Untold lives blog

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.


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