British Ships in Indian Waters

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Supplementary resources for FIBIS Guide 2 - British Ships in Indian Waters: Their Owners, Crew and Passengers by Richard Morgan, available in the FIBIS Shop.

Links to FIBIS transcriptions and fibiwiki resources can be found below and will be updated as additions are made.

Author's updates to the first edition appear below in blue.

Part I - HEICo Maritime Service

Updates to the text - March 2014

[page 7] For those interested in what an East Indiaman looked like, a good model of HCS Falmouth is to be seen in the Docklands Museum, London, based, as I understand, on surviving detailed plans of the ship.

[page 7] Christopher Biden who had just retired as an HEICo Commander published in 1830 Naval Discipline, Subordination contrasted with Insubordination, etc. [Google Books] London 1830. Most of the book consists of detailed examples of HCS Commanders dealing or failing to deal with insubordination/mutiny in the period approximately 1790-1830.

[page 8] There are gaps in the Lists of Approvals:

  • L/MAR/C/660 1807-09
  • L/MAR/C/661 1814-16
  • L/MAR/C/662 1817-20
  • L/MAR/C/663 1821-23

[page 10] The Compensation records also apply to senior sailors – Boatswain, Tradesmen, etc. On occasions the pensions are payable to widows and dependents.

[page 16] The HEICo Court of Directors had several Committees most of whose Minutes do not survive. An important exception is the Committee of Shipping. Minutes for 1685-6 survive at L/MAR/1/1. The 1803-4 Minutes are at L/MAR/1/2 and Minutes for 1813-34 at L/MAR/1/3-26.

The Minutes cover appointments, chartering of ships, matters of discipline, etc., and pensions. Volumes are usually indexed at the front but often the Index refers to topics, not names, so a search in the full text is advisable.


  • Resolved That Mrs Halliburton have leave to send on Freight to St Helena a tomb stone, and Iron railing in memory of her late Husband, who formerly commanded the Ship Glatton 14 Feb 1816 L/MAR/1/5
  • Two items in index to L/MAR/1/7 15 Apl 1818 – 14 Apl 1819:
  • Blair Mr W allowed to take a pianoforte as part of his Baggage
  • Buonaparte Genl Articles for his house at St Helena
  • Letter from Captn George Tennent dated the 3rd Instt stating that Mr Francis Le Batt fourth Mate of the Ship Apollo has been at times during the Voyage Insane and has frequently conducted himself with great irregularity and that he was under the necessity of suspending him on the 17th January last, being read
  • Resolved That Captn Tennent be desired to direct the Surgeon of the Apollo to report the state of Mr LeBatt’s health during [the Voyage] 9 May 1820 L/MAR/1/9
  • The Committee considered the reference of Court of the 20th Instant on the letter from Capt C B Gribble principal Owner of the Ship Princess Charlotte of Wales, stating that his own ill health obliges him to remain at home & presenting Mr Christopher Biden for Commander for the present Voyage and the Committee
  • Resolved To approve Captain Biden as Commander, he being fitly qualified according to the Court’s Regulation of 12th February 1768: and that in the event of Captain Gribble not being able to resume the command of the Princess Charlotte of Wales on her next Voyage, Captain Biden do then continue in Command of the Ship 22 December 1820 L/MAR/1/9

[page 18] The Committee of Shipping Minutes (L/MAR/1/ – see p16) also covered pensions, gratuities and admissions to the Poplar Fund, etc. The beneficiaries are seldom named in the index to each volume.


  • It is ordered that Ellinor Thompson widd have £30 given her out of the Poors Box, and that it be Regist[…]

That Abraham ffowler who Broke his Leag on Board ship Rochester have 40s pd by Capt Basse to him as the Companys Gratuity [1685]

  • Resolved That this Committee are of opinion, that they be severally allowed the following Pensions from that Fund to commence from the 24th June last.
Vizt For Life
Ann Forder – Ships Cooks Widow £6 ” 0 Per Annum
For One Year
Samuel Boyd Gunners Mate £5 ” 8
From the 29th September 1819
For Life
  • [list of persons including]
Charlotte Ryan Seamans Widow for two children £1 ” 12
George Christopher for the Orphan Son of Captn Henry Christopher
Till prescribed age each 33 . 6 – 8 Do
  • This Committee are further of opinion that Mr Andrew Deeley 3d Mate
” Mr Bellingsby Midshipman and
” James Wilson Purser
are not within the regulations for the admission of Pensioners on the Poplar Fund. [1819]

[page 20] (Regarding example one) These are the daughters of John Palmer, head of the famous Calcutta Agency House, John Palmer & Co, which collapsed spectacularly in 1834 (Anthony Webster The Richest East India Merchant, Woodbridge 2007).

Part II - Country Ships

Updates to the text - March 2014

[page 29] Christopher Biden’s Naval Discipline (see above re p7) includes country ship examples, one of which concerns his brother, William Henry Biden (Op. Cit. p676).

Many country ships ended up in the Australian Trade – see Ronald Parson Migrant Ships for South Australia 1988

Many directories are on Google Books

The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register Vol 11 May 1821 on Google Books notes the departure of the Anna Robertson from Gravesend April 1821. Its arrival in Calcutta in Sept 1821 is picked up in the Bengal Directory 1821 Appx p70. (See our list of links to directories online.)

Part III - Interlopers

Updates to the text - March 2014

[page 30, addition to footnote 26] Cotton & Fawcett (see p7) mention on pp253-4 the Seymour at this period – an interloper, either captured by the HEICo or more probably purchased under a scheme to buy up the stock and shipping of principal interlopers.

Part IV - Marine

Updates to the text - March 2014

[page 39] Maurice Packer's list (Officers of the Bombay Marine Ts 2012) can be found at OIR 026.954.

[page 45, alterations to footnote 40] Bholeo (there spelled Bhaliah”) is defined by Bishop Heber’s wife as:

“A very nice covered … ten-oared boat with a comfortable room quite new and nicely fitted up..” (C H Cholmondeley The Heber Letters 1783-1832 London 1950 p313).

The music may have been provided by some regimental band, but by the 20th century:

“The Viceroy had his own orchestra which used to play most evenings, during dinner…” (Charles Allen ed Plain Tales from the Raj London 1975 p131).

Part V - Commercial shipping