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The East India Company in Ilford

shaking_hands.jpgThe East India Company relied on dense networks of kinship, patronage and sociability to maintain its monopolistic control over Asian trade. Charles Raymond had married Sarah Webster in 1743. Her father had died when she was young, leaving her mother, Judith, with Sarah and three little boys. A sister, Elizabeth, was born in 1725, after his death. A couple of years later Judith married William Guy and had more children. It appears that Ann (born 1734) and Mary (born 1737) were the only daughters of Guy to survive their mother. All three girls married men connected with their older sister’s husband.

Unsurprisingly, Company men and women often chose to reside in close proximity to each other. Sir Charles Raymond and his circle were no exception. In 1754 Raymond purchased Valentine House at Ilford, and before long several other retired EIC captains who followed a similar path became neighbours in this area:

William Webber (died 1779) started his EIC career as third mate on the Wager when Raymond was the captain. He went on to serve as captain, became a PMO and later a Director of the EIC. In 1755 he married Elizabeth Webster, a sister of Charles Raymond’s wife. They lived at Highlands, a house owned by Raymond on land to the west of Valentines.

John Williams of Aldborough Hatch in Ilford (died 1774) captained the Hector on four voyages and then became PMO for EIC. He part-owned a ropeworks at Blackwall in which Raymond had shares. In 1754 he married Ann Guy, a step-sister of Charles Raymond’s wife.

Pinson Bonham (1724-1791) moved into the house at Aldborough Hatch when it was vacated by Williams’s family. Bonham had served as a captain on ships managed by Charles Raymond after two eventful voyages. As second mate on the Princess Mary (1) he had been captured by the French while helping to defend Madras, 10 September 1746. On his next voyage he was shipwrecked off Cape Verde (Senegal) on 16 January 1750 while second mate on the Duke of Cumberland (2). Once he retired from the sea he became PMO for EIC, working closely with Charles Raymond.

Andrew Moffat (died 1780) had not been to sea although two brothers were retired captains, closely involved as PMO or Directors of EIC. Moffat lived at Cranbrook House in Ilford, opposite Valentines and next to Highlands, and was a ship insurer who often worked in partnership with Raymond as PMO.

Henry Fletcher (died 1807) had worked his way through the ranks to captain ships managed by Charles Raymond and then became PMO of EIC and later a Director. In the late 1770s a Henry Fletcher was paying rates on a property just south of Valentines, although it has not been possible to confirm that this was the same man. He was created a baronet in 1782.

Donald Cameron (died 1797) was the next occupant of Fletcher’s house and he later purchased Valentines when Sir Charles Raymond died. As previously stated, he married Mary Guy, a step-sister of Charles Raymond’s wife. He had not been to sea and his involvement as PMO was as a result of becoming a business associate of Raymond.

In 1771 Charles Raymond, John Williams and Henry Fletcher became founder members of a bank known as Raymond, Williams, Vere, Lowe and Fletcher, with each partner investing £5,000. This eventually became Williams Deacon’s Bank and is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland. William Webber and Donald Cameron became partners in later banks established by Sir Charles Raymond.

Richard Benyon (1698-1774), retired Governor of Fort St. George (Madras), also purchased property in the area in the 1740s and 50s. On his return to England he married a wealthy widow and lived at her home, Englefield House, in Berkshire. He acquired the Great Newbury estate (which at that time adjoined Valentines to the east), Gidea Hall at Romford and land at Ockendon in Essex, as investments for his descendents. They were still living in the area a hundred years later.

Several other close EIC business associates lived nearby at Woodford including Richard Warner, Charles Foulis, Robert Preston and Pitt Collett. Identifying these residential nodes—and their connections with other concentrations of Company homes in town and country—adds a new dimension to our understanding of the EIC as a networked monopoly that operated simultaneously at local and global levels.

To read the next section of the case study - 'The Valentine: The East India Company's Ships at Trade and War' - click here

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