THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

208 posts categorized "Domestic life"

31 October 2018

Three women accused of witchcraft: a unique pamphlet from the height of the witch craze

Add comment

We associate witches with broomsticks, evil potions and fairy tales but we should remember that in early modern Britain witchcraft really was something to fear, especially for those women accused of it.  The British Library holds the sole surviving copy of a pamphlet called A Detection of Damnable Driftes, Practized by Three Witches Arrainged at Chelmifforde [Chelmsford] in Essex, at the Late Assizes There Holden, Which Were Executed in Aprill, 1579.  It describes the cases against women accused of witchcraft, three of whom were found guilty and hanged in 1579.

Photo 1

Elizabeth Fraunces, of Hatfield Peverel, was by all accounts a fairly notorious witch, having been to court twice before this trial.  In her previous confessions, she admitted to possessing a familiar that took the shape of a white cat unhelpfully called Satan.  She also confessed to stealing sleep and killing one Andrew Byles, who would not marry her after getting her pregnant.  The cat told her what herbs to drink to abort the pregnancy.  Elizabeth also confessed to killing her six-month-old daughter and making her second husband lame.  She was imprisoned and pilloried.  During her third and final trial, Elizabeth confessed to bewitching her neighbour Alice Poole because she refused her some yeast.  Elizabeth employed a spirit to bewitch her that took the shape of a “little rugged dogge”.  She was a spinster by this time.  Before being put to death, Elizabeth named other local witches; it was common for women to incriminate others; it took suspicion away from themselves.

Photo 2
Elleine Smith, of Maldon, was a young women who refused to give her father-in-law a portion of the money she’d received from her mother, who had been executed for witchcraft years before.  They argued and Elleine purportedly told him that he’d regret crossing her.  He wasted away soon afterwards.  She was also accused of inflicting great pains on her neighbour because, during these pains, the neighbour noticed a rat run up his chimney and change into a toad.  He apparently thrust it into the fire and it turned blue.  Lastly, and most horrifically, Elleine was accused of killing a four-year-old girl by breathing on her. She was found guilty and hanged.

The last execution described in the pamphlet is that of Mother Nokes, who was accused of making a young man lame after he stole her daughter’s gloves.  Mother Nokes then discovered that her husband was having an affair and that they were expecting an illegitimate child.  She told them that they wouldn’t keep the baby for long and, shortly afterwards, it died.

The causes of the witch craze are still hotly debated but it was undoubtedly a febrile social phenomenon that spread like wildfire through communities.  Early modern people were superstitious and the witch craze was a period of widespread moral panic; they certainly believed in witchcraft.  The vast majority of those accused were women cast out of their communities and victims in their own right.  In this pamphlet alone, we have a woman who was abandoned and left to abort her pregnancy, a young woman whose father-in-law was trying to take her money and a wife whose husband had an affair.  Whether they were falsely accused or took revenge by witchcraft or more natural means, this pamphlet is testament to the plight of three women in desperate situations.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
More about Elizabeth Fraunces

 

23 October 2018

A unique appeal from four Indian schoolgirls

Add comment

Whilst working on the collection of Thomas William Barnard Papers (Mss Eur C261), I found a fascinating letter dating from 1923.  It was sent to Captain Barnard of the Indian Medical Service by four poor girls at a school in Pudukad. The letter is elaborately decorated with a border of stamps from India, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand and Austria.

  IMG_0968Mss Eur C261/5/5

The letter reads:

Jesus Mercy.
The good God rewardeth even a cup of Cold Water given in His name to one of His little ones.
O.J. Annie, Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth. Poor Students. Chemgaloor, Pudukad Post, Malabar

Most Honred Sir,
We, four poor student girls (Mary and Catherine are orphans) most respectfully and humbly beg to state that we are in great difficulties and distress. We are badly in need of food and Clothes. We are promoted to our new class. We have not got new books. We most humbly pray you will be kind enough to send us some help. We pray you will not refuse our humble prayer. Thanking you in anticipation, we beg to remain

Yours most obedient and humble servants.
O.J. Anne and others
22.6.1923

Can any of our readers shed light on the authors of this appeal?

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
Mss Eur C261/5/5 – unique appeal for a donation from girls attending a school in Pudukad, 22 June 1923.

 

27 September 2018

Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants

Add comment

The Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants was founded in 1875.  It was the brainchild of Jane Elizabeth Senior, the first woman to be appointed as a workhouse inspector.  The Association’s aim was to watch over girls sent out to jobs in London by industrial and poor law schools. The girls were to be provided with advice and assistance in times of difficulty and temptation.

Maid G70114-83'Though ye have lain among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove' - picture by Jessie Wilcox Smith in Scribner’s Magazine P.P.6383.ac.(33), p. 58 Images Online

London Boards of Guardians generally approved of the initiative and some co-operated closely with the Association by handing over the names of the girls and the addresses of their mistresses.  Lady Visitors were recruited to take charge of girls placed out in their neighbourhood – 120 had agreed to help by the end of 1876.  The Lady Visitors sent reports about the girls from time to time to the Association.  In some instances they acted as peacemakers between the servants and their employers, and most mistresses were said to welcome the visits.

The Association opened homes able to provide immediate shelter for girls turned out of their job.  They could not return to the schools after the age of sixteen and often had nowhere to go.  Sometimes girls had not performed their duties well enough to be recommended for another position without a period of probation and training at the homes.  A Laundry Home was opened at Fulham for girls deemed unsuitable for domestic service.

Guidance and friendly care were also offered to other young servant girls not connected to the metropolitan pauper schools but who were friendless or destitute.  Free employment registry offices were set up. Clothing clubs enabled girls to acquire garments suitable for their work, and pay for them in manageable instalments.  The Rector of Christ Church Lisson Grove, a poor parish in Marylebone, wrote in his magazine in 1881: ‘We can send young girls whom we find idling at home to the Office, with the certainty that effectual aid will be given to them; and I have repeatedly found that in this way real and permanent good had been done’.

Girls coming from the workhouse schools were likely to struggle with the transition from an environment ‘where all is done by word of command’ to ‘the happy irregularity of an English household’.  They often found themselves the only servant, ‘expected to learn the ways to the house by intuition, to be able to turn her hand to everything, to be cook, housemaid, nurse, and errand carrier by turns, and sometimes simultaneously’.  It was seen as no wonder some failed and lost their job.  Medals were awarded by the Association to girls who had retained their post for specified periods.

Money was raised through subscriptions, donations, legacies, and fund-raising events.  One generous benefactor was Alice de Rothschild, and Octavia Hill wrote a letter to The Times soliciting support.  Other well-wishers made gifts of clothing or provided medical advice.  Group treats were provided such as a trip to London Zoo, or tea at a Lady Visitor’s home.

The Association later became known as the Mabys Association for the Care of Young Girls. It continued until 1943 when the London County Council took over its work.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Report of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants 1875-1886 (shelfmark 8277.s.4.)
Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants (MABYS) 
Sybil Oldfield, Jeanie, an ‘army of one‘: Mrs Nassau Senior, 1828–1877 (2008)

 

08 June 2018

Destitute Indian Women in 1930s Damascus

Add comment

In February 1935, the British Consul in Damascus, Gilbert Mackereth, wrote to his superiors at the Foreign Office in London with a dilemma.  Since 1926, the Consulate had been responsible for making cash payments to a number of destitute British Indian subjects living in Syria, but nine years later, the funds allocated for this purpose by the British Government of India were beginning to run out, and Mackereth was unsure how he ought to proceed.

Image 1The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Damas." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1860-1929.

The Indian community in Syria at this time was concentrated in Beit Sawa, a village in Ghouta, an important agricultural region east of Damascus.  This area had suffered extensive damage during France’s suppression of the Syrian national uprising (1925-27) which included the use of aerial bombardment and the burning of villages.  As a result, many of the ancient irrigation canals in Ghouta – upon which it depended for its prosperity – had been diverted or destroyed beyond repair.  No compensation was paid to the area’s inhabitants and this led some of the Indian community resident there to leave for Palestine and Iraq.  According to Mackereth, those who had been unable to leave and remained living in the area, did so 'on the borderline of misery' and therefore were in no position to 'help their even more unfortunate sisters who receive alms from the Indian Government'.

Image 2List of British Indian Subjects receiving relief as compiled by the British Consulate, Damascus, 27 April 1935, IOR/L/PS/12/2141, India Office Records, British Library.

At this time, the payments were being made to only five surviving women, all of whom were reported to be absolutely destitute and 'either aged or crippled'.  This led Mackereth to argue that it would 'be a hardship amounting to almost cruelty' if the 'meagre alms they enjoy from the India treasury' were stopped.  He proposed that either the payments should continue to be made or that the women and their minor children be repatriated to India where they could be 'cared for under the poor laws of that country'.

Image 3Correspondence from the British Consulate, Damascus to the Government of India, 16 July 1935, IOR/L/PS/12/2141, India Office Records, British Library.

By July 1935, one of the five women, Hamdieh Ghulam, had died and Mackereth had established that the families of the four remaining women had 'left India so long ago that they have no knowledge of their next of kin or of their home addresses'.  This prompted the Government of India to eventually decide that it would be better to leave the women 'in Damascus, where they must have made contacts, than to repatriate them to India where they appear to have no relatives or friends and in the absence of any Poor Law administration would starve'.  However, it was not prepared to extend any financial assistance to the women’s children, whom it argued 'should be regarded as Syrians and not Indians'.  It was eventually agreed that the remaining four women would be paid the amount of 200 piastres a month for the remainder of their lives, an amount that constituted 'barely the subsistence level'.  Once this administrative quandary had been solved, the correspondence regarding these women dries up and hence the fate of them and their children after this point is unknown.

All of the letters referenced in this post are contained in the India Office Records file IOR/L/PS/12/2141 that is held at the British Library.  The file has now been digitized and is available on the Qatar Digital Library.

Louis Allday
Gulf History/Arabic Language Specialist

 

06 June 2018

Letters from the Begum of Bhopal

Add comment

A collection in the India Office Private Papers records the touching story of the friendship between the ruler of an Indian State and the wife of an Indian Army officer.  George Patrick Ranken was a Colonel with the 46th Punjab Regiment, stationed in the Indian State of Bhopal in the early 20th century.  His post required him to attend many official functions, and at one of these he and his wife Ada were introduced to Her Highness The Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum (1858-1930), who ruled Bhopal from 1901 until 1926.  So began a friendship which was to last for over twenty years.

Begum of BhopalBegum of Bhopal in the early 1870s  - by Bourne & Shepherd from the Album of cartes de visite portraits of Indian rulers and notables. Photo 127/(16)  Online Gallery

Ada Ranken first saw Sultan Jahan Begum at the 1903 Delhi Durbar, although the two women did not actually meet.  Ada later wrote an article about her friendship with the Begum while living in India.  She recalled that they first met at a garden party given by Her Highness one afternoon in the winter of 1904-05.  As the Begum was in Purdah, a large tent was erected for her.  Her male guests, including Ada’s husband George, were given chairs outside the tent from which they could converse with the Begum through a screen of split bamboo.  However, as a woman, Ada was allowed to enter the tent.  She described their first meeting: 'When my turn came and I was ushered into the tent I found Her Highness very simply dressed in a drab-coloured coat and trousers, cut, I noticed, in the accepted fashion of the Pathan race, with her head covered and her feet bare'.  Ada would meet Sultan Jahan Begum several times over the next two years, and on one occasion the Begum visited her at her home in Sehore, where George was stationed.

Mss Eur F182-8 ver 2Letters from Sultan Jahan Begum  to Ada Ranken Mss Eur F182/8

The two women stayed in touch after Ada returned to England, and they wrote regularly until the Begum’s death in 1930.  There are 22 surviving letters from Sultan Jahan Begum in the collection, of which 19 are addressed to Ada, with two to her husband George, and one to their daughter Patricia.  The letters are filled with news of Bhopal and the Begum’s family, and of mutual friends, and she enquires after Ada’s family, often recalling the time they spent together in India.  The letters also touch on the heavy workload of the ruler of a large Indian State.  In one letter from December 1909, she writes that all her attention had been taken up by preparations for the Viceregal visit to Bhopal, which passed off smoothly.  Despite her numerous duties, the Begum still found time to write to Ada.  In the last letter, dated 25 December 1929, she offers her sympathy on the death of Ada’s sister, and wrote 'May God give you fortitude enough to bear the loss and may He keep you in good health to guide and protect your affectionate child, Patricia, whom we all so much love'.

Sketch of Begums attendants  Mss Eur F182-11Sketch of the Begum's attendants made by Ada at the 1903 Delhi Durbar Mss Eur F182/11

Also included in the Ranken Papers, along with the letters, are draft copies of Ada’s article on Sultan Jahan Begum, photographs, Christmas cards, and a drawing of the Begum done by Ada at the 1903 Delhi Durbar.

Sketch of Begum  Mss Eur F182-11Drawing of the Begum done by Ada at the 1903 Delhi Durbar Mss Eur F182/11

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further reading:
Letters from Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum of Bhopal, 1906-1930 [Reference Mss Eur F182/8]
Draft copies of an article by Ada Ranken titled "A Veiled Ruler" on Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum of Bhopal, 1911 [Reference Mss Eur F182/9]

 

31 May 2018

Cheap and safe burial ground in London

Add comment

In the early 19th century there were many privately-owned burial grounds in London. One at St George-in-the-East in Stepney was leased in the 1830s by William Eastes who worked for the East India Company in London.

Burial ground EastesIOR/L/F/2/7 no.24 of June 1836 Noc

Before joining the Company, William Eastes had been a schoolmaster in Kent. He rented the Dissenters’ Burial Ground which adjoined the small Anglican Trinity Chapel in Cannon Street Road, a source of income to supplement his wages as a warehouse commodore (foreman).

The ground was advertised as cheap and safe, with rates for an adult grave varying between 7s and 16s, and those for children under ten between 4s 6d and 8s.  All graves deeper than five feet were charge 6d per foot extra.  Deeper graves were perhaps a deterrent to body-snatchers.  In August 1830, two well-known resurrectionists were charged with attempting to steal the body of Mrs Brown from the Cannon Street Road burial ground.  George Robins and William Jones were arrested around midnight near the partly opened grave. The police found a sack, a shovel, and a long screw iron for opening coffins. The prisoners were committed to three months in the house of correction.

 
Burial ground bill of saleIOR/L/F/2/7 no.24 of June 1836 Noc

William Eastes also acted as clerk to the Reverend Thomas Boddington of Trinity Chapel.  In 1836 Boddington sold the Chapel to the Reverend James Harris, who found Eastes totally unfit for the situation. Harris wrote to the East India Company in May 1836, complaining of how the graveyard was run and accusing Eastes of vile and fearful abuse, gross language, and a violent demeanour. 

Company warehouse-keeper William Johnson put Harris’s complaint to Eastes, a man ‘somewhat hasty in temper & likely to be violent in any matter of dispute’.  Eastes denied molesting Harris, claiming that he had merely been insisting on his right of way to the burial ground as specified in the lease.  Johnson concluded there was probably blame on both sides. The Company directors admonished Eastes and cautioned him as to his future conduct.

Burial ground plan Plan provided by William Eastes to explain his point to the Company IOR/L/F/2/7 no.24 of June 1836  IOR/L/F/2/7 no.24 of June 1836 Noc

In October 1836, Harris renewed his complaint against Eastes: ‘There is no species of horrid language that this man does not apply to me and my family’.  There had been an altercation when a sheriff’s officer came looking for Harris about a debt he owed.  The Company’s Committee of Warehouses decided not to interfere any further in the dispute.

Harris and Eastes continued to be at odds.  In October 1838 a lascar seaman from an East India Company ship was buried in Eastes’ ground.  Newspapers described the funeral procession and burial, claiming that several thousand people assembled to witness the unfamiliar ceremonies performed by the dead man’s fellow lascars.  Harris was quick to dissociate himself from these events.  He made it known that the burial ground was not connected to Trinity Chapel but ‘leased to a Dissenter in the East India Company’s service, who puts on the surplice, reads the funeral service, and receives the fees consequent thereupon, his wife performing the part of sextoness.  The Rev Mr Harris … has nothing whatever to do with the ground in question, and of course took no part in this “Lascar burial”.’

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Records of the East India Company Finance and Home Committee: IOR/L/F/1/4 pp.119, 520; IOR/L/F/2/7 no.24 of June 1836; IOR/L/F/2/11 no.64 of October 1836
British Newspaper Archive e.g. London Courier and Evening Gazette 24 August 1830; London Evening Standard 8 October 1838; Belfast Commercial Chronicle 10 October 1838

 

29 May 2018

Soup of the Day

Add comment

Had we been invited to dine at the Gorakhpur Club in India in May 1916, we would have been treated to a slap-up dinner, complete with detailed menu in French. 

Mss Eur F700-1-3 menu from the Gorakhpur Club 1916Mss Eur F700/1/3: Menu from the Gorakhpur Club, 13 May 1916

Using our linguistic skills, we have worked out that we would have eaten a fine repast of fish in aspic, kidney and mushroom pudding with potatoes and peas, peach ice-cream, and preserved asparagus spears.  Sounds very tasty, but perhaps not for the faint-hearted (or those on a diet).  But we are stumped by our starter of ‘Potage d’Eunice’.  We can only speculate that perhaps this intriguingly titled soup was named for the person who created it. Or perhaps dinner was in Eunice’s honour?  If so, just who was Eunice, and what was her connection to the Gorakhpur Club? Or perhaps it is simply that ‘Potage d’Eunice’ is a forgotten French classic.  If there are any food historians out there who may have heard of ‘Potage d’Eunice’, and indeed know what it might be made of, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Mss Eur F700-2-10 Gorakhpur Club c1928Mss Eur F700/2/10: Gorakhpur Club, from photograph album of images of Gorakhpur, c1928

The menu comes from a small collection of private papers recently acquired by the India Office Records at The British Library.  They relate to the family of Guilford Lindsay Edwards (1853-1946), a railway engineer in India who was based in Gorakhpur.  The collection consists of a small number of personal papers, including Guilford’s journal from 1872-1894, as well as material relating to his son Lindsay Edwards, who also worked as an engineer in India, and the family of his daughter Amy Bellairs.  There are also 9 files of family photographs and two photograph albums.  The photographs are primarily snapshots of day to day family life, which give us an interesting insight into the private and domestic world of a white European family in India c.1900-c.1920. 

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer Modern Archives & Manuscripts

Further reading:
Mss Eur F700: Papers, journal and photographs of Guilford Lindsay Edwards and family, 1872-1940s
Add MS 43809-43813: Diary of a visit to India by Mrs Louisa Edwards, 1883-1884 

Our Food Season continues  - unleash your inner gourmet and intellectual hunger!

Food Season

 

18 May 2018

Royal weddings at Windsor Castle

Add comment

Royal weddings at Windsor Castle have a long history.  Five of Queen Victoria’s children married in St George’s Chapel between 1863 and 1882: Edward, Helena, Louise, Arthur and Leopold.  Contemporary newspaper reports of these weddings focus on many of the same aspects found in the coverage of the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – the courtship, the bride’s looks and character, the guest list, the gifts, the ceremony, the outfits.

Royal Wedding 1863 Edward & Alexandra Royal CollectionMarriage of the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark at Windsor, 10 March 1863 by William Powell Frith. Image courtesy of the Royal Collections Trust

Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, was born in 1853, the eighth child and youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  He was a delicate child having inherited the haemophilia gene from his mother, and he also suffered from epilepsy.  Leopold studied at Christ Church College Oxford and was president of the Oxford University Chess Club.  After his student days he continued as a patron of chess, and of the arts and literature.

Prince-Leopold-Duke-of-AlbanyPrince Leopold, Duke of Albany by Lombardi & Co circa late 1870s  NPG x15727 © National Portrait Gallery, London

In 1882 the British press reported that Prince Leopold was to marry Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont.  The bride-to-be was described as ‘a simple and ladylike country girl … very spontaneous and open, recites with taste, … very musical’.

Princess-Helen-Duchess-of-AlbanyPrincess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont by Judd & Co 1881 NPG D33804 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The couple visited a London photographer and had two sittings, formal and informal.  The photographs showing the Prince with his arm around Helena’s waist and her head resting upon his shoulder were intended for family circulation only.  Apparently they were issued in error with the formal portraits and had to be recalled hastily.

The wedding was planned for April but there was speculation that the ceremony would have to be postponed because the Prince was laid up with a painful swollen knee.  The knee joint had troubled Leopold in the past and he had twisted the ligaments earlier in the year.  He then aggravated that injury by falling in the street after slipping on a piece of orange peel whilst holidaying near his mother in Menton, France.  The Prince’s haemophilia was not a secret – the Aberdeen Evening Express of 5 April 1882 explained: ‘there is some deficiency of a certain element in the blood, which make a fall or bruise a more serious matter to him than it would be to an ordinary person’.

However Leopold returned to England, pale and using a stick to walk, determined that the marriage should go ahead as planned.  On 27 April 1882, thousands of people flocked to Windsor for the wedding.  Some had tickets for admission to the Castle grounds, most wanted to see the procession through the town.  The people of Windsor presented a diamond bracelet to Princess Helena.  Queen Victoria gave the couple Claremont, a residence in Surrey.  As the newly-weds left the Castle in the late afternoon, several Princesses were said to have breached etiquette by appearing outside without bonnets to wave goodbye.

Prince-Leopold-Duke-of-Albany-Princess-Alice-Countess-of-Athlone-Princess-Helen-Duchess-of-AlbanyDuke and Duchess of Albany with their baby daughter Alice by Hills & Saunders 1883 NPG x197970 © National Portrait Gallery, London

In February 1883, Helena gave birth to a daughter Alice. Early the following year Leopold went to Cannes to escape the winter weather.  Sadly he had a fall resulting in an epileptic fit and a brain haemorrhage, and he died on 28 March 1884.  He was buried at Windsor on 6 April, less than two years after his marriage.  His son Charles was born in July.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Dundee Evening Telegraph 28 March 1882, Aberdeen Evening Express 5 April 1882, Derby Daily Telegraph 24 April 1882, Hampshire Advertiser 29 April 1882, Windsor and Eton Express 29 April 1882.