Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

12 October 2012

Black labourers in London

To celebrate Black History Month and the anniversary of Untold Lives, we return to two black East India Company London warehouse labourers who appeared in our very first story.

James Inglis is described in the Company records as a ‘Negro’.  He had worked as a servant for a ‘Mr D. Inglis’ before joining the cloth warehouse in April 1820 at the age of 33.  He was nominated for the job by director William Taylor Money. Money’s sister Martha was married to David Deas Inglis, so he seems a likely candidate for James’s previous employer.  David Deas Inglis was born in Charleston Carolina in 1777 and served the East India Company in Bombay. The Inglis family plantations in Charleston may explain how James came to be his servant.

In 1820 James was living at 3 Rose and Crown Court, Moorfields.  He served as a private soldier in the Royal East India Volunteers, a corps first formed in 1796 to protect East India House and the Company warehouses ‘against hazard from insurrections and tumults’ and to assist the City government in times of disorder.  James was discharged from the Volunteers in February 1828 but the reason is not given.  He then seems to disappear from the surviving Company records. 

Consecration of the Colours of the Third Regiment of Royal East India Volunteers at Lord's Cricket Ground
WD 2425 Consecration of the Colours of the Third Regiment of Royal East India Volunteers at Lord's Cricket Ground, London, 29 June 1799 © The British Library Board Images Online

Richard Lane, ‘a man of Colour’, entered the Company’s Bengal Warehouse in New Street in March 1820 aged 32. He had been a servant to Mr Wood before being nominated for a labourer post by director Robert Campbell.  His home address in 1820 was 101 Houndsditch. Richard also served in the Royal East India Volunteers, but for only a short period from August 1820 until February 1821 when he was discharged, again for unknown reasons.  We next hear of him in the 1830s when the warehouse labourers were being made redundant after the government forced the Company to wind up its commercial operations.  In March 1837 Richard submitted a petition to be allowed to retire and go to his native country of America where he wished to remain with his relations.  This was approved and he was allowed to commute his pension of £19 10s per annum to a one-off lump sum payment of £184.

I am keen to know more about these two men. Can any readers shed any further light on the lives of James Inglis and Richard Lane?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:

IOR/L/AG/30/5 Admission register for East India Company warehouse labourers – data available on the India Office Family History Search

IOR/L/MIL/5/485 Register of soldiers in the Royal East India Volunteers


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