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6 posts from April 2021

15 April 2021

William George Sibley of the East India Company - a worthy good man

William George Sibley was baptised in 1733 in Whitechapel, the son of George and Mary.  His father worked for the East India Company and rose to be keeper of the Bengal Warehouse in New Street.  This was a very responsible post, having care of the receipt, storage, sale and delivery of vast quantities of Indian textiles.  The Sibley family had accommodation near the warehouses provided by the Company.   George was a member of the Mercers’ Company and owned property in London and Wanstead in Essex.

Labourers hoisting barrels and bales  into a London warehouse Hoisting goods into a London warehouse by Gustave Doré from William Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage (London, 1872) British Library WF1/1856 Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Both William Sibley and his younger brother George followed their father into the East India Company’s home establishment.  William joined the East India Company in February 1745/46 in his early teens as a writer (or copyist) in the Leadenhall warehouse where his father was keeper at the time.  In 1756 William was appointed 5th clerk in the Company Treasury at a salary of £60 per annum.  He then worked his way up the departmental hierarchy by virtue of deaths and resignations and was appointed Treasurer in 1788.  His salary leapt from £200 as a senior clerk in 1785 to over £1,000 in 1801 once his gratuity and perquisites were added to his basic pay.

View of East India House in the City of London in 1760sEast India House c.1760 by James Caldwall British Library King’s Topographical Collection, Maps K.Top.24.10.a.BL flickrPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

His brother George became a warehouse-keeper like their father.  The Sibley brothers also followed their father into the Mercers’ Company.  William was Governor in 1790 and George in 1791.

William married Abigail Scott at Wanstead in August 1771 and they had two daughters Mary and Susannah who both died as small babies.  In 1775 Abigail also died.  William remained a widower until March 1790 when he married Jane Amphillis Berthon, the daughter of a City merchant.  In the same year he was elected as Governor to the Foundling Hospital.  He was also a Governor of Christ’s Hospital and a fellow of the Antiquarian Society.

When Jane’s mother Amphillis Berthon made her will in 1791 she shared her property between two sons and two daughters and excluded Jane. William and Jane Sibley were simply each left a ring. Mrs Berthon explained in the will that her reason for excluding her daughter Sibley was not a want of regard – it was clear to see that she loved and esteemed Jane equally with her other children. But Jane was ‘very happily provided for and married to a worthy good man’.

William George Sibley died in March 1807 at his house at 7 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, not far from the Foundling Hospital.  He still held the post of Treasurer at East India House, having worked for the Company for 61 years.  His obituary in The Monthly Magazine echoed the sentiments of his mother-in-law: ‘In his official department he invariably discharged his duty with fidelity and assiduity, and in all respects with satisfaction to the company and honour to himself… In private life, a tender and affectionate husband, a steady friend to the deserving, kind to the poor, and benevolent to all… a truly good and upright man’.

A view of the interior of the Foundling Hospital Chapel with lines of boys and girls leaving, supervised by staffA view of the interior of the Foundling Hospital Chapel 1774 British Library Crach.1.Tab.4.b.3 Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Sibley was buried in the vaults under the chapel of the Foundling Hospital.  His wife Jane was also buried there, close to her husband, when she died in 1832.  She inherited her husband’s considerable estate and her will made a number of substantial charitable bequests including £300 to the Foundling Hospital.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Obituary in The Monthly Magazine Vol XXIII Part 1 for 1807, p. 389

 

13 April 2021

Treating patients with mineral water at Bath Hospital

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Bath Hospital published the names, ages and places of residence for patients who had undergone mineral water treatments, and listed their maladies.  The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette carried lists from the 1820s to the 1840s of discharged patients who were cured or ‘much better’.  A book published in 1787  described the case histories of 52 named patients suffering from a variety of ‘paralytic disorders’.

Bath Hospital plan by John Pine published in 1737John Pine, 'The plan and elevation of a new General Hospital intended to be erected at Bath for the Reception of one hundred and fifty poor strangers Anno Dom: 1737' Maps K.Top.37.26.m Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Bath Hospital was a charitable institution incorporated in 1739, established principally to extend the benefits of the mineral waters to poorer people.  The apothecary kept an accurate register of each patient’s name, age, place of residence, disease, date of admission, length of stay, date of discharge, and state of health on discharge.  Treatment was usually limited to a maximum period of six months, although extensions and readmissions were sometimes granted.  The majority of patients came from south-west England but there were some from further afield – for example London, Wales, Oxford, Shropshire, Kent, Hampshire, and Hertfordshire.

Description of the work of Bath Hospital from the title page of Bath Hospital Annual Statement 1858
From the title page of Bath Hospital Annual Statement 1858 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


The Hospital also aimed to publish its ‘experimental observations’ so that other physicians could gain knowledge of the use of medicinal waters.  Success in treating paralytic complaints encouraged the Hospital to compile a book of cases selected from its medical records, detailing the treatments given.  From January 1776 to December 1785, 1102 patients with paralysis were admitted.  Of these, 237 were cured; 454 were discharged much better; 142 better; 233 no better; and 36 had died.  It was noted that the waters were not very effective in treating ‘shaking palsies’.

The cases of paralysis were broken down into different categories –
• Following childbirth
• Caused by cold
• Caused by colic
• Caused by lead and copper
• Resulting from distorted vertebrae
• Caused by an accident
• Following a convulsive spasm
• After a fever
• After rheumatism
• No assignable cause

William Toop of Frome suffered from paralysis after going into cold water to gather watercress.  David House, a cooper from Bristol, developed palsy after spending several hours bottling wine in a cold, damp cellar.  Both men were cured in a month.

John Evans from Salisbury was reported to have lost the use of his hands and arms from colic after drinking stale small beer in hot weather.  Evans spent thirteen months in Bath Hospital and was eventually discharged much better, but not cured.

Industrial injuries from contact with noxious substances were recognised and treated.  Several patients affected by working in brass foundries were cured.  Samuel Smith, servant to Mr Wedgwood in Greek Street, Soho, suffered from ‘dropt hands’ paralysis resulting from lead or copper in paint.  William Hinton from Gloucester was employed in pointing pins and the dust was said to have caused weakness in his hands and wrists.  James Lewis Markes of Stratford- le-Bow Middlesex was a house painter whose hands were paralysed by white lead poisoning.  After 50 weeks at Bath, he was able to dress himself, cut his food, write, and use scissors, but he could no longer undertake hard labour.

The Narrative also reports cases of paralysis caused by accidental poisoning, falls, being struck by lightning, hard drinking, fever, strokes, and sciatica.  Digitised versions of the book are available, so why not dip into the world of eighteenth century health and medicine?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Narrative of the Efficacy of the Bath Waters, in various kinds of paralytic disorders admitted into the Bath Hospital (Bath, 1787) 
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette British Newspaper Archive – also accessible via Findmypast

 

09 April 2021

Non-essential retail in nineteenth-century London

As we look forward to the re-opening of non-essential retail outlets in England, we’d like to share a book about nineteenth-century London shops.  Nathaniel Whittock’s On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London published in 1840 has illustrated descriptions of a variety of businesses and is available as a digital item.

Shop front of Storr and Mortimer, goldsmiths, 156 Bond StreetStorr and Mortimer, goldsmiths, 156 Bond Street - Plate 1 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Storr and Mortimer, goldsmiths and jewellers, was situated at 156 Bond Street.  It was one of the original shops when the houses in Bond Street were first built.  Whittock praised the Ionic style of the shop front for being neat and elegant.  The plants appearing through the trellis work gave a light and pleasing effect.

Shop front of Turner and Clark, mercers and drapers, Coventry Street
Turner and Clark, mercers and drapers, Coventry Street - Plate 3 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Turner and Clark, mercers and drapers, had premises in Coventry Street, Haymarket.  The shop front was decorated with a light, elegant pediment and ornaments of gilt on white-veined marble.

Shop front of W.H. Ablett & Co, outfitting warehouse, Cornhill

W.H. Ablett & Co, outfitting warehouse, Cornhill - Plate 5 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

W.H. Ablett & Co was an outfitting warehouse in Cornhill.  Both storeys of the shop were used for displaying articles sold there, including swords!

Wine & spirit warehouse

Astell’s wine and spirit warehouse at 119 Tottenham Court Road - Plate 10 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Astell’s wine and spirit warehouse stood at 119 Tottenham Court Road, on the corner of Grafton Street.  Two storeys had been converted into one so that huge vats of alcohol could be accommodated inside.  Whittock judged the shop front to be grand but not gaudy.

UpholstererSaunders and Woodley, upholsterers, Regent Street - Plate 13 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The costly front of Saunders and Woodley, upholsterers, in Regent Street was in the style of Louis XIV.  Willock was pleased by the 'very splendid effect', which he deemed quite appropriate for so showy a business.  Piers were formed by the trunks of palm trees terminating in foliage, with capitals of burnished gold.  The elegant iron railing was coloured bronze to match the carvings.

BooksellerGrey, bookseller and stationer - Plate 15 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Bookseller and stationer Grey was given as an example of a shop converted from a dwelling house in a manner that would not breach restrictions in the lease about commercial use.   The parlour windows were used to display books, and the shutters were lined with shallow glass cases sufficiently deep to contain prints and other wares.

India warehouseEvrington’s India shawl warehouse, 10 Ludgate - Plate 18 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Evrington’s India shawl warehouse at 10 Ludgate occupied an old building with low ceilings.  Whittock thought the frontage simple and elegant, but not in accordance with the magnificence of the interior.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Nathaniel Whittock, On the construction and decoration of the Shop Fronts of London, illustrated with eighteen coloured representations, exhibiting the varied styles of the current period, for the use of builders, carpenters, shopkeepers etc (London, 1840)

07 April 2021

Records of People on the Move

The 20th century saw an explosion in international travel, fuelled by developments in modes of travel, and tumultuous events such as two world wars.  The Public & Judicial files of the India Office Records contain many files which reflect this movement of people, providing an important source for family historians and the study of migration.

Gravesend Airport on the cover of Popular Flying magazineGravesend Airport from Popular Flying (1932).  Shelfmark: Lou.Lon.394 Images Online Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

One of the most crucial series of records for information on those travelling from India are certificates of identity and duplicate passports.  Travel documents were issued at a number of designated offices in India.  Duplicate identity certificates for Indians proceeding to Europe were issued between 1900 and 1917, and were then replaced by passports very similar to the modern passports we all carry when travelling today.  Duplicate passports were sent to the India Office for security purposes but also for information on the bearer should this be required in Britain or in Europe.

The passports in the Public & Judicial files are mainly for Asians but also include some Europeans and Eurasians.  They show the name of the holder, date and place of birth, description, national status, profession, address, caste, father's name, and details of wife and children.  Sometimes a signature or fingerprint is attached and in most cases, a good photograph of the bearer survives.

Aerial view of Municipal Offices and Victoria Terminus  Bombay

Aerial view of Municipal Offices and Victoria Terminus, Bombay, 1937.  The Victoria Terminus with platforms and sidings to the north takes up the central portion of this print, with the Municipal Offices and Maidan in the foreground.  The General Post Office is to the right, with the Docks beyond.  Shelfmark Photo 91/(5) Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

In the 1940s, the Second World War left millions homeless and displaced, and the partition of India forced large numbers to cross borders into the newly independent states of India and Pakistan, or the many British residents in India to return to the UK to start afresh.  The subjects crossing the desks of officials in the India Office, and later the Commonwealth Relations Office, include:
• Transit visas for India and Pakistan.
• Applications for the grant of passport facilities for the UK.
• Applications for the grant of an assisted passage for travel between the UK and India or Pakistan, and the later recovery of such advances.
• Recovery of sums advanced to European British evacuees who elected to remain in India.
• Passport Control Department circulars on various individuals.

With the passing of the 1948 British Nationality Act, which created the status of Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, the CRO began fielding increasing numbers of enquiries from individuals concerning the nationality of themselves and their families.  Another common enquiry was for information on the whereabouts of individuals from concerned friends or family members.

These files provide a glimpse into the lives of many people, giving a sense of the dislocation and upheaval of those tumultuous years.  A search can be made of the India Office Public & Judicial Files on the Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Public and Judicial Department Annual Files, 1880-1930 (IOR/L/PJ/6).

Public and Judicial Department Annual Files, 1931-1950 (IOR/L/PJ/7).

Public and Judicial Department Collections on Aliens 1931-1950, Emigration 1926-1952, Passports and Visas 1906-1950, and Refugees 1947-1948 (IOR/L/PJ/8).

Duplicate Passports, 1932-1948 (IOR/L/PJ/11). These have featured in a previous Untold Lives post.

 

04 April 2021

E. G. G. Hunt

Last Easter we brought you the story of the Bunny Family of Berkshire.  This year we have E. G. G. Hunt who came to my attention when I was looking through The Navy List for 1939.

Navy List 1939 - entry for E G G Hunt in the ship IndusEntry for E. G. G. Hunt in The Navy List February 1939

Eric George Guilding Hunt had a long and distinguished naval career.  He was born in Littleborough, Lancashire, on 22 June 1899, the son of George Wingfield Hunt, a Church of England clergyman, and his wife Ethel née Scholfield.   In 1915 Hunt joined HMS Conway, a naval training ship stationed on the Mersey near Liverpool.  From 1917 to 1919 he was on active service in the Royal Naval Reserve for the duration of the war as a Temporary Midshipman.

After the First World War, Hunt became an officer in the Royal Indian Marine, which later became the Royal Indian Navy.  He rose to the rank of Commander and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in a coastal operation in the Red Sea when in charge of HMIS Indus in 1941.

HMIS Indus IWM
HMIS Indus in Akyab harbour, Burma. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum ADNO 9148 

The Hunt family had other connections to India, to the sea, and to the Church.  George Wingfield Hunt was born in Akyab, Burma (now Sittwe).  His father Thomas Wingfield Hunt was a mariner in India and then a Salt Superintendent.  His mother Mary Anne was the daughter of Lansdown Guilding, an Anglican priest in the West Indies.  Lansdown Guilding was a naturalist who wrote many scholarly papers, becoming a Fellow of the Linnean Society.  In 1825 he published An account of the Botanic Garden in the island of St Vincent, from its first establishment to the present time. 

Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the bottom of the central walkThe Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the bottom of the central walk  - from Lansdown Guilding, An account of the Botanic Garden in the island of St Vincent (Glasgow, 1825) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the superintendent's houseThe Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the superintendent's house  - from Lansdown Guilding, An account of the Botanic Garden in the island of St Vincent (Glasgow, 1825)  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

India, the sea, and the Church were also prominent in the family of E. G. G. Hunt’s wife Marjorie.  She was born in Coonoor, Madras, in 1902  where her father Thomas Henry Herbert Hand was an officer in the Royal Indian Marine.  Thomas was a well-known marine painter in watercolour, signing his work T. H. H. Hand.  His father was Captain Henry Hand of the Royal Navy, and Henry’s father was an Anglican priest.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
The National Archives, ADM 340/72/14 Record of service in Royal Navy for Eric George Guilding Hunt 1917-1919.
British Library, IOR/L/MIL/16/5/52, 238, 240, 248 Record of service in Royal Indian Marine/Navy for Eric George Guilding Hunt 1919-1946.
Supplement to London Gazette 4 September 1945 - Award of Distinguished Service Cross to Eric George Guilding Hunt.
British Library, IOR/L/MIL/16/3/155-56, 162-64 : IOR/L/MIL/16/8/110, 186 IOR/L/MIL/16/9/75 1890-1921 – records of service for Thomas Henry Herbert Hand in the Royal Indian Marine/Navy 1890-1921.

 

01 April 2021

Henri’s April Fool and other recipes

In 1950 the Manchester Evening News published ‘Henri’s April Calendar’, a selection of recipes for Easter by the newspaper’s cookery columnist.  Henri had put a pot of primroses on his book shelf, shed a top coat and muffler, and was thinking of cold meals to prepare until autumn.  Food was still being rationed in Britain, and Henri comments on some items being in short supply, for example ice cream.

Spring flowers including yellow primroses and snowdropsSpring flowers from The Cabinet of Gems (Edinburgh, 1875) Digital Store 11651.g.18 BL flickrPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

One of the recipes was Henri’s April Fool.  Make and set an orange jelly, beat it until foaming, then beat again adding three tablespoons of top of the milk.  Split a plain sponge cake and spread one half with raspberry jam and a thick layer of sweetened apple purée.  Pile the jelly on top, decorate with sliced bananas or cherries.  Cut the other half of the sponge into fingers and spike round the dish.   Serve very cold.  Et voilà!

To make an Easter salad, Henri suggested a bed of greens, lettuce, cress, shredded cabbage heart and spring onions, with hard-boiled eggs laid in as if in a nest.  A yellow fluffy chick standing on guard ‘will amuse even grown-ups’.

Egg salad arranged in an elegant dishEgg salad from Mrs. Beeton's Family Cookery and Housekeeping Book (London, 1907) Shelfmark: 07944.g.63 Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence


Children would be delighted with inch-sized bread cubes coated with cream cheese or honey, then rolled in crushed cornflakes and arranged in a nest of salad greens.

For Easter breakfast, prepare half a toasted hot cross bun with the centre slightly scooped out to form a nest for a poached egg sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Ice cream wafers were available again so Henri sandwiched them together with creamed or sliced cheese, sandwich spread, paté de fois gras, or simply butter seasoned with celery salt.   These could be served as an Easter appetiser with coffee or a ‘special drink’.

Henri thought that the man of the house might demand a hot meal at Easter,  so he recommended cooking the meat ration the day before. Slices then could be dipped in batter and breadcrumbs, fried quickly in dripping. and  served on a dish surrounded by roasted onions, grilled tomatoes, boiled new potatoes, and sprigs of cauliflower smothered in white sauce.  ‘Add a tin of peas if it’s an occasion.’

Sausages could be made ‘festive’.  Simply slit them and stuff with gherkins, mango, or mixed pickles.

Henri told his readers to cool off by eating cold tripe with boiled sliced beetroot, celery salt, mayonnaise, and lots of vinegar.  ‘It’s delicious, you know!’

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Manchester Evening News 5 April 1950 British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast