Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Tom's Early Years

Thomas Hervey Baber was born on the 29th of September 1777 at Slingsby Parsonage in Yorkshire. [1] This imposing three storey grey stone house still stands immediately behind the church in this small village on the edge of the North York Moors. He was the second son of Thomas and Elizabeth Baber.

Slingsby Parsonage

Thomas’s maternal family was called Berriman, and it would appear that her family probably originated from the village of Slingsby [2] or the surrounding area as many of the tombstones and monuments in the churchyard carry the Berriman family name.

Slingsby Church.

Thomas’s father was a solicitor who had trained at the Temple in London. However we know very little about Tom’s father’s career.Possibly it was a change in his career that caused the family to moved south to Stamford in Lincolnshire [3] during 1780.

In 1782 his parents moved on again to London. Leaving Tom and his elder brother Henry to stay behind in Stamford at Mr Broughton’s school. During 1784 Henry and Tom left the school and travelled on down the Great North Road to London to rejoin their parents.

It is possible, but not certain that Tom went with his elder brother to St Paul’s school in London, for a short while. The family initially lived in New Ormond Street for a short period leading up to 18th September 1789 when they moved to Red Lion Street in Clerkenwell. [4]

Red Lion Street, Clerkenwell, London.

Thomas went to Haileybury, which was the East India Company College for aspiring Civil Servants. When Tom was seventeen his childhood home broke up, when his parents separated on the 9th of September 1794. Unfortunately we do not know the cause of the breakdown of his parent’s marriage, but eventually his parents became reconciled when Mrs Baber rejoined her husband in Newbury in March 1800. Whatever caused the rift, his brother Henry later recorded that on September the 16th 1794 the boys moved to a new house at 9 Great Shire Lane. [5]

Eighteen months later in 1796, Tom petitioned to join the East India Company. His file contains the following certificate showing: -

"that T. Hervey Baber has gone through a regular course of book keeping for merchants" signed Thomas Tompkins March 7 1796. "[6]

It would appear that Tom had been given additional training in book keeping with a view to his becoming a Writer in the East India Company, and following his uncle Edward Baber’s career. His uncle who had been Secretary to Warren Hastings in Calcutta, and who rose to become head of the Provincial Council in Murshidabad was most probably his sponsor. Tom’s "bond & cover" document signed before his entry into the East India Company was dated 12 April 1796. [7]
One can only imagine the excitement and anxiety that must have accompanied the arrangements being made for Tom’s departure for India half way around the world at the height of the war with France.

What I wonder were his mother’s thoughts?
By 1796 she was living in Greenwich, [8] probably to be nearer to Tom’s younger brother James [9] who was at that time studying at the Woolwich Academy to be an Indian army officer.
Tom set out shortly afterwards for India. His brother Henry Baber wrote in July 1796 that he: -

“Went to the Isle of Wight with Webb to see
Tom July 5th returned Oxford 13.
Tom sailed in the Albion (Capt Timbrel) to Bombay
Augst 12. Went out Writer”.

The East India Company maintained a depot on the Isle of Wight in which recruits were assembled before joining the convoys of East Indiamen setting out for India.
In 1798 Henry wrote in his diary: -

“Jan 4 Wrote to Tom.”

As Henry’s diary only records major events in Henry’s life, one is left wondering how often he otherwise wrote to his brother.

Tom’s younger brother James was also appointed to be a cadet in the East India Company service at Madras in January 1798, and sailed in the HEICS Good Hope commanded by Captain Hilton on the 14th of April 1798.

Tom had sailed to Bombay, where he appears to have rapidly found his feet. Leaving England in August 1796 it would have taken the ship about four months to reach India, arriving in the New Year 1797.

It would appear that Toms first months in India were spent at Bombay, where he was an assistant to the Secretary in the Public Department.[10]

On February 7th 1798 Henry records that his father had received the following letter from his brother: -

“Feb. 7 Father hears from Tom -- Letter dated Bombay August 1797
about the same receives a letter which came overland enclosed (by just favour) with government dispatches, requesting his consent to marry a Mrs Cameron (wife of a Major Cameron who was lately killed in an excursion down the country) she is not 18 the daughter of Mr. Fearon of Edinburgh & niece of Mr Douglas of Fitzroy Square London. She had been married to the Major about a twelvemonth.
Tom’s first appointment (upon his arrival at Bby was assistant to the Secretary in the Private Department.)” [11]

It would appear that within months of his arrival in Bombay, Thomas was sent down the coast to Calicut.

[1] Henry Hervey Baber’s Memoranda relating to the life of Henry Hervey Baber.
[2] Slingsby in Yorkshire. 54O 09’ 57.62” N 0O 55’ 55.11” W
[3] Stamford in Lincolnshire. “Jan 4 Wrote to Tom.”
[4] Great North Road. The original London to Edinburgh road, nowadays known as the A1.
[5] Henry Hervey Baber’s Memoranda..
[6] IOL Microfilm reference J/1/16 folio 20.
[7] Microfilm O/1/3 f.28.31.
[8] Greenwich, A seaport and the site of the Royal Naval Hospital situated on the River Thames several miles downstream of the City of London. Two miles from Woolwich where most Artillery and Engineer offices were trained, including many aspiring cadets destined for the East India Company.
[9] James Hervey Baber. (1780 to 1819) Served in the East India Company rising to become a Major in the Madras Infantry, he was invalided 30th April 1819, and died on the 27th November 1819. His wife was born in 1795.
[10] Henry Hervey Baber’s Memoranda..
[11] Henry Hervey Baber’s Memoranda..

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