Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

01 August 2023

Catherine Shillcock in Agra Fort

In my recent post about Charles Daniels, an ex-soldier sent adrift upon the world, I asked if anyone could help me find what happened to his wife Catherine after the death of her second husband Sergeant John Shillcock in 1855.  One of our readers has pointed me in the direction of the Agra Fort Directory of 1857 where a widow ‘Mrs C Shilcock’ is listed.

Agra Fort Directory 1857 - front cover

Agra Fort Directory 1857 - explanation of abbreviations used and the first page of names beginning with AAgra Fort Directory 1857 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur D385 

The directory was based on a census taken by Assistant Surgeon James Pattison Walker of 5,845 people sleeping in the Fort on 27 July 1857 .  They were seeking refuge from the Indian Uprising.  Nearly 2,000 Europeans are named - soldiers, civil servants, surgeons, teachers, priests, nuns, railway employees, merchants, craftsmen, bankers, indigo planters, and wives, widows, and children.  There were also 1542 ‘East Indians’, 858 ‘Native Christians’, 1157 ‘Hindoos’, and 229 ‘Mahomedans’, but no names are recorded for these groups.

Numbers of people sleeping in Agra Fort 26-27 July 1857

Numbers of people sleeping in Agra Fort 26-27 July 1857

Mrs Shillcock was living in Block F of the Fort.  A fellow resident was twenty-year-old Rosa Mary Coopland. Her husband, chaplain George William Coopland, had been killed at Gwalior in June 1857.  Their son George Bertram Philpott was born in Agra Fort on 8 August.

Agra Fort Directory 1857 -two pages of names begiinning with S  including Mrs C Shilcock Agra Fort Directory showing entry for Mrs C Shilcock

In 1859 Rosa Mary Coopland published a memoir of her escape from Gwalior and life in Agra Fort,.  She described life in the Fort – the noise and confusion of people settling into their quarters; the staff of sweepers paid by the authorities to keep the interior clean; the butchers, bakers and laundrymen carrying on their trades within the walls; the laying-out of gardens; the making of coffins.

Agra Fort - garrison orders 1 July 1857Agra Fort - garrison orders 1 July 1857 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur D385 

The Agra civil servants had comparatively comfortable quarters in the gardens.  A large marble hall there was used as a business office and as a church on Sundays.  The military officers and their families lived in tents, as did the Roman Catholic Archbishop and his clergy.  The highest military ranks occupied a row of small houses, and their soldiers lived in barracks.  Nuns created a school and a chapel in the place where the gun carriages had stood.  Shopkeepers and merchants made small thatched huts, and ‘every available place was crammed’, with people ‘almost as closely packed as bees in a hive’.

The memoir also told the story of a woman killed at Gwalior.  Mrs Coopland couldn’t remember the woman's name, but she was the widow of a conductor in the commissariat who had risen from the ranks and saved a great deal of money.  He had died shortly before the Uprising and his widow had buried his boxes of treasure for safety.  Apparently some sepoys demanded the treasure and shot the woman when she refused to show them the hiding place.

The dead woman was Catherine Shillcock’s elder sister Maria.  She had married Andrew Burrows, a private in HM 87th Foot, on 22 October 1821 at Fort William. They had at least seven children, with three dying as infants.

By 1857 Andrew was Deputy Commissary of Ordnance attached to the Gwalior Magazine.  He died on 14 May 1857.  His will made in 1843 left everything to Maria, but did not name an executor. As Maria was dead, the estate was settled by the Administrator General in Bengal.

On 31 July 1858 a funeral service was read at Gwalior over the remains of those who died there in June 1857, including those of George William Coopland and Maria Burrows.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Mss Eur D385 Agra Fort Directory 1857 and Garrison Orders I July 1857 in Charles Lamont Robertson Glasfurd papers.
R M Coopland, A lady’s escape from Gwalior and life in the Fort of Agra during the mutinies of 1857 (London 1859).
IOR/N/1/8 f.186 Baptism of Maria Griffiths 10 August 1809.
IOR/N/1/11 f.566 Marriage of Maria Griffiths to Andrew Burrows 22 October 1821.
IOR/N/1/94 p.140 Funeral service read at Gwalior on 31 July 1858 over remains, including those of George William Coopland, died 15 June 1857, and Maria Burrows, who died 14 June 1857.
Will and estate papers of Andrew Burrows IOR/L/AG/34/29/100 pp.210-214 & 534-535; IOR/L/AG/34/27/165 p.266; IOR/L/AG/34/27/169 p.285.


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