Untold lives blog

10 posts from July 2021

29 July 2021

Birdwatching in Assam

One of the fascinating elements of private paper collections is what they contain about people’s hobbies and interests.  The India Office Private Papers are full of such collections.  One example is the papers of Dorothea Craigie Milburne which record her passion for birdwatching.

Overview of papers of Dorothea Craigie Milburne spread out on a tablePapers of Dorothea Craigie Milburne - British Library Mss Eur D913 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Born in Bristol in 1896, she was the first of two children of Edward Tuckett Daniell, a Bristol lawyer, and his second wife Alice Craigie.  She married William Milburne, the manager of Dhendai tea plantation, Darrang, Assam.  Both Dorothea and William were keen photographers of big game, and some of their work was published in the Statesman and the Manchester Guardian in the 1930s.  They left India in 1945, and Dorothea died in Bristol in 1982.

Most of her birdwatching was done in Darrang, Assam, as recorded in her detailed notes and notebooks.  In these papers she carefully recorded the birds she saw, giving observations on their appearance and behaviour, and even giving a numbered reference to the authoritative published guide on the birds of India by Oates and Blanford.  Here are some examples of her observations.

Of the Small Minivet she noted that they were not nearly as common or gay as other Minivets, and comments: ‘I once saw large black velvet & buttercup butterfly chasing an obviously terrified hen Small Minivet round & round peach trees in compound’.

Painting of a Minivet - orange, black and grey feathersMinivet by J Briois, c.1824 – British Library Images Online Shelfmark NHD 47/22 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Painting of a Shama - black and white feathers with a light brown breastShama by J Briois c.1824 – British Library Images Online Shelfmark NHD 47/22 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In recording her sightings of the Shama, she described an experiment she carried out: ‘I made interesting experiments with Shama visiting compound which responded to Ludwig Koch’s Nightingale record (gramophone), hopping across lawn to within few yards of verandah though usually hiding in shrubs, cocking head and responding with snatches of song.  Unfortunately chased right away by compound Dayal & Brown Shrikes & possibly frightened by cutting down of neighbouring shade trees’.

Dorothea Craigie Milburne's notes on the BitternDorothea Craigie Milburne's notes on the Bittern - British Library Mss Eur D913 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Fans of the BBC nature programme Springwatch will know of the presenters’ fondness for the Bittern which is known for its distinctive ‘boom’ like call.  This shy bird appears fleetingly on Dorothea’s list: the Chestnut Bittern (‘Never saw settle to take in details’), Malay Bittern (‘seen once only flying through evergreen forest’), and Black Bittern (‘seen flying across a hoolah in garden several times one August’), although she records disappointingly ‘I did not hear one “boom”!’

Dorothea Craigie Milburne's notes on the Spur-winged PloverDorothea Craigie Milburne's notes on the Spur-winged Plover - British Library Mss Eur D913 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Knowing the call of a bird is essential in identifying it, and Dorothea kept careful notes on the sounds each bird made.  She even wrote the sounds down in music notation.  Of the Spur-winged Plover she wrote of its cry: ‘Gutteral, conversational “Whee whee wew” like beginning of “Did he do it” cry.  Rapid, irregular “Jip! Jip!” on C in flight’.

Dorothea Craigie Milburne's notes on the PittasDorothea Craigie Milburne's notes on the Pittas- British Library Mss Eur D913 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Dorothea often shared her passion with other birdwatchers, such as the planter and naturalist Charles McFarlane Inglis, who spent much of his free time in the study of India’s birds, and later became curator of the Darjeeling Natural History Museum.  In her notes she says that Inglis seemed surprised that she had not seen a Blue-necked Pittas, and says ‘Made special point of looking for it cold weather 1944 & early ’45 but in vain’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Dorothea Craigie Milburne papers, 1933-1945, shelfmark: Mss Eur D913.
Forests and ecological history of Assam by Arupjyoti Saikia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), shelfmark: YC.2012.a.8245
The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma: Birds by Eugene William Oates and W T Blanford (London,Taylor and Francis; [etc., etc.]1889-98), available online. 
Ludwig Koch on the recording a White-rumped Shama in 1889.
BBC Springwatch,Minsmere round-up - my highlights’ by Chris Packham, 18 June 2014.
Charles McFarlane Inglis (1870-1954).


27 July 2021

A captain goes down with his ship!

On 25 November 1865 the ship Great Britain slipped its anchor at Madras and, as directed by the signals from the Master Attendant’s Office, headed out to sea.  It would be the last time anyone would see the ship.

Report of loss of Great Britain from London Evening Standard 3 March 1866Report of loss of Great Britain from London Evening Standard 3 March 1866 - Courtesy of  British Newspaper Archive

There were a few things that made the fate of the Great Britain unusual.  Firstly the weather following the ship’s arrival at Madras on 20 November had been worsening by the day and there was warning of an impending cyclone.  On 23 November the crew had been forced to cease unloading cargo as the weather  conditions had rendered communication with the shore too dangerous.  Only about 55 tons of the cargo had been unloaded, leaving about half of the contents of the hold still on board.

Secondly the deteriorating weather had meant that by the evening of 23 November vessels were unable to pass the surf in the harbour, stranding people ashore.  These included William Murton, captain of the Great Britain.

Under these circumstances, there should have been no reason for the signals to be given for the Great Britain to set sail. But just after 7am on 25 November the ship left the harbour and headed out to sea, despite not having the captain on board.

Shortly afterwards, the weather claimed its victim and the Great Britain sank.  Fortunately there were no casualties and everyone was safely rescued.

For William Murton this would be his one and only commission as captain of a ship.  In February 1866 he lodged a protest with the Notary Public in Madras against the official account of the sinking of his ship which had implied negligence on his part.  He presented his account of the events of 21-25 November 1865, and concluded by stating that:
‘all losses and damage were occasioned by the bad weather and occurrences and not by the inefficiency of the said vessel or the default of the appearer William Murton, his officers or any of his mariners’.

William Murton's mariner's register certificate May 1850IOR/L/MAR/C/666B, f. 14 Mariner’s Register Certificate issued to William Murton May 1850 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

William Murton was born in Faversham, Kent in August 1834.  He had entered the maritime service on 30 May 1850 as a midshipman aboard the Nile, and he rose through the ranks receiving his master’s certificate on 22 September 1864.  He was appointed captain of the Great Britain on 1 February 1865.

William Murton's Master's certificate 1864IOR/L/MAR/C/666B, f. 16 Master Mariner’s Certificate issued to William Murton 1864 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Murton returned to England shortly after the loss of the Great Britain and retired from the maritime service.  He married Charlotte Augusta Emma Grant, daughter of the late Lieutenant Colonel Charles St John Grant, on 28 June 1866 at St John’s Church in Paddington.  The couple had three daughters: Mary, Fanny Seringa and Amelia Augusta, and one son Herbert William Grant.  Sadly Fanny and Herbert both died in 1876 aged eight and six respectively.  Fanny Seringa was named after the ship Seringapatam, in which Murton served from 1860-1862.  This was a surprisingly popular girl’s name which has been the subject of previous Untold Lives blog posts - My daughter Seringa and More girls called Seringa!

Karen Stapley
India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/C/666B – Captain William Murton’s service papers, 1850-1866, including copy of a petition in lodged in February 1866 in relation to the sinking of the Great Britain in November 1865.
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur A184 – William Murton’s papers, 1852.
British Library WD317 – Right profile silhouette of William Murton c. 1857.
British Library Photo 412(1) – Portrait of William Murton, Midshipman, c. 1850/1852.


22 July 2021

Mrs Carthew’s recipe book

In the India Office Private Papers is a manuscript book of recipes inscribed ‘Mrs Carthew’s receipt Book: copied by V.L. Peter “Butler”, Rangoon, 1 August 1862’.  The book contains recipes for a wide variety of Indian and European dishes, such as Bengal chutney, curry, curry paste, a pillar of rice, gingerbread, blancmange, cheap soup, rhubarb cake, wedding cake, plain cake for children, transparent pudding, cream cheese, citron preserve, coconut biscuits, rice ragout, cheese fritters, potato pudding, junket, chocolate cream, peppermint cordial, Indian sandwiches, and milk punch.

Mrs Carthew's recipe for Indian sandwichesMss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew's recipe for Indian sandwiches Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Indian sandwiches were made from chicken, veal or game; ham or tongue; anchovies, white sauce; curry powder; lemon juice; fried bread; grated cheese; and butter.  The ingredients for Mrs Carthew's 'cheap soup' were 2oz dripping, 1lb of diced meat, ¼lb onions, ¼lb turnips, 2oz leeks, 3oz celery, 8oz rice or pearl barley, 3oz salt, 4¼oz brown sugar, and water.

Mrs Carthew's recipe for hair wash

Mss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew's recipe for hair wash  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are also recipes for hair wash and soap jelly, instructions for knitting a jumper and for making Brigadier James’s cholera cure.  The cure consisted of cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, and sugar candy ‘bruised up together’ and added to a bottle of best brandy.  This mixture was then set alight and reduced by a half.  After standing for a day, it was strained and bottled.  Dosage was a teaspoonful for ‘a little derangement’ and a tablespoonful (or even more) for more severe illness.

Who was Mrs Carthew?  The most likely candidate appears to be Jemima Borland Carthew, wife of Morden Carthew of the East India Company's Madras Army.  The family was linked to Burma in the early 1860s when the book was created. Major General Carthew was appointed Divisional Commander of Pegu Province in Lower Burma in 1861.  The Carthews’ daughter Jemima Fanny was married in Rangoon in July 1862.

Jemima Borland Carthew (née Ewart) was born in Scotland on 4 September 1810, the fifth and youngest daughter of John Ewart.  She sailed to India in 1826 and married Lieutenant Carthew on 16 July 1827.  They had ten children born between 1828 and 1847, three of whom died in infancy.

At the time of the 1861 census, Mrs Carthew was lodging in Cheltenham with five of her children.  Morden Carthew returned from Burma on leave to England in early 1863.  He did not resume his career in India.  On 19 April 1863 Jemima Carthew died at 64 Baker Street London aged 52.  The cause of death was given as ‘Softening of Brain, Paralysis’.  She was buried on 22 April 1863 at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green.

Photographic portrait of Mrs Morden CarthewMrs Morden Carthew by Camille Silvy, 17 November 1862 © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG Ax61899

There is another Mrs Carthew who might possibly have owned the original recipe book - the wife of Jemima's son Morden, who also served with the Madras Army in Burma.  Maynard Eliza Charlotte Rochfort Bogle married Morden Carthew junior in 1854 in Moulmein.  Her father Sir Archibald Bogle was Chief Commissioner of the Tenasserim and Martaban Provinces. The Carthews'  two elder children were born in Burma, but their son Morden Ewart was born in Marylebone in 1858.  Morden Carthew resigned from the Army in March 1862.  In November 1862 the above photograph of ‘Mrs Morden Carthew’ was taken by Camille Silvy who had a portrait studio in London. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew’s receipt book


20 July 2021

Servants sailing from India with the East India Company

Our recent post about passengers on East India Company ships mentioned the regulation that a deposit had to be made for each ‘black’ or ‘native’ servant carried to England.  There is a register in the Company’s maritime records which names some of these people and gives a glimpse into their lives.

Male and female Indian servants accompanied military and civil employees or their wives and families.  Here are some examples from the register -
John Lewis with Colonel Thomas Munro on Lord Melville 1803
E. Manuel Rebeira with Surgeon Robert Hunter on Bencoolen 1820
John Steppen with Mrs Munt on the extra ship Batavia 1817
‘Portuguese servant’ William Ross with the family of Mrs Stephen on Woodford 1824
‘Portuguese servant’ Joaquim Dias with the son of Major George Ogilvie on Triumph 1828
Mary Manuel, a Christian native of Bombay, with Lady Grant on Earl of Hardwick 1839
Imaum Ayah with the daughter of J Curnin on Exmouth 1839
Mariam with the child of the late Captain R W Smith on Inglis 1840.

Entry for Maidman in the register of deposits for Indian servantsEntry for Maidman in IOR/L/MAR/C/888 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

European servants are also named.  In 1808 George Maidman paid a deposit for Jane Walker who was accompanying his children to England.  Mrs Walker sailed on Lord Hawkesbury from Madras in February 1808 with Lucy aged seven, William Richard five, and Isabella three.  Their sister Maria, born in 1806, went to England later.

On 13 January 1809 the Court of Directors in London gave permission for Jane Walker to return to her husband in Madras with no expense to be incurred by the East India Company.  The Maidman children all returned to India as young adults.  Lucy sailed to Madras in 1821.  William Richard secured a cadetship in the Company’s army in 1817 and served in the Bengal Artillery.  Isabella and Maria travelled together to India in 1825.

Entry for Kirkpatrick in the register of deposits for Indian servantsEntry for Kirkpatrick in IOR/L/MAR/C/888 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Some familiar names appear in the register.  In 1805 a deposit was paid on behalf of Lieutenant Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick whose children with his Indian wife Khair un-Nissa were going to England with a servant named as Mahomed Durab.  Their ship was listed in the register as the Devaynes but they are included in the passenger list of Lord Hawkesbury – William Kirkpatrick aged 3 years 6 months, and Catherine Kirkpatrick aged 2 years 7 months.  They were also accompanied on the voyage by a European servant Mrs Jane Perry. The Court of Directors sanctioned her return to her husband in India on 17 March 1807.

There are also unexpected entries.  In 1839 the vakeels or agents of the Raja of Satara deposited money for the Indian servants accompanying them to England.  The Raja was in dispute with the Bombay Government and he sent vakeels to put his case to the Company in London shortly before he was deposed.  The vakeels and their servants stayed for two years, struggling from lack of funds.  British newspapers criticised the East India Company’s poor treatment of the Raja’s representatives.  The Company responded to an appeal from the men in 1841 by advancing £4,000 to pay their debts and to enable them to return home.  As the Raja was still in power when his vakeels left for England, the Company instructed the authorities in India to recover this money from Satara.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/C/888 - Register of deposits on account of native servants who have come to England.
IOR/L/MAR/B/323G  - Journal of Lord Hawkesbury 1804-1806.
IOR/B/144 pp.1326, 1345  - Permission for Jane Perry to return to India, March 1807.
IOR/B/148 p.1011  - Permission for Jane Walker to return to India, January 1809.
IOR/E/4/767 pp.717-719 - Letter to India regarding the Raja of Satara’s vakeels, 25 August 1841.
Michael H. Fisher, ‘Indian Political Representations in Britain during the Transition to Colonialism’, Modern Asian Studies Vol. 38, No. 3 (Jul., 2004), pp. 649-675.
British Newspaper Archive (also available va Findmypast) e.g. Sun (London) 23 August 1841.


15 July 2021

Sir William Fraser of the East India Company maritime service

In the 18th century nearly 2200 voyages were made by ships sailing for the East India Company.  Of these, 42 ships were ordered to remain abroad and on 2014 occasions the ships returned home.  Another 34 ships were captured by the enemy and 108 were lost.  Of this 108, sixteen blew up or were burnt, eighteen were wrecked, some were just lost and not seen again, but ten were lost in the Hugli River approaching Calcutta.  One of these was the Lord Mansfield under Captain William Fraser.  His ship was ‘Lost in the Bengal River, 7 Sept 1773’ but thankfully the crew and passengers were all saved.

ap of entrance of the Hughly River at Calcutta showing the location of the Lord Mansfield and the Lord Holland lost in the Eastern Brace.Extract from Maps K.MAR.VI.24 'Entrance of the Hughly River with its course from the town of Calcutta' by Benjamin Lacam (1779) showing the location of the Lord Mansfield and the Lord Holland lost in the Eastern Brace. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

This was Fraser’s first voyage in command of an East Indiaman, but instead of leaving the service of the Company in disgrace the Court found the loss was due to an error of judgement by the pilot and that the Captain was in no way to blame.  Fraser went on to captain a new ship, Earl of Mansfield, for three more voyages under the same owners before he retired from the sea in 1785.

Minutes of East India Company Court of Directors 22 July 1774 stating that Fraser was not to blame for the loss of his shipIOR/B/90 p.145 Minutes of East India Company Court of Directors 22 July 1774 stating that Fraser was not to blame for the loss of his ship. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Many of the East India Company officials and administrators came home from India to build luxury homes and become Members of Parliament, J.P.s etc.  However the captains, being used to command and making instant decisions, often wanted a life with more challenges.  Many of them continued their connection with the sea by managing ships for voyages carrying the East India Company cargoes.  Fraser continued in this way for 25 years, managing nine ships making 34 voyages.  He was a little unlucky early on in this venture: Ocean struck a reef in the Banda Sea (east of Indonesia) and was scuttled on 5 February 1797, while two years later Earl Fitzwilliam was burnt in the Hugli River on 23 February 1799.

Portrait of Sir William Fraser sitting in front of an open atlasPortrait of Sir William Fraser by Benjamin Smith, after George Romney, 1806 NPG D38426 © National Portrait Gallery, London

On 26 September 1786, almost exactly a year after he retired as a Captain, William Fraser married Elizabeth (Betty) Farquharson at St Giles, Camberwell, and they went on to produce a large family – 28 children according to the Gentleman’s Magazine!  While he conducted his business from premises at New City Chambers, Bishopsgate, he also had a home for his family beyond the City.  By 1804 Fraser was paying rates on Ray Lodge at Woodford, Essex.  The previous owner, Sir James Wright of Ray House, started to build Ray Lodge on part of his land in 1793.  He commissioned John Papworth (later John Buonarotti Papworth), who was then only eighteen years old, as architect for the house which was intended for his son George.  This was a splendid new home for Fraser’s growing family, with a 64-acre park out in the country air but an easy ride to the shipyards at Wapping and his business interests in the City.

Fraser was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1791 and was created 1st Baronet of Ledeclune in 1806.  He was also an Elder Brethren of Trinity House.  He attended the Prince Regent’s levee on 12 February 1818 in good health, but he died suddenly the next day in a fit of apoplexy at Bedford Square, London.  His memorial tells us he was in the 78th year of his age and he left a widow, three sons and eleven daughters still living.

Georgina Green
Independent scholar

Further reading:
IOR/E/4/32 Letter from Bengal 13 October 1773 pp.61-63  regarding the loss of the Lord Mansfield
IOR/B/90 p.145 Minutes of East India Company Court of Directors 22 July 1774
Gentleman’s Magazine Vol.88 p.379-380 (1818)

13 July 2021

Peter Paul Zohrab: a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ for the East India Company

Amongst the India Office Political and Secret Department miscellaneous papers are four items of correspondence from 1808-1809 relating to the appointment of Peter Paul Zohrab as a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ to the East India Company.  His mission, according to the letters, was to travel to Ottoman territories ‘to gain a knowledge of the proceedings and intrigues of the French in Turkey with reference to any designs that Nation is supposed to entertain on the British Possessions in the East Indies’.  During the Napoleonic Wars the East India Company and the British Government were anxious with regard to French intentions towards India.

Instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by the Secret Committee of the East India Company, to ZohrabIOR/L/PS/19/173, f.1 Original instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by Edward Parry, Charles Grant and John Manship, Secret Committee of the East India Company, to Zohrab dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Instructions dated 12 January 1808 directed Zohrab to travel to Constantinople (Istanbul) in the first instance.  His task was to associate himself with any French people and ‘accredited Agents’ of the French, observe them and gather information – particularly any possible plans to march troops towards India. In addition, the East India Company’s Secret Committee gave Zohrab authority to travel into Armenia and Persia if necessary for further gathering intelligence.  Of particular interest was the newly established French Embassy in Persia, established as part of a Franco-Persian accord between Napoleon and the Shah of Persia.  As Peter Paul Zohrab was a merchant, he was specifically instructed to carry out his travels and observations only under that guise.  The Secret Committee advised him not to make himself known to the British Minister at the Persian Court.  He was also warned not to commit anything in writing that might reveal the true nature of his travels.  Indeed, the original instructions were to be returned to the Secret Committee after Zohrab had ‘impressed the substance of them on your memory’.

Zohrab 2-1IOR/L/PS/19/173, f.3 Letter from Zohrab in London, to the Secret Committee of the East India Company dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

For his intelligence gathering activities, Zohrab was given a salary of £500 per year, with an additional payment of £500 per year for travelling and other expenses.  He was appointed for two years.  A system was set up whereby payments and correspondence would be channelled through John Green, Zohrab’s agent in London.  Green was to forward Zohrab’s letters unopened to the Chairman of the East India Company if addressed in a particular way.  Zohrab’s letters to the Secret Committee appear to have not survived, though their receipt can be tracked in the Secret Committee Minutes.  We know he left for Malta on 20 February 1808, and travelled on to Constantinople.  His mission however was cut short due to the changing political landscape; a letter from the Secret Committee dated 11 April 1809 informed him that his appointment was to cease on 10 February 1810 as there was now peace between Britain and the Ottoman Empire.

We know little of Zohrab’s background and career.  He may have been the son of Paul Zohrab, dragoman (translator, guide) to the Danish Embassy in Constantinople.  The East India Company have him as Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab, other sources refer to him as Peter Paul John.  He married his first wife Elizabeth Hitchens in St Pancras, London, in September 1807 – five months before his expedition to Turkey.  He then appears as a merchant in Malta, where he married his second wife Frances Williams in September 1816.  By 1830 Zohrab and his family were living in Smyrna (now Izmir), when he was appointed as a dragoman to the consulate at Erzerum.  In 1844, he was appointed to the position of dragoman in the consulate at Trebizond (now Trabzon).

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/19/173: Secret mission of Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab to the Ottoman Empire, Jan 1808-Apr 1809, 4 items
IOR/L/PS/1/10: Minutes of the Secret Committee, 10 Apr 1806-15 Apr 1824
List of Consular Officials in the Ottoman Empire and its former territories from the sixteenth century to about 1860 by David Wilson, July 2011



10 July 2021

Italy v England

As we wait for the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy, I thought I’d look for stories about the earliest matches between the two countries in the British Library’s newspaper collection.

The first match between the two sides took place in May 1933 in Rome.  The result was a 1-1 draw.  The Sunday Pictorial published this picture ‘received by photo-telephony’ of the England goalkeeper Hibbs punching out the ball.

England v Italy 1933 - England goalkeeper Hibbs punching out the ball.British Newspaper Archive - With thanks to Reach PLC. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

In November 1934, the Weekly Dispatch reported that touts were charging £2 2s for tickets for the forthcoming England-Italy match at Highbury when the cheapest official entry fee was 2s.  Touts were expected to ask prices as high as £5 for the best seats just before kick-off.  England won 3-2.

The next match was held in Milan in May 1939, resulting in a 2-2 draw.  The President of the Italian Federation of Football, Lt Gen Giorgio Vaccaro, expressed the belief that the tie would help to cement the friendly relationship between the two countries.

Italy and England played their first fixture after World War II in Turin in May 1948.  The score was 4-0 to England.

The teams played again in November 1949 at White Hart Lane: England won 2-0.  Two boys from City School Lincoln were suspended by their headmaster for taking a day off to attend the match.  Jeffrey Poole, 14, and Peter Wheatley, 13, had gone with a small group of choirboys led by the Rev R F Walters, curate of St Swithin’s Church.  Their parents and the curate believed that the punishment was too harsh.  Jeffrey and Peter had no regrets, showing reporters a treasured souvenir programme and sharing memories of an exciting trip to London.  The boys were allowed to return to school after their parents wrote to the head regretting their action and promising it would not happen again.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive (also available via Findmypast) e.g. Sunday Pictorial (listed under Sunday Mirror) 14 May 1933; Weekly Dispatch 11 November 1934; Sheffield Daily Telegraph 9 May 1939; Torbay Express and South Devon Echo 3 December 1949; Boston Guardian 14 December 1949.


08 July 2021

JMW Turner’s Daughters - Part 2 Georgiana

Georgiana, the younger daughter of JMW Turner and Sarah Danby, was born in 1811.  She later said that she had been born in Surrey but that may not be correct.  On 18 June 1840, Georgiana married Thomas James Thompson, seven years her junior and described as a chemist, at St Mary Magdalene Church in Bermondsey.  Georgiana’s age is given as 21, the same as her husband’s, but 21 was often routinely recorded to show that they were of full age and could marry without the permission of parents/guardians.  Turner did not attend. Georgiana refused to acknowledge Turner and gave her father’s name as ‘George Danby, deceased’.  No George Danby is recorded amongst John Danby’s relatives.

In the 1841 census the couple were living at 10 Webber Row, Lambeth, near to where Waterloo Station is now, with Thomas’s profession now recorded as a clerk.  In June 1841, Georgiana gave birth to a son, Thomas William Thompson, who was baptised in October the same year.  The Thompsons were living at 24 Goswell Terrace and Thomas senior is, once again, described as a chemist.  Sadly, Thomas William died in November 1842 and was buried in Bermondsey.  Georgiana was already pregnant with another child.

Photo taken 2021 of exterior of Lying-In Hospital Lambeth

Photo taken 2021 of an inscription over the door of Lying-In Hospital Lambeth - licensed for the reception of pregnant women in the reign of George IIIExterior of Lying-In Hospital Lambeth 2021 - photographs © David Meaden

In February 1843, she was admitted to the Lying-In Hospital, Lambeth, where she died, aged 31, of puerperal fever and was buried at St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey.  Her child survived and was baptised as Thomas Markham Thompson at St John’s, Waterloo.  His father was now described as a schoolmaster.  Sadly, Thomas Markham died at the age of five months and was buried in Bermondsey.  Like her sister, Evelina, Georgiana was due to receive a bequest from her father’s will but died eight years before him.  This meant that the only direct line of descent from Turner was through Evelina’s children.

Churchyard of St Mary Magdalene  Bermondsey showing gravestones stacked against the wall

Churchyard of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey 2021 photograph © David Meaden

There have been various speculative stories about the parentage of Evelina and Georgiana.  One is that Evelina’s real father was JMW’s father, William (‘Old Dad’).  This is usually based on the evidence of the baptismal register, which refers to her father as William Turner.  However, Turner was always known as William, never Joseph, and his father referred to him as ‘Billy’.  Another is that the girls’ real mother was, in fact, Hannah Danby, Sarah’s niece and Turner’s housekeeper.  There is no real evidence for this, and in his will, Turner refers to the girls as the ‘natural daughters of Sarah Danby’.

Over the years there have been others who have claimed to be Turner’s children but Evelina and Georgiana are the only ones that he acknowledged himself.

David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, ‘JMW Turner, marriage and morals’, The British Art Journal, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Spring 2015), pp. 119-125
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016)
Anthony Bailey, Standing In The Sun – a life of J.M.W.Turner (1997)
Search for JMW Turner papers in the British Library catalogue Explore Archives and Manuscripts 

JMW Turner's Daughters - Part 1 Evelina

Turner’s topographical watercolours

Turner's House

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham has reopened. Check the website for details.