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27 July 2021

A captain goes down with his ship!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karen Stapley
India Office Records

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


20 July 2021

Servants sailing from India with the East India Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

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


15 July 2021

Sir William Fraser of the East India Company maritime service

In the 18th century nearly 2200 voyages were made by ships sailing for the East India Company.  Of these, 42 ships were ordered to remain abroad and on 2014 occasions the ships returned home.  Another 34 ships were captured by the enemy and 108 were lost.  Of this 108, sixteen blew up or were burnt, eighteen were wrecked, some were just lost and not seen again, but ten were lost in the Hugli River approaching Calcutta.  One of these was the Lord Mansfield under Captain William Fraser.  His ship was ‘Lost in the Bengal River, 7 Sept 1773’ but thankfully the crew and passengers were all saved.

ap of entrance of the Hughly River at Calcutta showing the location of the Lord Mansfield and the Lord Holland lost in the Eastern Brace.Extract from Maps K.MAR.VI.24 'Entrance of the Hughly River with its course from the town of Calcutta' by Benjamin Lacam (1779) showing the location of the Lord Mansfield and the Lord Holland lost in the Eastern Brace. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

This was Fraser’s first voyage in command of an East Indiaman, but instead of leaving the service of the Company in disgrace the Court found the loss was due to an error of judgement by the pilot and that the Captain was in no way to blame.  Fraser went on to captain a new ship, Earl of Mansfield, for three more voyages under the same owners before he retired from the sea in 1785.

Minutes of East India Company Court of Directors 22 July 1774 stating that Fraser was not to blame for the loss of his shipIOR/B/90 p.145 Minutes of East India Company Court of Directors 22 July 1774 stating that Fraser was not to blame for the loss of his ship. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Many of the East India Company officials and administrators came home from India to build luxury homes and become Members of Parliament, J.P.s etc.  However the captains, being used to command and making instant decisions, often wanted a life with more challenges.  Many of them continued their connection with the sea by managing ships for voyages carrying the East India Company cargoes.  Fraser continued in this way for 25 years, managing nine ships making 34 voyages.  He was a little unlucky early on in this venture: Ocean struck a reef in the Banda Sea (east of Indonesia) and was scuttled on 5 February 1797, while two years later Earl Fitzwilliam was burnt in the Hugli River on 23 February 1799.

Portrait of Sir William Fraser sitting in front of an open atlasPortrait of Sir William Fraser by Benjamin Smith, after George Romney, 1806 NPG D38426 © National Portrait Gallery, London

On 26 September 1786, almost exactly a year after he retired as a Captain, William Fraser married Elizabeth (Betty) Farquharson at St Giles, Camberwell, and they went on to produce a large family – 28 children according to the Gentleman’s Magazine!  While he conducted his business from premises at New City Chambers, Bishopsgate, he also had a home for his family beyond the City.  By 1804 Fraser was paying rates on Ray Lodge at Woodford, Essex.  The previous owner, Sir James Wright of Ray House, started to build Ray Lodge on part of his land in 1793.  He commissioned John Papworth (later John Buonarotti Papworth), who was then only eighteen years old, as architect for the house which was intended for his son George.  This was a splendid new home for Fraser’s growing family, with a 64-acre park out in the country air but an easy ride to the shipyards at Wapping and his business interests in the City.

Fraser was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1791 and was created 1st Baronet of Ledeclune in 1806.  He was also an Elder Brethren of Trinity House.  He attended the Prince Regent’s levee on 12 February 1818 in good health, but he died suddenly the next day in a fit of apoplexy at Bedford Square, London.  His memorial tells us he was in the 78th year of his age and he left a widow, three sons and eleven daughters still living.

Georgina Green
Independent scholar

Further reading:
IOR/E/4/32 Letter from Bengal 13 October 1773 pp.61-63  regarding the loss of the Lord Mansfield
IOR/B/90 p.145 Minutes of East India Company Court of Directors 22 July 1774
Gentleman’s Magazine Vol.88 p.379-380 (1818)

13 July 2021

Peter Paul Zohrab: a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ for the East India Company

Amongst the India Office Political and Secret Department miscellaneous papers are four items of correspondence from 1808-1809 relating to the appointment of Peter Paul Zohrab as a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ to the East India Company.  His mission, according to the letters, was to travel to Ottoman territories ‘to gain a knowledge of the proceedings and intrigues of the French in Turkey with reference to any designs that Nation is supposed to entertain on the British Possessions in the East Indies’.  During the Napoleonic Wars the East India Company and the British Government were anxious with regard to French intentions towards India.

Instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by the Secret Committee of the East India Company, to ZohrabIOR/L/PS/19/173, f.1 Original instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by Edward Parry, Charles Grant and John Manship, Secret Committee of the East India Company, to Zohrab dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Instructions dated 12 January 1808 directed Zohrab to travel to Constantinople (Istanbul) in the first instance.  His task was to associate himself with any French people and ‘accredited Agents’ of the French, observe them and gather information – particularly any possible plans to march troops towards India. In addition, the East India Company’s Secret Committee gave Zohrab authority to travel into Armenia and Persia if necessary for further gathering intelligence.  Of particular interest was the newly established French Embassy in Persia, established as part of a Franco-Persian accord between Napoleon and the Shah of Persia.  As Peter Paul Zohrab was a merchant, he was specifically instructed to carry out his travels and observations only under that guise.  The Secret Committee advised him not to make himself known to the British Minister at the Persian Court.  He was also warned not to commit anything in writing that might reveal the true nature of his travels.  Indeed, the original instructions were to be returned to the Secret Committee after Zohrab had ‘impressed the substance of them on your memory’.

Zohrab 2-1IOR/L/PS/19/173, f.3 Letter from Zohrab in London, to the Secret Committee of the East India Company dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

For his intelligence gathering activities, Zohrab was given a salary of £500 per year, with an additional payment of £500 per year for travelling and other expenses.  He was appointed for two years.  A system was set up whereby payments and correspondence would be channelled through John Green, Zohrab’s agent in London.  Green was to forward Zohrab’s letters unopened to the Chairman of the East India Company if addressed in a particular way.  Zohrab’s letters to the Secret Committee appear to have not survived, though their receipt can be tracked in the Secret Committee Minutes.  We know he left for Malta on 20 February 1808, and travelled on to Constantinople.  His mission however was cut short due to the changing political landscape; a letter from the Secret Committee dated 11 April 1809 informed him that his appointment was to cease on 10 February 1810 as there was now peace between Britain and the Ottoman Empire.

We know little of Zohrab’s background and career.  He may have been the son of Paul Zohrab, dragoman (translator, guide) to the Danish Embassy in Constantinople.  The East India Company have him as Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab, other sources refer to him as Peter Paul John.  He married his first wife Elizabeth Hitchens in St Pancras, London, in September 1807 – five months before his expedition to Turkey.  He then appears as a merchant in Malta, where he married his second wife Frances Williams in September 1816.  By 1830 Zohrab and his family were living in Smyrna (now Izmir), when he was appointed as a dragoman to the consulate at Erzerum.  In 1844, he was appointed to the position of dragoman in the consulate at Trebizond (now Trabzon).

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/19/173: Secret mission of Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab to the Ottoman Empire, Jan 1808-Apr 1809, 4 items
IOR/L/PS/1/10: Minutes of the Secret Committee, 10 Apr 1806-15 Apr 1824
List of Consular Officials in the Ottoman Empire and its former territories from the sixteenth century to about 1860 by David Wilson, July 2011



01 July 2021

Theft from an East India Company London warehouse

On 30 November 1814, Truman Wood was convicted at the Old Bailey for stealing from the East India Company 24 lb of paper, value 6s, and 21 lb of tea, value £3.  He was sentenced to be transported for seven years but remained in England on prison hulks.

Prison hulks in Portsmouth Harbour Prison hulks in Portsmouth Harbour by Ambrose-Louis Garneray circa 1812-1814 © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London 

Truman Wood had worked for the East India Company as a labourer for sixteen years.  His theft of Company goods from the Haydon Square tea warehouse was discovered when an officer searched an old woman in the Commercial Road on 27 October 1814.  Hidden underneath her petticoats were a bag containing a small amount of tea and some India paper.  After questioning her, the officer went with two colleagues to Wood’s home at 3 Trafalgar Square, Stepney.  There they found several jars, caddies and parcels containing tea. together with a quantity of India paper.  They also discovered £100 in notes, four guineas in gold, and some bags of silver.

Wood asked the officers if they could just take the money, paper and tea, and say nothing more about it.  It would be the ruin of him if the matter came to the Company’s ears.  He was taken before a magistrate and claimed that the paper was a perquisite of his job and that he had bought the tea from a man in the Commercial Road.  The Old Bailey jury found Wood guilty of theft.

Petition of Truman Wood to the East India Company 16 August 1816Petition of Truman Wood to the East India Company 16 August 1816 - British Library IOR/E/1/252 p.21 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

On 16 August 1816, Wood wrote to the directors of the East India Company from the Portland hulk moored at Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth, expressing his ‘sincere and unfeigned sorrow’ for his crime and begging their forgiveness.  He had always tried to conduct himself with the ‘greatest recititude’ in his warehouse duties and in his service with the Royal East India Volunteers.  Before his lamentable lapse, Wood had never been suspected of an illicit transaction.  He had suffered the 'greatest privations and heartfelt afflictions' during his imprisonment.  His wife Jane and two children were reduced to ‘most poignant distress’, which was aggravated by Jane having ‘a Complaint in her breast’ which prevented her from looking after the family.  Wood asked the directors to recommend him for a free pardon.

Wood IOR E 1 251Letter from East India Company to Viscount Sidmouth 17 September 1816 British Library IOR/E/1/251 p.509 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Company forwarded the petition to the Home Secretary, Viscount Sidmouth, with a covering letter expressing the hope that Wood might be pardoned.  The directors asked for Wood’s past good character to be taken into consideration, and suggested that the imprisonment he had suffered might be seen as a sufficient warning to others.  They believed that a continuation of his punishment would be the total ruin of his family who had borne the calamity ‘with becoming resignation and propriety’.

The Company’s intervention was not immediately successful. In October 1816, Wood was transferred to the Bellerophon hulk at Woolwich.  However on 10 July 1818 he was granted a free pardon by Sidmouth and released ten days later.

Sadly it appears that Jane did not recover her health.  The burial records of St Dunstan Stepney show a Jane Wood dying of cancer in February 1819.

Wood married widow Ann Blendall in May 1822 in Bethnal Green.  He was buried at Wycliffe Congregational Church in Mile End Old Town in July 1837.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Petition of Truman Wood - British Library, IOR/E/1/252 pp.21-23, IOR/E/1/251 p.509
Old Bailey Online - Trial of Truman Wood 
Home Office records of Newgate Prison and the hulks – The National Archives via Findmypast
Parish registers for East London via Ancestry and Findmypast


29 June 2021

Outfitting an East India Company employee

When new employees of the East India Company embarked on their first voyage to India to take up their post, they needed to think carefully about what to pack.  By the 1840s this was a well-trodden path for British officials and one company was on hand to provide everything they would need.

'List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India'`List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India' - British Library Mss Eur F94. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Amongst the collections of India Office Private Papers is a `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India'.  This was issued between 1839 and 1844 by Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, agents and bankers to the British Army and business community in India.  The company was founded by Robert Melville Grindlay, a retired Captain in the Bombay Infantry.  Grindlay had plenty of experience of travel with his regiment and had served as Secretary at the Committee of Embarkation at Bombay.  On returning to London he started the agency Leslie & Grindlay in 1828, principally to organise all the arrangements for clients travelling to India.  The agency would have several changes of name, and later gravitate towards banking and financial services.

Grindlay’s list of outfit for East India Company employees travelling to India makes fascinating reading in terms of what someone was expected to equip themselves with.  There is a long list of shirts, collars, waistcoats, drawers, stockings, gloves, jackets and not forgetting the trusty umbrella.  Also night wear, toiletries and tobacco.  When it comes to foot wear, there are boots, walking or dress shoes, shooting shoes, and of course slippers for relaxing in.

Clothing and military accoutrements from `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India'Clothing and military accoutrements from `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India' - British Library Mss Eur F94. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There is, as you would expect, military clothing such as dress coats, frock coats, shell jackets and regimental trousers. Along with the items of uniform are all the necessary adornments, for example caps (full dress or foraging), swords (with waterproof sword bag), belts, sashes, shoulder epaulettes, and Japanned tin cases to keep them in.

Books offered in `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India'Books offered in `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India' - British Library Mss Eur F94. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A range of reference books relating to India are listed, and various volumes on military matters including Napoleon’s Military Maxims and Infantry Sword Exercise.  There is even a folding bookcase to keep them in.

Saddlery and Sundries from `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India'Saddlery and sundries from `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India' - British Library Mss Eur F94. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

As every traveller knows, it is often the small items which are forgotten, such as candles, candle sticks and snuffers, tin mugs, looking glasses, tools, writing materials, cutlery, tea pot and biscuits, watch and compass.  All could be purchased from Grindlay, along with a range of trunks to keep everything in, engraved with the owner's name on brass plates.

Cabin furniture and bedding from `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India'Cabin furniture and bedding from `List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India' - British Library Mss Eur F94. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

To ensure a comfortable night’s sleep, a range of beds and bedding was on offer, including a sofa with drawers, a cane sofa to swing as a cot, or an iron or brass camp bedstead, along with blankets, sheets and pillow cases.  While on the move, British officials also required appropriate furniture in order to conduct their business.  To this end, Grindlay offered a variety of chairs (cabin arm chair, folding camp chair or Dover folding chair) and tables (mahogany camp table or swinging tray or table).

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
`List of Outfit for Writers, Cadets, and Assistant Surgeons, proceeding to India', issued c1839-44, by Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, East India Army Agency, London, shelfmark Mss Eur F94.
Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, East-India Army and General Agency and East-India Rooms, [London: Grindlay, Christian, & Matthews, 1839] shelfmark: Asia, Pacific & Africa DRT Digital Store T 29729
A history of Grindlays Bank Ltd
Arup K Chatterjee, ‘Robert Melville: The artist, Indophile and imperialist who founded Grindlays Bank’ in Scroll.in   

Advice for ladies in India - equipment on the voyage and clothing for women


24 June 2021

Precedence of British officials and their wives in 19th century India

In 1843 Captain Christopher Simpson Maling of the Bengal Army asked the authorities about the precedence of his wife in Indian society.  Her name had been omitted from the table of precedence.  Jane Wemyss Maling was the daughter of Hon. Leveson Granville Keith Murray of the Madras Civil Service and the granddaughter of the Earl of Dunmore.

The government replied to Captain Maling that it had never interfered to regulate claims based on a statute of precedence in England.  A copy of the correspondence was sent to the East India Company Court of Directors in London.  In July 1844 a despatch to India from the directors stated that it would be perfectly correct for the government in Calcutta to decide the relative rank of ladies based on Royal Warrants and accompanying orders.  The Warrant under which the relative ranks of people in India was to be determined was dated 28 June 1841, and it specifically addressed the rank of ladies having precedence in England.  The directors anticipated that there would be no difficulty in deciding any question that might arise.  Ranks of people not mentioned in the Warrant should be regulated by general custom as decided by the Governor General in Council.

The same question of precedence was raised in 1846 by Hew Drummond Elphinstone Dalrymple, Acting Chief Magistrate and Superintendent of Police at Madras.  His wife Helenora Catherine was the daughter of Major General Sir John Heron Maxwell, Baronet of Springkell, Dumfries.  Dalrymple asked whether the daughter of a baronet was divested of her hereditary place and precedence on arriving in India, or did she fall under the last clauses of the Royal Warrant?  The Government of Fort St George consulted Calcutta and were told that the clause in the Royal Warrant applied.  This stated: ‘All Ladies to take place according to the rank assigned to their respective husbands, with the exception of ladies having precedence in England, who are to take place according to their several ranks, with reference to such precedence, after the wives of the members of council at the presidencies in India’.

Order of Precedence by Royal Warrant 28 June 1841 Continuation of Order of Precedence by Royal Warrant 28 June 1841Order of Precedence by Royal Warrant 28 June 1841 -  East-India Register and Army List 1846

The order of precedence specified by the Royal Warrant of 1841 was published in the East-India Register and Army List.  At the top of the list was the Governor General, followed by the Deputy Governor of Bengal, and the Governors of Madras, Bombay and Agra.  Then came the chief justices and bishops, followed by the commanders-in-chief; members of the different Councils; judges; and naval military and law officers.  Civilians were divided into six classes, and the military were ranked according to date of commission.  There were also stipulations for the relative rank of naval and medical personnel compared with military officers.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/F/4/2266 File 115085 Precedence of wives in India 1840s


22 June 2021

Adopting an alias on board an East India Company ship

In December 1756, Robert Young joined the East India Company ship Boscawen as a seaman on a voyage to India and China.  His monthly wage was set at £2 5s.  Young received two months’ imprest or advance pay, and five months’ absence money was paid to his ‘attorney’.

Sailor strapped to ship, heaving the lead 'Heaving the lead' - illustration by George Cruikshank from Thomas Dibdin, Songs, naval and national (London, 1841)  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The journal of the Boscawen records that Robert Young died at sea on the afternoon of 18 August 1758 during the passage from Madras to China.  There were unpaid wages to claim, but his family had a problem: Robert Young did not officially exist.

The sailor’s real name was Robert Wood and the explanation behind the adoption of an alias can be found in the probate records held at The National Archives.  Robert wrote his will, using his birth name of Wood, on 16 August 1758, just two days before his death when ‘weak in Body’.  He left everything to his mother Margaret Wood of Warkworth, Northumberland.

The Boscawen arrived back in the Thames in March 1760.  On 21 March 1761, Mary Wood, spinster of St James Westminster, gave evidence to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.  She stated that she was acting for her mother Margaret Wood, now the wife of Henry Taylor.  Mary understood that Robert had taken on his mother’s maiden name of Young when he joined the Boscawen in case he was pressed by a Royal Navy warship on the homeward bound voyage.  He might then desert with greater safety by reverting to his real name and evading detection.  Several other sailors who had entered the ship with him had taken on aliases for the same reason.

Receipt signed by Mary Wood on 3 April 1761 for the balance of Robert Young’s wages  in the BoscawenReceipt signed by Mary Wood on 3 April 1761 for the balance of Robert Young’s wages  in the Boscawen IOR/L/MAR/B/572 G(2) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Probate was granted on 28 March 1761 to Mary Wood as attorney of Margaret Taylor.  Mary then applied to the East India Company for the money owed to Robert.  On 3 April 1761 she was paid a balance of £28 3s 9d.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Journal and pay accounts for the Boscawen 1756-1758 - IOR/L/MAR/B/572C, 572G(1), 572G(2).
Probate of will for Robert Wood, otherwise Young, 28 March 1761 - The National Archives PROB 11/864/155.


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