Untold lives blog

350 posts categorized "Domestic life"

15 November 2022

Star Baker or Avid Taste-Tester? – Exploring Evanion’s 19th-century baking ephemera collection

Henry Evanion, born 1832 in Vauxhall, London, was a 19th-century conjuror and entertainer.  Evanion’s career began aged just 17 and throughout his life, Evanion performed across the country in small towns, entertained royalty in private performances and had a successful run at the Crystal Palace in London.  Evanion was also an avid collector of paper ephemera from an early age and amassed thousands of items during his lifetime.  The Evanion Collection represents his widespread interests, with themes including local politics, Victorian entertainment and miscellaneous advertisements for products related to everyday household life.

Are you a star baker?
Bakers in the 19th century were spoilt for choice thanks to an increase in products available for home-baking and the enduring popularity of cookery books like Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1859-1861).

In the Victorian period, the development of new ingredients meant that bakers could make quicker and cheaper puddings.  One Victorian invention was self-raising flour, which was first introduced in 1845.  By the 1880s, it had become a baking essential for households with an 1885 advert from McDougall’s (Evan.6234.), claiming that the flour was for ‘everyday use’ and that it could help to ‘avoid indigestion’.

An advertisement for McDougall’s patent self raising flour, with a boy in a chef's hat holding a large pie in a dishAn advertisement for McDougall’s patent self raising flour (c.1885). Evan.6234

A second revolutionary development was egg powder, a cheaper alternative to using eggs in baking.  An advert from 1885 (Evan.4244.) for Freeman’s egg powder shows a  young woman surrounded by the bakes she’s made using the product.  The advert claims that Freeman’s is the ‘largest sale in the world’ and can be used for cakes, pancakes, plum puddings and Yorkshire puddings.

Advertisement card for Freeman’s Digestive Egg Powder.  A young woman, holding a packet of Freeman's egg powder in each hand, stands behind a table on which is displayed a range of cakes and puddings, made from the product.Advertisement card for Freeman’s Digestive Egg Powder (1885) Evan.4244.

Revolutionising Puddings?
An advertisement for Freeman’s Pudding Powder from 1886 (Evan.6504.) offered an alternative for those unable to find the ingredients to make a pudding.  The notice, titled ‘So Glad I Saw This’ tells the story of a woman who asked her friend for the recipe to make a pudding and was surprised to find that the pudding was a powder mix with added milk and sugar.

An advertisement for Freeman’s Delicious Pudding Powder, with a judge taste-testing the pudding with the caption ‘delivering judgement – delicious’An advertisement for Freeman’s Delicious Pudding Powder (1885) Evan.6228

This advert for the mix from 1885 (Evan.6228.) offers to send ladies one of each flavour (almond, lemon, vanilla, peach, chocolate and nectarine) for free by post for 12 stamps.  The witty advert features an image of a judge taste-testing the pudding with the caption ‘delivering judgement – delicious’.  Pudding mixes like Freeman’s revolutionised Victorian desserts because they were a cheaper and quicker alternative to traditional puddings which were labour-intensive and required lots of ingredients.

Next time you are baking a cake, watching a cookery programme or buying a sweet treat from a local bakery, think about the variety of ingredients available today and the ease of opening a tin or using a packet mix to speed up the process. These developments came from 19th-century products like the ones featured here. You can explore more 19th-century baking material via the Evanion catalogue online.

Amy Solomons
PhD Placement Student, Heritage Made Digital

Further Reading
Andrea Broomfield, Food and Cooking in Victorian England, A History (Praeger Publishers: Santa Barbara, 2007).
James Hagy, Early English Conjuring Collectors, James Savren and Henry Evanion (Shaker Heights: Ohio, 1985).
Elizabeth Harland, ‘The Evanion Collection’, The British Library Journal, vol. 13, no. 1 (Spring 1987), pp. 64- 700.

 

25 October 2022

Exploring the richness and variety of letters sent to the East India Company

Over 300 volumes of East India Company Home Correspondence have recently been digitised and they are now available through an Adam Matthew Digital resource

There are two series: IOR/E/1/1-195 letters sent to the Court of Directors 1701-1858, and IOR/E/1/196-314 (Miscellanies) copies of letters being sent out by the Court of Directors to Company agents, servants and Government departments 1688-1859.  ‘Home’ indicates that the correspondence is with individuals in Britain and Europe rather than Asia.

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817 

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817  - IOR/E/1 /253 p.57  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The home correspondence arriving at East India House covers a vast array of topics and subjects ranging from the day-to-day running of the Company, personal requests from employees and their families, and even unsolicited letters advertising patents, proposals and publications.

The correspondence is arranged by the date it was received at the Court, rather than the date it was sent.  The date the letter was received is recorded on the back of the letter, along with any actions taken by the Court, such as referral to a committee; read in Court; laid on the table for any interested parties to look at; or given to a specific individual to answer.  When a letter was read in Court, the Court Minutes [IOR/B] can be consulted to discover the Company’s response.

Much of the routine correspondence relates to the East India ships, including signing charterparties; appointing captains and crew; paying wages, supplies and repair bills; notifications of ship arrivals in various ports; and matters relating to the trade goods being carried on board.   Other correspondence relating to trade includes dealings with Customs officials; notifications of sales; intelligence received from agents in other countries relating to rival companies’ trade and goods; and London merchants sending money and goods to Asia in exchange for diamonds, jewels and coral.

Approval of officers for Company ships 1761Approval of officers for Company ships 1761 - IOR/E/1/43 f.306 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Related to matters of trade and shipping was correspondence with other Government departments, particularly the Admiralty, as Royal Navy vessels often provided escort services for East Indiamen and the ships would come to each other’s aid at sea.

Letters from the Company’s agents in places like Italy, Vienna, Madeira and the Levant also form part of this series.  These tend to relate to packets of the Company’s correspondence sent overland, and intelligence about political relations between countries which might impact the Company.  In the case of Madeira, there are bills and invoices for wine supplied to East Indiamen, the Court of Directors, and key Company employees.

Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company 1771Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) 1771  - IOR/E/1/55 f.486 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are also many letters from Company employees and their families, mostly in the form of petitions.  These include requests from employees to be considered for promotion, to extend leave in England owing to illness, or for relief or other assistance from relatives of employees who found themselves in financial distress.  Other topics include requests to send family members and servants to and from India, and the administration of deceased relatives' estates in India.  Occasionally there are letters from people trying to ascertain whether their relative overseas is still alive.

Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief 1764Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief December 1764 - IOR/E/1/46 ff.796-797  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Other recurring themes are concerns about the smuggling of Indian tea into England and Scotland; arrangements with missionary societies for sending supplies to their missions in the East Indies; and letters from individuals attempting to get the East India Company to take up their patent or invention, or to purchase copies of their recently published books.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/E/1 – Home Correspondence 
Adam Matthew Digital: East India Company Module 5 

 

06 October 2022

A 'pest of skolds' and other 'unruly women' (part II)

This is part two of 'A pest of skolds' - part one can be found here.  

In our previous blog on the nurses caring for sick and wounded sailors, we saw one of the more extreme courses of action available to nurses to force the navy into paying them what they were owed.

Lodging and caring for the sick and wounded could be exceedingly costly, and nurses and care workers could be pushed into poverty due to a lack of payment for their services. In a letter to Evelyn dated 9 June 1673, for example, a Mr Hannon wrote of the ‘miserable condicon’ of the people. He informed Evelyn that the quarterers had engaged their credit as far as it would go, and shopkeepers were now refusing to trust them. Consequently, they had been forced to sell and pawn their own goods to provide for the sick, with many ‘now reduced to that poverty that they have not where withal to maintiane their owne family’.

Some nurses made their superiors aware of their condition through formal petitions, as in the example below:

Handwritten petition with signatures
Petition to John Evelyn, Add MS 78322, f 71

The nurses of Deal petitioned Evelyn on the basis that the crown had allowed seven shillings per week for the maintenance of every sick and wounded person, but the ‘prickmaster’ would pay them no more than five shillings. They also wrote that they had not been paid for twelve months, and were now ‘in danger to be utterly undone and ruined, not being able to subsist, unlesse speedily assisted’.

Fifteen individuals, mostly women, set their names to the petition asking Evelyn to ensure that the prickmaster paid their money in full, and allowed them to discharge their debts to their creditors.

Where petitioning failed, however, there was one further approach attempted by the nurses to recover the losses incurred whilst nursing sick and wounded seamen. This final letter records what Evelyn refers to as a ‘universal conspiracy’ amongst the nurses. He writes that his deputies had already been forced to break open doors in order to procure quarters for the sick and wounded, as the nurses had asserted that they would not receive any more until their arrears had been discharged.

Handwritten letter by John EvelynLetter from John Evelyn regarding financial pressures on the nurses, Add MS 78322, f 2.

Evelyn writes that the financial pressure placed on the quarterers ‘makes them not onely in a kind of despaire, but so inrag’d, that I neither dare to go down amongst them, nor for almost these five weekes, stay in my owne house’. At last, he requests that the sum of £1000 is paid immediately, to ‘pacifie the poore-people’, who might otherwise ‘grow to a very greate disorder’.

Together, these letters reveal the struggle that these individuals faced to be paid for their services as well as the means at their disposal to fight back. Where some opted for the more formal approach of petitioning the authorities, others channelled their frustration into action, refusing to take in the hundreds of sick and wounded arriving on their shores without payment in full of their outstanding wages. Others, as we saw in Reymes’ letter in part one, took the fight directly to the commissioner’s door, where they loudly proclaimed their struggles until the authorities were forced to respond.

These were ordinary people, many of whom lived their lives close to the poverty line. Nevertheless they remained indispensable to the success of the navy, and by uniting as one, they were able to make their voices heard.

Rachel Clamp

PhD Placement Student Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading

Matthew Neufeld and Blaine Wickham, ‘The State, the People and the Care of the Sick and Injured Sailors in Late Stuart England’, Social History of Medicine Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 45-63.

University of Leicester Library Special Collections blog, John Evelyn and the war with the Dutch

03 October 2022

A 'pest of skolds' and other 'unruly women': caring for sick and wounded sailors in the Anglo-Dutch wars (part I)

The Anglo-Dutch wars were a series of conflicts fought between England and the Dutch Republic beginning in the mid-seventeenth century and lasting until the late eighteenth century. Contemporary writer and diarist John Evelyn was appointed Commissioner for Sick and Wounded Seamen in the autumn of 1664. Alongside his colleagues in the Commission, Evelyn was responsible for sourcing quarters where sick and wounded sailors could receive medical and therapeutic attention.

Oil painting of a sea battleR Nooms, A Battle of the First Dutch War, 1652-54. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Before the great purpose-built naval hospitals at Chelsea and Greenwich were commissioned, sick and wounded sailors were cared for in a combination of private homes and alehouses throughout coastal towns such as Deal, Portsmouth and Plymouth. Landlords, landladies and alehouse keepers, also known as ‘quarterers’, would provide care and lodging on credit to the navy.

Having been for the most part neglected by historians, fresh attention was paid to the partnership between the navy and private care workers by Matthew Neufeld and Blaine Wickham in their 2014 article for Social History of Medicine. The Evelyn Papers at The British Library contain a wealth of information about the work of these individuals and their fight to be properly compensated for their efforts.

Relationships between the nurses and naval commissioners were frequently strained, as the following letter written to Evelyn in April 1665 from his colleague and fellow commissioner Bullen Reymes reveals.

‘The truth is’, Reymes wrote,

‘I have till of late boyed up our Nurses Spirits, by fayre words, and now and then a littell mony upon my account…but [especially] by promising that I would not goe hence, till I had made all even’. ‘These honest artes’, he informed Evelyn, ‘hath hitherto kept my skin whole, for Billingsgat hath not such another Pest of Skolds, as I have to doe with all’.

Reymes then provided an account of his latest encounter with the nurses of Deal:

‘It seems the other day, they had got a whisper amongst them, as if the Commissioner (meaning me) [was] going to London the next day’.

News of Reymes’ imminent departure seemed to spread quickly amongst the nurses who were concerned that the Commissioner would once again leave the town without paying them for their services. Consequently, they congregated at Reymes’ door and challenged him as he attempted to leave his home the next morning:

‘[A]s I came down the stairs to goe abrod’, he wrote, ‘my entry was barricaded with 20 or thirty of the sharpest tunged women, charging me with an outcry, or rather a jangling (for in an outcry, there may be harmony) of there several wants and nessessetys, and all at once, and that they must have their mony…before I went, and that I should not shrinke to steale away to London as I did last, and not paye them, that they were sure the Good King (god blis him) allowed us money to paye them, & we keepe it, and fed them now & then with a littell, so that their money did them no good, and a thousand other…Complaynts’.

It was not only the twenty or thirty women barricading the door who voiced their concerns, but also:

‘another Squadron of them that stood with out dorres, in the Streete took up as an echo, & redubbled  it back againe, I all this while in the midest of them Crying and Praying them to have patience a littell longer’

These ‘unruly women’, as they are later referred to, would not be satisfied, however, without a solemn promise that Reymes would see to it that they were paid in full. But this was only one of the ways in which the quarterers sought to make their voices heard. In Part II of this blog, we'll explore some more documents that reveal more of their fascinating stories.

Rachel Clamp

PhD Placement Student, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading

Matthew Neufeld and Blaine Wickham, ‘The State, the People and the Care of the Sick and Injured Sailors in Late Stuart England’, Social History of Medicine Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 45-63.

LSE staff blog, John Evelyn and the war with the Dutch

20 September 2022

Henry Trimmer – JMW Turner’s Lifelong Friend

Henry Scott Trimmer was born in Old Brentford on 1 August 1778.  His mother, Sarah (1741-1810), was a prominent educationalist, whose writing had a marked effect on the style and content of children’s literature of the time.  It was in Brentford that Henry and his older brother, John, first met the ten-year-old William Turner, who had been sent to live with his uncle, Joseph Marshall, a local butcher.  William and Henry soon became firm friends.

Oil painting of Sarah Trimmer, evangelist and children's writer, sitting with pen and paper, with several books at hand  Oil painting of Sarah Trimmer, evangelist and children's writer by by Henry Howard - © National Portrait Gallery  NPG 796

Henry fell ill with consumption in 1792-3 but made a full recovery.  He gained a B.A from Merton College, Oxford in 1802 and in August that year was ordained deacon and appointed curate at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch.  In December 1802 he was ordained priest and in 1803 became curate in Kedington, Suffolk, where he met his future wife.  In 1804 he was appointed Vicar of Heston, near to where he had grown up, and remained there until his death in 1859. 

Photograph of St Leonard’s Church  HestonSt Leonard’s Church, Heston (photograph by author) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In 1805 Henry married Mary Driver Syer in Kedington.  They had three sons: Henry Syer, Barrington and Frederick.

Newspaper announcement of the marriage of Henry Scott Trimmer to Mary Driver Syer in 1805Bury and Norwich Post 10 July 1805 British Newspaper Archive

After Turner completed the building of Sandycombe Lodge, his Twickenham house, in 1813, he and Henry Trimmer spent more time together and it is thanks to the information that Henry Trimmer’s sons passed on to Turner’s first biographer Walter Thornbury, that we know so much about Turner’s life at Sandycombe Lodge.  Henry was also an occasional visitor at Turner’s studio and gallery in Queen Anne Street.  Thornbury suggests that the interior of a church depicted in Turner’s Liber Studiorum is St Leonard’s, Heston, but the original drawing dates from 1797, before Trimmer moved to Heston.

Turner felt that he needed to be better educated in the classics and Henry wished to improve his artistic skills, so they came to an arrangement whereby Henry schooled Turner in Latin in exchange for painting lessons.  They went out on sketching trips together, often with the Trimmer sons, and also visited art galleries, such as the one at nearby Osterley House.  Sadly, none of Henry’s paintings seem to have survived but there is an engraved print of one of them in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Seascape with rainbow - two sailing ships riding the waves.Seascape with Rainbow, 1837. Henry Scott Trimmer (artist), David Lucas (engraver).  © Victoria and Albert Museum 

In 1815, Henry was appointed Justice of the Peace and, in 1821, Deputy Lieutenant for Middlesex.  He was active in social reform and, in particular, campaigned for an investigation into the death of Private Frederick John White of the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, based in Hounslow.  In 1846, White had been court-martialled and flogged for insubordination and had died shortly after the lashes had been administered.

Grave of Private Frederick John WhiteGrave of Private Frederick John White  at St Leonard’s Churchyard, Heston (photograph by author) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

After Turner sold Sandycombe Lodge, in 1826, Henry saw less of him but, as Turner had appointed him as one of his executors, he was involved in the long-drawn-out dispute about Turner’s will, from 1852 to 1856.

Henry died on 20 November 1859 and his wife, Mary, only survived him by 48 hours. His son, Barrington, who had been his curate for 27 years, died the following year.

 

Newspaper announcement of the deaths of Henry Scott Trimmer and his wife MaryNorfolk Chronicle 3 December 1859 British Newspaper Archive

Henry Scott Trimmer’s tomb in St Leonard’s Churchyard  HestonHenry Scott Trimmer’s tomb in St Leonard’s Churchyard, Heston (photograph by author) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Newspaper article about Henry Scott Trimmer's will 1860Illustrated London News 14 January 1860 British Newspaper Archive

During his lifetime, Henry had amassed a fine collection of paintings by celebrated artists, many of whom were known to him personally. When the collection was sold, in 1860, it included works by Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough. No mention is made of any Turners, although Henry certainly owned some.

Newspaper article about the sale of Henry Scott Trimmer's art collection in 1860Morning Post 19 March 1860 British Newspaper Archive


David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
Brentford High Street Project 
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).
Anthony Bailey, Standing In The Sun – a life of J.M.W.Turner (1997).
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner R.A. founded on letters and papers furnished by his friends and fellow Academicians, (London, 1862).

 

Turner's House logo

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


08 September 2022

Granville Archive available

The Untold Lives blog has included several posts on the Granville Archive over the last couple of years.  The archive was acquired by the British Library in 2019, along with a supplementary collection of family papers previously hidden from public view, thanks to support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and other funders.

Trunk of papers from the Granville Archive

Trunk of papers from the Granville Archive Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Like so much else, the project to repackage and catalogue the archive was held up by consecutive lock-downs.  Now, at last, the work is complete: catalogue descriptions for both the main and supplementary collections are available on the British Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts online catalogue (Add MS 89317 and Add MS 89382).  Readers can now directly request access any of the material in the BL reading rooms.

'Per Balloon Post': congratulatory postcard sent by balloon post to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville

'Per Balloon Post': congratulatory postcard sent by balloon post to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville, inscribed with a charitable appeal to the Countess from the finder, a Rev H Woodhouse, 30 April 1872
(Add MS 89382/4/23, f. 40) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The archive is large.  The main collection consists of 883 volumes and files of correspondence and papers, and the supplementary collection a further 96 (as well as a satin purse in which some of the letters were stored).  The collections span several generations over three centuries.  Of particular importance are the papers of Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl (1773–1846), diplomat and politician, and his son Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl (1815-1891), diplomat, foreign secretary and close friend of Gladstone. 

'This is my 10th attempt to print': the 2nd Earl Granville’s struggle with a typewriter. Letter from Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville.

'This is my 10th attempt to print': the 2nd Earl Granville’s struggle with a typewriter. Letter from Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville, 6 March 1876
(Add MS 89382/4/11, f. 142-143) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Women members of the family are well represented, including Lady Susanna Leveson-Gower (1742-1805), wife of Granville Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford; Lady Henrietta (Harriet) Leveson-Gower (1785-1862), wife of the first Earl Granville; and Castalia Leveson-Gower (1847-1938), wife of the 2nd Earl Granville.  Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough (1761-1821) and her sister Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) feature prominently in the supplementary collection.

'My dearest Granville'. Letter from Lady Stafford to her 17-year-old son, Granville Leveson-Gower, 22 February 1791

'My dearest Granville'. Letter from Lady Stafford to her 17-year-old son, Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville, 22 February 1791 (Add MS 89382/1, f. 150) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Anyone interested in 18th-19th century diplomacy and foreign affairs, national politics, aristocratic society and intimate family life, the development of higher education, and national museums is likely to find material of interest in the Granville Archive and supplementary papers.

Self-portrait with dog on the shore below the cliffs at Hastings, by Lady Bessborough.

Self-portrait with dog on the shore below the cliffs at Hastings, by Lady Bessborough.  Enclosed in a letter to Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville, while he was away in St Petersburg, Russia, 19 October 1804
(Add MS 89382/2/22, f. 70) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

To find out more about some parts of the archive, see the previous Untold Lives blogposts, and enjoy a detailed account of innovative conservation treatment for locks of hair in the collection by BL conservator Veronica Zoppi (listed below).

Tabitha Driver
Cataloguer, Modern Archives & Manuscripts

Further reading:
Lord Granville Leveson Gower: Private Correspondence, ed. Castalia Granville (London, 1916)
Hary’o: the Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish, 1796-1809, ed. George Leveson Gower and Iris Palmer (London, 1940)
Edmond Fitzmaurice, The Life of Granville George Leveson Gower K.G. 1815-1891. 3rd ed. (London, 1905)
Janet Gleeson,  An aristocratic affair: The life of Georgiana's sister, Harriet Spencer, Countess of Bessborough (London, 2006).
The political correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville, 1868–1876, ed. A. Ramm, 2 vols. (London, 1952).

Cache of hidden letters in the Granville Archive
Ciphers and sympathetic ink: secret love letters in the Granville papers
A rebus puzzle
Conservation of the Granville Archive papers

 

30 August 2022

Coxwell’s concrete lemon

A recent donation to the India Office Private Papers is an ensign’s commission granted to Anthony Merry who joined the East India Company as an army cadet in 1798.

Commission as ensign granted to Anthony MerryCommission as ensign granted to Anthony Merry – India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F759 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Anthony Merry was baptised at Great Warley in Essex on 2 September 1783, the younger son of Anthony Merry and Margaret (née Hornby).  When Anthony senior died in 1785, his will confirmed the marriage settlement made with Margaret together with a further £200.  The settlement appears to have included the manor of Hayleys in Epping.  Anthony did not mention his children.  The bulk of the remaining estate went to his sister Elizabeth Pinnell and other relations.

Margaret Merry re-married twice.  In 1786 she wed widower William Dowson of Chamberlain’s Wharf Southwark, and their son William was born the following year.  Dowson died in 1791, leaving Margaret £100 and the use during her lifetime of Millfield House in Highgate.

In 1795 Margaret married another widower Henry Coxwell, a chemist and druggist in Fleet Street London.  They had a son Charles in 1795 and a daughter Elizabeth in 1797.  Coxwell was a member of the Committee of Chemistry at the Society for the Promotion of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, and the inventor of concrete lemon.

Invention of concrete lemon by Henry Coxwell- Bath Chronicle 1799Invention of concrete lemon by Henry Coxwell - Bath Chronicle 7 March 1799 British Newspaper Archive

Concrete lemon was crystallized lemon juice, ‘the pure acid part of the fruit in a solid and dry form, resembling in appearance white sugar candy’.  Coxwell signed each package sold as a guarantee of its authenticity.

Handbill advertising Coxwell's concrete lemonHandbill advertising Coxwell's concrete lemon - British Library General Reference Collection Cup.21.g.24/5 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The crystals were said to be ‘convenient and elegant’, dissolving instantly in cold water, and cheaper than fresh lemons or lemon juice.  They could be used to make punch, lemonade, or sauces.  Ships of the Royal Navy and East India Company were supplied with Coxwell’s concrete lemon to help guard sailors against scurvy.

Thomas Trotter's comment about the use of Coxwell's concrete lemon by the Royal NavyThomas Trotter, Medicina Nautica; an Essay on the diseases of Seamen vol III (London, 1803), p.76 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Henry Coxwell died at Millfield House in 1832, ‘deeply and deservedly lamented by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance’.  His library was sold three years later.  This included a collection of modern medical books together with others on a variety of subjects – travel, plant, insects, literature, philosophy, politics.

Newspaper advert for the sale of Henry Coxwell's libraryAdvert for the sale of Henry Coxwell's library - Sun (London) 19 October 1835 British Newspaper Archive

Anthony Merry died before his stepfather, in 1831.  His career in the Madras Army had been very brief.  In February 1801 Lieutenant Merry was stationed at Seringapatam with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment Native Infantry.  He wrote to  his commanding officer, Major Thomas Riddell, expressing his wish to resign the Company’s service and to proceed to Europe at the first opportunity.  Major General Brathwaite recommended that this request be granted, given Merry’s general character and conduct.  Merry was permitted to resign and told to go immediately to Madras and be ready to embark for Europe.

After his return to England, Anthony Merry served as an officer in regiments of the Royal Militia.  He married Elizabeth Strivens in 1805 and settled in Kentish Town in north London.  It appears the couple had four children: Margaret, Robert, Eliza (died in infancy), and William Henry.  Anthony’s East India Company commission was carefully preserved and passed down the family before being gifted to the British Library.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Commission as ensign granted to Anthony Merry – India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F759.
Baptism of Anthony Merry – India Office Records IOR/L/MIL/9/108 f. 466.
Papers in Madras Military Proceedings 1801 about Anthony Merry’s resignation - India Office Records IOR/P/254/70 pp.1788-1791, 1794-1795.
Will of Anthony Merry 1785 – The National Archives PROB 11/1127/339.
Will of Anthony Merry 1813 - The National Archives PROB 11/1785/332.
Will of Anthony Merry 1835 - The National Archives PROB 11/1849/369.
Will of Sukey Merry 1840 - The National Archives PROB 11/1921/375.

 

11 August 2022

Living on a reduced income in 1868

In April 1868 Charlotte Francis Laing sent a petition to the India Office for financial assistance.  She had been reduced from affluence to ‘extreme penury’ when the failure of the Bank of Bombay took away her income from a holding of 180 shares.

Newpaper article about the collapse of the Bank of BombayArticle about the collapse of the Bank of Bombay - Bombay Gazette 27 April 1868 British Newspaper Archive 

Mrs Laing stated that she was the daughter of civil servant William James Turquand, and the widow of surgeon William Christie Laing.  Both men had served the East India Company in Bengal.  Her late husband had subscribed to the Bengal Military Orphan Society for 23 years, but had ceased pay into the fund after his retirement in 1848, believing that his private means were ample for the future provision of his family.  He had died in November 1861.  Mrs Laing asked for her seven children aged between nineteen and ten to be taken onto the Orphan Society books because she was now left with just a small widow’s pension to support them.

Hoping that the suspension of dividend payments was only temporary, it was some time before Mrs Laing had realised the need to reduce her way of living to a ‘pauper scale’.  She had now moved into a 'mean house' in a poor quarter of Crediton in Devon at a rent of £17 per annum.  Although ’always hitherto accustomed to all the refinements of an English gentlewoman’s life’, she now could not afford to keep servants, except a little girl, and was reduced to performing with her own hands ‘the chief drudgery and menial service of my house’.  The family could only afford to eat animal food on alternate days and Mrs Laing had gradually sold everything of value she possessed, even clothing.  She had had to remove her daughters from school and deprive them of education at the most important period of their lives.

Finance Committee decision on the petition of Charlotte Francis LaingFinance Committee decision on the petition of Charlotte Francis Laing - British Library IOR/L/F/2/335 no.1111 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

An official noted on the petition that Mrs Laing received an annual pension of £225 from the Bengal Military Fund.  A reply was sent saying that the rules did not permit the children to be admitted to the Orphan Fund, and the Secretary of State regretted that he was unable to sanction any grant to Mrs Laing from the Indian revenues. Ten years earlier, the directors of the East India Company might have responded to such a petition by making a donation as a gesture of goodwill, but in 1868 Mrs Laing encountered the new department of state operating within strict rules of governance.

Three years later, at the time of the 1871 census, Mrs Laing was living at Cowick Barton in Devon with four of her children: William Alexander Gordon, 21, who became a surgeon; Gordon Hammick, 18; Ellen Sydney, 16, and Kate Mary Christie, 12.  Charlotte Maria, 20, was working as a governess in Camberwell, Surrey.  Cordelia Margaret Frances, 10, was a scholar at Wilton House in Hackney, East London.  She and Kate also became teachers. I believe that Edward Turquand Gordon, 14, was serving an apprenticeship in the Merchant Navy.  In 1878 he enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Artillery and was stationed in India for ten years.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library IOR/L/F/2/335 no.1111 Petition of Charlotte Francis Laing 28 April 1868
The Bombay Banking Crisis 

 

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