janet Houston on the back, which resulted in her death, over a quarrel about money. We also hear about a disagreement with a twelve year old girl, who called Margaret a witch in public, whereby Margaret apparently tugged upon her arm, resulting in her bleeding to death. These accusations were later denied by Margaret at a kirk session in May and even the presiding minister doubted whether they were physically possible.

Margaret was also accused of possessing shape-shifting abilities, to metamorphose into the form of a dog. The Devil himself was sometimes depicted in the form of a dog. During an attack on one William Morrison with a group of other witches, Margaret transformed into a dog to follow him. The later confession of Barbara Erskine reveals that Margaret and a group of women also destroyed a boat, during which they “wer in the lyknes of corbies” (f.4).


Witch N10019-09

The Devil as a dog from the title page from ‘The Witch of Edmonton’, a play based on a witchcraft case 644.c.17 Images Online Noc

So why did Margaret originally confess to these crimes? Just being accused of witchcraft at the time was dangerous. To deny involvement could lead to torture, while to confess would result in a death sentence. Interrogators were keen on obtaining confessions to secure a conviction. Torture, particular sleep deprivation, and leading questions were often used to confuse suspects and extract ‘evidence’. It seems unlikely that Margaret’s confession was freely given, as she later denied all charges, but she died before her trial. Both Egerton MS 2879 and the Presbytery minutes bring us closer to what it might have been like to be accused of witchcraft in early modern Scotland.

Claire Wotherspoon
Manuscripts Reference Specialist Cc-by

Further reading:
An abundance of witches: the great Scottish witch-hunt / P.G. Maxwell-Stuart (YC.2007.a.7576)
Marks of an absolute witch: evidentiary dilemmas in early modern England / Orna Alyagon Darr (ELD digital store)
Witches of the North: Scotland and Finnmark / Liv Helene Willumsen (YD.2013.a.1825)


30 June 2016

"We go into action in a day or two and I'm leaving this in case I don't come back". On the eve of the Somme.

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On the eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, Laura Walker, our Lead Curator of Manuscripts 1851-1950, looks at diary accounts of the Battle. Tomorrow, on the day itself, Michael Day, our Digitisation Preservation Manager, considers the death of a British Museum clerk and soldier at the Somme.

The Somme is one of the most well-known battles of the First World War fought on the Western Front. It is chiefly remembered due to the scale of the casualties with over one million dead, wounded or missing by the end of the offensive. The British Library holds eye witness accounts of the fighting at the Somme from Major General Hunter Weston and Captain Roland Gerard Garvin.


Private War Diary of Major General Hunter Weston, Add MS 48365 f.53v Cc-by

Major General Hunter Weston was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1884 and saw active service on the North West Frontier, present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, in Egypt and in the Boer War before he was given a command on the Western Front in 1914. Hunter Weston kept two diaries of his experiences of the First World War one official and one private. These diaries provide us with a fascinating insight into the fighting in 1914 on the Western Front, in Gallipoli in 1915 and at the battle of the Somme in 1916.


 Private War Diary of Major General Hunter Weston, Add MS 48365 f.54 Cc-by

In his private diary for 1916 Hunter Weston has included photographs showing the advance of the troops under his command, the 8th Corps to their assault on the fortified hamlets of Beaumont-Hamel, Beaumont-sur-Ancre, and Serre on the first day of the battle on 1st July 1916. Despite their efforts the 8th Corp’s objective was not achieved and they suffered 14,581 casualties on that day alone.


 Private War Diary of Major General Hunter Weston, Add MS 48365 f.55v Cc-by

Captain Roland Gerard Garvin was the son of journalist and newspaper editor James Luis Garvin. The First World War broke out the week after his last day at Westminster School. Despite winning a history scholarship for Christ Church, Oxford, Garvin enlisted in the 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment.


Photograph of Captain Roland Gerard Garvin, Add MS 88882/10/2 Cc-by

Garvin attended a staff training course in Chelsea in December 1914 and this continued in Camberley in April 1915 before he was sent over to France on 17th July 1915. The Library holds his notes from both of these courses and diary extracts from when he was serving on the Western Front. The diary extracts below record his account of the first day of the Somme.


Field Message Book of Captain Roland Gerard Garvin, Add MS 88882/9/31 Cc-by


Field Message Book of Captain Roland Gerard Garvin, Add MS 88882/9/31 Cc-by

On 20th July Garvin wrote a letter to his family saying good bye as he knew he was going into action in a day or two. Three days later between 12pm and 1pm Garvin was killed by machine gun fire. His body was never found.


Letter from Captain Roland Gerard Garvin to his family, July 20th 1916, Add MS 88882/3/9 Cc-by


Letter from Captain Roland Gerard Garvin to his family, July 20th 1916, Add MS 88882/3/9 Cc-by

The complete diaries of Hunter Weston and the papers of Garvin can be found online at

Laura Walker, Lead Curator, Manuscripts and Archives 1851-1950.

21 June 2016

‘A Violent Pauper’

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Today we continue our sad story of poverty and destitution in Victorian London by focusing on the Chivers family of Marylebone.

Robert Chivers was working as a painter when he married Elizabeth Moulder at Christ Church Marylebone on 20 August 1865. They lived in Duke Street, a small turning off Lisson Grove in a poor area.  Their son Robert was born in October 1865 and they went on to have three more children: Ann/Annie, William/Willie, and Thomas.

On 21 July 1868 Robert and Elizabeth were admitted to Marylebone Workhouse with Robert aged 3 and Ann aged 9 months. Little Robert was moved to the workhouse school at Southall in Middlesex on 14 August 1868.


  Dore London poor 075459
Inhabitants of London. Image taken from London :a pilgrimage, illustrations by G. Dore Images Online


In January 1869 newspaper articles about Robert Chivers appeared under the headlines ‘A Violent Pauper’ and, with more than a hint of sarcasm, ‘A Model Pauper’.  Robert been taken to court for assaulting workhouse officer James Lockwood who had reprimanded him for not picking oakum properly. Robert complained that he had been insulted when he asked for an additional quantity of oakum to pick.  He had wanted to increase his earnings from 6d for a day’s work in order to support his wife and three small children. Having been unemployed since July 1868, he had asked the parish officers to grant him a few clothes to make him decent to apply for work outside.  His request was turned down because the Chivers family had been in and out of the workhouse for a long time and the overseer thought Robert lazy and sullen.  The jury found Robert guilty but recommended him to mercy because of his family.  He was sentenced to six months in the House of Correction.

Elizabeth Chivers also came into conflict with the workhouse authorities on more than one occasion  In April 1871 she was imprisoned for 21 days for disorderly conduct and using threatening language in the workhouse. The 1871 census shows Robert, Annie and William living at the workhouse school in Southall, and Elizabeth in the workhouse with four-month-old Thomas.  Robert senior seems to have disappeared and I have been unable to discover his whereabouts.

In July 1874 Elizabeth and her children were discharged from the workhouse so they could emigrate to Australia. Their ‘most distressing case of poverty’ was heard before the Melbourne City Bench in December 1874. Elizabeth said her husband had deserted her about four years earlier.  Her sister’s husband had been helping, but he could no longer afford to do so. Elizabeth applied to have her children admitted to the industrial schools but the bench was sympathetic and keen to keep the family together. Thomas was suffering from spinal disease and so he was remanded to the industrial schools for a month for medical treatment.  Elizabeth received £1 for her immediate wants, a charitable subscription was started with a £5 donation by the magistrate, and she was promised that ‘benevolent ladies’ would help her obtain a livelihood.

Unfortunately this story does not have a happy ending. Robert, William and Thomas were all living in the industrial schools by April 1875 when Elizabeth was summoned to pay towards their upkeep. The case was dismissed as it was shown that she was unable to contribute anything.  Thomas died in 1878 aged seven.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading;
British Newspaper ArchiveMorning Post 19 January 1869; Marylebone Mercury 19 January 1869; Bell’s Weekly Messenger 23 January 1869; Marylebone Mercury 8 April 1871.
TroveThe Age (Melbourne) 18 December 1874.

Poverty and destitution in Victorian London


10 May 2016

The Khaksar movement in the Persian Gulf

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In 1939, in the early months of the Second World War, British officials began making enquiries into the presence in Bahrain of members of a paramilitary Islamic social movement that sought the overthrow of British rule in India, and drew inspiration from Adolf Hitler.

The Khaksar movement was founded in Lahore in 1931 by Inayatullah Khan Mashriqi, a Cambridge-educated mathematician and Islamic scholar.

The movement was overtly Islamic, but claimed to wish to give equal rights to all faiths. It was highly organised, and rapidly acquired millions of members. It was also militaristic, with khaki uniforms, organised marches, and mock warfare. The movement’s emblem was the spade, egalitarian symbol of the dignity of labour, which its members literally carried around with them.



Khaksars in uniform, 1930s. The figure in the centre of the back row carries the Khaksar belcha (spade). Source: Wikipedia.


The Khaksar movement’s philosophy was enshrined in a creed and set of principles, which emphasised discipline and self-sacrifice, and encouraged the spread of Islam. However, the movement denied any involvement in politics, and its anti-colonialism went unstated.

The movement’s dictatorial beliefs and uniform prompted comparisons with contemporary Fascist organisations in Europe. Indeed, Mashriqi is said to have met Hitler in 1926 and to have been influenced by Mein Kampf, which he translated into Urdu.

Bahrain was the centre of the embryonic oil industry on the Arab side of the Gulf in 1939, and with the advent of war against those same European Fascist powers, the region constituted a key source of oil for Britain’s war effort.

The British compiled lists of those involved with the movement in Bahrain (about forty people, all of them members of the Indian community), including oil industry workers and a tailor.

IOR R 15 2 168, f 24Noc

Part of a letter dated 20 December 1939 from the Assistant Political Agent, Bahrain to the Director, Intelligence Bureau, Government of India, New Delhi, giving information on the Khaksar Movement in Bahrain, which he describes as ‘the object of much derision by the Arab population’: IOR/R/15/2/168, f 24.


The conclusion reached by British officials was that there was ‘nothing objectionable’ in the activities of the movement’s members in Bahrain, which were confined to a weekly uniformed march, and regular meetings. The British Political Agent in Bahrain was also sceptical about the movement’s wider appeal to Muslims, stating that it was ‘not likely ever to be of much significance on the Arab Coast, where a movement whose symbol is a spade can excite only derision’.

However, all that changed in March 1940 when more than thirty Khaksars were killed by police in a protest at Lahore. The movement was now viewed by the authorities as a danger and banned, and the ban prompted further enquiries into the strength of the movement in Bahrain. Fifteen further members, including workers at a shipping company and the RAF base, were identified by tracing the distribution of the Khaksar newspaper, Al Islah.


IOR R 15 2 168, f 31

The Gazette of India, 20 March 1940, published the day after the deaths of Khaksar members at Lahore, announcing the Chief Commissioner of Delhi’s decision to declare the Khaksar Movement an unlawful association: IOR/R/15/2/168, f 31. Noc


If the British feared a wartime outbreak of pan-Islamic unrest they need not have worried, because the Gulf states gave loyal support to the Allied cause throughout the war. Inayatullah Khan too, on his way to jail in New Delhi, pointed out that he had previously offered to raise a force of 50,000 men to fight alongside the British.

However, the implications for British rule in India were different, and the activities of Mashriqi and the Khaksars were a contributory factor in achieving the independence of Pakistan in 1947.

Martin Woodward
Archival Specialist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership Cc-by

Further reading:
British Library: 'File 1/A/47 Khaksar Movement'. IOR/R/15/2/168
Amalendu De, History of the Khaksar Movement in India (1931-1947) 2 vols (Kolkata: Parul Prakashani, 2009) I
Roy Jackson, Mawlana Mawdudi and Political Islam: Authority and the Islamic state (Taylor and Francis, 2010)


01 April 2016

The curious tale of the pigeons in the workhouse

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It’s April Fools’ Day but here on Untold Lives we find it difficult to plant a spoof.  Many of our stories from real life are so strange that readers couldn’t be expected to notice any difference.  So this is the true but curious tale of the pigeons at Marylebone Workhouse.

At a meeting of the Board of Poor Law Guardians for St Marylebone in October 1850, Mr Michie enquired if pigeons were being kept at the workhouse.  Secretary Mr Thorne replied that a number of pigeons had made their home in the workhouse, causing a great nuisance, but they were no longer there.  After the death of James Jones the workhouse master, a member of the parish vestry had asked who owned the pigeons and was told that they belonged to no-one.  The vestryman then sent someone to catch the birds and take them away.  Michie said that the pigeons were valuable and demanded that the vestryman be named.  Thorne revealed him to be Samuel Steele, who was present sitting amongst the ratepayers. 



 L Wright, The Illustrated Book of Pigeons (London, 1874-76) 7295.h.1 p.288 detail Images Online  Noc


Mr Walters observed that the birds removed were carrier pigeons.  Betting and racing books were kept at the workhouse, and gambling took place.  The late master Jones had kept the pigeons to send to the races to bring back speedy news of which horses had won so that safe bets could be made accordingly.  It was claimed that Jones actually died with a racing and betting book in his hand –‘Sensation’ amongst those present!

It was also suggested that, if the pigeons were valuable, that they should have been sold for the benefit of the parish.  The subject was then dropped and the Board dispersed ‘thunderstruck at the extraordinary revelations that had taken place’.

However this was not the end of the story.  At a vestry meeting it was alleged that Samuel Steele had netted 40-50 pigeons at the workhouse and made pies of them for himself and his family.  The inmates of the workhouse, who had fed the pigeons each day and treated them as pets, were very upset when they were removed.  John Wilson was one of the vestrymen who denounced the whole affair as shameful.  He needled Steele by drawing pictures of birds at vestry meetings, with one caricature entitled ‘Sam Steele’s pigeons’. 

Steele vehemently denied the allegations.  He retaliated by going up behind Wilson in the street and inflicting a severe blow to the back of his tormentor’s head.  Wilson struck back hard in defence before the two men were separated. Wilson offered to forget the attack if Steele apologised and put a guinea into the poor box. When Steele declined, Wilson brought a charge of assault against him. 

At Marylebone Police Court Steele offered to make an apology to the public and bench (but not to Wilson) for having committed the first breach of the peace.  Magistrate Robert Broughton decided that Steele must be punished since he had taken the law into his own hands.  He imposed a fine of 40s and costs which Steele paid forthwith. And thus the Marylebone Workhouse ‘pigeon affair’ was brought to a conclusion.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records Cc-by

British Newspaper Archive e.g. London Daily News 8 October 1850; Cheltenham Chronicle 10 October 1850; Bell’s New Weekly Messenger 3 November 1850

24 March 2016

Claudius Rich and Samuel Manesty

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In the East India Company’s ‘Hall of Fame’, Claudius James Rich features prominently as a most esteemed Company servant.  He was a gifted linguist well-versed in Persian, Arabic, Syriac, Turkish and Hebrew,  and an accomplished scholar on cuneiforms.  In contrast, Samuel Manesty only merits a mention in the ‘list of infamy’ as an unscrupulous opportunist famous for his unauthorised diplomatic mission to the Persian Court in Teheran as a self-appointed British Envoy in 1804.

However, on reflection, this comparison between the two men is not fair. 

The son of a slave-ship owner, Samuel Manesty ventured to the East Indies as a 19-year-old boy in 1778.  Valued by the Company for his knowledge and experience in dealing with local authorities and native merchants, he was posted to Basra as a Company Resident in the early 1780s.  Claudius Rich wasn’t yet born. 

The two men crossed paths when Claudius Rich was appointed the new Resident of Baghdad.  When Rich arrived in Baghdad in 1807, Samuel Manesty had already been a resident at Basra for half of his life.  Understandably, Manesty assumed a supervisor’s role for the 21-year-old Rich.  But Claudius Rich was unimpressed by the older man’s patronising attitude:
'He thinks to have me in complete subjection in Bagdad, and that I will be no more than his assistant, though bearing the title of Resident… This, though all very well for an acting Resident, will of course not do for me; …  He particularly recommends me to write and inform him of even the most trivial occurrence, and seems much disposed to interfere in the detail of the Bagdad Residency…'  (Rich’s letter to Sir James Mackintosh, 1807).


View of the Tigris at Baghdad from William Perry Fogg, Arabistan: or the Land of “The Arabian Nights " (London, 1875) 

Young Rich’s arrogance did not end there.  Rich married Mary, daughter of Sir James Mackintosh, high court judge of Bombay.  Manesty, having lived in Basra for over 25 years, married a local woman, daughter of an Armenian merchant.  On the day of Rich’s arrival at Basra, Manesty invited Mr and Mrs Rich to his dinner party, especially asking Mary to meet his Armenian wife.  Rich, with undisguised contempt , declined to bring his wife with him.  He mentioned this incident to Mackintosh: 'He (Manesty) at least wore the semblance of friendship, which was all I wanted, knowing him to be incapable of anything sincere; but I was much irritated by his presuming to mention Mrs Manesty, and to expect that I would permit Mrs Rich to associate with a dirty Armenian drab…'.

These shocking words not only show Rich’s deep-seated dislike of Manesty, but also offer an insight into Rich’s attitude towards the local people, in whose languages he was expert.  It is ironic to notice that many so-called “Orientalists” were often openly prejudiced.

One possible explanation for such attitudes is that the so-called “Orientalists” considered themselves masters of the ‘natives’ as opposed to those who had ‘gone native’.   To ‘go native’ implied ‘de-civilization’ by the ‘Orientals’.  Some later travellers remarked that some who had lived in the East for too long appeared corrupted in character with traits of ‘Oriental’ manners. Samuel Manesty for one became a target of such mockery.

Classically educated Claudius Rich had immunised himself against the ‘native’ influence by marrying a traditional English lady.  He made it clear that he did not intend to follow in Manesty's steps in his future career.

X W Bond
Former Curator of India Office Private Papers

Further reading:
IOR/G/29/28.  Persian Gulf Factory Records: Manesty’s proceedings in Persia, Dec 1803-Jul 1805
Denis Wright,  Britain and Iran 1790-1980 (2003)
C.M. Alexander,  Baghdad in bygone days, from the journals and correspondence of Claudius Rich (1926)

21 March 2016

Eliza Armstrong – still elusive!

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In April 2012 I posted a piece about Eliza Armstrong, the young girl involved in W T Stead’s attempt to highlight the scandal of  child prostitution.  I tried to discover what happened to Eliza afterwards and appealed for help.  This is an update - Eliza is still proving to be elusive.

After the Old Bailey trial, Eliza was placed in the Princess Louise Home for the Protection of Young Girls in Wanstead Essex for good schooling and training before going into service. It was reported in the press that she did well at the Home and in June 1886 she was awarded a prize for general good conduct. By June 1889 she had been taken by the matron to ‘a situation with a good family in the country’.

I suggested that Eliza moved to North-East England and married Henry George West. Gavin Weightman has kindly sent me details of this marriage at the Register Office in Newcastle on 24 October 1893. Eliza Armstrong is aged 21 like our Eliza, but her father’s name is given as William Armstrong house carpenter, not Charles Armstrong chimney sweep.  However the 1901 census states that Eliza West was born in Edgware Road London – very close to Charles Street where our Armstrongs lived.  Is this just a coincidence? I have searched for an Eliza Armstrong born about 1872 to a William Armstrong in the Edgware Road area who could have married West in 1893 but have drawn a blank so far.  Can anyone do better?

Newspapers published a number of stories about Eliza’s family after she went away. In February1886 her father Charles was found guilty and fined for assaulting Ellen Jones a neighbour who appeared in court with ‘a fearfully discoloured eye and swollen cheek’. He claimed that her injuries were the result of her falling over his door mat when drunk. 

Armstrong Charles

 ‘Assault by a sweep’ illustrating the Charles Armstrong court case, although the name plate says ‘W. ARMSTRONG SWEEP’ -  Illustrated Police News 6 March 1886. Taken from British Newspaper Archive.


Six months later Eliza’s 12 year-old brother John aged was arrested for begging in the Edgware Road. He said he wanted money to go to the music hall. His mother Elizabeth said he was a bad boy. She had beaten him, kept him without clothes and sometimes without food, but nothing made him behave. John was taken to Paddington workhouse.

Elizabeth Armstrong was sentenced to fourteen days’ imprisonment in August 1888 for being drunk and disorderly and for assault. She had struck Ellen Tuley of Charles Street with a sweep’s broom and kicked Police Constable Nicholas. Her defence claimed the Armstrongs had been subjected to systematic annoyance ever since the Stead case. Charles was so affected that he had lost his reason and was in Marylebone Infirmary.  Workhouse records describe how Charles was hearing spirit voices and seeing imaginary objects. He was declared insane on 4 August 1888 and taken to Colney Hatch Asylum where he died in 1890.

In July1897, Elizabeth applied to Marylebone Police court for news of her 16 year-old son Charles whose period of five years’ detention at Macclesfield Industrial School had recently ended. Having corresponded regularly and affectionately, his letters had suddenly ceased the previous December when he had said was keen to come home to help her.  The magistrate promised to investigate. And so shall I – another Armstrong mystery!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Sheffield Independent 12 December 1885; Illustrated Police News 6 March 1886; Cardiff Times 14 August 1886;   London Evening Standard 4 June 1886; London Evening Standard  3 August 1888; Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 9 Jun 1889; Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 11 July 1897.

St Marylebone Workhouse papers relating to Charles Armstrong’s detention are held at London Metropolitan Archives.

24 December 2015

Christmas 1857 in Calcutta

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In December 1857, the British in India were still trying to suppress the military and civil rebellion which had broken out earlier that year in the north of the sub-continent.  The edition of The Bengal Hurkaru published on Christmas Eve 1857 gives an interesting insight into life in Calcutta at that time. 

  Bengal Hurkaru
MSS Eur C124/34 The Bengal Hurkaru and the Indian Gazette 24 December 1857 Noc

A first glance at the front page suggests that there was nothing worrying the British in Bengal.   There are adverts for shipping firms offering voyages to London and Australia; a notice for the annual general meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal; an announcement that a consignment of Stilton cheese had just arrived.  Bengal almanacs and souvenir diaries for 1858 were on sale, and the British Library Calcutta could provide ‘Illustrated Present Books’ including the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Purveyors D. Wilson and Co at ‘The Hall of All Nations’ had plentiful stocks of Christmas fare: turkey; ham; beef; and a wide variety of cakes, sweets and biscuits.

However Wilson’s advert had this statement tucked amongst the lists of treats on offer:
‘It is our hearty hope, that we may with our numerous Friends, join to celebrate a MERRY CHRISTMAS notwithstanding the heavy misfortunes that have befallen the Indian Empire since we last met to discuss the right good cheer which had been provided for all India AND its Inhabitants, in that Monster Establishment, “THE HALL OF ALL NATIONS”. Having however good reason to suppose that the British rule in India, is about being established in a firmer manner than ever it was before, we expect, not unreasonably, that our Friends will need the choicest and rarest Articles procurable, to enable them to usher in with great glee, A HAPPY NEW YEAR’.

The inner pages of the newspaper do carry detailed reports of military operations, including the relief of Lucknow, with lists of casualties and returns of guns and ammunition seized from rebels.  Several military promotions are announced to fill the places of those killed recently.  But these items are sandwiched between news of everyday life in Calcutta – the early closure of grog shops;  the routine comings and goings of East India Company personnel; commercial and shipping intelligence; and performances by Signora Ventura,  the Calcutta Town Band, and minstrels from New Orleans , as well as by ‘an actor of acknowledged Gymnastic abilities from France’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records Cc-by

Read about Christmas in Calcutta in 1938