Thomas Blanchett 1

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj


[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]

Blanchette_Roberts Family Tree
Thomas Blanchett1
b~1800 m 1832 d 1863
See details at end of page
Thomas was born in Middlesex, England. His Father was probably a descendant of the French Protestants, the Huguenots, who were wool workers.  They fled France in 1683 (revocation of Treaty of Nantes) and brought their skills to England
1793 --1815 Anglo-French wars fought in North America, Asia, Middle East and Europe
1798 -- Battle of the Nile.  Britain's navy defeats French navy and ends Napoleon's plans to invade India.
1798 -- Irish Rebellion --25,000 Irish killed
1799 -- British "Combination Acts" passed outlawing trade unions
1801-- As a result of Irish rebellion, England "unites" with Ireland, eliminates Irish Parliament
1805 Battle of Trafalgar -- Nelson defeats French Navy, eliminates threat of French invasion of England
1807 --Slave Trade abolished.  Slavery still legal
1811--George III insane; Luddites smash spinning and weaving machinery
1815--Waterloo--End of Napoleonic war
1817--Habeas Corpus suspended in England
1819--Peterloo Massacre --"Six Acts" banning meetings and generally restraining "radical behavior"
1825 -- Major financial crash in Britain - Bank of England nearly goes bankrupt
1830's -- Tory Government falls--Whigs take over -- Reform is in the air -- evangelical and "utilitarianism" ideas begin to affect Britain's ideas about government of India
1831--Darwin starts Beagle voyage
1832--Reform Bill -- Parliamentary and electoral reforms
1834--Workhouses established
1833--slavery abolished in empire
1836 -- Chartist Movement --1st national "working class" movement - demands universal suffrage
1837 - 1901 -- Queen Victoria reigns 
1844--Factory acts-- legislates 10 hour working day for women
1846--Corn Laws abolished
1846 -1850 -- Irish Famine.  Population reduced by about 25% Ignored by England --laissez faire, Malthusian neglect, similar approach to famine in other parts of Empire.
1848 -- Revolutions in many European countries.  Marx and Engel publish "Communist Manifesto"
1849 -- Gold discovered in California

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!)

Thomas1 appears to be an unusual and quite enterprising fellow as you will see from the various links to this page.    Suffice it for now to say he seems to have beaten most of the odds against a person of his background.   

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. .

1790 -1792 -- 3rd Mysore War British vs Tipu Sultan
1799 -- 4th Mysore War.  Tipu defeated, Mysore split
1803--1805 2nd Marattha War.  British defeat Maratthas at Assaye.
1813--HEIC loses monopoly on most Indian goods -- British citizens can now freely travel to India --missionaries begin arriving in Bengal
1814 -1816 --Anglo - Gurkha War
1817 --1818 Pindari War --Robert Roberts killed
1817 -1819 -- last Anglo Maratha war, British finally crush Maratthas
1824 -1826 -- 1st Burmese War
1835 Moghul's removed from coins
1828-1835 Bentinck GG.  Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill, Macaulay, "Age of Reform"
1829 Sati abolished
1831 Titu Mir Killed
1831 Mysore taken by British on grounds of  "misgovernment"
1835 Indian Inland Transit Duties abolished
1833 HEIC Charter renewed.  HEIC to govern India only. No trade except opium to China. Education money allocated
1835-1838 Macaulay Law Minister--Minute on Education--English
1837 Persian abolished as Court language.  English and Native languages become official communication media
~1835 British officials trained in England begin bringing wives out in increasing numbers.  Separation from Indian society.  Haileybury started 1805
1838 --1842 1st Afghan War.  England retreats
1839 -- First Opium War -- Britain, China
1842 2nd Anglo-Burmese war
1843 Annexation of Sind
1845-1849 1st and 2nd Anglo-Sikh wars. Battles of Aliwal and Sobraon. Annexation of Punjab.  Sikhs become "allies".
1846--Kashmir sold to Hindu Prince
1848-1856 Dalhousie GG accelerated infrastructure building
1851 British India Association formed to press for political reforms in upcoming HEIC Charter renewal.   This group does not represent "Domiciled Europeans" Debendrenath Tagore leader.  This Tagore is the grandfather of Rabindranath Tagore the Nobel Prize winner for Poetry.
1852 --2nd Anglo-Burmese War
1853 1st Railway line
1857 -- Indian Mutiny, Sepoy Rebellion, 1st War of Independence

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.

They had:

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

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj

[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]