Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

12 March 2024

Applications for Trinity House Pensions

The British Library holds the papers of Lord George Francis Hamilton (1845-1927), Secretary of State for India 1895-1903.  The papers are on a variety of subjects relating to India, and correspondence with the Viceroy and Governors of Bombay and Madras.  Amongst these papers is a very interesting file of applications relating to the Trinity House in London.

'View of the new Trinity House on Tower Hill'  in 1799'View of the new Trinity House on Tower Hill' 1799 - British Library Maps K.Top.25.8 Images Online

Trinity House is a charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers.  It began as a fraternity caring for distressed mariners and their widows and dependants by maintaining alms houses and awarding pensions.  Lord George Hamilton was an Elder Brethren of Trinity House and was able to nominate a mariner in need of help.  The file on this in his papers contain letters applying for his help in securing a place at Trinity House.  Here are a few of the applications he received:

John James in applying for an annuity declared that he was 66 years old and had been employed at sea for the previous 52 years.  He stated that he was thoroughly incapable of filling any post whatsoever having swollen legs and feet due to chronic Bright’s disease [an inflammatory disease of the kidneys].  James further stated that ‘I have no means to support myself and wife and have to rely upon the generosity of my two married daughters’.  He said his savings had been lost through investing in shipping and his wages for the past ten years had not left him any margin for saving.

Letter from John James applying for an annuityLetter from John James applying for an annuity, 1900  - British Library Mss Eur F123/43

William J Spark wrote on behalf of his brother-in-law, J F Spark and wife, whom he described as ‘an old worn-out master mariner & his wife, who are a very deserving couple & are in very needy circumstances – both of them are between 70 & 80 years of age, and I regret to say, are quite broken down & always in the doctor’s hands’.

Edward Dunstall wrote in February 1901, that he was an old master mariner of the merchant service, aged 66.  In 1890, he had been compelled to vacate the sea service, and in 1894 he had an operation for a ‘very painful internal disease, the effects of which I am still suffering’.  In 1898 he had been accepted as an eligible applicant but had never been nominated.  He appealed to Hamilton for help:’My Lord, myself and wife, having been so long on such poor pittance, and with the enormous rising in the price of living, been unable to procure a sufficiency of the necessaries of life have often to go hungry.  And with ailment in the struggle of life to keep a house over our heads, we are sorely pressed and to get relief we should be ever thankful’.

Letter from Edward Dunstall in 1901 appealing for helpLetter from Edward Dunstall in 1901 appealing for help - British Library Mss Eur F123/43

Elizabeth Mary Goddard wrote to Hamilton in October 1900.   She wrote that she was ‘the unmarried daughter of Captain Charles William Goddard who had the Captains Out Doors Pension and died some years ago and Anna Johanna Elizabeth Goddard my dear Mother who also had the Captains Out Doors Pension also died some years ago’.  Elizabeth was then 60 years old and suffering very much from rheumatism.  She wished to apply for a pension and needed Hamilton to nominate her.  A note on the letter gives the reply: ‘Lord G H has noted her name on his list of applicants and will consider her claims with those of others when an opportunity occurs; but H L is sorry to say that his list for the Trinity House is already a long one, and it is but seldom that he has a presentation at his disposal’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Applications for Trinity House Pensions, 1900-1902, shelfmark: Mss Eur F123/43.
Trinity House

05 March 2024

What about the East India Company Women? Emma Roberts and the spinsterhood of India

'There cannot be a more wretched situation than that of a young woman who has been induced to follow the fortunes of a married sister, under the delusive expectation that she will exchange the privations attached to limited means in England for the far-famed luxuries of the East.  The husband is usually desirous to lessen the regret of his wife at quitting her home, by persuading an affectionate relative to accompany her, and does not calculate beforehand the expense and inconvenience which he has entailed upon himself by the additional burthen.’

These are the words of Emma Roberts whom we met in a previous blog post.  They appear in her book Scenes and characteristics of Hindostan, with sketches of Anglo-Indian society which was published in 1835.

Title page of Sketches of Anglo-Indian Society by Emma RobertsTitle page of Emma Roberts, Scenes and characteristics of Hindostan, with sketches of Anglo-Indian society (London, 1835)

Emma had travelled to India in 1828 with her sister Laura, who was married to Captain Robert Adair McNaghten of the Bengal Infantry, so it seems that she was speaking from experience.  She explained that it was likely that the family would move up-country soon after arriving in India, and this was when the poor young woman's’s troubles began.  She was ‘an incumbrance’, the third person in the buggy, always finding herself in the way.  Outdoor recreations were denied, except riding in a carriage, and she was not allowed to walk beyond the garden or verandah.  The climate made gardening impossible even though she was surrounded by exotic plants.  Hot winds split the wood of pianos and guitars, and sheet music was eaten by white ants.  Drawing was a possible pastime, but supplies of necessary materials might be lacking.  The climate did not suit needlework.

Any young men at the station would avoid giving attention to a single woman unless they were contemplating matrimony, fearing that ‘expectations’ would be formed which they were not inclined to fulfil.  Few young women who had accompanied their married sisters to India possessed the means to return home however much they disliked the country.  They were forced to remain ‘in a state of miserable dependence, with the danger of being left unprovided for before them, until they were rescued by an offer of marriage’.

Tom Raw's Misfortune at the Ball -  dancers in a ballroom, with young soldier Tom Raw about to tear a muslin gown by standing on the hem accidently‘Tom Raw’s misfortune at the ball’ from Tom Raw the Griffin; a burlesque poem (London, 1828) Shelfmark: C.119.d.25 British Library Images Online

Emma identified two other categories of ‘spinsterhood’ in India apart from the sisters and near relatives of the brides of officials.   The first consisted of the daughters of civil and military servants, merchants and others settled in India, who had been sent to England for their education. They generally returned to India between the ages of sixteen and twenty, expecting to be married.

The second was made up of the orphan daughters, both legitimate and illegitimate, of men resident in India.  These girls were educated in India and often had no family connections to help them.  A large number, supported by the Bengal Orphan Fund, lived in a large house at Kidderpore near Calcutta.  The practice of holding balls for invited men to meet the resident girls was discontinued by the 1830s – ‘this undisguised method of seeking husbands is now at variance with the received notions of propriety’.  Emma said that the girls then had no opportunity to encounter suitors unless they had friends in Calcutta to invite them to social events, or ’the fame of their beauty should spread itself abroad’.  The increasing number of young women arriving from England every year lessened the Kidderpore girls’ chances of meeting eligible matches.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Emma Roberts, Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan, with sketches of Anglo-Indian society (London, 1835) British Library shelfmarks 1046.e.10. and T 37078


06 February 2024

Interim ways of working with the India Office Records and Private Papers

Thank you for your patience during the disruption caused by the cyber-attack.  Please check our temporary website where you can find more information about our available services. Our blogpost Restoring our services - an update (10 January) provides more information on what is available and how to access our collections.

We would like to share some ways of working with the India Office Records and Private Papers during the disruption.

Physical collection access

Our website has the latest information on collection access.  There are printed catalogues and handlists in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room at St Pancras.  You can use the interim main catalogue to find relevant printed resources from our collections.  This short video explains how to do this. 

India Office Records and Private Papers material can be accessed in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room, including microfilm.  To order an item, you'll need to place a manual order by completing a paper order form.  Our staff can help you with this.  You can order up to four collection items per day.  India Office Records material can be photographed by readers, but India Office Private Papers require curatorial approval for photography.

New readers with temporary passes are currently unable to order any collection items from the stores.  The temporary pass will allow you to use our Reading Rooms for personal study, use our free wifi, and consult any items on the shelves in the Reading Rooms.

Digital resources

Catalogues for the India Office Records and Private Papers are available via The National Archives Discovery resource, although please be aware that recent cataloguing work is not included.

Internet Archive has catalogues for the India Office Records, including -

Martin Moir, General Guide to the India Office Records

William Foster, A Guide to the India Office Records 1600-1858.

Internet Archive also has other useful reference materials such as copies of the India Office List.

The India Office Records subject and collection guides from the previous British Library website are available on the Internet Archive.  Two are listed below, and more can be browsed from these:

South Asia subject page

India Office Records collection guide

Please note that archived sites may not feature all functionality, e.g. attached files and downloads.

Families in British India Society (FIBIS), e.g. the Indian Army and Indian Army List online

Qatar Digital Library - digital images of India Office Records and Private Papers on the history and culture of the Gulf and wider region.

The Untold Lives blog has a great variety of content about the India Office Records and Private Papers, e.g. Sources for Indian Independence and the creation of Pakistan

Subscription sites with large collections of digital images of India Office Records:

  • Findmypast - biographical sources from the India Office Records, including baptisms, marriages, burials, wills, appointment papers, pension records
  • AM East India Company - IOR/B Court Minutes, IOR/C Council of India, IOR/D Committee Papers, IOR/E Correspondence, IOR/G Factory Records.


We thank you again for your patience and hope that you find this information useful.

 

29 October 2023

Clement Mansfield Ingleby of Valentines

Clement Mansfield Ingleby was born in Edgbaston (Birmingham) on 29 October 1823.  He is remembered as a Shakespearean scholar, but his interests included metaphysics, mathematics and philosophy as well as literature.



Portrait drawing of Clement Mansfield IngelbyPortrait of Clement Mansfield Ingleby ‘from a recent photograph’ in Edgbastonia, Vol.III, No.25, May 1883.


Ingleby suffered from ill health throughout his life and was privately educated, but in 1843 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge.,  He graduated BA in 1847, later receiving the degrees of MA (1850) and LLD (1859).  Against his own inclination, he worked in the family firm as a solicitor until his father died in 1859.

On 3 October 1850 Ingleby married Sarah Oakes, and around 1860 they moved with their four children to live with Sarah’s uncle at Valentines in Ilford, Essex, her home as a teenager.  Ingleby provided for his family by writing – his work in the British Library catalogue comprises 18 books in 29 editions, including 12 on Shakespeare with an edition of Cymbeline with notes for schools.  He analysed Shakespeare’s use of words rather than writing a commentary on the meaning of his text, saying ‘The textual critic who discharges his true function is as one who, bearing torch or lantern, attempts to find his way through dark and devious lanes’.

In the 1850s Ingleby taught Metaphysics and Logic in the Industrial Department of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, and the British Library holds four books on these subjects. He also wrote many essays and contributed to publications like Notes & Queries. Apart from Shakespearean topics, his articles ranged from ‘The Principles of Acoustics and the Theory of Sound’ to ‘Miracles versus Nature’.  Ingleby also composed poetry, both serious and amusing, some of which was published in periodicals.  After his death, his verses were collected together and printed for private circulation.  This volume has now been reprinted.

At the Annual Meeting of Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon on 5 May 1875, the Trustees unanimously agreed to elect Dr Ingleby one of the Life Trustees.  He was also elected a Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature, an honorary member of the Shakespeare Society of New York, and an honorary member of the German Shakespeare Society of Weimar.

In 1877 and 1881 he published the two volumes of his work Shakespeare – The Man and the Book.  This was a compilation of his writings gathered from a number of sources, some published in magazines, some previously unpublished.  In the introduction Ingleby says ‘It is useful to get one’s scattered papers together… the collection includes such of my smaller writings as I have deemed worthy of preservation’.



Title page and frontispiece of Shakespeare's Bones, showing a picture of the playwright on his death bedShakespeare’s Bones (1883)

One of Dr Ingleby’s later books, Shakespeare’s Bones (1883) was a proposal to disinter the skull so that it could be considered in relation to its possible bearing on Shakespeare’s portraiture.  The proposal was attacked in the press and firmly rejected by the town council, but it shows that he was a man who wanted facts, and his logical mind is evident in much that he wrote.

Ingleby was well liked in the Ilford area and had a particular fondness for children and animals, taking an interest in the fight against vivisection.  He suffered a serious rheumatic attack in August 1886 and, although he seemed to recover, died on 26 September.  His obituary in Shakespeariana said: ‘he died – honoured and mourned by all who knew him best and longest. . . . he probably never made an enemy and never lost a friend’.

CC-BY
Georgina Green
Independent researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Edgbastonia, Vol.III, No.25, May 1883
Shakespeariana, Vol.III 1886
Memoir of his father by Holcombe Ingleby in Poems and Epigrams (Trübner & Co, London, 1887) - Original in London Library, now available as a facsimile reprint.
Family papers donated to Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre
History of Valentines Mansion 

 

26 October 2023

The happiest days of your life?

While the India Office archives contain documentation about all aspects of colonial education policy, inevitably little is to be found about the experiences of those who were being taught.  The  British Library is therefore very lucky to have the published memoirs of someone who was a pupil in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Cover of Orchids and AlgebraCover of Denise Coelho, Orchids and Algebra: the story of Dow Hill School (1986)

Denise Coelho’s slim 71-page book Orchids and Algebra is about her seven largely happy years as a boarder at Dow Hill Girls’ School just outside Kurseong in West Bengal.  Illustrated with various photographs and sketches, it is arranged in 177 short chapters, the titles of some giving a flavour of the work:

21. Of Inkwells & Soggy Pellets.
67. Ripping Times.
80. Teachers’ Pets.
135. Mrs. Stewart & Vegetables.
139. Winifred & the Ball Gown.
152. Rosalind and the Bear that Didn’t.
163. Tuck Parcels.

Denise loved art and English, enjoyed biology, tolerated history, endured piano lessons, and disliked mathematics – ‘I hated, with some intensity of feeling, the originator of algebra and the fiendishly devious brain that had devised my perpetual torment at these classes in school’ – but recorded that ‘It was my very good luck that the compilers of the Junior and Senior Cambridge arithmetic papers in the years I took these important examinations, set me a few sums I was capable of tackling, and this helped me scrape through with the minimum requirement of forty-five marks’.

Side view of Dow Hill SchoolSide view of Dow Hill School showing main building, classrooms, porch, Principal's office, stairway to senior dormitories, lower school dormitories back right - from Orchids and Algebra p.19

As in the English public schools system the girls were arranged in Houses, named after important figures of British India – Hastings, Wellesley and Clive.  Denise was in Hastings (Colour: green; motto ‘As Much As I Am Able’), the House which usually won the Work Shield; Clive (red; ‘I Serve’) tended to do best with the Games Shield, both no doubt rather looking down on the hapless members of Wellesley (blue; ‘Thorough’).

The pupils’ relations with their teachers – Miss Mackertich (Scripture and Needlework), Miss Cooper (Art), Miss Bwye (English – nickname ‘Booey’), Miss Smart (History; ‘the strictest teacher in Dow Hill’, nickname ‘Smut’) – were generally cordial, not seriously damaged by the event that went down in school annals as ‘The Cryptomeria Rebellion’, a failed attempt to get an unpopular Head Girl replaced (chapter 91).  Everyone at the school was shocked when the mother of Miss George, the Music teacher, was knocked down and killed by a bolting horse (chapter 30).

Outside lessons, Denise was able to watch Hollywood films, liking Errol Flynn, Ronald Colman, and Laurence Olivier, finding ‘Cary Grant had a hesitant charm and Spencer Tracy was a great actor’ but resisting the charms of ‘Shirley Temple with her prissy bobbing curls and cute dimples’.  She also wondered – was ‘E’, the topmost dormitory, really haunted?

The final chapter contains the score and lyrics of the school song, the chorus of which is

‘Ring out the strain both far and wide
Make it resound from every side
The echoes long on the ear prolong
Of this our song at Kurseong.'

Sad to relate, the school was damaged in a fire in February 2016.

Hedley Sutton
Asian and African Studies Reference Team Leader

Further reading:
Denise Coelho, Orchids and Algebra: the story of Dow Hill School (1986) 
Victoria and Dow Hill Association

India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F351 - a collection of memoirs mainly from the 1930s and 1940s of female pupils from Auckland House School near Simla.

 

 

24 October 2023

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 2)

On Monday 30 December 1851, following Turner’s funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral, his cousin and chief executor, Henry Harpur, who had been chief mourner, read the will to the other executors at Turner’s Queen Anne Street gallery.  It was later contested by a collection of Turner’s relations on his father’s side of the family and was not settled until 1856.  Henry and Philip Hardwick, the Royal Academy Treasurer, dealt with the financial aspects of the contested will, leaving other executors to deal with the artworks.

Interior of Turner's Gallery - The Artist showing his Works by George Jones‘Interior of Turner's Gallery: The Artist showing his Works’ by George Jones, probably painted from memory, shortly after Turner's death. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

In the struggle over the will, Henry did battle with another of Turner’s cousins - Jabez Tepper, the son of Turner’s Devon cousin, Mary Turner Tepper (1770-1855).  He was also a London solicitor.

The most disappointing outcome for Henry was that ‘Turner’s Gift’, the proposed Twickenham alms houses for ‘decayd English artists (Landscape Painters only) and single men’, was never fulfilled because under the Mortmain Law, the transfer of the three quarters of an acre of land in Twickenham to a trust, had to be at least a year before Turner’s death, and this had not happened.  This oversight was probably the fault of Henry and Turner’s other legal adviser, George Cobb.

When Turner’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby, died in 1853, her will included the bequest to ‘Mrs Harpur of Cobourg Place Kennington my Tea Caddie’.  This was, of course, Henry’s second wife, Amelia, who had been kind to Hannah. 

The Westminster Hospital c.1834 Wellcome CollectionThe Westminster Hospital, London. Engraving, Wellcome Collection.

In 1868, Henry gave £10,000 to Westminster Hospital, with the request that a ward be endowed in his name.  The hospital was relocated several times and in 1992 amalgamated with Chelsea Hospital to form the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.  There is no longer a Harpur Ward.

Amelia Harpur died on 5th August 1868, aged 54.  Henry died on 2nd March 1877, aged 86.  At the time of his death, he was living at 96 Upper Kennington Lane.  In the 1870s, Evelina Dupuis, Turner’s daughter, had moved into a house at the other end of Kennington Lane, number 154.  Following Evelina’s death there in August 1874, Henry made his last will, bequeathing the remaining money in Turner's Monument Account to her children.

Henry, Amelia and a number of Henry’s siblings are buried in West Norwood Cemetery but their memorials are probably among the 20,000 or so removed by Lambeth Council during the 1970s/80s.

In his will Henry left two Turner paintings to the National Gallery, on the condition that they put them on display.  Strangely, the Gallery refused the paintings.  Apart from several small personal bequests, and having no children, Henry left the bulk of his estate, including the two Turners, to his friend and fellow solicitor, Henry Drake, who was also the sole executor.  One of Drake’s sons, Bernard, had been given the middle name Harpur.

Drake exhibited the two Turner paintings in 1884, 1886 and 1892.  The larger painting, 'Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbour' is now part of the Frick Collection in New York.  The smaller painting, described as 'Figures and boats in the foreground; low-lying coast seen across the sea on the horizon' is untraced.

In his will, Henry also made special provision for his cat to be cared for by Fanny Hodges.  One can only hope that, unlike the paintings, this bequest was fulfilled.

Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877 British Newspaper Archive

CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, Of Geese, Mallards and Drakes: Some Notes on Turner's Family, with contributions from others, Part 4 The Marshalls & Harpurs, Independent Turner Society (1999)
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 1)

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

19 October 2023

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 1)

Researching JMW Turner’s cousin, Henry Harpur, is complicated by the fact that he was Henry Harpur lV.  Henry Harpur l was a solicitor who rented a house in Islington to Turner’s grandparents, William and Sarah Marshall.  Their daughter Sarah married the landlord’s son, Henry Harpur ll.  Sarah was the sister of Turner’s mother, Mary.

Henry Harpur ll left London to become vicar of St Giles, Tonbridge, from 1756 to 1791.  Turner is believed to have stayed with Harpur during his summer holidays and on one visit painted a scene of Tonbridge Castle.

Turner's painting of Tonbridge Castle Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Tonbridge Castle, Kent'. Grey and blue wash over graphite, on paper. 1794. Accession Number: 1588 Photograph copyright © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Harpur’s son, Henry Harpur lll, returned to London, where he became a successful lawyer in Westminster, in partnership with a baronet.  He married Elizabeth Lambert at St Giles, Camberwell, on 21 October 1800; by this time the couple already had three children.  Their son, Henry Harpur lV, was probably born on 18 June 1791 and baptised at Christ Church, Southwark on 1 January 1792; he also entered the legal profession.  Despite the sixteen years’ difference in their ages, he and Turner had a close personal and professional relationship for nearly 50 years.

Painting of Henry Harpur IVPainting of Henry Harpur lV - Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Art Collection


Henry married Eleanor Watkins on 11 May 1810 at Christ Church, Southwark and they set up house in Lambeth.  Eleanor was nine years older than Henry.

In 1820, Henry acted for himself and Turner in the challenge to their uncle Joseph Marshall’s will and, as a result, he became the owner of two properties in Wapping: numbers 9 and 10 New Crane, at the southern end of New Gravel Lane (now Garnet Street).

Henry and Eleanor accompanied Turner in 1840 on his trip to Venice, as far as Bregenz on the Rhine.  Leaving Turner, they next visited the Swiss Alps and then went south, via the lakes, to Italy, ending up in Milan.  While Turner was in Venice, Eleanor and Henry wrote to him, enthusing about the scenery in the Alps.  This may well have influenced Turner’s decision to visit Switzerland the following year.

Death notice for Eleanor Harpur from Morning Herald 25 June 1846Death notice for Eleanor Harpur Morning Herald (London) 25 June 1846 British Newspaper Archive

Eleanor Harpur died on 24 June 1846, aged 64.  She and Henry had no children.  On 22 December 1848, Henry married a widow, Amelia Stubbs, née Cotterell, at St James Westminster.

Henry retired as a solicitor in 1849 but still took care of Turner’s affairs and remained a close personal friend.  When Turner’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby, discovered where Turner was living with Sophia Booth, shortly before his death, it was Henry whom she informed of his whereabouts.  Hannah didn’t know that Henry and Amelia had remained in close contact with Turner and had visited him in Chelsea many times during his final illness.  It was Henry who, at the end of November 1851, told the Academy Treasurer, Philip Hardwick, that Turner would not be able to dine with him on Christmas Day ‘as was his custom’ because he was ‘confined to bed and had been since the commencement of October’.

Henry continued to visit Turner in his final days and later told his friend, the painter David Roberts, that Turner was ‘speechless two days at the end’.  This rather spoils the story that Turner expired with the words, ‘The sun is God’ on his lips.  After Turner’s death, to avoid any possible scandal about his relationship with Sophia Booth, Henry and Philip Hardwick arranged to move the body to Turner’s gallery in Queen Anne Street.  Turner had named Henry as his chief executor.


CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, Of Geese, Mallards and Drakes: Some Notes on Turner's Family, with contributions from others, Part 4 The Marshalls & Harpurs, Independent Turner Society (1999).
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 2)

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

17 October 2023

Gerald Sidney Wilson, Indian Police

A previous post on this blog looked at the career of William Henry Wilson, an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps who had a distinguished career in the Bombay Police.  Another member of the Wilson family was also involved in law enforcement in India.  This was Gerald Sidney Wilson, William’s nephew, who served in the Indian Police in Bombay.

Photograph of Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli, 10 July 1932 Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli 10 July 1932 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.26

Gerald Sidney Wilson was born on 29 October 1880 in Hampstead.  He joined the Indian Police on 23 November 1901 as a 3rd Grade Assistant Superintendent of Police and was stationed at Dharwar.  Wilson had a long career, working his way up to Inspector General of Police for the Bombay Presidency from 1932 until his retirement in 1934.  He was awarded the King’s Police Medal in 1918 and the Companion of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India in 1931.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930  with two policemen in the foreground.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Wilson served in the police during a turbulent time in modern Indian history.  His papers include some fascinating material relating to the struggle for Independence.  He kept a scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers in 1930 that reported on many key events that occurred in the Bombay Presidency, such as the Congress flag salutation ceremony and women's Congress procession, the release of Vallabhbhai Patel from jail, Khilafat procession in Bombay, and demonstrations on Jawahar Day.  Wilson also collected several editions of The Bombay Congress Bulletin between 1930 and 1932.  These were propaganda sheets issued by the Congress Party in Bombay.  They reported on the activities of party activists and on demonstrations against British rule in India, and took every opportunity to denounce the British authorities.  As Wilson at that time was Commissioner of Police for the city of Bombay, he often came under fire in the Bulletin. The issue of 29 November 1930 reported that Wilson had failed to fulfil his vow to crush Congress: ‘Citizens of Bombay! You have quelled the puffed up pride of this Wilson and made him eat his words by your wonderful solidarity with the Congress movement’.

Bombay Congress Bulletin  29 November 1930  - artlcle about 'Proud Police Chief' WilsonArticle about 'Proud Police Chief' Wilson in The Bombay Congress Bulletin 29 November 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.2

In 1932, Wilson had the task of arresting Gandhi.  His papers include his fascinating account of this, which took place in the early hours of 4 January at Mani Bhuvan, Gandhi’s home in Bombay.  When he arrived Gandhi was asleep.  ‘On being awakened Mr Gandhi sat up but uttered no word as it was his silence day.  I said to Mr Gandhi “It is my duty to arrest you” and showed him the warrant to take him to Yeravda Jail under the old Bombay Regulation of 1827.  I read out the warrant and touched his shoulder in token of having arrested him and told him that I would give him half an hour to get ready.  Asking for paper and pencil he wrote “I will be ready in exactly half an hour”.’

Congress stamps with Gandhi's image and the words 'Boycott British Goods. Non-Violence'.Congress stamps - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Gandhi described the arrest simply in his diary entry for that day: ‘Spun 190 rounds.  The police came and arrested me at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Left after reciting a bhajan.  Elwin, Privat, Mills and others were present.  Vallabhbhai also was arrested at the same time.  We met in the jail and are lodged together.  I may say I spent the day resting.  I could take a walk for the first time today after landing [Gandhi had recently returned from the Round Table Conference in London].  Started reading Will Durant’s book [The Case for India].  Ate no fresh fruit today.  Had two seers of milk’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Gerald Sidney Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.

Papers relating to the career of Gerald Sidney Wilson in the Indian Police, 1901-1933. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/3

Scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers, 1930. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/4.

The Bombay Congress Bulletin, 1930-1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/7.

Account by Gerald Sidney Wilson of the arrest of Gandhi on 4 January 1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/9.

Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope by Judith M Brown (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1989).

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.49, January-May 1932 (Government of India Publications Division, 1958-).