Untold lives blog

292 posts categorized "South Asia"

29 November 2022

East India Company discharged soldiers

In the India Office Records are two fascinating registers of discharged soldiers for the period 1820-1882.  They record soldiers other than commissioned officers who served in the East India Company armies in Bengal, Madras, Bombay and St Helena, and in the British Army in India after 1859.

Page from register of discharged soldiersRegister of discharged soldiers IOR/L/MIL/10/301 - William Evitt from a recent post appears on this page  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


The information given is –
• Names
• Rank
• Service in years and months
• Which establishment i.e. Bengal, Madras, Bombay, St Helena
• Age
• Height
• Complexion e.g. fair, sallow, freckled, dark, swarthy, fresh, ruddy
• Visage e.g. round, long, very long, oval, square, sharp, thin
• Eye and hair colour
• Previous trade
• County and parish of birth
• Character
• Ship sailing to England
• Where enlisted
• Amount of marching money (grant to meet the costs of  the soldier's journey from the place where he was landed  to the place where he enlisted)
• Reason for discharge e.g. time expired, unfit, infamous character, own request, over age
• Notes e.g. admission to pension, scars, details of injuries and infirmities

Explanations are given for why the soldiers were deemed unfit for further service.  Some examples of infirmity are broken hips; fractured knees; wounds; liver, kidney, lung, and heart disease; rheumatism; injuries to hands; loss of limbs; constant headaches; poor eyesight; epilepsy; rupture; venereal disease; alcohol problems.  Several men died before embarkation or during the passage home.  Gunners in the Artillery seem to have been especially prone to injury – ‘contracted’ fingers, deafness, being hit by horses falling on them.  In 1858, discharges because of serious injuries sustained in actions during the Indian Uprising or ‘Mutiny’ dominate the register.

Some men with mental health problems were sent for admission to Pembroke House in Hackney, for example, in 1857, Patrick Glendon and Theophilus Boyd.  Their case histories can be read in the Pembroke House register in the India Office Records (IOR/K/2/36).

There are cases of men being discharged when they needed to return to Europe to settle personal affairs .  Others were removed from the army after being involved in criminal activity such as highway robbery.  James Deer, a private in the St Helena garrison, was discharged and sent to England as an infamous character.  He had been being found guilty of burglary and sacrilege after stealing articles from the London Missionary Society at Jamestown Church on 8 December 1821.  He was spared by giving evidence for the Crown against his fellow soldier Samuel Crump who was sentenced to death.  The East India Company Court of Directors and the London Missionary Society submitted petitions to the Home Secretary Robert Peel, asking for clemency for Crump on the grounds of Christian mercy and his contrition. A royal pardon was granted on condition that Crump serve seven years’ hard labour on St Helena.

Charles Gustasson, a native of Sweden, was discharged in 1823 and granted a pension.  He had originally enlisted in 1806 for service on St Helena but ‘being a foreigner’ was moved to the Cape of Good Hope after the arrival of Napoleon on the island in 1815.

In July 1859 William Ruxton, a gunner in the Bombay Artillery returned to Dublin with a pension and a very good character after 23 years’ service.  He was discharged because of old age, loss of vital energy, and bad teeth. He was aged 45.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading;
IOR/L/MIL/10/301-302 Registers of discharged soldiers 1820-1882, with indexes.
IOR/G/32/142, 153 St Helena records 1822-1823 about Samuel Crump.
The National Archives HO 17/92/50 Petition on behalf of Samuel Crump 1822.

23 November 2022

The Attempted Assassination of Lord Lytton: A Letter’s Story

Archivists respect ‘provenance’ and ‘original order’, which means that documents created by the same person, organisation, or institution stay together, and you don’t mix or rearrange them because you think it might make material more ‘useable’.  But documents often have their own story to tell.  I recently came across one such letter in the India Office records from Viceroy Lord Lytton to Sir James Caird.

Photographic portrait of Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton - bearded, seated, dressed in long frock coat. Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, 1876 NPG x197471 © National Portrait Gallery, London  National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence


Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl Lytton was Viceroy of India from 1876 to 1880.  It was a controversial term of office.  On the domestic front, the Vernacular Press Act (1878) provoked public protests against the Government’s attempts to control a critical Indian Press.  The Second Anglo-Afghan War was underway, absorbing considerable political and economic resources.  And famine raged across large swathes of India for the first three years of Lytton’s tenure, the disaster of drought exacerbated by a poor Government response to famine relief and the continued export of grain.  Estimates vary, but 10 million people may have died of starvation and its associated diseases.  James Caird was part of the Indian Famine Commission set up to look at ways to prevent and avoid future famines.

Page of letter from James Caird to Lord Lytton, 12 December 1879 Page of letter from James Caird to Lord Lytton, 12 December 1879IOR/L/PS/19/570: Letter from James Caird to Lord Lytton, 12 December 1879, f2v & f3r  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Our letter, dated 12 December 1879, was a private rather than official piece of correspondence, sent from Government House Calcutta to Caird’s London address.  It remained in the Caird family until gifted to the India Office in 1924 as part of a larger collection of correspondence to and from James Caird, which also included material relating to the Famine Commission.  The material was gratefully received, given the shelf-mark Home Miscellaneous 796 (IOR/H/796), and catalogued.  But this particular letter was deliberately removed and placed in the care of the Political and Secret Department.

Document recording transfer of letter from Lord Lytton to Sir James Caird to Political and Secret Department in 1924Document recording transfer of letter from Lord Lytton to Sir James Caird to Political and Secret Department, 1924  -IOR/L/PS/11/247, P 2688/1924  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Amongst other business, the letter describes an assassination attempt against Lytton.  Arriving in Calcutta, Lytton tells Caird: ‘I daresay you will see it stated in the newspapers that I was twice fired at on my way from the Station to Government House’.  He is dismissive, both of the assassination attempt, and of the person making it, saying ‘But the shots were fired by a lunatic Eurasian; and I can assure you that they had not the smallest political significance’.  Lytton’s language is distasteful, not only towards his would-be assassin, but also towards the wider Indian inhabitants of Bengal (‘Bengalee Baboos’) who he describes as ‘disloyal’, including those belonging to the British Indian Association.  Lytton does not name his attacker, but he is identified in the press as George Dessa or De Sa. The newspapers state that his shots had ‘…created indignation but no excitement…it seems doubtful as to whether the man was mad or only drunk’.  His motive is not deemed to be political, but rather that he acted because he had been dismissed from his job.

Report of the assassination attempt on Lytton in Homeward Mail 5 January 1880Report of the assassination attempt on Lytton in Homeward Mail 5 January 1880 British Newspaper Archive


India Office staff in 1924 do not explicitly state the reason for the letter’s removal, but we can surmise that as it refers to an assassination attempt against the Viceroy, it was deemed to be too politically sensitive to remain with the other items.  Lytton’s provocative language may also have been an issue, given the context of rising Indian nationalism within the sub-continent, and the political instabilities in Britain in the 1920s.  Whatever the reasons behind its original removal, improved cataloguing of our records enables us to intellectually link our letter back to its original collection, telling its history along the way.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/19/570: Letter from James Caird to Lord Lytton, 1879.
IOR/H/796: Correspondence of Sir James Caird, Member of the Indian Famine Commission. 1878-1881.
IOR/L/PS/11/247, P 2688/1924: Letter from Lord Lytton to Sir James Caird, transferred to Political and Secret Department.
The Times of India 16 December 1879 & The Homeward Mail 5 January 1880, accessed via British Newspaper Archive.
IOR/L/PARL/2/173/2: Condition of India. Report by James Caird, C.B. (C.2732). 1880.
Various correspondence between James Caird and the India Office in relation to his Condition of India report can be found at IOR/L/E/6/13, File 705; IOR/L/E/6/11, File 538; IOR/L/E/6/26, File 424; IOR/L/E/6/2, File 59; and IOR/L/E/6/19, File 1164.
Papers of 1st Earl of Lytton, Viceroy of India, Mss Eur F595 and Mss Eur E218.

 

10 November 2022

Finding employment for surplus Indian Army Officers

Following the implementation in April 1923 of the Royal Warrant 1922 a number of Indian Army Officers found their roles ‘surplus to requirements’.

One of the opportunities presented to these officers, was the opportunity to settle in the state of Victoria, Australia, with a significant plot of land for farming.

Newspaper advert for the Australian farms schemeAdvert for the Australian farms scheme -  Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore) 26 July 1922 British Newspaper Archive

A financial agreement could be entered into with Australian Farms Limited whereby they would supply the land, tools, livestock etc. required for the officers to establish themselves in farming, and in return the officers would take out a financial loan with the company to cover the costs which would have to be paid back monthly.

The agreement also included an understanding that the gratuities these officers would be receiving from the India Office following their discharge (such as pension, annuities, bonus etc.) would be paid directly to Australian Farms Limited, who would then take their monthly payment from the gratuity received and forward the remainder of it onto the officer.

Newspaper report on the working of the scheme 1924Report on the working of the scheme  - Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore) 22 January 1924 British Newspaper Archive

Problems arose however in June 1925 when the India Office was notified that Australian Farms Ltd had gone into voluntary liquidation.  This raised questions about how the officers' gratuities would now be paid to them, as the company had in effect been acting as the agent for these individuals.

Letter reporting liquidation of Australian Farms Ltd, June 1925Letter reporting liquidation of Australian Farms Ltd,, June 1925  - IOR/L/AG/29/1/151, part 6 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Enquiries were made with the Government of Victoria to identify how many of the 93 individuals who had originally taken out these contracts were still operating these farms, as some individuals had sold their land and bought themselves out of the agreement, whilst others had their contracts cancelled by being recalled to the Army.

Page from a list of officers who entered the schemePage from a list of officers who entered the scheme - IOR/L/AG/29/1/151, part 6 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

From the original list of 93 individuals, 80 were found to have chosen to remain in Australia and continue with the land and farm in June 1925.  Their contracts were re-assigned to the Treasurer for the State of Victoria, the state government having decided to take on the responsibility for the settling of the land by the officers in question.

Newspaper article about the plight of the men in the farm scheme December 1926Article about the plight of the men in the farm scheme -  Dundee Evening Telegraph 28 December 1926 British Newspaper Archive

Arrangements were therefore subsequently made for the gratuities to be paid via the Government of Victoria in future.  However any officer who was found to be in debt to Australian Farms Ltd at the time of liquidation was required to use their gratuity to pay off that debt first.

Some of the 80 individuals would later choose to sell up their land and return to England, but the vast majority settled in Australia permanently.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/L/AG/29/1/151, part 6 - Australian Farm Cases, 1925-1926.
British Newspaper Archive

 

08 November 2022

The Collier family of Bethnal Green and the East India Company

Following on from our overview of East India Company Home Correspondence, we look at a document from this collection which is the key to uncovering a wealth of detail about one East London family’s links to India.

In July 1856 Matthew Collier of Bethnal Green, a pewterer in his late 50s, sent a petition to the East India Company asking for a position.  He started by naming five members of his family who had served the Company – his father, two brothers, a nephew and a son.  Matthew said that he had been twenty years with his current employer but now felt inclined to finish his days with the Company as a firelighter or doorkeeper at East India House or in any other ‘low’ situation.  The hours would be shorter than at present and the work much easier.

Matthew Collier's petition for a position at East India House Matthew Collier's petition for a position at East India House - IOR/E/1/193 Letter no. 238  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Company’s Secretary wrote in August informing Matthew that Court of Directors was ‘under the necessity of declining to comply with his request’.

From the information given by Matthew in the petition, it is possible to trace details of his relatives’ service with the Company in other parts of the India Office Records.

Matthew said that his father William Delves Collier had made a voyage for the East India Company in 1790-1791.  He didn’t know the name of the ship but I have found a William Collier who was surgeon’s servant in the Hawke.  William entered the ship on 19 April 1790 and the pay book shows that he was owed wages of £7 11s for ten months and two days. That means that William left the Hawke in Bengal. What did he do then?

Next, Matthew named his eldest brother William who had died in Bombay having served as a sergeant in the European Light Infantry using their mother’s maiden name Evitt.  William Evitt, a painter and glazier, enlisted in the Company’s army in July 1821 aged 19.  In 1825 he was discharged with chronic rheumatism and tremor of the limbs and sent back to England.  He was permitted to re-enlist in 1830.  He married Catherine King at Bombay in 1835, describing himself as a widower.  Catherine, née Hardcastle, was the widow of James King, a sergeant in the Bombay Horse Artillery.  William died on 18 October 1841 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church, Bombay.

According to Matthew, his next brother John Collier was a musician on board the Earl of Balcarras on a voyage to Bengal.  The ship’s journal records that seaman John Collier died at New Anchorage Bengal on 5 July 1826.  On 31 May 1827, William Delves Collier received wages of £5 2s 3d owed to his son.

Ship Earl of Balcarras pay book - receipt for wages of John Collier signed by W D CollierReceipt for wages of John Collier signed by W D Collier. IOR/L/MAR/B/35Q(2) Pay book for the ship Earl of Balcarras  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The fourth member of the family to serve the Company was Matthew’s nephew George Richards who was a private in the European Light Infantry.  Weaver George enlisted at the age of 21 in August 1840.  He died in Aden and was buried on 7 April 1847.  In a will written on 2 April 1847, George left Rs 100 to his brother William Richards of Spitalfields and all the remainder of his estate and effects to his ‘friend and companion’ Private William Theed.

Will of George RichardsWill of Private George Richards 2 April 1847 - IOR/L/AG/34/30/26 no.22 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Lastly, Matthew’s son Samuel Collier was a sergeant in the European Light Infantry.  Samuel, a groom, had enlisted for unlimited service in February 1840. He died in Sind on 13 November 1855 aged 34.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading;
IOR/E/1/193 Letter no. 238 IOR/E/1/193 Letter no. 238 Petition of Matthew Collier of 4 Tapp Street, Bethnal Green, July 1856.
IOR/E/1/305 Letter no. 3276 East India Company Secretary to Matthew Collier, 4 August 1856.
IOR/E/1 is now available as part of AM’s East India Company resource. 
IOR/L/MAR/B/390K Journal of the ship Hawke 1790-1791.
IOR/L/MAR/B/35H, and 35Q(2) Journal and pay book for the ship Earl of Balcarras
Documents for William Evitt:
IOR/L/MIL/9/2 London District recruitment register July 1821.
IOR/L/MIL/9/99 p.173 Embarkation list for the ship Berwickshire December 1821 .
IOR/L/MIL/10/301 Discharge register.
IOR/L/MIL/9/42 Embarkation list for the ship Buckinghamshire January 1831.
IOR/L/MIL/9/77 p.197 Embarkation list for the ship Buckinghamshire January 1831
Bombay Army muster rolls and casualty lists e.g. IOR/L/MIL/12/147-149, 1823-1825; IOR/L/MIL/12/157, 1833; IOR/L/MIL/12/165, 1841.
IOR/N/312 f.246 Marriage of William Evitt to Catherine King, 1835.
IOR/N/3/15 f.471 Burial of William Evitt, 1841.
Documents for George Richards:
IOR/L/MIL/9/6 London District recruitment register August 1840.
IOR/L/MIL/9/101 p.48 Embarkation list for the ship Donna Pascoa October 1840.
Bombay Army muster rolls and casualty lists e.g. IOR/L/MIL/12/177-178, 1846-1847.
IOR/L/AG/34/30/26 no.22 Will of Private George Richards, 2 April 1847.
IOR/N/13/14 Burial of George Richards, Aden 1847.
Documents for Samuel Collier:
IOR/L/MIL/9/5 London District recruitment register February 1840.
IOR/L/MIL/9/78 Embarkation list for the ship  Northumberland April 1840.
Bombay Army muster rolls and casualty lists e.g. IOR/L/MIL/12/186-187, 1855-1856.
IOR/N/3/29 p.348 Burial of Samuel Collier, 1855.

 

25 October 2022

Exploring the richness and variety of letters sent to the East India Company

Over 300 volumes of East India Company Home Correspondence have recently been digitised and they are now available through an Adam Matthew Digital resource

There are two series: IOR/E/1/1-195 letters sent to the Court of Directors 1701-1858, and IOR/E/1/196-314 (Miscellanies) copies of letters being sent out by the Court of Directors to Company agents, servants and Government departments 1688-1859.  ‘Home’ indicates that the correspondence is with individuals in Britain and Europe rather than Asia.

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817 

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817  - IOR/E/1 /253 p.57  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The home correspondence arriving at East India House covers a vast array of topics and subjects ranging from the day-to-day running of the Company, personal requests from employees and their families, and even unsolicited letters advertising patents, proposals and publications.

The correspondence is arranged by the date it was received at the Court, rather than the date it was sent.  The date the letter was received is recorded on the back of the letter, along with any actions taken by the Court, such as referral to a committee; read in Court; laid on the table for any interested parties to look at; or given to a specific individual to answer.  When a letter was read in Court, the Court Minutes [IOR/B] can be consulted to discover the Company’s response.

Much of the routine correspondence relates to the East India ships, including signing charterparties; appointing captains and crew; paying wages, supplies and repair bills; notifications of ship arrivals in various ports; and matters relating to the trade goods being carried on board.   Other correspondence relating to trade includes dealings with Customs officials; notifications of sales; intelligence received from agents in other countries relating to rival companies’ trade and goods; and London merchants sending money and goods to Asia in exchange for diamonds, jewels and coral.

Approval of officers for Company ships 1761Approval of officers for Company ships 1761 - IOR/E/1/43 f.306 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Related to matters of trade and shipping was correspondence with other Government departments, particularly the Admiralty, as Royal Navy vessels often provided escort services for East Indiamen and the ships would come to each other’s aid at sea.

Letters from the Company’s agents in places like Italy, Vienna, Madeira and the Levant also form part of this series.  These tend to relate to packets of the Company’s correspondence sent overland, and intelligence about political relations between countries which might impact the Company.  In the case of Madeira, there are bills and invoices for wine supplied to East Indiamen, the Court of Directors, and key Company employees.

Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company 1771Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) 1771  - IOR/E/1/55 f.486 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are also many letters from Company employees and their families, mostly in the form of petitions.  These include requests from employees to be considered for promotion, to extend leave in England owing to illness, or for relief or other assistance from relatives of employees who found themselves in financial distress.  Other topics include requests to send family members and servants to and from India, and the administration of deceased relatives' estates in India.  Occasionally there are letters from people trying to ascertain whether their relative overseas is still alive.

Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief 1764Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief December 1764 - IOR/E/1/46 ff.796-797  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Other recurring themes are concerns about the smuggling of Indian tea into England and Scotland; arrangements with missionary societies for sending supplies to their missions in the East Indies; and letters from individuals attempting to get the East India Company to take up their patent or invention, or to purchase copies of their recently published books.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/E/1 – Home Correspondence 
Adam Matthew Digital: East India Company Module 5 

 

18 October 2022

Agreement with Mina Ayah

An intriguing document was recently catalogued as part of the India Office Private Papers, and is now available to view in the Asian and African Studies reading room.  This is a signed agreement between a British family in India and an Indian nanny or ayah.

Signed agreement with Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street, Calcutta, to travel to England in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill on the SS Bengal, 9 March 1896Signed agreement with Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street, Calcutta, to travel to England in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill on the SS Bengal, 9 March 1896 - Mss Eur F754/2/1  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Previous posts on this blog have highlighted the vulnerability of ayahs travelling to Britain in the employ of British families and the danger of being left stranded in London.  A written signed agreement, which specified payment, allowances and provision for a return passage, gave a measure of protection.

The agreement reads as follows:

I, Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street City of Calcutta, do hereby agree to proceed in the P&O. S. S. “Bengal” leaving on or about April 14th 1896 in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill receiving for my services on the voyage R100 & for warm clothes R25 the half of which viz R62.8 I have received in Calcutta; the remainder to be paid on arrival in London in English money.  Also £10.0.0. for my return passage unless Mrs Greenhill finds me a lady to return with.

The agreement was signed by Mina with her mark, and is witnessed and dated 9 March 1896.

Unfortunately, little is known about Mina.  Mrs G F Greenhill was Georgiana Catherine Greenhill (née Watson), the wife of George Fowler Greenhill, a tea planter in Darjeeling and Calcutta.  They had two children: Thomas Watson (born 1892) and Elsie Winifred (born 1891).  Greenhill was also a partner in the business Cook & Co. based at 182 Dhurrumtollah Street, Calcutta; Thacker’s Indian Directory lists them as veterinary surgeons, livery and commission stable keepers, coachbuilders and auctioneers.  The 1903 Directory also lists Greenhill as the Secretary of Sungma Tea Association Ltd, Darjeeling.

The family’s journey by sea to London was noted in the Madras Weekly Mail on 23 April 1896, which recorded that Mr G F Greenhill travelled on the SS Bengal from Calcutta to Colombo, and that Mrs G F Greenhill, children and ayah all travelled from Calcutta to London.  Presumably, George was visiting Colombo on business, while the rest of the family travelled back to Britain.

Georgiana died of cholera in Calcutta in 1908, her husband died in London in 1910.  Sadly, Thomas, a Lieutenant in the 4th Dragoon Guards (Royal Irish), was killed in action during the First World War.  He died on 11 February 1916, aged 23 years old, and was buried in the Vermelles British Cemetery in France.  Elsie died in 1955.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Signed agreement with Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street, Calcutta, to travel to England in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill on the SS Bengal, 9 March 1896, shelfmark Mss Eur F754/2/1.

Thacker's Indian Directory

The British Newspaper Archive: Madras Weekly Mail, 23 April 1896.

Burial register entry for Georgiana Catherine Greenhill, shelfmark IOR/N/1/349 page 134; and the will of George Fowler Greenhill, shelfmark IOR/L/AG/34/29/155 page 78; both can be viewed online Find My Past.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

27 September 2022

Sale of jewels and silver by the India Office

In February 1862 a sale of jewels and silver on behalf of the Secretary of State for India was announced in the press.

Announcement of sale of jewels and silver by Secretary of State for India - Daily News 24 February 1862Announcement of sale of jewels and silver by Secretary of State for India  - Daily News (London) 24 February 1862 British Newspaper Archive.  Six sarpeshs were sold, not five as stated here.

The jewels and ornaments to be sold had transferred to the India Office from the East India Company.  They are included in a list made by Charles Wilkins in 1831 of items deposited with the Company Librarian.  At the beginning of 1861, the items were passed to Garrard & Co for valuation:

• Eight jighas worn on the side of the turban by Indian men of rank, and six sapeshs worn on the front of the turban, made of gold and enamel and set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls.
• Eight necklaces – pearls, diamonds, rubies, musk beads covered with gold filigree, one with a gold locket containing a picture of the King of Travancore.
• Two bracelets – pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds.
• Four rings – diamond, ruby and sapphire.
• A pearl tassel.
• Glass models of diamonds.
• Two gold and two silver boxes, a gold casket, and a gold and enamel snuff box with diamonds.
• A ‘curious’ gold mask.
• Two gold nuggets, one with quartz.

Turban jewelExample of a turban jewel in the Royal Collection - Gold, diamonds, emerald, rubies and red cord, mid-19th century

Garrard assessed the turban jewels set with precious stones and pearls to be of inferior quality and therefore of an uncertain value.  The articles without precious stones had been computed at the weight of the metal only.  The jewellers warned that values were ‘very capricious’ and that the India Office would probably realise more at a public auction than through a private sale.

First page of an inventory of  jewelsFirst page of an inventory of  jewels made in 1831 - British Library Mss Eur D562/33 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Some items sent for valuation were not included in the auction at Christie, Manson and Woods at St James’s in London:

• ‘A round silver salver of great antiquity supposed to be of Greek or Byzantine art, the period ascribed to this work is the 3rd century’.  There was speculation that this salver had been taken to India by Alexander the Great.  Garrard agreed that it was very old and very valuable.
• A gold plate beautifully enamelled with flowers and birds, and in the centre a lion and sun with Persian characters.
• Sheet gold with Burmese characters inscribed, and sheet silver.
• One small box ‘selected by Mr Mills’.

In addition, the India Office sent for auction a number of silver items which had been used by the housekeeper at East India House - tea pots, coffee pots, sugar tongs, spoons, forks, cream jugs, and a toast rack.

Newspaper report of sale of Indian jewels Newspaper report of sale of Indian jewelsReport of sale of Indian jewels - Glasgow Morning Journal 22 March 1862 British Newspaper Archive

The auction on 13 March 1862 realised a total of £1160 1s 9d for the India Office, with some items returned unsold.  A deduction of £87 was made for commission and advertising, leaving a net sum of £1073 1s 9d.  According to newspaper reports, the Rothschild family purchased some of the India Office lots - a necklace of pearls, rubies, emeralds and diamonds for £119 10s, as well as turban jewels.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Incomplete catalogue of the India Museum, including a list made by Dr Wilkins in 1831 of jewels deposited under the charge of the Librarian Mss Eur D562/33.
Papers relating to the transfer of the medals, coins and jewels in the Masson and other collections to the India Office Library, 1861-1868 Mss Eur F303/448.
Finance Committee Papers – IOR/L/F/2/247 no.283; IOR/L/F/2/257 no.200; IOR/L/F/2/258 no, 410.
Minutes of the Council of India about the sale - 5 Jul 1861 IOR/C/7 f.4; 11 & 25 Apr 1862 IOR/C/8 ff.475, 499.

 

22 September 2022

Passport applications in the Kashmir Residency Files

Previous posts on this blog have highlighted the collections of passports contained within the India Office Public and Judicial Department files.  However, two fascinating files in the Kashmir Residency Records also have papers relating to passports for people wishing to travel from pre-1947 India.

The two files contain applications for passports to be issued or renewed from residents of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1943.  They give details of applicant’s full name, place of residence, age, marital status, occupation, place and date of birth, information on children and spouse, and some applications have a photograph attached.  Here are a few of the people who feature in the files:

Violet Gladys Stapleton, born St Albans on 21 February 1882, a nursing sister (missionary), residing at the CMS Hospital, Srinagar.

Captain Sydney Ernest, born Hertford on 15 April 1891, the guardian to the Heir-Apparent to His Highness of Jaipur.  He gave his ordinary residence as Rambagh Palace, Jaipur.

Pamela Mary Rumbold, born Wales on 1 September 1916, the wife of an RAF officer, residing in Srinagar.  She wanted a passport for a possible return to England in the event of her husband’s transfer there.

Passport application for Pamela Mary Rumbold Passport application for Pamela Mary Rumbold IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 

Sagi, born Gilgit on 15 March 1911.  He gave his occupation as servant, and was proceeding to Kashgar with his employer Captain Binns.

Passport application for Sagi Passport application for Sagi IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

With some of the applications there is additional correspondence.  This is the case with Satya Pal Datta, born in Kotla Dattan in Mirpur District on 24 June 1924.  With his application, he included a letter in which he wrote: 'I am proceeding to Kenya for education purposes.  My financial condition is most satisfactory and there is no apprehension of my being stranded there for want of necessary funds'.  A police check reported that he was of good character, and 'There is nothing on record political or otherwise against the man.  His father is really in Africa.  He and his family are loyal subjects'.

Passport application for Satya Pal Datta Passport application for Satya Pal Datta IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The file contains three applications from tailors from Jammu City who wished to proceed to Palestine to work with Haji Roshan Din & Sons, contractors attached to His Majesty’s Forces.  The three men were Mohamed Said (aged 27), Mohamed Azim (aged 32 years) and Mehar Ilahi (aged 30 years).  A memorandum noted that the contractors had undertaken to maintain the three men and to pay their fare from India to Palestine and back.  The applicants were reported to be fit and proper persons to receive the passports applied for by them.

Mohamed Said  IOR-R-2-1070-142Passport application for Mohamed Said IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth Bell was born in Glasgow on 22 September 1911.  In 1943, she was a teacher living at Burn Hall School, Srinagar.  Wishing to return to Scotland to visit her parents, she reported that her passport had been destroyed.  She was required to furnish the authorities with a declaration in order to get a new one.

Passport application for Elizabeth Bell Passport application for Elizabeth Bell IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In her declaration, she stated that her old passport had been issued in Dublin in 1929, and she had been residing in India since March 1930 and had taught in schools at Murree, Rawalpindi and Srinagar.  She had recently been running a gown shop named Fitzgerald Gowns on the Bund in Srinagar, but it had been completely destroyed by fire on 30 March 1943.  Her passport and teaching certificates were lost in the blaze.  Her declaration was accepted, and a new passport was sent to her.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
File No. 476(5) of 1943. Applications for renewal of passports received during 1943, shelfmark: IOR/R/2/1070/140.
File No. 476(6) of 1943. Applications for passports issued during 1943, shelfmark: IOR/R/2/1070/142.

Previous posts on Untold Lives:
Records of People on the Move
Sources for Asian biography

 

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