Untold lives blog

5 posts from March 2012

26 March 2012

Duke of Cambridge supports campaign against London vice

Prince Adolphus Frederick, first Duke of Cambridge, (1774-1850), son of George III, was a patron of many good causes and benevolent institutions.  One of the associations he supported was the London Society for the Protection of Young Females which was established in 1835.  The Society aimed to suppress juvenile prostitution in the metropolis by
• Closing houses in which juvenile prostitution was encouraged
• Punishing those procuring young girls
• Protecting the ‘unhappy victims’.

The Society campaigned for better legislation to deal with the traffic in girls and ran an asylum which took in children under the age of fifteen with the aim of returning them to their family or friends or finding them a respectable place in service.  With the Duke as its chief patron, the Society was supported by several bishops and clergymen, many members of the nobility and gentry, City Aldermen, and London citizens and merchants.

G. Cruikshank's The Drunkard's Children 
© The British Library Board  8436.de.9, plate I-  G. Cruikshank The Drunkard's Children (1905)

See more images from the BL’s collections.

In January 1842 the Society petitioned the East India Company asking for a donation (IOR/L/F/2/64 no. 78 of January 1842). The Society was raising funds to open a new asylum where not less than 150 girls could be protected, given religious instruction, and then returned home or found a suitable situation.  The Company directors voted to subscribe £20.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Search for more documents or books about the Duke of Cambridge, the London Society for the Protection of Young Females, or the East India Company.

Discover more about the India Office Records.


19 March 2012

Bengal Army officers - names, nationalities, fatalities and a phantom

There are many 'untold lives' to be found in the pages of the biographical compilations in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, one of which is Lives of the officers of the Bengal Army, 1758 - 1834 by Major V.C.P. Hodson (OIR355.332).


Portrait of Adam Atkinson of the Bengal Army

Portrait of Adam Atkinson of the Bengal Army by A.W. Devis, Calcutta 1789 (Foster 1065) © The British Library Board Images Online

Some of the most fascinating information is to be found in the appendices near the very end of the work, even if some entries leave the casual browser keen to know more. Appendix D, for example, is concerned with changes of name. One can understand why, on 9 June 1815, Mr. Cheese chose to become Mr. Carpenter, and one can feel for plain Mr. Grant and his decision to adopt the far more upmarket moniker Grant-Peterkin in 1836, but exactly why Charles Richard William Lane was denied the opportunity in 1824 to become known as C.R.W. Mattenby is left a mystery. Further on we see that twenty-two officers became Members of Parliament (appendix J); twenty-six took Holy Orders (appendix K); and thirty-one broadened their experience of combat by serving in the Royal Navy (appendix G). Appendix F is a 'List of officers of foreign nationality or of recent foreign extraction', and begs the question what were the circumstances that made Messrs. Knudson, Roman and Engleheart leave Denmark, Sardinia and Silesia respectively to make careers in India?
Three entries under the letter 'V' encapsulate the quirky appeal of the work as a whole. James Vanzandt was born in America in 1755, the son of Jacobus Vanzandt of New York (and possibly descended from a Dutch family long settled in what was originally New Amsterdam). Not only did he eschew the chance, post-1776, to fight alongside his fellow colonists, he became a Bengal Army cadet and arrived in India in April 1782 on the Northumberland (IOR/L/MAR/B141G-H), later rising to become Sheriff of Calcutta in 1798 (quite possibly alongside a career as an auctioneer in the firm of Dring & Co.). Resigning his commission in late 1799, eventually he died on 26 October 1823 at his home Netherclay House in deepest Somerset!     

Luckily for him, his fate was much more comfortable than what befell Lewis Van Sandau and Charles Van Rixtell. The demise of Van Sandau on 12 August 1827 is described in the 'Bengal Chronicle': 'The unfortunate officer was dressed in a white jacket, and in the darkness of the night the superstitious and alarmed sipahi [cavalryman] took him for a ghost and fired his piece with too fatal precision.' Van Rixtell died on 13 March 1795: 'He was leaning on some wooden railings in front of the palace [in Rajmahal, in the province of Bihar], admiring the view over the river, when they gave way. He fell forty feet ... and his head was dashed to pieces on the rocks below. He was buried in a garden adjoining the palace'. 

As these are just three names drawn from the last of a four-volume set, there are no doubt many more potential contributions to this blog awaiting discovery...

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Team Leader


12 March 2012

“Shrapnel Biddulph” – telegraph engineer, soldier, romantic and artist

Captain Michael Anthony Shrapnel Biddulph was posted to Turkey in 1854, and shortly afterwards to the Crimea, where he served with distinction as assistant engineer of the Royal Artillery, and later as director of submarine telegraphs in the Black Sea. Decorated by the French and Turkish governments, in 1856 he was promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. In 1858 he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Ottoman Telegraph, overseeing the construction of telegraph cable lines in Turkey-in-Asia.

  Work on portion of the Constantinople-Bussorah Line of Telegraph.
Vignette taken from Plan of a Portion of the Constantinople and Bussorah [Basra] Line of Telegraph. War Office, 1860. Maps R.U.S.I. A20.4. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 His frequent absence from this work may have been a factor in his departure after the Ottoman government failed to renew his contract in 1859. Although pleading illness, it seems that he was in fact visiting Lady Katherine Stamati, who he had met during his service in the Crimean War, and had subsequently married. Lady Katherine was the daughter of the second-in-command of Russian forces at Balaklava, following which battle her father had been imprisoned by the Allies, first at Constantinople and later at Malta. His eventual release at Odessa, after the war, was arranged by his son-in-law.

Constantinople-Bussorah Line of Telegraph.
Vignette taken from Plan of a Portion of the Constantinople and Bussorah [Basra] Line of Telegraph. War Office, 1860. Maps R.U.S.I. A20.4. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Colonel Biddulph later served in a command role during the 2nd Afghan War in 1879. After his active military career he held various posts at Court, receiving the G.C.B. in 1895, and was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in 1896.

Biddulph was also an accomplished artist, as can be seen from these examples of his work. His views of the Crimea were published by Colnaghi following the war, and three of his watercolours of the Bosphorus are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, together with a fine view of Ali Masjid Fort, Afghanistan, done in 1890.        

Crispin Jewitt
Specialist Advisor
British Library Cartographic and Topographic Materials

Dictionary of national biography.

Bektas, Yakup. The Sultan's Messenger: Cultural Constructions of Ottoman Telegraphy, 1847-1880. Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Oct., 2000).

Biographical information about the Stamati and Biddulph families 


British Library items:

Plan of a Portion of the Constantinople and Bussorah Line of Telegraph Laid under the Direction of Lt Col. Biddulph, R.A. Drawn by Lt Holdsworth, R.A. Lithographed at the Topographical Department, War Office, Col. Sir H. James, R.E. F.R.S. M.R.I.A. &c. Director. 1860. 1:63,360.  103 × 67cm.
BL Maps 43995.(15.)
BL Maps R.U.S.I. A20.4.

View of the Country in front of Balaklava Representing the scene of the memorable Light Cavalry Charge, 25th October, 1854; with the Russian Outposts at Kamara. From a Sketch by Major Biddulph, R.A. Lithographed & Printed at the Topographical & Statistical Depôt, War Department, Lt Col. T.B. Jervis, Director, 25th October, 1856. 92 × 38cm. BL 1781.d.7.(9.) BL Maps C.49.f.25.(5.)

05 March 2012

Benevolence from Bengal: Amir Chand’s bequest

The mercantile classes have long been associated with acts of charity within the communities in which they live and the records of the East India Company provide ample evidence of numerous philanthropic deeds. One notable example is a bequest left by one of India’s most famous eighteenth century merchants Amir Chand [Omichund, Umichund].

A major trader with the Nawabs of Bengal and the East India Company, Amir Chand is best remembered for his role in the events which led to the Company acquiring political supremacy in Bengal.  Even today his name conjures up images of political chicanery, extravagance and corruption, and of double dealing by Robert Clive and the British. Nevertheless on his death in 1758 Amir Chand bequeathed “certain sums of money, for charitable uses, to be distributed in different parts of the world”. The beneficiaries included the Foundling Hospital for children and the Magdalen Hospital for penitent prostitutes in London.

Chapel of the Foundling Hospital G70037-05 for blog
© The British Library Board Images Online From Felix Leigh, London Town (Verses) (BL: 12805.s.9, p.42) 


The will instructed Amir Chand’s brother-in-law and executor Huzzoramaul [Huzuri Mal] to send an initial sum of 3,000 current rupees direct to England in one of the Company’s ships to be equally divided between the two institutions. The remaining 37,500 current rupees were then to be paid into the Company’s treasury in Bengal. Under the management of the Company, this sum was never to be taken out of the treasury but the interest was to be remitted annually to England and divided equally between the Governors of the two hospitals. By the 1760s the plans outlined in the will had been put in place and initial payments were made.  However payments seem to have lapsed soon afterwards, probably as a result of litigation contesting the overall management of Amir Chand’s estate.


Richard Scott Morel
Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:

IOR/E/1/62 ff. 231-235v
IOR/D/148 f. 105
John Brownlow, The history and objects of the Foundling Hospital (London, 1865), p. 50.

02 March 2012

Sir Josiah’s Disobedient Child

Sir Josiah Child (bap.1631, d.1699) was the successful son of a London merchant. He made a large fortune as a brewer and victualler and through the Royal African and East India Companies. Child bought an estate at Wanstead in Essex and lavished money on landscaping. Palladian Wanstead House pictured below was built after Sir Josiah’s death by his son Richard.

View of Wanstead House
View of Wanstead House, by G. Robertson; engraved by Fittler
BL: Maps.K.Top.13.30.d © The British Library Board Images Online

Child was active in local politics, sat as an MP, and served nearly 25 years as an East India Company director, with two periods as Governor. He was the author of a number of economic tracts, and his letters and published works can be read today in the British Library. He married three times and had eight children.

The historian T. B. Macaulay described Sir Josiah Child as an autocrat, ‘the despot of Leadenhall Street’. However Child’s will dated 23 February 1697 reveals that he was not so successful at commanding obedience in his private life:

‘I give unto my said daughter Mary the sume of Five pounds and noe more because she hath married not only without my consent but expressly against my command and contrary to her own repeated promisses and lett others learne by her example.’

‘…my said sonn Sir Josiah and my said daughter Mary have both of them behaved undutifully to me and broake many promises made to me in a high and ungratefull contempt of me their Father who have bin to kinde to them.’

Mary had been betrothed to John Barrington of Hatfield Broad Oak but he died of smallpox in November 1691 before the marriage could take place. On 23 February 1693 Mary married widower Edward Bullock of Faulkbourne Essex by licence at St Botolph Aldgate, London. This wedding was very different from the magnificent celebration at Wanstead on 5 June 1682 attended by the Bantam ambassador and his entourage when her sister Rebecca married Lord Herbert.

Why did Child object to his daughter’s choice of husband? Edward Bullock was a wealthy landowner who later became an MP. The couple had eight children. After Edward’s death on 6 December 1705, Mary spent nearly 20 years as a widow before marrying Edward Hutchinson at Faulkbourne in 1724. Hutchinson was an Army Captain and the grandson of Sir Josiah’s sister Anna. The couple lived at Faulkbourne Hall with Mary’s son Josiah Bullock and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Cooke of the East India Company. Edward Hutchinson died shortly after making his will in December 1734, leaving £200 to be invested to buy bread every Sunday for the poor of Faulkbourne who attended church. Mary died in 1748 aged 76.

If you know more about Mary or the quarrel between the Childs and the Bullocks, please tell us!

Many thanks to Georgina Green and Tim Couzens for providing information for this blog.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Will of Sir Josiah Child 23 February 1697 (with later codicils), proved 6 Jul 1699 (The National Archives: PROB11/451)
Will of Edward Hutchinson 20 December 1734, proved 24 January 1735 (The National Archives: PROB 11/669)
Marriage register of St Botolph Aldgate (London Metropolitan Archives: P69/BOT2)
Boyd’s Marriage Index
Burke’s genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry
Daniel Lysons, The environs of London (1792-96)
History of Parliament Online

See also East India Company at Home 1757-1857