Untold lives blog

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213 posts categorized "Conflict"

02 April 2024

Papers of Sir Hugh Keeling and Colonel Thomas Ormsby Underwood

The Keeling family’s collection was donated to the British Library in 2023.  The bulk of the collection is focused on Hugh Trowbridge Keeling (1865-1955), who is most notably remembered as the Chief Engineer to New Delhi during its construction between 1912-1925.  There are also papers for Colonel Thomas Ormsby Underwood (1839-1916).

A portrait photograph of Sir Hugh Keeling by Bertram Park c.1955A portrait photograph of Sir Hugh Keeling by Bertram Park c.1955 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767/2/9

Keeling was born in 1865 and spent four years with the Royal Indian Engineering College, Cooper’s Hill.  After this, he was appointed Assistant Engineer in 1887 on the ‘Perryaur’ (Mullaperiyar) Dam project working under Colonel John Pennycuick of the Royal Engineers.  The collection includes several engineering plans, maps, and manuscripts documenting this work, as well as some photographs.

A view of the Mullaperiyar Dam during construction c.1887-1895A view of the Mullaperiyar Dam during construction c.1887-1895 – India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767/1/1

With a successful and notable project under his belt, in October 1898 Keeling was appointed Executive Engineer for the Madras Public Works Department where he was steadily promoted.  In November 1912 he was called to be Chief Engineer of the newly relocated capital, New Delhi, although with some reluctance.  Keeling states in one typewritten address (Mss Eur F767/1/4 ff.18r) that he was already involved with another project, and he had to be ordered to take up the position by Sir Harold Stuart, a member of the Executive Council in Madras.

The collection includes his speeches, engineering presentations for New Delhi, and his private and professional correspondence, which provide perspectives from Indian and British voices on the change of capital.  The move to New Delhi from Calcutta (Kolkata) was a controversial one, but the building of an impressive monument to the British Raj was a remarkable ending note to the career of Keeling.  He was awarded a CSI in 1915 and a knighthood in 1923.

A group photograph of what is likely to be the Public Words Department senior officials of DelhiA group photograph of what is likely to be the Public Words Department senior officials of Delhi. Keeling can be seen in the centre. India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767/1/5

Keeling’s papers show a man who was a lively and popular character.  He was appointed the ‘Commander in Chief’ of his Gymkhana’s social club, the ‘Moonshiners’, and had strong and admiring social relationships with his engineering team.  After a brief retirement in 1920, he was reappointed Chief Engineer for another five years until 1925 when he was succeeded by Sir Alexander Macdonald Rouse, his Superintending Engineer.

The collection is rounded out by a small selection of manuscripts, books, letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs relating to the Underwood family.  Keeling's connection with Colonel Underwood was through his wife, Edith Madeleine, whom he married in India in 1893.  These papers reveal a respected Lieutenant in the 4th Punjab Cavalry and a Colonel in the Madras Army before his retirement in 1894.  Underwood's work is documented in speeches and newspaper clippings, including his active involvement with the Muslim Association, where he promoted projects to encourage higher education and work in industry.

A letter from Camilla Underwood to her mother dated 1811 (Mss Eur F767/3/2 ff.1r-2v) tells the story of Colonel Underwood’s great uncle, Thomas Steele, an officer in the Light Dragoons stationed in India.  In an all-night gambling session, Thomas won over two thousand pagodas from a Captain MacGregor who then denied the debt.  As a matter of honour, Thomas was forced to fight a duel with MacGregor - ‘every officer would have cut him’ for cowardice had he refused.  Despite MacGregor’s reputation as a skilled duellist, Thomas killed him and was tried by court martial.

Maddy Clark
India Office Records

Further reading:
Papers of Sir Hugh Keeling (1865-1955) and Colonel Thomas Ormsby Underwood (1839-1916) India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767 – a paper catalogue of the contents is available to consult in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.
Wild, A. 2001. Remains of the Raj; The British Legacy in India. East India Company (Publishing) Ltd., London.
The India Office List for 1929. London: Harrison and Sons Ltd.

 

24 October 2023

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 2)

On Monday 30 December 1851, following Turner’s funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral, his cousin and chief executor, Henry Harpur, who had been chief mourner, read the will to the other executors at Turner’s Queen Anne Street gallery.  It was later contested by a collection of Turner’s relations on his father’s side of the family and was not settled until 1856.  Henry and Philip Hardwick, the Royal Academy Treasurer, dealt with the financial aspects of the contested will, leaving other executors to deal with the artworks.

Interior of Turner's Gallery - The Artist showing his Works by George Jones‘Interior of Turner's Gallery: The Artist showing his Works’ by George Jones, probably painted from memory, shortly after Turner's death. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

In the struggle over the will, Henry did battle with another of Turner’s cousins - Jabez Tepper, the son of Turner’s Devon cousin, Mary Turner Tepper (1770-1855).  He was also a London solicitor.

The most disappointing outcome for Henry was that ‘Turner’s Gift’, the proposed Twickenham alms houses for ‘decayd English artists (Landscape Painters only) and single men’, was never fulfilled because under the Mortmain Law, the transfer of the three quarters of an acre of land in Twickenham to a trust, had to be at least a year before Turner’s death, and this had not happened.  This oversight was probably the fault of Henry and Turner’s other legal adviser, George Cobb.

When Turner’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby, died in 1853, her will included the bequest to ‘Mrs Harpur of Cobourg Place Kennington my Tea Caddie’.  This was, of course, Henry’s second wife, Amelia, who had been kind to Hannah. 

The Westminster Hospital c.1834 Wellcome CollectionThe Westminster Hospital, London. Engraving, Wellcome Collection.

In 1868, Henry gave £10,000 to Westminster Hospital, with the request that a ward be endowed in his name.  The hospital was relocated several times and in 1992 amalgamated with Chelsea Hospital to form the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.  There is no longer a Harpur Ward.

Amelia Harpur died on 5th August 1868, aged 54.  Henry died on 2nd March 1877, aged 86.  At the time of his death, he was living at 96 Upper Kennington Lane.  In the 1870s, Evelina Dupuis, Turner’s daughter, had moved into a house at the other end of Kennington Lane, number 154.  Following Evelina’s death there in August 1874, Henry made his last will, bequeathing the remaining money in Turner's Monument Account to her children.

Henry, Amelia and a number of Henry’s siblings are buried in West Norwood Cemetery but their memorials are probably among the 20,000 or so removed by Lambeth Council during the 1970s/80s.

In his will Henry left two Turner paintings to the National Gallery, on the condition that they put them on display.  Strangely, the Gallery refused the paintings.  Apart from several small personal bequests, and having no children, Henry left the bulk of his estate, including the two Turners, to his friend and fellow solicitor, Henry Drake, who was also the sole executor.  One of Drake’s sons, Bernard, had been given the middle name Harpur.

Drake exhibited the two Turner paintings in 1884, 1886 and 1892.  The larger painting, 'Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbour' is now part of the Frick Collection in New York.  The smaller painting, described as 'Figures and boats in the foreground; low-lying coast seen across the sea on the horizon' is untraced.

In his will, Henry also made special provision for his cat to be cared for by Fanny Hodges.  One can only hope that, unlike the paintings, this bequest was fulfilled.

Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877 British Newspaper Archive

CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, Of Geese, Mallards and Drakes: Some Notes on Turner's Family, with contributions from others, Part 4 The Marshalls & Harpurs, Independent Turner Society (1999)
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 1)

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

17 October 2023

Gerald Sidney Wilson, Indian Police

A previous post on this blog looked at the career of William Henry Wilson, an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps who had a distinguished career in the Bombay Police.  Another member of the Wilson family was also involved in law enforcement in India.  This was Gerald Sidney Wilson, William’s nephew, who served in the Indian Police in Bombay.

Photograph of Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli, 10 July 1932 Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli 10 July 1932 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.26

Gerald Sidney Wilson was born on 29 October 1880 in Hampstead.  He joined the Indian Police on 23 November 1901 as a 3rd Grade Assistant Superintendent of Police and was stationed at Dharwar.  Wilson had a long career, working his way up to Inspector General of Police for the Bombay Presidency from 1932 until his retirement in 1934.  He was awarded the King’s Police Medal in 1918 and the Companion of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India in 1931.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930  with two policemen in the foreground.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Wilson served in the police during a turbulent time in modern Indian history.  His papers include some fascinating material relating to the struggle for Independence.  He kept a scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers in 1930 that reported on many key events that occurred in the Bombay Presidency, such as the Congress flag salutation ceremony and women's Congress procession, the release of Vallabhbhai Patel from jail, Khilafat procession in Bombay, and demonstrations on Jawahar Day.  Wilson also collected several editions of The Bombay Congress Bulletin between 1930 and 1932.  These were propaganda sheets issued by the Congress Party in Bombay.  They reported on the activities of party activists and on demonstrations against British rule in India, and took every opportunity to denounce the British authorities.  As Wilson at that time was Commissioner of Police for the city of Bombay, he often came under fire in the Bulletin. The issue of 29 November 1930 reported that Wilson had failed to fulfil his vow to crush Congress: ‘Citizens of Bombay! You have quelled the puffed up pride of this Wilson and made him eat his words by your wonderful solidarity with the Congress movement’.

Bombay Congress Bulletin  29 November 1930  - artlcle about 'Proud Police Chief' WilsonArticle about 'Proud Police Chief' Wilson in The Bombay Congress Bulletin 29 November 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.2

In 1932, Wilson had the task of arresting Gandhi.  His papers include his fascinating account of this, which took place in the early hours of 4 January at Mani Bhuvan, Gandhi’s home in Bombay.  When he arrived Gandhi was asleep.  ‘On being awakened Mr Gandhi sat up but uttered no word as it was his silence day.  I said to Mr Gandhi “It is my duty to arrest you” and showed him the warrant to take him to Yeravda Jail under the old Bombay Regulation of 1827.  I read out the warrant and touched his shoulder in token of having arrested him and told him that I would give him half an hour to get ready.  Asking for paper and pencil he wrote “I will be ready in exactly half an hour”.’

Congress stamps with Gandhi's image and the words 'Boycott British Goods. Non-Violence'.Congress stamps - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Gandhi described the arrest simply in his diary entry for that day: ‘Spun 190 rounds.  The police came and arrested me at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Left after reciting a bhajan.  Elwin, Privat, Mills and others were present.  Vallabhbhai also was arrested at the same time.  We met in the jail and are lodged together.  I may say I spent the day resting.  I could take a walk for the first time today after landing [Gandhi had recently returned from the Round Table Conference in London].  Started reading Will Durant’s book [The Case for India].  Ate no fresh fruit today.  Had two seers of milk’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Gerald Sidney Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.

Papers relating to the career of Gerald Sidney Wilson in the Indian Police, 1901-1933. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/3

Scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers, 1930. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/4.

The Bombay Congress Bulletin, 1930-1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/7.

Account by Gerald Sidney Wilson of the arrest of Gandhi on 4 January 1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/9.

Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope by Judith M Brown (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1989).

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.49, January-May 1932 (Government of India Publications Division, 1958-).

 

19 September 2023

William Henry Wilson of the Bombay Police

William Henry Wilson was an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps in the second half of the 19th century.  Born in Worcester on 13 September 1839, Wilson was appointed to the Indian Army in December 1856, and posted to the 18th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry.  Present during operations against insurgents in the North Canara and Bedee Districts in 1858, he was awarded the Mutiny Medal.  He had a successful army career, and served in the Bombay Police.

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson  1891

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson 1891 - Mss Eur F764/7/8

In 1870, Wilson was the Superintendent of Police for the Kaira District, and was called on to oversee police arrangements for the fair at Dakore held in April of that year.  The fair was a success and Wilson was commended for the judicious manner in which the arrangements were devised and carried out with due regard to the feelings of the people attending the event.  Wilson noted in his papers that, 'There was a tremendous concourse of people, especially women……The Maharajah wanted to give me a sword but I said government would not approve as I had only done my duty'.

Report of the fair at Dakore 1870  with the offer of a sword as a giftReport on the fair at Dakore 1870 -  Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1885, Wilson was the District Superintendent of Police at Nasik. I n October of that year, he had to deal with a riot that broke out at Malegaon in the District.  The cause of the riot seemed to be a dispute between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities who were celebrating the festivals of Dasara and Muharram.  The unrest lasted four days and 42 people were arrested.  At one point, a Hindu temple was attacked forcing the police guard to fire on the rioters wounding two men.  The Government commended Wilson and the local Magistrate Mr Frost for their promptitude and discretion.  In Wilson’s copy of the report on the riot, he noted in the margin that, 'It was a hot business' and that leading Muslim leaders had asked him to release the 42 men who had been arrested, to which he had refused.  They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of between three to eighteen months.

Report of riot at Malegaon 1885 Report of riot at Malegaon 1885  - Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1887, Wilson, serving as Superintendent of Police in the Poona District, was involved in tracking down a gang of robbers.  Wilson reported that, 'five of the Koli gang of dacoits have surrendered to Inspector Ganpatrao Malhar and that a sixth, who alleges he was pressed into the dacoit’s service against his will, has also given himself up' . Wilson recommended that the reward of Rs.500 should be increased to Rs.1000 and distributed to local villagers 'who have done so well and have suffered in the service'.

Report of the surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887  Surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887 - Mss Eur F764/7/2

Between 1888 and 1893, Wilson served as Commissioner of Police for the Town and Island of Bombay.  During that time, he met a number of visiting dignitaries, including Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence in 1889.  The following year, he met Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, future Emperor of Russia, who was on a tour of India.  Wilson wrote that it was rather a responsibility for the Governor, Lord Harris, especially as the Indian Government 'were very jumpy'.  Of the Tsesarevich, Wilson wrote, 'He was very unformed in manners & never thanked me'. I n January 1893, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria visited Bombay as part of his tour of India during his trip round the world.  Wilson commented that Lord Harris 'found him a pleasant guest; and he specially thanked me at the railway station on his departure'.

 

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
William Henry Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.
Papers relating to the service history of William Henry Wilson, 1866-1914, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/1.
Official correspondence relating to William Henry Wilson's career, 1860-1893, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/2.

 

24 August 2023

Seditious Publications

In the early decades of the 20th century the Government of India became increasingly concerned by the publication and circulation of what they perceived as anti-British or seditious publications.  This was a particular concern following the Amritsar massacre which sparked protests across India.  One small collection in the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting glimpse of the efforts of government to suppress these publications.

These are a collection of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces.  The notifications give the legislation used and details of the publication suppressed.  A government reviewer had also listed the paragraphs or lines of particular concern.  The legislation used was section 99 of the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure, and section 12 of the Indian Press Act of 1910.  These pieces of legislation allowed the authorities to declare such books, newspapers or other documents forfeited to His Majesty.  Police officers could then seize them.

Notification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired IndependenceNotification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired Independence

One of the defining events, which galvanised the campaign for Indian independence, was the Amritsar massacre.  Many Indian writers and publishers took this as a subject in calling for resistance to British rule in India.  One collection of poems, ‘Jallianwala Bagh ka Mahatma’, has the line ‘Jallianwala Bagh will be immortal in the world’, and in another of the poems is written: ‘It is Jallianwala Bagh, where the martyrs of the motherland and the gems of the country were robbed’.  It goes on to advise the public to consider the Jallianwala Bagh a place of pilgrimage [folio 21]. 

Notification about Gandhi-ki-gazlenNotification about 'Gandhi-ki-gazlen'

Another pamphlet in Hindi ,‘Gandhi-ki-gazlen’, predicted ‘Scenes of Jallianwala Bagh will be repeated in every city if this Government is not driven out of this country’ [folio 48].  The reviewer noted that the writer urged Indians to follow non-cooperation and emphasised the adoption of swadeshi goods.

Notification about Asahyog KajliNotification about 'Asahyog Kajli'

The campaign to boycott British goods and use Indian products, known as swadeshi, features in many of the publications.  For instance, a pamphlet in Hindi entitled ‘Asahyog Kajli’ encouraged people to use the spinning wheel (charkha) and weave cloth for their use [folio 17]. 

Notification about Sawan SwarajNotification about 'Sawan Swaraj'

Another pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Sawan Swaraj’, written by Sallar Maharaj contain songs with the lines: ‘By working at charkhas the enemy will disappear from our sight and from India’ [folio 19].  The non-cooperation campaigns led by Gandhi are a common theme. 

Notification about Swaraj PratiqyaNotification about 'Swaraj Pratiqya'

One pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Swaraj Pratiqya’, collected poems on the subject.  One line urged: ‘Let us take the vow of non-violent non-co-operation with all resoluteness and let us try soon to liberate India from the unlawful possession of the unjust’.  A similar tone was taken in another line: ‘Let there be new sacrifices made on the altar of liberty and let us all be proud of our mother tongue and of swadeshi clothes’ [folio 118].

Notification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troopsNotification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troops

One notification concerns a leaflet in Nepalese addressed to Gurkha troops.  Printed and published anonymously it warned: ‘Just as an insect eats the wall from the inside and makes it hollow in the same way the foreign nation (British) which is deceitful and dishonest is going to make us hollow’.  It urges Gurkha soldiers to ‘Leave the services and protect your brothers’ [folio 75].

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
India Office unregistered files containing copies of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces proscribing seditious publications, together with translations and summaries of the literature, 1910-1930, reference Mss Eur F242.

Records relating to seditious or proscribed publications can be found in the Public & Judicial Department records series (IOR/L/PJ).

Indian Press Act, 1910

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.  

Publications proscribed by the Government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division, edited by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library, 1985).

 

08 August 2023

William Henry Quilliam – the Victorian solicitor who established Britain’s first mosque

What do the names Abdullah Quilliam, Henri Marcel Léon and Haroon Mustapha Leon have in common?  The answer is that they are all aliases of William Henry Quilliam, 19th century solicitor and convert to Islam.

William Henry Quilliam was born in Liverpool on 10 April 1856.  He was of Manx descent and raised by Wesleyan Methodists.  After training and working as a solicitor, he moved to the Middle East in 1887, where he converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah Quilliam.  He returned to England and opened Britain’s first Muslim institute and mosque at 8-10 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool, in 1889.  The site was a place of worship and education, with its own science laboratory and museum.

Quilliam was given the title of sheikh-ul-Islam (leader of the Muslims) of Britain by the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II.  He also found time to edit a series of Islamic periodicals, publishing frequently under the alias H. [Haroon] Mustapha Leon.  A controversial figure in Victorian England, he received backlash for publicly renouncing Christianity, while Brougham Terrace became a target for vandals.  After leaving the UK for a short period he lived on the Isle of Man in the 1910s, changing his name for a third time to Henri Marcel Léon.

Photograph of William Henry Quilliam  alias Abdullah QuilliamWilliam Henry Quilliam, known as Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam. Public Domain

Quilliam is the subject of British Library manuscripts collection Add MS 89684, which has just been catalogued and is now available for research.  The papers in this collection were compiled by Patricia ‘Pat’ Gordon, granddaughter of Quilliam, while conducting research into her grandfather’s life history.  The collection comprises correspondence, newspaper and magazine cuttings, photographs and even a ceremonial silver trowel.  The trowel was presented by the United Methodist Free Churches to Quilliam’s mother, Harriet, on the laying of a memorial stone of the School Chapel, Durning Road, Liverpool, on 20 August 1877.

A ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs QuilliamA ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs Quilliam Add MS 89684/4/6

During the 1990s, Pat was in regular correspondence with the Abdullah Quilliam Society of Liverpool.  The Society was founded to restore the location of Quilliam’s mosque at Brougham Terrace.  Pat was invited by the Society to unveil a plaque outside the prayer hall on 10 October 1997, in a ceremony which was organised to commemorate Quilliam’s achievements.  Photographs of this event can be found at Add MS 89684/3/2.

Quilliam died in London on 23 April 1932.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Muslim section of Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, not far from the grave of the Islamic scholar and barrister Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953).  It is thanks to the work of Pat Gordon and the Abdullah Quilliam Society that William Henry Quilliam’s mosque and unique history have survived.

George Brierley
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Quilliam, William Henry
Add MS 89684 – Papers relating to Abdullah Quilliam

 

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.

 

13 July 2023

Deefholts: An Anglo-Indian Family of Public Servants in Calcutta

In 1947 the Indian Independence Act  was passed by Parliament.  This ended decades of colonial rule in India and paved the way to Partition.  In November 1960, unrest and violence forced my family to leave Calcutta (Kolkata) permanently.

Great-grandparents Cyril Brian and Maureen and great uncle Hans on the ship Indian Resource from Calcutta to LiverpoolMy great-grandparents Cyril Brian and Maureen and great uncle Hans on the ship Indian Resource from Calcutta to Liverpool

Great uncles Stephen and Hans  and grandfather Gerald on the Indian ResourceMy great uncles Stephen and Hans, and grandfather Gerald on the Indian Resource

My Deefholts ancestors have mainly served in government and legal affairs, customer service, international trade and engineering.  We are today an Anglo-Indian family of public servants with roots in Calcutta and ties to a unique culture which is fading away.  Anglo-Indians are citizens of mixed Indian and European ancestry.

I traced my ancestral roots using the catalogues and collections at the British Library in London. The India Office Records document British rule in India and the lives of Anglo-Indians.

The documents pictured below show correspondence conducted by an ancestor in Bengal.  In 1850 and 1854, petitions about financial matters were submitted by Richard Deefholts, an assistant in the Bengal Secretariat Office.  Then, in 1856, a financial agreement was reached between him and the East India Company in London.

Richard Deefholts' financial petition 1854

 

Richard Deefholts' financial petition 1856Documents about Richard Deefholts’ petition 1854 & 1856 - IOR/E/4/824 and IOR/E/4/834

My great-grandfather Cyril Brian Deefholts was a superintendent for the British trade and shipping operations in Calcutta. He began his career in the war as a pilot for the Indian Army and then worked as a civil servant.

Great-grandparents Cyril Brian and Maureen on a car tripMy great-grandparents on a car trip

Cyril Brian dressed in his army uniformCyril Brian dressed in his army uniform

I discovered tales about my ancestors in The Times of India newspaper that have revealed significant detail and amusing stories about the civic duties and private lives of my ancestors.  They were cricket players, hockey enthusiasts, civil servants, customs officers, and local merchants.  In 1847, ‘two young Bengalee Baboos’ persuaded Robert Horatio Deefholts, Head Clerk, to interfere with the mail and leak examination questions.  On 29 October 1885, The Times of India reported on ‘An event of unusual interest – the golden wedding of one of the most esteemed couples – Mr and Mrs. Richard Deefholts’.  The East Indian Railway Customs Team had its own Deefholts sports stars – C. and E. Deefholts.

Great uncle Stephen and grandfather Gerald with Cyril Brian's hockey sticksMy great uncle Stephen and grandfather Gerald with Cyril Brian's hockey sticks

Great-great grandparents celebrating at a family birthday partyMy great-great grandparents (centre left) celebrating at a family birthday party

Grreat-grandmother celebrating with family and friendsMy great-grandmother (top right corner) celebrating with family and friends

Discovering these documents and articles makes me feel proud to be a Deefholts.  The recent passing of my grandfather and great-grandmother marked the end of an era.  I want my archival research to save our culture from extinction and keep it alive for generations to come.  There is an opportunity to talk about the overlooked role of Anglo-Indians in British society, and the dispersal of our community across the Commonwealth.

CC-BY
Daniel Deefholts
Civil Servant
Creative Commons Attribution licence

Acknowledgements: This blog post was written in memory of Gerald and Maureen Deefholts.  Thank you to my mother Sarah for helping me select the photographs that illustrate this blog post.

Further reading:
British Library IOR/E/4/824 and IOR/E/4/834 - Documents about Richard Deefholts’ petition 1854 & 1856.
‘A Golden Wedding’ - The Times of India 29 October 1885, p.5.
‘Sporting News: East Indian Railway Win Beighton Cup - Customs Beaten’ - The Times of India 30 April 1929, p.11.
‘Calcutta Matriculation Students’ - The Times of India 14 December 1874, p.4.
London Gazette 15 March 1850, p.807. 

 

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