THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

272 posts categorized "Journeys"

19 June 2017

Judith Weston and her search for a husband

Add comment

Judith Weston left England in December 1727 to visit her brother William in India.  William had recently been appointed to the East India Company’s civil service in Bengal. Aged 26 and belonging to a large family living at West Horsley in Surrey, Judith was hoping to find a husband. 

Still 4
 India Office Private Papers Mss Eur B162 Noc

Her voyage to India on the ship Streatham (or Stretham) is described in Judith’s account which is preserved in the India Office Private Papers. There were four other female passengers on board the ship. Judith explained that the Bay of Biscay was so rough that they could not cook meals, change their clothes or even lie down. The other ladies were horribly seasick, but not Judith! She even kept a good appetite. She tells us that one of the other ladies was so sick, she burst a vessel in her stomach.

The ship docked in the Cape Verde islands and Judith was fascinated by the active volcano, Fogo. Hot lava was visible at night and the female passengers found this frightening. The ship continued to the Cape of Good Hope and then onwards to India.

 Still 5

India Office Private Papers Mss Eur B162 Noc

The ship stopped off at Fort St George in Madras (modern day Chennai) on its way to Calcutta (Kolkata). The ladies had to endure a difficult journey to shore by rowing boat in very rough seas. Judith was embarrassed by the fact that the oarsmen were wearing only loincloths.

Arrival at MadrasNoc

Landing at Madras P1551 (1856) Images Online  

When Judith made dry land, she was taken to the governor but the other ladies had to stay in a punch tavern. They were all invited to a dinner and dance in the evening. The governor made it very clear that he thought that none of the ladies would get a husband. Judith did not like being treated as merely a package of goods for market. The governor had been asked by an East India Company official who lived at an outpost station to find a wife for him. The governor thought Judith would do. He was very surprised when Judith refused the offer. She was determined to continue on her voyage to see her brother.

Judith found a husband very quickly - within a month of the Streatham’s arrival at Calcutta in July 1728.  She married Scottish-born merchant John Fullerton on 16 August 1728. The previous year, John had been the sole survivor of an attack on a group of Englishmen at Jeddah.

It seems to have been a very happy relationship. In 1732 the couple left India on separate ships to return to England and settle there. John wrote to Judith from St Helena declaring his love for her. He was relieved to find that she had given birth safely on board ship. She was three weeks away from port at the time. She had produced a fine baby boy but John wanted a daughter. In his letter, he wrote that he hoped to have a ‘little Judy’ in the future. His wish was granted. As well as four sons, they had a daughter Judith.
 
Helen Paul
Lecturer in Economics and Economic History, University of Southampton

At our event on 19 June you can hear more about the shipboard experiences of voyagers to India as revealed in their private papers.

Further reading:
Judith Fullerton papers, British Library, India Office Private Papers Mss Eur B162
John Fullerton papers, British Library, India Office Private Papers Mss Eur D602

 

15 June 2017

The loss of the East Indiaman ‘Ganges’

Add comment

The British Library holds an account of the sinking of an East India Company ship, the Ganges, in 1807.  It is a terrifying story, not least because the crisis took place over several days. The Titanic sank in less than three hours. The Ganges was in trouble for a week. 

 Ganges

'The Ganges East-India-man Foundering in a Gale' - from T Harington, Remarkable Account of the loss of the ship Ganges East Indiaman… (London, 1808) Noc

The author of the account was Samuel Rolleston, a passenger on the Ganges.  Born in Hampshire in 1775, the son of a merchant, Rolleston had been appointed to the East India Company’s civil service in Bombay in 1794. 

A convoy of East Indiamen had left India and was approaching the Cape of Good Hope.  The weather was unsettled and the Ganges had been letting in water. The crew were monitoring the leak.  On 24 May, there was 24 inches of water in the hold. To make the ship lighter, four guns were thrown overboard and then some of the masts were lowered down.  One of the other ships in the convoy was the St Vincent.  On 25 May Captain Thomas Talbot Harington, commander of the Ganges, went on board the St Vincent. He asked the commander, Captain Charles Jones, whether some passengers could change ships. Jones refused as the St Vincent was also leaking. However he agreed to stay close by. 
 
On 26 May, the weather was fine. There were hopes that they would reach the Cape safely.  The next day, Harington gave orders to throw more cargo overboard.  The passengers helped the crew to do this and also to pump out water from the hold.  The guns on the main deck were thrown overboard.  Now the Ganges was less able to defend herself against attack.  The Ganges made constant signals of distress.  The St Vincent did not reply. 

The passengers believed that they would die that night. Darkness fell and the ship was rolling heavily.  At midnight, an officer thought he saw a light.  He went to tell the captain.  Three hours passed before they saw the light again.  At dawn, it was clear that the St Vincent was astern.  The Ganges sent a signal: ‘The Ship is Sinking. Sent Boat’.  The sea was rolling so violently that it was difficult to get people into the launch.  The first passengers left just before 1pm.  The last boat, with Harington and Rolleston on board, reached the St Vincent at 9pm. 

The next day, 29 May, the Ganges was still visible.  Harington and Rolleston went to her in a launch to see if they could salvage anything.  They could not and returned to the St Vincent. They had just reached her when the Ganges sank in one minute.  She went down with her masts standing, except one.  All hands and passengers had been saved, but presumably any animals on board had been left to drown.  Rolleston finished his account with ‘gratitude to my Creator’.

After this traumatic experience, Samuel Rolleston settled in England. The family home was Pan Manor on the Isle of Wight.  He was twice married and had two children. Rolleston died in 1860 aged 84.

Helen Paul
Lecturer in Economics and Economic History, University of Southampton

A Passage to India - Shipboard Life - Join us on 19 June to hear more about the experiences of voyagers between England and India as revealed in their private papers.

Further reading:
The loss of an East Indiaman in 1807, BL Mss Eur F591
Simon Martin, ‘The Loss of an East Indiaman in 1807: account by Samuel Rolleston’ in The Journal of the Families in British India Society, no.22 Autumn 2009, pp.23-29
T Harington, Remarkable Account of the loss of the ship Ganges East Indiaman… (London, 1808)

 

09 June 2017

Thomas Bowrey’s cloth samples

Add comment

To celebrate International Archives Day, we’re sharing some unexpected treasures we found in the India Office Private Papers.  One of the joys of being an archivist is the daily opportunity to be surprised and enchanted by the collections in our care.

Tucked away in a volume packed with closely-written correspondence and accounts are a number of cloth and colour samples from the early years of the 18th century.

MSS Eur D1076 (9)

MSS Eur D 1076

The papers belonged to Thomas Bowrey (d.1713), merchant and compiler of the first Malay-English dictionary.  As a young man, Bowrey worked as a ship’s pilot in the East Indies.  He then moved on to operating his own ships as an interloper breaching the monopoly of the East India Company in Asia. 

On his return to England in 1689, Bowrey married and settled in Wapping in East London.  He owned and freighted ships for the East India Company.

MSS Eur D1076 (10)

MSS Eur D 1076

The woollen cloth samples sewn onto papers show the colours selected as being suitable for export to the East Indies. 

MSS Eur D1076 (3)

MSS Eur D 1076

There is also a textile colour chart, like a modern paint chart.  The colours are still vibrant after 300 years.  The name which jumped out at me is number 18 - Gall Stone.  For lack of romance, this label certainly rivals the Persian silk colour described as Water Rat which featured in our story ‘Was 'water rat' the new black in 1697?’  

MSS Eur D1076 (6)

MSS Eur D 1076

So – Gall Stone, Water Rat.  I wonder what other surprising textile colour descriptions await discovery in the British Library collections?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
MSS Eur D 1076 Thomas Bowrey Papers
Margaret R. Hunt, ‘Bowrey, Thomas (d. 1713)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008

 

02 June 2017

A Passage to India: Shipboard Life

Add comment

We are busy preparing for our exciting event on 19 June - A Passage to India: Shipboard Life.  The lives of passengers and crew on board East India Company ships will be explored through the prism of little-known personal papers held at the British Library.

Performers Rebecca Tremain and Penny Dimond came to look at the collection items which have been selected for the event by researchers at the University of Southampton in collaboration with British Library curators. 

Still 8 

They were thrilled to see the diary of Henry Nicholetts…

  Still 3

Still 1
British Library MSS Eur F706   Noc

…and the letters of Judith Weston …

Still 4
British Library MSS Eur B162 Noc

…and the beautiful illustrations in an anonymous journal from 1773.

Still 7

 
British Library MSS Eur E292 Noc

  Still 6
British Library MSS Eur E292 Noc

And as they read snippets out loud, I was treated to a sneak preview of just how vividly these documents from the past will be brought to life by Rebecca and Penny!

Join us on 19 June to hear more about the shipboard experiences of voyagers to India as revealed in their private papers.
 
Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

16 May 2017

Henry Nicholetts’ voyage to Calcutta

Add comment

India Office Private Papers recently acquired the journal of Henry Nicholetts written during a voyage to Calcutta in 1855. Henry was aged 15 and on his way to start a career in Borneo.  We are delighted that the journal is going to feature in an event at the British Library in June - A Passage to India: Shipboard Life

Nicholetts WD4560 compressed

Miniature portrait of Henry Nicholetts - British Library WD4560

Henry Nicholetts was born in South Petherton Somerset on 31 July 1840, the tenth child of solicitor John and his wife Mary.  Henry’s mother died shortly before his eighth birthday.  He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School in London and for a short time at Rugby.  In 1855 his father asked Henry if he would like to go to Borneo as a ‘governor’ of a district.  There was a family connection: Henry’s elder brother Gilbert was married to Mary Anna Johnson, a niece of Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak.  Henry tells us that he ’accepted the appointment without any hesitation’ and set off on his journey in July 1855 on board the Monarch bound for Calcutta.

  Monarch launch Blackwall 1844
Launch of the Monarch at Green’s Yard Blackwall -  Illustrated London News 15 June 1844


Henry kept a journal of the entire voyage, overcoming sea sickness in the early days to take pleasure in life on board ship:  ‘I think it is worth coming to sea if only to see the beautiful mornings’. 

Nicholetts diary 1

 British Library MSS Eur F706 Noc

The teenager complains at times of the monotony of the voyage, having nothing to record some days except the position of the ship. But he and his fellow passengers passed the time with whist, quoits, play-acting, singing, dancing, and shooting birds. There were fights and accidents to report – a chain fell from the rigging, rattling to the deck close to a young passenger, and a dog fell overboard. Henry enjoyed two traditional maritime celebrations: the ceremony of the dead horse when the sailors’ advance of one month’s pay ran out, and ‘crossing the line’ with Neptune. 

Nicholetts diary 2

British Library MSS Eur F706 Noc

Henry had tea with the midshipmen who were ‘very free and easy’, and he ‘began to know the ladies a little better’, chatting with ‘a young lady of very prepossessing appearance & of a very romantic turn of mind’. Small incidents are turned into amusing stories: the bad haircut given to one young man; the mixing of gin instead of water into port wine; the effect of the waves - ‘The ship rolling a good deal we had scenes in the cuddy - tea cups tumbling over; legs of mutton bounding down the table; ladies falling into gentlemen’s arms’.

Unfortunately our story of this engaging teenager does not have a happy ending.

On arrival in Sarawak, Henry was posted by Sir James Brooke to Lundu. In February 1857 he went on a short visit to stay with Brooke at Kuching.  

Mw00805

Sir James Brooke by Sir Francis Grant 1847 NPG 1559 © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG CC

On the night of 18/19 February Brooke’s house was attacked by armed Chinese. Henry went out from the bungalow where he was sleeping.  Brooke wrote:  ‘Poor Harry Nicholetts! I mourn for his fate.  I was fond of him, for he was a gentle and amiable lad, promising well for the future. Suddenly awakened, he tried to make his way to the large house, and was killed in the attempt.  His sword lay beside him next morning when he was found. Poor, poor fellow!’

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Join us on 19 June to hear more about Henry’s shipboard experiences and those of other voyagers to India as revealed in their private papers.

19June_ApassagetoindiaLanding at Madras - British Library P1551 Noc

 

Further reading:
Henry Nicholetts’ journal MSS Eur F706
Gertrude L Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak (London, 1876)
Basil Lubbock, The Blackwall Frigates (Glasgow, 1962)

 

09 May 2017

Exploits of the Queen’s Own Light Dragoons

Add comment

The India Office Records contain a wealth of information about the pre-independence Indian Army and the forces of the East India Company, but one small file from the parallel collection of private papers includes details of a British Army unit which took part in one of the most notorious disasters in this country’s military history.

Queen's Dragoons © IWM (Q 71582)

Men of the 4th Queen's Own Light Dragoons who received the Crimean Medal from Queen Victoria, 28 May 1855 - Healy Stratton, Sergeant D. Gillam, William Simpson and E.T. Moon. Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 71582)

Alongside a small number of ephemeral items is the Nominal Roll of the 4th Queen’s Own Light Dragoons, printed at the Regimental Press in Rawalpindi. Its nine pages list more than 300 officers, N.C.O.s and men ‘who embarked at Plymouth, for service in the EAST, on the 17th day of July 1854’. They sailed in the Simla under the command of Lt Col Lord George Paget, and included a paymaster, a surgeon, an assistant surgeon and a veterinary surgeon, four trumpeters and four farriers. Three columns give their regimental number, rank & name, and ‘Remarks’. When I noticed entries such as ‘Killed in Action, 25th October, 1854’, ‘Died at Scutari, 10th February, 1855’, and ‘Prisoner of War, 25th Oct., 1854, and died in Russia’, I realised that the 'East' in question is not India but the Crimea.

  Dragoons

Mss Eur C610 - Nominal Roll of the 4th Queen’s Own Light Dragoons

The individuals listed almost certainly took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade. The tenth page gives a breakdown of casualties through to 30 April 1856, and shows that 21 of the Dragoons were killed (including two who died of wounds); 103 died of disease; eleven became prisoners of war; seven 'died in the hands of the Enemy'; and four 'suffered amputation'. It is noted laconically that Lieutenant H.S. Adlington 'Had two horses shot under him at Inkerman. Retired 4th March 1856'; that Sergeant W. Watson 'Died at Manchester, 10th October, 1859'; and that Privates J. Darby and J. Hammond were discharged respectively 'for general debility' (25 December 1856) and 'for insanity' (28 August, 1856), in contrast to Private J. Gilchrist, who was 'Discharged with ignominy, 15th February, 1860'. Three men – Privates J.E. Dray, G. Palmer and J. Wood – are identified as deserters.

It is a pity that the Roll does not mention the outstanding act of bravery performed by Private Samuel Parkes during the battle of Balaklava. Not only did he save the life of the dismounted trumpeter Crawford after his own horse had been killed by protecting him from two Cossacks, but later in the retreat he fought off six more enemy soldiers armed only with his sword. He was fittingly awarded the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 24 February 1857) and decorated by the Queen herself on 26 June. The Roll states that Crawford lived to fight another day and was discharged on 5 February 1861, whereas Parkes had been discharged three years earlier on 1 December 1857; he died on 14 November 1864.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services

Further reading
Mss Eur C610 - Nominal Roll of the 4th Queen’s Own Light Dragoons
The Victoria Cross, 1856-1920, edited by Sir O’Moore Creagh (shelfmark OIA355.134)
The Victoria Cross in the Crimea,  Col. W.W. Knollys (10602.bb.30)

04 May 2017

The Turings of India

Add comment

Mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing had many family connections to India.  His father Julius Mathison Turing belonged to the Indian Civil Service and his mother Ethel was daughter of Edward Waller Stoney, chief engineer of the Madras Railway Company.  Back in the 1790s, the physical appearance of one of the Turings born in Madras prompted the East India Company to introduce a regulation blocking the employment of men with Indian mothers.

  Civil servant c13441-10

'A civilian going out' from Twenty four plates illustrative of Hindoo and European manners in Bengal (1781.b.18 plate 23) Images Online  Noc

The Turings were a Scottish family whose members had served the East India Company since 1729 when Robert Turing was appointed as a surgeon in Madras.  Robert’s sister Helen married a cousin Henry Turing who was a peruke-maker in St Martin-in the Fields London.  Helen and Henry’s sons John and William joined the Company as Madras civil servants in the 1760s. Both rose steadily through the ranks from writer to senior merchant.

William Turing had a son John William, born on 20 May 1774 and baptised at Chingleput on 24 January 1776, ‘mother unknown’.  However the mother’s identity is revealed in William’s will, made when he was dying at Nellore in November 1782.  William wrote that he had so many bad debts that it was impossible to say how his estate would turn out, but he left 2,000 pagodas each to his ‘natural son’ John William, his ‘girl Nancy’, and the child she was carrying.  The will was proved on 17 January 1783 and the accounts show that the bequests were paid to John William and his Indian mother Nancy. 

  Turing William will
IOR/L/AG/34/29/186 p. 47 Will of William Turing 1782 Noc

Nancy gave birth to William's daughter on 13 May 1783.  The baby was baptised Margaretha at Chingleput on 12 June (again 'mother unknown'), and buried at Pulicat on 17 June 1783.

It appears that John William Turing was in London by 1791.  The East India Company's Committee of Shipping reported on 19 April 1791 that a John Turing who had been appointed as a military officer cadet for Madras appeared to be ‘a Native of India’.  The Court of Directors called in the young man so they could inspect him. After he withdrew, the directors resolved unanimously that the sons of native Indians would henceforward not be appointed by the Court to employment in the Company's civil, military, or marine services.  John Turing’s cadetship was rescinded.

Turing exclusion IOR B 113 p.17

IOR/B/113 p.17 Court Minutes 19 April 1791 Noc

During the following years, the Company gradually extended the categories for exclusion.  In 1795 Anglo-Indians were disqualified from service in the Company’s Armies except as bandsmen and farriers. On 19 February 1800 the Committee of Shipping reported on the case of Hercules Ross who was presented to be 3rd mate of the Hugh Inglis.  Ross came from Jamaica and the Court decided that the previous regulations should be applied to persons born in the West Indies 'whose Complexion evidently shows that their Parents are not severally Natives of Great Britain or Ireland'. 

It is unclear what happened to John Turing after he was deprived of his chance to be a Company military officer.  On 20 April 1791 the Court of Directors granted Alexander Clark permission to take a native named John Turing to Bengal on the ship Dublin, at no cost to the Company.  Does anyone know his subsequent story?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/N/2/11 pp.25-26 Baptism of John William Turing at Chingleput 24 January 1776.
IOR/L/AG/34/29/186 pp. 2-23, 47 Will and estate papers for William Turing.
IOR/N/2/11 pp.39-40 Baptism of Margaretha Turing at Chingleput 12 June 1783.
IOR/N/2/11 pp.817-818 Burial of Margaretha Turing at Pulicat 17 June 1783.
(The above documents are available online through findmypast).
IOR/B/113 p.17 Court Minutes 19 April 1791 for John Turing’s exclusion.
IOR/B/130 pp.997-998 Court Minutes 19 February 1800 for Hercules Ross’s exclusion.

 

27 April 2017

Picturing Places - Taking a wider view?

Add comment

Think of the British Library’s collections - it is probably books rather than prints and drawings which come to mind.  Think of Gainsborough, Constable or Turner:  do you picture Sublime, imaginary paintings rather than ‘topographical’, place-specific prints and drawings?

33_h_5 6 8

33.h.7.: Peter Fabris, The eruption of Vesuvius, from Supplement to the Campi Phelgraei (1779) Noc

Picturing Places, a new free online resource launched today by the British Library, aims to widen perceptions of both the British Library’s holdings and topographical art.

Maps_k_top_14_83_e

Maps K.Top.14.83.e.: Anonymous, Interior view of the east end of Netley Abbey near Southampton (about 1790-1810) Noc

Rather than seeing topography as marginal compared to the landscapes in oils or watercolours by the canon of ‘great artists’ or more imaginative and Sublime images, Picturing Places celebrates images of specific places in the graphic arts, sparking a lively debate around nationhood, identity, and cultural value.

Add MS 36489 C 1

Add MS 36489 C 2

Add MS 36486 C: George Scharf, Panorama of Ratisbon (Regensburg) (1845) Noc

The British Library holds the world’s most extensive and important collection of British topographic materials: from handwritten notes by antiquarians to rare first editions, extra-illustrated books and unique compilations of plates, text and drawings by named collectors, the British Library is a treasure trove for anyone with an interest in the intersections between place, art, representation and history.  The full extent and depth of the collections are only now being properly recognised and explored. 

Add_MS_15546_f101

Add MS 15546, f.101: Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, A service in Bath Abbey (1788) Noc

Picturing Places explores the Library’s extensive holdings of landscape imagery and showcases works of art by well-known artists such as J.M.W. Turner alongside images by a multitude of lesser-known figures.  Only a few have ever been seen or published before, as historically, the British Library’s prints and drawings have been overlooked by scholars.  The material in these extensive collections reflect the scholarly and artistic practices of earlier eras when images and texts would have been seen as more closely equivalent.  They have been neglected due both to the overwhelming volume of material and the perception of their relative ‘insignificance’ in the context of a national library where text has always taken precedence. 

74_746_e_2

746.e.2.: Robert Wallis after JMW Turner, Stonehenge, from Picturesque Views in England and Wales (1829) Noc

While landscape images have often been treated as accurate records of place, this website reveals for the first time the many different stories involved – about travel and empire, science and exploration, the imagination, history and observation.

Add_MS_15509_f11

Add MS 15509, f.11: John Cleveley, junior, The ruins of Killaru, Islay (1772) Noc

Picturing Places is an outcome of a current British Library research project, Transforming Topography, which we began in 2013 with a research workshop sponsored by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.   We have partnered with other institutions such as the Royal Collection and British Museum and with academics worldwide.  93 authors representing emerging and established experts in fields such as art history, history, cultural geography and geography are currently involved, and we have 108 essays now being processed for publication.  Films from the Library’s 2016 Transforming Topography conference exploring the depiction of place are also available, providing revelatory insights about the history of landscape imagery.

Keep an eye on Picturing Places and  @bl_prints for updates as the project progresses.

Felicity Myrone
Lead Curator, Western Prints & Drawings