Untold lives blog

215 posts categorized "Health"

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.

 

09 August 2022

Sanitary technology at East India House and the India Office

In a previous post, we looked at issues of sanitation at the Fort William Garrison in Bengal, which included a description and plan for new urinals.  This is not the only reference to urinals in the India Office Records and Private Papers.  The East India Company was also concerned with improvements in sanitation closer to home.  In 1851, the Company headquarters was East India House in Leadenhall Street in the City of London, a building that had been remodelled and extended at the end of the 18th century.  By 1851, in light of new sanitary technology, improvements were required.  A report from the Clerk of Works recommended that the urinals near the General Court Room be upgraded.  They needed to be enlarged and fitted 'with enamelled slate Partitions, with the doors acting to throw a jet of water each time it is used'.  The Clerk had done his research, having viewed the urinals at the House of Lords and at the City of London Club House, but in his opinion by far the best design was those in use at the South Eastern Railway Station (London Bridge) and these he proposed be replicated at East India House.  The bill for the works, presented at a Finance and Home Committee Meeting on 18 February 1852, was for £64 16s.

Plan A - diagram for fitting up urinalsPlan A included in IOR/L/SUR/6/6, ff.259-265: Account submitted for fitting up 2 sets of urinals 25 April 1884 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In 1858 the India Office took over from the East India Company, and the newly formed Government department moved in 1867 into a purpose built building in Whitehall designed by George Gilbert Scott.  By 1883, plans were put forward to improve the sanitary fittings, and approval was sought for initial works to be carried out on urinals in both the basement and on the second floor, as an ‘experiment’.  It was agreed that the basement was problematic, being the area 'where there is the most difficulty in securing careful usage', and as such required urinals proposed in Plan A, with a continuous water flow.  For the second floor urinals, where 'sufficient care and cleanliness in the use of the urinals can be depended on', plan B was to be used which employed an overflow system into a slate channel.  Again, the Clerk of the Works had done his homework, and Plan B was based on a similar system employed at the Bank of England.  The refurbishment was considered 'a great improvement as to cleanliness, and that [the urinals]… can more easily be kept in order and in good repair', and as such funds were authorised for works to be extended throughout the building.  In 1885, the total costs of the project were reported as £473 5s 9d compared to the original estimate of £450.

Plan B - diagram for fitting up urinalsPlan B included in IOR/L/SUR/6/6, ff.259-265: Account submitted for fitting up 2 sets of urinals 25 April 1884 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

It is interesting to note that the sanitation works at the India Office included improvements in water re-use.  Waste water from the hydraulic lift system was stored in a cistern and was used for flushing both WCs and urinals.  But when the lifts were used frequently, the cistern achieved capacity and the excess water literally went down the drain at Charles Street.  Changes to the pipes and plumbing were put in place to move more of the waste water around the building and so use more of it for flushing.

On a final note, for anyone interested in researching sanitation and sanitary conditions in our records, it is always useful to search using a variety of contemporary terms.  Think ‘lavatories’ and ‘privies’ as well as ‘urinals’.  You never know what you might find.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/L/SUR/1/1, ff.117-118: Finance & Home Committee 16 April 1851. Alterations to Urinals.
IOR/L/SUR/1/1, f.157: Finance & Home Committee 18 February 1852: New urinals.
IOR/L/SUR/6/6, ff.259-265: Account submitted for fitting up 2 sets of Urinals for the India Office and recommendations for fitting up others, 25 April 1884, includes plan A and plan B.
IOR/L/SUR/6/7, ff.5-6: Accounts submitted for fitting up urinals and altering supply pipes to Lavatory basins in the India Office 16 March 1885.

 

14 July 2022

Sanitation at the Fort William Garrison

The Garrison at Fort William was not a particularly healthy place in 1860.  The proportion of its inhabitants sick in hospital was the highest for any station in Bengal, save for Dum Dum.  ‘Offensive smells’ were rife, and living quarters below rampart level were particularly noxious in the hot and rainy seasons due to poor air circulation.  A Sanitation Committee, which included the Deputy Inspector General of the Hospital, the Garrison Surgeon, and the Garrison Surveyor, had been looking at the issues for a number of years.  Fort William suffered from a number of structural problems due in part to an insufficient fall in elevation for drainage.  The privies leaked, the drains mainly opened into the ‘cunette’ or wet ditch, which had a propensity to silt up (but not with silt), and the Fort’s water supply was insufficient. 

View of the interior of Fort William Calcutta looking east across the courtyard towards Chowringhee Gate and Chowringhee Road View of the interior of Fort William Calcutta looking east across the courtyard towards Chowringhee Gate and Chowringhee Road by William Wood, William (1828) Shelfmark: WD3755 British Library Online Gallery Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Committee also viewed the behaviour of the men themselves as a problem – there were too many ways in which alcohol could be brought into the Fort, and too many ways in which the men could sneak out to the local grog shops at Hastings and Kidderpore Bridges.  The Medical Officers were of the opinion ‘… that almost every fatal case of cholera has been immediately traced to intemperance…’.

Dalhousie Barracks & Fort William in CalcuttaPhotograph of Dalhousie Barracks & Fort William, c 1859. Photo 147/1(49) part 1 Images Online

Number one on the suggested list of improvements were the privies.  A new standard plan for privies was to be introduced in the various barracks, the hospital, and places in the Garrison such as the arsenal.  In addition,  a new type of urinal was to be installed; unfortunately, a fully enamelled version could not be sourced in India, and would have to requisitioned from England.  In the meantime, a patented portable urinal could be purchased from Mr Lazarus of Cossitollah.  ‘The upper circular receiving basin is enamelled ware and empties into a strong iron Cylinder below.  Rings at the sides enable the whole to be carried away by means of a pole passing through them.  The main objection to this urinal is that the lower Cylinder – not being enamelled, rapidly corrodes.  It is however well adapted to meet the present requirements, and accordingly 100 are now being supplied for the use of the Barrack floors. Privies etc. in the Fort’.

Plan of patented urinalsPlan of patented urinals - Mss Eur F699/1/3/2/30, item 473 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Additionally, gutter-shaped glazed tiles from Doulton and Co. of London were to be installed in the privies and urinals ‘generally wherever the offensive matter is likely to come into contact with the ground’ as they were ‘guaranteed to stand the action of the most powerful acids’.  The Committee were also keen to increase the supply of disinfectants, suggesting liberal use of both charcoal and chloride of lime.

As for excessive drinking of liquor within and without the Garrison, a carrot and stick approach was taken.  There was to be greater enforcement of the Regulations of 1850, which limited each man to two drams of spirits per day, and the number of regimental canteens supplying alcohol was to be reduced.  Gate searches were to be increased.  To prevent soldiers sneaking out, more sentries were to be posted and repairs made to the ramparts to prevent climbing; in addition glass was to be set in mortar ‘at the top of the escarp’.  There was to be investment in ‘works connected with the amusement and instruction of the soldiers in the Garrison’.  These included the provision of skittle alleys, a gymnasium, a theatre, and a Garrison library.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Mss Eur F699/1/3/2/30, item 460: Proceedings of a Committee Held at Fort William by order of His Excellency Hugh Rose, G.C.B. Commander in Chief, to report on the Sanitary Condition of the Hospital and of the Fort. 13 Jun 1860.
Mss Eur F699/1/3/2/30, item 461: Statement of the work accomplished or under orders of the Fort William Special Committee, 2 Jun 1860. Prepared by Major R H Sankey, Officiating Garrison Engineer
Mss Eur F699/1/3/2/30, item 473: Letter by Major R H Sankey, Garrison Engineer, to Brigadier M Smith, Commanding Fort William, 16 Jul 1860
IOR/E/4/852, p.957: Despatches to India and Bengal, Jun-Jul 1858. Opinion of authorities as to the necessity of privies.
Army Medical Department. Statistical, Sanitary and Medical Reports for the year 1862 (London: Harrison & Sons, 1864) 

 

05 July 2022

Ibrāhīm al-Najjār al-Dayrānī: Doctor of Lebanon

In late 1837, an eager fifteen-year-old named Ibrāhīm ibn Khalīl ibn Yūsuf al-Najjār al-Dayrānī travelled from his home in a mountainside town outside Beirut in order to study medicine in Cairo.Principal square in Grand Cairo  with Murad Bey's palace'Principal square in Grand Cairo, with Murad Bey's palace' by Luigi Mayer, from Thomas Milton, Views in Egypt, Palestine, and other parts of the Ottoman Empire (London,1840) British Library shelfmark 762.h.2.(1), Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

His journey took place against the backdrop of rapid modernisation in the Middle East, with local rulers increasingly bringing in technical, military, administrative and scientific practices and expertise from Europe.  In medicine, Muhammad Ali Pasha (1769-1849), the Ottoman governor of Egypt, imported from 1825 European doctors, particularly French, to administer to the health of Muhammad Ali’s growing army, develop medical institutions along Western lines, and train locals in Western medicine.

Dr Antoine Bertélémy Clot (1793-1868) or ‘Clot Bey’, as he was nicknamed, accompanied Muhammad Ali’s occupation of Greater Syria (1832-40).  Clot Bey was instrumental in the selection of Ibrāhīm as one of the five first Lebanese students to embark on a Western medical education at the school in Cairo that he had founded in 1827.

Ibrāhīm was a product of European expansionism in the Middle East: his grandfather was reportedly a Corsican carpenter who had arrived in the Levant with Napoleon’s invading forces in 1799.  Unusually, we know about his personal experiences thanks to his memoir Miṣbāḥ al-Sārī wa-Nuzhat al-Qārīʾ (Lamp for the Traveller and Diversion for the Reader), which he self-published 20 years later.

Title page  Miṣbāḥ al-Sārī wa-Nuzhat al-Qārīʾ  printed Beirut  1272 hijrī (1855-56)Title page, Miṣbāḥ al-Sārī wa-Nuzhat al-Qārīʾ, printed Beirut, 1272 hijrī (1855-56) 

Without detailing his education, Ibrāhīm mentions his yearning for medical knowledge from a young age, which could not be satisfied locally.  Clearly, the extraordinary wealth of medical, pharmaceutical, and surgical learning previously compiled by Arabic-speaking physicians was not what he had in mind.

The memoir discusses Ibrāhīm’s arrival in Cairo, the medical school at Qasr al-ʿAynī, and the content of the four-year medical course.  Beginning with chemistry, general anatomy, and pharmacology, the 500 students – mostly from rural Egypt and destined for careers with the army – progressed to minor surgery, botany, pathology, pharmacology, major surgery and specialist anatomy.  Students accompanied their teachers on hospital ward rounds and observed autopsies, which Ibrāhīm confesses that he loathed.  This emphasis on human dissection was one major difference between a traditional Arabic medical training and the education Ibrahim was receiving; to alleviate Muslim concerns, the school claimed that the cadavers used were those of Jews and Christians.

A view of Constantinople'Panorama of Constantinople' from A Series of Eight Views, forming a Panorama of the City of Constantinople and its Environs, taken from the Town of Galata (1813) British Library shelfmark Maps K.Top.113.75.f  Images Online Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

After graduating in 1842, Ibrāhīm travelled to Constantinople (Istanbul).  Having cured – he claims – a patient whom his host’s personal physician could not, he was introduced to the chief doctor of Istanbul and enrolled at the Royal Medical School.  For four years, he attended lectures, saw patients, and learnt Turkish and French in order to access modern textbooks.  This culminated in a gruelling public examination presided over by the young Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecit I (r. 1839-61).

Portrait of Sultan Abdülmecit I by David WilkiePortrait of Sultan Abdülmecit I by David Wilkie (1785-1841), 1840. Image courtesy of Royal Collection Trust

After qualifying fully aged 22, Ibrāhīm spent three years travelling in Europe, before returning to Lebanon as chief medical officer at the Ottoman army barracks in Beirut.  Straddling the manuscript and print eras in the Levant, Ibrāhīm authored books, including one manuscript recently made available on the Qatar Digital Library (British Library Or. 12152).  This pharmaceutical inventory, apparently in his hand, expresses an intellectual position encompassing both traditional Arabic pharmacological and botanical knowledge, and use of Latin- and Greek-derived terminology and chemical compounds discovered by Western physicians.

Page from Kitāb anīs al-jalīs fī kull ḥadīth nafīs  by  Ibrāhīm ibn Khalīl al-Najjār  ca 1845-64Page from Kitāb anīs al-jalīs fī kull ḥadīth nafīs, by Ibrāhīm ibn Khalīl al-Najjār, ca 1845-64 (f. 8v)

Title page from Kitāb anīs al-jalīs fī kull ḥadīth nafīs  by Ibrāhīm ibn Khalīl al-Najjār  ca 1845-64Title page from Kitāb anīs al-jalīs fī kull ḥadīth nafīs, by Ibrāhīm ibn Khalīl al-Najjār, ca 1845-64 (f. 1r). The author is described as ‘One of the doctors of the Royal [Medical] School in Asitane [Istanbul], and the foremost doctor to the Sultanic [Ottoman] armies in Beirut’.

Embodying the modernising efforts of 19th-century Ottoman rule, Ibrāhīm al-Dayrani was one of the first doctors to be trained in the Western medical methods and concepts that have become universal.  He died in 1864, aged just 42.

Jenny Norton-Wright
Arabic Scientific Manuscripts Curator, British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership

 

23 June 2022

Dr Sarah Hosmon and the Missionary Hospital in Sharjah

Kentucky born Sarah Hosmon devoted nearly her entire adult life to missionary and medical work in Arabia.  In 1909 Dr Hosmon arrived in Bahrain, and in 1913, under the auspices of the Dutch Reformed Church of America’s Arabian Mission, she opened a clinic for women and children in Muscat.  For the next 28 years she treated, medicated and evangelized under often arduous conditions, unperturbed by having a wooden leg as the result of a childhood accident.

Photograph of Dr Sarah HosmonSarah Longworth Hosmon (1883-1964) who graduated from the University of Illinois College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1909. Source of image: How superpower rivalry and fears of a pandemic brought the first doctor to the UAE in 1939 | The National (thenationalnews.com)

Dr Hosmon was accepted by the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1939, and by 1941 she had set up a clinic at the Omani seaport of Saham. The clinic was extremely isolated, with medical supplies often having to be dropped by air plane.

In January 1944 Hosmon approached the British authorities , who virtually controlled the region, for permission to set up a medical practice in Kalba, then an independent emirate on the Gulf of Oman coast.

Extract from letter of Sarah Hosmon writing on 7 January 1944  to Captain Patrick  Tandy stating that she intended to accept the offer to set up a medical practice in KalbaSarah Hosmon writing on 7 January 1944 from Kalba to Captain Patrick Tandy, Political Officer for the Trucial Coast, stating that she intended to accept the offer to set up a medical practice in Kalba and to move there after April, subject to Tandy’s permission: IOR/R/15/2/853, f 88r.  'File 36/1 (1 A/7) American Mission in Bahrain' [‎88r] (175/262) | Qatar Digital Library (qdl.qa)


The British inquired into Hosman’s credentials and received a glowing testimonial from Dr Paul Harrison of the American Mission Hospital, Bahrain.

Testimonial for Sarah Hosmon from Dr Paul Harrison of the American Mission Hospital  Bahrain.Letter from Dr Paul W. Harrison (1883-1962) to Major Tom Hickenbotham, Political Agent in Bahrain, January 1944, describing Hosmon’s medical abilities, character, religious opinions and relationship with Arab rulers she had worked under.  'File 36/1 (1 A/7) American Mission in Bahrain' [‎90r] (179/262) | Qatar Digital Library (qdl.qa)

Following confirmation that the Regent of Kalba [Shaikh Khālid Bin Aḥmad al-Qāsimi] was happy for Hosmon to move her practice there, the British authorities decided they had no objection once the War had ended and if Hosmon guaranteed that her co-workers would ‘not become destitute and a charge upon the Government of India’s revenues’.

Letter from Major Tom Hickenbotham to Major Patrick Tandy 26 March 1944Letter from Major Tom Hickenbotham, Political Agent Bahrain, to Major Patrick Tandy, Political Officer, Trucial Coast, 26 March 1944.  'File 36/1 (1 A/7) American Mission in Bahrain' [‎96r] (191/262) | Qatar Digital Library (qdl.qa)

In fact Hosmon remained in Saham for another six years.  The British authorities did not like the ‘nebulous’ nature of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions and were reluctant to have too many American missionaries in the Gulf, whose backgrounds they could not check and whose movements they could not control.  Privately, they disliked Hosmon’s strong-headedness and considered she had used ‘underhand’ methods to obtain travel permits for herself and an American nurse.

Memorandum  dated 16 December 1945  by Geoffrey Prior  Political Resident in the Persian Gulf  setting forth British hostility towards HosmonMemorandum, dated 16 December 1945, by Geoffrey Prior, Political Resident in the Persian Gulf, setting forth British hostility towards Hosmon - 'File 6/1 Foreign Interests: American Mission at Muscat' [‎5r] (9/52) | Qatar Digital Library (qdl.qa)

British obstructionism was not the sole cause of delay.  The terms offered by the ruling authorities in Kalba appear to have been unacceptable to Hosmon, and she wanted to be able to share freely the Gospel with her patients.

Intelligence Summary of the Political Agency in Bahrain  February 1945  indicating that the terms offered by the ruling authorities in Kalba may not have been acceptable to HosmonIntelligence Summary of the Political Agency in Bahrain, February 1945, indicating that the terms offered by the ruling authorities in Kalba may not have been acceptable to Hosmon - Ext 1488/44 'Dr Hosmon: American Medical Missionary' [‎5r] (9/28) | Qatar Digital Library (qdl.qa)

Hosmon finally made the move in 1951, by which time Kalba had been reincorporated as an enclave of the Sheikhdom of Sharjah.  The clinic opened in 1952 and became known as the Dr Sarah Hosmon Hospital (closing in 1994).  The hospital was the only one in Sharjah, primarily for women and children but later also expanded to men, and its services were in heavy demand and frequently over-stretched.  Evangelism was an integral feature of treatment, with Bible readings for patients.

Map indicating the position of Kalba on the so-called Trucial Coast  1935.Map indicating the position of Kalba on the so-called Trucial Coast, 1935

Journalist John Sack described an encounter with Hosmon in the late 1950s, perhaps revealing the physical toll her work had taken: ‘I was met by Dr Sarah L Hosmon, the director, a slight woman of seventy or eighty whose face is taut, severe, and American Gothic, and who, after inviting me in for tea in her living room, said that she’s been on the Arabian peninsula since 1911, in Sharja since 1952….’.

Hosmon worked tirelessly in Sharjah until a few years before her death in 1964, bringing medical relief, saving lives, and contributing to the introduction of new medicines and empirical techniques to Arabia.  Towards the end, her time was spent advising nursing staff and midwives and preaching the Word of God to patients.

Amanda Engineer
Content Specialist, Archivist
British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further Reading:
Saving Sinners, even Moslems: the Arabian mission 1889-1973 and its intellectual roots by Jerzy Zdanowski (2018)
Global View of Christian Missions from Pentecost to the present by J Herbert Kane (1971)
The Sultanate of Oman: A Twentieth Century History by Miriam Joyce (1995)
The Arabian Peninsula by Richard H Sanger (1954)
One Way The Only Way, A Christian Library website, blogpost on Sarah Longworth Hosmon by Tyson Paul
‘Missionary-Statesmen of the Bible Presbyterian Church’ by Keith Coleman, Western Reformed Seminary Journal 11/1 (Feb 2004) 15-19
Report from PRACTICALLY NOWHERE by John Sack (1959)

14 June 2022

Mary Day: Pardoning of a Poisoner

In April 1777 Mary Day was indicted, arraigned and convicted of petty treason and murder at Madras.  She was found guilty of administering a poisoned drink to her husband Thomas Day, a sergeant with the East India Company, who had subsequently become ill and died.  Two accomplices - John Pybus, a cooper in the Company’s employ and Sheik Mucktoom - were also found guilty of murder as they were said to have both procured the poison or caused it to be procured.  This was a capital crime, and all three were sentenced to death by hanging.  For Mary Day, worse could have befallen her – the sentence on the statute book for a woman convicted of killing her husband was to be burned at the stake.

Government House Madras 1795Government House, Fort St George, Madras by Thomas Daniell, 1795 (shelfmark P944) - Plate nine from the second set of Thomas and William Daniell's Oriental Scenery.

However, records show that the Justices weren’t convinced of the trio’s guilt.  The execution was postponed while the Madras Government wrote to the Directors of the East India Company giving the facts in the case, in the hope that they would petition the King for a pardon.  The copy of the petition to His Majesty is full of the details.  It wasn’t clear that Thomas Day had actually been poisoned at all.  The surgeon who attended him during his illness stated that Day's symptoms could have been caused by ‘acrid bile’.  He also tasted a white powder which had been given to the deceased but could not be certain that it was ‘mineral poison'.  The main evidence against Mary Day was apparently her own confession, obtained 'under an implied promise that if she confessed she should be most favourably dealt with'.  Sheik Mucktoom (sometimes given as Muktoon) was convicted after having allegedly confessed to an unnamed person that he had procured the poison - a confession which he vehemently denied in Court.  There was even less evidence again John Pybus: it was said that there was 'no legal Evidence given upon the said Tryal to charge him'.

Extract from the minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors, 16 September 1778 approving the draft of a petition to the King about the three found guilty of murder.Extract from the minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors, 16 September 1778 IOR/B/94 p.227 

The wheels of justice certainly moved slowly for the convicted.  A letter was not sent to the Directors until 5 February 1778, the delay no doubt influenced by the various political and administrative machinations in Madras in 1776-77, which included the Governor Lord Pigot being deposed and his successor and colleagues accused of murder.  The letter urged haste, as 'the unhappy Convicts… have already been several Months lingering in Confinement'.  It took six months for the letter to arrive in London; it was finally received on 6 August 1778.   The East India Company Court of Directors approved a draft of a petition on 16 September 1778, which was sent to the King on 23 September 1778.  Finally, a free pardon was approved at the Court of St James’s on 24 October 1778.  Almost two years after being found guilty by a jury in Madras, the pardon was finally dispatched from London on 18 February 1779.  It can only be assumed that during that time Mary Day, John Pybus and Sheik Mucktoom remained in prison.

And there the story ends. I have not yet been able to trace any further reference to the three convicted ‘poisoners’ in the records.  Perhaps evidence will emerge that proves that they were freed and went on to live long and happy lives.  If anyone knows more, we would love you to get in touch.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading
IOR/E/4/308, f.7: Letters Received from Madras. 7 December 1777-21 January 1780: Letter to Court of Directors, 5 February 1778, requesting pardon.
IOR/B/94, p.227: Court Minutes. 8 April 1778-14 April 1779: Minutes of 16 September 1778. 'The Draught of a Petition to his Majesty for the Pardon of Mary Day, John Pybus and Shief Mucktoom who were capitally convicted at Fort St George in April 1777 was read and approved'.
IOR/H/141, ff.407-409: East Indies Series 49 (Home papers): Copy of the Company’s petition to the King, 23 September 1778.
India Office Private Papers Mack Gen 67/13, pp.267-268: Book of Abstract Letters from England No. 2 Public Department: 'The King’s free pardon to Mary Day, widow of Sergeant Thomas Day, John Pybus and Sheikh Muktoon, a native of India, from the sentence of death passed on them for poisoning Thomas Day'. Court of St James’s, 24 October 1778.
IOR/E/4/868, p.348: Despatches to Madras (Original Drafts). 1778-1779: Letter from Court of Directors to Madras dated 18 February 1779, answering letter of 5 February 1778 above and enclosing pardon.

10 May 2022

Grants of money made by the East India Company

In 1831 the East India Company was directed by its General Court of Proprietors to prepare a statement of expenditure since 1813 on grants of money and pensions.  This was to include grants over £200, pensions of £100 per annum and above, and all superannuation and retirement allowances, except those paid to civil and military personnel under Company regulations.  Names of recipients, amounts, and reasons were set down, and the list was printed for the information of the Company’s shareholders.

Title page of Grants of Money  Pensions  Superannuations  and Retiring Allowances made by the East India CompanyTitle page of Grants of Money Pensions Superannuations and Retiring Allowances made by the East India Company IOR/L/AG/9/8/2 no. 379  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A wide range of European men and women received money for many different reasons, relating to activities both in Asia and in the UK.  Famous names appear.  Captain George Everest received £600 in 1830 for ‘the superior nature of his duties’ when employed on the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India.  Thomas Stamford Raffles was paid £315 in 1816 for expenses involved in publishing his History of Java.  Major General Henry Shrapnel was awarded a pension of £200 per annum in 1828 as a consideration for any future supplies to the Company of shells of his invention.

Clarke AbelClarke Abel. Lithograph by M. Gauci after P. W. Wilkin. Image courtesy of Wellcome Collection 363i.


At the top of the list of grants are two payments to surgeon and naturalist Dr Clarke Abel.  The first for £434 was made in 1818 as the value of the apparatus Abel lost in the wreck of the Alceste when returning from China with the Amherst embassy.  The second grant in 1823 for £500 was to provide equipment required for Abel’s research as a naturalist going to India with Lord Amherst.

First page of grants of money in the statementFirst page of grants of money in the statement  OR/L/AG/9/8/2 no. 379  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Further down the page are two more surgeons.  Dr Whitelaw Ainslie received £600 in 1816 for ‘the merit and utility’ of his book Materia Medica of Hindostan.  James Annesley of the Madras medical establishment was given £500 for ‘the talents, energy and zeal displayed by him, in the publication of an elaborate work on the diseases of India’.

The Abbé Dubois, a Roman Catholic missionary, received a pension of £100 per annum from 1824 for vaccinating patients in India and for his ‘high character’.

Captain Thomas Mackeson, formerly a commander in the Company’s mercantile marine, was awarded a pension of £200 per annum in 1814 for his services and a wound received from a Spaniard on board his ship.  According to the Madras Courier, Mackeson was visiting the sick on his ship the Sarah Christiana towards the end of 1809 when he was hit on the back of the head with a hatchet by a crew member.  A court martial was held in Madras in March 1810 and the man was sentenced to death.

In 1815 Lieutenant Colonel George Hanbury Pine was granted £600 for his long detention in France as a prisoner of war.

Widow Mary Ann Sawyer was granted a pension of £100 per annum in 1824 in recognition of her late husband’s service in sorting the Company’s cinnamon which ‘materially contributed to its advantageous sale’.

Royal Navy captains were given money for convoying Company ships.  Many entries concern distressed widows and children of Company men.  There are a number of pensions awarded to civil and military servants for ‘insanity’.  London employees were rewarded for long service when they retired: auditor William Wright was allocated a pension of £1800 per annum in 1825 after 54 years with the Company.

This is just a small selection from a 41-page document providing fascinating glimpses into lives which were intertwined with the East India Company.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/AG/9/8/2 no. 379 Grants of Money, Pensions, Superannuations, and Retiring Allowances made by the East India Company (Printed in London 1831).
British Newspaper Archive: Madras Courier 20 December 1809 and 27 March 1810.

28 April 2022

The Soldiers’ Daughters’ Home

In December 1880 thirteen-year-old Ada Rose Mills was removed from the Soldiers' Daughters' Home at Hampstead because she had started to suffer from frequent epileptic fits.  Girls applying for a place at the Home underwent a medical examination and only those judged to be in good physical and mental health were accepted.  If, after admission, a girl was found be afflicted with ‘a malignant, infectious, or incurable disorder’, ‘any bodily or mental defect’, or subject to fits, she was returned immediately to those who recommended or placed her in the Home.  Poor Ada Rose was sent to her widowed mother in Ireland.

Soldiers' Daughters' Home at Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead in 1858Soldiers' Daughters' Home at Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead Illustrated London News 19 June 1858 . Image copyright Illustrated London News Group - British Newspaper Archive

The Soldiers' Daughters' Home at Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead was founded in 1855.  Its object was ‘to nurse, clothe, board, and educate the destitute female children, orphans or not, of Soldiers in Her Majesty’s Army, born during the service, or subsequent to the honourable discharge, of the father’.  The Home aimed to instruct the girls in ‘industrial habits’ fitting them for domestic service.  Scholarships were granted to the ‘most industrious’ to support them whilst training as regimental or parish schoolmistresses.

There were two classes of admission: by election with places supported by the Foundation, and by payment of fees.  This was the order of preference for admission when destitution was proved:
• Total orphans
• Motherless daughters of soldiers
• Fatherless daughters of soldiers
• Girls whose parents were still alive, with the father on active or foreign service.
Two sisters could not attend at the same time unless there were exceptional circumstances.

Girls were taken in from under three years of age up to thirteen, and they could not remain after they reached sixteen.  The Home’s Committee tried to find a suitable situation for each girl, and presented her with an outfit including a Bible and prayer book.  Ex-pupils were considered to be under partial guardianship whilst they remained unmarried and they could return to live at the Home temporarily if seeking a job.

Ada Rose Mills entered the Soldiers' Daughters' Home on 14 June 1877 as a scholar paid for by the Secretary of State for India.  She was born in Bangalore on 21 June 1867, the daughter of Sergeant William Mills of the Madras Sappers and Miners and his wife Annie née Hopkins.  Five siblings were also born in India.

William Mills died of a brain tumour at Secunderabad on 5 September 1873.  His widow Annie was living in Dublin when her son Archibald George enlisted in the Royal Engineers in July 1879 aged fourteen.  He had previously attended the Royal Military Asylum Chelsea for nearly three years as an apprentice.  Annie later moved to Gosport in Hampshire.

The India Office gave Annie Mills payments amounting to £32 0s 6d to support her daughter after she left the Soldiers' Daughters' Home.  Sadly Ada Rose died on 16 February 1885 aged seventeen and her mother was paid £4 for her funeral expenses.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Records IOR/L/MIL/7/15824-15836 Soldiers' Daughters' Home 1869-1902, includes IOR/L/MIL/7/15833 Admission of Ada Rose Mills in place of Emily Godden and Isabella Hamilton, 1876-1877;  IOR/L/MIL/7/15834 Death of Ada Rose Mills, an inmate of the Soldiers' Daughters' Home, 1881-1889 – the file includes a copy of the rules for the Home dated 1878.
Baptism 14 August 1867 of Ada Rose Mills IOR/N/2/48 f.158, and burial 6 September 1873 of William Mills IOR/N/2/54 f. 157, plus other entries from church records for the family – available via Findmypast.
Record of service for Archibald George Mills The National Archives WO 97/3471 no. 28 - available via Findmypast.

 

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