Thomas Blanchett 1
My G G Grandfather--Thomas Blanchett 1 (~1800 -1863)
And now we come to one of the two patriarchs of the clan-- Thomas Blanchett (b~1800 m 1832 d 1863) , the woolcomber from Middlesex.
Thomas was the first generation of Blanchett's to go to India. He was a woolcomber from the county of Middlesex, England. All that I know of him and most of his antecedents and descendants is summarized in the letters below from a distant cousin named Sue Kalkhoven. Sue's relationship to me is also shown. Sue is the wife of one of the great grandson's of Thomas Blanchette above. Sue's grandmother Mercy Gardner was my teacher at the Railway School in Ajmer in 1938. The Long Family Tree shows Thomas' antecedents
Thomas life spanned revolutionary changes in Britain and India. On the left I have shown some of the landmark events in Britain, and on the right I have done the same for India. In 1800 Britain had a firm grip on Eastern India and a tenuous hold on small parts of South India. By the time Thomas died, Britain controlled all of India, Burma, and Nepal and "virtually" governed Afghanistan and Tibet..
Thomas had a son, my great grandfather, also called Thomas. In this memoir I have labeled the woolcomber "Thomas Blanchett 1", and his son "Thomas Blanchett 2". I have documentation confirming some of the data summarized by Sue. In those areas where the data are missing or conflicting (eg the date of Thomas birth) I agree with Sue's hypotheses.
With that quick introduction, let's get to the "Life of Thomas".
Probably the most unusual thing about Thomas is that he lived to a ripe old age in India and died (as far as I know) a non violent death. Something in the region of 90% of the British expatriates in India died an early death due to disease or combat. From our computations Thomas was somewhere between 63 and 73 when he died. This fact alone would support a thesis that Thomas looked after himself, and perhaps did not venture too far into combat! There are other facts about Thomas life in India which would indicate he was a prudent man.
Thomas joined the HEIC army in 1815 when the general economy of England had been shattered by the Napoleonic wars and the wool trade was in a shambles.
Wool had been Englandís main export for hundreds of years. Production of wool and wool cloth had evolved into several highly skilled trades. By 1812 Englandís wool exports had fallen from 12 million pounds sterling to 1 million pounds sterling. The unemployment of the skilled wool artisans due to market forces and the introduction of machines, (Industrial Revolution) led to the Luddite riots of 1813 and 1814. The government responded harshly. Men were hanged, spies were set among the wool artisans and the Luddites were broken. .
It is probably this kind of environment that caused our Thomas to leave home, never to return. In addition, the harsh penal laws, the corn laws, and the anti labor acts were still in effect and in fact getting worse. By 1815 there were 200 separate crimes for which an Englishman could be hanged. Reform movements in England which started in the late 18th century were all put on hold due to the war(s) with France, the shock of the American Revolution and the general state of the British economy. About the only reform measure passed in England between about 1780 and 1820 was the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Slavery itself continued in the British Empire well into the 1830's. Reform movements began to surface again in 1830 with the fall of the Tory Government and the election of the Whigs. Some of the more horrible excesses of the Industrial Revolution began to be addressed by 1832 --see the left sidebar.
Thomas sailed from the East India docks in 1817 on the Marquess of Wellington a 900 ton East Indiaman built in 1812. The ship was on its way to Australia with a load of prisoners, and stopped in Calcutta "on its way". Thomas was probably about 13 years old when he enlisted in the HEIC Army. If so he would have lied about his age by at least a couple of years. This supposition is enhanced by the fact that there was a two year gap between Thomas enlistment in 1815 and his actual sailing date in 1817. His age at enlistment according to Army records says he was born in 1796. Another military fiction? Sue reckons (and I agree) that he was more likely born in 1803.
Thomas must have been desperate to have volunteered for the HEIC army. The life was grim, the life expectancy short and the pay paltry. Plunder was part of the remuneration and perhaps that was part of the attraction. Thomas army career in India stretched from 1817 to his retirement in 1836. He actually signed on in England in 1815. His unit would have seen action in Burma (1824).
Thomas landed at Fort William, the Army fort near Calcutta. He joined the Bengal Europeans and was later posted to the 2nd Artillery Invalid Company at Chunar. Chunar is an old Indian town near Benares. It was the home of the lifers -- those who had signed up for 21 years or more -- and those who had been injured and were listed for light duty. The Bengal Europeans eventually became part of the Munster Fusiliers a (supposedly) Irish Regiment. There is a great history of the Munster regiment here including a history of the Bengal Europeans.
Thomas married twice. The first time was to a Rebecca Evans (a Welsh name) in 1829. They had two children named Mary and Thomas. Both children died in their first year in 1832 and 1833 respectively. Rebecca Evans herself died in August 1832 Thomas then married Hannah Boughton (nee de Castor) in October 1833. Hannah was probably the widow of an Irish soldier, and probably the daughter of a Indo-Portuguese man and an Indo-Portuguese mother. The shortage of "European" women and the necessity for a widow to remarry often meant that a widow would remarry within a few weeks of her husband's death. The fact that Thomas was able to marry again so soon presumably means that he was regarded as good husband material. There was certainly no shortage of available British soldiers. Perhaps not many of them were willing to accept the responsibilities of a "Christian marriage".
With a name like Hannah de Castro, there is certainly a Portuguese and perhaps a Dutch connection. Assuming this to be the case, Hannah was presumably of Indo-European stock, in which case it is likely that her father was a "bandsman" with the Army stationed in Chunar with Thomas Blanchett. By 1810 roughly the time Hannah would have been born, Cornwallis reforms were well in effect, and only Britons hired in England were allowed to be combatants in the HEIC Army. Being a "bandsman" was the only Army job open to Indo European males. Cornwallis, with his fear of settlers power, had excluded Indo-Europeans from virtually all military, government and farming jobs.
Thomas was stationed at Chunar which was where the colony of "invalided" HEIC soldiers who had signed on for "life" were stationed. He spent about 20 years in Chunar and would have been well aware of all the support systems and every scam available to a British soldier, a significant advantage to his children.
Young Thomas Blanchett2 was the third
of four children born after his father had retired from the army and moved to
Agra. In Agra the elder Thomas went into business for himself so
one can assume he was well connected in the business and military community.
According to Sue
he and a Mr. Suntook ran a business of monumental sculptors. (Another
relative saw their names on gravestones in the cantonment cemetery at Agra.
If only we had known this in 1998 when Janice and Paddy and I were in Agra
to see the Taj Mahal!)
He was a British HEIC soldier (the lowest of the low on the British social totem pole), officially married (less than 10% of British soldiers contracted a "Christian" marriage in India) survived to retirement (probably less than 20% survived this long), stayed in India after retiring from the HEIC army (I don't yet have statistics), raised a family (unusual), and lived to a relatively old age (~60 to 70) quite unusual, particularly for a European in India. .
The following data on Thomas Blanchett comes from Sue Kalkhoven who has researched the family. Sue is the wife of the grandson of Mercy Gardner, the lady who taught me in the Railway school in Ajmer.
"In India Thomas was posted to the 2nd Company Art. at Chunar. This was the home of the Invalids (men who had signed up for 21 years or life)
He married Rebecca Evans 1829 in Chunar. They had:
Mary b. 1830 d. 9 Aug 1831
Thomas b. 12 Jan 1832 d. 1833
Rebecca died 16 Aug 1832
Thomas married Hannah Boughton (possibly the widow of an Irish soldier Joseph Boughton) (nee DeCastor or DeCastro) 1 Oct 1832. They had:
Matilda b. 24 Dec 1833 d. 17 Mar 1834
James b. 29 May 1836 d. 10 Apr 1891
Thomas b. 6 Aug 1838 d. 21 Apr 1884
Matilda b. 18 Jul 1840 d. 4 Dec 1918
The son Thomas Blanchett married Ethel Maud Gardner 3 Mar 1862 in Lucknow.
William Lish b. 19 Aug 1875
Eva Matilda b. 8 Nov 1869
Frederick Charles b. 13 Nov 1870
Alexander Burgh b. ca 1875 (Who changed the spelling to Blanchette)
Alexander Lish b 8 Sept 1872
Thomas Henry b. 19 Aug 1866
Allan George b. 19 Aug 1865
Nora b. ca Sep 1868 d. 17 Mar 1834"
My comment: William Lish was my grandfather. He married Clemence Baptiste. He was the man who died of a rupture in Ajmer Railway hospital.
"The son Allan George married Ellen Josephine Pratt 17 Dec 1887. They had:
Arnold Barnes b. 9 Oct 1890
Joyce Gladys Myrtle b. 13 Oct 1913
Neville Allan b. 29 Nov 1888
Herbert William b. 13 May 1895 d. 30 Sep 1900
Raymond Clogstone b. 10 Mar 1897
Jane Ellen Mercy b. 19 Oct 1898
Marguerite Alice Patience b. 1 Feb 1906
Marjorie Annie b. 22 Dec 1908 d. 16 Nov 1909
Minna Ethel Grace b. 10 Aug 1907
Jane Ellen Mercy (known as Mercy) married Oscar Gardner."
My comment: Mercy Gardner is Sue Kalkhoven's grandmother-in-law and the lady who taught me at the railway school in Ajmer in 1937 -- 40
"Thomas retired from the HEIC in 1836 and moved to Agra where Matilda, James and Thomas were born. He was described as "clerk to St George's church, Agra," teacher, and with a Mr. Suntook ran a business of monumental sculptors. Mac has seen his name on gravestones in the cantonment cemetery at Agra. His wife Hannah was described as a very tall, well-built lady. Her father was probably a bandsman at Chunar. These bandsmen were usually of mixed race, probably of Portuguese and Indian blood."
End of Sue's data On to MumPaternal