The will of Chaund Bebee or Bebee Shore
Whilst researching in the India Office Records I came across the will of Chaund Bebee, commonly known as Bebee Shore. Chaund Bebee was described as a single woman and a ‘Mussulmannee’ who died on 17 July 1836 at Entally, a suburb of Calcutta. The will, dated 9 January 1836, shows that she was the mother of the India-born ‘natural’ children of John Shore, who became Governor General of Bengal and later Baron Teignmouth. Biographers of Shore mention his Indian mistress and her children but none appear to have discovered her identity.
Will of Chaund Bebee, commonly called Bebee Shore, British Library IOR/L/AG/29/58
Chaund Bebee stated that she had lived in Calcutta for the past 56 years. She owned a number of houses in Entally and in Hastings Place Calcutta, as well as a piece of land in Chuckerbear in Panchanogram near Calcutta. Half of this land was to be retained as a place for her burial with a monument.
The only one of her four children by John Shore mentioned in the will is George Shore, born in 1785. Chaund Bebee said that her son George had recently obtained an increase of fortune and was well off in the world. He therefore did not need any pecuniary gift or legacy from her, but she left him a ring which had belonged to his father, the late Lord Teignmouth. She asked him to wear it as a testimony of her natural love and affection. Her daughter Eliza Cordelia Sheriff would point out the ring to George.
Eliza Cordelia was the daughter of Chaund Bebee and Charles Rothman, a Calcutta businessman. According to her baptism record, Eliza was born on 20 April 1802. On 6 November 1815 she married James Urquhart Sherriff, who worked as an assistant in the Mint and then as a house builder. James died in 1832.
The main beneficiaries of Chaund Bebee’s will were Eliza and her eight children, Eliza, Henrietta Rothman, James Charles, Margaret Euphemia, Robert William, Hannah Sophia, David, and George Hill. Chaund Bebee stipulated that her property be sold and the proceeds invested for the benefit of her daughter ‘exclusively of any husband she may chance to marry who is not to intermeddle therewith’. After Eliza’s death, the eight grandchildren were to share the interest or dividends. Chaund Bebee’s servants were also given legacies.
Probate was granted by the Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta to William Upton Eddis and Eliza Cordelia Sherriff on 19 July 1836. John Chatter swore that the will had been prepared on the instruction of Chaund Bebee, and that he had explained the contents to her in Hindustani. She had signed each of the eleven pages of the will with her mark.
George Shore’s siblings were: John baptised 1777; Francis born c. 1781; and Martha born c. 1783. Martha and Francis had predeceased Chaund Bebee, dying in September and November 1834 respectively. Perhaps George’s inheritance from his brother Francis was the ‘increase of fortune’ to which Chaund Bebee referred? Both John and George were living in London at the time of their mother’s death, although there is evidence that George was based in Bengal during the 1820s.
Future Untold Lives blog posts will look at the lives of Chaund Bebee’s children in more detail.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
Will of Chaund Bebee, commonly called Bebee Shore, British Library IOR/L/AG/29/58, with an inventory of her estate IOR/L/AG/34/27/114.
Baptism of Eliza Cordelia, natural daughter of Charles Rothman, born 20 April 1802, British Library IOR/N/1/6 f.180.
Baptism of George, natural son of John Shore, born 1 July 1785, British Library IOR/N/1/4 f.52.
Digital images of these documents are available via Findmypast.