Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

09 April 2021

Non-essential retail in nineteenth-century London

As we look forward to the re-opening of non-essential retail outlets in England, we’d like to share a book about nineteenth-century London shops.  Nathaniel Whittock’s On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London published in 1840 has illustrated descriptions of a variety of businesses and is available as a digital item.

Shop front of Storr and Mortimer, goldsmiths, 156 Bond StreetStorr and Mortimer, goldsmiths, 156 Bond Street - Plate 1 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Storr and Mortimer, goldsmiths and jewellers, was situated at 156 Bond Street.  It was one of the original shops when the houses in Bond Street were first built.  Whittock praised the Ionic style of the shop front for being neat and elegant.  The plants appearing through the trellis work gave a light and pleasing effect.

Shop front of Turner and Clark, mercers and drapers, Coventry Street
Turner and Clark, mercers and drapers, Coventry Street - Plate 3 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Turner and Clark, mercers and drapers, had premises in Coventry Street, Haymarket.  The shop front was decorated with a light, elegant pediment and ornaments of gilt on white-veined marble.

Shop front of W.H. Ablett & Co, outfitting warehouse, Cornhill

W.H. Ablett & Co, outfitting warehouse, Cornhill - Plate 5 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

W.H. Ablett & Co was an outfitting warehouse in Cornhill.  Both storeys of the shop were used for displaying articles sold there, including swords!

Wine & spirit warehouse

Astell’s wine and spirit warehouse at 119 Tottenham Court Road - Plate 10 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Astell’s wine and spirit warehouse stood at 119 Tottenham Court Road, on the corner of Grafton Street.  Two storeys had been converted into one so that huge vats of alcohol could be accommodated inside.  Whittock judged the shop front to be grand but not gaudy.

UpholstererSaunders and Woodley, upholsterers, Regent Street - Plate 13 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The costly front of Saunders and Woodley, upholsterers, in Regent Street was in the style of Louis XIV.  Willock was pleased by the 'very splendid effect', which he deemed quite appropriate for so showy a business.  Piers were formed by the trunks of palm trees terminating in foliage, with capitals of burnished gold.  The elegant iron railing was coloured bronze to match the carvings.

BooksellerGrey, bookseller and stationer - Plate 15 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Bookseller and stationer Grey was given as an example of a shop converted from a dwelling house in a manner that would not breach restrictions in the lease about commercial use.   The parlour windows were used to display books, and the shutters were lined with shallow glass cases sufficiently deep to contain prints and other wares.

India warehouseEvrington’s India shawl warehouse, 10 Ludgate - Plate 18 from On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Evrington’s India shawl warehouse at 10 Ludgate occupied an old building with low ceilings.  Whittock thought the frontage simple and elegant, but not in accordance with the magnificence of the interior.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Nathaniel Whittock, On the construction and decoration of the Shop Fronts of London, illustrated with eighteen coloured representations, exhibiting the varied styles of the current period, for the use of builders, carpenters, shopkeepers etc (London, 1840)

07 April 2021

Records of People on the Move

The 20th century saw an explosion in international travel, fuelled by developments in modes of travel, and tumultuous events such as two world wars.  The Public & Judicial files of the India Office Records contain many files which reflect this movement of people, providing an important source for family historians and the study of migration.

Gravesend Airport on the cover of Popular Flying magazineGravesend Airport from Popular Flying (1932).  Shelfmark: Lou.Lon.394 Images Online Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

One of the most crucial series of records for information on those travelling from India are certificates of identity and duplicate passports.  Travel documents were issued at a number of designated offices in India.  Duplicate identity certificates for Indians proceeding to Europe were issued between 1900 and 1917, and were then replaced by passports very similar to the modern passports we all carry when travelling today.  Duplicate passports were sent to the India Office for security purposes but also for information on the bearer should this be required in Britain or in Europe.

The passports in the Public & Judicial files are mainly for Asians but also include some Europeans and Eurasians.  They show the name of the holder, date and place of birth, description, national status, profession, address, caste, father's name, and details of wife and children.  Sometimes a signature or fingerprint is attached and in most cases, a good photograph of the bearer survives.

Aerial view of Municipal Offices and Victoria Terminus  Bombay

Aerial view of Municipal Offices and Victoria Terminus, Bombay, 1937.  The Victoria Terminus with platforms and sidings to the north takes up the central portion of this print, with the Municipal Offices and Maidan in the foreground.  The General Post Office is to the right, with the Docks beyond.  Shelfmark Photo 91/(5) Images OnlinePublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

In the 1940s, the Second World War left millions homeless and displaced, and the partition of India forced large numbers to cross borders into the newly independent states of India and Pakistan, or the many British residents in India to return to the UK to start afresh.  The subjects crossing the desks of officials in the India Office, and later the Commonwealth Relations Office, include:
• Transit visas for India and Pakistan.
• Applications for the grant of passport facilities for the UK.
• Applications for the grant of an assisted passage for travel between the UK and India or Pakistan, and the later recovery of such advances.
• Recovery of sums advanced to European British evacuees who elected to remain in India.
• Passport Control Department circulars on various individuals.

With the passing of the 1948 British Nationality Act, which created the status of Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, the CRO began fielding increasing numbers of enquiries from individuals concerning the nationality of themselves and their families.  Another common enquiry was for information on the whereabouts of individuals from concerned friends or family members.

These files provide a glimpse into the lives of many people, giving a sense of the dislocation and upheaval of those tumultuous years.  A search can be made of the India Office Public & Judicial Files on the Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Public and Judicial Department Annual Files, 1880-1930 (IOR/L/PJ/6).

Public and Judicial Department Annual Files, 1931-1950 (IOR/L/PJ/7).

Public and Judicial Department Collections on Aliens 1931-1950, Emigration 1926-1952, Passports and Visas 1906-1950, and Refugees 1947-1948 (IOR/L/PJ/8).

Duplicate Passports, 1932-1948 (IOR/L/PJ/11). These have featured in a previous Untold Lives post.

 

04 April 2021

E. G. G. Hunt

Last Easter we brought you the story of the Bunny Family of Berkshire.  This year we have E. G. G. Hunt who came to my attention when I was looking through The Navy List for 1939.

Navy List 1939 - entry for E G G Hunt in the ship IndusEntry for E. G. G. Hunt in The Navy List February 1939

Eric George Guilding Hunt had a long and distinguished naval career.  He was born in Littleborough, Lancashire, on 22 June 1899, the son of George Wingfield Hunt, a Church of England clergyman, and his wife Ethel née Scholfield.   In 1915 Hunt joined HMS Conway, a naval training ship stationed on the Mersey near Liverpool.  From 1917 to 1919 he was on active service in the Royal Naval Reserve for the duration of the war as a Temporary Midshipman.

After the First World War, Hunt became an officer in the Royal Indian Marine, which later became the Royal Indian Navy.  He rose to the rank of Commander and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in a coastal operation in the Red Sea when in charge of HMIS Indus in 1941.

HMIS Indus IWM
HMIS Indus in Akyab harbour, Burma. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum ADNO 9148 

The Hunt family had other connections to India, to the sea, and to the Church.  George Wingfield Hunt was born in Akyab, Burma (now Sittwe).  His father Thomas Wingfield Hunt was a mariner in India and then a Salt Superintendent.  His mother Mary Anne was the daughter of Lansdown Guilding, an Anglican priest in the West Indies.  Lansdown Guilding was a naturalist who wrote many scholarly papers, becoming a Fellow of the Linnean Society.  In 1825 he published An account of the Botanic Garden in the island of St Vincent, from its first establishment to the present time. 

Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the bottom of the central walkThe Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the bottom of the central walk  - from Lansdown Guilding, An account of the Botanic Garden in the island of St Vincent (Glasgow, 1825) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the superintendent's houseThe Botanic Garden in St Vincent from the superintendent's house  - from Lansdown Guilding, An account of the Botanic Garden in the island of St Vincent (Glasgow, 1825)  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

India, the sea, and the Church were also prominent in the family of E. G. G. Hunt’s wife Marjorie.  She was born in Coonoor, Madras, in 1902  where her father Thomas Henry Herbert Hand was an officer in the Royal Indian Marine.  Thomas was a well-known marine painter in watercolour, signing his work T. H. H. Hand.  His father was Captain Henry Hand of the Royal Navy, and Henry’s father was an Anglican priest.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
The National Archives, ADM 340/72/14 Record of service in Royal Navy for Eric George Guilding Hunt 1917-1919.
British Library, IOR/L/MIL/16/5/52, 238, 240, 248 Record of service in Royal Indian Marine/Navy for Eric George Guilding Hunt 1919-1946.
Supplement to London Gazette 4 September 1945 - Award of Distinguished Service Cross to Eric George Guilding Hunt.
British Library, IOR/L/MIL/16/3/155-56, 162-64 : IOR/L/MIL/16/8/110, 186 IOR/L/MIL/16/9/75 1890-1921 – records of service for Thomas Henry Herbert Hand in the Royal Indian Marine/Navy 1890-1921.