THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

6 posts from April 2019

18 April 2019

A Good Friday gift to the children of Christ’s Hospital

In his will of April 1586, City of London mercer Peter Symonds made a number of charitable bequests.  Amongst these was a yearly sum to provide raisins as a Good Friday treat for children from Christ’s Hospital school.

Christ's Hospital G70037-24Blue Coat Boys at Christ’s Hospital from Felix Leigh, London Town illustrated by Thomas Crane and Ellen Houghton (London, 1883) Images Online Noc

Symonds stipulated that on Good Friday, for ever, 60 children from Christ’s Hospital should attend a morning service at All Hallows Church in Lombard Street.  There they would receive 30 shillings for the school.  In addition the sum of 3s 4d was to be spent on 'good' raisins.  Each Blue Coat boy was to be given a 60th share of these raisins wrapped in paper.  Symonds wrote that ‘although this gifte maie be thoughte very frivolous yet my minde and meaning being hidden maie notwithstanding be performed, praying God to make all those children happie members in this commonwealthe’.

The terms of Symonds’ will were duly carried out every Good Friday with 60 of the youngest boys attending the service at All Hallows.  By the early 19th century, the custom had evolved so that the boys each received a new penny as well as a paper of raisins.  There is a rhyme:
‘Come, little Blue-Coat boy, come, come, come,
Sing for a penny, and chant for a plum’.

This ceremony took place for over 300 years. Then the Charity Commissioners put an end to the custom by repurposing the funds. The last distribution of Symonds’ gift took place in 1891 when each boy was also given a bun, an orange, and an Easter card. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Will of Peter Symonds or Simonds The National Archives PROB 11/71/136 proved 9 September 1587
William Harnett Blanch,The Blue-Coat Boys; or, School Life in Christ’s Hospital (London, 1877)
British Newspaper Archive

16 April 2019

An Easter vacation for Indian cadets at Sandhurst

In the India Office Records there is a file dedicated to Easter vacation arrangements for Indian gentleman cadets at the Royal Military College Sandhurst in 1920.  Some cadets wanted to stay with family or guardians in the UK whilst others had more ambitious plans.  Letters between the Military Department of the India Office and the College show a wish to take account of the cadets’ wishes balanced with a duty of care for the young men.

IOR L MIL 17 19051 1IOR/L/MIL/7/19051 Noc

Military Department official William Henry Swain sent Sandhurst a proposal that Captain Conrad Bertie Lochner of the Indian Army should take Madanjit Singh and Tek Bahadur Shah to visit the occupied territory in Germany.  Madanjit Singh wrote a polite letter to Swain thanking him for arranging a stay in London and the trip to Cologne, but questioning whether it would be worth going to Germany for only a week.  He was keen ‘to see a few Theaters’ in London. 

Faiz Muhammad and Khan Sikandar Ali Mirza wished to stay together in London without a guardian. Instead it was suggested that they stay in Harrow on the Hill with Mrs Ellen Stogdon, a widow in her late 70s. Faiz Muhammad Khan wrote to Swain that although Mrs Stogdon had been very kind to him on a previous visit, he was keen to stay elsewhere. 

Sikandar Ali Mirza also sent a letter to Swain saying that he did not like the idea of staying with Mrs Stogdon.  There was absolutely nothing to do there and ‘besides I have an impression that Indians are not very welcome at Harrow on the Hill’ although ‘Mrs Stogdon herself is very kind’.   He believed he was old enough to take care of himself and to distinguish between right and wrong. 

Swain suggested to Major-General Reginald Stephens, Commandant at the Royal Military College, that Madanjit Singh and Sikandar Ali Mirza might be allowed to make their own arrangements for the holiday as both would soon be fully-fledged officers.  Stephens advised against letting them loose in London alone for a fortnight.  It was agreed that Major J W H D Tyndall would take charge of Madanjit Singh, Sikandar Ali Mirza, Faiz Muhammad Khan, and Edris Yusuf Ali at the Russell Hotel in London.

IOR L MIL 17 19051 2IOR/L/MIL/7/19051 Noc


The file records that it was very difficult finding suitable officers to look after some of cadets.  The terms offered by the India Office were not sufficiently attractive. Hitherto it had offered pay plus 10s per day.  It was proposed to increase this to pay and allowances plus £1 per day and also a reasonable sum for travel and incidental expenses for officers whilst the cadets were in their charge.  Taking the young men to theatres and other places of amusement involved the officers in considerable extra expenditure.  In some cases the India Office was having to make advances to cadets for vacation expenses and then recoup this from parents or guardians in India.  There is a comment by General Sir Edmund George Barrow, Council of India, that in his opinion none of the vacation expenses should fall to Indian revenues as the cadets’ parents should provide financially for all aspects of their sons’ care.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/7/19051 Collection 430/42 Indian cadets at Sandhurst: arrangements for Easter 1920 vacation.

 

11 April 2019

The Well-Travelled Goat

On 4 April 1772, the obituary of a goat appeared in the London publication The Craftsman.  On 27 February 1772 the celebrated Dr Samuel Johnson wrote to Joseph Banks through Sir Joshua Reynolds:
Sir,
I return thanks to you and Dr. Solander for the pleasure which I received in yesterday’s conversation.  I could not recollect a motto for your Goat, but have given her a distich.  You, Sir, may perhaps have an epic poem, from some happier pen, than that of, Sir, Your most humble Servant,
Sam Johnson

GoatGoat from Walter Dwight Wilcox, Camping in the Canadian Rockies (New York, 1896)  Noc
BL flickr 

The note included two lines in Latin about the goat, translated by Johnson’s biographer, James Boswell:
In fame scarce second to the nurse of Jove,
This Goat, who twice the world had traversed round,
Deserving both her master’s care and love,
Ease and perpetual pasture now has found.

Rumour has it that Banks had the Latin lines engraved on a silver collar that the goat wore following her retirement at Greenwich, where she became something of an attraction.  Why did a goat merit such attention?

In the goat’s obituary, we read that she had indeed 'been twice round the world, first in the Dolphin, Captain Wallis, then in the Endeavour, Captain Cook'.  The Dolphin’s visit to Tahiti in 1767 was the first recorded by a European ship.  She sounds like a robust animal from this account in The Scots Magazine of 1773:
In a very few minutes an active bold spirited youth ascended the ship … and many of his companions followed his example. As one of them was standing near the gangway a goat belonging to the ship, gave him a butt upon the breech, which greatly alarmed him : looking round to discover his enemy, he observed the goat standing on its haunches ready for another assault … the poor fellow instantly jumped overboard … and … all the rest soon followed.

Dolphin Wallis 1Attack on the Dolphin by natives of Otaheite Add. 23921, f.5 Noc
Images Online  

Following Wallis’s reports of Tahiti on his return to Britain, the island was chosen as a site for the Royal Society’s global astronomical project.  The plan was to observe the planet Venus passing across the face of the sun to estimate the size of the solar system.  This was James Cook’s first objective when HMB Endeavour sailed to Tahiti from Plymouth in 1768, with the indomitable goat aboard.  An anonymous letter following the Endeavour’s return, published in The Gentleman’s and London Magazine, explained the goat’s importance:
Before I conclude, I must not omit how highly we have been indebted to a milch goat: she was three years in the West Indies, and was once round the world before in the Dolphin, and never went dry the whole time; we mean to reward her services in a good English pasture for life.

Did this hardy well-travelled goat inspire Cook in his distribution of breeding pairs of animals, including goats, on his later voyage in the Resolution?  The Arapaoa Island goats of Aotearoa New Zealand are believed by many to trace their origins to Cook, based on evidence in Cook’s journals and in an account of the voyage by scientist Georg Forster, who was also on the Resolution.  If so, this would be yet another reason to celebrate her.

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Anonymous. 'An Authentic Account of the Natives of Otahitee, or George’s Island; together with some of the Particulars of the three Years Voyage lately made by Mr Banks and Dr Solander, in the years 1768, 1769, and 1770. Being the Copy of an original Letter from __ ___on board the Endeavour, to His friend in the Country', The Gentleman's and London Magazine, 1771, Volume 41 pages 496-499. British Library RB.23.a.15626,
‘An Epitome of Captain Wallis’s Voyage’, The Scots Magazine 1 November 1773, volume xxxv, page 580. British Newspaper Archive available online at the British Library. Also published in The Gentleman’s Magazine 43, 1773.
Boswell, James. Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson. William Andrews & Lemuel Blake Propose to Publish by Subscription, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Etc. (Extracts from the Monthly Review, Published in London.). 1807. British Library DRT Digital Store 10855.d.10,
Forster, Georg. A Voyage round the World, in His Britannic Majesty's Sloop Resolution, Commanded by Captain J. Cook, during the Years 1772, 3, 4 and 5. 1777. British Library 1472.d.3.
Johnson, Samuel, and Redford, Bruce. The Letters of Samuel Johnson / Edited by Bruce Redford. Vol.1, 1731-1772. Hyde ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1992. British Library ZC.9.a.3886
Marquardt, Karl Heinz. Captain Cook's Endeavour / Karl Heinz Marquardt. Rev. ed. Anatomy of the Ship. London: Conway Maritime, 2001 British Library LB.31.b.23843
O'Brian, Patrick. Joseph Banks. Collins Harvill, 1988. British Library YK.1988.a.2588
Sutherland, Alison. No Ordinary Goat – The Story of New Zealand’s Arapawa Goats. New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association, 2016

 

09 April 2019

From bad feet to blasphemy: the life of Charles William Twort

We met Charles William Twort in an earlier blog post when he was discharged in 1823 from the Royal East India Volunteers because of bad feet and corns. His later life was full of interest, involving preaching and imprisonment for blasphemy.

According to the baptism register of St Peter and St Paul in Aylesford in the county of Kent, Charles William Twort was born on 10 July 1794, although later records state he was anything up to ten years older. Twort's age is given as nineteen when he joined the East India Company as a warehouse labourer in May 1812.  He was nominated for the post by director Richard Twining and his previous occupation was servant.

In October 1826 Twort married Elizabeth Boutevile at St Mary Newington.  They had two children: Eliza Mary Teressa born in 1824, and Jesse Jesus who died aged fourteen months in November 1828.

By 1830, Twort had quit his warehouse job and was a dissenting preacher.  Twort wrote and published religious tracts such as The Christian Corrector corrected. By a Protestant, and distributed the works of others from his home at Hope Street in Walworth.  In 1829 he was fined for not registering pamphlets for stamp duty.  He travelled the country with John (or Zion) Ward as a ‘Shiloite’ delegated by heaven to introduce 1000 years of perfect happiness and innocence as predicted by the late religious prophetess Joanna Southcott.

Twort 1C W Twort, The Christian Corrector corrected. By a Protestant (1829) Noc

There are many newspaper reports of Twort and Ward’s activities as they moved around, many hostile in tone. The Stockport Advertiser commented that ‘These two worthies are not altogether so heavenly-minded as to refrain from the indulgence of a glass or two of brandy before breakfast, or to debar themselves from the carnal enjoyment of tobacco and strong ale’.  According to the Birmingham Journal, Twort tried unsuccessfully to obtain the papers of Joanna Southcott from her friends. 

In April 1832, Twort and Ward were in Derby, displaying posters and circulating pamphlets denying the existence of Christ.  Mr Dean, a Church of England clergyman, tore some of their placards with his umbrella and was assaulted by Twort.  Magistrates sent Twort and Ward to the Assizes.  They were found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to eighteen months in Derby County Gaol. Petitions for their release were sent to Parliament and the Home Office in 1832 and 1833. However Home Secretary Viscount Melbourne saw no reason to grant any mitigation of the sentence. In 1834 Ward and Twort petitioned Parliament for abolition of the law which punished men for their religious beliefs, and published an open letter to the judge who had sentenced them.

Twort 3The Conduct of Judge Park, Counsellor Clarke, ... with others  (Birmingham, 1834) Noc

John Ward died in 1837 in Leeds.  In 1841 Twort was living with his wife and daughter in Walworth. Twort’s daughter Eliza married tailor Joseph Young in 1849.  The Youngs moved to Bristol and by 1861 her mother had joined them. Elizabeth died there in 1869.  Census records from 1851-1871 show Charles Twort as a visitor or lodger in the Newington area.  His occupation is given as house proprietor or house agent, and as a broker’s assistant.  Charles died in London in 1878, his days as a preacher seemingly long since over. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/AG/30/5 Register of East India Company warehouse labourers 1801-1832 - information available via India Office Family History Search
IOR/L/MIL/5/485 List of men enlisted in Royal East India Volunteers 1820-1832
The Christian Corrector corrected. By a Protestant [C W Twort] (London, 1829)
The Vision of Judgment; or, the return of Joanna from her trance (London, 1829) 
The Conduct of Judge Park, Counsellor Clarke, ... with others, fairly exposed in the mock trial, and eighteen months cruel imprisonment of two poor men for publishing the truth of the Bible (Birmingham, 1834)
John Ward, Zion’s Works - New light on the Bible, the coming of Shiloh, the spirit of truth 1828-1837, 16 vols, (London, 1899-1904)
British Newspaper Archive - for example Birmingham Journal 20 April 1830; Chester Courant 12 April 1831 reprinting a piece from the Stockport Advertiser
The National Archives HO 17/60/4 and HO 13/63/230 Petition to the Home Office 1833
House of Commons proceedings 1832-1834

 

04 April 2019

Cholera on board ship at Singapore

We are pleased to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of Singapore with a story from its very early days.
 

SingaporeSingapore from the Government Hill by W C Smith c.1830 (P1681) Images Online


Anyone interested in researching the medical profession in pre-independence South Asia is indebted to the indefatigable Lt Col D G Crawford who published biographical information relating to thousands of individuals who served as doctors in British India. The entries in Crawford’s Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930 often provide details such as dates of birth, retirement and death, entry into and progress through the  service, honours and awards received, and books published, and are of enormous value to those researching ancestors in this particular field.

A certain act of heroism, however, appears to have entirely escaped Crawford’s notice, for it is nowhere mentioned in the entry for William Montgomerie.

Montgomerie in CrawfordD G Crawford, Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930

Montgomerie was a young East India Company assistant surgeon who was working in Singapore in 1823 when a ship flying the flag of the Habsburg Empire limped into port.  She was almost certainly also flying an internationally recognised warning flag, because at some point during her voyage out from Europe the deadly disease cholera had broken out among her crew.  Showing great courage over and above his professional commitments Montgomerie went aboard La Carolina to do what he could for those affected, and partly because of his efforts the vessel was able a while later to sail away safely,  most likely back to her home port of Trieste.

News of this episode on the other side of the world seems to have reached the Court in Vienna.  On 5 May 1824 the Austrian chargé d’affaires at Chandos House in London, Philip Von Neumann, wrote to British Foreign Secretary George Canning to inform him that His Imperial and Apostolic Majesty the Emperor of Austria wished to convey the gift of a ring set with diamonds as a token of gratitude for the humanitarian assistance Montgomerie had rendered to the stricken sailors.  His letter is in the Company’s archives and was written in French, the diplomatic language of the day.

It must have been extremely difficult to ensure that the ring made its way from a landlocked European capital all the way to the recipient in southeast Asia, but we do know that it was safely delivered. 

Montgomerie Morning Chronicle 5 May 1824
Morning Chronicle 5 May 1824 British Newspaper Archive

Lt Col William Farquhar, Resident in Singapore, was made a Knight of the Order of Leopold by the Emperor in recognition of his humane services to La Carolina .  However the King’s regulations regarding foreign orders prevented Farquhar from accepting this honour.  So the Emperor sent a gold snuff box ornamented with brilliants which was presented to Farquhar by Prince Esterhazy in 1826.

Our story concludes on 18 January 1850 when Montgomerie made his will.  Among its clauses is the following:

  ‘I desire that the diamond Ring presented to me by order of the Emperor of Austria … be left in possession of my eldest unmarried daughter until the return and settlement in England of my eldest surviving son’.


Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services Team Leader

Further reading:
Von Neumann letter, IOR/F/4/727/file 19740
Will of William Montgomerie, IOR/L/AG/34/29/93/10 (digitised by Find My Past)
Burial of William Montgomerie at Calcutta, 22 March 1856, IOR/N/1/89/216 (digitised by Find My Past)
D G Crawford, Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930, on open access OIR.355.345
British Newspaper Archive

 

01 April 2019

April Fool’s Day at the zoo

The first of April was not a day that the staff of zoos around Britain used to look forward to with any pleasure.  A popular April Fool’s Day trick was to leave a note for a colleague in an office or factory giving the telephone number of the local zoo with the instruction to ask for one of these people -

Mr C Lyon
Mr P Cock
Mr G Raff
Miss Ella Fant
Mr Wolf.

Sea-lion-clipart-afd-107834Sea Lion via Clipart

So many calls were made to Dudley Zoo on the morning of 1 April 1965 that it took three members of the office staff to cope.  The jammed switchboard was closed down at 10.45 until 14.00. One unwitting caller was connected when they asked for Mr Mole.   They were put through to Mr Moule in the catering department.

London Zoo became tired of the joke.  At one time staff would answer dozens of requests to speak to Mr Lyon by repeating wearily: ‘This is the Zoological Society.  All our lions are in cages and it is April 1 today’.  The  Primrose telephone exchange then began to help by asking questions to discover whether the call was bona fide before putting it through to the Zoo. 
 
In 1866 London Zoo was the victim of an April Fool hoax when 300 people arrived with fake tickets, lured by a bargain price and the promise of seeing a parade of lions, tigers, bears and leopards.  You can read the full story here.

Sunderland Daily Echo wrote in 1932: ‘April first is the hoaxer’s holiday when all the old “chestnuts” can be tried out again with impunity’.  So beware any notes left for you this morning and double check before you make any phone calls! 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive: for example Daily Herald 1 April 1930; Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette 1 April 1932; Birmingham Daily Post 2 April 1965.