THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

6 posts from November 2018

15 November 2018

From Switzerland to Hackney via India - a patient at Pembroke House Asylum

I recently came across the 1851 census return for Pembroke House Asylum in Hackney.  This was a private mental health asylum in Mare Street where the East India Company placed patients from amongst its servants and their families.

HackneyHackney in 1840 from G W Thornbury, Old & New London vol 3 (London, 1897)

On 31 March 1851 there were 109 patients under the care of Dr Walter Davis Williams, his mother Martha, six male ‘keepers’, two nurses, and  a team of  sixteen domestic staff.   98 men and 5 women were described as East India Company invalids, pensioners, or servants.  Their places of birth have an interesting distribution:

• Ireland 65
• Scotland 16
• England 14
• Wales 2
• India 2
• Channel Islands 1
• America 1
• Switzerland 1
• Unknown 1

The presence of 65 Irish men would appear to be a reflection of the Company’s policy of recruiting large numbers of private soldiers in Ireland.

My eye fell upon the patient born in Switzerland – a widow aged 33 with the initials ‘M.A.M.’.   I was able to identify her as Maria Augustina Martin in the Pembroke House case book preserved in the India Office Records.

MulhouseMulhouse in Alsace from Charles A Grad, L'Alsace; le pays et ses habitants (Paris, 1889)


Maria Augustina Martin was born in Mulhouse in the Alsace region and worked there as a dressmaker.  She married and had a baby.  After both her husband and child died, she worked as a servant in Berne.  She then became nurse to the daughters of Madras Army officer Clements Edward Money Walker and his wife Eliza Anne: Julia Rosa born in India in 1845 and Eliza Anne born in Switzerland in 1847.

Maria travelled to Madras with the Walker family.  In December 1849 she was admitted to the General Hospital behaving in a very excited and incoherent manner.   In January 1850 she was transferred to the Madras asylum.

MadrasX108(49) Madras from William Simpson's India: Ancient and Modern (1867)

The East India Company believed that patients with mental health problems should be removed as soon as possible from the heat of India to give them the best chance of recovery. So Maria was sent to England and admitted to Pembroke House on 22 September 1850.  She was described as being ‘of somewhat spare habit and phlegmatic appearance’.  The supposed cause of her mania was the Indian climate. The East India Company paid for her treatment - she told Dr Williams that she had no friends in Switzerland who might help her.

The case notes for Maria show that she continued to have attacks of agitation, and that the staff found it difficult to understand what she was saying when she was upset because of her accent. She used to walk up and down the garden shouting.

In July 1855, Maria began to suffer from bowel problems. There are very detailed notes of the treatments administered to her by Dr Williams.  Sadly nothing helped and by 23 July it became obvious that she was dying. Williams ‘ordered a little brandy but she only took one spoonful when she sank back & died very calmly’.  A post mortem examination was carried out six hours later.  Dr Williams recorded the cause of death as chronic mania for seven years and obstruction of the bowels for five days. He gave her age as 34. On 25 July Maria was buried at the church of St John of Jerusalem in South Hackney.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/K/2/31 Pembroke House admission register 1845-1861
IOR/K/2/36 Pembroke House case book 1849-1867

 

13 November 2018

The fate of two forgers

On Sunday 6 February 1785 a mass hanging took place at Newgate Prison of individuals who had been found guilty of various crimes and sentenced to death.  The hangings were intentionally held publicly at the debtors' gate of the prison to serve as a warning to society that such crimes would not be tolerated.

  NewgateNewgate from G W Thornbury, Old and New London (London, 1887)

Two of the individuals hanged that day were James Dunn and William Abbott, two unrelated individuals and cases, who were both convicted of forgery and who had both attempted to defraud individuals connected to the East India Company.

James Dunn was found guilty and sentenced to death on 8 December 1784 for having forged the last will and testament of one James Potter, a seaman aboard the East India Company ship Rodney, who had died at St Helena on 14 March 1784.  Dunn had attempted to defraud not only James Potter’s widow Jenny but also the East India Company, several ship’s captains and other seamen.  The case was drawn out over several months as Dunn had successfully proved the forged will at the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury and it therefore had to be declared null and void by them before he could be tried and convicted of his crime.

William Abbott was also found guilty and sentenced to death on 8 December 1784 for having forged a bill of sale owed by Daniel Mcarthy to John How, a seaman aboard the East India Company ship Warren Hastings.  John How had died on board ship on 28 April 1783.  It was believed that Abbott had learned of this and of the money owed to How in July 1783 when the Warren Hastings was at Bombay alongside the Talbot, in which Abbot was a passenger.  On Abbot’s return to England in October 1784 he had forged the bill of sale to the value of £23 14s 10d and had posed as John How to claim the money from Mcarthy.

On finding William Abbott guilty, the jury had given the verdict ‘Guilty with recommendation'.  Although guilty, they believed he deserved some clemency.  The judge however appears to have disagreed and sentenced him to death.

Karen Stapley,
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive - Derby Mercury, 9 Dec 1784, reported on the conviction of William Abbott for forgery.
Reading Mercury, Monday 7 February 1785, reported on the hangings at Newgate Prison and gave details of the individuals and their crimes.

 

11 November 2018

From library to battlefield – Rifleman Frederick Boxall

At the staff entrance of the British Library in London, there is a memorial plaque with 142 names. This is the roll of honour for the British librarians who lost their lives while serving in the First World War.

BLMemorial
In 2014, Untold Lives told the story of the first of the librarians named on the memorial to die:  Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Gladstone Booth.  The last man on the memorial to die prior to the Armistice of 11 November 1918 was Frederick James Boxall, formerly an assistant at Sion College Library in London.  305423 Rifleman Frederick James Boxall of the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment, the 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade, died of wounds in France on 7 November 1918, aged nineteen.

Frederick James Boxall was born at Battersea on 25 February 1899, the son of James Boxall and Edith Kate Boxall (née Bishop).  At the time of the 1901 Census, the family was living at 13 Brassey Square, Battersea and James was working as a carpenter.  Frederick’s  younger brother Herbert was born on 21 July 1901.  The family moved to Croydon.  School records show that Frederick studied from 1904 at Ecclesbourne Road Infants School, transferring to Winterbourne Boys School in 1906.  Frederick Boxall left school in December 1913 to become a junior assistant at Croydon Library. Two years later, he was appointed assistant at Sion College Library.

Frederick Boxall was called up in 1916.  He attested at Croydon on 9 December 1916, when he was seventeen years old.  He served with the 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade, a Territorial Force unit that was in late 1918 part of 169th Infantry Brigade in the 56th (1/1st London) Division. On 5 November 1918, the 56th Division was advancing towards the Honnelle River, close to the Franco-Belgian border between Valenciennes and Mons.  At 5.30 am, the 169th Brigade attacked and captured the village of Angreau.  Attempts to advance any further were prevented by heavy machine-gun fire.  The 169th and 168th Brigades attempted to continue the advance the following morning.  The 1st London Rifle Brigade were successful in capturing their first objective, but strong German counter attacks eventually pushed them back to their original lines. The battalion war diary (TNA: WO 95/2962/6) noted that the weather conditions were not good: ‘rain fell all day and the River Honnelle had to be waded across’.  The operation failed because the village of Angre was still held by the Germans, and units on the battalion’s right had also failed to make progress. 

A notice of Rifleman Boxall’s death was published in Library World, December 1918:
'We regret to announce the death of FREDERICK JAMES BOXALL, assistant in Sion College Library, who was mortally wounded while succouring a wounded comrade on 6th November, and died next day.  Boxall, who was nineteen years old, served as a junior in the Croydon Libraries from December, 1913, to December, 1915, when he was appointed at Sion College. A gentle-mannered, earnest and promising young man, his early but heroic death is much deplored'.

  Canadian casualty clearing station 1918Ward scene of a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station in Valenciennes. November 1918 Canadian Official World War 1 Photographs 1920 l.r.233.b.57.v4

Rifleman Boxall is buried in Cambrai East Military Cemetery in France. His name appears on the West Croydon Congregational Church war memorial, now in East Croydon United Reformed Church.

Michael Day
Digital Preservation Manager

 

08 November 2018

Journey to India of Randolph Marriott, East India Company Servant

A recent acquisition to the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting account of the voyage to India of a new employee of the East India Company.  Randolph Marriott joined the Company as a writer, and his papers include his journal of the journey to India in 1753, which complements the official ship's journal in the India Office Records.

Mss Eur F722 - JournalIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriott was a passenger on board the ship Portfield, which sailed from Gravesend on 22 January 1753, bound for Bengal, then a six month voyage, arriving on 25 July 1753.  Along the way, Marriott kept a brief but entertaining account of what he saw on board the ship.  The journal clearly shows the dangerous nature of such voyages.  Only a few days into the voyage on 4 February, Marriott reported that the boatswain had been ‘very much hurt by the Capstone falling on him’, and on 23 February they buried the corpse of Mr Gent, the purser, who it appeared had been ill when he came on board.  There were three more deaths over the course of the voyage.

Marriott describes one particularly hair-raising accident and the dramatic rescue that followed.  On Wednesday 4 April 1753, at 11 in the morning, John Ross, the doctor’s servant accidentally fell overboard, and was in grave danger of being drowned.  Some quick thinking crew members threw a coop containing some ducks over the side, and the cooper Edward Welsted jumped over board and helped the stricken servant onto the coop.  He then held on to him until a boat was hoisted out and brought them both back in alive.  The servant was somewhat bruised by the fall but Marriott reported him to be ‘in a fair way of recovery’.  Happily, the ducks also survived the experience. 

F722 - Servant falls over boardIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

The cooper Edward Welsted again features in the journal, when on the night of 22 May he was put in irons for disobeying and striking the 4th Mate, Mr Edward Altham, and behaving in an insolent and mutinous manner.  Further potentially very serious consequences seemed to have been averted, as Marriott recorded that the next day the cooper was taken out of irons upon his asking pardon of all the officers on board.

Marriott also reported on the sea life he spotted from the ship, mostly whales and sharks.  He described in his journal catching a shark on 31 March, which he said can be caught using ‘a line about the thickness of a penny cord, & a hook 4 or 5 inches long, & ¼ of one round. The bait is a bit of pork or beef’.

F722 - A Narrative of EventsIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriot served with the Company in India until 1766, when he resigned following a dispute with his employers. He arrived home in England on 16 June 1767. During his time in India, he compiled a volume of documents which gave a narrative of the events over that period, including a description of the battle of Plassey and a list of those held in the Black Hole of Calcutta. 

F722 - Black Hole of CalcuttaIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

John O’Brien
India Office Records

 

Further Reading:
Papers of Randolph Marriott (1736-1807), Writer in the East India Company's service, Bengal 1753-1767 [Reference Mss Eur F722]
Journal of the Portfield by Commander Carteret Le Geyt, 17 Nov 1752-29 Jul 1754 [Reference: IOR/L/MAR/B/609C]

 

 

06 November 2018

Hogarth’s London in the 18th century Latin poetry of Benjamin Loveling

In 1738 an anonymous book of Latin and English poetry was published ‘by a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford’. Its author was Benjamin Loveling (1711-1750?), a clergyman, satirist and one-time rake, who documented his liaisons in the inns and brothels of 1720s and 30s Covent Garden and Drury Lane in Latin poems inspired by the Roman poets Horace and Ovid. Loveling’s poems primarily take the form of verse epistles addressed to a circle of male friends. They are often funny – and sexually explicit.

  IMG_9302British Library, General Reference Collection 641.i.14. The title page motto is taken from Horace’s Epistles 1.14.36: nec Lusisse pudet, sed non incidere Ludum (‘there’s no shame in playing, but in not bringing an end to play’).

However, Loveling’s bawdy humour was not only at the expense of the sex workers of 18th century London. He also composed realistic and sympathetic depictions of prostitutes living in poverty, and Hogarthian social satire of the over-zealous moral reformers of the age. One such target was John Gonson, a notorious magistrate whose enthusiastic raids on brothels and harsh sentencing was satirised in William Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress (1731-2). Loveling addresses Gonson in his ode Ad Joannem G[on]s[o]num, Equitem (pp. 21-2):

  IMG_9303 2

Pellicum, G---s—ne, animosus hostis,
Per minus castas Druriae tabernas
Lenis incedens abeas Diones
                                                                     Aequus Alumnis.
Nuper (ah dictum miserum!) Olivera
Flevit ereptas viduata maechas,
Quas tuum vidit genibus minores
                                                                     Ante tribunal.
Dure, cur tanta in Veneris ministras
Aestuas ira?

(‘Gonson, fearless enemy of prostitutes, advancing on bawds throughout the less virtuous taverns of Drury, may you look kindly on the pupils of Dione [i.e. the mother of Venus] and be gone. Recently (ah it is wretched to say!) Oliver wept, bereft of her stolen whores, whom she saw on bended knees before your tribunal. Harsh man, why do you rage with such anger against the attendants of Venus?’)

He sympathetically represents the plight of the women affected by Gonson’s harsh punishments:

Nympha quae nuper nituit theatre
Nunc stat obscuro misera angiportu,
Supplici vellens tunicam rogatque
                                                                   Voce Lyaeum.

(‘The girl who recently shone in the theatre now stands wretched in a dark alley, and tearing at her dress she begs for wine [i.e. ‘the loosener’] with humble prayer.’)

With typically irreverent humour, Loveling ends the ode by suggesting that Gonson might change his mind if he were to experience the delights of brothel for himself, to be entertained by wine, or a ‘skilful prostitute’ (pellex … callida).

  Harlots-progress-f60135-32Plate 3 of Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress, a series of 6 paintings depicting the decline of Moll Hackabout, an innocent country girl who is drawn into a life of prostitution in London. This image shows Gonson entering with bailiffs to arrest Moll. 

Why write in Latin in 18th century England? Loveling was certainly not unusual; most educated men of this period still wrote and read Latin. Given his subject matter the desire to restrict his readership to a select male audience – and obscure the identity of himself and his addresses – is obvious. He perhaps also intended to create an amusing contrast between his ‘low’ subject matter and carefully crafted Latin verse. But most of all Latin was a medium that implicitly excluded most women, and within a closed circle of male readers gave him relative freedom and privacy to give voice to the underworld of 18th century London.

How do we respond to the undoubtedly masculine – and potentially misogynistic – associations of these Latin poems today?

Sara Hale
AHRC Innovation Placement Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Manchester
British Library, Heritage Made Digital

Further reading:
Latin and English poems. By a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford, London, 1738 (British Library, General Reference Collection 641.i.14) [2nd ed. 1741]
See quotations from Loveling’s poems used to ‘illustrate’ Hogarth’s works in: Edmund Ferrers, Clavis Hogarthiana: or, Illustrations of Hogarth, London, 1817
And in: John Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 3rd ed., London, 1785

British Library website on Georgian Britain 

 

01 November 2018

Souling on All Hallows’ Day

On the evening of Saturday 1 November 1873, a group of young men were drinking in the Blue Cap public house at Sandiway Head, Cheshire.  They could not have foreseen the dramatic turn of events that was about to unfold.

It was All Hallows’ Day.  In Cheshire there was a custom known as souling when groups would go about singing outside houses, receiving gifts of money or food.  Our young men left the Blue Cap about 11pm and began souling. 

Corbet  Henry ReginaldHenry Reginald Corbet by Sir Leslie Ward published in Vanity Fair 20 October 1883 © National Portrait Gallery NPG D44143

At about 11.30pm they arrived at at Dale Ford, the house used as a hunting lodge by Henry Reginald Corbet, a Shropshire magistrate and master of the Cheshire Hounds.  They sang The gentlemen of England and rang the bell.  As nobody answered, they started another song, Now pray we for our country.  The bell was rung again.  There was movement inside, then Corbet and a number of others rushed out. Corbet was holding a shotgun.  Someone shouted ‘Go at them!’ and two of the soulers were knocked over, one suffering a broken tooth.  Thomas Hodgkinson protested that they were doing no harm, only souling.

The soulers made off down the long drive of the house as quickly as they could.  Corbet followed, telling them to stop.  He fired his gun, hitting John Tomlinson in the legs.  Some of the soulers stopped and returned with Corbet and Tomlinson to the house.  Their names were taken before they were allowed to leave. 

When Tomlinson arrived home, nineteen shots were found in his left calf and two in the right.  When Corbet heard about this, he visited Tomlinson, gave instructions for his own doctor to attend, and gave him £25.  However that was not the end of the matter.  Corbet was brought before magistrates, charged with unlawful and malicious wounding, grievous bodily harm, and common assault.

The trial attracted a good deal of interest and proceedings lasted seven and a half hours.  Several of the young soulers gave evidence.  In his defence, Corbet said that he had recently dismissed some stable hands who had threatened him.  When he heard noises he thought they had returned.  He had never heard of the custom of souling.  Although he admitted firing the gun, he said he did not take aim and only meant to frighten the visitors.

The jury decided their verdict in the space of twenty minutes – Corbet was found guilty of common assault.  This was greeted with a ripple of applause.  Mr Addison for the prosecution stated that he did not wish to press hard on a gentleman in Mr Corbet’s position.  The act for which he was convicted was a hasty one provoked by what he perceived to be howling outside his door.  The unpleasantness of having to stand in the dock was already a considerable punishment.

The magistrates decided that Corbet should pay a fine of £100, and enter into a recognisance of good behaviour for twelve months.  The case attracted considerable press coverage.  Some newspapers expressed the belief that Corbet had got off lightly: the Nottingham Journal contrasted the case with a man sent to prison for six weeks for pointing his gun at a pheasant.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive, for example Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 15 November 1873, Cheshire Observer 29 November 1873, Nottingham Journal 2 December 1873.