This letter also appears on the Victorian Web
This letter is a very long and chatty letter from W.T. Chitty, in Baroda, India to his sister Miss E.M. Chitty, Muntham, Near Horsham, Sussex. Records held in Sussex show that Muntham House was first built in 1371 and records still available trace the ownership right down to 1879 when the original house, then belonging to the Chitty family, was virtually demolished in 1879 by Percy Goodman and rebuilt. It is now used as a school for boys with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties.
Postal markings: it was a Paid letter and has a charge mark of 1/- in red, but no India marks, and he wrote on it 'Via Southampton'. From the reference books I have checked Southampton was not an option, but it is possible that he wrote that for the English end, Southampton being nearer to Muntham Sussex. It went to London and was stamped with the Tombstone PAID datestamp JA 21 1851 and then finally the Horsham circular datestamp JA 21 1851, 39 days after it was posted in India. He has also initialled it in the bottom left hand corner "W.T.C. 13/12/50"
The records held at the Oriental and India Office Collections [OIOC] in London confirm that Lieut Walter Theodore Chitty, 13th N.I., was at Baroda at that time. He had been appointed in 1845 and was commissioned Quarter Master and Interpreter on 20 June 1850. In 1855 he was Acting Assistant Military Auditor General and by 1861 was Deputy Auditor General (in the Audit Dept) and Secretary to the Military fund. In 1862 he's listed as Captain — Staff Corps.
The letter is closely written and 'crossed' to get as much on the sheet of paper as possible. The principle of a crossed letter was to save money in postage, as one of the factors in the cost of postage was the number of sheets in the letter. To prevent the expense of another sheet, the writer would turn the paper 90 degrees and write across what was already written. This makes it very difficult to read and a few words are therefore suspect. It gives a marvellous picture of his life in the 13th Native Infantry, and must have delighted his sister when she received it. Towards the end of the letter he is obviously becoming nostalgic about the 'old country'. It opens with a paragraph describing his activities for the day, and one of the difficult words is the name of the Camp at Baroda, which I have been unable to trace. Baroda is known as Vadodara nowadays.
Camp ieart Baroda,
13th December 1850
"My Dear Emmy,
It will be a match against time and no mistake to get this finished respectably ere post time 4.30 pm, and it is the only letter I can send. However you will wonder why I have commenced so late but I have been busy till now and have scarcely allowed myself time to digest my breakfast and tiffin before parade till ½ past 7, then official letters & papers to be prepared ready for signature at 10, then a hasty breakfast and off to Orderly Room; thence over to the Brigade Major's office, then back with the information I went for; to the Commanding Officer, then home again; issue of pay to some men and finally stamping and numbering upwards of 120 men's jackets with signatures to hand — to say nothing of the numerous interruptions by notes from different parties — all these have left me constantly at work the entire forenoon.
I had intended writing last night but was too sleepy to do so and it being bitterly cold, I was only too glad to put myself under the blankets as soon as I could which was not till past 9 o'clock — early enough you will say, but then you don't get up at 5 every morning I presume.
I think Emmy you almost deserve scolding for I have not heard from you now for nine months and your last was only a half sheet, but perhaps you have been employed — have you been out a good deal visiting. The last I heard of you, you were staying with Mrs Hardwicke, where you no doubt enjoyed yourself, as I hear you were much pleased by the account you sent home. However Emmy, you must allow you owe me a letter and I hope you will soon find time to send it.
I suppose you will say you waited for something to write about, but if you do, why I might wait for something till Doomsday in such a delectable hole as Baroda. You never saw such a place in your life — very pretty to look at but horrible to live in. Why I cannot tell but somehow everyone seems low-spirited and without the least life in them. Even now, that the weather is cool as a cucumber no one seems a lick the better for it, but all are complaining of something or another. Now you may imagine what kind of a Station I am on, but still I feel pretty well myself at present and hope I may get on as well till the time of relieving us comes round again, though that is a long time to look forward to; a good two years I imagine ere we get the route (?) again. Now you see I only wrote home on the 29th of last month so there has been no time for anything to communicate.
We have had some Races going on and some few strangers have come in for the sake of seeing them, which is more than I took the trouble to do, though as for sports, the fact is that I look upon racing especially in this country as anything but sport, and would not go ten yards to see a race myself. I saw nonetheless the first race as I went to hear the Band, and they were near the Stand.
His Highness the Guicowar with a numerous retinue were there and some thousands of natives, though from their constant stares at the ladies and gentlemen it appears they did not come to look at the races, but like 'coolies', because the people were collecting, and they always go wherever they see a crowd collecting."
Note: The royal rulers of Baroda were called: "Guicowar" — spelled variously "Gaekwad"; "Gaekowar" meaning "keeper of the cows" This particular one was Maharaja Khander Rao Gaekwad, the local ruler of the mostly Moslem population surrounding Baroda, at that time. Baroda was then an important Cantonment with a Residency and an English church built during the 1820s. From this station, the various regiments travelled hundreds of miles to attend disturbances of whatever nature.)
Since I last wrote bye the bye, our late commandant Lieut Colonel Shortt, has been transferred to the 8th Regiment now in Borubar and I heard from him the other evening in which he seems rather disgusted but he will be a little more so I expect ere long for I doubt if he will ever find a Regiment pull so quietly and give way to his whims so much as we did. I think we shall miss him though he was not over popular latterly. I fancy you don't care much for Regimental news so I must touch on something else.
The next paragraph gives a great insight as to the way the accommodation was sorted out for the officers of the 13th Native Infantry.
I am now living in the late Colonel's house, keeping possession for Captain Lavel now at Broach and I shall remain here till his arrival though I am paying house rent for my own mansion in which Cooper is living 'solus' at present, there being so few houses in Camp and a new Regiment coming here the good ones are being seized by our officers, the same as the officers of the Sixth N.I. did with us ! But as the Brigadier says he won't allow any to be taken for absentees where personnel present want them, so I am forced to remain here to oblige Lavel, or he would lose the best house in Camp. Cooper and myself have called for a Committee of Officers to fix the rent of our next house, which is at present Rs 60 per each seems much too high as Government only allow Householders 15 per cent of the value of the house if taken for one year or 20 percent if taken by the month, the committee sits tomorrow and will I trust reduce it considerably for they are a sad set of rascals here screwing every rupee they can out of you; but if the Committee do reduce it, there will be a general rise through Camp and all the houses will be properly valued and their rents fixed.
The Express of the mail came in last night but I fear the regular post will not be in this afternoon in time for me to see if I have any letters from home. If not, two mails will have passed without my having any letters, but I don't much expect any this mail being only a 'barstilles'<*> one and so if I get none, shall not be disappointed. I have been sorry to hear such a sad account of the state of home affairs as I have had the last two or three mails but I trust that though the trials and annoyances which you all have to undergo are great and many, that you all go on cheerfully for this will tend in a great measure to soften many a trouble. You must not think I am going to commence lecturing Emmy, I am not fond of that fun.
Note:<*> I have no idea what this word should be, the writer has put it in quotation marks, so it may have meant something to his sister at the time. The next part of the letter shows how nostalgic he is becoming about the home in Sussex.
Now if you tell me much of home and how the place looks. I can imagine rather bare and untidy but how do the outbuildings look, the North and S Stables, the Granary, the Brewhouse, Washouse and laundry, all these are frequently thought of by me and I frequently wonder whether the wall round the oval pond is as it used to be, also the yew hedge whether it has been kept clipt, or is untidy, but you have no one to do these things now for Bill is busy farming and has no time for spending in the garden. I wish I could take a turn at it, I think I should enjoy just such employment now rather more than I did when I was at home. I was a bad idle dog then not knowing when I was well off, but so it is with us all.
Then it is back to the situation in Baroda — at this time many English men went to India and made a fortune, and the current name for these was Nabob. Many of the titled families who were suffering financial hardships were pleased to marry off the daughters to such men for the money, although they did not like the idea of the money having been made in 'trade'.
Since I last wrote to you I have got a step up the ladder as being made Quarter Master and putting on the brass spurs, certainly it is more comfortable on a dewy morning riding than getting one's feet wet, but I don't find much other enjoyment at present, though drawing rather more than a Captain's pay is very good. I must confess that were I clear of the world, I might put by a few rupees but at present I have not that satisfaction, but hope to, all in good time. One thing, I shall never return home a Nabob as you good folks in England think all Indians must, I could never stop long enough for that. For though many people praise up the country as being such a fine place, I must say I am of a very different opinion, from what little I have seen of it. But I was a more contented individual in the DECCAN Give me my friends and relations and I think then it would be all very proper.
Note: The Deccan was another much cooler part of India where the people stationed at Baroda went for their leave periods.
I never saw such a country for the encouragement of laziness, nor ever heard of such. Why I do believe some men would allow their servants to feed them if they could — they come very near it now, poor helpless babies.
Bye the bye, have you, or any of you, thought of working me a pair of slippers for I am fast decaying in that Department. I like that plaid pattern or in fact any pattern any young lady pleases to choose for me — providing always it is not too remarkable a one.
Note: I really like the idea of his sisters making slippers for him, but it hardly fits the image of a Quartermaster!
Hello — put on the steam! It is just 4pm so I must heave ahead. Here's the post in and nothing for me — so take my thanks for the same! When anyone is writing to Aunt E send my very best love and say I would have written but really had not time. I will see about doing so sharp. I see Horatio has moved upwards — the Honourable John! (*) As to the active Service account query, what is he going to do?
Note :(*) The Honourable John was the nickname given to the East India Company by the employees and by the English in India
Who lives at the lodge now — anyone I know — Does Bill sit in the same pew at Church — No.21 if I remember right. How goes on Mr Cartwright and is old Clark Knight still living.
Note: the custom of villagers sitting in the same pew in the church is still customary in many English villages.
This will reach you after New Years Day, but look for it being a happy one to you all. I should not be surprised if this reached you on Mama's birthday, wish both Mama and Sue many happy returns for me and you may imagine me drinking healths on the several days without number, but now I must send best love to all and subscribe myself — at haste
Your very affectionate Brother
I have been surprised to find that there are many Australians tracing their family history who have links with India. I have been informed by various members of the India Mailing list on the internet, that the climate appealed to men and their families who had spent years in India. The cold English climate no longer appealed to them. In addition, the lifestyle in India — with all the servants — could not be maintained in England without a fairly large income, and Army pay was not very high. By electing to go to Australia, they could have a good climate and a much more free and easy lifestyle.
I am indebted to these members for background information about this part of India in the 1850's, particularly Jill Grey & Anita Burdfield, of England, Kim, Dian, Jo & Sylvia in Australia.
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