Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

20 April 2021

Another scandalous tale from the Down family

In previous Untold Lives stories, we met two of Major William Down’s children, Arabella and Charles.  Now, for the final instalment of this scandalous tale, we have their sister Eva Magdalene Crompton Down.

Eva was born in St John’s Wood, London on 18 December 1856, the fifth daughter and seventh of the ten children of Major William Down and his wife Christian.

In 1876 Eva was called as a witness in the trial of her brother Charles and Joshua Keith Hilton.  During the trial Hilton had referred to Eva Down as his wife and claimed to have a marriage certificate which he could produce as evidence.  Several other people called as witnesses also stated in their testimony that they believed Eva to be Hilton’s wife.

Eva was called as a witness regarding the claims which she vehemently refuted, her testimony suggesting she was unimpressed at the allegations and that she only knew Hilton as an acquaintance of her brother.  She even demanded to see the marriage certificate which Hilton claimed to have, but it never materialised.

Woman in dark Victorian dress looking reproachfully at a man in a bowler hatImage from Illustrated London News 22 August 1896 - British Newspaper Archive via Findmypast

Eva may not however have been as innocent as her court testimony suggested.  In 1877 Mrs Margaret Ann Redhead, née Thirkell filed for divorce from her husband of seven  years, Joshua William Readhead, on the grounds of adultery and desertion, citing Eva Down as the mistress.  Mrs Redhead had met her husband while visiting London in 1870 and they had married there in secret on 23 November 1870.  She had returned home to Sunderland shortly afterwards but her new husband did not accompany her and she at first attempted to conceal the marriage before admitting everything to her parents.  She never saw her husband again and her correspondence with him ceased after he attempted to extort money from her mother.  In 1876 Mrs Redhead learned that her husband had been living under the alias Joshua Keith Hilton and had been having an affair with Miss Eva Down, who he had been pretending was his wife. She filed for divorce shortly after.

Eva Down clearly cared about her lover as the couple married in Carlisle in 1881 following his release from prison.  The marriage does not appear to have lasted long however as by 1900 Eva had emigrated to the USA with her husband William Robert Tymms and their daughter Salome.  US immigration records suggest the couple married in England in 1885, however there is no record of that marriage.  Eva died in Benton, New Hampshire on 29 January 1926.

William Joshua Redhead assumed another alias, this time the stage name of Howard Reed, and he became manager of the Ilma Norina Opera Company.  He was romantically involved with its star Ilma Norina (real name Josephine Genese) who herself had divorced in 1888.

Howard Reed, aka Joshua Keith Hilton, aka William Joshua Redhead died in Southend on 23 February 1899.   According to his obituary he was ‘deeply lamented by his sorrowing wife and children’ although which wife and whose children is another mystery.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Old Bailey Proceedings 26th June 1876 No. 265: Charles Victor Cleghorn Down (21), and Joshua Keith Hilton (23), Feloniously forging and uttering a warrant for the payment of 75l., with intent to defraud. 
Madras Military Fund Pension Records, Account-General’s Department, India Office Records:
IOR/L/AG/23/10/1-2 Madras Military Fund Pension Register entry for William Down (1822-1868)
IOR/L/AG/23/10/11, Part 1 No. 90 Certificates submitted in connection with William Down’s subscription to the Madras Military Fund, including baptism certificate for Eva Magdalene Crompton Down [given as Eva Neale Crompton Down].

A 19th century tale of adultery 

Unwitting accomplice or habitual offender? 

 

15 April 2021

William George Sibley of the East India Company - a worthy good man

William George Sibley was baptised in 1733 in Whitechapel, the son of George and Mary.  His father worked for the East India Company and rose to be keeper of the Bengal Warehouse in New Street.  This was a very responsible post, having care of the receipt, storage, sale and delivery of vast quantities of Indian textiles.  The Sibley family had accommodation near the warehouses provided by the Company.   George was a member of the Mercers’ Company and owned property in London and Wanstead in Essex.

Labourers hoisting barrels and bales  into a London warehouse Hoisting goods into a London warehouse by Gustave Doré from William Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage (London, 1872) British Library WF1/1856 Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Both William Sibley and his younger brother George followed their father into the East India Company’s home establishment.  William joined the East India Company in February 1745/46 in his early teens as a writer (or copyist) in the Leadenhall warehouse where his father was keeper at the time.  In 1756 William was appointed 5th clerk in the Company Treasury at a salary of £60 per annum.  He then worked his way up the departmental hierarchy by virtue of deaths and resignations and was appointed Treasurer in 1788.  His salary leapt from £200 as a senior clerk in 1785 to over £1,000 in 1801 once his gratuity and perquisites were added to his basic pay.

View of East India House in the City of London in 1760sEast India House c.1760 by James Caldwall British Library King’s Topographical Collection, Maps K.Top.24.10.a.BL flickrPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

His brother George became a warehouse-keeper like their father.  The Sibley brothers also followed their father into the Mercers’ Company.  William was Governor in 1790 and George in 1791.

William married Abigail Scott at Wanstead in August 1771 and they had two daughters Mary and Susannah who both died as small babies.  In 1775 Abigail also died.  William remained a widower until March 1790 when he married Jane Amphillis Berthon, the daughter of a City merchant.  In the same year he was elected as Governor to the Foundling Hospital.  He was also a Governor of Christ’s Hospital and a fellow of the Antiquarian Society.

When Jane’s mother Amphillis Berthon made her will in 1791 she shared her property between two sons and two daughters and excluded Jane. William and Jane Sibley were simply each left a ring. Mrs Berthon explained in the will that her reason for excluding her daughter Sibley was not a want of regard – it was clear to see that she loved and esteemed Jane equally with her other children. But Jane was ‘very happily provided for and married to a worthy good man’.

William George Sibley died in March 1807 at his house at 7 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, not far from the Foundling Hospital.  He still held the post of Treasurer at East India House, having worked for the Company for 61 years.  His obituary in The Monthly Magazine echoed the sentiments of his mother-in-law: ‘In his official department he invariably discharged his duty with fidelity and assiduity, and in all respects with satisfaction to the company and honour to himself… In private life, a tender and affectionate husband, a steady friend to the deserving, kind to the poor, and benevolent to all… a truly good and upright man’.

A view of the interior of the Foundling Hospital Chapel with lines of boys and girls leaving, supervised by staffA view of the interior of the Foundling Hospital Chapel 1774 British Library Crach.1.Tab.4.b.3 Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Sibley was buried in the vaults under the chapel of the Foundling Hospital.  His wife Jane was also buried there, close to her husband, when she died in 1832.  She inherited her husband’s considerable estate and her will made a number of substantial charitable bequests including £300 to the Foundling Hospital.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Obituary in The Monthly Magazine Vol XXIII Part 1 for 1807, p. 389

 

13 April 2021

Treating patients with mineral water at Bath Hospital

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Bath Hospital published the names, ages and places of residence for patients who had undergone mineral water treatments, and listed their maladies.  The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette carried lists from the 1820s to the 1840s of discharged patients who were cured or ‘much better’.  A book published in 1787  described the case histories of 52 named patients suffering from a variety of ‘paralytic disorders’.

Bath Hospital plan by John Pine published in 1737John Pine, 'The plan and elevation of a new General Hospital intended to be erected at Bath for the Reception of one hundred and fifty poor strangers Anno Dom: 1737' Maps K.Top.37.26.m Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Bath Hospital was a charitable institution incorporated in 1739, established principally to extend the benefits of the mineral waters to poorer people.  The apothecary kept an accurate register of each patient’s name, age, place of residence, disease, date of admission, length of stay, date of discharge, and state of health on discharge.  Treatment was usually limited to a maximum period of six months, although extensions and readmissions were sometimes granted.  The majority of patients came from south-west England but there were some from further afield – for example London, Wales, Oxford, Shropshire, Kent, Hampshire, and Hertfordshire.

Description of the work of Bath Hospital from the title page of Bath Hospital Annual Statement 1858
From the title page of Bath Hospital Annual Statement 1858 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


The Hospital also aimed to publish its ‘experimental observations’ so that other physicians could gain knowledge of the use of medicinal waters.  Success in treating paralytic complaints encouraged the Hospital to compile a book of cases selected from its medical records, detailing the treatments given.  From January 1776 to December 1785, 1102 patients with paralysis were admitted.  Of these, 237 were cured; 454 were discharged much better; 142 better; 233 no better; and 36 had died.  It was noted that the waters were not very effective in treating ‘shaking palsies’.

The cases of paralysis were broken down into different categories –
• Following childbirth
• Caused by cold
• Caused by colic
• Caused by lead and copper
• Resulting from distorted vertebrae
• Caused by an accident
• Following a convulsive spasm
• After a fever
• After rheumatism
• No assignable cause

William Toop of Frome suffered from paralysis after going into cold water to gather watercress.  David House, a cooper from Bristol, developed palsy after spending several hours bottling wine in a cold, damp cellar.  Both men were cured in a month.

John Evans from Salisbury was reported to have lost the use of his hands and arms from colic after drinking stale small beer in hot weather.  Evans spent thirteen months in Bath Hospital and was eventually discharged much better, but not cured.

Industrial injuries from contact with noxious substances were recognised and treated.  Several patients affected by working in brass foundries were cured.  Samuel Smith, servant to Mr Wedgwood in Greek Street, Soho, suffered from ‘dropt hands’ paralysis resulting from lead or copper in paint.  William Hinton from Gloucester was employed in pointing pins and the dust was said to have caused weakness in his hands and wrists.  James Lewis Markes of Stratford- le-Bow Middlesex was a house painter whose hands were paralysed by white lead poisoning.  After 50 weeks at Bath, he was able to dress himself, cut his food, write, and use scissors, but he could no longer undertake hard labour.

The Narrative also reports cases of paralysis caused by accidental poisoning, falls, being struck by lightning, hard drinking, fever, strokes, and sciatica.  Digitised versions of the book are available, so why not dip into the world of eighteenth century health and medicine?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Narrative of the Efficacy of the Bath Waters, in various kinds of paralytic disorders admitted into the Bath Hospital (Bath, 1787) 
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette British Newspaper Archive – also accessible via Findmypast