Saturday, November 30, 2013

Passenger Lists Natal: Iris 1852

Natal Witness 2 January 1852


Natal Witness 2 January 1852
Kellermont, Captain Shaw, to Port Elizabeth
Rosebud, Captain A. Murison, to Cape Town

Gem, J. Proudfoot, agent
Devonian, E. P. Lamport, agent

Iris, Captain Dobson. 
The following is a List of the Passengers:

Surgeon - Mr. J. H. H. Lewellin, wife, 3 children
Messrs. G. T. and Henry Lee
Mr. Wm. Henry Middleton and wife
Mr. Vivian
Mr. Charles Thomas Wheelwright
Miss Shuttleworth

Miss Sophia Hawkins
Mr. Thomas Cope and wife
Mr Wm. Hill Allen
Mr. J. Grant
Mr. T. Grant
Mr. E. Holland, wife, and 6 children
Mr. J. C. Slatter, wife, and 3 children
Mr. Wm. Slatter, and son
Mr. Wm. Bullock, and 5 children
Mr. West, wife, and 4 children
Mr. Simmons
Mr. Martin
Mr. Withington, wife, and 2 children
Mr. Jeremiah Wilson
Mr. Martin Hirsch
Mr. Moritz Hirsch
Mr. Samuel Parish
Mr. George Gain

Total - 44 (56 listed, including all the children)

Early settler dwellings at Port Natal:
wattle and daub under thatch

For more on 1850s lifestyle at Natal enter 'Eliza Feilden' in the search facility.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Passenger Lists Natal: John Bright 1851

Arrival of the barque John Bright at Natal

Natal Witness 16 May 1851

John Bright, barque, 290 tons, Captain Mills, from London, arrived on 8 May 1851 but was kept waiting outside in the roadstead, being unable to cross the Bar due to lack of wind until 12 May, when the weather at the Port was cloudy but with a fine breeze. Her agent was H. Milner.

She reportedly carried 58 passengers but this doesn’t tally with the number listed in the column:

Abrelpha (?) William
Boemun J F
Brockman Henry
Brockman Joseph
Cumpston -
Clerk Andrew
Clerk Ann
Imrel -
Crowder Benjamin
Crowder Samuel
Crowder Mary
Crowder Sarah
Davidson -
Duncan Mary Ann
Duncan A
Duncan H W
Duncan E
Exall Henry, wife and 4 children
Grouthead Samuel
Gurby Peter
Hunter James
Hunter Caroline
Hilliard Charles
Hute (?) David, wife & child
King Charles
Rowell Frederick
Parry J G
Purse Stephen
Palfreyman Wm
Stevens F P, wife and 2 children
Schofield James
Smith J B
Scott Edward
Scott R
Scott N
Stuart Caroline and 4 children
Stuart T
Stuart M E
Stuart A
Wright H J
Wilson James
Webb F G
Webb Sarah
Young George

Arriving a day earlier, 7 May 1851, was the Lady Sale, brig, Captain Young, from Glasgow, carrying Mr W T Sanderson, one of the vessel's agents.

John Bright

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Passenger Lists Natal: Anne 1854

Departure of the Anne: Natal Mercury 15 March 1854


March 13 Anne, schr. 99 tons,Cameron, for the Cape. 

Mr and Mrs Clowes and 2 children 
Mrs Zeitsman and family (5) 
Mrs Ingall 
Rev Mr Methuen 
Mr Owen 
Mr Green 
Miss Struben 
Mr and Mrs Kinsman 
Mr and Mrs Webb 
Mr Archer 
Mr Wray 
15 Soldiers 
Manifest list

Margaret Gibson, bgtne. 149 tons - G. Hannaford - for Mauritius. 
EP Lamport, agent. 
Candace, brig. - Fisher - for Muscat. 
Henderson and Co., agents.

Natal, stm. 680 tons - from London 
E Snell, agent. 
Jane Morice, bg. - from Liverpool 
EP Lamport, agent. 
Sir Robert Peel, str. 240 tons - Boxer - from Cape 
E Snell, agent. 
Leontine Mary, schr. 29 tons - Baragwanath - from Algoa Bay 
E Snell, agent.

Ship entering Port Natal 1850s, surfboat going to meet it at the entrance channel,
 Bluff right, the Point left

Monday, November 25, 2013

A mariner's widow: grandmother of a Marchioness

Ann Caithness
nee Scorey ca 1860s
Ann Caithness died on 20 May 1889. 

The Hampshire Advertiser of Saturday 25 May reported that at 94 she was one of the oldest residents of Totton. If confirmation was needed that she was still living in the almshouses this local press item obliges. 

Evidently the newspaper was unable to resist mentioning that Mrs Caithness was the grandmother of the recently-widowed Marchioness of Ely, at which point the report wanders off the main topic to deliver information about the late Marquis’s ashes, deposited in the family vault at Kensal Green, even giving minute details of the urn 'of Doulton ware'. Such is the way of the world. Ann’s funeral is dispensed with in a simple sentence without letting us into the secret of where she was buried.

Hampshire Advertiser 25 May 1889

The Marchioness in question was Caroline Caithness, daughter of Ann’s son George Caithness, Master Mariner. Caroline had married on 9 December 1875 John Henry Wellington Graham Loftus, 4th Marquis of Ely, who held estates in Ireland. They had no children. The Marquis died on 3 April 1889 so Caroline lost her husband and her mother within a matter of weeks.

Western Daily Press 5 April 1889


Caroline nee Caithness,
4th Marchioness of Ely and granddaughter
of Ann Caithness nee Scorey

Tom Sheldon

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A mariner's widow: almshouses 2

From at least 1871, Ann Caithness was residing in an almshouse at Totton. There were four of these dwellings, each inhabited by a respectable elderly person, living alone. Ann’s neighbours in 1881 were two seamstresses and a nurse; Ann, at 85, was the oldest.

The almshouses were in Commercial Road, Totton, as seen in the map below:

Almshouses in Commercial Road, Totton 

As the almshouses haven’t survived and so far no pictures of them have been found we have to rely on descriptions, drawings and photographs of other similar structures. Almshouses were usually built in a row or a traditional three sided square, with a central courtyard. This gave a sense of safety and security without isolating the residents from the outside world; as pensioners they remained part of the community they had lived among for many years.

The term ‘almshouse’ is not synonymous with ‘workhouse’. It’s apparent from online offerings that considerable confusion exists on this matter. The basic distinction between the two is that an almshouse was privately funded as a charitable bequest whereas a workhouse was financed by public taxation.

Almshouse, Winchester
An almshouse was a lovely place to live, a workhouse was not. An almshouse was provided as sheltered housing for deserving aged individuals specifically designated by the benefactor and administered by a trust. A workhouse was set up by the Parish or, prior to the passing of the Poor Law Amendment in 1834, by the Union, and was the last refuge of the desperate.

Almshouses –  one of various terms including bedehouse, maison dieu, hospital - have an ancient history going back to monastic times in the 10th century. After the dissolution of the monasteries many of the medieval hospitals disappeared but others were rebuilt and run as secular accommodation for those in need.

Perhaps the best example in literature is Hiram’s Hospital as described in Anthony Trollope’s novel, The Warden:

In the year 1434 there died at Barchester one John Hiram, who had made money in the town as a wool-stapler, and in his will he left the house in which he died and certain meadows and closes near the town …for the support of twelve superannuated wool-carders, all of whom should have been born and bred and spent their days in Barchester; he also appointed that an alms-house should be built for their abode … the twelve old men received a comfortable lodging and a small stipend under the will of John Hiram.….

There has been some debate as to whether Trollope based Hiram’s Hospital on St Nicholas’s, Salisbury, or on St Cross in Winchester.

St Nicholas's, Salisbury

Pawnbrokers' Almshouses
Forest Gate
Sometimes almshouses would be provided for people of a particular occupation. Examples: the Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses in Penge, Kent, built in 1840-1841 for retired company freemen and their widows; the Pawnbrokers’ Almshouses, Forest Gate, built in 1850.

The Free Watermen and Lightermen's Almshouses, Penge

In the volume of the Victoria County History pertaining to Eling and Totton it’s mentioned that in 1786 parliamentary returns refer to ‘a house, then vested in the churchwardens, given to the poor by a Mrs Moody. It was used as almshouses for four widows until 1860, when the houses were burnt down.’ Interestingly, the first reference to the almshouses at Totton is dated 1861 and is about fire insurance, a concern perhaps prompted by the disaster which overtook Mrs Moody’s almshouses.

A typical row of 19th c almshouses


Almshouses at Chipping Norton

Tom Sheldon

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Souvenir Saturday: Caithness and Eling Echoes

Eling Tide Mill would have been a landmark familiar to members of the Caithness family in the 19th century.

Situated on the edge of Southampton Water beside the New Forest, it is one of the few tidal mills in the world still producing stone ground flour daily, a tradition dating back 900 years.

Caithness descendant Peter Hay visited Eling and environs and took the photographs below. Abandoned in the 1940s the mill was restored and re-opened in 1980 as a working mill and a museum commemorating this aspect of Britain’s industrial heritage.

The millstone in the foreground would have been in use
 in the Caithness family's era.

Another local feature is the only surviving medieval toll in Hampshire (started c1418) on the causeway which runs directly past Eling Tide Mill. The mill and toll were owned by Winchester College until 1975 when ownership passed to the local Council.

The charge to pass through the toll increased from sixpence in 1967 to 30 pence in 1988 to over £1 more recently.   

The Village Bells: a sign over the bar states 'circa 1800'

Peter Hay

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A mariner's widow at Totton 1826-1889 1

When James Caithness died suddenly of an asthma attack in 1826, his widow Ann, aged 30, was expecting their fifth child (Charles). The four older children were James Ramsay b 1815, George b 1818 (1817 on his Master's 'ticket'), Mary Ann b 1820 and William b 1824. 

It was a dire situation for any woman but Ann rose to the challenge, making successful application for her two eldest boys to attend the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich, to be trained as mariners and receive an education. 

Ann Caithness, widowed in 1826: number of children 'Four and more per accouchement', i.e. she was then pregnant with her fifth child.This document is among her son James's application papers for the Royal Hospital, Greenwich

Map shows Totton, Eling (and its mill), Redbridge, Millbrook and Marchwood
The first ten, even twenty, years of Ann's widowhood must have been extremely difficult. Whether she would have continued to receive James's naval pension of 20 pounds a year has yet to be established. By 1841 William, then 17, was working as a servant in Redbridge, in the parish of Millbrook, a small village in South Stoneham union. (The entry was hidden under the surname Kaithness.) His mother, aged 45, was living on her own in Totton. Charles was nearby, a baker’s apprentice at 15.

St Mary's, Southampton
James Ramsay had married Elizabeth Watson Ridges at St Mary’s, Southampton, in March 1838 and not long afterwards had left England for the Cape Colony. Mary Ann had gone there, too, on a visit to her uncle, James Scorey, and this led to her meeting William Bell whom she married in Port Elizabeth in June 1838. She was never to return home to Hampshire. 

George was pursuing his career in the mercantile marine, serving as an apprentice, seaman and mate during the decade 1830-1840. Charles was a journeyman baker by the late 1850s and, in keeping with the family's maritime associations, became a ship’s baker; he was with the Peninsular and Oriental line by 1861. They were all making their way and forging their own lives.

There’s a rumour that William visited South Africa in 1853 but documentary evidence of this is lacking. In March 1851 he was with his mother in Millbrook village, working as a labourer. Nothing changed by 1861, other than their ages: Ann was then sixty-five and William thirty-five. It was the last Census in which he would be listed. 

Ann and William at Mousehole, Millbrook, Hampshire: 1861 Census
It’s all very well tracing ancestors using the Census: the entries do provide milestones to hang their story on, giving some indication of where they lived, who was in the household and their occupations, but the important years between could remain invisible history unless other extant records are covered. The possibilities are endless: vestry minutes, churchwardens’ accounts, settlement papers, monumental inscriptions, apprentice bindings, muster rolls, poll books and many more sources.

Equally vital – and just as fascinating - is background and contextual research: the setting in which the ancestors found themselves, their social scene, their neighbourhood, external influences such as economics, politics, epidemics and wars – even the weather – in fact everything that affected their lives, bringing us a closer understanding of their circumstances, actions and experiences. This makes the difference between a grayscale picture and one in glorious colour.

Eling Riverside Walk

To be continued 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

James Caithness: the Boatswain's Call

From documents concerning James Caithness’s sons and their admittance to the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich, it’s known that James snr met his death in an unusual way.

He ‘Died of an asthma thro over exertion in the use of the Call as Boatswain’s Mate’.

In other words, James blew his whistle too hard and this proved fatal.

The fact that he was Boatswain’s (or Bosun’s) Mate is evidenced by entries in the musters of HMS Calcutta: 

'James Caithness AB to 17th Nov 1803 then Boatswain's Mate'

In this role James would have conveyed orders to crew members by sounding the Call on his Boatswain’s ‘pipe’ or whistle. This was a time-honoured tradition dating as far back as the Crusades. There were specific calls – each a series of notes – applicable to various tasks. The one perhaps most familiar to non-seafarers is the piping aboard of people of consequence, such as the captain, an admiral of the fleet, or a Royal visitor.

The boatswain's call is a none diaphragm aerophone. It is a symbol of office and a practical instrument for giving orders as well as for playing music to pass the time at sea. Every seaman had to know the call codes and one officer would be in charge of the Call to alert the crew to carry out routine chores as well as to mark ceremonial occasions.

Its distinctive shape has remained practically unchanged from medieval times to the present day. The Call's shrill whistle can be varied in pitch and duration to convey a variety of information and can be heard above the sound of wind and sea.

A beautiful silver Call like this one dated 1804 would probably be a ceremonial or presentation piece. Usually they were personal possessions retained by an individual during his career. 

The pipe or Call consists of a narrow tube (the gun) which directs air over a metal sphere (the buoy) with a hole in the top. The player opens and closes the hand over the whole to change pitch. The rest of the pipe consists of a 'keel', a flat piece of metal beneath the gun that holds the Call together, and the 'shackle', a keyring that connects a long silver or brass chain that sits around the collar when in ceremonial uniform.

The precise circumstances under which James could have succumbed to an asthma attack while sounding the Call are not stated, but it may be that almost ten years spent in grim conditions as a prisoner-of-war in France during the Napoleonic Wars undermined his health. He died in 1826 aged about forty.

Boatswain's Mate in shore-going rig

Listen to audio examples of the Call at:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Names:killed and died of wounds HMS Mars 1798

HMS Mars versus L'Hercule

HMS Mars pursued and captured the French 74 L'Hercule at Raz de Sein off Brest on 21 April 1798. French casualties were more numerous than those of the British. Commander of the Mars, Alexander Hood, was fatally wounded at the height of the battle. His name is included in the list below.

Killed and Died of Wounds on HMS Mars:

Robert Bond, John Toule/Soule, James Brownfield, John Henderson, John Rogers, George Spencer, James Logan, James Smith, James Blythe (2), Abm. Devine, James Christie, John Moore, Alex. Hood Capt., And. McGinnis, William Robinson, Supernumerary: Edwd. Canlea, Marines: John Williams, Pat Fearnes, Conrade Schnag, John Wilson, James Waters, Joseph White Capt.

 Wounded taken to Plymouth Hospital

John Sales, John Trewen, George Robertson, James McMullen, John Wevill/Nevill, Francis Cass, Will. Greaves, Will. Chison, George Heckford, Alexr. Ross, George Loring, James Burn, Thos. Tracey, George Hind, George Rutherford, Francis Laurence Bolton, Michael Mark, John Fisher, David Bolton, Will. Wilson (3), Ralph Welsby, John Carroll, Thos. Gillman, David Evans, Charles Buchanan, Thomas Hoar Boy, Thos. Saunders, Lawrence Brannon Private Marine, James O'Brien do, Will. Lloyd Drummer, Sampson Sails Private, Will. McGonnigal do, Will.Knell do, Geo. Burgess do, Will. Bowen do, Will. Loane do.

James Caithness, who had joined the Mars two weeks earlier, survived the action.

Tom Sheldon

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Caithness and Johanna Magdalena aka Prince William Henry

Fleet of East Indiamen at Sea by Nicholas Pocock

Captain Woodriff’s log of HMS Calcutta reveals that the six British seamen (including James Caithness) had been on the ship Johanna Magdalena prior to joining the Calcutta’s complement at Simon’s Bay in August 1803.

Johanna Magdalena is a commonly-found pairing of Dutch forenames and implies the ship was of that nationality, but the matter is not plain-sailing. This vessel had previously been the Prince William Henry, a British-built East Indiaman of 808 tons from Barnard’s yard - premier supplier to the Hon. East India Company. Launched in 1787, she plied the England to India route via the Cape of Good Hope, calling at St Helena or Madeira, her main destinations being Madras and Bombay. 

Bombay, Fort St George

In February 1797 she was captained by Roger Baskett: when he married in 1804 he is mentioned in newspaper announcements as ‘late of the Prince William Henry East Indiaman’. Lloyd’s Register for 1803 reveals that in that year her captain was Dale, and she continues to be listed similarly in 1804 and 1805. Yet she was known as the Johanna Magdalena in August 1803, according to Woodriff’s log.

As Prince William Henry she is shown in Lloyd's Register 1803 with the following description (see third ship on the list):

1803 Lloyd’s Register: Prince William Henry, Ship, s.W and C = Sheathed with Copper over Boards, Captain Dale, 808 tons 3 Ds = 3 decks, River = built on the Thames, sev. rprs = several repairs, 16 = feet of draught of water when loaded, Lo. = port of survey London, destination port India, class E I =2nd class, materials of vessel 1st quality.

A reference in the London Star of 10 Aug 1803 states ‘At Batavia, Johanna Magdalena, Dale, from Amsterdam.'  This ship was suffering from an identity crisis.

The clue is in the word ‘Batavia’ - i.e. the eastern HQ of the Dutch East India Company.

It is a reminder that in August 1803 the Cape had recently been brought under the rule of the Batavian Republic (the Netherlands) and would remain so until 1806. Events should be seen against that background. When HMS Calcutta arrived at Simon's Bay Knopwood noted that they found ships there flying Dutch colours. The Dutch were French allies.* Whether the Prince William Henry was purchased or captured from the British, followed by a change of name, she apparently retained her captain, Dale.

By April 1804, Lloyd’s List reports the Johanna Magdalena of Batavia, still under Dale’s command, is ‘condemned at the Cape of Good Hope’.

So far it’s not possible to determine precisely when James Caithness joined the Johanna Magdalena – or if she was at that stage known as the Prince William Henry. Further searching in musters may show his date of discharge from his earlier ship, HMS Mars, and clarify the situation.

Batavia by John Wells

* Read more about this confusing period of history at

Tom Sheldon

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Caithness and Woodriff at Simon's Bay 1803

Daniel Woodriff, born in 1756, went to sea at the age of six as servant to master gunner George Woodriff, his uncle. In December 1767 he was admitted to the Royal Hospital School Greenwich and later apprenticed to a merchant captain in the Jamaica trade. In 1778 Woodriff was pressed into the navy, and by 1782 was promoted lieutenant. After eleven years on the American Station and in the West Indies he returned to England. He made his first trip to Australia in 1792 in the ship Kitty, with supplies and convicts, and reported on Port Jackson’s naval defences. He was promoted commander and 1803 saw him once again bound for Australia: he had been appointed to command HMS Calcutta on Daniel Collins’s expedition to found a British settlement in the Bass Strait.

Page from Woodriff's log
During the first leg of this voyage, his ship had separated from her companion vessel, Ocean, at Tristan da Cunha and by 15 August 1803 Woodriff noted in his log that the Calcutta was moored in Simon’s Bay near the Cape of Good Hope, having made the run from Rio in 24 days. His meticulous account brings into sharp focus the everyday activities on board, reminding us that a ship was a floating village and that crew members were versatile in their skills.

On 16 August, it was business as usual, the people ‘employed in watering and brooming. Carpenters building pens and stables for cattle. Sailors making bags for hay. Sail’d the mercht ship Thomas of London for Desolation* … Deserted John Brown and R Southey Seamen … Received fresh beef and bread.’

Evidently Woodriff ran a tight ship and didn’t flinch from maintaining discipline in the best naval tradition. His log entry for 21 August reveals that Brown, the seaman who had deserted, was promptly returned to the vessel having been apprehended by a party of soldiers whom Woodriff paid forty shillings for their trouble, the amount being charged against the deserter on the Ship’s Books. Further reprisals were visited on Burgess, a seaman, and a Marine named Woolley, who received 12 lashes each for neglect of duty.

At this point synchronicity comes into play.

'Received 6 Seamen being British subjects from the Johanna Magdalena ....'

Monday 22 August: ‘Moderate Breeze and clear. Employed receiving and pressing of hay and getting ready for Sea. … Died Mr Richard Wright, Master … Received 6 Seamen being British subjects from the Johanna Magdalena and procured the Wages due to them.’

One of these men was James Caithness. Robert Knopwood’s diary, written during the same voyage, also mentions the British volunteers who were taken on to Calcutta’s complement at Simon’s Bay. However, Woodriff provides an important additional detail - that these six seamen, including Caithness, had previously been on the Johanna Magdalena. This vessel was originally known as the Prince William Henry but had a change of name and flag when she was taken over by the Dutch. 

If James Caithness hadn’t been at Simon’s Bay while Calcutta was at anchor he would have missed out on an exciting adventure to Australia and a chance to sail round the world. On the other hand he wouldn’t have been among those captured on Calcutta in 1805 and sent to a French prison. The lives of Woodriff and Caithness were linked by Fate.

The useful reference to the ship Johanna Magdalena (aka Prince William Henry) in Woodriff’s log offers an avenue for further research into James Caithness’s career.

Simonstown: Then and Now

 * Possibly Kerguelen Islands in southern Indian Ocean.

Tom Sheldon

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Remembering World War I Ancestors

Approximately 10 million soldiers were killed in the First World War. It's not known how many civilians died but the estimate is 1.4 million. In 1919 the survivors of the battlefields began to find their way back home.

They ask me where I've been,
And what I've done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn't I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands...
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.

"Back" by Wilfred Gibson (1878-1962)

'Dulce et Decorum est 

Pro patria mori'