Untold lives blog

420 posts categorized "Journeys"

07 July 2020

The Jacob orphans – lives linking three continents

We continue our story of the Jacob family.

When Vickers and Anne Jacob died in 1836, they left seven orphans aged between fifteen and nearly two.  According to newspapers, only four of them were with Anne in Tasmania at the time of her death.  Amelia Australia Harriet Jacob (1821-1873) had returned to England on the ship Ocean in 1824, probably in the care of the Irvine family. Mrs Irvine was the sister of Thomas Cudbert Harington, Assistant Colonial Secretary of New South Wales.  Harington administered Vickers Jacob’s estate and in 1845 was named in East India Company cadet papers as guardian of his son Vickers Gilbert Jacob. A newspaper in November 1830 reported the arrival of Miss Australia Jacob at the Royal Hotel Leamington Spa with a number of her mother’s Watson relations.

In March 1838 the passenger list of the Portland shows the children of Vickers Jacob returning to England from Sydney in the care of Mr Powis and Dr Clifford - probably William Clifford, an Irish surgeon who served on convict voyages.  The number of Jacob children on board is not specified.

Sydney - view from east side of the cove 1810

View of Sydney from the east side of the cove by Eyre and Clark (London, 1810) Images Online

In 1841 Amelia and her sisters Frances Matilda (1824-1871), and Eliza Anne (1834-1866) were living in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, with their maternal aunt Catherine Frances Watson.  Amelia was married in India in 1849 to Frederick Elms, a Madras Army officer.  Elms retired in 1860 and the couple lived at Undermilbeck in the Lake District with Miss Watson.  Frances Matilda continued to live in Southwell for most of her life, but died in Marylebone, London. Eliza Anne married William Ernest De Veuelle from Jersey in 1856 at Southwell.  After Eliza’s death on the Isle of Man in 1866, their three daughters lived with the Elms family as Frederick’s wards.

Distant view of Bowness and part of Lake Windermere 1801A distant view of Bowness and part of Windermere Lake by Francis Jukes - British Library Online Gallery

Vickers Gilbert Jacob (1828-1857) attended the Diocesan School Lincoln and King’s School Chester.  In 1838 his father’s lands in New South Wales were transferred to him in his absence.  He was awarded a cadetship in the Madras Army in December 1845.  Vickers Gilbert died on SS Colombo off Gibraltar in August 1857 when returning from sick leave in England.

La Martiniere College CalcuttaLa Martinière College, Calcutta from R Jump, Views in Calcutta (London, 1837) Images Online


Archibald Hamilton Jacob (1829-1900) was educated at La Martinière College, Calcutta, and in Lincoln from 1840. He studied for the church at Chester, but ill health set him back and he joined the Liverpool and Manchester Bank.  In 1851 Archibald decided to go to Australia to farm with his brother Robert.  He married Mary, daughter of Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass, in 1853 and they had seven sons. From 1872-1880 Archibald was a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.

Portrait of Archibald Hamilton Jacob - The Daily Telegraph ( Sydney) 29 May 1900Portrait of Archibald Hamilton Jacob from his obituary in The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 29 May 1900 via Trove 

Robert Jacob (1831-1906) left school in Calcutta in 1840 and joined the merchant navy as a midshipman in 1846.  Robert became a farmer in West Maitland in New South Wales.  He married Eliza Lorn McDougall in 1860 and they had twelve children.

William Higgins Jacob (1833 -1918) may have been educated at Christ’s Hospital in Hertford – the 1841 census shows a seven-year-old William Jacob born in foreign parts.  He became a bank clerk in Manchester and then at the Bank of England.  In 1864 William married Charlotte Emma Chapman and they had two children.

Seven very different overlapping lives connecting the three continents where their father Vickers Jacob had lived.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Trove for Australian newspapers
Free Settler or Felon – Newcastle and Hunter Valley history 
Australian Dictionary of Biography for Archibald Hamilton Jacob
British Newspaper Archive 
Baptisms, marriages and burials from the India Office Records have been digitised by Findmypast 

 

03 July 2020

Vickers Jacob – a life in Ireland, India and Australia

In 1818 the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India received a memorial from Edward Cahill, a boot and shoe maker in Dublin.  Mr Cahill reported that in 1808 he had supplied Vickers Jacob, a Bengal Army cadet, with boots and shoes to the value of £10 16s 0½d.  Jacob left Dublin shortly afterwards without having paid and Cahill asked for help in recovering the debt.

First page of Edward Cahill's memorial about Vickers Jacob's debtFirst page of Edward Cahill's memorial about Vickers Jacob's debt IOR/E/2/51 f.1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Vickers Jacob was born in Queen’s County Ireland in 1788.  He enrolled at Trinity College Dublin in 1806 before joining the East India Company’s Bengal Army in 1808.  Jacob took part in the Nepal War 1814-1815 with the 3rd Bengal Native Infantry.

In August 1817 Lieutenant Jacob married Anne Watson at Barrackpore.  Anne’s father and brothers were officers in the Bengal Army.  During the early years of their marriage, a son and daughter died.  Because of ‘a deep conviction that the climate of India would have bereft me of my only surviving child and of my wife’, Jacob took furlough in 1821 and travelled with Anne and their daughter to the ‘genial clime’ of New South Wales.

In early October 1822 the authorities in Australia received ‘private information’ that Jacob’s request for furlough was a cover for mercantile speculation in Sydney.  This was considered ‘subversive of military feeling and character’.  Unless Jacob could prove he hadn’t been trading, he would have to return to duty or resign from the Bengal Army.

 Vickers Jacob's advertisement in Hobart Gazette 20 April 1822Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land AdvertiserSupplement 20 April 1822.  Image courtesy of Trove

Jacob refuted the allegation.  In April 1822 he had placed an advertisement in the Hobart Town Gazette announcing his intention of going from Tasmania to settle in New South Wales as a general merchant and agent.  The ship carrying his letter of resignation did not arrive in India until 20 October.  In November 1822 Jacob was granted permission to resign from the Bengal Army with effect from 11 July 1822.

In 1823 Jacob was granted 2,000 acres of land in Newcastle next to the Hunter River which became the Knockfine estate.  In December of that year tragedy struck the Jacob family again when baby Vickers Frederick died of a teething-related fever.

Death notice for Vickers Frederick Jacob in The Sydney Gazette 11 December 1823Death notice for Vickers Frederick Jacob in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 11 December 1823 Image courtesy of Trove

In February 1824 Amelia Australia Harriet Jacob, aged nearly 3, was a passenger for England on the ship Ocean, perhaps sent away by her grieving parents to a place they considered safe.

The ups and downs of Vickers Jacob’s eventful life in Australia can be traced through local newspapers, including a challenge to fight a duel and a case of defamation of character.  He published a pamphlet entitled A letter addressed to Earl Bathurst on the subject of hardships complained of by V. Jacob ... in New South Wales.  Two more children were born there, one of whom died as a baby.

In February 1825 the Jacobs sailed for Calcutta on the Princess Charlotte.  Vickers Jacob became an indigo planter at Jessore.  He and Anne had another five children, all of whom lived to be adults.

In June 1836 the Jacobs and four of their children were about to sail from Calcutta to Hobart on the ship Boadicea when Vickers died of a fever.  Anne and her children carried on to Tasmania but on 3 October 1836 she also died.

I can't tell you if Edward Cahill ever received his money.

Our next post will tell the story of the Jacob children after their parents’ deaths.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
V C P Hodson, Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834 (London, 1927-1947)
Trove for Australian newspapers 
Vickers Jacob, A letter addressed to Earl Bathurst on the subject of hardships complained of by V. Jacob ... in New South Wales (Sydney, 1825) - British Library General Reference Collection 8154.aa.56.  There is also a copy in The National Archives Colonial Office papers CO 201/167 – digital version available via Trove 
Baptisms, marriages and burials from the India Office Records have been digitised by Findmypast 
Documents relating to Vickers Jacob in New South Wales State Records and Archives 
Free Settler or Felon – Newcastle and Hunter Valley history 

29 June 2020

More girls called Seringa!

Whilst researching the Seringas of the Norris family I came across other families with a daughter named Seringa or Seringapatam.

One family in particular caught my attention, that of James Hewes (1841-1917) a mariner from West Mersea, near Colchester in Essex.  James Hewes had married Angelica Lay in 1865 and the couple had seven children.  Although I have not been able to find out much about James’s career as a mariner, it clearly had an influence on him, and was reflected in the names of his daughters.

His eldest daughter, born 22 April 1867, was named Seringapatam, though she often turns up in records as Seringa or Meringa Patson.  Their second daughter, born in 1868 was named Tamar Adelaide.  She sadly died in 1869.  Their third daughter born in 1870 was named Robina; their fourth daughter, born in 1872, Rosina; and their youngest daughter, born in 1877, Urania Minnie.

HMS Seringapatam figure headFigurehead from HMS Seringapatam courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich

Seringapatam and Tamar are the names of ships from the time that James Hewes was a mariner.  HMS Seringapatam was built in the East India Company dockyard at Bombay in 1819, and from the 1850s onwards was being used as a coal hulk.  HMS Tamar was a troop ship built in 1863 which frequently visited the port of Adelaide, which is perhaps why James's second daughter was named Tamar Adelaide.  Robina, Rosina and Urania all sound like the possible names of ships too.

The couple also had two sons, Oscar Thomas who was the twin of Seringapatam but who died in 1868, and James who was born in 1874.

It would appear that by 1881 James Hewes had retired as mariner, and his occupation from then on is given as fisherman.

Seringapatam Hewes had a daughter born in 1890, whom she named Seringapatam Kate (although she appears to have preferred her middle name Kate, and her full name often appears as Kate Merringer in records), and a second daughter Ethel born in 1898.  In 1899 Seringaptam married Thomas Woodward, a fisherman.  Interestingly the GRO index for their marriage lists her as Meringo Hewes.  Seringapatam Woodward remained in West Mersea all her life.  Her daughter Seringaptam Kate was married in 1919 to Thomas Walter Reeves Pounceby.

Of the other daughters, Urania Minnie married in 1902 to Thomas Soloman Potter, a police constable, and lived in Colchester with their daughter Ivy Urana and son Thomas James Oscar.  Rosina died unmarried in 1922.  I have been unable to trace Robina after the 1891 census where she is listed as working as a servant in West Mersea. 

Their only surviving son James never married, remaining in the area and following in his father’s footsteps as a fisherman.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

 

24 June 2020

A fraudulent shipwreck

When Commander John Porter heard of a case of shipwreck in the summer of 1843, there seemed to be nothing remarkable about the case.  Shipwrecks were common, and navigation in the Gulf could be dangerous.  But this shipwreck was different.  Porter went to offer what assistance he could to the stricken ship, the Mary Mallaby (also written Mary Mullaby).  He offered to assist Captain Charles Fisher with attempting to refloat his ship, which he thought would be possible.  Instead, Fisher rejected his offer, and insisted on selling the Mary Mallaby to the Shaikh of Qeshm.

Bandar Abbas from the sea

Bandar ‘Abbas from the sea - image from Philip Howard Colomb, Slave-Catching in the Indian Ocean (London, 1873) BL flickr

The ship’s log records that when the ship ran ashore, a ‘party of Arabs’ arrived in a small boat to offer assistance, but then refused to help by taking the anchor.  A few of them stayed on board overnight, but in the morning, they had vanished – along with two treasure boxes.

Fisher’s version of events differed markedly from that of the Shaikh of Bandar ‘Abbas.  Fisher claimed the Shaikh had refused to help, whereas the Shaikh claimed he had assisted as much as he was able to, given that it was the date harvesting season, and indeed countered that some of his offers of help had been refused.  Fisher even went so far as to object to the Shaikh sending the letter to Porter informing him about the wreck.

Brigantine by Oswald Walters Brierly - National Maritime Museum'A Brigantine' by Oswald Walters Brierly - image courtesy of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London PAD9215 

Looking into the circumstances of the wreck carefully made Porter more suspicious.  The ship had run aground at a location that had been properly mapped, and yet Fisher had not let go the anchor early enough.  The incident had occurred during the afternoon, in calm, sunny weather.  He had then hoisted his sails, driving his ship further on shore.  Both the crew and the people watching on shore agreed that it looked deliberate.

Following the event, more facts began to emerge.  Fisher was seen in Muscat retrieving a chronometer and a sextant which he had left there before the incident, and which could have been damaged by the sudden impact of the wreck.  A traveller on the same ship to India as Fisher and his wife heard her say that her husband told her to hold tight just before they hit the shore.

Letter from the Chief Secretary at Bombay Castle  20 March 1844 to Captain Samuel Hennell  Resident in the Persian Gulf  giving his suspicions about Fisher

Letter from the Chief Secretary at Bombay Castle, 20 March 1844 to Captain Samuel Hennell, Resident in the Persian Gulf, giving his suspicions about Fisher IOR/R/15/1/102, f. 34r

The final piece of evidence came when two treasure boxes matching Fisher’s description were dredged up from the wreck site while the new owner of the Mary Mallaby, Sultan Thuwaini bin Sa’id, was looking for the anchor that had been lost.  These were carefully carried to be opened in the presence of the shaikhs of Bandar ‘Abbas and Qeshm, and all other local dignitaries, including Captain James Cromer of the Columbia.  Cromer described the opening of the boxes, and the astonishment of the room, when they were found to contain only copper dross ‘such as I have sometimes seen ships have for ballast’.  The opinion of the Bombay Government was clear: this was attempted fraud, and they conveyed as much to Fisher’s insurers.

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

Further reading:
The story of the Mary Mallaby is told over multiple files: IOR/R/15/1/100; IOR/R/15/1/102; IOR/R/15/1/103, which are all available on the Qatar Digital Library.

Articles about the insurance fraud case can be found in the British Newspaper Archive - also available from Findmypast.

 

22 June 2020

Solving a suffragette mystery – who was Miss Wolff van Sandau?

In 2019 a Women’s Social and Political Union medal was sold at auction in London.  It was awarded in 1912 to Elsie Wolff van Sandau in recognition of ‘ a gallant action, whereby through endurance to the last extremity of hunger and hardship, a great principle of political justice was vindicated’.

WSPU membership card from the scrapbook of Maud Arncliffe SennettWomen’s Social and Political Union membership card from the scrapbook of Maud Arncliffe Sennett


On 4 March 1912 Miss Wolff van Sandau broke a window of the post office in Howick Place, Victoria.  She was sentenced to two months’ hard labour in prison for wilful damage.

 

Arrest of Miss Wolff Van Sandau reported in 'Votes for Women' 29 March 1912
Votes for Women 29 March 1912 British Newspaper Archive

Miss Wolff van Sandau had previously been imprisoned in February 1907 after taking part in a suffragette deputation, and again in November 1910 when she was arrested in Parliament Square on ‘Black Friday’.

The name van Sandau rang bells with me.  We published a blog post featuring Lewis van Sandau of the Bengal Army who was shot dead when mistaken for a ghost.  I wondered if I could find a connection between our unfortunate officer and the suffragette.

There are references to both Elsie Wolff van Sandau and Mathilde (or Matilda) Wolff van Sandau in suffragette records, leading some to conclude that there were two sisters campaigning.  But I believe that there was only one Miss Wolff van Sandau.

Votes for Women published a brief biography in 1910 stating that ‘Miss Wolff von Sandau’ had worked for women’s suffrage for nearly 30 years.  She was a music teacher.  Her grandfather Reverend Dr Ernst Schwabe had been private chaplain to Queen Victoria’s mother.

Biographical note from 'Votes for Women'
Votes for Women 25 November 1910 British Newspaper Archive

I found the marriage in London in 1832 of Ernst Schwabe’s daughter Bethia Friedericke to Ernst Woolf, who was a flax manufacturer in Leeds.  In the early 1840s Ernst and Bethia moved with their children to Dresden in Germany.  Their daughter Elise Eugenie Mathilde Wolff was born there in 1843.

In the 1881 census Elise Eugenie M. Wolff is a music professor aged 37 living in Clapham, South London.  In 1891 she is listed in Kensington as Mathilda Wolff, pianist.

A newspaper advertisement in 1888 names her as Fraulein Mathilde Wolff of the Dresden Conservatoire.

Advertisement for the Hastings and St Leonards College of Music in The Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 September 1888Advertisement for the Hastings and St Leonards College of Music in The Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 September 1888 British Newspaper Archive

There are reports of her concerts, such as this one in 1888 at Collard’s Rooms in Grosvenor Street London.


Report of concert in 'The Era' 16 June 1888Report of concert at Collard’s Rooms in Grosvenor Street London The Era 16 June 1888 British Newspaper Archive

 

Miss Wolff advertised in newspapers for pupils and for lodgers. She entertained members of the Women’s Vegetarian Union at her home.

Meeting of Women's Vegetarian Union reported in 'The Queen' 20 July 1895Meeting of Women's Vegetarian Union - The Queen 20 July 1895 British Newspaper Archive

 

In 1889 she used the name Wolff  van Sandau when publishing a song ‘David’s Message’.

 Article mentioning song 'David's Message' in 'The Graphic' 12 January 1889
The Graphic 12 January 1889 British Newspaper Archive

 

It was reported in 1895 that Miss Mathilde Wolff van Sandau was managing the new Equitable International Chess Club for Ladies.


Newspaper article about Equitable International Chess Club for LadiesMorning Post 10 June 1895 British Newspaper Archive

 

In 1911 she refused to provide information to the 1911 census and is recorded as simply ’Miss Wolfe – Suffragette’.

Her brother Henry William Wolff (1840-1931) also left Germany to live in England. He was a well-known journalist and writer and founder of the Co-Operative Alliance.

Portrait of Henry William Wolff writing at the Reform Club

Henry William Wolff at the Reform Club by Eyre Crowe, 1905 NPG D6688 © National Portrait Gallery, London National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

In the 1920s Matilda van Sandau of Brooklyn Road, Shepherds Bush, was offering typewriting and translation services.  Is this the same woman?

By 1926 our Matilda was lodging in Putney.  She died in a local nursing home on 29 August 1926 aged 83 and was buried in Putney Vale Cemetery as Matilda Wolff.

One mystery remains.  Why did Matilda adopt the name van Sandau?  I have found one connection between the families.  Andrew van Sandau, brother to Lewis, was a witness at her parents’ marriage.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Her recorded surname varies between Wolff and Wolff van/von Sandau in census returns, electoral registers and directories, and her first names are any combination of Elise Eugenie Mathilde with variant spellings. It appears she is named as Elsie only in suffragette records and related newspaper reports.

British Newspaper Archive - also available via Findmypast.

The National Archives papers from Home Office, Director of Public Prosecutions, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner – see the Suffragette Collection on Findmypast .

Entry in Who Was Who for Henry William Wolff.

Researching Suffragettes in the British Library’s Modern Manuscripts and Archive Collections.

 

21 June 2020

Fanny Barlow’s letters to Papa

Whilst Sir George Hilaro Barlow was governor of Madras (1807–1813) his daughter, little Frances ‘Fanny’ Barlow (1801–1887), was practising her hand at written correspondence, stating proudly in a letter to her father in 1808, ‘I have written all this letter myself’.  Before his redeployment to Madras, George Barlow was governor-general of Bengal, a powerful position in the East India Company, and he is therefore a prominent figure in Britain’s imperial history. 

Portrait of Sir George BarlowSir George Barlow NPG 4988 © National Portrait Gallery, London National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence


Like many imperial families at this time, the lives of his female relatives are less well known and rarely are we attentive to the voices of their children.  However, family history, through the use of personal papers and archives, can help bring them to the fore.  This blog post illustrates how the British Library’s catalogue can be used to begin to build up a picture of Fanny’s life.

Fanny was one of fifteen children, and the fourth daughter, born to George and his wife Elizabeth née Smith.  Her letters, along with the rest of the family’s papers, are held in the India Office Records and Private Papers, and they provide a new perspective, a unique view into the ways that 19th-century girls put their epistolary skills to use in order to maintain a sense of connection and intimacy with parents who lived thousands of miles away.  For young Fanny, her letters were often the only means of regular communication with her ‘dear Papa’.

First page of a letter from Fanny to George Barlow  1808British Library India Office Records and Private Papers, Mss Eur F176. First page of a letter from Fanny to George Barlow, 1808 (photograph taken by the author).


British children born in India were increasingly sent to live with their extended family in Britain, owing to growing concerns about the effect of the tropical climate and so-called ‘native’ influence on their bodies and minds.  After completing their education, the children of imperial families sometimes returned to India to follow in the footsteps of their parents.  But until then, they were entrusted to relatives in Britain who also wrote letters to the parents reporting on their development.  For example, Fanny’s uncle, Reverend Thomas Barlow, assured George that ‘the air of Devon perfectly agrees with [her], [and] her constitution does not betray any symptoms of her having been born in India’.  This guardianship of the Barlow children which fell upon aunts, uncles, and grandparents, served the dual purpose of enabling George to carry out his duties on the Indian subcontinent whilst also protecting Fanny and her siblings from the perceived ‘perils’ of growing up in a colonial environment.

Additional pages of the letter from Fanny to George Barlow 1808

British Library India Office Records and Private Papers, Mss Eur F176. Additional pages of the letter from Fanny to George Barlow, 1808 (photograph taken by the author).

The Barlow children’s letter-writing was prolific, covering a variety of topics, everything from their daily routines to musical accomplishments and thoughts on what they were reading.   George would have been sent reams of personal and business correspondence, so Fanny had to work hard to gain his attention.  In 1811, four years into his governorship in Madras and when Fanny was nine years old, she wrote strategically to George to coax a much-awaited reply from him: ‘I do not recollect that I ever received more than one letter from you, and it will give me great pleasure to receive an answer to this’.  Fanny’s life with her extended family in Devon and London was so disparate from her father’s in India, but letters helped her to fill the void between them… even if his replies were not as frequent as she would have liked.

Ellen Smith
Funded Midlands4Cities AHRC DTP PhD student at the University of Leicester, researching family life in British India c. 1790–1920.


Further reading:
British Library India Office Records and Private Papers, Mss Eur F176: Papers of Sir George Barlow, East India Company servant, Bengal from 1778; Governor-General of Bengal 1805-07; Governor of Madras 1807-13; and papers of his children, 1781–1860.  Particularly, Mss Eur F176/1-24: Family Correspondence, c. 1781–1846.
To trace Fanny’s letter-writing into adulthood see also, Mss Eur F176/96-100: Papers of Frances Barlow (1801-87), fourth daughter of Sir George Barlow, c. 1846–1860.
P. J. Marshall, ‘Barlow, Sir George Hilaro, first baronet (1763–1846)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2008).
For more on the Barlow family, but not concerning Fanny specifically, see, Vyvyen Brendon, Children of the Raj (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005), pp.11-40, and for a study on the fascinating love affair that broke up the Barlow family see Margot Finn, ‘The Barlow Bastards: Romance Comes Home from the Empire’ in Margot Finn, Michael Lobban, and Jenny Bourne Taylor (eds.), Legitimacy and Illegitimacy in Nineteenth-Century Law, Literature and History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp.25-47.
Elizabeth Buettner, Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

 

19 June 2020

Get Up, Listen Up! for Windrush Day 2020

Windrush Day was introduced in 2018 to mark the 70th anniversary of the docking of the Empire Windrush at the port of Tilbury.  The day honours the life and work of the British Caribbean community whose presence in the UK long predates the arrival of the Windrush, but grew in the post-war years as the forces of colonial oppression pushed people to travel to a ‘Mother Country’ in need of rebuilding.  72 years on, the relationship between Britain, the Caribbean and the descendants of the ‘Windrush Generation’ continues to be fraught as anti-racist protests gather force and people await compensation following the fallout of the Windrush Scandal.

To mark Windrush Day this year we have released audio of three public events that speak to our current times. These events were recorded at our Knowledge Centre in 2018 as part of a series accompanying our exhibition Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land.    The exhibition shed new light on the significance of the arrival of the Windrush as part of a longer history of slavery and colonialism, telling the story of Caribbean people’s struggles for social recognition, self-expression and belonging throughout history.

Here’s your chance to listen again (or perhaps for the first time) to a lecture on that other ‘Middle Passage’ by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles; a conversation on race relations legislation and the Windrush Scandal produced in association with the Runnymede Trust; and the incredible voices of Wasafiri magazine’s ‘Windrush Women’ writers with Beryl Gilroy, Jay Bernard, Hannah Lowe, Valerie Bloom and Susheila Nasta.

For more explorations of race, migration and culture take a look at our Windrush Stories website which includes articles, collection items, videos and teaching resources. You’ll find suggestions for further resources specific to each event below.

Jonah Albert and Zoë Wilcox

 

British Trade in Black Labour: The Windrush Middle Passage
Recorded on Friday 15 June 2018 and sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.

In this keynote lecture Professor Sir Hilary Beckles examines the circumstance which lead to people from the Caribbean re-crossing the Atlantic in response to the push of colonial oppression and exploitation, and the demand for their labour in the UK.

Historian Hilary Beckles is Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.  Born in Barbados, he received his higher education in the UK and has lectured extensively in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. He is the founder and Director of the CLR James Centre for Cricket Research, and a former member of the West Indies Cricket Board.

For more on this topic take a look at the articles in the Waves of History section of our Windrush Stories site.  You can discover personal stories of migration in The Arrivants section, including video portraits from the 1000 Londoners series and video interviews with members of the Caribbean Social Forum.


Race Relations: An Act?
Recorded on Friday 6 July 2018, this event was produced in association with The Runnymede Trust.

Image by Michael Ward © Getty image

There have been four Race Relations Acts since 1965.  Our panel of experts discusses the impact of immigration legislation on the Windrush generation and other migrants and their descendants.

Sir Geoffrey Bindman founded Bindmans LLP in 1974 and throughout his long and distinguished legal career has specialised in civil liberty and human rights issues.  He was legal adviser to the Race Relations Board from 1966-1976 and to the Commission for Racial Equality until 1983.

Amelia Gentleman writes on social affairs for The Guardian.  An awarding winning journalist, she is known for her investigative and campaigning work on the Windrush scandal.

Maya Goodfellow, chair of the conversation, is a writer and researcher.  Her work spans a range of issues including UK politics, gender, migration and race.

Matthew Ryder was Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement at City Hall.  He became a barrister in 1992 and writes regularly for national newspapers on social policy and cultural issues.

Iyiola Solanke is Professor of European Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds, and an Associate Academic Fellow of the Inner Temple.  She has published on judicial independence and diversity, intersectionality and race relations in Britain and Germany.

For further reading see our series of articles, Perspectives on the Windrush Generation Scandal, by Judy Griffith, David Lammy and Amelia Gentleman.

 

Windrush Women: Past and Present
Recorded on Monday 25 June 2018 and produced in association with Wasafiri

There are many stories missing from the Windrush narrative, not least those of the bold and pioneering women who left everything behind, to better their family’s lives and their own.  At this event, contemporary international writing magazine Wasafiri celebrates women writers from the Windrush era.  Former Editor-in-Chief of Wasafiri, Susheila Nasta introduces a recording of her interview with one these pioneers, Beryl Gilroy - writer, poet and London’s first Black head teacher.  Poets Jay Bernard, Val Bloom and Hannah Lowe read work inspired by their legacy of these women.

Jay Bernard is a writer, film programmer and archivist from London.  In 2016, Jay was poet-in-residence at the George Padmore Institute, where they began writing Surge, a collection based on the New Cross Fire and which won the 2018 Ted Hughes Award for new work.

Hannah Lowe is a poet and researcher.  Her first poetry collection Chick won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection.  She has published a family memoir Long Time No See.  She teaches Creative Writing at Brunel University and is the current poet-in-residence at Keats House.

Valerie Bloom is an award-winning writer of poetry for adults and children, picture books, pre-teen and teenage novels and stories.

Susheila Nasta was Founder and Editor in Chief for 35 years from 1984 to 2019 of Wasafiri, the magazine of international contemporary writing.  A literary activist, writer and presenter, she is currently Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary, University of London.

For over three decades, Wasafiri has created a dynamic platform for mapping new landscapes in contemporary international writing featuring a diverse range of voices from across the UK and beyond.  Committed to profiling the ‘best of tomorrow’s writers today’ it aims to simultaneously celebrate those who have become established literary voices.

You will find more on Beryl Gilroy’s books Black Teacher and In Praise of Love and Children on our Windrush Stories website, as well as articles on the work of Andrea Levy and performances by female poets of Caribbean heritage including Malika Booker, Maggie Harris, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Hannah Lowe, Grace Nichols and Kim O’Loughlin.

 

17 June 2020

The treasures of King Thibaw of Burma

In 1885, British forces sailed up the River Irrawaddy in Burma to force the abdication of King Thibaw.  On 28 November, General Sir Harry Prendergast and Colonel Edward Sladen entered Mandalay Palace and accepted the King’s surrender.

King Thibaw and two royal ladiesKing Thibaw and two royal ladies Illustrated London News 14 April 1894 British Newspaper Archive

Thibaw’s palace in Mandalay was a magnificent carved and gilded structure with a great seven- roofed spire.  Whilst the government reported a largely peaceful and mutual transfer of power, other accounts suggested an unruly takeover.  The palace was brimming with priceless treasures, and there was a scramble for its riches as British soldiers took control.

Royal Palace MandalayRoyal Palace at Mandalay Illustrated London News 14 April 1894 British Newspaper Archive

Thibaw was exiled to Ratnagiri in India and saw out the remainder of his life in some degree of comfort.  He wrote to King George V, claiming Colonel Sladen had promised to secure his crown jewels for safe custody and return them when it was safe to do so - a pledge he did not keep.

Many of the regalia were shipped to Britain, but some royal treasures simply disappeared.  Rumours began to circulate of rogue British soldiers securing a portion of it.  They were said to have buried loot in bags within the palace compound, being unable to sneak it past the guards at the gates. Amongst the missing treasures was a gold calf weighing several hundredweight, a crown studded in rubies and diamonds surmounted by a peacock, quantities of precious stones, and an enormous and valuable ruby formerly on the forehead of a giant golden statue of Gautama Buddha.

On 9 January 1893, John Mobbs, an estate agent in Southampton, wrote to the Earl of Kimberley at the India Office regarding a rumour he had heard from a Charles Berry.  William White, alias Jack Marshall, was a private in the 2nd Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment.  He spent two years in Burma on the signalling staff, spoke the language, and left a wife and son there.   White lodged for some time with Berry’s mother-in-law at Wandsworth, and disclosed that he and another soldier had hidden away King Thibaw’s crown jewels and regalia.  The second soldier had given a death bed confession, admitting the theft and burial.

White was working in Kent and Surrey as a labourer and dock worker.  Mobbs sought him out to ascertain details of his story.  White agreed to cooperate so long as the government indemnified him from punishment for the theft.  The government, unsure of the situation and unwilling to participate in a treasure hunt, offered Mobbs a percentage of the treasure’s worth should he retrieve it.

The situation was complicated when White decided to retrieve the jewels alone.  He deemed the government reward insufficient and intended to move permanently to Burma.  Having received his indemnity, he took his last pension payment and disappeared.

Report on the Burma regalia The Glasgow Herald 3 April 1894

Report on the Burma regalia The Glasgow Herald 3 April 1894 British Newspaper Archive

Reports stated White left England for Rangoon in May 1894.  The India Office did not believe he could recover the hidden treasure without their knowledge, though Mobbs feared some could be accessed with ease.

Information on the hunt is as elusive as the jewels themselves.  Where did White go?  Did Mobbs make the journey to Mandalay?

The missing treasure also remains shrouded in mystery.  Did the Government hide it?  Did soldiers retrieve the buried loot?  Maybe palace staff discovered it?  Perhaps it is buried there still?

Craig Campbell
Curatorial Support Officer, India Office Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive also available through Findmypast -
Illustrated London News 7 April & 14 April 1894
Englishman's Overland Mail 9 May 1894
The Lincolnshire Echo 21 May 1894
The Glasgow Herald 3 April 1894, p.7 and 6 April 1894, p.8
The Sphere 28 March 1959
Southern Reporter 7 June 1894
Photo 312 : 1885-1886 - Burma - One hundred photographs, illustrating incidents connected with the British Expeditionary Force
Photo 472 : 1870s-1940s - Sir Geoffrey Ramsden Collection: Photographs relating to the life and career in India of Sir Geoffrey Ramsden
Photo 1237 : 1885-1886 - Lantern slides relating to the 3rd Anglo-Burmese War
IOR/L/PS/20/MEMO38/14 : 4 Dec 1885 - Memorandum by His Excellency the Governor [on Upper Burma, following occupation of Mandalay by British forces] M E Grant Duff, 4 Dec 1885
IOR/L/MIL/7/9167 : 1885-1888 - Collection 205/7 Reports by General Prendergast and his officers on operations up to fall of Mandalay.
IOR/L/MIL/7/9162 : 1885 - Collection 205/2 Telegraphic reports of operations until fall of Mandalay, November 1885.
IOR/L/PS/20/MEMO38/14 : 4 Dec 1885 - Memorandum by His Excellency the Governor [on Upper Burma, following occupation of Mandalay by British forces] M E Grant Duff, 4 Dec 1885
Mss Eur E290 : 1845-1891 - Papers of Col Sir Edward Sladen

 

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