Posts Tagged madras

Lockdown Research: Switching The Lens – And Discovering Myra Jane Monk

I recently noticed that the London Metropolitan Archives has launched a new database – Switching the Lens – Rediscovering Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous Heritage, 1561 to 1840. This is an aspect of history that captured my imagination some time ago [ see, for instance, Suffrage Stories: Black And Minority Ethnic Women: Is There A ‘Hidden History’?]  and I was interested to see whether this new database would make the uncovering of individual histories any more possible. Through the centuries there have always been some men and women of BAME heritage living in Britain whose lives have, for one reason or another, been recorded in some degree of detail; the great majority, however, have hitherto remained untraceable.

The database has its inherent limitation in that the 2600 names listed are drawn, over a period of nearly three centuries, from Anglican parish registers. As such it deals only with those who were baptised, married or buried in a parish church in the London area. Nevertheless it contains a wealth of information.

Because I was particularly keen to see if information available on Switching the Lens could be amplified by that already held on genealogical sites such as Ancestry and Findmypast, I concentrating on reading entries in the later period covered by the database, running from 1801-1850. Would it be possible to follow up the lives of any of those people on the Switching the Lens database by, for instance, finding them on the census (from 1841) or identifying them on other national registers?

At a first glance the answer, briefly, is probably not. In general, names are too common or the information is too scanty  for it to be possible to identify individuals with any certainty in later official registers. But that is only my finding after a cursory scan. It may well be that keen application will bear fruit. And I shall certainly take a closer look.

As a result of my first venture into the database one entry did attract my attention and I have taken pleasure in unravelling a little of the lives thereby revealed.

The entry is a baptism that took place on 26 June 1828 at St Pancras Church in the Euston Road, of ‘Miya Jane, illegitimate daughter of William Garrow Monk and Coopoo, a native of the East Indies’. In fact I quickly realised that the girl’s name had been mis-transcribed and she was ‘Myra Jane Monk’, born in India on 3 August 1826. The baptismal register identifies William Garrow Monk (1785-1859) as a ‘Judge’, living in Enfield. Born in Hertfordshire, Monk had been an employee of the East India Company from the age of 20, rising to become a judge in the Madras Presidency.  It would seem that he finally returned to England c 1828. If it had not been for the fact that the British Library is closed at the moment I would have enjoyed spending time in the East India Company archive finding our more about William Garrow Monk. 

However, the online research that I could do revealed that Myra was not Monk’s only illegitimate child –  because William Garrow Monk’s aunt, Elizabeth Monk (d 1832), in her will left money in trust ‘for the benefit of George Monk, Charles Monk and Myra Jane Monk, being the children brought from India by my nephew William Garrow Monk.‘ 

The inclusion, by name, in their great-aunt’s will, suggests that ‘the children brought from India’ were embraced by the wider family. It is not known whether or not all three children had the same mother, although I would think it right to assume that they did. But of her all that we know is that her surname was Coopoo. We do not know what position she held in Indian society, although it is likely that she was a bibi, living with William Garrow Monk in a marriage in all but name. Nor do we know if she was still alive when her three children sailed for England with their father, or, indeed, if she, perhaps, may have accompanied them to England. In his excellent book, The White Mughals, William Dalrymple relates the fascinating histories of some of the Indian wives and bibis whose lives were intertwined with those of employees of the East India Company. 

The names ‘Myra’, ‘George’, and ‘Charles’ were Monk family names – in fact, all three were the names of William Garrow Monk’s siblings. Myra’s second name, ‘Jane’, was that of William Garrow Monk’s mother, born Jane Garrow. The Garrow family had a long association with India.  It is notable that neither of the boys was named for their father. As we shall see, that name was reserved for his legitimate first-born son.

George and Charles were older than Myra, but I have not been able to trace entries for them on London baptismal registers. They may have been baptised in India or at an English church, the register of which has not been digitised. The 1891 census does reveal a Charles Monk, born in Madras in 1823,  whom I am certain was Myra’s brother. In 1841 he was living in the Chelsea home of a surgeon, apprenticed as a medical assistant. When, now a ‘chemist’, in 1846 at St Paul’s, Deptford, he married, his father’s name is given on the marriage register as ‘William Monk, Gentleman’. However, as William Monk was not one of the witnesses it is impossible to know whether or not he attended the wedding. Charles and his wife had several children and he continued to live in Deptford until his death in 1899. In the 1891 census he is described as ‘retired medical assistant’.

Of George Monk I have been unable to find any convincing trace.

UPDATE: A descendant of Charles Monk has established that George Monk emigrated to Canada sometime before 1859.

In the year before the death of Great-Aunt Eliza, William Garrow Monk had married, on 26 April 1831, Eliza Ann Archer, 20 years old to his 46  She was the daughter of Thomas Archer, principal clerk to the Treasury. Barely three months later. Archer, a widower, married Myra Charlotte Monk, sister to William Garrow Monk. 

William Garrow Monk and his wife were to have at least 6 children, the eldest being William, born in 1832. Some time after his birth the family moved to Hersham, Surrey,, to Hersham Lodge, on the south-east side of Hersham Green. It is not known whether Myra and her brothers spent any time living with their father’s new family. In the 1841 census Myra, aged 14, was boarding at a ladies’ school run by a Miss Chownes in Holly Road, Twickenham.

It is unsurprising to discover that, after her schooling ended, Myra earned her living as a governess. This was just the employment I had imagined would be her lot and was, therefore, satisfied to find her on the 1851 census with the occupation as ‘governess’, a visitor in a house in Camden Terrace, Peckham. She was still living in the area (in Camberwell New Road) in the following year (1 July 1852) when she married Arthur Turley in the church of St Giles, Camberwell,  Arthur, living in nearby Champion Grove,  was described as a ‘brewer’, although he later worked, perhaps not very successfully, as an architect and surveyor. Myra admits to no occupation. Interestingly the box on the marriage register for her father’s name has no writing – merely a line through it – although in the ‘Occupation’ column he is described as ‘Gentleman’ However her father was there in the church, signing himself ‘W.G. Monk’ as one of the witnesses. I was ridiculously pleased to know that this father appears in no way to have rejected his illegitimate, half-Indian, daughter.

Arthur Turley was originally from Yorkshire and after their marriage the couple moved north to Bradford where the aMyra was supplementing their income by running a school, presumably in their house. A year later the 1871 census shows that the family had moved to Halifax and the older three children were already in employment. Myra, the eldest (17), was a weaver, Evelyn (15) a boot stitcher, and Arthur (12) a telegraph messenger boy.

By this time Myra’s father, William Monk, had been dead for 12 years and I wondered how his legitimate family was faring without him. He had left under £1000 and by 1861, two years after his death, Eliza, his widow, and three of her now adult children had moved to a Brixton villa, The sons were all then described as ‘unemployed’ but by 1871 one was a stockbroker and his brother and sister were both ‘music professors’. The fact that the daughter, Mary, had an employment perhaps indicates a degree of financial necessity and makes her class position not much different from that of her illegitimate half-sister, who  worked occasionally as a teacher. Nevertheless Mary’s life was made more comfortable for her by the cook and housemaid whom her mother was able to employ. Myra had no live-in help.

UPDATE: A descendant of Charles Monk has established, from a codicil to William Garrow Monk’s will, that the following bequests were made: £500 to Charles Monk and £50 each to Myra and George. The latter was, however, regarded as unreliable and the money was only to be given to him in small sums. The £500 bequest to Charles does seem very generous – amounting to half his estate. The remainder went to his wife, to be passed to his legitimate children after her death. What is clear is that William Garrow Monk was intent on caring for his illegitimate Indian children.

After Arthur Turley’s death, Myra, now living in Leeds, once more became a schoolmistress, the 1881 census showing that two of her daughters were also now teachers. It is probable that she had again resorted to setting up a school in her home, with two of her daughters, Evelyne and Agnes, to help her. In the next census, in 1891, still living in Leeds but with only Evelyne now at home, Myra is described as a ‘boarding-house keeper’. Her one boarder is, however, a professor at the Yorkshire College (later University of Leeds) so one imagines she ran a house that had a slight social cachet. Her eldest son, Arthur, followed in his father’s footsteps as a land surveyor, eventually achieving the position of surveyor to the city of Canterbury.

Three of Myra’s daughters, Myra, Evelyne and Laura, married and emigrated to the USA, although Evelyne and Laura returned eventually to live in north Wales.  The US census in the early 20th century took note of race/colour and, interestingly, in all the censuses in which they feature the grand-daughters of Coopoo are classified as ‘white’.

I have found a photograph of Laura Garrow Cullmann (nee Turley), taken, with her husband, in 1920, nearly 100 years after the birth of her grandmother in India





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Mariana Starke: Father is Worsted by Robert Clive

Fort St George in the 18th century

Although Mariana Starke’s grandfather, John Starke, was never an employee of the East India Company, both his sons, Richard and John, were.  Richard Starke (1719 – 93) – yet to be the father of Mariana – sailed from London in 1734 as a passenger in the Onslow to Fort St George, taking with him wine, a chest of apparel and an escritoire. In Fort St George he could have resumed contact with his mother’s family, the Empsons.

On 29 December 1735 Richard Starke entered ‘the service of the Honourable Co on the coast of Coromandel as ‘Writer Entertained’. A 1736 note made clear that it was ‘out of regard for his father’ that he was ‘taken into our service’, a 10 May 1737 dispatch confirming that ‘Mr Richard Starke is so usefull a hand in the Secretary’s Office’. During the following years his father sent out to him several boxes ‘of apparel’ and in 1746 ‘two boxes of books’, in 1747 one box of books and a hat, in 1750 one box of pamphlets and pens, in 1752 a box of books and in 1753 a pair of scales, a lanthorn and books. In April 1747 Richard was joined as a writer in the EIC by his younger brother, John Starke (aged 22), who sailed out on the Houghton with one chest, one escritoire, and a bundle of bedding

A dispatch from Fort St George to England, dated 22 February 1749, stated that Richard Starke, who had been ‘upper searcher at Madras – now appointed to that position at Cuddalore [i.e. Fort St David]. By 2 November 1749 he had been appointed ‘second’ at Fort St George – that is ‘under deputy governor’ and in February 1752 he succeeded Mr Prince as deputy governor of Fort St David, formally taking office on 31 July 1752.

Fort St David, about a mile from Cuddalore, was a small fortified town, near to the sea and, by all accounts, a very comfortable billet. In The Life of Lord Clive Sir George Forrest quotes the following description of the area: ‘The country within the boundaries is very pleasant, and the air fine, having seldom any fogs. In the district are many neat houses with gardens; the latter were laid out with much good taste by the gentlemen, who either had been, or were in the company’s service. These gardens produce fruits of different sorts, such as pine-apples, oranges, limes, pomegranates, plantaines, bananoes, mangoes, guavas, (red and white,) bedams (a sort of almond), pimple-nose, called in the West Indies, chadocks, a very fine large fruit of the citron-kind, but of four or five times it’s size, and many others. At the end of each gentleman’s garden there is generally a shady grove of cocoanut trees.’

Ruined remainder of Fort St David. Courtesy of

Clearly it was all too comfortable to last. First we hear that John Starke, who was also working at Fort St David, under the Paymaster, received a peremptory dismissal for which no reason was given; a dispatch from London to Madras, 31 Jan 1755 merely noted: ‘The services of John Starke are dispensed with.’.’ Having no further occasion for the service of Mr John Starke he is upon receipt of this to be accordingly discharged from the Company’s service’.

A year later Richard Starke was compelled to write the following letter, dated 19 August 1756:

‘Honourable Sir and Sirs [to the President and Governors of Fort St George] I am to acquaint you that agreeable to your orders of the [lacuna] June I have delivered over the charge of the settlement of Fort St David to Col Robert Clive and as I imagine by the Company’s having been pleased to supersede me, by the appointment of that Gentleman so much my junior in their service, my conduct cannot have been so agreeable to them as I can assure Your Honour etc I have endeavoured to make it, I am to desire permission to resign their employ and return to Europe. Richard Starke.’

To the letter was subsequently appended a brief note: ‘In which the Board acquiesce’.

A dispatch of 21 November 1756 gave further information. ‘Starke handed over charge to Clive, returned to Madras in August, and requested leave to resign the service as he had been superseded by Clive.’  A further dispatch, 20 October 1757, gave a list of the passengers sailing to England on the Norfolk, among whom were Richard and John Starke.

Thus ended, rather ignominiously, Richard Starke’s Indian career, ousted by the very much more wily and ambitious Robert Clive. I am sure that a reading might be made of The Sword of Peace in the light of Mariana’s close knowledge of these events.

In 1759 Richard Starke married Mary Hughes, the 23-year-old daughter of  Isaac Hughes, a merchant of Crutched Friars in the City of London, and  Yewlands House, Banstead. Mariana, born in the last week of September 1762, was their first surviving child; I think a first son had died soon after birth. UPDATE (6 April 2014) I’ve just found a news report  in ‘The Public Advertiser’ of 21 June 1762, to the effect that this young boy, aged 20 months, had died the previous week after falling out of the coach in which he was ‘taking an airing’ with some women servants and was then run over by the vehicle’s wheels.

Richard’s father, John Starke, died in a year later, in October, 1763. His will reveals some family dissension. Richard and his sister, Martha, appear to have been involved in a lawsuit, presumably involving John, the result being that, although John Starke left Hylands House at Epsom to Richard, the main part of his wealth was to bypass Richard, to be settled on Richard’s children. Thus, by the time she was a year old, Mariana Starke was living in a large, pleasant house in Epsom, where her father, who never again took up employment, could maintain a position in society on account of his Indian EIC service and, while probably not overburdened with great wealth, could live with a certain nabob style.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.


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Mariana Starke: Grandfather Spurns Virginia for India

In ‘What Mariana Starke was Not’ I explain that she was not – as has so often been cited – born in India. ‘India’ was, however, a formative presence in her worldview, a continent with which generations of her forebears had been associated.  For, c 1710/11, it was to India that the young man who was to be her grandfather, John Starke (1685-1765), set sail. Having dealt with the many law suits he had inherited from his father, Thomas Starke, merchant and slave trader, John turned his back on the Virginia plantations and joined the East India ship, Averilla, heading for Madras.

Why did he forsake America for India? Doubtless the reasons were of the economic variety –  he saw better prospects in the East. The fact that 25 years later the grandson of Micajah Perry, one of Thomas Starke’s most successful associates, was forced to sell his home, Hylands House in Epsom, and that the buyer was John Starke, would appear to vindicate the decision.

John Starke settled down to life in India, marrying, in 1713 at Fort St George, Martha Empson, whose father, now dead, had been an English merchant there. John Starke, described as a ‘seafaring man in the Madras service’, was not an employee of the East India Company but certainly travelled on their ships as supra cargo (or supercargo) – that is with responsibility for the management of the cargo and its trading.

It is possible still to catch glimpses of John Starke’s life as a free merchant at Fort St George. For instance in February 1724 an East India Company ship, the Lynn, travelling out to ‘the coast of Coromandel’, carried on it for his use 6 rheams of paper £12; 2 fowling pieces [guns] £5; 2 hatts and 2 wiggs £12. John and Martha Starke had a son, Richard, born in Madras in 1719 and a daughter, Martha. The family returned to England in early 1727, sailing on the ship Lyell. This may have been for the sake of the health of John’s wife, for she died in England, buried on 24 November 1730 at St Dunstan in the East, the churchyard that had in the previous half century received so many Starke bodies.

John  travelling back east in 1731 and in 1732 was appointed supra cargo for a ship sailing to China.He was now, for a short time, associated with the developing China trade but by the end of 1734 had returned to England, buying and settling into Hylands House, Epsom, which comprised ‘a messuage, forecourt, coachouse, stables and other outhouses and garden, ¾ acre’.

His son, Richard, was not, however, able to enjoy the pleasures of Epsom for in 1735 he began his career with the East India Company. He still had family – the Empsons – in Fort St George. In 1736 John Starke had sent there to Matthew Empson (either his brother in law or his nephew)  ‘a box of books and apparel’ Empsons continued through several generations to live in Madras and Mariana may have been aware of these Indian relations – although they are never mentioned in any extant correspondence.

Comfortably settled in Epsom, John Starke maintained his interest in travel, in 1745 subscribing to A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels in Europe, Asia, Africa etc by John Green. At some point (I have, as yet, been unable to trace the date) he remarried – taking as his second wife Honor, daughter of Sir Thomas Rawlinson and sister of Mary Rawlinson, devoted friend of his sister, Martha. Starke clearly was the uxorious type, losing no time, after Honor’s death in February 1751, in marrying in October, at Temple Church, Ann Clotterbooke. He died 14 years later and was buried at St Mary, Ewell, on 11 April 1765.

In John Starke’s will, among the usual bequests, was one leaving £2000 [2012 = £229,000] to the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, specifying that part of the money was to be applied ‘by the Society towards such charitable purposes as they shall judge most efficacious towards converting the savage Indians in our American colonies and late Acquisition’ [ie territory gained up to the Mississippi following victory over the French in 1763].He stresses the need to extend the Gospel ‘in all the remote and uncivilised parts of our settlement where providence has been graciously pleased to open a fair field to us (and probably for that purpose). It seems as though John Starke felt the necessity of making amends – one takes it that conversion to Christianity was intended as a gift – to at least one group affected by his family’s business dealings in North America – while blustering, even in his will, that English men were also the gift of providence.

On her death, also in 1765, his former sister-in-law, Mary Rawlinson left to John’s daughter, Martha, ‘my dressing table and the dressing stand in my own bedchamber, the bureau in the maid’s room and the black and gold Japan corner cabinet in my bed chamber, the Japan tea table in the parlour, the little mahogany table in ditto and likewise my tea board and writer and all my china ware except 6 blue and white cups and saucer… I give likewise to Miss Starke a pair of glass salts and the turkey carpet in my bed chamber.’ Martha Starke never married and I have wondered if any of these delightful pieces were eventually subsumed into the Hylands House furnishings, to be appreciated by Mariana Starke.

Source: The East India Company papers in the British Library provide a wealth of easily accessible details of life about individual ‘British in India’.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

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