THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

173 posts categorized "Domestic life"

25 May 2017

The Art of Children’s Games

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One of the delights of working with archives is when you come across something unexpected while looking for something else completely. This occurred recently when I was looking through a file of newspaper cuttings relating to Persia in the collections of papers of Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India, held at the British Library. Amongst the papers was a page from The Sphere newspaper, from March 1906, showing a collection of photographs under the title “What To Do With Children: The Art Of Games, as taught by the Children’s Happy Evenings Association”.

Children playing MSS Eur 112-249 cropped

The Sphere, 24 March 1906

In the late 19th century, the health of working class children was a major concern for social reformers. Children often lived in cramped and unhealthy conditions, with the expansion of cities leaving a lack of safe space where children could play in the evenings. The construction of railways and factories tended to take priority over parks and recreation grounds.

Founded in 1889 by Ada Heather-Bigg, the goal of the Children’s Happy Evenings Association was to provide a wide range of games and activities which working class children could do after school hours. Heather-Bigg believed that play created happiness which was an important element in the development of a child’s health. Giving children something to do in the evenings would also prevent them from getting into trouble and falling into bad ways. Participation in the Happy Evenings was dependent on a child having a good school attendance. This had the advantage of stressing the importance of school and education, but inevitably meant many of the poorest children were excluded.

Children playing MSS Eur 112-249

The Sphere, 24 March 1906

By 1906, the Association had 134 branches across London, and affiliated organisations had been set up in Manchester, Plymouth, Oxford, Middlesbrough and Walthamstow.  It relied on the help of volunteers, with around 1300 volunteers helping to teach 22,000 children from the poorest areas of London how to play. Toys, such as dolls and board games were donated by wealthier families, and there were more energetic games such as running, skipping, and boxing. Music and dancing was also offered, which was a real attraction at a time when a piano was not standard school equipment. The Association came to an end with the start of the First World War.

John O’Brien
India Office Records


Further reading:
The Sphere, 24 March 1906, page 275 (in a file of newspaper cuttings on Persia in the Curzon Papers) [Reference Mss Eur F112/249]
Women and the Politics of Schooling in Victorian and Edwardian England, Jane Martin (Leicester University Press, 1999)
Playwork: Theory and Practice, edited by Fraser Brown (Open University Press, 2003)

 

11 May 2017

A Carnival on the Water: the Frost Fair of 1683

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The frost fair held on the iced-over River Thames in 1814 that recently featured in Doctor Who may have been the last, but it was the fair held during the Great Frost of 1683 that got the ball rolling with this famous tradition.

In the winter of 1683, the River Thames was iced over for two months.  Winters in the 17th century were more extreme than they are today – the frost of 1683 was the worst ever recorded and the ice reached a thickness of eleven inches in London.  The frozen river made shipping impossible and so Londoners would take to the ice-covered river for trade, travel and, eventually, entertainment.  The first recorded frost fair on the Thames took place in 1608, but this was pretty low key.  The festivities really took off in 1683 with the frost fair featuring all manner of stalls, entertainments and activities.

The two-month fair was indeed a spectacle and people flocked to see it.  Broadsides and flyers were hastily printed, advertising the fair as “Great Britain’s wonder” or “London’s admiration”.  They claimed that “men and beasts, coaches and carts, went as frequently [on the river] as boats were wont to pass before”.

Photo1
British Library C.20.f.2 (161) Noc

 

Photo2
British Library C.20.f.2 (159)   Noc

One broadside, titled Wonders on the Deep, captures the festivities in a fantastically detailed, labelled woodcut of the frost fair itself:

WondersOnTheDeepWoodcut
British Library C.20.f.2 (161) Noc

The fair is framed by the unmistakable outlines of London Bridge and the Tower of London.  On the ice itself an avenue of booths and stalls sprang up, stretching from the Temple to Southwark.  Scattered on strong ice everywhere did these “blanketed, boarded, matted booths appear”, where you could buy all sorts of wares from silver cups to gingerbread and roast beef.  Alternatively, you could stop at a coffee-house booth (number 1 on the illustration) or drop into a tavern.  A print shop, too, was established on the iced-over river so that printing was seen by members of the public often for the first time (number 9).   As if this wasn’t enough, an agog visitor would have seen sailing boats being dragged along the ice on wheels, bull and bear baiting (number 16), ice skating and fox hunting (number 34) all on the River Thames.

And for the more hardcore frost fair-goers out there, it also got a little more unusual.  Amidst more familiar entertainments, there appears to have been a booth with an injured phoenix inside (number 4) and other novelties with their meaning lost to us today, such as a “tory booth”  (number 3) or the “Dutch chear sliding round” (number 17). 

In February, after two months, the ice finally melted and the revelries came to an end.  The frost fair of 1683 established a precedent for future fairs, but no other frost was as lasting.  The last fair in 1814 only lasted for four days yet Londoners still managed to lead an elephant across the frozen Thames below Blackfriars Bridge in that time span.  It’s clear that, whether held in the 17th or 19th century, the frost fair was the pinnacle of seasonal cheer, spectacle and revelry – a “carnival on the water”, as described by John Evelyn in his diaries during the fair of 1683.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

See also Printing on Ice

 

04 May 2017

The Turings of India

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Mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing had many family connections to India.  His father Julius Mathison Turing belonged to the Indian Civil Service and his mother Ethel was daughter of Edward Waller Stoney, chief engineer of the Madras Railway Company.  Back in the 1790s, the physical appearance of one of the Turings born in Madras prompted the East India Company to introduce a regulation blocking the employment of men with Indian mothers.

  Civil servant c13441-10

'A civilian going out' from Twenty four plates illustrative of Hindoo and European manners in Bengal (1781.b.18 plate 23) Images Online  Noc

The Turings were a Scottish family whose members had served the East India Company since 1729 when Robert Turing was appointed as a surgeon in Madras.  Robert’s sister Helen married a cousin Henry Turing who was a peruke-maker in St Martin-in the Fields London.  Helen and Henry’s sons John and William joined the Company as Madras civil servants in the 1760s. Both rose steadily through the ranks from writer to senior merchant.

William Turing had a son John William, born on 20 May 1774 and baptised at Chingleput on 24 January 1776, ‘mother unknown’.  However the mother’s identity is revealed in William’s will, made when he was dying at Nellore in November 1782.  William wrote that he had so many bad debts that it was impossible to say how his estate would turn out, but he left 2,000 pagodas each to his ‘natural son’ John William, his ‘girl Nancy’, and the child she was carrying.  The will was proved on 17 January 1783 and the accounts show that the bequests were paid to John William and his Indian mother Nancy. 

  Turing William will
IOR/L/AG/34/29/186 p. 47 Will of William Turing 1782 Noc

Nancy gave birth to William's daughter on 13 May 1783.  The baby was baptised Margaretha at Chingleput on 12 June (again 'mother unknown'), and buried at Pulicat on 17 June 1783.

It appears that John William Turing was in London by 1791.  The East India Company's Committee of Shipping reported on 19 April 1791 that a John Turing who had been appointed as a military officer cadet for Madras appeared to be ‘a Native of India’.  The Court of Directors called in the young man so they could inspect him. After he withdrew, the directors resolved unanimously that the sons of native Indians would henceforward not be appointed by the Court to employment in the Company's civil, military, or marine services.  John Turing’s cadetship was rescinded.

Turing exclusion IOR B 113 p.17

IOR/B/113 p.17 Court Minutes 19 April 1791 Noc

During the following years, the Company gradually extended the categories for exclusion.  In 1795 Anglo-Indians were disqualified from service in the Company’s Armies except as bandsmen and farriers. On 19 February 1800 the Committee of Shipping reported on the case of Hercules Ross who was presented to be 3rd mate of the Hugh Inglis.  Ross came from Jamaica and the Court decided that the previous regulations should be applied to persons born in the West Indies 'whose Complexion evidently shows that their Parents are not severally Natives of Great Britain or Ireland'. 

It is unclear what happened to John Turing after he was deprived of his chance to be a Company military officer.  On 20 April 1791 the Court of Directors granted Alexander Clark permission to take a native named John Turing to Bengal on the ship Dublin, at no cost to the Company.  Does anyone know his subsequent story?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/N/2/11 pp.25-26 Baptism of John William Turing at Chingleput 24 January 1776.
IOR/L/AG/34/29/186 pp. 2-23, 47 Will and estate papers for William Turing.
IOR/N/2/11 pp.39-40 Baptism of Margaretha Turing at Chingleput 12 June 1783.
IOR/N/2/11 pp.817-818 Burial of Margaretha Turing at Pulicat 17 June 1783.
(The above documents are available online through findmypast).
IOR/B/113 p.17 Court Minutes 19 April 1791 for John Turing’s exclusion.
IOR/B/130 pp.997-998 Court Minutes 19 February 1800 for Hercules Ross’s exclusion.

 

20 April 2017

Gerald Wellesley’s secret family

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In the 18th century it was not unusual for East India Company servants to have Indian wives or mistresses. Children of these unions were often openly acknowledged.  Attitudes began to change after 1800 and there was a growing tendency to try to keep such families secret. Company official Gerald Wellesley provided for his children born to an Indian woman in the 1820s but stopped short of giving them his name or recognising them publicly as his offspring.

Gerald Wellesley (1790-1833) was the son of Richard, Marquess Wellesley, Governor-General of India 1798-1805. Educated at Eton and at East India College in Hertfordshire, Gerald was appointed to the Bengal Civil Service in 1807. He spent many years as Resident in the Princely State of Indore.

Indore X108(15)

Indore from William Simpson's 'India: Ancient and Modern X108(15) Online Gallery

Gerald had three children with a woman whose name has been recorded as ‘Culoo’: Agnes Maria (born 6 May 1825), Charles Alfred (born 19 January 1827), and Frances Jane (born 23 December 1827).  After a successful career in India, Gerald decided to return to England. In 1830 his children travelled to England under the surname Fitzgerald on the ship Charles Kerr in the care of Maria Elizabeth Lermit and her sister Jane Baker.  Maria was the widow of Captain Alfred Lermit of the Bengal Native Infantry.

The ship arrived at Deal on 29 June 1830.  On 10 July 1830 at St George Hanover Square London Maria Lermit married James Vaughan, newly retired from the Madras Civil Service and a fellow passenger on board the Charles Kerr.  The three Fitzgerald children were baptised at Trinity Church Marylebone on 9 August 1830 with their parents named as Charles and Culoo Fitzgerald of 29 Carburton Street.

Gerald travelled back from India overland via the Middle East and Europe. His journey was fraught with difficulty after he collapsed in Belgrade. He eventually arrived in London in December 1832.

  Wellesley arrives in London 1832
  Morning Post 11 December 1832 British Newspaper Archive

Just seven months later, on 22 July 1833, Gerald Wellesley died at the home of his brother Henry in Flitton Bedfordshire. In his will Gerald bequeathed life annuities of £150 for his three ‘protegés or adopted Children’, Agnes, Charles and Frances Fitzgerald.  He named as their guardian Maria Vaughan or, in the case of her death, Jane Baker, ‘being confident they will discharge the trust in the way I could wish’.  An annuity of £100 was provided for the guardian.  The reminder of his estate was shared between the children of his late brother Richard; his brother Henry; and his sisters Anne and Hyacinthe.

Frances Fitzgerald died in Marylebone in May 1834 aged 6 years. I have been unable to discover what happened to her brother Charles, but her sister Agnes grew to adulthood living with her guardian’s family.  James Vaughan died in 1833 and Maria was remarried in 1838 to Colonel Andrew Creagh.  In the 1841 census, Agnes was with the Creaghs in Hastings, and in 1851 she and the now thrice-widowed Maria were lodging together in Cheltenham.  In 1856 Agnes married Edward Bullock Finlay, a Church of England priest.  Agnes died on 27 October 1908 aged 83.  I wonder how much she knew of her Wellesley and Indian heritage?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
IOR/J/21 ff.221-223 Gerald Wellesley’s writer’s petition (digital image available via findmypast together with many other family history sources from the India Office Records)
Gerald Wellesley’s will - The National Archives PROB 11/1820/462
Marylebone baptismal records are held at London Metropolitan Archives
Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History (2016)

 

30 March 2017

'Vogue' and virtuous virgins: a reflection on the history of the fashion magazine

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Dedicated followers of fashion might not appreciate that the history of the magazines they avidly consume can be traced back to the Elizabethan age.  Fashion mags can tell us a lot more besides what’s trending this season. They are significant culturally complex documents and an agent for interdisciplinary analysis.

Magazines dedicated exclusively to fashion grew out of the more traditional ‘women’s magazines’.  As early as the 1600s, The Treasure of Hidden Secrets was addressed to ‘gentlewomen, honest matrons and virtuous virgins’.  The publication offered readers treatises about urine and how to cure consumption with ‘snails and worms boiled in beer’ to avoid the plague!

  Treasurie of hidden secrets

John Partridge, The treasurie of hidden secrets View online

Gazettes, ladies’ diaries, almanacs and mini pocket pamphlets with colour plates fed female readers’ interest from the reign of Queen Anne onwards.  In 1732 bookseller Edward Cave first used the term ‘magazine’.  Arguably the ‘fashion magazine’ started in France under Louis XIV.  The Mercure Galant featured illustrated plates recording what was being worn by the aristocracy – a useful source of information for dressmakers outside the court.

  Female Spectator 2The  Female Spectator  - The first magazine written by and published for women by Eliza Haywood. It ran for two years from 1744 to 1746. P.P.5251.ga.             

These early publications didn’t have snappy one word names.  The Ladies magazine or Entertaining companion for the fair sex, for their use and entertainment regularly featured fashion pages and sometimes illustrations by William Blake.  The Ladies Monthly Magazine or Cabinet of Fashion offered tips on gowns, hairdressing and fur muffs!

During the Georgian era retail therapy accelerated and lavishly illustrated magazines targeted specifically at women began to be mass published.  Fashion plates were bigger with detailed descriptions.  Advertising revenue could fund higher quality reproduction and new styles of graphic illustrations.

The emergence of the department store provided a social space for women consumers.  Fashion spreads started to feature women involved in leisure pursuits.  Women were brought out of the private sphere of the home as wife or daughter; magazines and fashion provided escapism.  Yet editorials were still paternalistic often criticizing emerging modes of femininity.  A woman’s duty was still to dress for a man, and her role was to reflect the social standing of the family through her clothing, which was of course paid for by the man. 

Gallery of Fashion

Gallery of Fashion is one of the earliest UK fashion magazines, famous during the Regency period. It was published in monthly issues from 1794 to 1803.  C.106.k.16. View online

The Ladies World was edited by Oscar Wilde and in 1886 he changed the name to Women’s World.  He believed that the content should be educational and include more fiction.  Cheaper publications included little fashion, with poor woodcut graphics.  In 1891 a fashion periodical called Forget Me Not aimed at working class women hit the shelves.

Advances in technology, printing, and paper-making in the 20th century resulted in an explosion of magazine production.  Fashion plates moved from woodcuts, engraving and lithographs to photography.  Periods of significant social change brought a flood of magazines.  Women’s magazines reflect radical social change - the birth of teenager was a new market to be tapped.

Vogue cover

 Cover of American Vogue, September 1957. Proquest's  database 'The Vogue Archive' is available in all British Library reading rooms.

Many magazines are now closing as we see the rise of social media including blogging and vlogging.  But some fashion magazines seem sure survivors.  In 1916 an American fashion publication was imported into Britain for the first time.  Vogue is now the most frequently ordered magazine at the British Library!

Rachel Brett
Humanities Reference Specialist

 

21 March 2017

Mary Dorothea Shore – a life brought out of the shadows

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Mary Dorothea Shore was the first wife of East India Company supercargo Thomas Shore whom we met in a recent post. She has been overlooked in narratives of the Shore family and so I should like to bring her out of the shadows.

Mary Dorothea was the daughter of Robert Hawthorn and his wife Dorothy, baptised in London at St Sepulchre Holborn in August 1709. Robert was an apothecary who had served as a surgeon’s mate on HMS Ranelagh.  He died when Mary Dorothea was a baby – his widow was granted probate of his estate in October 1710.

  St Sepulchre
St Sepulchre 1737 - from George Walter Thornbury, Old and New London, London  (1887)   Noc

Dorothy Hawthorn then married an officer in the East India Company’s maritime service named John Shepheard (d.1734). I have found baptisms for two children born to John and Dorothy Shepheard.  Son John was baptised in 1716 at St Alphage London Wall and appears to have died in childhood. Daughter Dorothy was baptised on 13 June 1725 and the register of  St Mary Whitechapel  records that her mother was dead – the burial took place on 17 June.  I wonder who cared for half-sisters Mary Dorothea and Dorothy whilst John Shepheard sailed on long voyages to Asia?

The next event for the family which I have traced is the marriage in 1732 of Mary Dorothea to John Edgell, an officer at Custom House.  John Shepheard gave his step-daughter a marriage portion of £1,000. The Edgells had six children baptised at St Mary Whitechapel: Mary, Priscilla, William, Amelia, and two sons called John who died in infancy. But in 1740 Mary Dorothea and John agreed to separate because of ‘some unhappy differences’. 

On 11 July 1741 John Edgell was admitted to Bethlem Hospital which cared for mental ill health.  He died there on 7 August 1741. His will provided for his children William, Mary, Priscilla and Amelia, but left only one shilling to his wife together with the income from her marriage jointure.  John died owing considerable debts and Mary Dorothea entered into Chancery proceedings to settle her husband’s estate.

The_Hospital_of_Bethlem_(Bedlam)_at_Moorfields _London;_seen_Wellcome_V0013185

The Hospital of Bethlem [Bedlam] at Moorfields, London Wellcome Images

However provision was made for Mary Dorothea by John Shore, East India Company warehouse-keeper and father to supercargo Thomas Shore. It seems that the Shore and Shepheard families had become friends through their Company connection.  John Shore died in October 1741 and his will gave Mary Dorothea £40 a year and possession of his house in Alie Street, Goodman’s Fields, with all the contents, until his ‘beloved’ son Thomas returned to England.

Thomas Shore returned from China in the late summer of 1743.  He was granted probate of his father’s will on 15 August and married Mary Dorothea on 29 August.

In 1745 Mary Dorothea and her half-sister Dorothy Shepheard were living together in Wanstead, Essex, whilst Thomas set off on another voyage to China.  They gave evidence at the Chelmsford trial of Jonathan Byerly who was convicted of breaking into the Shore house at night and stealing a quantity of silver items.  Byerly was sentenced to be hanged.

Mary Dorothea must have died within the next five years, because on 6 September 1750 Thomas Shore married Dorothy Shepheard. Was Mary Dorothea excluded from the Shore family story to avoid drawing attention to the blood relationship between Thomas’s first and second wives?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library IOR/L/MAR/B Ship journals for the voyages of John Shepheard and Thomas Shore, and IOR/B East India Company Court of Directors Minutes for the careers of John Shepheard and John and Thomas Shore.
Will of John Shore 1741 - The National Archives  PROB  11/713
Legal papers for the Edgell family - The National Archives C 11/2085/7
Case of Jonathan Byerley - The National Archives  ASSI 94/726

09 March 2017

Did Jane Austen develop cataracts from arsenic poisoning?

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When Jane Austen died in 1817, aged 41, her portable writing desk was inherited by her sister Cassandra. It was later passed down through her eldest brother’s family. In 1999, Joan Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen’s great-great-great-niece, very generously entrusted it to the care of the British Library. Among the items that had been stored for generations in the desk drawer were three pairs of spectacles. According to family tradition, they all belonged to Jane Austen.

AUSTEN%20IMAGE%201

Spectacles believed to have belonged to Jane Austen (now British Library Add MS 86841/2-4): wire-framed pair (on left), ‘tortoiseshell pair A’ (centre), ‘tortoiseshell pair B’ (on right, with string wound around arm). 6a00d8341c464853ef01bb097e9917970d

The British Library has for the first time had the spectacles tested. Our Conservation department was involved from the start, to ensure that no harm would come to them. The company Birmingham Optical kindly supplied us with a lensmeter to measure their strength, and their specialist staff undertook the tests.

Jane%20austen%20spectacles%20testing
 Louis Cabena (left) and Deep Singh (right) from Birmingham Optical, with lensmeter and spectacles in the British Library Conservation Centre. 6a00d8341c464853ef01bb097e9917970d

The tests revealed that the three pairs of spectacles are all convex or ‘plus’ lenses, so would have been used by someone longsighted. In other words their owner needed glasses for close-up tasks, such as reading. Interestingly, ‘tortoiseshell pair B’ is much stronger than the others.

Test results

Wire-framed pair:       R. + 1.75 DS  L. +1.75 DS (PD 27.0 53.0 26.0)

Tortoiseshell pair A:   R. + 3.25 DS  L. +3.25 DS (PD 26.0 56.0 30.0)

Tortoiseshell pair B:   R. +5.00/-0.25 x 84 L. +4.75/-0.25 x 49 (PD 28.5 55.0 26.5)

We showed these results to the London-based optometrist Professor Simon Barnard. He believes there are a number of possible reasons for the variation in strength. Jane Austen may always have been longsighted, and initially used the wire-framed pair for reading and distance viewing. She later required a slightly stronger pair (tortoiseshell pair A) for reading, and used the strongest pair (tortoiseshell pair B) for extremely close work, such as fine embroidery, which would have been held closer to the face than a book.

Austen is known to have had problems with her eyes. She complained in several letters about her ‘weak’ eyes. Could it be that she gradually needed stronger and stronger glasses for reading because of a more serious underlying health problem? Professor Barnard believes this is a possibility. He points out that certain systemic health problems can cause changes in the vision of both longsighted and shortsighted people. Diabetes is one such condition, because it can induce cataracts. A gradually developing cataract would mean that an individual would need a stronger and stronger prescription, over time, in order to undertake close-up tasks. However, diabetes was fatal at that time, so someone might not have lived long enough to require several different prescriptions in succession. 

If Austen did develop cataracts, a more likely cause, according to Professor Barnard, is accidental poisoning from a heavy metal such as arsenic. Arsenic poisoning is now known to cause cataracts. Despite its toxicity, arsenic was commonly found in medicines in 19th-century England, as well as in some water supplies. In this situation, Austen would have switched from using the wire-framed pair to tortoiseshell pair A, then pair B, as her cataracts got progressively worse.

Jane Austen’s early death has in the past been attributed to Addison’s disease (an endocrine disorder), cancer and tuberculosis. In 2011, the crime writer Lindsay Ashford suggested that Austen died of arsenic poisoning. She came to this conclusion after reading Austen’s description of the unusual facial pigmentation she suffered at the end of her life – something commonly found with arsenic poisoning. Ashford’s novel The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen strays from theories of accidental poisoning into rather more fantastical murder. The variations in the strength of the British Library’s three pairs of spectacles may indeed give further credence to the theory that Austen suffered from arsenic poisoning, albeit accidental.

We should, however, inject a note of caution at this point: although prescription lenses were in use in Austen’s day, we don’t know whether these glasses were prescribed for her by a physician, or whether she bought them ‘off-the-shelf’. We can’t be completely sure that she wore them at all. However, we are keen to publish these test results in the hope that other eye specialists will share their ideas and opinions with us. 

We know this subject is already of interest to literary scholars. Janine Barchas and Elizabeth Picherit of the University of Texas at Austin have taken a keen interest in the spectacles in the British Library, and have also been investigating Austen’s references to spectacles in her novels. Their theories have now been published in the journal Modern Philology. We look forward to further discussions and debate on this topic.  The spectacles themselves have just gone on display in the British Library’s free Treasures Gallery for all to see.

Dr Sandra Tuppen

Lead Curator, Modern Archives & Manuscripts 1601-1850

The British Library

Email: sandra.tuppen@bl.uk

02 March 2017

The personal possessions of Thomas and Dorothy Shore

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India Office Private Papers recently acquired two fascinating documents concerning the personal possessions of Thomas and Dorothy Shore. Both Thomas and Dorothy came from families closely connected to the East India Company.  Their son John Shore (1751-1834) became Governor-General of Bengal.

The first document is an inventory of the household goods, plate, jewels, china, linen, furniture, clothing, and books belonging to Thomas Shore which were in his London house at the time of his death in 1759.

Thomas Shore inventory

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

The second is an auction catalogue for furniture, fine china, and ‘other East Indian Curiosities’ which were sold in June 1775 when Dorothy Shore, ‘A Widow Lady,’ moved from Golden Square in London to the country.

  Doorothy Shore auction

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

 Thomas Shore (1712-1759) was the son of John Shore, the East India Company’s warehouse-keeper at Botolph Wharf on the River Thames.  Thomas followed his father into Company service, becoming  a supercargo in charge of the commercial business of several voyages to China.

In 1743 Thomas Shore married widow Mary Dorothea Edgell (née Hawthorn).  Her stepfather was East India Company sea captain John Shepheard (d.1734).   Mary Dorothea died, and in 1750 Thomas married  her younger half-sister Dorothy Shepheard (c.1725-1783).  Thomas and Mary had two sons, John and Thomas William.  John continued the family tradition of East India Company service, whilst Thomas William became a Church of England priest.

The inventory lists the contents of Thomas Shore’s house room by room: servants’ garrets;  bedrooms; closets;  dining room; parlours; china room; kitchen; yard; wash house; pantry; and cellar. Every item is recorded from valuables to a cheese toaster and mops. Thomas owned many objects from Asia including Chinese snuff boxes, musical instruments, and ornaments; Indian textiles and tea kettles; dressing boxes and a bathing bowl from Japan.  Thomas’s book collection ranged from works of religion and history to geometric problems and Gulliver’s Travels.  Dorothy’s personal belongings in the house were itemised to distinguish them from her husband’s property, mostly jewellery but also her clothes, childbed linen, and textile pieces.

P7280016

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

The auction of Dorothy Shore’s household goods offered a ‘Variety of Furniture, useful and ornamental  China, curious carvings in Ivory, &c brought from India by her Husband’.  Amongst the items sold were an ‘India japan case with Mariner’s charts’ - 2s 6d; 27 small Indian pictures of birds and flowers - 6s; a parcel of India paper hangings on cloth - £1 6s 0d; ten blue dragon plates, two basins, a Nankeen sugar dish with handles, cover and plate – 7s; two Chinese summer houses with figures – 7s.  Some lots can be matched to objects listed in her late husband’s inventory, for example the ‘Luxemburg gallery’ of prints. The sale raised a total of £103 5s 0d.

P7280002 cropped

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

We should like to thank the Friends of the British Library for their generous donation enabling the purchase of such interesting documents which allow us to peek into the homes of an East India Company family in the 18th century.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702
The East India Company at Home 1757-1857