The case studies featured on this website were written by a range of authors for the Leverhulme Trust-funded East India Company at Home project, which ran from September 2011 to August 2014. Family and local historians, academics, curators, heritage sector professionals, PhD students, undergraduate students and even a retired civil engineer all contributed to research, bringing different expertise and making the project richer and more diverse. Here is an annotated list of the case studies, organised alphabetically by author…
Hannah Armstrong – ‘Josiah Child and the Wanstead Estate’
Josiah Child (no relation to the Child family at Osterley) purchased Wanstead estate in 1673. While his East India Company wealth did not facilitate his purchase of the estate, it did allow him to maintain and refurbish it. In her case study Hannah Armstrong demonstrates how Child focused on developing the gardens at Wanstead and explores what this might have meant within the context of late seventeenth-century country house culture.
Rachael Barnwell – ‘“Chinese” Staircases in North-West Wales’
‘Partly After the Chinese Manner: ‘Chinese’ Staircases in North-West Wales’ examines a group of ‘Chinese’ staircases built within the fabric of three different house interiors in north-west Wales in the 1750s and 1760s. It locates these ‘Chinese’ staircases within both the wider, global context of ‘Asian-inspired’ material culture design, and within more local, contemporary networks of design exchange to assess the degree to which the East India Company’s trade network impacted on interior design in north-Wales in the eighteenth century.
Alison Bennett – ‘Quex Park, Kent’
This study explores the nineteenth-century interiors of Quex Park created by Major Percy Powell-Cotton (1866-1940). More particularly, it examines how the family’s earlier connections to the East India Company in the eighteenth century shaped the aesthetic choices and inclinations of later descendants. Responding both to his family’s earlier connections to Eurasian trade and his own experiences of Kashmir, India, China and Japan, Major Powell Cotton created a series of interiors that were understood by contemporaries as ‘Indian’.
Helen Clifford – ‘The Dundas Property Empire and Nabob Taste’
This case study shows how ascriptions of ‘Nabob’ taste by contemporaries could be applied to people, places and possessions that appeared, on the surface at least, to have had little connection with the East India Company. Sir Lawrence Dundas, unlike the owners of many of the other houses in this project, was never an East India Company servant, nor did he visit India. However, by digging a little deeper, the tentacles of East India Company involvement can be seen to have impacted on Sir Lawrence’s social, political and domestic life.
Helen Clifford – ‘Chinese Wallpaper: An Elusive Element in the British Country House’
‘Chinese Wallpaper: An Elusive Element in the British Country House’ explores an Asian luxury good that while seemingly emblematic of the genteel British country house interior has received little attention from scholars. Helen Clifford’s study examines the relationship between members of the East India Company and the British houses in which Chinese wallpaper was displayed. In writing the study Helen benefited from a close collaboration with Emile de Bruijn and Andrew Bush from the National Trust, who have formed a Chinese wallpaper study group. Members include curators, conservators and country house owners, as well as current manufacturers, and students and scholars. Crossing boundaries of fine and decorative art, fixture and chattel, fact and fantasy, the reading of Chinese wallpaper requires a combined effort and multidisciplinary approach. Working from this research base, this case study highlights the complex relationships that existed between the East India Company and British country house interiors in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
Brian Crossley – ‘Caned Furniture’
Written by Dr Brian Crossley, a retired Chartered Civil Engineer and a second generation chair caner, ‘Caned Furniture’ focuses on one particular Asian material – rattan – and its relationship to changes in furniture design and production skills. In doing so, it highlights the ways in which one commodity (which was initially treated as a waste product) can illuminate our understanding of the multiple links that existed between the material worlds of Asia, America and Europe from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.
Francesca D’Antonio – ‘The Willow Pattern: Dunham Massey’
Unlike other ‘object studies’ featured in the East India Company At Home, this case study focuses on a specific ceramic ware pattern rather than a particular item associated with the East India Company. With particular attention to the contents of Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester, Francesca’s study focuses on the Willow Pattern, a type of blue and white ‘Chinese style’ design, which was created in 1790 at the Caughley Factory in Shropshire. To explore and reveal the contradictions and intricacies of Willow Pattern wares, the study asks several questions. First, what did Willow Pattern wares mean in nineteenth-century Britain? Second, did EIC families—who, as a group, enjoyed privileged access to Chinese porcelain—engage with these imitative wares and if so, how, why and what might their interactions reveal about these household objects?
By focusing on the Child family and its many links to the East India Company, this case study (co-authored with Yuthika Sharma) provides a different lens through which to see this stately family home. Although Osterley is now primarily read as a Robert Adam house, the many Asian luxury objects it contains have remained hidden in plain sight since the eighteenth century. In this study, a different house comes to light – one which was deeply connected to trade with Asia.
Penelope Farmer – ‘The Career of William Gamul Farmer in India, 1763-1795′
In her case study Penelope Farmer primarily analyses a series of letters written by East India Company civil servant William Gamul Farmer in India to his mother and brother in Britain between 1763 and 1795. The letters, still in the possession of the Farmer family, suggest the ways in which Company families held themselves together despite the vast distances in time and space that separated them. Together they offer insights into the private and social workings that underpinned the imperial and mercantile enterprise of the East India Company.
Ellen Filor –‘William Rattray of Downie Park’
The Rattrays of Rannagulzion, Drimmie, and Corb were an old Scottish family who supported the Jacobite cause in both 1688 and 1745. They also entered the East India Company in large numbers from the 1770s onwards. This case study focuses on William Rattray (1752-1819), one of the first of the family to travel to India. Almost none of his letters survive. However, Rattray’s will and inventory, his burial records and the house he built can illuminate the life of this man and his wider family. These records reveal Rattray’s strategic use of his domestic interiors to display his Scottish ancestry, Indian career, and Jacobite heritage.
This case study explores the life of Scot Alexander Hall who entered the East India Company in 1750 and was appointed factor to Fort Marlborough at Sumatra. Hall’s biography offers insight into how material goods, often quotidian, structured imperial service economically and emotionally. These ‘things’ included enslaved and colonised persons.
Margot Finn –‘Swallowfield Park, Berkshire’
In this case study Margot Finn situates Swallowfield within a broad imperial context by tracing the estate’s acquisition and transformation in the late Georgian and early Victorian periods. Purchased by Sir Henry Russell, first baronet (1751-1836) in the 1820s, Swallowfield was recreated in the following decades by its new proprietor’s eldest son, Henry (later the second baronet; 1783-1852). Both father and son derived their great wealth from fortunes made in India. The Russells’ purchase and refurbishment of Swallowfield attest to the crucial role of Britain’s empire in shaping country house history.
Studies of collecting as a phenomenon, from the age of the ‘cabinet of curiosity’ to the present, have focused overwhelmingly on male collectors – men whose adventures, professional lives and wealth gave them privileged access to exotic plants, animals, artwork and objects. As a result a much more detailed understanding exists of the Company men whose collecting helped to furnish British country houses and later many British museums. In contrast, by focusing on Fanny Parks and the museum she created, this case study illustrates the way in which one Company woman took advantage of her colonial experiences to collect, describe and display Indian material culture.
Georgina Green – ‘Valentines, the Raymonds and Company Material Culture’
This case study explores the history of a house (Valentines Mansion, Ilford), a ship (the Valentine, in its successive reincarnations) and a network of Georgian maritime investors associated with the East India Company (most notably Sir Charles Raymond and his family). More broadly, the case study examines the ways in which profits from commerce conducted at great risk in Asian outposts and Indian Ocean waters came to be reinvested in Britain, refurbishing homes and gardens and reshaping the neighbourhoods in which they were located.
This study examines, Redcliffe Towers, constructed by Colonel Robert Smith in 1852-64 after his retirement from the East India Company and a sojourn in Italy where he married a French heiress. Smith, an engineer and artist, was not a member of the landed gentry, however, he used his talents to rise through the ranks of the Bengal Army in India, from Cadet to Colonel. Smith left the Company with just an army pension, and it is likely he would have been unable to build Redcliffe Towers without the gain of a considerable inheritance upon the death of his wife. This case study records Robert Smith’s journey to India, to Europe and his final days spent in Devon, where he constructed his fairy-tale fortress, Redcliffe Towers. In doing so it contributes to the project by demonstrating the ways in which EIC officials’ engagements with the subcontinent through practices such as drafting, building, painting and drawing, distinctly shaped the British homes they built on their return.
Elisabeth Lenckos –‘Daylesford’
Elisabeth Lenckos is currently using British and German archives to write a biography of Marian Hastings, wife of Warren Hastings. In her case study she explores some of the myths that surrounded the Hastings’ residence in Britain, Daylesford House, and the role that objects played in creating those ideas.
Sarah Longair – ‘The Attar Casket of Tipu Sultan’
Originating from the palace of Tipu Sultan (c.1750-1799), the casket described in this case study (co-authored by Cam Sharp-Jones) came to Britain after the siege of Seringapatam. Once in Britain it passed through different branches of the Fraser family before joining the British Museum’s collections in the early twentieth century. The study explores the enduring significance of Tipu Sultan, the particular attention paid by family members to transferring the casket between generations both in India and England as well as how material culture represented the legacy of East India Company family histories.
Stephen McDowall – ‘Shugborough: Seat of the Earl of Lichfield’
Written by Stephen McDowall of the Department of History at the University of Edinburgh, this case study focuses on the Anson family and the Chinese and Chinese-style objects that they accumulated and arranged within Shugborough. McDowall reveals the multiple family and national stories associated with the Anson objects, and their highly political meanings.
Alistair Mutch – ‘General Patrick Duff of Carnousie, Banffshire’
Rather than concentrating on his military and political exploits, which are recounted elsewhere, this case study draws on General Patrick Duff’s letters and other estate papers to reveal his home life in both India and Scotland. Mutch also uncovers the important role Duff (1742-1803) played in the Madeira wine trade and the importance of Madeira (as place and product) in allowing him to realise his hopes for a Scottish estate.
Angela Nutting – ‘Bond Family Members in the East India Company’
Written by family historian Angela Nutting, the study explores how generations of the Bond family became connected to global trade and the East India Company. Rope makers and Turkey merchants in the seventeenth century, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century the Bond family became increasingly involved in the East India Company as captains, writers and seamen. The wealth gained from global trade allowed the family to establish Dytchley House in Essex. Alongside people and houses, Angela’s case study also evokes the material lives of those involved in the Company and reminds us of the important role ship life played in training young men to set up home.
Lowri Ann Rees – ‘Aberglasney, Carmarthenshire’
East India Company man Thomas Philipps (c.1749-1824) purchased Aberglasney at the turn of the nineteenth century. The Aberglasney case study highlights the importance of the process of homecoming and the returning to the familiarity of home. In this instance, a modest estate was purchased to reflect the lifestyle desired of a country gentleman who wished to live the rest of his life in quiet retirement following a large portion of his life spent building his career in India.
Lowri Ann Rees – ‘Middleton Hall, Carmarthenshire’
Towards the end of the eighteenth century (c.1789), the Middleton Hall estate in the parish of Llanarthney, Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales was purchased by a former East India Company man, William Paxton (c.1744-1824). Over the following thirty-five years or so, Paxton went about transforming what was a relatively modest estate, erecting a new country house, developing the surrounding parkland and introducing innovative garden features. ‘Middleton Hall, Carmarthenshire’ highlights not only that Indian fortunes found their way to Wales, but also that men from outside Wales chose to purchase estates there in an attempt to establish themselves in elite society following their return from India.
Written by Andrew Renton, Head of Applied Art at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, this case study examines a remarkable gold communion cup belonging to St Mary’s church, Welshpool. The communion cup was the gift of Thomas Davies, a native of the parish and a servant of the East India Company. It bears the date 1662 and a lengthy explanatory inscription which, in conjunction with archival records of the period, sheds light on a brief but fascinating West African (and Caribbean) episode in the history of the East India Company.
By focusing on the Child family and its many links to the East India Company, this case study (co-authored with Pauline Davies) provides a different lens through which to see this stately family home. Although Osterley is now primarily read as a Robert Adam house, the many Asian luxury objects it contains have remained hidden in plain sight since the eighteenth century. In this study, a different house comes to light – one which was deeply connected to trade with Asia.
Cam Sharp Jones – ‘The Attar Casket of Tipu Sultan’
Originating from the palace of Tipu Sultan (c.1750-1799), the casket assessed in this case study (co-authored with Sarah Longair) came to Britain after the siege of Seringapatam. Once here it passed through different branches of the Fraser family before joining the British Museum’s collections in the early twentieth century. The study explores the enduring significance of Tipu Sultan, the particular attention paid by family members to transferring the casket between generations both in India and England as well as how material culture represented the legacy of East India Company family histories.
Jan Sibthorpe – ‘Sezincote, Gloucestershire’
Written by project associate Jan Sibthorpe, ‘Sezincote, Gloucestershire’ tracks the development of Sezincote house during the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The study begins with the Cockerell family and explores the influences and connections that inspired Charles Cockerell to work with his brother, architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell and artist Thomas Daniell to create a distinctive vision of India in the English countryside. It then goes on to examine the legacies of this house and estate and considers the house and gardens as they are enjoyed by visitors today.
Doreen Skala –‘The Scarth Family of London and Ilford’
The Scarths left no surviving grand country house or any other trinkets or treasures. In fact, they appear to have left no material evidence of their lives or their connections with the East India Company, but both the family and its East India Company connections can be traced through historical documents. This case study shows the economic, social, and domestic history of the family and how three generations were affected by the family’s connection with the East India Company. One generation bought goods from the East India Company and traded them westward across the Atlantic, and the next engaged in trade for the East India Company in the East. Partly as a result of his connections with the Company, the elder Jonathan amassed a family fortune, including a country house in Ilford, Essex, now gone. His son Jonathan’s deeper connection with the East India Company disrupted his family life so that at the age of forty-one he left his daughter an orphan after being away on Company voyages for years at a time. With risk can come great reward, but also calamity. This family experienced both as a result of their connection with the East India Company.
This study tracks the East India Company people, objects and wealth that shaped Englefield House, Berkshire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Residents connected to the Company such as the former Governor of Fort St George Richard Benyon (1698-1774), Robert Clive’s widow Lady Margaret Clive (1735-1817) and Sir Francis Sykes’s daughter Elizabeth Sykes (1775-1822) all occupied the house in different ways during the period. At the same time the movement of Chinese, India and Japanese objects into and out of the house also worked to situate Englefield within the world of the East India Company.
Warfield was home to John Walsh of the Company’s civil service and then the Benn-Walsh family in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This case study explores how the family’s longings for home while in India shaped the country house they later reconstructed and consolidated.
This case study focuses on the Amherst family during their return to Britain and examines the important role house-building projects played in re-establishing their sense of familial belonging once home from empire. Playing essential roles in the governance of early nineteenth-century India, Amherst and his family deployed their Indian fortunes to domestic ends upon return to Britain.
‘The Afterlife of Objects: Anglo-Indian Ivory Furniture in Britain’ examines ivory furniture, made by skilled craftsmen in the subcontinent during the eighteenth century. In the study, Kate uses ivory furniture as a lens through which to examine how individuals in the modern period related to objects from the subcontinent. More particularly, she asks whether objects purchased by East India Company (EIC) families were understood as distinct from those traded more generally by the EIC? If so, how? The study demonstrates that, like the families who bought, collected and retained them, Company objects experienced complicated and global biographies, which shaped British material cultures long after the initial point of exchange.
Chinese porcelain services specially commissioned by individuals and families to include their coats of arms within the decorative scheme were distinctly fashionable and popular in eighteenth-century Britain, particularly among those with East India Company connections. Armorial porcelain services feature in various East India Company at Home case studies, including Osterley Park and House, Valentines Mansion and Gardens and the Shugborough Estate. This case study focuses on the armorial service purchased by Francis Sykes of Basildon Park in Berkshire to explore the identity politics embedded in porcelain pieces decorated with coats of arms.
Blair Southerden – ‘Ships, Steam & Innovation: An East India Company Family Story, c.1700-1877′
This contribution originates from a meeting between Helen Clifford and Blair Southerden at the Upper Dales Family History Group in July 2013. Blair’s case study reveals how through his association with the East India Company Ardaseer Cursetjee (1808-1877), Blair’s great great grandfather came not only to visit Britain several times, but also to set up home here in 1859. Ardaseer Cursetjee’s story reverses the usual tale of a white male East India Company servant travelling out to India, and coming home to England, and in so doing casts a different light on what ‘The East India Company at Home’ means.
John Sykes – ‘The Indian Seal of Sir Francis Sykes’
In this case study project associate Sir John Sykes situates the Indian seal of his ancestor, Sir Francis Sykes, first baronet (1730-1804) within the context of both East India Company and family history in England and on the subcontinent. It illuminates the intertwined histories of English and Indian families who made their fortunes in the Company era, but remain connected in the twenty-first century.
David Williams – ‘The Melvill Family and India’
This study explores the intergenerational commitment that members of the Melvill family made to the East India Company in the subcontinent and the UK in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Melvill family is a good example of those Scots who after the Act of Union took their opportunities within the British army and in the overseas empire to make their careers. By virtue of their EIC service, this Scottish family became increasingly English by marrying into established English families and settling in England. David Williams’s case study underlines the different ways in which connections to the East India Company shaped what families were and did in modern Britain.