Untold lives blog

297 posts categorized "Domestic life"

08 June 2021

A Scandalous Annotation Part II: George Francis Grand

In a previous post we explored the story of Catherine Grand, whose marriage to George Francis Grand at Chandernagore on 10 July 1777 is recorded in the Bengal Parish Registers.  We know from the annotated entry that Catherine married the famous French politician Talleyrand, but can we find out more about her first husband?


Title page of Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in IndiaTitle page of Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India Google Books

We can piece together much of Grand’s life, not least because he wrote Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India.  George Francis (sometimes François) Grand was born sometime after 1750, son of Jean Jacques (John James) Grand, a merchant from Lausanne, Switzerland, and his wife Françoise (Frances) Elizabeth Le Clerc de Virly.  He was educated in Lausanne and apprenticed in London, before entering a military cadetship to Bengal in 1766.  He achieved the rank of Captain, but resigned his military service in March 1773 owing to ill-health and returned to England.  In 1775, through the auspices of family members, Grand was nominated for a writership with the East India Company and sailed again for India, arriving in Bengal via Madras in June 1776.

Grand met and courted the teenage Nöel Catherine Werlée (sometimes Verlée or Varle) at Ghireti House, the home of Monsieur Chevalier, Governor of the French Settlement at Chandernagore.  According to George’s account the couple were blissfully happy after their marriage.  By the end of 1778 however, Catherine’s liaison with the politician Philip Francis had been revealed (amid secret night-time assignations, ladders over walls, and scuffles with servants), and the couple were mired in scandal.  Despite her protestations, George effectively banished his wife and successfully sued Francis in court for ‘criminal conversation’ or adultery.  He was never to see his wife again.

Despite the scandal revealed by the Court case, Grand was appointed as Collector of Tirhut and Hajipur in 1782, probably as a result of his acquaintance with Warren Hastings.  Whilst in Bihar, Grand promoted and invested heavily in indigo manufacture. In 1788 he was appointed Judge and Magistrate in Patna.  However, he was warned by the East India Company that he had to give up his indigo concerns.  His failure to do so led to his eventual removal from the Company’s service, much to Grand’s chagrin.  His appeals to the Company unsucessful, he left India for good in 1799.

Having returned to Europe, Grand certainly visited Paris.  However, he states categorically that he did not see his divorced wife Catherine.  There appears to have been contact though: in 1802, Grand was appointed to a position with the Dutch Government at the Cape of Good Hope.  His position appears to have been procured at the behest of Catherine, and with the influence of Talleyrand.  It certainly removed George Francis far away.  After experiencing some initial hostility at the Cape, Grand had to content himself with a vague position consulting on matters relating to India trade.  By 1806, under the British Government, he was appointed Inspector of Woods and Lands. 

View of the Cape of Good Hope from the sea with sailing ships in the foregroundR . Reeve, View of the Cape of Good Hope, 1807. British Library Maps K.Top.117.116.f Images Online 

Grand married for the second time in 1804 to Egberta Sophia Petronella Bergh (1781-1839) of Oudsthoorn.  He died in Cape Town in January 1820.   In his book he writes: ‘You know the sequel – happy in my second choice of a partner,  I upbraided not the worldly opportunity lost.  May you be blessed in the like manner, should it ever be your lot to deplore as I did the cruel separation which forced me from the first’.

Lesley Shapland,
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
George Francis Grand, Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India (Cape of Good Hope, 1814). Available via Google Books 
H.E. Busteed, Echoes from Old Calcutta (Calcutta: Thomas Spink & Co., 1888). Chapter VIII: Madame Grand. Available online via Google Books 
C. E. Buckland, Dictionary of Indian Biography (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co, 1906).
IOR/N/1/2 Bengal Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (1755-1783), f. 275.
IOR/H/207 Bengal Revenue Papers, pp. 299-319: Papers relative to the appointment of George Francis Grand to the management of Tirhoot.
IOR/H/80 Case papers, memorials, and petitions, (13) pp. 283-7: Memorandum relative to George Francis Grand, Judge of Patna, 18 Sep 1800.
Various references to Grand can be found in the papers of Sir Philip Francis (Mss Eur C8; D18-25; E12-47; F5-17; G4-8).
Letters from Grand to Warren Hastings can be found in Add MS 28973-29236 Official and Private papers of Warren Hastings.

 

03 June 2021

Most flattering prospects to perfect destitution – Samuel Benstead’s emigration to New York

In the 1830s, thousands of London warehouse labourers lost their jobs when the East India Company stopped all its commercial operations.  The men were given pensions, but some decided to apply for a lump sum in lieu of regular payments to enable them to emigrate with their families.  Sometimes this bold step was not as successful as the labourers believed it would be.

The Emigrant's Address - Illustrated cover of printed music showing a sailing shipThe Emigrant's Address by W Sanford - Illustrated cover of printed music (1853) Shelfmark H.1742.(3.)  © The British Library Board

Samuel Benstead retired from the Company’s Fenchurch Street tea warehouse in September 1834 aged 41 on a weekly pension of 7s 6d.  He couldn’t find work so he put in a request to commute his pension so he could emigrate to New York with his wife Frances Mary (Fanny) and their seven children.  Samuel had been a hosier before joining the Company and he planned to work in America as a slop seller  (a dealer in cheap ready-made clothing).  After rejecting his first application, the Company granted him a lump sum of £203 in February 1835.

Samuel had had to undergo a medical examination by a Company surgeon to prove that he was in good health and of temperate habits.  He had also submitted a certificate, signed by a doctor in Whitechapel, that he was sober and industrious and that there was a reasonable prospect that the large sum of money would be more useful to the family than a regular allowance.

In May 1838 Samuel wrote to the Company from America, petitioning for help. The family had arrived in New York in May 1835. Within a few weeks Samuel had set up business as grocer in New Jersey.  Then he was persuaded to invest in a ‘large concern’ and lost money.  He was reduced from ‘most flattering prospects to perfect destitution’.  Another child was born in 1836.

A second letter was sent by Samuel in July 1838, but this time from Limehouse Fields in London.  Help from a friend had enabled him to return on a Quebec packet ship.  When he landed after 3½ years’ absence, Samuel only had 6d in his pocket.  His two eldest sons had been left in America where he believed they would do well.  The Company turned down Samuel’s request for help.

In April 1840 Samuel petitioned the Company again, giving more details of what had happened in New York.  His business as grocer and general provision dealer was successful until May 1837 when it was hit by the ‘Panic’, a financial crisis in New York.  Almost all business was done on credit, and many hundreds of dollars were owed to Samuel.

Penniless and sick on his return to London, Samuel said that he now had a good opportunity in Jersey and asked the Company for a small sum to help him move his family there.  He claimed he had no other prospect on earth if he couldn’t get to Jersey.  The Company decided that Samuel’s request could not be considered, so in May 1840 his wife Frances sent another petition asking for help with transport costs.  This was also turned down.

The 1841 census shows Samuel, once more a hosier, living in Mile End Old Town with Frances and four of their children aged between four and twelve,  By 1851, Samuel was dead, and Frances was working as a nurse, still living in Mile End with a daughter and two sons.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Records about the Benstead family can be found in the India Office Family History Search and in IOR/L/F/1/2; IOR/L/F/2/30, 48 & 49; IOR/L/AG/30/4 & 5; IOR/L/MIL/5/485.

 

28 May 2021

Sadi, servant to the Sulivan family

On 11 July 1787 a young Indian servant named Sadi was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey after being convicted of stealing bank notes to the value of £400 from his employer Stephen Sulivan.  William Morris was tried for receiving the stolen notes and was defended by barrister William Garrow.  Morris was also found guilty by the jury, but sentencing was delayed in his case because of a legal uncertainty.

View of the scaffold and gallows outside the north quad of Newgate Prison; a screen on the right leading up to entrance to scaffold  with gallows over platform.‘A Perspective View of the temporary Gallows in the Old Bailey’ 1794 © The Trustees of the British Museum Asset number 765670001 - View of the scaffold and gallows outside the north quad of Newgate Prison; a screen on the right leading up to entrance to scaffold, with gallows over platform.

Sadi, also known as George Horne, was a footboy in the Sulivan household in Harley Street, London.  Stephen Sulivan’s father Laurence had been a prominent East India Company director and politician.  Having served the East India Company in Madras and Calcutta, Stephen returned to England in the summer of 1785 with his wife Elizabeth and son Laurence.  The Sulivans brought Sadi with them as he had attended Laurence since his birth in January 1783 and was a favourite of the family.  They wished to preserve Sadi’s ‘simple manners’ and ‘innocent mind’ from corruption by their other servants so he stayed in the nursery, eating and sleeping with his charge.  He had unrestrained access to the private apartments of the house.

However in 1787, Sadi began behaving with ‘repeated irregularities’.  The Sulivans dismissed the young man, intending to send him back to India.  Whilst awaiting a passage in an East Indiaman, Sadi was sent to lodge with Thomas Saunders, the assistant keeper of the East India Company’s tea and drug warehouse.

It came to light that Sadi had been stealing from the Sulivans for two years – muslins, silks, calicos, linen, pearls, clothing, and a special shawl belonging to Elizabeth.  The stolen goods were passed on to other servants in the house who encouraged Sadi to continue with his thefts.  He stole four guineas without being detected and then one bank note for £1,000 and two for £200.  When Sadi showed the £1,000 note to two of his fellow servants, they told him it was too great a sum to pass on without detection.  After keeping it for some days, he threw it under the kitchen grate where it was found by the housekeeper who gave it to Elizabeth.  The notes for £200 were sold by Sadi for a guinea to William Morris, formerly butler to Stephen’s father.

Elizabeth called on Sadi at his lodgings.  He burst into tears and made a full confession, directing her to Morris’s home in Petticoat Lane.  She went there with a constable and Morris’s wife handed over the two bank notes.

Other servants of the Sulivans were also arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods: Thomas Absalom, his wife Martha, and Catherine Smith.  Martha Absalom was apprehended at Maidenhead in Berkshire and found to have property belonging to Elizabeth Sulivan.

On 24 August 1787, the King granted Sadi a reprieve from the death sentence passed on him.  The young Indian remained in Newgate prison but he died shortly afterwards on 9 December.  The death rate in Newgate was extremely high in the late 1780s because of severe overcrowding and an outbreak of ‘gaol fever’ (epidemic typhus).

A few days after Sadi’s death, the case of William Morris was finally settled. He was discharged because the judges agreed with his defence counsel that the bank notes he had received could not be classified as goods and chattels, the term used in the charge against him.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
The case is reported in Old Bailey Online and in the British Newspaper Archive (also available via Findmypast), for example Hampshire Chronicle 4 June 1787, Bury and Norwich Post 6 June 1787, Derby Mercury 7 June 1787 and 13 December 1787, Kentish Gazette 24 July 1787, Sheffield Register 1 September 1787.

 

26 May 2021

A Scandalous Annotation: the story of Madame Grand

On 10 July 1777 a marriage was recorded in the Bengal Parish Registers between ‘Mr Francis Grand, writer in the Hon'ble Company’s Service and Miss Varle of Chandernagore’.  Sometime afterwards, the register was annotated in a different hand ‘This is the famous Madame Grand, afterwards wife of Talleyrand’. 

Entry in church register for marriage of Francis Grand to Catherine Varle 1777Register entry for marriage of Francis Grand and Catherine Varle  IOR/N/1/2 Bengal Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (1755-1783), f.275 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Annotations of this sort in official registers are highly unusual, and someone thought Madame Grand famous (or infamous) enough to add the note.  So, what was the story of Madame Grand?

Nöel Catherine Werlée (sometimes Worlée, Verlée or Varle) was born in Tranquebar – sources put her date of birth as 21 November 1761 or 1762.  She was the daughter of Peter John Werlée, Capitaine du Port, and had both Danish and French heritage.  She met George Francis Grand in Bengal at Ghireti House, home of Monsieur Chevalier, Governor of the French Settlement at Chandernagore, and the couple formed an attachment.  At the time of her marriage to Grand in 1777, Catherine would have been in her mid-teens.  In Narrative of a life of a gentleman… Grand writes ‘…never did a union commence with more brightening prospects.  On our parts, it was pure and disinterested, and blessed with the sincerest attachment’. 

The garden front of Ghireti House, near Chandernagore,Bengal - a large white house standing in open space. A lady is arriving being carried in a chair by Indian menThe garden front of Ghireti House, near Chandernagore, Bengal by Samuel Davis WD968  © British Library Images Online

Despite settling down to married life in Calcutta, the couple’s happiness was not to last.  The young Catherine Grand came to the attention of the notorious politician Philip Francis, and on 8 December 1778, Grand returned home to the news that Francis had been apprehended in his house after attempting to seduce his wife.  Grand acted swiftly to banish Catherine to her family in Chandernagore, and to successfully sue Francis for ‘criminal conversation’ or adultery in court, receiving a judgement of 50,000 sicca rupees.

Catherine Grand appears to have lived at Hooghly under the protection of Philip Francis during 1779.   Perhaps having been rejected by her husband she felt she had little choice.  The affair was not to last, and Madame Grand did not stay in India, leaving for Europe in December 1780.  By 1783 she was in Paris, where she was painted by Élisabeth Vigeé Le Brun. 

Painting of Madame Grand wearing a white dress decorated with blue ribbons, with a matching ribbon in her blonde hairMadame Grand (Noël Catherine Vorlée, 1761–1835) 1783 by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain

Sometimes described as a courtesan, Catherine Grand moved between London and Paris during the French Revolution, rumoured to be supported by a number of wealthy men.  By 1797 she was living with the Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.  Catherine Grand was divorced from her husband in absentia in 1798, and in 1802 she married Talleyrand, supposedly at the behest of Napoleon in order that the wives of foreign dignitaries could be received by her.  As a result of her marriage she became Princess de Benevento and later Princess de Talleyrand.

After their marriage the Talleyrands settled at Neuilly.  Marriage did not seem to suit them, and they began to lead separate lives.  By 1815 the couple was estranged, with Catherine living in London, although she continued to receive financial support from Talleyrand.  She returned to Paris later in life and lived at Auteil, where she died on 10 December 1835.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/N/1/2 Bengal Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (1755-1783), f. 275
George Francis Grand, Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India (Cape of Good Hope, 1814). Available via Google Books 
H.E. Busteed, Echoes from Old Calcutta (Calcutta: Thomas Spink & Co., 1888). Chapter VIII: Madame Grand. Available online via Google Books 
C. E. Buckland, Dictionary of Indian Biography (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co, 1906)

 

11 May 2021

Accidental poisoning by arsenic

In 1786 tragedy struck the village of Badgeworth in Gloucestershire.  William Benfield, a labourer of ‘exemplary industry and sobriety’, bought a sack of wheat and took it to be ground at Bubb’s Mill near Alstone.  A ratcatcher had mixed meal with white arsenic to poison vermin and some of this was put by mistake into William’s sack.

View of a mill - figures and a boat on the left-hand side; a mill at the centre of the scene; water in the foreground; a house on a hill in the distance; trees throughout the scene.View of a mill at Tewksbury. Published 10 July 1801 by R. Ackermann at his Repository of Arts, 101 Strand. Maps K.Top.13.70.e. Copyright British Library Images Online 

The flour was used for three weeks to make bread for William, his wife Esther and their children.  The family soon began to feel unwell, but had no reason to suspect that the bread was the cause.  When neighbours were taken ill after borrowing a loaf from the Benfields, the bread was tested and particles of arsenic discovered.

Physician Mr Clarke of Cheltenham was called to help the Benfields.  The medicines which he administered helped Esther and some of the children, but William and his sons John, 12, and Paul, 8, were taken to Gloucester Infirmary.  William died in great pain on 28 August 1786, about eight weeks after the flour was first used for baking.  He had probably eaten the largest share of the bread.  The Badgeworth burial register reads: ‘William Benfield was Buried August the 30 by being poisoned by Arsnick being put into his grist at Alston Mill’.

On 16 October 1786 John and Paul were transferred to Bath Hospital to be treated with mineral waters.  Their case is recorded in a book featured in an earlier blog post.  Their symptoms on admission were vomiting, sore stomach, thirst and dryness of the mouth.  The boys had begun to lose the use of their limbs, with both numbness and pain in the fingers and toes.  John could just about walk, but Paul was unable to support himself.  They drank the waters and bathed in them, with no other medicine prescribed except a gentle purgative when they arrived.  When the report in the book was written on 11 December 1786, both boys were said to be improving.  John was much stronger, whilst Paul could walk reasonably well without assistance and was improving daily.

However things must have taken a turn for the worst for Paul shortly afterwards because he died in Bath in the spring of 1787, aged 9.  He was buried on 15 March 1787 at Bathwick St Mary.

Esther re-married on 12 October 1787 to Edward Lane at Badgeworth.  They had at least two children together, Edward and Charlotte.

Benjamin Benfield, one of the children who had escaped serious injury from the arsenic, quit his job as a labourer and enlisted in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards in 1799.  He served in the Army for 20 years and fought at Waterloo.  Benjamin was discharged on pension in May 1819 because he had bad feet and was worn out.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive  e.g. Bath Chronicle 7 September 1786.
Narrative of the Efficacy of the Bath Waters, in various kinds of paralytic disorders admitted into the Bath Hospital (Bath, 1787).
Badgeworth parish registers at Gloucestershire Archives – digital versions available via Ancestry – there are baptism records for nine children of William and Esther Benfield 1771-1785.

 

27 April 2021

Roshani Begum, dancer turned rebel from Tipu Sultan’s court

In 1799 the East India Company’s army killed Tipu Sultan of Mysore.  To ensure the end of his dynasty, the women of his court were exiled from Mysore Kingdom to the fort at Vellore, in the Company controlled presidency of Madras.  Roshani Begum was a dancer in Tipu’s court, and one of the hundreds of women that the Company placed under house arrest.  Originally named Pum Kusur, she was a dancer from Adoni who, along with her sister, joined Tipu’s entourage when he was still a prince.  Roshani Begum was the mother of Tipu’s eldest son, Fateh Haidar, making her a high-status woman at court.  Her son’s portrait, painted in 1801, shows a young man in his 20s, suggesting that Roshani Begum joined Tipu’s entourage in the 1770s.

Portrait of Fateh Haidar, the son of Tipu Sultan and Roshani Begum, by Thomas HickeyPortrait of Fateh Haidar, the son of Tipu Sultan and Roshani Begum, by Thomas Hickey, 1801. Courtesy of Victoria Memorial Hall Kolkata, R2986

In 1802, along with about 550 other women, Roshani Begum was transported from Mysore Kingdom to Vellore Fort, and remained under East India Company custody for the rest of her life.  In spite of suddenly becoming the charge of a foreign trading company, she continued in her vocation.  In 1804 she adopted a girl named Goozeib, whom she trained in her dance traditions.  There were other newcomers inside Vellore Fort, with the population of Tipu’s exiled harem rising from 550 women in 1802 to 790 individuals by 1806.  These increases were reported to William Bentinck, the Governor of Madras, who issued instructions in February 1806 to cut their maintenance budgets.  To him, it was a pragmatic move to reduce their numbers, but to women like Roshani Begum, it spelled the end of the courtly traditions they were trying to uphold.

Company painting of 'Kanchani' dancing girls. In an album depicting trades and occupations at Vellore.Company painting of 'Kanchani' dancing girls. In an album depicting trades and occupations at Vellore, c.1828. British Library, Add.Or.62 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Between February and June 1806, immediately after Bentinck issued the cutbacks, four of Tipu Sultan’s daughters were married at Vellore.  Each wedding featured several days’ worth of music and dance performances inside the fort.   The content of these performances was planned by the musicians and dancers of Tipu’s court such as Roshani Begum.  These festivities coincided with the rapid spread of “destructive tales” about the East India Company’s Indian soldiers at Vellore Fort.  Their uniforms, particularly their headgear, was pinpointed as an affront to their families, and they were told that by wearing them, they’d be denied food, water, and the right to get married.

These threats of domestic expulsion had such a profound effect on the soldiers that, on the evening of 9 July 1806, after a dance performance in the fort, the sepoys of the Madras Native Infantry mutinied.  They killed 129 men, raised the flag of Mysore Kingdom, and declared Fateh Haidar, the son of Roshani Begum, as their king.  The East India Company’s response was to send a relief force to Vellore that killed almost 350 mutineers.  Accounts of the Vellore Mutiny typically view this moment of violence as a purely military event, but closer examination reveals that women like Roshani Begum, motivated by the East India Company’s spurning of their traditions, used their influence as court performers and story tellers to foment a dangerous uprising.

Jennifer Howes
Independent researcher and a former Curator of Visual Arts at the British Library 

Further reading:
Howes, Jennifer. 'Tipu Sultan’s Female Entourage under East India Company Rule.' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 2021.
Report on the Character of Tipu Sultan’s four oldest sons by Thomas Marriott, April 1804. British Library, IOR/H/508. p.347.
William Bentinck’s decree to cut allowances to Vellore Fort’s inhabitants, 28 February 1806. British Library, IOR/E/4/897, pp.125-126.
Testimonials of the Court of Enquiry at Vellore, July-August 1806. British Library, IOR/H/507 and 508.

 

20 April 2021

Another scandalous tale from the Down family

In previous Untold Lives stories, we met two of Major William Down’s children, Arabella and Charles.  Now, for the final instalment of this scandalous tale, we have their sister Eva Magdalene Crompton Down.

Eva was born in St John’s Wood, London on 18 December 1856, the fifth daughter and seventh of the ten children of Major William Down and his wife Christian.

In 1876 Eva was called as a witness in the trial of her brother Charles and Joshua Keith Hilton.  During the trial Hilton had referred to Eva Down as his wife and claimed to have a marriage certificate which he could produce as evidence.  Several other people called as witnesses also stated in their testimony that they believed Eva to be Hilton’s wife.

Eva was called as a witness regarding the claims which she vehemently refuted, her testimony suggesting she was unimpressed at the allegations and that she only knew Hilton as an acquaintance of her brother.  She even demanded to see the marriage certificate which Hilton claimed to have, but it never materialised.

Woman in dark Victorian dress looking reproachfully at a man in a bowler hatImage from Illustrated London News 22 August 1896 - British Newspaper Archive via Findmypast

Eva may not however have been as innocent as her court testimony suggested.  In 1877 Mrs Margaret Ann Redhead, née Thirkell filed for divorce from her husband of seven  years, Joshua William Readhead, on the grounds of adultery and desertion, citing Eva Down as the mistress.  Mrs Redhead had met her husband while visiting London in 1870 and they had married there in secret on 23 November 1870.  She had returned home to Sunderland shortly afterwards but her new husband did not accompany her and she at first attempted to conceal the marriage before admitting everything to her parents.  She never saw her husband again and her correspondence with him ceased after he attempted to extort money from her mother.  In 1876 Mrs Redhead learned that her husband had been living under the alias Joshua Keith Hilton and had been having an affair with Miss Eva Down, who he had been pretending was his wife. She filed for divorce shortly after.

Eva Down clearly cared about her lover as the couple married in Carlisle in 1881 following his release from prison.  The marriage does not appear to have lasted long however as by 1900 Eva had emigrated to the USA with her husband William Robert Tymms and their daughter Salome.  US immigration records suggest the couple married in England in 1885, however there is no record of that marriage.  Eva died in Benton, New Hampshire on 29 January 1926.

William Joshua Redhead assumed another alias, this time the stage name of Howard Reed, and he became manager of the Ilma Norina Opera Company.  He was romantically involved with its star Ilma Norina (real name Josephine Genese) who herself had divorced in 1888.

Howard Reed, aka Joshua Keith Hilton, aka William Joshua Redhead died in Southend on 23 February 1899.   According to his obituary he was ‘deeply lamented by his sorrowing wife and children’ although which wife and whose children is another mystery.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Old Bailey Proceedings 26th June 1876 No. 265: Charles Victor Cleghorn Down (21), and Joshua Keith Hilton (23), Feloniously forging and uttering a warrant for the payment of 75l., with intent to defraud. 
Madras Military Fund Pension Records, Account-General’s Department, India Office Records:
IOR/L/AG/23/10/1-2 Madras Military Fund Pension Register entry for William Down (1822-1868)
IOR/L/AG/23/10/11, Part 1 No. 90 Certificates submitted in connection with William Down’s subscription to the Madras Military Fund, including baptism certificate for Eva Magdalene Crompton Down [given as Eva Neale Crompton Down].

A 19th century tale of adultery 

Unwitting accomplice or habitual offender? 

 

15 April 2021

William George Sibley of the East India Company - a worthy good man

William George Sibley was baptised in 1733 in Whitechapel, the son of George and Mary.  His father worked for the East India Company and rose to be keeper of the Bengal Warehouse in New Street.  This was a very responsible post, having care of the receipt, storage, sale and delivery of vast quantities of Indian textiles.  The Sibley family had accommodation near the warehouses provided by the Company.   George was a member of the Mercers’ Company and owned property in London and Wanstead in Essex.

Labourers hoisting barrels and bales  into a London warehouse Hoisting goods into a London warehouse by Gustave Doré from William Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage (London, 1872) British Library WF1/1856 Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Both William Sibley and his younger brother George followed their father into the East India Company’s home establishment.  William joined the East India Company in February 1745/46 in his early teens as a writer (or copyist) in the Leadenhall warehouse where his father was keeper at the time.  In 1756 William was appointed 5th clerk in the Company Treasury at a salary of £60 per annum.  He then worked his way up the departmental hierarchy by virtue of deaths and resignations and was appointed Treasurer in 1788.  His salary leapt from £200 as a senior clerk in 1785 to over £1,000 in 1801 once his gratuity and perquisites were added to his basic pay.

View of East India House in the City of London in 1760sEast India House c.1760 by James Caldwall British Library King’s Topographical Collection, Maps K.Top.24.10.a.BL flickrPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

His brother George became a warehouse-keeper like their father.  The Sibley brothers also followed their father into the Mercers’ Company.  William was Governor in 1790 and George in 1791.

William married Abigail Scott at Wanstead in August 1771 and they had two daughters Mary and Susannah who both died as small babies.  In 1775 Abigail also died.  William remained a widower until March 1790 when he married Jane Amphillis Berthon, the daughter of a City merchant.  In the same year he was elected as Governor to the Foundling Hospital.  He was also a Governor of Christ’s Hospital and a fellow of the Antiquarian Society.

When Jane’s mother Amphillis Berthon made her will in 1791 she shared her property between two sons and two daughters and excluded Jane. William and Jane Sibley were simply each left a ring. Mrs Berthon explained in the will that her reason for excluding her daughter Sibley was not a want of regard – it was clear to see that she loved and esteemed Jane equally with her other children. But Jane was ‘very happily provided for and married to a worthy good man’.

William George Sibley died in March 1807 at his house at 7 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, not far from the Foundling Hospital.  He still held the post of Treasurer at East India House, having worked for the Company for 61 years.  His obituary in The Monthly Magazine echoed the sentiments of his mother-in-law: ‘In his official department he invariably discharged his duty with fidelity and assiduity, and in all respects with satisfaction to the company and honour to himself… In private life, a tender and affectionate husband, a steady friend to the deserving, kind to the poor, and benevolent to all… a truly good and upright man’.

A view of the interior of the Foundling Hospital Chapel with lines of boys and girls leaving, supervised by staffA view of the interior of the Foundling Hospital Chapel 1774 British Library Crach.1.Tab.4.b.3 Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Sibley was buried in the vaults under the chapel of the Foundling Hospital.  His wife Jane was also buried there, close to her husband, when she died in 1832.  She inherited her husband’s considerable estate and her will made a number of substantial charitable bequests including £300 to the Foundling Hospital.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Obituary in The Monthly Magazine Vol XXIII Part 1 for 1807, p. 389

 

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