Untold lives blog

314 posts categorized "Domestic life"

21 September 2021

Indian soldiers protest about the loss of extra pay

In December 1841 Indian private soldiers of the Madras Army stationed at Asirgarh and Secunderabad refused to receive their monthly pay.  The sepoys were protesting at the removal of their allowance, or batta, which had been paid to troops stationed at a distance from their home Presidency to cover extra expenditure.  They claimed that the amount of pay without batta was insufficient to maintain their families.

European officers and Indian officers and NCOs tried in vain to persuade the men to accept their pay without batta.  They warned that refusal would be regarded as mutiny.  At Secunderabad nearly 300 privates of the 32nd Regiment of Native Infantry persisted with their protest but obeyed when told to ground their arms.  They were then taken prisoner by a party of Europeans.  A similar situation developed with the 48th Regiment of Native Infantry.

Military General Orders  Choltry Plain  27 January 1842Military General Orders ,Choltry Plain, 27 January 1842 - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84995 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The most prominent men in the protest were selected for trial by Court Martial.  Good conduct pay was forfeited by those who had taken part but an amnesty was granted to the main body of offenders.  However native officers and NCOs were punished for having failed in their duty, either through ‘ignorance of any plan of insubordination so settled and matured’, or from having allowed it to proceed because they also stood to lose out from the removal of batta.  There were demotions and blocks on future promotions.

Military General Orders Fort St George 12 April 1842Military Department General Orders by Governor in Council, Fort St George, 12 April 1842 - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84997 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

General James Stuart Fraser, the Resident in Hyderabad, was sympathetic to the soldiers’ complaint and promised to recommend an enquiry into what they alleged about the cost of living.  Fraser collected data which he hoped would enable the government to judge whether the soldiers were justified in protesting.  Was pay without batta sufficient to maintain them and their families?

An estimate of monthly expenses was drawn up for food and clothing for three categories of Indian soldiers at Secunderabad living with a wife and two children: a ’Man of the Talinga or Malabar Caste’; a ‘Musselman’; and a ‘Native of Bengal’.  Costs were given for rice; inferior grain; meat; ‘dholl’; salt; lamp oil; ghee; firewood; betel nut and tobacco; ‘masalah’; vegetables; ‘goodaccoo’; cholum flour; and clothing.

Living expenses for different categories of Indian soldiers at SecunderabadAn estimate of monthly expenses for food and clothing for Indian soldiers at Secunderabad  - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84995 p.430 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Other East India Company officials also recorded sympathy for the Indian soldiers.  John Bird of the Council of Fort St George expressed his regret that it had been found impracticable to issue pardons to the offenders, instead dismissing all the prisoners of the 4th Regiment.  He would have preferred the adoption of Fraser’s recommendation to transfer the men to other regiments. Bird also thought the treatment of the officers was too harsh and that innocent men would be punished.

Sir James Law Lushington, Chairman of the Court of Directors in London, also believed the punishments to be misguided.  The Court wrote to Madras in August 1842 stating that the directors would approve if men of previous good character could safely be shown leniency.

Lord Elphinstone, Governor of Madras, wrote of the bond of union between the sepoys and the European officers being cast aside in recent years.  At the same time as batta was being taken away from native troops at stations where it had long been in place, it was given to European officers based away from their home Presidency.  Elphinstone said the chasm between the officers and the native soldiers had widened.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Papers relating to the batta protests and the cost of living for native soldiers - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84995-84998, IOR/F/4/1973/86723.
Hastings Fraser, Memoir and Correspondence of General James Stuart Fraser of the Madras Army (London, 1885)

16 September 2021

Breakfast in British India

In 1810 Captain Thomas Williamson, a retired Bengal Army officer, published The East India Vade-Mecum; or complete guide to gentlemen intended for the civil, military or, naval service of the East India Company.  It is a fascinating book to dip into and this caught my eye:
’A breakfast in India bears a strong resemblance to the same meal in Scotland, with the exception of whiskey; the introduction of which, (if to be had,) or of any other spirits would be considered both nauseous and vulgar’.

After this surprising revelation about Scottish breakfasts, Williamson moves on to detail the bill of fare.  Breakfast for Europeans in Williamson’s India was generally a substantial meal: tea, coffee, toast, bread, butter, eggs, rice, salt-fish, kitcheree (kedgeree), sweetmeats, orange marmalade, and honey.  Sometimes, following hunting and shooting expeditions, cold meat and accompaniments were served.

Breakfast In India - A young married couple (an East India Company civil servant and his wife) breakfasting on fried fish, rice and Sylhet oranges, with servants in attendance..'The Breakfast' from William Tayler, Sketches illustrating the manner and customs of the Indians and the Anglo-Indians (London, 1842) British Library shelfmark X42 Images Online

European gentlemen rose at daybreak and, before breakfast, either went on parade or to their ‘field diversions’, or rode on horses or elephants, enjoying the cool morning air.  Williamson recommended wearing the clothes worn on the previous evening for exercise and then changing into a clean suit on return, sitting down to breakfast in comfort.

Williamson cautioned against eating eggs at breakfast, believing that they aggravated bilious conditions.  Eggs were ‘innocent’ in the climate of England for people with a robust constitution, but in Asia, ‘where relaxation weakens the powers of digestion, they are a pernicious article of diet’.  He also believed that salt-fish should be banned from the breakfast table, as eating it caused ’thirst, heat, and uneasiness’.

Newspaper announcement of a public breakfast, Calcutta 1785Calcutta Gazette 3 February 1785 British Newspaper Archive - also available via Findmypast

In the late 18th century it had been customary for the Governor General and members of Council to have weekly public breakfasts: ‘persons of all characters mixed promiscuously, and good and bad were to be seen around the same tea-pot’.  The breakfast was considered as ‘merely the preface to a levee’.  When Lord Cornwallis arrived, these public breakfasts were replaced by open levees.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Thomas Williamson, The East India Vade-Mecum; or complete guide to gentlemen intended for the civil, military or, naval service of the East India Company (London, 1810) 
Owain Edwards,’ Captain Thomas Williamson of India’, Modern Asian Studies Vol. 14, No. 4 (1980), pp. 673-682

 

In the mid-19th century, there was a selection of marmalades available in India. As well as orange marmalade, there was mango, citron, lemon, and ginger.

Marmalade types from Bombay Gazette 1863Bombay Gazette 3 February 1863 British Newspaper Archive - also available via Findmypast

What would Paddington Bear think of that?

Paddington – The Story of a Bear


Paddington Bear - advert for exhibition at British Library


09 September 2021

‘An unseemly squabble’ in Aden

An argument at a dinner party.  A guest drinking too much.  A brush with the law.   An evening which would end a 30-year friendship.

After Captain Robert Cogan retired from active service with the Indian Navy, he settled in Aden, working for a trading company.  Perhaps his choice of town was influenced by the presence of his friend Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines, who was the British Political Agent there.

Head and shoulders portrait of Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines with a full, dark beard and bow tieA portrait of Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines from a lithograph at the British Embassy, Aden. 

On 27 October 1846, Cogan and Haines, together with Haines’ wife Mary, dined at the house of Captain George James Duncan Milne.  By the next day, that 30-year friendship would be in tatters.

After dinner, the gentlemen joined the ladies in the drawing room, and Cogan took up the subject of society in Aden, focusing on Mrs Haines’ role and mentioning one occasion where he believed she had been negligent.  The rest of the party disagreed, and this led to a heated argument between Milne and Cogan.  At this point, Haines stepped in to de-escalate the dispute.  The argument continued between Haines and Cogan at Haines’ house, where Cogan called Haines ‘a cold blooded being’, and Haines tried to calm him down and persuade him to go home.

Captain Haines’ version of events from the East India Company archivesCaptain Haines’ version of events, IOR/F/4/2203/108123, f 329. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Meanwhile, Haines, acting as the local magistrate, directed a policeman to watch Cogan unobtrusively that night, giving orders that if he seemed about to leave his house to continue the quarrel, he was to be forced to remain at home.  Haines also required Milne to agree not to pursue an apology that night.

The next morning a message came to Cogan from Captain Milne, requiring him to retract his offensive expression.  Cogan readily agreed, and Milne also withdrew his language.  Cogan wrote to Mrs Milne to apologise, and to Captain Haines, regretting his bad taste and the ‘unhappy events…[which] have given me much pain’.  However, he also objected to Haines’ ‘irritating’ manner.  Haines was not satisfied, and replied that Cogan’s ‘conduct and singular expressions of last night preclude the continuance of our acquaintance’.  Cogan, upset, intended to consult friends about the dispute and was in the act of mounting his horse at his door, when ‘for the first time in my life, [I was] publicly arrested by a Police Constable’.

Cartoon entitled 'The Modest Couple' - a man turning away from a seated woman, with another older, cross-looking man between them gesturing towards her.'The Modest Couple' from The Bab Ballads, with which are included Songs of a Savoyard ... With 350 illustrations by the author by William Gilbert, (London, 1898).  BL flickr

This was a misunderstanding, as Haines had only ordered Cogan to be prevented from going out the previous night.  He was freed once Haines had been informed of what had happened.  However, Cogan was outraged to discover that he had been under police surveillance as being ‘likely to cause a breach of the Peace’.  To add to his outrage, Haines refused to forward his complaint about the arrest to his superiors in India, and he had to send it to the Governor of India himself.

The Government took this complaint of arrest on insufficient grounds seriously, although ignored the ‘unseemly squabble’, and asked Haines for his full explanation.  However, they decided that Haines had acted properly as he was motivated by his public duty, especially as Cogan had previously requested that a guest of his was placed under similar guardianship a few evenings before.  It is unclear whether their friendship ever recovered before Cogan died the following year.

Anne Courtney
Gulf History Cataloguer -British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
The story of Cogan’s wrongful arrest appears in IOR/F/4/2203/108123.

 

02 September 2021

East India Company appointments by the Prince Regent – (2) Peniston Lamb

On 30 May 1815 the East India Company Court of Directors considered a request from the Prince Regent that Peniston George Lamb be appointed to a writership in Bengal.  It was resolved that His Royal Highness should be given the nomination of a student for East India College, Haileybury,  with a view to appointment as a writer on the Bengal establishment.

Peniston Lamb writer's petition 1817 - letter from Viscount MelbourneLetter from Viscount Melbourne in the writer’s petition papers for Peniston Lamb IOR/J/1/32 f. 272 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Peniston Lamb submitted his application papers to the Company in July 1815.  These include documents of support from Viscount Melbourne at Whitehall who states that Peniston Lamb is his grandson and ward.  A certificate from St George Hanover Square records that Peniston was born on 30 April 1801 and baptised on 8 August, the son of Peniston and Margaretta Lamb.  His father had died.  Peniston junior was educated at a school based in Hertford Castle, not far from the family seat at Brocket Hall.  

However the story of Peniston Lamb is more complicated than might at first seem.

The identity of his mother Margaretta is a mystery.  His father Peniston is not known to have married, although he had a long-term affair with Mrs Sophia Musters whose name was also linked in society gossip to Prince George.  Sick with consumption and anticipating his end, Peniston Lamb wrote requests to his father Viscount Melbourne and brother William which were discovered in his desk after his death in January 1805.  The first dated June 1803 included this wish: ‘I now recommend to my dear Father’s care and protection the little Boy which is at Mrs Cottys but only wish him to be brought up as a Millner’s Son ought to be’.  In October 1804, Peniston instructed William that any residue from his estate should go to this child.  It appears from the writer’s petition that Viscount Melbourne acknowledged the boy as his grandson and gave him an education suitable for a career in the East India Company.

Portrait of Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne, seated, holding her baby son Peniston Lamb, whose feet are resting on  a cradle next to them Elizabeth Lamb (née Milbanke), Viscountess Melbourne, with Peniston Lamb as a child by Samuel William Reynolds or Samuel William Reynolds Jr, (1770-1771) NPG D38358 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Lambs had close ties to the Prince Regent and there are many instances of his patronage being granted to the family.  Viscount Melbourne and his wife Elizabeth both had extra-marital relationships.  Elizabeth had six children who survived infancy but the only one believed to have been fathered without doubt by her husband was her eldest son Peniston born in 1770.  She began a well-known affair with the Prince in 1783 and he was said to be the father of her fourth son George.

Peniston Lamb spent four terms at East India College and was a very proficient student.  He won prizes for classics, French, and law. When he left in 1819, he was placed in the first class category and ranked third amongst the students destined for a career in Bengal.  The sureties guaranteeing his good behaviour in India were Hon George Lamb of Whitehall Yard, barrister (his uncle and the possible son of the Prince Regent,) and Charles Cookney of Holborn, solicitor.  George Lamb also gave security that the appointment had not been purchased.

Having arrived in India in July 1820, Peniston Lamb worked for the Board of Revenue and then the Secret and Political Department.  Sadly his career was very short as he died in Singapore on 20 July 1824.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/J/1/32 ff. 269-276 Writer’s petition for Peniston Lamb. (I have found no mention of George being his middle name except in the Prince Regent’s request to the East India Company.)
IOR/J/1/97 East India College examination results.
IOR/B/161 p.172 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 30 May 1815.
IOR/B/170 p. 1158 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 18 February 1820.
The National Archives PROB 11/1421/107 Probate of will of The Honorable Peniston Lamb of Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire 13 February 1805.
Biographical notes on Peniston Lamb (1770 -1805) History of Parliament Online 
L. G. Mitchell, Lord Melbourne 1779-1848 (Oxford, 1997)
Philip Ziegler, Melbourne - A biography of William Lamb 2nd Viscount Melbourne (London, 1976)

 

24 August 2021

'A Curious Herbal' inspiring current day creatives

Let us introduce you to a remarkable woman called Elizabeth Blackwell and her book, A Curious Herbal.  The British Library is lucky enough to have three copies of this important book.  Elizabeth Blackwell, born in the early 1700s, was the first British woman to produce a herbal.  She drew, engraved and coloured the 500 illustrations single-handedly.  The unusual story behind the herbal’s creation makes it even more interesting.

Garden Cucumber by Elizabeth BlackwellGarden Cucumber, Plate 4, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth’s husband Alexander was a shady character.  He practiced as a doctor in Aberdeen but had no formal medical training or qualifications.   When he was challenged the couple fled to London.  Alexander then tried to establish himself as a printer.  However, the authorities discovered that he hadn’t completed the mandatory apprenticeship.  His breach of regulations incurred a heavy fine which he couldn’t pay.  So he was sent to debtor’s prison.  Elizabeth decided to publish a herbal to support herself and her child, and raise enough money to secure her husband’s release from prison.

Love Apple by Elizabeth BlackwellLove Apple, Plate 133, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth published A Curious Herbal in parts between 1737 and 1739.  Several leading botanists endorsed her.  She also approached Sir Hans Sloane who granted her access to the foreign plant specimens in his collection (see the blog post Introducing Elizabeth Blackwell to Hans Sloane).  There were 500 engraved illustrations in total, all hand-coloured by Elizabeth herself.  Normally this would require three separate professionals.  She drew specimens not only from England but also many from North and South America.  These specimens were brought to England by colonists and botanists who often had links to slave labour plantations.

'Female Piony' by Elizabeth Blackwell'Female Piony', Plate 65, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth’s plan worked. Her profits secured Alexander’s release from prison. But, despite his wife’s heroic efforts, he was not a reformed man. His debts built up once more and he became entangled in a political conspiracy in Sweden. He was beheaded for treason in 1748. Elizabeth Blackwell faded from the historical record after this – we don’t know much about the rest of her life. But she will always be remembered for being a pioneer in botanical illustration and for her heroic efforts to help her (useless!) husband.

Guinea Pepper by Elizabeth BlackwellGuinea Pepper, Plate 129, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

This summer A Curious Herbal is being used to inspire current budding botanical illustrators taking part in the Entangled Sketchbook Challenge organised by Lancaster University.  The Challenge invites people to examine the natural world around them using a series of prompts to make daily notes, doodles and drawings to record details of what they find, including the date, time and weather.  The hashtag for sharing these drawings on social media is #EntangledSketchbooks.

Challenge participants can also ask for their favourite sketchbook pages to be considered for an online exhibition that will be part of the Entangled Festival, a week-long celebration of arts, environment and technologies, which is taking place online and outdoors in Morecambe Bay from 18- 26 September 2021.  To submit drawings for this, please email good quality photographs or scans to entangledfestival@gmail.com using ‘Exhibition submission’ in the email subject line.

Good luck to everyone taking part in the challenge.  We hope Elizabeth Blackwell’s wonderful illustrations provide delight and encouragement for you to draw some nearby plants, flowers and trees.

Maddy Smith, Curator Printed Heritage Collections, and Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom), Digital Curator 

 



19 August 2021

Soldiers’ References in the East India Company Military Department

A recent acquisition to the India Office Private Papers gives a glimpse into the daily work of administrators in the Military Department of the East India Company.  The acquisition is a small bundle of enquiries known as Soldiers’ References.  These enquiries, received from soldiers or their relatives, covered a wide range of subjects and would have been a substantial part of the Department’s daily business.

The India Office Records contains a much larger collection of these enquiries as part of the records of the Military Department, dating from 1860 to 1873.  The subjects of the enquiries include the whereabouts of soldiers; applications for medals, prize money, allowances, discharge papers, free passage for a family, and pensions; claims to a deceased soldier's estate; and miscellaneous statements and certificates in support of claims.  All enquiries prior to 1860 were sent for destruction in the mid-19th century, with only those thought to still be required for ongoing business surviving.  As sometimes happens in such cases, small survivals occasionally turn up, which is the case with this new acquisition. Here are a few examples of the enquiries it contains.

Letter from Dr Green applying for the position of Superintendent of the Calcutta Eye InfirmaryLetter from Dr Green applying for the position of Superintendent of the Calcutta Eye Infirmary Mss Eur F749 f.4 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

W Green, Civil Assistant Surgeon, Bengal, applied to the East India Company for the position of Superintendent of the Calcutta Eye Infirmary in a letter dated 7 January 1847.  Dr Green had heard that the position was about to become vacant due to the retirement of the then incumbent.  He noted that before leaving England for India in 1830 he had attended the practice of the Eye Infirmary at Moorfields, London.

Enquiry from Henry Dean about the effects of William DeanEnquiry from Henry Dean Mss Eur F749 f. 11 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Enquirers writing to the Department often received a reply asking them to fill in an application form.  This was the case with Henry Dean of Liverpool who enquired about the effects of the late William Dean, a Private in the Bombay Fusiliers who died in India on 10 September 1850.  Henry returned the reply with a handwritten note at the bottom stating that he would forward the form to his father Mr John Dean who would answer the questions on it.

Letter from John Foster enquiring about his Punjab medalLetter from John Foster Mss Eur F749 f. 16 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 On 2 August 1852, Corporal John Foster of the 2nd European Bengal Fusilier Regiment, wrote expressing his surprise that his medal had not been sent to him.  He had received his money from the Staff Officer of Pensioners at Waterford, and had expected his medal for service in the Punjab to be sent to him at the same time.

Application from John Munro enquiring about the estate of his late brother WilliamLetter from John Munro  Mss Eur F749 f. 21 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


An example of the standard application form which enquirers were asked to complete is that of John Munro, who in November 1852 enquired after the estate of his late brother William, a recruit in the Bombay Establishment.  The Munro family were from Auchterarder in Perthshire, Scotland.  Both parents were dead, and there were two surviving brothers: John still living in Perthshire, and James who was living in New York.  There was also a sister Janet, another sister Mary having died in March 1852.  Mary’s son William Inglis is recorded as living with his father, also in New York.  The form also lists a grandparent, and aunts and uncles still living in Auchterarder.  As was required by the East India Company, the form was signed by the Minister of the Parish, Robert Young.  The need for a parish minister or churchwarden to sign application forms was to discourage speculative applications from persons with no degree of relationship with the deceased from attempting to make fraudulent claims.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Soldiers' References: letters of enquiry addressed to the East India Company Military Department in London, May 1839-Feb 1853, BL shelfmark: Mss Eur F749. A full list of the contents can be found on the Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. 
Soldiers' References for the years 1860 to 1873 are in the India Office Records at IOR/L/MIL/5/362-375. Registers of correspondence for the years 1829 to 1873 are at IOR/Z/L/MIL/5/16-43.
Anthony Farrington, Guide to the records of the India Office Military Department (London 1982).

 

17 August 2021

Old Crop-Ear – JMW Turner’s horse

A few years ago, the owners of a house built on land in Twickenham, previously owned by JMW Turner, dug up some bones in their garden.  The police were called but the bones turned out to be of animal rather than human origin.  Could this be the final resting place of Turner’s horse?

In 1813, when Turner and his father William (‘Old Dad’) moved into Sandycombe Lodge, the house that Turner had designed and built in Twickenham, they brought with them their horse, Crop-Ear.  Turner bought a nearby small plot of land as grazing, and probably stabling, for the horse.  In Walter Thornbury’s early biography, Turner’s great friend Henry Scott Trimmer describes ‘an old crop-eared bay horse, or rather a cross between a horse and a pony’.  Turner and his father were often seen in the area riding in a gig pulled by Crop-Ear.  When Trimmer accompanied Turner on sketching expeditions, sometimes going as far as Runnymede, he says that they went ‘at a very steady pace, for Turner painted much faster than he drove’.

JMW Turner, Frosty Morning - figures of man and child standing near two horsesJMW Turner, Frosty Morning, 1813, Tate 00492 , digital image © Tate released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Turner used Crop-Ear as a model and he appears most memorably in Turner’s celebrated painting Frosty Morning.  In fact, both horses in the picture are probably modelled on him.  Some of Turner’s detractors said that he was unable to paint horses and paid another artist to do it for him, a claim which he vehemently denied.  Thornbury reports Henry Trimmer asking Turner if it was true that Gilpin had painted the horse in Hannibal Crossing the Alps.  Turner replied firmly that it was his own design and that no other painter had ever touched any picture of his.

Crop-Ear came to a tragic end in his stable, somehow managing to strangle himself in his reins. Turner was reported as being very upset by this sad accident. He and his father had to drag the body from the stable and bury it somewhere on his land.  No mean feat. And the mystery bones?  They turned out to be from a cow.

Car park  at St Margaret’s Tavern TwickenhamOld Crop-Ear’s final resting place? Car park at St Margaret’s Tavern Twickenham Photograph © David Meaden

Crop-Ear is most likely buried on the land that Turner bought as grazing.  When he sold Sandycombe Lodge in 1826, he kept the meadow, eventually selling it, at a handsome profit, to the Windsor, Staines & South Western Railway, which arrived in Twickenham in 1848.  The St Margaret’s Tavern now stands on the site and Crop-Ear, like a well-known English monarch, may well be buried under the car park.


David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner R.A. founded on letters and papers furnished by his friends and fellow Academicians, Volume 1 (London, 1862)

 

Turner's House

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open. Check the website for details.

 

11 August 2021

Household accounts for Charles and Charlotte Canning

Records which give us rich details about the minutiae of day-to-day life in the past can be hard to come by.  Household accounts are a seemingly mundane source but can give us an insight into what goods and services were available, who was supplying them, and how much items cost.  The papers of Charles and Charlotte Canning contain a file of bills or invoices with receipts for payments 1850-1851.  It provides a glimpse into the lives of these elite members of the Victorian aristocracy and how they ran their household.

Illustrated paper describing the goods offered by J. C. Cording, nautical and sporting waterproofer and tailor, 231 Strand

Goods offered by J. C. Cording, nautical and sporting waterproofer and tailor, 231 Strand - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

The Cannings lived at 10 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, from 1836 until 1855, when Charles was appointed Governor General of India.  The Cannings spent money on the fabric of the building.  William Allen, plumber, painter and glazier, billed them for £121 7s 0d for work carried out from January-October 1850, including repairs to burst pipes ‘injured by frost’.  His invoice was submitted in December 1850 and paid in August 1851.

The couple’s expenditure on clothing is shown.  In June 1851, Ashmead & Tyler, hatters by Royal Appointment, supplied a ‘Dress drab napless Hat with Velvet band & Ostrich Feather for HM Fancy Ball’, at a cost of £1 13s 0d, ‘drab’ being fine quality fur.  Clothes weren’t always bought new, but were made over, mended, and adjusted.  H.C. Curlewis of 58 Conduit Street provided alteration services such as adding new collars, in addition to supplying new waistcoats and silk-lined frock coats.  Their bill of £22 10s 0d for January-July 1850 was paid on 5 February 1851.

Invoice of William Bennett, goldsmith and jeweller, Southampton Street Bloomsbury, including a charge for repairing a cheese toaster Invoice of William Bennett, goldsmith and jeweller, Southampton Street Bloomsbury, including a charge for repairing a cheese toaster  - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

Recycling was common.  A bill from George & William Atkins, brush manufacturers, turners and wax chandlers of Mount Street, Berkeley Square, shows that the Cannings paid £2 13s 0d in 1850 to have several ivory and silver brushes refilled with hair.  There are additional bills for repairs to various household items, including a ‘cheese toaster’.

Bill for personal hygiene products from J & E Atkinson perfumers, 24 Old Bond Street

Bill for personal hygiene products from J & E Atkinson perfumers, 24 Old Bond Street- Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

There are bills for personal hygiene products.  Throughout 1850 the household made regular purchases from J & E Atkinson, perfumers of New Bond Street, for items such as quinine tooth powder, violet powder, Eau de Botot, rose mouthwash, Eau de Cologne, soap (both Pears and Castile) and sponges.   The total cost was £8 18s 8d.  Professional services were also paid for. ‘Medical attendance’ by Thomas Chilver of 14 New Burlington Street and Robert Cundy of Belgrave Square, cost £7 10s 6d.  The doctors visited the housekeeper Mrs Cunningham, the coachman, and the footman.

Bankruptcy papers for William Goodchild Shipley

Bankruptcy papers for  William Goodchild Shipley - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

Suppliers submitted invoices for goods and services supplied three, six or even twelve months earlier, a system which did not always end happily.  Bankruptcy proceedings against William Goodchild Shipley of 17 Market Row, Oxford Street, dated 21 December 1850 show the Cannings owed £51 11s 6d for forage for horses.

Items purchased include: candles (wax, India, margarine, sperm); horse stabling, tack, and feed; books; paper and envelopes; shaving powder; duelling pistols; carpets, curtains and household furnishings; cigars, tobacco and pipes; umbrellas; fishing boots; clothing (including for servants); wallpapering; picture framing; candelabras; coffee cups and saucers; silver inkstand; crystal glasses and tumblers; subscription to Hansard’s Parliamentary debates; gloves; newspapers; patent wine cooler; silvered globe; porcelain service; champagne, French truffles, dried cherries and dates; reading lamp; portfolio of nautical charts; railway guides; Turkish towels; hairdressing services; clock cleaning; and silk fringing.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Mss Eur F699 Papers of Charles Canning and Charlotte Canning, Earl and Countess Canning (including file Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9 Household Bills and Receipts, 1850-51)

 

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