THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

219 posts categorized "Domestic life"

04 December 2018

From Westmorland to India – William Lambert of the Bombay Army

Add comment

In our last post we met William Lambert, a young Cadet in the East India Company’s Bombay Army, soon after his arrival in India in 1780.  He wrote to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England giving his first impressions of his new home and joking that a cargo of ‘North Country Ladies’ would be very popular there.

UllswaterView of the lake of Ullswater, Northern England by Thomas Walmsley (1801) Online Gallery


William Lambert was baptised in the village of Bolton in Westmorland on 19 April 1759, the son of yeoman John Lambert and his wife Isabel née Longmire.  In 1778 William was nominated as an East India Company military cadet by director Benjamin Booth.  He sailed for Bombay in the Hawke in June 1779, not arriving there until 23 February 1780.  There were nine other Bombay Army cadets on board as well as a large number of troops and other East India Company personnel.  Jane Wittman and Elizabeth Priscilla Coggan gave birth during the voyage but sadly both they and their babies died and were buried at sea.

The letter to Jonathan showed how keen William was for promotion and a rise in pay.  He was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant on 11 January 1781, and then progressed to Captain in 1796, Major in 1800, and Lieutenant Colonel in 1803. 

Tannah - boatsNative boats at Tannah - William Johnson  (1855) Online Gallery

In the 1790s, William was stationed at Tannah (Thane), about 25 miles from Bombay.  He died there on 3 January 1806.  His will made on 2 February 1803 stated that his property was to be divided equally between his two ‘natural’ children born at Tannah: Harry on 4 May 1792 and Anna Maria on 23 September 1794.  Harry was to receive his watch and seals and a cornelian ring.  He named as his executors his eldest brother Thomas Lambert in England, and his friends Fletcher Hayes and William Kennedy in Bombay.

Lambert will IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert

Two months before he died, William wrote a memorandum of debts and credits: 'In case of Accidents which we are all liable too I put down these little matters to prevent trouble'.  He listed debts for cheese, coffee, oil, two pints of catsup (ketchup), a knife, and a plated coffee pot.  None of his servants deserved more than a full month’s wages except his ‘girl’ who was given 200 rupees, clothing, trinkets, furniture, lamps, kitchen equipment, and ‘other small trifles to her with Coffree Boy’ (a slave). This perhaps suggests that the ‘girl’, Bibee Shariffa, was the mother of Harry and Anna Maria. 

William's children returned to England after his death.  Both settled in London as adults so perhaps they were cared for by their uncle Thomas Lambert who was a timber merchant in Pimlico.  Harry and Anna Maria were each bequeathed £50 by their grandfather John Lambert when he died in 1829 at the age of 94.

Anna Maria married Parliamentary agent John Angus Walmisley at Margate in 1816.  They lived in London and had five sons and three daughters. Anna Maria died in 1849.

Harry married Tabitha Hatchett at St George Blomsbury in 1817 and they had three children.  Harry’s occupation is variously recorded as gentleman, jeweller, and surgeon dentist.  He also died in 1849.  Harry’s son Alfred Augustus was married in 1861 to Josephine Lambert, the granddaughter of Thomas the timber merchant.


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917 Letter from William Lambert, Bombay Army Cadet, to Jonathan Oldman in Cumberland, 30 April 1780
IOR/L/MIL/9/255 East India Company register of military cadets
IOR/L/MAR/B/390H Journal of the ship Hawke
IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert – available online via findmypast
IOR/L/AG/34/27/389 p.8 Inventory of goods of William Lambert  deceased – available online via findmypast

Cadet William Lambert writes from Bombay

 

 

22 November 2018

Boy Soldiers

Add comment

The Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army published in 1903 laid out the criteria under which boys aged between fourteen and seventeen years could be recruited and the roles they were permitted to take on.  Any boy enlisting in this way had to produce a certificate of good character, his birth or baptism certificate, proof of his elementary school education to at least Standard V, and have the written consent of his parents.

Soldier of the King'A Soldier of the King', courtesy of TuckDB Postcards

For boys being enlisted to Infantry Battalions, they could serve as trumpeters, buglers or musicians and each Infantry Battalion could have up to eight boys on their roll.
 
One such boy was George Joseph Wilson Baker, the eldest son and the sixth of twelve children of George Joseph Baker, a wood engraver, and his wife Henrietta Alexandra, née Howard, a music hall entertainer.  George was born on 21 July 1891 on the Isle of Sheppey, but spent most of his childhood in Colchester, Essex.

His parents had suffered great tragedy shortly before his birth when in May 1891 their daughters Nettie, Lillie, Ada, Bessie, and Nellie, all aged five and under, died of a combination of measles, whooping cough and bronchitis.

George’s parents had two more daughters together before they appear to have separated in about 1896.  George continued to live with his mother Henrietta who had four more children with another man, Joseph Lewis, although she remained married to George’s father until his death in 1936.

George enlisted in the British Army at Tidworth on 21 March 1906 and was attested as a boy in the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry, he was fourteen years and eight months old at the time.  He remained in England until 5 December 1906 when he was posted to India, arriving there on 27 December.  The Battalion remained in India until 5 December 1908 when they went to Burma.  It was in Burma in June 1909 that George turned eighteen and having attained that age was given the rank of private.  The Battalion left Burma on 25 September 1910 and returned to India where they remained until George paid £25 for his own discharge on 30 September 1913.  During his time in the Battalion George served as a bandsman and later an unpaid lance-corporal.

It does not appear that George ever returned to England but chose to remain in India.  In 1915 he was an inspector for the Bombay Port Trust Docks when he married Margaret Paterson.  George and Margaret do not appear to have had any children and George died of pneumonia on 5 October 1918, most likely a victim of the flu pandemic sweeping Bombay.  By the time of his death he was assistant manager for the Bombay Port Trust Dock, a long way from his enlistment in the British Army in 1906 as a boy soldier.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office marriage entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker and Margaret Paterson. IOR/N/3/114, f.260
India Office death and burial entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker. IOR/N/3/120, p. 314
Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army, Militia, and Imperial Yeomanry. 1903. 8829.b.57
British Army Service Record for George Joseph Wilson Baker. The National Archives WO 97, Box 4293, No.76

 

20 November 2018

A case for the Society for the Protection of Women and Children

Add comment

On 29 August 1864 Henry Wilkinson was brought before the magistrate at Clerkenwell Police Court charged with the wilful murder of his wife Eliza who had died the previous night.  Henry was a stonemason’s labourer aged 29 and he lodged with 28-year-old Eliza and their three children at 9 Cross Street in the Hatton Garden area of London.  Relations between the married couple were not always happy because of Henry’s jealousy and heavy drinking.

  Quarrel - temperanceFrom T. S. Arthur Temperance Tales vol. 1 (1848)

The Wilkinsons had visitors on Sunday 28 August, going to the station in the evening to see them off on a train.  One of the friends kissed Eliza.  Henry flew into a rage, and he cursed and threatened his wife before striking her very hard.  At 10pm Eliza arrived at home and spoke to Sarah Collier who lodged in the same house.  Eliza was afraid her husband would beat her, so she was sent to sleep in the same bed as Mrs Collier’s aunt.   At midnight Henry came home drunk.  He went looking for Eliza, pulled her out of bed, and punched and kicked her as she lay on the floor.  She began to vomit blood, saying ‘Oh mistress, he has given me my death blow!’  Henry immediately began to help his wife, carrying her to her own bed, giving her brandy, and going to fetch a doctor.  But poor Eliza died about an hour later.

Sarah Collier testified that she had seen Henry ill-treating his wife before this, adding that he was very kind to Eliza when sober and also treated his children well.  The case was then remanded to allow a post mortem to take place.  Bail was refused.

An inquest into Eliza's death opened on 2 September 1864 at the Three Tuns Tavern in Cross Street.  Henry was brought up in custody under a warrant from the Home Secretary.  Large crowds, mostly women, gathered in the street, and the windows of neighbouring houses were thronged with spectators.   The Marquis of Townshend, chairman of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, sat at the coroner’s side.  Several witnesses were questioned and Dr Thomas Clark who had conducted the post mortem examination gave the cause of death as a ruptured diseased spleen.  Clark said that the condition of Eliza’s spleen might have been aggravated by ill-treatment by Henry, but the slightest blow would have caused death.

  Clerkenwell News - Society for Protection of WomenClerkenwell News 3 September 1864 British Newspaper Archive

In summing up, the coroner said the case showed the importance of the work of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children.  Whenever a man ill-used his family, the women and children should apply to the Society and steps would be taken to prevent such calamities.

The inquest jury decided that Henry did not intend to kill his wife and therefore their verdict was manslaughter.  However, after hearing the evidence, the magistrate at Clerkenwell decided Henry should be tried for wilful murder rather than manslaughter.  At Henry’s trial at the Old Bailey on 19 September 1864, he 'received a most excellent character, amongst others, from the father, brother, and sister of the deceased'.  He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to twelve months in prison.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Clerkenwell News 3 & 5 September 1864; Holborn Journal 10 September 1864.

 

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]