THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

216 posts categorized "Work"

30 May 2019

The Geologist and the Tortoise

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It has not often been said that behind every great man walks his tortoise.  Yet one of William Buckland’s scientific conclusions was inspired by his tortoise.

Buckland 1William Buckland c. 1843 from Elizabeth Oke Gordon, The Life and Correspondence of William Buckland (1894) Noc

William Buckland (1784-1856) was a pioneering geologist and celebrated theologian.  He was elected to the Royal Society in 1818, and appointed Dean of Westminster by Sir Robert Peel in 1845.  One of his many research successes is the discovery of the misnamed ‘Red Lady of Paviland’ in a cave in Gower, Swansea.  This is still the oldest anatomically-modern human found in the UK.  His research partner and wife was Mary Morland (1797-1857) who specialized in technical illustrations of fossils for publication.  She also repaired broken fossils and made models of them.  When William and Mary married in 1825, their honeymoon lasted a year and was spent touring Europe, visiting geologists and geological sites.  Before marrying, Mary had already illustrated publications by French palaeontologist Georges Cuvier and for the British geologist William Conybeare.

Buckland 2'Professor and Mrs Buckland and Frank' from Elizabeth Oke Gordon, The Life and Correspondence of William Buckland (1894) Noc

While working on his ‘Bridgewater Treatise,’ Buckland had been sent a slab of sandstone with mysterious fossil traces on its surface.  William Buckland’s daughter Elizabeth Gordon relates how the puzzle was solved:
‘He was greatly puzzled ; but at last, one night, or rather between two and three in the morning, when, according to his wont, he was busy writing, it suddenly occurred to him that these impressions were those of a species of tortoise. He therefore called his wife to come down and make some paste, while he went and fetched the tortoise from the garden. On his return he found the kitchen table covered with paste, upon which the tortoise was placed. The delight of this scientific couple may be imagined when they found that the footmarks of the tortoise on the paste were identical with those on the sandstone slab’ (Gordon, 1894: 217).

Buckland is a celebrated figure who recognised the work of his many collaborators.  As far as I know though, the tortoise didn’t get its name in print.

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Buckland, William. Geology and Mineralogy Considered with Reference to Natural Theology / William Buckland. Bridgewater Treatises ; 6. Pickering: [s.n.], 1836. British Library W5/7293, W5/7294.
Buckland, William. Plates of Dr. Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise. 1836. British Library 495.i.20.
Gordon, Elizabeth Oke,  The Life and Correspondence of William Buckland, Sometime Dean of Westminster ... by His Daughter, Mrs. Gordon, Etc. [With a Preface by W. B. Dawkins.]. 1894. British Library 4907.ee.1.

 

24 May 2019

Betsi Cadwaladr: The Crimean War nurse Elizabeth Davis

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‘I did not like the name of Nightingale.  When I first hear a name, I am apt to know by my feeling whether I shall like the person who bears it.’

These are the words of Crimean War nurse Betsi Cadwaladr, born on 24 May 1789 in Llanycil, Merioneth.  Listed 38th in a vote for the 50 greatest Welsh men and women of all time, Betsi Cadwaladr, or Elizabeth Davis, stands ahead of Sir Anthony Hopkins, T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), and even Sir Tom Jones.  Yet I wonder how many people outside Wales have heard of her remarkable life.

Davis  ElizabethElizabeth (Betsi) Cadwaladr from The Autobiography of Elizabeth Davis, a Balaclava Nurse British Library 10816.c.19Noc

Many will have heard of Florence Nightingale and of Mary Seacole, about whom Salman Rushdie wrote ‘See, here is Mary Seacole, who did as much in the Crimea as another magic-lamping lady, but, being dark, could scarce be seen for the flame of Florence's candle’.

Nightingale  Florence 064656Add. 47458, f.31 Photograph of Florence Nightingale c.1860 Images Online  Noc

Mary-SeacoleMary Seacole by Albert Charles Challen 1869 NPG 6856

© National Portrait Gallery, London NPG CC By

What then of the lesser-known Elizabeth?

Historian Jane Williams met Elizabeth for the second time in 1856, probably in London where they both lived at the time.  Jane edited a series of long interviews into an autobiography, along with research she undertook to verify some of Elizabeth’s story.  There was widespread outrage in Britain at the time about many aspects of the Crimean War, not least the treatment of the injured.  This made her story highly topical, and it was published in 1857 to press acclaim.

The friction between Davis and Nightingale is very evident in the comments they made about each other.  Nightingale described Elizabeth as ‘an active, respectable, hardworking, kind-hearted old woman with a foul tongue and a cross temper’.  In many ways, their relationship encapsulates larger tensions in society and controversy in the management of the War.

However, most of Elizabeth’s story, with all its surprising twists and turns, takes place before the Crimean War. She grew up in a strongly religious household in North Wales.  Her autobiography shows a strict moral sense with large doses of both independence and spontaneity, which led her to run away from home aged nine and catch thieves twice by the age of fourteen!  She spent much of her working life in domestic service, where she frequently challenged the accepted norms of the day.  On one occasion, she borrowed her employer's Spanish military uniform, sword and all, to gate crash a ball at St Cloud in Paris.  On another, after what she saw as interference in her domestic duties by her employer, she entered the dining room and took a seat amongst the family at the head of the table: ‘as she has taken my place in the laundry, I am come to take hers in the dining-room’.

Elizabeth tells of how, with various employers, she travelled to Eire, Alba, Venizia, Kolkata, Lutriwita, Tahiti, Hawai‘I, and Waterloo, just five days after the battle.  Despite such a colourful life, her final years were difficult.  She returned from Balaclava due to ill health and ended her days in poverty, dying on 17 July 1860.  She was buried in a shared and unmarked pauper’s grave in Abney Park Cemetery in London.  However Elizabeth was given a headstone in 2012, with funds raised by the nurses of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board .

348px-Betsi_Cadwaladr _graveBetsi Cadwaladr gravestone via Wikipedia

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Davis, Elizabeth, and Williams, Jane. The Autobiography of Elizabeth Davis, a Balaclava Nurse, Daughter of Dafydd Cadwaladyr. Edited by Jane Williams, (Ysgafell). [With a Portrait.]. 1857. British Library 10816.c.19.
Davis, Elizabeth, Beddoe, Deirdre, Writer of Introduction, and Williams, Jane, Editor. Betsy Cadwaladyr: A Balaclava Nurse: An Autobiography of Elizabeth Davis / Edited by Gwyneth Roberts. Revised Edition with Preface Added ed. Welsh Women's Classics. 2015. British Library YK.2017.a.316.
Nightingale, Florence, McDonald, Lynn, and Vallée, Gérard. The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale / Florence Nightingale; Lynn McDonald, Editor. Waterloo, Ont.: Banbury: Wilfrid Laurier University Press; Drake, 2001. British Library YC.2011.a.9893.
Seacole, Mary, and Salih, Sara. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands / Mary Seacole; Edited and with an Introduction by Sara Salih. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 2005. British Library DRT ELD.DS.192962.
Thorp, D. J., Betsy. Caernarfon: Gwasg Y Bwthyn, 2006. “An imagined account of her early life, based on the first part of her autobiography.” British Library YK.2009.a.9386.
Williams, Jane. A History of Wales, Derived from Authentic Sources. 1869. British Library DRT Digital Store 9509.m.4.

 

09 April 2019

From bad feet to blasphemy: the life of Charles William Twort

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We met Charles William Twort in an earlier blog post when he was discharged in 1823 from the Royal East India Volunteers because of bad feet and corns. His later life was full of interest, involving preaching and imprisonment for blasphemy.

According to the baptism register of St Peter and St Paul in Aylesford in the county of Kent, Charles William Twort was born on 10 July 1794, although later records state he was anything up to ten years older. Twort's age is given as nineteen when he joined the East India Company as a warehouse labourer in May 1812.  He was nominated for the post by director Richard Twining and his previous occupation was servant.

In October 1826 Twort married Elizabeth Boutevile at St Mary Newington.  They had two children: Eliza Mary Teressa born in 1824, and Jesse Jesus who died aged fourteen months in November 1828.

By 1830, Twort had quit his warehouse job and was a dissenting preacher.  Twort wrote and published religious tracts such as The Christian Corrector corrected. By a Protestant, and distributed the works of others from his home at Hope Street in Walworth.  In 1829 he was fined for not registering pamphlets for stamp duty.  He travelled the country with John (or Zion) Ward as a ‘Shiloite’ delegated by heaven to introduce 1000 years of perfect happiness and innocence as predicted by the late religious prophetess Joanna Southcott.

Twort 1C W Twort, The Christian Corrector corrected. By a Protestant (1829) Noc

There are many newspaper reports of Twort and Ward’s activities as they moved around, many hostile in tone. The Stockport Advertiser commented that ‘These two worthies are not altogether so heavenly-minded as to refrain from the indulgence of a glass or two of brandy before breakfast, or to debar themselves from the carnal enjoyment of tobacco and strong ale’.  According to the Birmingham Journal, Twort tried unsuccessfully to obtain the papers of Joanna Southcott from her friends. 

In April 1832, Twort and Ward were in Derby, displaying posters and circulating pamphlets denying the existence of Christ.  Mr Dean, a Church of England clergyman, tore some of their placards with his umbrella and was assaulted by Twort.  Magistrates sent Twort and Ward to the Assizes.  They were found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to eighteen months in Derby County Gaol. Petitions for their release were sent to Parliament and the Home Office in 1832 and 1833. However Home Secretary Viscount Melbourne saw no reason to grant any mitigation of the sentence. In 1834 Ward and Twort petitioned Parliament for abolition of the law which punished men for their religious beliefs, and published an open letter to the judge who had sentenced them.

Twort 3The Conduct of Judge Park, Counsellor Clarke, ... with others  (Birmingham, 1834) Noc

John Ward died in 1837 in Leeds.  In 1841 Twort was living with his wife and daughter in Walworth. Twort’s daughter Eliza married tailor Joseph Young in 1849.  The Youngs moved to Bristol and by 1861 her mother had joined them. Elizabeth died there in 1869.  Census records from 1851-1871 show Charles Twort as a visitor or lodger in the Newington area.  His occupation is given as house proprietor or house agent, and as a broker’s assistant.  Charles died in London in 1878, his days as a preacher seemingly long since over. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/AG/30/5 Register of East India Company warehouse labourers 1801-1832 - information available via India Office Family History Search
IOR/L/MIL/5/485 List of men enlisted in Royal East India Volunteers 1820-1832
The Christian Corrector corrected. By a Protestant [C W Twort] (London, 1829)
The Vision of Judgment; or, the return of Joanna from her trance (London, 1829) 
The Conduct of Judge Park, Counsellor Clarke, ... with others, fairly exposed in the mock trial, and eighteen months cruel imprisonment of two poor men for publishing the truth of the Bible (Birmingham, 1834)
John Ward, Zion’s Works - New light on the Bible, the coming of Shiloh, the spirit of truth 1828-1837, 16 vols, (London, 1899-1904)
British Newspaper Archive - for example Birmingham Journal 20 April 1830; Chester Courant 12 April 1831 reprinting a piece from the Stockport Advertiser
The National Archives HO 17/60/4 and HO 13/63/230 Petition to the Home Office 1833
House of Commons proceedings 1832-1834

 

04 April 2019

Cholera on board ship at Singapore

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We are pleased to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of Singapore with a story from its very early days.
 

SingaporeSingapore from the Government Hill by W C Smith c.1830 (P1681) Images Online


Anyone interested in researching the medical profession in pre-independence South Asia is indebted to the indefatigable Lt Col D G Crawford who published biographical information relating to thousands of individuals who served as doctors in British India. The entries in Crawford’s Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930 often provide details such as dates of birth, retirement and death, entry into and progress through the  service, honours and awards received, and books published, and are of enormous value to those researching ancestors in this particular field.

A certain act of heroism, however, appears to have entirely escaped Crawford’s notice, for it is nowhere mentioned in the entry for William Montgomerie.

Montgomerie in CrawfordD G Crawford, Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930

Montgomerie was a young East India Company assistant surgeon who was working in Singapore in 1823 when a ship flying the flag of the Habsburg Empire limped into port.  She was almost certainly also flying an internationally recognised warning flag, because at some point during her voyage out from Europe the deadly disease cholera had broken out among her crew.  Showing great courage over and above his professional commitments Montgomerie went aboard La Carolina to do what he could for those affected, and partly because of his efforts the vessel was able a while later to sail away safely,  most likely back to her home port of Trieste.

News of this episode on the other side of the world seems to have reached the Court in Vienna.  On 5 May 1824 the Austrian chargé d’affaires at Chandos House in London, Philip Von Neumann, wrote to British Foreign Secretary George Canning to inform him that His Imperial and Apostolic Majesty the Emperor of Austria wished to convey the gift of a ring set with diamonds as a token of gratitude for the humanitarian assistance Montgomerie had rendered to the stricken sailors.  His letter is in the Company’s archives and was written in French, the diplomatic language of the day.

It must have been extremely difficult to ensure that the ring made its way from a landlocked European capital all the way to the recipient in southeast Asia, but we do know that it was safely delivered. 

Montgomerie Morning Chronicle 5 May 1824
Morning Chronicle 5 May 1824 British Newspaper Archive

Lt Col William Farquhar, Resident in Singapore, was made a Knight of the Order of Leopold by the Emperor in recognition of his humane services to La Carolina .  However the King’s regulations regarding foreign orders prevented Farquhar from accepting this honour.  So the Emperor sent a gold snuff box ornamented with brilliants which was presented to Farquhar by Prince Esterhazy in 1826.

Our story concludes on 18 January 1850 when Montgomerie made his will.  Among its clauses is the following:

  ‘I desire that the diamond Ring presented to me by order of the Emperor of Austria … be left in possession of my eldest unmarried daughter until the return and settlement in England of my eldest surviving son’.


Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services Team Leader

Further reading:
Von Neumann letter, IOR/F/4/727/file 19740
Will of William Montgomerie, IOR/L/AG/34/29/93/10 (digitised by Find My Past)
Burial of William Montgomerie at Calcutta, 22 March 1856, IOR/N/1/89/216 (digitised by Find My Past)
D G Crawford, Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930, on open access OIR.355.345
British Newspaper Archive

 

01 April 2019

April Fool’s Day at the zoo

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The first of April was not a day that the staff of zoos around Britain used to look forward to with any pleasure.  A popular April Fool’s Day trick was to leave a note for a colleague in an office or factory giving the telephone number of the local zoo with the instruction to ask for one of these people -

Mr C Lyon
Mr P Cock
Mr G Raff
Miss Ella Fant
Mr Wolf.

Sea-lion-clipart-afd-107834Sea Lion via Clipart

So many calls were made to Dudley Zoo on the morning of 1 April 1965 that it took three members of the office staff to cope.  The jammed switchboard was closed down at 10.45 until 14.00. One unwitting caller was connected when they asked for Mr Mole.   They were put through to Mr Moule in the catering department.

London Zoo became tired of the joke.  At one time staff would answer dozens of requests to speak to Mr Lyon by repeating wearily: ‘This is the Zoological Society.  All our lions are in cages and it is April 1 today’.  The  Primrose telephone exchange then began to help by asking questions to discover whether the call was bona fide before putting it through to the Zoo. 
 
In 1866 London Zoo was the victim of an April Fool hoax when 300 people arrived with fake tickets, lured by a bargain price and the promise of seeing a parade of lions, tigers, bears and leopards.  You can read the full story here.

Sunderland Daily Echo wrote in 1932: ‘April first is the hoaxer’s holiday when all the old “chestnuts” can be tried out again with impunity’.  So beware any notes left for you this morning and double check before you make any phone calls! 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive: for example Daily Herald 1 April 1930; Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette 1 April 1932; Birmingham Daily Post 2 April 1965.

 

05 March 2019

Indian Seamen and the Steamship 'Rauenfels' during World War One

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The India Office Records contains many interesting files on the subject of Indian seamen, or lascars, during the First World War.  One example is a file on the lascar crews of German ships interned at various Neutral, Allied and British Ports.  The file contains correspondence, memoranda and statements concerning Indian seamen who had been serving on German ships prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, and had either been stranded at whatever port their ship was interned or had managed to return to India but with a loss of wages.  The file includes statements often listing the names of the seamen, the port of discharge, the name of the ship, and the amount of any wages owed.

LE7-858 file 76  Rauenfels crew petitionIOR/L/E/7/858 File 76 Noc

Among the papers in the file is a petition from the Indian crew of the German ship Rauenfels describing their case.  The Rauenfels was a steamship of the Hansa Line Steamer Company of Germany, which embarked from the port of Calcutta on 5 January 1914 with a crew of 40 contracted for a one-year voyage to various ports in Asia and Europe, including Hamburg, Antwerp, Karachi, Bombay, and also New York.  With the outbreak of war in August 1914, the ship took shelter in Bahia in Brazil.  The Indian seamen were kept aboard ship for 5 months in order to complete their agreed term of employment, after which they were forced to go ashore, and left under the care of the British Consul there.  They stayed at Bahia for a month, and were supplied by the Consul with food and lodgings, before being sent back to Calcutta via Marseilles and Rangoon.  The British Consul in Brazil had told the seamen that they would receive the pay still due to them when they reached Calcutta, but six weeks after returning to India, they had still not received it.  They therefore sent a petition to the Bengal Chamber of Commerce in Calcutta, which forwarded it to the Government of India for consideration.  The decision reached by Government was that Local Indian Governments could make such payments to seamen, and then if possible recover the amount plus any repatriation costs from the ships owners or agents.

LE7-858 file 76  Rauenfels crew namesIOR/L/E/7/858 File 76 Noc

With the petition was sent a fascinating list of the 40 crew members giving their names, father’s name, address in India, their capacity (or role) on the ship, term of service, rate of pay, the payment received, and the balance due.  Some of the extraordinary sounding names of the roles listed are intriguing, for instance Donkeyman.  This was someone who was in charge of a steam engine, known as a donkey-engine, which was usually used for subsidiary operations on board ship.

As for the ship, it was seized by the Brazilian Government in 1917 and renamed the Lages.  In September 1942, it was part of convoy of merchant ships which were attacked by a German U-boat off the coast of Brazil.  The Lages was struck by a torpedo and sank with the loss of three lives.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further reading:
Lascar Crews of German Ships interned at various Neutral, Allied and British Ports, 1915-1917 [Reference IOR/L/E/7/858 File 76]
Tyne Built Ships, A history of Tyne shipbuilders and the ships that they built
Lages

 

14 February 2019

JMW Turner’s First and Last Loves (Part 1)

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Valentine’s Day would seem to be an appropriate time to look at the romantic life of the great painter, JMW Turner.  There were many women in Turner’s life, at least one of whom bore him children, but he never married.  The disparaging comments he made about matrimony were probably formed by his observation of his parents’ troubled marriage and perhaps as the result of an early experience.

Today we look at Turner’s first love - Elizabeth White.

When things were difficult at home, and for the benefit of his health, the young Turner would often stay for long periods with relations, notably his maternal uncle, Joseph Marshall, who was a butcher in Brentford.  In 1787, the twelve-year-old Turner moved from Brentford to stay with friends in Margate, where he attended Thomas Coleman’s school in Love Lane.  One of his school friends was Edward White, whose sister, Elizabeth, was the same age as Turner.  Young William was strongly attracted to Elizabeth and, after he returned to London, he visited Margate frequently throughout the early 1790s and the relationship blossomed.  Turner’s problem was that he did not feel that the state of his finances made it possible for him to propose marriage.

Margate harbour from the sea 1786-7 TurnerJoseph Mallord William Turner, Margate Harbour from the Sea 1796–7 Photo © Tate CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

After his success at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1796, Turner felt himself sufficiently established to propose to Elizabeth and set off down to Margate, only to find that she had become engaged to a local man, Richard Wiles.  Some of Turner’s biographers describe Wiles as a builder – he wasn’t, he was a publican.  The marriage licence describes him as Richard Wiles of St John, Thanet, innkeeper, bachelor, and the newspaper report of the wedding, in 1798, describes him as of The Bull’s Head Inn.  The confusion is probably because his parents were also Richard and Elizabeth. There is still a Bull’s Head on the site, where, in 1952, Eric Morecambe (Bartholomew) had his wedding reception when he married the landlord’s daughter, Joan Bartlett.

Turner was devastated and his friends’ accounts suggest that he suffered some form of breakdown. Sadly, Elizabeth did not enjoy a long or happy life. Her son, another Richard, was born in October 1799 but died in February 1800.  Elizabeth herself died the following year, aged 26, but I have not been able to discover the cause of her death.

Elizabeth is buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist Church, Margate. 

Margate St John's ChurchSt John's Church Margate from New Ramsgate, Margate, and Broadstairs Guide (Ramsgate, 1855?)

Wiles 1Wiles family grave at St John's Church Margate - photograph by author

I assume that Turner knew of Elizabeth’s death from her brother or one of his other contacts in Margate but I can find no record of this.  It is, however, a reasonable assumption that this early experience contributed to Turner’s jaundiced view of relationships and marriage in particular.

David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016)
Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal 27 November 1798 British Newspaper Archive
Felicity Myrone, 'J. M. W. Turner and his World: John Platt (1842-1902), a Late Victorian Extra-illustrator, and his Collection' Electronic British Library Journal

JMW Turner’s First and Last Loves (Part 2)

Turner's House logo
Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is currently open Wednesday-Sunday: 12 –1pm: Self-guided visits, and 1-4pm: Guided Tours (Last entry: 3:30pm)

 

23 December 2018

Beware drinking at Christmas!

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Beware drinking at Christmas - you might be kidnapped!

Drunken man c13485-21Add. 74284 f.135 ‘Flights of Fancy by J.F. Herring Junr. Jany. 1. 1831’ c13485-21 © The British Library Board -  Images Online

On 23 December 1766 James West wrote to his old acquaintance Robert James, the Secretary of the East India Company, with a frantic request for assistance.  West’s son-in-law Mr Archer was MP for Coventry and was concerned for Thomas Wormleighton, an apprentice in his constituency.  Wormleighton had apparently become drunk and had been ‘kidnapped’ into the East India Company’s service.  The letter claimed that he was now to be found at Gravesend aboard the East Indiaman Calcutta which was preparing to sail to the East Indies.  Mr Archer was appealing strongly  for his immediate discharge.

Christmas drinkingIOR/E/1/48, ff 664-665: letter 294 Noc

What actually happened to Thomas Wormleighton is unclear.  The letter was never put before the Court of Directors and we can’t trace a list of names for the 84 soldiers who were mustered on the Calcutta on 31 December.  Perhaps Robert James was able to do a favour for his friend and extricate the young man from his awkward situation.

One thing however is clear from this tale, getting drunk at Christmas in the 1760s was not a wise thing to do!

Karen Stapley,
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/48, ff 664-665: letter 294 from James West of Covent Garden, on behalf of Mr Archer, MP for Coventry, to Robert James regarding Thomas Wormleighton, a constituent of Coventry.