Archive / Papers / Berners Papers


Given by Lady Berners

Bengal; U.P. 1853 – 58.

Microfilm No. 55

Letters of Mrs. Frances Janet Wells in India (Lady Berner’s great grandmother), to her father Dr. Francis Ker Fox in England 1853-1858. (TS copy).

  1. October 1853 On board The Lady Jocelyn Plymouth. Beginning of voyage.
  2. 23 October More details of life on board. Bad food, good drinking water, other water ‘condensed steam’ and red. Dirt. Describes Sunday service.
  3. 25 October Detailed account of daily life. Land at St. Vincents – brief description.
  4. 29 October Letter from her husband W.W. Wells.
  5. 27 November Cape of Good Hope. Describes life – goes to mission church, and walks about. Sends bulbs and seeds back to England. Asks for baby clothes to be sent as she is pregnant.
  6. 26 December Ceylon. Have landed in Mauritius.
  7. 14 January 1854 Calcutta. Husband posted to Barrackpore for short time. Living in hotel, which is described.
  8. 26 January 1854 Barrackpore. Describes the cantonement – very pretty. Describes her bungalow, domestic arrangements and staff in detail and her organisation. Asks for baby clothes to be sent and describes the trunk exactly. Encloses list of necessary baby clothes.
  9. 2 March Hear they are to stay. Husband in 48th N.I. Have been calling. Homesick for England. Has learnt a great deal of the language. Not a very sociable station.
  10. 28 March Moving to better bungalow. Have bought 2 carriages. Describes the great discomforts of the hot weather. Have joined the book club and sheep club. Husband made Full Surgeon.
  11. 11 May Electric telegraph established – news reaches them 30 days later via Marseilles and Bombay. Still suffering greatly from the heat.
  12. 12 June Have had great servant troubles. Very great heat. An unmarried officer ill – she remarks how sad this is as no one to nurse him. Her husband is doing this and his brother officers.
  13. 24 June Baby things have come. Remarks on English children in India. Husband still nursing the officer.
  14. 28 June From W.W. Wells.
  15. 12 July From W.W. Wells reporting birth of his son.
  16. 2 September To leave for Allahabad in December. Have bought tents for the march, which is expected to take two months.
  17. 3 October Has been ill. Scratches infected and fever. Preparing for the march, will do 10 miles a day.
  18. 17 October Woman bitten by a mad dog and another taken poison. Opinion of native servants.
  19. 15 November House dismantled. Enumerates camping equipment. Only 3 ladies on the trip. Attends and describes a military funeral.
  20. 28 – 30 December Camp: Burdwan. On the march which she enjoys very much and describes, with the stores. Baby vaccinated. Camp: Sarool. Paid visit to the Rajah of Burdwan. Describes palace in detail – music room – and the Rajah – most attentive to the ladies. Describes the dinner – cook a Frenchman. 100 servants. Ladies shown into his dressing room after dinner and examine his clothes. He is a Unitarian.
  21. 24 January 1855 Had received letter at Shergotty. See camel trains taking fruit etc. to Calcutta from Punjab. Attitude to servants.
  22. 2 February. Benares. Describes the city and cantonments – the latter dreary.
  23. 17 February Allahabad. Difficulty in finding a house. All outside cantonments so the inhabitants cannot .be turned out. Everything very expensive. A lot of social life which she does not like. Asks for ribbon to be sent out. Baby ill.
  24. 23 February Allahabad. Baby very ill.
  25. 8 March Baby recovered. Allahabad a social place but she is out of the way of going out.
  26. 7 April Allahabad society very gay. Baby better.
  27. 30 April Personal – about brother, and her baby.
  28. 18 June Again finds the heat very trying. Baby with servants very little. Receiving Crimean news in 25 days by telegraph.
  29. 16 July Personal.
  30. 2 September From W.W. Wells. Allahabad. His wife has premature birth and baby dies – she is very ill.
  31. 25 September From W.W. Wells, Allahabad. Wife progressing.
  32. 25 September About her illness and the baby.
  33. 21 October Tells of various individuals she has heard about and met. Waste of money on entertainment. Ball to be given as a farewell to the Commissioner, Mr. Lowther, who has not been home for 35 years. Mentions various domestic matters, i.e. Tiresomeness of punkahs; having fireplace built etc.
  34. 8 January 1856 Her husband leaving with 48th Regt. for Oudh with Dalhousie. Feels overwhelmed with what she will be responsible for in his absence.
  35. 5 February Husband gone to Oudh. Wants to rejoin 74th and avoid settling in Oudh.
  36. First letter written under new postage act. A great boon as letters so expensive. Sends extract from Delhi Gazette dated Cawnpore January 29 and January 30 relating to situation in Oudh.
  37. 12 March Regiment has been moved to Lucknow, and she is to go there. Regiment to be City Guard, they will live in heart of the native city in an old palace. Each family to have 2 rooms and a verandah. Has dispatched furniture (20 boxes) servants etc. Goes to Cawnpore for 2 weeks and then Lucknow.
  38. 5 April Dowlat Khana, Lucknow. Describes living conditions – very public outside their quarters, noisy and enclosed. Speaks of the abuse of the natives. Great difficulty in getting food etc. Sketch map of their quarters.
  39. 10 May Feels the enclosure very much and is unable to go out in the hot weather.
  40. 16 June Tremendous rains and sitting room flooded. She is pregnant. Remarks on high death rate of children in Allahabad (10 under 2 since February 1855).
  41. 19 August Has another son. Out of the city, in a large bungalow in Cantonments.
  42. 18 September Describes her house. Mentions a great conspiracy been discovered headed by the brother of the King of Oudh.
  43. 6 December Allahabad. Asks for various things like mending silk, bootlaces, merino wool for mending. Mentions rejoicing over fall of Sebastapol.
  44. 9 December Mentions the boy’s bearer, who may give him opium to quieten him at night. She has shingles and rheumatism. Her husband better. They go rarely to Balls, she is ashamed of the behaviour of married women at them. Three adults and two children coming to stay which she dreads. Mentions a Mr. and Mrs. Lewin of the Artillery.
  45. 5 January 1857 Lucknow. Mentions the chaplain who is so overworked with the European troops. Describes making ice in the cold weather and storing it.
  46. 9 March Lucknow. Social attitudes towards ‘undesirable’ people manifested. Has been playing archery and riding.
  47. 5 April Describes Sir Henry Lawrence’s fete given for all the Europeans. Goes to dinner with him, party of 22. Her partner Major Edwardes of Punjab fame. In the course of this letter she tells of the fire which has destroyed their bungalow. The fire was started by sepoys. “There is a very mutinous spirit in the native army now. Three regiments have mutinied in the last month, and ours has shown signs of it lately.” They are terribly upset.
  48. 1 May Lucknow. The native owner will sue them to pay for the house. The sepoys who did it thought her husband spat into a medicine bottle, (when he drank from it). Ommaney the judicial Commissioner who advises. A flaming arrow fired at the Residency. She is in a very nervous state.
  49. 17 May Lucknow. Have now heard of mutiny rising at Meerut and Delhi. She is extremely frightened in Lucknow. The houses of the 48th are fired. She speaks highly of Sir Henry Lawrence.
  50. May Lucknow. From the Residency – 70 ladies, 150 children and innumerable gentlemen. The vaults are crammed with wives and children of soldiers. The noise incredible. Measles broken out. Officers in cantonments. House surrounded with cannon, provisions for 6 months. Recounts the atrocities at Delhi and Meerut. Is living in terror for her husband and her children.
  51. 12 December The Fort, Allahabad. Describes the tension in Lucknow hearing of Gen. Havelock’s advance, which did not come until 25 September. Describes Sir Henry Lawrence’s advance to meet the enemy. Shot into the Residency taking off woman’s leg, who dies. Describes the attack on Residency night and day. Death of Sir Henry Lawrence. She blames him for the siege. Her second child dies and is buried at night. Describes other aspects of the attack and siege. All servants left, and she is now independent. Her husband and child ill. She has been ill in a room with 50 others. Describes being rescued. They have lost everything. Longing for home. Mentions Brigadier Inglis despatches – a man universally detested. Describes her own escapes.
  52. 18 December From Walter W. Wells to Dr. Fox. Tells of their losses amounting to R10,000 or £1,000. Describes rout at Battle of Chinhelt.
  53. 2 January 1858 Allahabad. Leaving for England. Describes the defences of Lucknow, and the horror of living conditions and lice. Describes their escape via Secunderabad and Cawnpore. Longing for home and quiet. Speaks of people still imprisoned in Lucknow.
  54. 15 January Steamer Lady Thackwell off Benares. Moving slowly to Calcutta. Servants refuse to accompany them to Calcutta. Relief Fund have prepared houses in Calcutta for the mutiny survivors.
  55. 21 February 3 Rawdon Street, Calcutta. Waiting for boat for England.
  56. 8 March Calcutta. Leaving for England.
  57. 8 April Malta. They are nearly home and are better in health
  58. Extract from The Bristol Times of the return of Dr. and Mrs. Wells and their child.