Outfitting an East India Company employee
When new employees of the East India Company embarked on their first voyage to India to take up their post, they needed to think carefully about what to pack. By the 1840s this was a well-trodden path for British officials and one company was on hand to provide everything they would need.
Amongst the collections of India Office Private Papers is a `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India'. This was issued between 1839 and 1844 by Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, agents and bankers to the British Army and business community in India. The company was founded by Robert Melville Grindlay, a retired Captain in the Bombay Infantry. Grindlay had plenty of experience of travel with his regiment and had served as Secretary at the Committee of Embarkation at Bombay. On returning to London he started the agency Leslie & Grindlay in 1828, principally to organise all the arrangements for clients travelling to India. The agency would have several changes of name, and later gravitate towards banking and financial services.
Grindlay’s list of outfit for East India Company employees travelling to India makes fascinating reading in terms of what someone was expected to equip themselves with. There is a long list of shirts, collars, waistcoats, drawers, stockings, gloves, jackets and not forgetting the trusty umbrella. Also night wear, toiletries and tobacco. When it comes to foot wear, there are boots, walking or dress shoes, shooting shoes, and of course slippers for relaxing in.
There is, as you would expect, military clothing such as dress coats, frock coats, shell jackets and regimental trousers. Along with the items of uniform are all the necessary adornments, for example caps (full dress or foraging), swords (with waterproof sword bag), belts, sashes, shoulder epaulettes, and Japanned tin cases to keep them in.
A range of reference books relating to India are listed, and various volumes on military matters including Napoleon’s Military Maxims and Infantry Sword Exercise. There is even a folding bookcase to keep them in.
As every traveller knows, it is often the small items which are forgotten, such as candles, candle sticks and snuffers, tin mugs, looking glasses, tools, writing materials, cutlery, tea pot and biscuits, watch and compass. All could be purchased from Grindlay, along with a range of trunks to keep everything in, engraved with the owner's name on brass plates.
To ensure a comfortable night’s sleep, a range of beds and bedding was on offer, including a sofa with drawers, a cane sofa to swing as a cot, or an iron or brass camp bedstead, along with blankets, sheets and pillow cases. While on the move, British officials also required appropriate furniture in order to conduct their business. To this end, Grindlay offered a variety of chairs (cabin arm chair, folding camp chair or Dover folding chair) and tables (mahogany camp table or swinging tray or table).
India Office Records
`List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India', issued c1839-44, by Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, East India Army Agency, London, shelfmark Mss Eur F94.
Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, East-India Army and General Agency and East-India Rooms, [London: Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, 1839] shelfmark: Asia, Pacific & Africa DRT Digital Store T 29729
A history of Grindlays Bank Ltd
Arup K Chatterjee, ‘Robert Melville: The artist, Indophile and imperialist who founded Grindlays Bank’ in Scroll.in
Advice for ladies in India - equipment on the voyage and clothing for women