Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

6 posts from May 2024

30 May 2024

The Victorian Diary of William Fletcher of Bridgnorth

As part of Local History and Community month, David Fitzpatrick discusses the compelling diary of a young Victorian bank clerk living in a quiet corner of Shropshire.

Talking With Past Hours: The Victorian Diary of William Fletcher of Bridgnorth comprises a personal diary for 1858-60, edited by archaeologist Jane Killick.  Since 1996, the original handwritten diary has resided in the University of Birmingham’s Special Collections, following its purchase from a dealer.  Its prior whereabouts remain unknown.

Front cover of Jane Killick  Talking With Past Hours The Victorian Diary of William Fletcher of BridgnorthFront cover of Jane Killick, Talking With Past Hours: The Victorian Diary of William Fletcher of Bridgnorth. Copyright Moonrise Press.

William Fletcher was born on 20 October 1839 and was baptised in the Catholic Apostolic Church in Bridgnorth, where his father, also William, became a minister.  When eighteen-year-old William begins his diary in June 1858, he is a devout attendee at church and a well-respected clerk in Cooper’s and Purton’s Bank, located at the southern end of the high street (now the local HSBC branch).  He often works at a sister branch in nearby Much Wenlock and sometimes walks the eight miles there.

Oldbury Terrace  Bridgnorth  where William lodged from February 1858 to June 1859Oldbury Terrace, Bridgnorth, where William lodged from February 1858 to June 1859. Photograph by David Fitzpatrick, 2024.

William documents almost every aspect of his life in succinct yet candid entries, recording details of his correspondence, work, and social activities in Bridgnorth and beyond.  He appreciates a good sermon, smokes tobacco, and enjoys ‘some splendid ale’.  He takes an interest in local affairs and comments on the construction of the Severn Valley Railway, which would open in 1862.

View from Castle Hill  Bridgnorth.View from Castle Hill, Bridgnorth. Photograph by David Fitzpatrick, 2017.

Central to the first year of the diary is what initially appears to be a budding romance with a young woman named Mary Anne Jones (often referred to as ‘my dear Marianne’), with whom William eventually breaks off correspondence in frustration, following an apparent lack of reciprocation.  His failed courtship touches on universal romantic themes, yet readers who have lived in Bridgnorth will find it especially evocative, given the familiar setting.  For instance, in one entry, William recounts how Mary Anne’s brother, also named William, relayed to him that Mary Anne and her sister Martha had heard that William ‘had been seen with some girls on the Castle Hill’, which he dismisses as ‘utterly false’.  It is easy to imagine young people making similar accusations and refutations almost every year since then, all centred on Castle Hill, with its fine views of the Severn Valley.

Report of William Fletcher’s sudden death – Shrewsbury Chronicle 7 August 1863Report of William Fletcher’s sudden death –Shrewsbury Chronicle 7 August 1863 British Newspaper Archive

Also prominent throughout the diary is William’s struggle with tuberculosis (though not named as such), including consultations in Birmingham, and a trip to Bournemouth for ‘a change of air’.  As Killick’s supplementary notes inform us, William’s illness ultimately led to his premature death in Bridgnorth on 29 July 1863, aged just 23.  On 7 September 1863, Mary Anne married a man named Thomas Titterton, in Port Elizabeth [Gqeberha], South Africa. 

The Fletcher family headstone in Bridgnorth cemetery  made with local sandstoneThe Fletcher family headstone in Bridgnorth cemetery, made with local sandstone. Photograph by David Fitzpatrick, 2024.

William’s diary is an absorbing read, enhanced by Killick’s footnotes and additional biographical information (and an appendix containing an aborted diary by William, dated March-April 1857).  It is a fascinating insight into daily life in Bridgnorth during a time of great change, and a reminder of the fragile and ephemeral nature of life.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
Jane Killick, Talking With Past Hours: The Victorian Diary of William Fletcher of Bridgnorth (Ludlow: Moonrise Press, 2009)

 

27 May 2024

India Office catalogue records added to Discovery platform

750,000 India Office Records (IOR) catalogue descriptions have recently been uploaded to the National Archives’ Discovery platform, providing access while the British Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue is out of action. 

Researchers can use this catalogue to search for IOR materials, make a note of relevant references, and then visit the British Library to order material for consultation. The interim website provides information on reader registration and ordering during the ongoing disruption to library services. 

This post provides an overview of what’s included, what isn’t, and tips on how to use the Discovery platform. 

What is included

The records uploaded consist of the majority of the official IOR collections, including records of the East India Company, the Board of Control for the Affairs of India, the India Office and the Burma Office. 

Older IOR descriptions in Discovery were deleted and replaced with updated versions dating from April 2023. 

The following IOR classes, record groups or fonds have been uploaded: 

  • IOR/A Charters, Statutes and Treaties 
  • IOR/B Minutes of the East India Company’s Directors and Proprietors 
  • IOR/C Council of India 
  • IOR/D Minutes and Memoranda of General Committees and Offices of the East India Company 
  • IOR/E East India Company General Correspondence 
  • IOR/F Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India 
  • IOR/G East India Company Factory Records 
  • IOR/H Home Miscellaneous 
  • IOR/I Records relating to other Europeans in India 
  • IOR/J Records of the East India College, Haileybury 
  • IOR/K Records of institutions in Britain connected to the East India Company and India Office 
  • IOR/L/AG Accountant General’s Records 
  • IOR/L/E Economic Department Records 
  • IOR/L/F Financial Department Records 
  • IOR/L/I Information Department Records 
  • IOR/L/L Legal Advisor’s Records 
  • IOR/L/MAR Marine Department Records 
  • IOR/L/MIL Military Department Records 
  • IOR/L/PARL Parliamentary Branch Records 
  • IOR/L/PJ Public and Judicial Department 
  • IOR/L/PO Private Office Papers 
  • IOR/L/PS Political and Secret Department Records 
  • IOR/L/PWD Public Works Department Records 
  • IOR/L/R Record Department Papers 
  • IOR/L/SG Services and General Department Records 
  • IOR/L/SUR Surveyor’s Records 
  • IOR/L/WS War Staff Papers 
  • IOR/M Burma Office Records 
  • IOR/N Ecclesiastical Returns 
  • IOR/O Biographical Series 
  • IOR/Q Commission, Committee and Conference Records 
  • IOR/R Records transferred later through official channels 
  • IOR/S Linguistic Survey of India Records 
  • IOR/V Official Publications 
  • IOR/X India Office Maps Reference Collection 

What is not included

Recent additions to the India Office Private Papers (IOPP) have not yet been uploaded. 

Entries for index volumes (IOR/Z) have not been uploaded, as they lack descriptive information and are more easily browsed and located using the physical lists in the British Library Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

Using Discovery

Discovery primarily holds catalogue records for the National Archives, but also hosts descriptions from over 3,500 other UK archive repositories. 

There are extensive help guides to be found in the Discovery help pages, but we will show you a couple of helpful tips below. 

Filters

You can use the Filters to restrict search results to records held by the British Library. For the India Office Records, use the ‘British Library: Asian and African Studies’ filter, found under ‘Other archives’. 

Screengrab of filter selection
Screengrab showing filter selection for British Library: Asian and African Studies

Navigating the hierarchy

The India Office Records are organised into record groups as discussed above. If you know which record group you wish to use you can easily find it by searching for its reference in quotations, e.g. “IOR/E” will return the entry for the East India Company General Correspondence.  

You can view records within this section by using the ‘(browse here from hierarchy’) link at the top of the description.

Screengrab of IOR/E description
Screengrab showing hierarchy link above IOR/E description

 This will show you the ‘child’ records of IOR/E on the right-hand side of the screen, as well as listing the other higher level IOR descriptions in reference order.

Screengrab showing IOR/E with child records
Screengrab showing IOR/E, with child records

If you wanted to see all the higher level IOR descriptions arranged in reference order, you could search for “IOR/A” (note the quotation marks), click into the description, then select ‘browse here from hierarchy’.

Similarly, if you search on a subject and topic and find an interesting entry, you can navigate using the hierarchy to browse other records within the sequence. For example, a search for 'Irrigation control Iraq' returns IOR/L/PS/20/C253/1, f 162, a map showing irrigation control in central and lower Iraq. The hierarchy can then be used to view the descriptions for the military report containing the map, the books within the Political and Secret Department Library ‘C’ Range, or the records of the whole departmental library.

Screengrab showing catalogue hierarchy
Screengrab showing the hierarchy for IOR/L/PS/20/C253/1

 Advanced search

The advanced search option can be used to specify search term combinations within reference groupings and dates.  

For example, a search for ‘tax’ within reference IOR/L/PJ (Political and Judicial Department) for the years 1880-1900 returns 52 records. 

Screensgrab showing advanced search
Screengrab showing search results for tax within IOR/L/PJ, 1880-1900

21 May 2024

Across the Great Desert: an unlikely rescue on the coast of Oman

In late July 1892, a ship from the Seychelles wrecked on the coast of Oman.  Its two surviving crewmen- brothers named Melicourt and Despilly Savy- were stranded without food or water.

One month later, the pair walked into the British Consulate at Muscat, accompanied by the man who had saved their lives and guided them across 230 miles of harsh terrain; Salim-bin-Said-bin-Khatir [Sālim bin Sa‘īd bin Khāṭir], a Bedouin ‘of the Yal Wahibah tribe’.

This remarkable story, told through correspondence between British officials in the Gulf region, provides an insight into how those officials sought to encourage the protection of British subjects, and thereby reinforce imperial prestige.

On 24 June 1892, a sailing boat named Venice left ‘the Isle of Vaches’- most likely Bird Island- with a crew of six men and a cargo of eggs.  The ship was left crippled by ‘a very heavy sea and stormy weather’ and drifted north for almost a month.  Two men died aboard the ship, while another two died just after it had wrecked on the Omani coast.

Melicourt and Despilly likely would have met the same fate, if they had not been found by Sālim bin Sa‘īd.  The Bedouin took them to a nearby hut and hosted them ‘with great kindness and hospitality’ for eight days as they regained their strength.

Once the brothers had recovered sufficiently, the intrepid Bedouin led them on a lengthy journey across Oman to Muscat, where they could expect assistance from the British Consulate:
‘...he took them through the great desert of Oman to Mideibee [Al-Mudhaibi] in the Sharkiyyeh [Ash Sharqiyah], thence through the Baldan-al-Awamir [Buldan-al-Awmir] to Oman proper and through the Wadi Beni Ruhah [Wadi Bani Rwahah] to Semail [Samail], whence he has brought them safely to Muskat [Muscat]’.

Approximate route taken by the sailors and their rescuer from Ras Sarab to MuscatThe approximate route taken by the sailors and their rescuer from Ras Sarab [Ra’s Sirab] to Muscat. Image created by Hannah Nagle, Content Specialist Archivist. Map data ©2024 Google.


The journey took about 20 days, and they arrived in Muscat on 31 August 1892.  Sālim bin Sa‘īd seems to have gone to considerable expense to escort these sailors.  One of his camels died during the journey, and he even sold his dagger to pay for food.

The British Political Agent at Muscat decided to reward the kindness and risk-taking shown by Sālim bin Sa‘īd; his expenses were reimbursed, plus a 100 rupee present.  The Bedouin left Muscat wealthier than he had arrived, while the two sailors were sent home to the Seychelles via Bombay [Mumbai].

Photograph of the British Consulate at Muscat  taken in the 1870sA photograph of the British Consulate at Muscat, taken in the 1870s. 'Muscat Consulate & Agency' [‎22r-b] (1/1), British Library: Visual Arts, Photo 355/1/43, in Qatar Digital Library 

The Agent noted that the reward given to Sālim bin Sa‘īd was intended to ‘act as a stimulus to himself and others of his countrymen to exert themselves in a like manner in protecting British subjects’.  The Political Resident in the Persian Gulf went further than this, suggesting that ‘some special present’ should be sent from the Government of India to Sālim bin Sa‘īd.  He even proposed that the HMS Sphinx should be used to deliver this gift in Sālim bin Sa‘īd’s ‘own country’- ‘The wider the recognition given to actions so creditable... the greater is the prospect of the kind treatment of any who may be unfortunate enough to be shipwrecked hereafter’.  This proposal does not seem to have been taken further, primarily due to the difficulty of finding the Bedouin again.

Dan McKee
Content Specialist Archivist
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
IOR/P/4185 ‘INDIA. FOREIGN PROCEEDINGS. (External) Sep. to Dec. 1892.’

 

16 May 2024

Bridgnorth: A Town of Unique Distinction – Part 2

David Fitzpatrick marks Local and Community History Month by looking at notable histories and guides relating to his home town in Shropshire.

View of Bridgnorth  from The Antiquities of Bridgnorth  1856View of Bridgnorth, from The Antiquities of Bridgnorth, 1856. Image used with the permission of Shropshire Archives.

The Antiquities of Bridgnorth by Rev George Bellett, published in 1856, goes somewhat beyond the scope of its title and traces the town’s history from its assumed Anglo-Saxon beginnings to the end of the Stuart period.  It covers royal visits and battles, highlights several historic buildings and landmarks, and discusses esteemed former residents such as Richard Baxter and Bishop Percy.  It informs all later writings on the town.

View of Bridgnorth  from ‘High Rocks’View of Bridgnorth, from ‘High Rocks’, which ‘rest immediately upon Permian beds.’ Featured in The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth, 1875. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth, published in 1875, is chiefly a visitor’s guide, as its title suggests.  It aims to ‘seize only the salient features of the place’, rather than provide a ‘detailed and exhaustive history’.  It focuses mainly on significant buildings and landmarks, and nearby places of interest, weaving a potted history into its descriptions.

An extract from William Shakespeare’s Henry IV  included in A Popular Illustrated Guide and Handbook to Bridgnorth and its EnvironsAn extract from William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, included in A Popular Illustrated Guide and Handbook to Bridgnorth and its Environs, 1891. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

Published in 1891, A Popular Illustrated Guide and Handbook to Bridgnorth and its Environs addresses a perceived need for greater promotion of the town, noting ‘a general opinion that, if its attractions were better known, it would become a popular resort of the holiday seeker, the [a]rtist and the [g]eologist’.  Similar in structure to the 1875 guide, it describes the town’s features and the history behind them, while also mentioning surrounding villages and hamlets.  In addition, it lists principal hotels and licensed houses, some of which still exist today.  Unlike its predecessor, it contains advertisements, mainly for wine, spirits and tobacco merchants but also for various sports clubs.

Views of Bridgnorth’s Town Hall and St Leonard’s ChurchViews of Bridgnorth’s Town Hall and St Leonard’s Church, from Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

First published in 1937, Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn” begins with a brief history and itinerary of the town before covering other aspects including accommodation, housing, places of worship, sports and pastimes, and local industries.  Its layout closely resembles that of later 20th-century guides, in which advertisements take precedence over detailed historical background.  It features black and white photographs of notable buildings and landmarks, and multiple advertisements for local shops and businesses, all of which are long gone.  In contrast, the golf, cricket, hockey, and tennis clubs remain in their given locations.  So does the cinema, which opened in 1937.

Advertisement for a local newsagent in Bridgnorth 1937Advertisement for a local newsagent in Bridgnorth, from Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

These items are just a selection of the many Bridgnorth guides and histories published from the second half of the 19th century onwards.  For those familiar with Bridgnorth, these publications (alongside other fascinating archival material) illustrate how much and yet also how little the town has changed.  Some buildings have disappeared, but many are extant; shops have come and gone, yet the cinema remains, as do the sports clubs and many pubs (perennial features over the decades and, in some cases, centuries, though they are sadly decreasing in number).  In a broader sense, the visitor’s guides are particularly valuable sources for studying local and community history, providing snapshots of a certain time and place, while also informing wider studies of how Britain’s towns (and accompanying guides) developed during the 19th and 20th centuries.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
George Bellett, The Antiquities of Bridgnorth; With Some Historical Notices of the Town and Castle (Bridgnorth: W. J. Rowley; London: Longmans & Co, 1856): 
The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth, Being a Complete Handbook to Places of Interest in and Around Bridgnorth (Bridgnorth: Evans, Edkins, and McMichael; Madeley: J. Randall, 1875)
Elizabeth P. Morrall, A Popular Illustrated Guide and Handbook to Bridgnorth and its Environs etc. (Bridgnorth: Deighton & Smith, 1891)
Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide (Cheltenham and London: Ed. J. Burrow & Co. Ltd., 1937)

Bridgnorth: A Town of Unique Distinction – Part 1

14 May 2024

Bridgnorth: A Town of Unique Distinction – Part 1

David Fitzpatrick marks Local and Community History Month by exploring the history and features of his home town, drawing from notable histories and guides found within the British Library’s collection.

Introduction to Bridgnorth (Salop)  “Queen of the Severn”  The Official Guide  1937Introduction to Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

The Shropshire market town of Bridgnorth lies nestled in the Severn Valley.  It is, as one visitor’s guide notes, ‘a town of unique distinction’, in that it consists of two parts. High Town sits high above the Severn on a large bluff of red sandstone.  From there multiple sets of steps and a funicular railway – the oldest and steepest of its kind in England – descend into Low Town, which straddles the river.

The town has a medieval castle, now in ruins, having been bombarded, captured and ‘slighted’ in 1646 by the Parliamentarians.  The largest surviving fragment is its Norman keep, which leans at a more acute angle than Pisa’s tower.

View of the Castle Ruins and the Church of St Mary MagdaleneView of the Castle Ruins and the Church of St Mary Magdalene, from Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

Once a busy river port, by the 20th century Bridgnorth had become, as Laurie Lee noted, ‘a pleasant slumberous town’, and remains so.  Inexplicably, the German Luftwaffe dropped twelve bombs on the town on 29 August 1940, destroying several homes and killing two people.  (Incidentally, Adolf Hitler allegedly earmarked Bridgnorth as a potential base in the event of a successful Nazi invasion of Britain.)

Today Bridgnorth is perhaps best known as the northern terminus of the Severn Valley Railway.  The original line opened in 1862, but the town’s relationship with steam locomotives goes even further back.  The famous Catch Me Who Can was built in a Low Town foundry and in 1808 became the first steam locomotive in the world to haul fare-paying passengers on a site just south of Euston Road.

View of Bridgnorth railway station  with a train to Hampton Loade  on the opening day of the Severn Valley Railway  23 May 1970.View of Bridgnorth railway station, with a train to Hampton Loade, on the opening day of the Severn Valley Railway, 23 May 1970. The leaning Castle Ruins are visible in the background. Copyright Ben Brooksbank, licensed for reuse by Geograph under a Creative Commons Licence.

Bridgnorth is home to numerous historic buildings, such as Bishop Percy’s House.  Built in 1580, it is one of very few from that period to survive the fire that engulfed High Town during the Civil War fighting in 1646.  The house was later the birthplace of Bishop Thomas Percy, sometime owner of the Percy Folio (now in the British Library), which he used to compile his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.  Other notable buildings include the Town Hall (formerly a 17th-century tithe barn), St Leonard’s Church (built with local sandstone), and the Church of St Mary Magdalene (designed by Thomas Telford).

View of Bridgnorth High Street and town hall  from The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth  1875.View of Bridgnorth High Street and Town Hall, from The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth, 1875. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

Arguably the town’s most striking landmarks lie on its outskirts.  Two prominent sandstone outcrops sit high along the valley’s eastern ridge, offering excellent vantage points from which to view High Town and the hills beyond.  The higher of the two, Queen’s Parlour, appears at the very top of the valley.  The other, known rather more matter-of-factly as High Rock, juts out incongruously from thick woodland high above the river, looking as though it has been lifted from some remote part of California.

View from Castle Hill  with High Rock visible in the distanceView from Castle Hill, with High Rock visible in the distance. From Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

Both are remarkable sights when viewed from Castle Walk, a promenade on the edge of High Town.  Perhaps Charles I had them in mind when describing the walk as the finest in his dominions.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
George Bellett, The Antiquities of Bridgnorth; With Some Historical Notices of the Town and Castle (Bridgnorth: W. J. Rowley; London: Longmans & Co, 1856): 
The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth, Being a Complete Handbook to Places of Interest in and Around Bridgnorth (Bridgnorth: Evans, Edkins, and McMichael; Madeley: J. Randall, 1875)
Elizabeth P. Morrall, A Popular Illustrated Guide and Handbook to Bridgnorth and its Environs etc. (Bridgnorth: Deighton & Smith, 1891)
Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide (Cheltenham and London: Ed. J. Burrow & Co. Ltd., 1937)

Bridgnorth: A Town of Unique Distinction – Part 2

07 May 2024

Stories of Provenance Research: Charles Masson’s papers in the India Office Records

What do an East India Company Army deserter, an American explorer from Kentucky, and an archaeological expert on Afghanistan who wrote his name in the caves at Bamiyan have in common?  They are actually one and the same person.  Charles Masson, as he came to be known, is an intriguing character, a pioneer explorer, archaeologist, and numismatist, a reluctant spy, and an expert on Afghanistan.  Much has been written about his achievements, which include discovering a lost city (Alexandria under the Mountains at Bagram), helping to decipher a lost language (Kharoshthi) and finding treasure (Bimaran casket, British Museum).  His exploits read like a Boys’ Own adventure story, or a film script. 

Born James Lewis in London in 1800, Masson enlisted in the East India Company’s Bengal Artillery in 1821, deserted in 1827, and - in an attempt to avoid the death penalty - changed his name, began his travels and explorations through Northern India and Afghanistan, and pretended to be an American.  You can read more about Masson’s life and his challenging relationship with the East India Company on the Asian and African Studies blog, but it included groundbreaking archaeological research, being unmasked as a deserter, a pardon in exchange for intelligence work for the British, imprisonment, and a return to London in 1842. 

Volumes from the Masson Collection in India Office Private PapersVolumes from the Masson Collection in India Office Private Papers

India Office Records and Private Papers holds a large collection of Masson’s papers while his drawings are held at by the Visual Arts Department.  For the early part of the 20th century, details of how they came to the India Office had been forgotten.  The 1937 catalogue to European Manuscripts reads 'No record is available to show how the Library came into possession of these papers', before the information was rediscovered in time for the publication of the 1968 Library Guide, where it states that the papers were purchased in 1857.

Title page of Kaye and Johnston's India Office Library Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Volume II 1937Title page of Kaye and Johnston's India Office Library Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Volume II (1937)

Entry for the Masson Papers in the Kaye and Johnston 1937 catalogueEntry for the Masson Papers in the Kaye and Johnston 1937 catalogue 

There is a great deal more information about the provenance of the Masson papers in the records.  They were offered to the East India Company by ‘Mr H Burstall’ in 1857, with the Finance & Home Committee Minutes recording that they were purchased on 11 February 1857 with the sanction of the Court of Directors on the recommendation of Professor [Horace Hayman] Wilson. The decision was recorded in the Court of Directors’ Minutes and approved by the Board of Control on 19 March 1857.  The Company paid £100 for the papers, drawings, coins and artefacts – a substantial sum – on the proviso that it was paid to the legal guardian of Masson’s two orphaned children, for their benefit.

Resolution to buy the Masson Papers, 11 February 1857 - first page
Resolution to buy the Masson Papers, 11 February 1857 - second pageResolution to buy the Masson Papers, 11 February 1857 -  Mss Eur F303/42 ff.158-158v

Henry Abraham Burstall was acting on behalf of Masson’s children, because they were family.  Masson had married Mary Ann Kilby, an 18-year-old farmer’s daughter from Northamptonshire, in 1844.  They had two children - Charles Lewis Robert (born 1850), and Isabella Adelaide (born 1853).  Sarah Kilby, sister of Mary Ann’s father John Carter Kilby, married Abraham Bustall in 1812, making her son Henry Abraham Burstall first cousin to Mary Ann Masson.  Her death in 1855 followed Charles’s death in 1853, leaving her children orphaned and living with her Kilby relatives in Watford, Hertfordshire.  John Kilby, Mary Ann’s brother, was designated their legal guardian.  Charles Lewis Masson followed his father into the military, enlisting as a gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery in 1870, while Adelaide was able to live ‘on her own means’ during her lifetime.

Lesley Shapland
Archivist & Provenance Researcher
India Office Records & Private Papers

Further Reading:
IOR/B/233 pp.885-886: Court of Directors Minutes 11 Feb 1857.
IOR/L/PJ/1/76 No 97: i) Note by HH Wilson on the Masson Collection, Feb 1857 ii) List of Masson Mss by Henry A Burstall 19 Jan 1857 iii) Letter from Henry A Burstall 19 Jan 1857.
IOR/L/PJ/1/77 No 260: letter from Henry A Burstall 8 Apr 1857 accepting £100 in payment for the Masson Collection on behalf of the Masson children.
Mss Eur F303/42, f.158 Finance & Home Committee Minutes.
Mss Eur F303/179 ‘Historical Records, Collections, Original Drawings’.
Charles Masson, Narrative of various journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, the Panjab, & Kalat, during a residence in those countries… 4 vols (London, 1844).
Elizabeth Errington, ‘Charles Masson (1800-1853)’,  Encyclopaedia Iranica
Elizabeth Errington, The Charles Masson Archive: British Library, British Museum and Other Documents Relating to the 1832–1838 Masson Collection from Afghanistan (British Museum, 2017).
Edmund Richardson, Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City (Bloomsbury, 2021).