Untold lives blog

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27 July 2021

A captain goes down with his ship!

On 25 November 1865 the ship Great Britain slipped its anchor at Madras and, as directed by the signals from the Master Attendant’s Office, headed out to sea.  It would be the last time anyone would see the ship.

Report of loss of Great Britain from London Evening Standard 3 March 1866Report of loss of Great Britain from London Evening Standard 3 March 1866 - Courtesy of  British Newspaper Archive

There were a few things that made the fate of the Great Britain unusual.  Firstly the weather following the ship’s arrival at Madras on 20 November had been worsening by the day and there was warning of an impending cyclone.  On 23 November the crew had been forced to cease unloading cargo as the weather  conditions had rendered communication with the shore too dangerous.  Only about 55 tons of the cargo had been unloaded, leaving about half of the contents of the hold still on board.

Secondly the deteriorating weather had meant that by the evening of 23 November vessels were unable to pass the surf in the harbour, stranding people ashore.  These included William Murton, captain of the Great Britain.

Under these circumstances, there should have been no reason for the signals to be given for the Great Britain to set sail. But just after 7am on 25 November the ship left the harbour and headed out to sea, despite not having the captain on board.

Shortly afterwards, the weather claimed its victim and the Great Britain sank.  Fortunately there were no casualties and everyone was safely rescued.

For William Murton this would be his one and only commission as captain of a ship.  In February 1866 he lodged a protest with the Notary Public in Madras against the official account of the sinking of his ship which had implied negligence on his part.  He presented his account of the events of 21-25 November 1865, and concluded by stating that:
‘all losses and damage were occasioned by the bad weather and occurrences and not by the inefficiency of the said vessel or the default of the appearer William Murton, his officers or any of his mariners’.

William Murton's mariner's register certificate May 1850IOR/L/MAR/B/666B, f. 14 Mariner’s Register Certificate issued to William Murton May 1850 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

William Murton was born in Faversham, Kent in August 1834.  He had entered the maritime service on 30 May 1850 as a midshipman aboard the Nile, and he rose through the ranks receiving his master’s certificate on 22 September 1864.  He was appointed captain of the Great Britain on 1 February 1865.

William Murton's Master's certificate 1864IOR/L/MAR/B/666B, f. 16 Master Mariner’s Certificate issued to William Murton 1864 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Murton returned to England shortly after the loss of the Great Britain and retired from the maritime service.  He married Charlotte Augusta Emma Grant, daughter of the late Lieutenant Colonel Charles St John Grant, on 28 June 1866 at St John’s Church in Paddington.  The couple had three daughters: Mary, Fanny Seringa and Amelia Augusta, and one son Herbert William Grant.  Sadly Fanny and Herbert both died in 1876 aged eight and six respectively.  Fanny Seringa was named after the ship Seringapatam, in which Murton served from 1860-1862.  This was a surprisingly popular girl’s name which has been the subject of previous Untold Lives blog posts - My daughter Seringa and More girls called Seringa!

Karen Stapley
India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/666B – Captain William Murton’s service papers, 1850-1866, including copy of a petition in lodged in February 1866 in relation to the sinking of the Great Britain in November 1865.
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur A184 – William Murton’s papers, 1852.
British Library WD317 – Right profile silhouette of William Murton c. 1857.
British Library Photo 412(1) – Portrait of William Murton, Midshipman, c. 1850/1852.


22 July 2021

Mrs Carthew’s recipe book

In the India Office Private Papers is a manuscript book of recipes inscribed ‘Mrs Carthew’s receipt Book: copied by V.L. Peter “Butler”, Rangoon, 1 August 1862’.  The book contains recipes for a wide variety of Indian and European dishes, such as Bengal chutney, curry, curry paste, a pillar of rice, gingerbread, blancmange, cheap soup, rhubarb cake, wedding cake, plain cake for children, transparent pudding, cream cheese, citron preserve, coconut biscuits, rice ragout, cheese fritters, potato pudding, junket, chocolate cream, peppermint cordial, Indian sandwiches, and milk punch.

Mrs Carthew's recipe for Indian sandwichesMss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew's recipe for Indian sandwiches Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Indian sandwiches were made from chicken, veal or game; ham or tongue; anchovies, white sauce; curry powder; lemon juice; fried bread; grated cheese; and butter.  The ingredients for Mrs Carthew's 'cheap soup' were 2oz dripping, 1lb of diced meat, ¼lb onions, ¼lb turnips, 2oz leeks, 3oz celery, 8oz rice or pearl barley, 3oz salt, 4¼oz brown sugar, and water.

Mrs Carthew's recipe for hair wash

Mss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew's recipe for hair wash  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are also recipes for hair wash and soap jelly, instructions for knitting a jumper and for making Brigadier James’s cholera cure.  The cure consisted of cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, and sugar candy ‘bruised up together’ and added to a bottle of best brandy.  This mixture was then set alight and reduced by a half.  After standing for a day, it was strained and bottled.  Dosage was a teaspoonful for ‘a little derangement’ and a tablespoonful (or even more) for more severe illness.

Who was Mrs Carthew?  The most likely candidate appears to be Jemima Borland Carthew, wife of Morden Carthew of the East India Company's Madras Army.  The family was linked to Burma in the early 1860s when the book was created. Major General Carthew was appointed Divisional Commander of Pegu Province in Lower Burma in 1861.  The Carthews’ daughter Jemima Fanny was married in Rangoon in July 1862.

Jemima Borland Carthew (née Ewart) was born in Scotland on 4 September 1810, the fifth and youngest daughter of John Ewart.  She sailed to India in 1826 and married Lieutenant Carthew on 16 July 1827.  They had ten children born between 1828 and 1847, three of whom died in infancy.

At the time of the 1861 census, Mrs Carthew was lodging in Cheltenham with five of her children.  Morden Carthew returned from Burma on leave to England in early 1863.  He did not resume his career in India.  On 19 April 1863 Jemima Carthew died at 64 Baker Street London aged 52.  The cause of death was given as ‘Softening of Brain, Paralysis’.  She was buried on 22 April 1863 at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green.

Photographic portrait of Mrs Morden CarthewMrs Morden Carthew by Camille Silvy, 17 November 1862 © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG Ax61899

There is another Mrs Carthew who might possibly have owned the original recipe book - the wife of Jemima's son Morden, who also served with the Madras Army in Burma.  Maynard Eliza Charlotte Rochfort Bogle married Morden Carthew junior in 1854 in Moulmein.  Her father Sir Archibald Bogle was Chief Commissioner of the Tenasserim and Martaban Provinces. The Carthews'  two elder children were born in Burma, but their son Morden Ewart was born in Marylebone in 1858.  Morden Carthew resigned from the Army in March 1862.  In November 1862 the above photograph of ‘Mrs Morden Carthew’ was taken by Camille Silvy who had a portrait studio in London. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F 613 Mrs Carthew’s receipt book


20 July 2021

Servants sailing from India with the East India Company

Our recent post about passengers on East India Company ships mentioned the regulation that a deposit had to be made for each ‘black’ or ‘native’ servant carried to England.  There is a register in the Company’s maritime records which names some of these people and gives a glimpse into their lives.

Male and female Indian servants accompanied military and civil employees or their wives and families.  Here are some examples from the register -
John Lewis with Colonel Thomas Munro on Lord Melville 1803
E. Manuel Rebeira with Surgeon Robert Hunter on Bencoolen 1820
John Steppen with Mrs Munt on the extra ship Batavia 1817
‘Portuguese servant’ William Ross with the family of Mrs Stephen on Woodford 1824
‘Portuguese servant’ Joaquim Dias with the son of Major George Ogilvie on Triumph 1828
Mary Manuel, a Christian native of Bombay, with Lady Grant on Earl of Hardwick 1839
Imaum Ayah with the daughter of J Curnin on Exmouth 1839
Mariam with the child of the late Captain R W Smith on Inglis 1840.

Entry for Maidman in the register of deposits for Indian servantsEntry for Maidman in IOR/L/MAR/C/888 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

European servants are also named.  In 1808 George Maidman paid a deposit for Jane Walker who was accompanying his children to England.  Mrs Walker sailed on Lord Hawkesbury from Madras in February 1808 with Lucy aged seven, William Richard five, and Isabella three.  Their sister Maria, born in 1806, went to England later.

On 13 January 1809 the Court of Directors in London gave permission for Jane Walker to return to her husband in Madras with no expense to be incurred by the East India Company.  The Maidman children all returned to India as young adults.  Lucy sailed to Madras in 1821.  William Richard secured a cadetship in the Company’s army in 1817 and served in the Bengal Artillery.  Isabella and Maria travelled together to India in 1825.

Entry for Kirkpatrick in the register of deposits for Indian servantsEntry for Kirkpatrick in IOR/L/MAR/C/888 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Some familiar names appear in the register.  In 1805 a deposit was paid on behalf of Lieutenant Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick whose children with his Indian wife Khair un-Nissa were going to England with a servant named as Mahomed Durab.  Their ship was listed in the register as the Devaynes but they are included in the passenger list of Lord Hawkesbury – William Kirkpatrick aged 3 years 6 months, and Catherine Kirkpatrick aged 2 years 7 months.  They were also accompanied on the voyage by a European servant Mrs Jane Perry. The Court of Directors sanctioned her return to her husband in India on 17 March 1807.

There are also unexpected entries.  In 1839 the vakeels or agents of the Raja of Satara deposited money for the Indian servants accompanying them to England.  The Raja was in dispute with the Bombay Government and he sent vakeels to put his case to the Company in London shortly before he was deposed.  The vakeels and their servants stayed for two years, struggling from lack of funds.  British newspapers criticised the East India Company’s poor treatment of the Raja’s representatives.  The Company responded to an appeal from the men in 1841 by advancing £4,000 to pay their debts and to enable them to return home.  As the Raja was still in power when his vakeels left for England, the Company instructed the authorities in India to recover this money from Satara.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/C/888 - Register of deposits on account of native servants who have come to England.
IOR/L/MAR/B/323G  - Journal of Lord Hawkesbury 1804-1806.
IOR/B/144 pp.1326, 1345  - Permission for Jane Perry to return to India, March 1807.
IOR/B/148 p.1011  - Permission for Jane Walker to return to India, January 1809.
IOR/E/4/767 pp.717-719 - Letter to India regarding the Raja of Satara’s vakeels, 25 August 1841.
Michael H. Fisher, ‘Indian Political Representations in Britain during the Transition to Colonialism’, Modern Asian Studies Vol. 38, No. 3 (Jul., 2004), pp. 649-675.
British Newspaper Archive (also available va Findmypast) e.g. Sun (London) 23 August 1841.