Untold lives blog

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23 April 2024

Unclaimed packages and post in Bombay

In the 19th century the Bombay Gazette published lists of unclaimed packages and post.  The Custom House in Bombay advertised details of unclaimed goods, giving notice that they would be sold at public auction if not cleared before a certain date.

A list of packages which had been left at the Custom House between March and November 1863 was published in the Bombay Gazette on 3 February 1864.  Owners were given until 25 February to clear their goods.

First entries from the list of unclaimed goods published in the Bombay Gazette 3 February 1864First entries from the list of unclaimed goods published in the Bombay Gazette 3 February 1864 British Newspaper Archive

The list includes a wide variety of items arriving in ships from across the world.  Amongst the packages were:
• 2 bottles of spirits from Goa
• 2 bundles of snuff from Cutch
• 2 boxes of glass toys
• 4 ‘goolabdanees’ [gulabdanis] - rose water sprinklers
• 1 slab of copper (stolen property)
• 55 kegs of horseshoes from Liverpool
• I½ lbs of indigo
• 2 packages of goracco – tobacco paste smoked in a hookah
• 1 package of sticklac from Siam
• 2 mats from China
• 9 bowls from China
• I bale of cotton from Jodia
• 7 broken watch charms
• 2 bundles of matting from Hong Kong
• 2 bottles of country spirits from Goa
• 3 chairs from Suez
• I box of brass hinges from Surat
• 1 package from London addressed to T Crawford, Army Scripture Reader
• 4 bamboo stools from China
• 18 bags of sugar from Calcutta
• 12 bags of rice (damaged) from Calcutta
• 25 cases of wine from Liverpool – 8 broken
• 1 bag of rape seed
• 4 cases of cigars from Hong Kong, and 6 cases from London
Other packages contained brandy; spun yarn; chintz; iron bars, hoops, and plates; and writing desks.

The notices of unclaimed letters can reveal sad stories.  In this list from July 1836, at least two of the people had died.

List of unclaimed letters Bombay Gazette 30 July 1836 List of unclaimed letters Bombay Gazette 30 July 1836 British Newspaper Archive

Major Thomas Michael Claridge of the 43rd Regiment Madras Native Infantry was buried at Ellore on 29 April 1836, just days before his 40th birthday.  The Church of England funeral service was read over Claridge’s remains by Archibald Goldie Young, a Lieutenant in his regiment.  Claridge’s widow Eliza and son Henry were living in London at the time of the 1841 census.  Henry went back to India in 1845 following in his father’s footsteps as a cadet in the Madras Army, and Eliza also returned to Madras in March 1845.  She died of smallpox at Kamptee in June 1853.

Hugh Coventry of the 20th Regiment Bombay Native Infantry had died on 22 March 1835 at Porbandar, aged 34.  In January 1830 he had been allowed furlough to Europe for three years for the benefit of his health, returning to Bombay in the ship Lady Melville in 1833.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Bombay GazetteBritish Newspaper Archive, also via Findmypast.
Burial of Thomas Michael Claridge 29 April 1836 IOR/N/2/18 p.291.
Cadet papers for Henry Charles Zachary Claridge IOR/L/MIL/9/208 ff.285-287v.
Burial of Eliza Thomasine Ann Claridge 27 June 1853 IOR/N/2/332 p.148.
Memorial inscription for Hugh Coventry at St Fillans Churchyard, Aberdour - Findmypast.


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