Eunice and Ron Shanahan have shared with readers of the Victorian Web this material from their website, Letters from the Past.

This letter is another in my collection addressed to William Crowdy Esquire, of Westrop House, Highworth, Wilts. Wm Crowdy was a solicitor in the family firm who also acted as Agent for the local member of Parliament for Highworth. It was written by E.W. Hallet and posted in the Southampton Penny Post September 9th 1836.

Postal Markings

There are only two postal markings: first, an 8d manuscript charge mark. The 8d charge was the cost of sending a single sheet letter a distance of between 50-80 miles, this rate being in force between 1812-1839

It has a notation in the bottom left corner "By Marlborough" so, instead of going into London and then out again, it would have gone cross country from Southampton on the south coast, northwest to Marlborough and then onto Swindon. Secondly, there is a three line Southampton Penny Post datestamp of September 9, 1836.

The Letter

The letter begins with his travel plans:

Conolys - or possibly - Condy's, Southampton, Sept 9 '36

My Dear Sir,

I have taken a place in the Cheltenham C for Tuesday next to Swindon and for Monday the 19th to Southampton.

In your last you kindly expressed a wish re Mrs Hallett, but she being more knowing than you or I can be in such matters of business, feared her company might not be convenient having had no line from Mrs Crowdy to that effect - Mrs C. is not like many ladies I could name, her anxiety for her friends when visiting her will not suffer her to leave the servants to provide, or to others to entertain them, and I am very certain that the state of her health when I was last at Highworth was such as the presence of female visitors would have retarded her convalescence. "

He then continues with information about the family relations and gives fascinating details.

"I could not well write sooner not knowing how I might be circumstanced, Mrs. Hallet's uncle Major Crondall 1st Native Infantry, having arrived from India, and must return for two years to make up his twenty of service, and be entitled to full pay for life, he having lost about £20,000, from the failure of banks in India, cannot afford to lose a Major's pay. He is gone with another uncle of Mrs. Hallet's (by marriage) Sir Cuthbert Sharp to Germany for the benefit of an only daughter of Sir C's. There was another uncle (Crondall) who was shot through the head whilst entering Badajoz."

He then finishes with a hurried paragraph to confirm the arrangements.

"If to send for me should be attended with inconvenience pray stand upon no ceremony, but let me find a line at the Post Office at Swindon when I arrive there on Tuesday - Excuse scrawl,
E.W. Hallett."

Note: This is an interesting reference to "Germany" as I did not think that name came into general use until after the 1870s and that before this time they were different autonomous States, such as Prussia.

With reference to the failure of the banks in India - this was a colossal sum of money - £20,000, when you consider that in another letter it was reported that a soldier's renewal payment was £1/1/-. I do not know why the banks failed in India. Perhaps it had something to do with the alteration of the Charter of the East India Company which ran out in 1833. Its commercial monopoly was broken in 1813, and from 1834 it was merely a managing agency for the British government of India. Would this is have caused a failure of the banks?

I contacted Jill Grey in England,who is a member of the India mailing List which has many Australian members, as a good many of the Indian Army and Civil Servants retired to Australia, so their descendants have great interest in the country and she replied with this information:-

Interesting question ! I'll try and explain in a nutshell what I think must have happened. The E.I.Company relinquished its monopoly of commerce with the Charter Act of 1813 which then left individual traders free to do business as they wished except that given the size of the country and therefore the probable size of their prospective enterprise, their problem was now how to get hold of capital. Merchants, therefore, set up agency houses among themselves, and all of them ran their businesses - presumably on a certain amount of credit, and on limited capital borrowed from E.I.Co savings, all of which was fine and dandy until one or other of their businesses failed, in which case the whole lot went down with them.

In the Major's case what had probably happened was that the bank or the agency house acting as a bank lost his money on just such an occasion. I don't know exactly which year it was, but it was during the early 1830s that the agency system collapsed altogether. You might like to look at this website. It takes a look at the managing agency system, but I find it interesting that it seems to be an Indian phenomenon and that it still seems to operate there.

She also raised a couple of interesting questions and if anyone knows the answer please contact me at the e-mail listed below, as we would both be delighted to know: (1) whether he ever recovered it and (2) how a Major managed to have that amount in the first place! The "uncle Crondall" was one of the unfortunate thousands who lost their lives during the seige of Badajoz - see Wellington's Officers for more details of this action.

Last modified 18 December 2002