Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

9 posts from June 2023

29 June 2023

Harvey's pneumatic dusting machine at the India Office Library

In August 1904 the India Office Library in London took delivery of a pneumatic dusting machine from Charles J Harvey of Kidderminster.  Thomas Walker Arnold, Assistant Librarian, urged the Clerk of the Works to sanction the purchase of Harvey's machine in time for the cleaning of the Library scheduled to begin on 1 September.

Harvey's pneumatic dusting machineHarvey's pneumatic dusting machine from Frank James Burgoyne, Library Construction, Architecture, Fittings, and Furniture, Volume 2 (London, 1897)

Arnold put forward three points in support of the purchase.
• The machine would prevent the enormous amount of damage being done to the bindings of books by the cleaners and messengers banging the books together to get the dust off.  The annual bill for binding was ‘considerably swollen’ because of this.
• The ordinary method of dusting with a cloth caused coal dust to be smeared over the bindings and made the books impossible to clean properly afterwards.  The dusting machine used suction and would prevent vellum and other light-coloured bindings from being spoiled.
• The machine would allow for the removal of dust and dirt from the shelves.  Current cleaning methods merely transferred the dust from one part of a room to another as very little dirt was carried away in the dusting cloths.

In September, the purchase of the pneumatic dusting machine was agreed at a cost of £6 6s less a 5% discount.

Charles J Harvey had registered the patent for the dusting machine.  His notepaper shows his address for telegrams as ‘Inventions, Kidderminster’.  The machine removed loose dust by suction and sent it to a calico bag.  A lever worked the bellows (labelled E on the drawing above).  Air suction was created at a nozzle (A) and a flexible tube was fitted to this. Differently shaped cleaners or brushes could be attached to the other end of the tube depending on the surface to be dusted – table tops, shelves, the tops of books.

The India Office Library was not alone in its concern about dusting large numbers of books.  In 1901 the librarian of Aberdeen University wrote a report on the systematic dusting of books, having corresponded with several of the older libraries in Britain.  Some  librarians believed that cleaning could do more harm than good, especially to old and fragile bindings.

The British Museum had a staff of twelve employed entirely with dusting books.  It took two years to complete a circuit.  Each book was brushed with a damp cloth and then wiped with a dry cloth.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford employed a special staff of six men once a year to dust the books most exposed to dust.  It had used pneumatic dusting machines but found they offered no advantage.

At Trinity College Dublin one man dusted books continually, with a tour of the library taking a couple of years.  A pneumatic brush had been tried there but something stronger and more durable was needed for a collection of 250,000 volumes.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/SUR/6/11/12 Purchase of a pneumatic dusting machine for the India Office Library.
Frank James Burgoyne, Library Construction, Architecture, Fittings, and Furniture, Volume 2 (London, 1897).
The Aberdeen Daily Journal 20 December 1901  - British Newspaper Archive also via Findmypast.


27 June 2023

What was so unusual about Charles Marsden?

On 3 April 1903 Alexander James Jones, Chaplain at Holy Trinity Church, Bangalore, addressed a note to the Registrar in Madras.  On receiving the note, the Registrar instructed that two copies of it should be inserted into the register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials in Madras for January-June 1903 (IOR/N/2/93) on folios 17 and 20.  The note related to a child named Charles Marsden whom Rev Jones had recently buried in Bangalore.

Photograph of Holy Trinity Church, BangaloreHoly Trinity Church, Bangalore from Frank Penny, The Church in Madras (1922) via Wikipedia 

Charles Marsden had been born on 9 February 1903 in Bangalore, to Richard Travers Marsden and his wife Alexandrina Matilda.  According to the record, the baptism had taken place the same day at the family’s home by a Mrs Curtham (IOR/N/2/93, f 17).

Baptism of Charles Marsden 9 February 1903 in BangaloreBaptism of Charles Marsden 9 February 1903 in Bangalore IOR/N/2/93, f 17

A few pages later in the register, Charles Marsden appears again.  On 10 February 1903, Chaplain Jones buried Charles at Holy Trinity Church in Bangalore.  The burial register records that the death had occurred on 9 February, with the child having only lived about 20 minutes.  The cause of death given was premature birth (IOR/N/2/93, f 20).

Burial of Charles Marsden 10 February 1903 BanglaoreBurial of Charles Marsden 10 February 1903 Banglaore IOR/N/2/93, f 20

The reason for the note written by Jones to the Registrar however was to do with the family’s decision to name the child Charles.  The Chaplain wished it to be on record that the family had chosen the name Charles at baptism, even though the baby was a girl.

Note by Chaplain Jones that Charles Marsden was a girlNote by Chaplain Jones that Charles Marsden was a girl IOR/N/2/93

Rev Jones had written the note to prevent the anticipated correspondence that would otherwise have occurred from the Registrar and others assuming that he had made an error in listing the child as a daughter.  He wanted it to be clear that the child in question was indeed Miss Charles Marsden!

Charles’s father, Richard Travers Marsden, was born in London in 1871 and was a Captain in the Royal Regiment of Artillery, having entered as a Gentleman Cadet in 1888.  On 18 January 1902, he married Alexandrina Matilda Carthew, daughter of Charles Alfred Carthew in Bangalore, Madras.  Their first two children were born prematurely: son Richard in June 1902 and daughter Charles in February 1903.  The family returned to England soon afterwards and had two more daughters who survived past infanthood: Susannah Catherine born in 1905 and Ina Matilda Christie born in 1906.

Richard continued to serve with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by 1915.  He served in France during World War I for which he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, Croix d’officer.  His wife Alexandrina appears to have travelled to with him as she worked in France as nurse with the French Red Cross during the war.  Following Richard’s retirement from military service the family settled in Camberley, Surrey, where Richard died in 1946 and Alexandrina in 1969.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/N/2/93, f. 17 – baptism of Charles Marsden.
IOR/N/2/93, f.20 – burial of Charles Marsden.


22 June 2023

The actor, the fascist, and the reincarnated queen

That is not the title of an unrealised Peter Greenaway film, nor the pub-going cast list of the opening line to a joke, but three roles occupied by Mary Taviner (1909-1972).

Photograph of Mary Taviner in about 1939Mary Taviner, c. 1939. British Library Add MS 89481/10, f. 50

Taviner’s acting career comprised just four films (one of which was as a nine-year-old).  Contemporary and modern critics agree that there was nothing wrong with these melodramatic stories of ghosts, spies, and murder, apart from the acting, the plots, and the scripts that is!  Her stage career lasted longer; from a 1924 London production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she continued to work until the year of her death.  Again, notices were mixed.  Her only cheerleaders seem to be have been her local newspapers, basking in the glory of having a ‘star’ in their neighbourhood.

Politically, Taviner was on the far-right.  She was a pre-war member of the British Union of Fascists and appeared in a production staged by the Never Again Association, a front for extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism.  Her 1954 film The Devil’s Jest was a vehicle for her view that Britain and Germany should have allied against communism rather than fight each other.  She even sported an Iron Cross on a bracelet.

Taviner had a confused relationship with leading fascists.  She fell in love with Oswald Mosley only to later unsuccessfully sue him for breach of promise.  In this action she enlisted the help of William Joyce (later known as Lord Haw-Haw), who had fallen out with Mosley in 1937.  Yet she later turned on Joyce, accusing him of running a 300-strong pre-war spy ring under the noses of the intelligence services.

She was still working for the fascist cause in the 1960s, and was involved with the White Defence League, Mosley’s Union Movement, and the Young Britain Movement, closely linked to the UM.  She tried to organise a conference of European fascists in Marylebone only for the local council to ban it and she stood as a UM candidate in the Kensington borough elections in 1962 but mustered just 78 votes.

What of that third role Taviner inhabited?  Her claim to be the reincarnation of Mary, Queen of Scots, (she even had her portrait painted as the queen) was the pinnacle of her many fantastical claims about herself.  She claimed her mother was the offspring of German and British aristocrats; she was not.  Taviner styled herself Baroness Marovna, the widow of a scion of the Romanovs, but no such barony existed.  She was supposedly elected spiritual leader of Scotland by an organisation that has left no trace of its existence.  She claimed to have worked in British intelligence during the war; she had not.  Her story about Joyce’s spy ring was a fiction.  All these tales smack of Taviner trying to make herself more interesting to producers and directors.

Despite such an interesting life she remains a peripheral figure.  Her death went almost unnoticed; even The Stage, the theatre’s leading newspaper, missed it.  She is not mentioned in the books written by or about the actors and directors she worked with and there are only passing mentions in a tiny fraction of the books written about British fascists and fascism.

Michael St John-Mcalister
Manuscripts Catalogue and Process Manager

Further reading:
Facts, Fictions, and Fascism: A Life of Actor Mary Taviner (1909–1972), 

Add MS 89481/10


20 June 2023

Charles Tuckett junior - bookbinder, inventor, author, researcher and … bankrupt

What did one have to do to succeed in Victorian London?  On the evidence of the life of bookbinder Charles Tuckett junior, versatility, luck, talent, intellect and an engaging personality were not enough.  Despite publications and patents to his name and esteem from both his British Museum Library colleagues and his trade society (the Bookbinders’ Pension Society), Charles died in 1875 at the age of 54 after a long illness, bankrupt, with his teenaged son Frederick as chief mourner.  However the Hampstead and Highgate Express emphasised that ‘affectionate respect was sincerely and mournfully given’.  Many important figures attended the funeral.

A bookbinding workshop in Victorian LondonA bookbinding workshop in Victorian London from A Description of Westleys & Clark's Bookbinding Establishment, 1845

The Tuckett family comprised father Charles, sons Charles, Robert Daniel and John.   The surname was synonymous with bookbinding; notably at the British Museum, and at their own business nearby in Bloomsbury.  They were also official binders to the Queen and Prince Albert.  Charles Tuckett senior managed the Museum workshop for 40 years and Charles junior worked there too.

Plate from Tuckett's Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha published in Venice  1521Plate 3 of Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521). 

Photograph from British Library’s database of bookbindings of Il Petrarcha  published in Venice  1521Photograph from the British Library’s database of bookbindings on the same book, Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521)

Charles junior was devoted to raising the profile of books and bookbinding.  In 1846, he published a book titled Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum.  He subsequently organised displays at locations which would attract the interest of influential members of society, for example the Society of Arts.  Tuckett’s book reviewers encouraged him to extend his study of bindings by issuing more volumes, including a wider range of styles, but it was not to be.

Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861, p. 213.

Charles junior’s interests were wide ranging, though books were central to his concerns.  He was keen on practical experimentation.  His 1860 patent recorded ‘an improved method of ornamenting book covers, which is also applicable to other purposes’ received much publicity in the newspapers.  It incorporated a new way of adding or changing colour on the surface of leather.

Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent 1860Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent, No. 2408 of 5 October 1860.

The year 1865 proved to be a turning point in the fortunes of the Tucketts.  There was a serious workshop fire in the Museum.  Tuckett senior was held responsible and dismissed.  The capable Tuckett junior assumed his father’s post of Museum Binder.  He oversaw a team of experienced binders including Stephen Would and Joseph Darby.

The Trustees and the august and knowledgeable Keepers of printed books and manuscripts relied upon Tuckett to preserve their fragile collections, maintain the workforce and balance the budget.  Additional stress and calls upon his time were caused by the family business as well as his other occupations.  The 1871 census, lists Tuckett as the supervisor of 55 men, three boys, and fifteen women.  His family home was at 7 Maitland Park Villas, Haverstock Hill, an up and coming area.  A household of his second wife, seven children under the age of thirteen and five servants must have been extremely expensive to maintain.

Perhaps Tuckett over-extended himself: the London Gazette recorded his bankruptcy under an act of 1869.  After years of ill health, which may have impacted severely on his work output, Tuckett died in October 1875.  He predeceased his father, who died five months later in March 1876.

P.J.M. Marks
Printed Historical Collections.

Further reading
Tuckett (C. , Junior ) Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding. Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum . (London , 1846)
The American Bookmaker (August 1894).


15 June 2023

Remembering Stringer Lawrence & forgetting Robert Clive

In 1775, the East India Company commissioned a huge memorial in Westminster Abbey dedicated to Major General Stringer Lawrence (1698-1775).  It was completed in 1777 at a cost of £750, making it the most expensive artwork the Company had ever commissioned.  Unlike other soldiers who were memorialised in Westminster Abbey for dying in the line of duty, Lawrence died at home, almost 20 years after he retired.  What made him so important to the East India Company?

Stringer Lawrence memorial in  Westminster Abbey - image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.Memorial to Stringer Lawrence in Westminster Abbey by William Tyler.  Commissioned by the East India Company in 1775, completed in 1777.  Image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

In 1746, the Company appointed Stringer Lawrence to establish a private army in India.  This militarisation accelerated the Company’s transformation from a mercantile business to an imperial power.  Lawrence’s most famous protégé was Robert Clive.  In the 1750s, they fought side by side, in a series of proxy battles against the French known today as the Carnatic Wars.  Lawrence and Clive commanded troops out of the inland fortress-town of Tiruchirappalli, an important base during these battles.  By 1756, Clive succeeded Lawrence as the Company’s Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies.

In 1760, to celebrate its military successes, the East India Company commissioned marble statues of Lawrence and Clive dressed as Roman soldiers.  These were placed in the General Court Room of East India House, the Company’s headquarters in London.  Lawrence may have founded the Company’s army, but Robert Clive, the younger of the two men, was by then considered more important, and was certainly more famous.  Clive’s fame worked against him in the early 1770s, when he was exposed as financially and morally corrupt, and on 22 November 1774, at the age of 49, he died after cutting his throat.

Sculpture of Robert Clive in Roman military costume

Sculpture of  Stringer Lawrence in Roman military costumeSculptures of Robert Clive and Stringer Lawrence in Roman military costume by Peter Scheemakers. Commissioned by the East India Company in 1760, completed in 1764. Clive’s raised left hand indicates authority. British Library, Foster 53 and 54. Both statues are now in Britain’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

The East India Company went silent on all matters pertaining to Clive.  How could it divert attention away from his inauspicious end?  The answer came along seven weeks later, on 10 January 1775, when Stringer Lawrence died at the venerable age of 77.  The Company fixated on memorialising the respectable 'father' of its army by commissioning the enormous and costly monument in Westminster Abbey.  At its centre, two female figures, one an angel and the other a personification of the East India Company, flank a sculpted landscape of Tiruchirappalli, the fortified town where Clive and Lawrence commanded troops during the Carnatic Wars.

Detail of the fort of Trichinopoly at the centre of Stringer Lawrence’s memorial  Westminster Abbey - image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.Detail at the centre of Stringer Lawrence’s memorial, Westminster Abbey. Image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

In the 18th century, before the formation of museums and art galleries, Westminster Abbey was one of London’s most popular public attractions.  Stringer Lawrence’s conspicuous memorial was placed in an extremely prominent location, next to the Abbey’s main, west facing entrance.  To secure this location, the Company paid for a pre-existing monument to be moved to another part of the Abbey.  By memorialising Lawrence this way, the East India Company drew attention away from Robert Clive’s scandalous death.

CC-BY Jennifer Howes
Art Historian specialising in South Asia

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Howes, Jennifer. The Art of a Corporation: The East India Company as Patron and Collector. New Delhi: Routledge, April 2023. Pages 85 and 114-116.
Payments to William Tyler for the construction of Stringer Lawrence’s memorial British Library, IOR/B/92, pages 326 and 688.
Charges to the East India Company for relocating a pre-existing monument. Westminster Abbey Library, Chapter Act Book, CH/02/01/011.


13 June 2023

Medical equipment required for a military expedition: doolies, dandies and kujawahs

In any military expedition, the logistics of supply and transport are crucial to the success of the endeavour.  One report in the India Office Records gives a flavour of this as it relates to transport of the sick and wounded.  The report is in a thick volume of papers relating to the Abyssinia Expedition of 1868. 
Opening page of Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage ‘Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage’,  1 June 1868 - IOR/L/MIL/5/542
The ‘Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage’, dated 1 June 1868, was written by Captain Holland, Assistant Quarter Master, General Army Headquarters, Abyssinia Field Force.  It lists the numbers of the various different types of sick carriage despatched for the Expedition as follows: 401 doolies, 40 ambulances, 241 kujawahs, 175 camel saddles, 144 mule pads and 128 stretchers.  There were also 39 European hospital tents and 50 hospital marquees.  Plus, an additional 8 swing cots, 128 dandies and 2129 McGuire’s hammocks for the conveyance of the sick and wounded.  Interestingly, the report gives brief descriptions of all these types of carriage, and some even have little sketches showing what they looked like.
Sketch of a doolieSketch of a doolie IOR/L/MIL/5/542
Doolies: very much used in India, they weighed 123lbs, were made of teak with cane bottoms and short legs suspended from a bamboo pole by a light iron framework, and covered by waterproof canvas.  Usually carried in India by six bearers, their weight and bulk made them unfit for service in hilly country without roads. 
Ambulances: drawn by bullocks, they were heavy and were only fit for use on roads. 
Sketch of a dandieSketch of a dandie IOR/L/MIL/5/542
Dandies: consisted of a light wooden framework with a cane bottom with two pieces of iron at either end supporting the bamboo pole. Weighing 54lbs, they had nearly all the advantages of a doolie, their portability making them more suitable over bad roads in hilly country. Fastening a blanket across the pole made a temporary cover.
Sketches of a swing cot and a hammockSketches of a swing cot and a hammock IOR/L/MIL/5/542
Swing cots: a framework of light wood covered with canvas, the whole being supported by a bamboo pole, they weighed 45lbs, and only required four bearers. Well adapted for carrying men suffering from slight ailments or injuries, but not suitable as sleeping cots, and uncomfortable for patients when placed on the ground, especially in wet weather. 
Hammocks: very useful for carrying men who fell out of the line of march from fatigue or temporary ailments, but not adapted for wounded men or for patients suffering from serious illnesses.  Same disadvantage as swing cots in not being placed on the ground in wet weather. 
Kujawahs (camel chair): used for the conveyance of two sick men on each camel.  A good means of conveyance for sick men in a camel country.  However, gave no protection from the sun or rain.  Similarly, camel saddles afforded conveyance for two men sitting astride on each camel.  Fitted with good backs, and in camel country they were a very suitable means of conveyance for men suffering from fatigue or slight ailments, and who were able to sit up. 
Mule pads: weighing 35lbs, generally used for the conveyance of men who had fallen out of the line of march. 
The report also gave details of the different types of camp tents used by the Expedition Force:
155 European soldier double poled tents.
312 European soldier single poled tents
863 Native soldier double poled tents
329 Native soldier single poled tents
323 English circular double fly tents
676 English circular single fly tents. 
John O’Brien 
India Office Records
Further Reading:  
Abyssinia Expeditionary Force 1867-1868: Letters and enclosures from Lord Napier, December 1867-November 1868, shelfmark IOR/L/MIL/5/542. 


08 June 2023

Notes on the Birds of Barrackpore Menagerie

The Institution for Promoting the Natural History of India was established by Governor-General Richard Wellesley at Barrackpore outside Calcutta in 1801.  The aim was to increase Western scientific knowledge of the fauna of India, which Wellesley viewed as being ‘altogether unknown to the naturalists of Europe, or [which] have been imperfectly and inaccurately described’.  The Institution was supervised initially by Dr Francis Buchanan (later Buchanan Hamilton), an East India Company surgeon and accomplished naturalist, and then by William Lloyd Gibbons, an assistant at the Calcutta Orphan School and member of the Bengal Asiatic Society.  Animals and birds were collected and sent to Barrackpore for scientific study, the process of which included making descriptive notes and commissioning drawings, often from Indian artists.  The Institution itself was short-lived, receiving little advocacy or financial support from the East India Company.  Barrackpore Menagerie survived as a public attraction until 1878, when the animals and birds were transferred to Alipore, to what later became Calcutta Zoo.

Moore & Horsfield catalogue Falco tinninculus Moore & Horsfield catalogue entry for Falco tinninculus

Copies of many of the notes and drawings produced at Barrackpore are held at the British Library.  Some were deposited directly with the East India Company by Buchanan Hamilton, others sent to London by Gibbons, and still others ended up at East India House via intermediaries such as Nathanial Wallich and Dr John Fleming.  Drawings, notes, and physical specimens were housed as part of the India Museum, and many were worked on by Thomas Horsfield and Frederick Moore for their Catalogue of the birds in the Museum of the Honourable East India Company (London, 1854-58).

Description of Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) from Mackenzie Miscellaneous catalogueMss Eur Mack Misc 167. 6. Notes on ‘Falco tinnunculus’ (Common Kestrel)

Description of Purple Heron !Ardea purpurea) from Mackenzie Miscellaneous catalogueMss Eur Mack Misc 167. 91. Notes on ‘Ardea purpurea' (Purple Heron)

Two volumes of scientific notes made at Barrackpore Menagerie are in India Office Records and Private Papers, the first of which (Mss Eur D541) deals exclusively with birds.  The notes were unbound, (or possibly dis-bound), which made it easier to consult the scientific writings alongside the drawings for identification purposes.  Unfortunately, this did historically make it easier for items to stray, so when the notes were eventually bound, nine of the descriptions – nos. 1-7 and 90-92 – were lacking.  Thankfully, the descriptions were numbered and with some research we have recently identified a small collection of bird descriptions relating to five birds of prey and two herons in the Colin Mackenzie Miscellaneous collection as being seven of the Buchanan Hamilton/Gibbons descriptions.

Watercolour of Common Kestrel  ‘Falco tinnunculus’NHD2/191 Common Kestrel. ‘Falco tinnunculus’. Watercolour by Mahangu Lal, 1805-07.

Our Visual Arts Department holds the drawings, and they are exquisitely detailed.  They were drawn and painted by Indian artists such as Guru Dayal, Haludar, Mahangu Lal and Bishnu Prasad.  East India Company librarians and curators in the 19th century gave each of the natural history drawings in their care a running number in red ink.  The drawings that relate to birds of Barrackpore, as described in Mss Eur D541, are NHD2/186-284, otherwise known as the G & B (Gibbons & Buchanan) Collection.  Additional bird, mammal, and reptile drawings by Buchanan Hamilton are found in NHD3/311-536, the Buchanan Collection, and these relate to descriptions held in the second volume of notes from the Barrackpore Menagerie (Mss Eur D94).

Watercolour of Purple Heron. ‘Ardea purpurea’. NHD2/276 Purple Heron. ‘Ardea purpurea’. Watercolour by Guru Dayal, 1805-07.

The British Library’s newly opened exhibition Animals: Art, Science and Sound includes an important volume of watercolours of Gangetic fish, commissioned by Buchanan Hamilton and made by the artist Haludar.  These were published in An Account of the Fishes found in the river Ganges and its branches, etc. (Edinburgh, 1822), which remains a seminal work on Indian fish species.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Records and Private Papers - Dr Francis Buchanan Hamilton papers, including Journals of his Deputation from Bengal to Ava [Burma], 1795-1798; Observations on Nepal, 1802; Natural history observations and drawings made at the Barrackpore Menagerie; Notes, descriptions and natural history illustrations in preparation for Fishes of the Ganges; Catalogue of Dried Plants presented to the East India Company Museum; Reports, statistics, drawings and vocabularies produced during the Survey of Bengal (1807-1814). These have various references, including Mss Eur C12-14; Mss Eur D70-98; Mss Eur E68-73; Mss Eur G10-25.
Mss Eur D541: Description of Birds and Animals in the Barrackpore Menagerie, Volume I
Mss Eur D94: Description of Birds and Animals in the Barrackpore Menagerie, Volume II
Mss Eur D487: Description by Dr F Hamilton (formerly Buchanan) of Birds, Quadrupeds and Tortoises
Mss Eur D562/21: Lists of Drawings Birds & Quadrupeds, 1817-1820
NHD2/186-284: The 'G & B' (Gibbons & Buchanan) Collection. Ninety-nine drawings in laid down in an album of birds from India and the East Indies, in a collection formed under the supervision of Francis Buchanan (afterwards Buchanan-Hamilton) and William Lloyd-Gibbons
NHD3/311-536: Two hundred and twenty-six drawings in watercolour and pencil depicting 169 birds (151 separate drawings and 18 duplicates), 38 mammals and 19 reptilia from India and the East Indies
Thomas Horsfield and Frederic Moore, A catalogue of the birds in the Museum of the Hon. East-India Company (London, 1854-58)
Mildred Archer, Natural History Drawings in the India Office Library (London, 1962)
Sally Walker ‘Zoological Gardens of India’, Chapter 8 in Zoo and aquarium history: ancient animal collections to zoological gardens by Vernon N Kisling, Jr. (ed) (Boca Raton, Florida : CRC Press, 2001)
Salim Ali ‘Bird Study in India: Its History and its Important’, India International Centre Quarterly, Vol 6., No. 2 (April 1927), pp.127-139


06 June 2023

Papers of Sir William Hay Macnaghten and Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten

A recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers is now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room.  This consists of papers relating to Sir William Hay Macnaghten, Bengal Civil Service 1814-1841; and Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten, Judge of the Supreme Court of Madras 1809-1815 and Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William 1815-1825.

Surrender of Dost Mahommed Khan to Sir William Hay Macnaghten Bart  at the entrance into Caubul from Killa-Kazee.'Surrender of Dost Mahommed Khan to Sir William Hay Macnaghten Bart at the entrance into Caubul from Killa-Kazee' from James Atkinson, Sketches in Afghaunistan British Library X812 Images Online

In 1838, Sir William Hay Macnaghten was appointed Envoy and Minister at the Afghan Court of Shah Shuja.  The mission to Afghanistan ended in disaster and the collection contains many papers relating to the death of Sir William at Kabul on 23 December 1841 during the first Anglo-Afghan war.  Included is Lady Frances Macnaghten's claim for compensation and a copy of a letter from Captain Lawrence giving an account of the death of Macnaghten and the retreat from Kabul.

First page of note written by Eldred Pottinger
Second page of note written by Eldred PottingerNote written by Eldred Pottinger Mss Eur F760/1

There is also a copy of a note written by Eldred Pottinger, the political officer who succeeded to the position of Envoy on Macnaghten’s death. In the note, he described the desperate situation of the Kabul garrison: ‘Macnaghten was called out to a Conference and murdered….we are to fall back on Jalalabad tomorrow or the next day – in the present disturbed state of the country we may expect opposition on the road – and we are likely to suffer much from the cold and hunger as we expect to have no carriage for tents or superfluities.’  He reported that he had taken charge of the mission and that ‘The cantonment is now attacked’.

Sir William’s father was Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten, appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Madras in 1809. The collection contains a journal written by Sir Francis from this period in his life.  He began writing the journal while on board the ship Bucephalus, which left Portsmouth on 15 November 1809 and arrived at Madras on 25 April 1810. He explained, ‘These notes and memoranda were written on ship board as the matter of them occurred to my memory. They were mainly intended to express for my own use the facts and my feelings upon them. Should they fall into other hands they will I trust be treated accordingly’.

Sketch of a water spout  Mss Eur F760-2Macnaghten's sketch of a water spout Mss Eur F760/2

The journal includes an account of the circumstances of Macnaghten's appointment to the post of Judge at the Supreme Court of Madras, preparations for leaving England, and the voyage to Madras. The journal ends with his being sworn in as a judge on the bench at Fort St George and paying a formal visit to the Nabob of the Carnatic. He includes such information as the fees of a knighthood and some facts on the Bucephalus. Macnaghten also drew a sketch of a water spout which the ship encountered along the way. He described that on 16 December 1809: ‘Saw a water spout. The store ship which we had under convoy fired a gun at it and we saw it regularly dispersing – It emptied itself regularly from its bottom or lower part and we perceived the sea where it fell very much affected by it. It had the appearance of smoke rising from a distant fire’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers relating to Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten (1763-1843), Judge of the Supreme Court of Madras 1809-1815, Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Bengal 1815-1825; Sir William Hay Macnaghten, Bart (1793-1841), Madras Army 1809, Bengal Civil Service 1814-41, Envoy and Minister at the Afghan Court of Shah Shuja from 1838; and other members of the Macnaghten family, collection reference Mss Eur F760, available to view in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, and the catalogue is searchable on Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

Other Macnaghten papers at the British Library:
• Addresses presented to Sir Francis Workman-Macnaghten (1763-1843), Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Bengal, on his retirement and departure for Europe, 1822, shelfmark Mss Eur F718.
• Letter book, dated Feb 1839-Mar 1841, of Sir William Hay Macnaghten containing copies of his letters to the Governor-General Lord Auckland, and other British civil and military officers, on foreign political and administrative matters, and in particular on policy towards Afghanistan, shelfmark Mss Eur F336.