Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whitworth Allen and Anna Maria Dare

Behind every successful man is a surprised woman.
Maryon Pearson, the wife of a Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson

Bearing this quote in mind, I suspect there were a lot of surprised women who lived in the mid-1800s in the further reaches of the British Empire. For many of them, their husbands had ended up in the Colonies because they had few opportunities close to home. Many of them had much in common with the main character in the Jane Gardam trilogy. His nickname, Filth, was an acronym for Failed In London Try Hongkong, It wasn’t that the husbands of such women were necessarily the ones who had failed in business, law or what have you. It was just as likely that it was their fathers or older brothers who had lost all as a result of poor judgment, untimely death, or health issues, including alcoholism.

The extensive networks of the wives of such men were one factor which buttressed the successes of their husbands. In particular, the family connections of Amelia Lydia Dare (1851-1944), the wife of the much-celebrated manager of HSBC - Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915) clearly underpinned much of the success of the bank in the mid to late 1800s. The marriages in her family include a veritable flock of surnames such as: Dare, Allen, Scott, Marsh, Hartigan, Lloyd, Nicholson and others. Each one is worthy of an article, but this post will focus mostly on the ALLENs.

In 1870, Anna Maria Dare (1849-1931), older sister of Amelia, married Whitworth Allen (1835-1899) in Singapore. He was a ship and insurance broker with Lloyds. At the time, Anna was living with her mother and siblings, and was only twenty years old. Her younger sister, Amelia, would marry Jackson a year later in Yokohama. Whitworth was 34 years old when he and Anna married, and was already well-established in Singapore. He had been born in London in 1835, the son of James Edward Allen, a wine merchant and church warden at St. Dunstans, while she had been born in Singapore, the daughter of a Sea Captain and Ship Chandler.

Nine years earlier, Whitworth’s father and older brother had died within a month of each other in the summer of 1861 – first the son, and then the father, both of them named James Edward. Another brother, Bedford Allen (1836-1852), who was just one year younger than Whitworth, had previously died at Havana at age 17. He had been a Midshipman in the Royal West India Mail Service at the time of his death. A third brother Herbert Allen (1837-1873), a Freeman in the Company of Clothworkers in 1860, was described in that document as an Officer in the Mercantile Marine Service. Clearly the Allen family’s business enterprises had international legs. Later, brother Herbert was a wine merchant, like generations of Allens before him.

Whitworth was twenty six years old when he was thrust into the role of head of the household. His future wife, Anna, would know what that meant for a family. When her own father, George Julius Dare, had died an untimely death, he had left her mother with nine young children. George Mildmay Dare, the eldest, was aged sixteen and the youngest, Florence Gertrude Dare, was a one and a half year old toddler. Anna herself was aged seven. Whitworth’s family was better positioned when his father had died. Five years earlier, in 1856, at the age of 21, he had already been granted Admission to the Freedom of the City of London. His business career had already been launched.
Freedom of the City. Whitworth Allen. Residence: Great Tower Street
Curiously, Whitworth’s father and older brother were wine merchants, active in the trade at the address mentioned in the document, and yet all three were members of the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers. Why not the Worshipful Company of Vintners? Probably because their fathers and their father’s fathers had always belonged to the Company of Clothworkers. One has to go back at least four generations to find an Allen ancestor who was not connected to the wine trade, in spite of also being a member of the Clothworkers, and not the Vintners.

A second interesting fact can be found by browsing the online records of London’s Livery Companies. It turns out that Whitworth Allen’s extended family sponsored several members with the surname of Scott, some of whom seem to be related to the Scotts who were later mentioned in Trade Directories of the Far East. More on that anon.

Whitworth must have left London not long after gaining his Admission to the Freedom of the City of London, because by 1859, he was already a clerk at William MacDonald & Co. in Singapore. This was an import/export business based in Glasgow, with trading being conducted in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama. Naturally, it also had many dealings with Jardine Matheson, and not surprisingly, also had a sideline in shipping munitions.

Whitworth stayed with William MacDonald & Co. in Singapore until 1864, after which he went north up the coast of the Malaysian peninsula to Penang, at least according to Charles Burton Buckley, the author of the 1902 publication: An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore.

The birth places of Whitworth’s and Anna’s children indicate that the family had put down roots in both Singapore and Penang, although the births which occurred in Singapore may have occurred there because Anna was visiting her sister Blanche Emily Scott, who also gave birth in Singapore in 1872.

Dates and Birthplaces of the Children of Whitworth & Anna Marie ALLEN:
·       1871 George Edward ALLEN born at Orange Grove, Singapore (married 1st cousin Mary Alice HARTIGAN, daughter of Dr. HARTIGAN – HSBC physician. George worked for the Chartered Bank of India);
·       1872 Winifred Maud ALLEN born at Hurricane Cottage, Singapore. (married HSBC banker J.C. NICHOLSON)
·       1875 Alfred Whitworth ALLEN baptized at Sunnyside, Baltham, Surrey, England – perhaps during a brief visit to England. (He became an HSBC banker)
·       Abt 1875 Mabel Annie ALLEN either Penang or Singapore – records show both
·       ???? Mayard ALLEN. Birthplace unknown, believed died in infancy.
·       1879 Florence Knowler ALLEN Born at Penang, Straits Settlements
·       1886 Marjorie Isobel ALLEN. I don’t know where she was born, but she spent 2 years in Penang as a child.

It is fun to follow the effects of these births and marriages on future social, residential, and business connections of the extended Dare-Jackson family. One close connection to Whitworth Allen that is impossible to miss is that of William Ramsay Scott, another brother-in-law of both Thomas Jackson and Whitworth Allen as a result of his marriage to Blanche Emily Dare. Scott had also served as a clerk at William MacDonald & Co., starting a year before Allen. These kinds of companies often went through name changes over the years as some partners left, and others signed on. There seems to be some linkage of this company to MacDonald and Dare in Yokohama, but it may have more to do with the goods which were traded rather than a close coincidence of name. This company, which operated as a bill, bullion, and ship broker, and also dealt in the silk trade, had another brother-in-law, George Mildmay Dare, as a partner in 1874, and possibly earlier. I will need to study earlier Trade Directories before I can run this bit to ground.

Although Whitworth seems to have moved from Singapore in 1864, his daughter Winifred Maud Allen was born there in 1872 in a small attap cottage called Hurricane Cottage. It is possible this was the residence of the baby’s aunt & uncle: Blanche Emily Dare and William Ramsay Scott. Their son Walter Dare Scott had also been born in the Straits Settlements in the same year, and a decade earlier the house had been the residence of William Ramsay Scott’s uncle, William G. Scott (1780-1961).

Over the years, Whitworth Allen did well for himself. His grandson, Peter Jamieson, recalled that he ran an import/export business in Penang where a least two of his children were born. My mother remembered visiting as a child but mainly lived in the UK. He lived in a rather grand house, Suffolk House, which is now owned by a trust and has a site on the internet.  It is the only surviving Georgian Mansion in Singapore:

Today, you can visit the house, soak up its unique atmosphere, and wander round rooms lovingly refurnished with original Anglo-Indian antiques. Here, you can also treat yourself to a taste of life in the mansion by savouring lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at the Suffolk House restaurant. Guests can also discover the spirit of the 200-year-old building by taking guided tours that relate its rich and extraordinary history.

Suffolk House.
I do not know whether Whitworth Allen either owned or simply leased Suffolk House, but there are likely records that would shed light on this. It is however one of the places where the interconnections between the Scotts and the Allens get even more interesting.

Francis Light’s will indicates that he bequeathed the land that the house sits on to his common law wife, Martina Rozells.

I give and bequeath unto the said Martina Rozells my bungalow in George Town with one set of mahogany tables, two card cables, two couches, two bedstead large and two small with bedding…. a dressing table and 18 chairs, two silver candle sticks, one silver teapot, two sugar dishes, twelve table spoons, twelve tea spoons, one soup spoon and all the utensils not under the stewards charge to be disposed of as she thinks proper without any limitation. I also give Martina Rozells four of my best cows and one bull….

It is important not to get misled by two red herrings. The first red herring for me was the word: Bungalow. The bungalows of Penang and Singapore were not the single story dwellings which are referred to as bungalows in Canada and Ireland. Instead, they were two stories high, and often had the ground floor raised up on brick pillars in order to protect the house from floods. Secondly, even though Suffolk House was built on land which had come into the hands of James Scott after the death of Francis Light, and was subsequently resold, it was not the building referred to in Light’s will.

Even though I do not know how Whitworth Allen came to live there, it seems to have been where he lived when he was included, along with his wife and daughters, in the guest list of the Governor’s Ball on May 24, 1895. Those who were invited to such balls comprised a select group of the principal residents of Singapore. The evening was described in the Singapore Free Press 25 May 1895 as an evening of dance, cards, conversation and smoking followed by supper being announced at midnight by the strains of the “Roast Beef of Old England”. Reading such descriptions, you can practically inhale the smell of the cigar smoke and claret.

Whitworth Allen would have been included at such events not only because of his financial status, but also because of his political connections and activism on behalf of the merchant class. He was a member of a small but influential body of merchants, bankers, traders and others resident in Penang and Province Wellesley who often advocated at the Legislative Council for changes in legislation.

In 1881, for example, he was part of a deputation to the Governor arguing for the importation of Indian Cooly Labour. The proposal was presented as:

an equitable measure calculated to benefit not only the immigrants but also the general welfare of British settlements and the native protected states. …. We would further contend that if the Straits Settlements have to defray a large debt (of which no doubt Penang will have to bear its share) on account of the Native States, it is but fair that every facility should be given for opening out the agricultural interest and other resources of those rich districts, as when such are fully developed the extension of trade resulting therefrom may help to compensate these Settlements for the heavy burden that has been imposed on them and as a means towards this beneficial end the introduction of Indian Labour is of paramount importance.

The presentation was effective as far as the Governor was concerned, and His Excellency assured them of his very warm sympathy … and that they might rest assured of his hearty support.  Unfortunately for the swift resolution of their argument, the British Foreign Office was not so readily convinced. Balancing the regional interests affecting immigration and trade was complex, and in spite of the self-interested pitches by the delegation, who had also included their concern for the victims of famines in India, increased immigration did not get readily approved.

There are likely many more references to Whitworth Allen’s contributions to business and legislation in Penang. I am always keen to learn more, and hope to flesh out the picture further when I meet with one of his grandsons when I am next in London. The last bit that I can add, is that sometime after that dinner with the Governor in 1895 in Singapore, Whitworth Allen had retired to London. At the time of his death in 1899, he was living at Clovelly, High Road, Woodford, Essex. I know nothing of his final chapter.

One more family connection of the Allens that is worth mentioning with respect to their connections to Sir Thomas Jackson and Hong Kong is that after Whitworth Allen’s mother Knowler Anne Allen was widowed, she lived with her daughter Amy MARSH. Amy’s husband was Edmund Ironside Marsh, a brother of Sir William Henry Marsh (1827-1906), a Colonial Secretary and Administrator of Hong Kong for close to a decade in the 1880s. Another brother, Julius Arnold Marsh (1838-1868) died in Mauritius, another indication of the range of the colonial roots of this extended family.

NOTE: If you are not already terminally bored with details, here are some links:
·       For a reference to MacDonald & Co. and the arms trade: Arming the Periphery: The Arms Trade in the Indian Ocean During the Age of Global Empire.
·       For background on the DARE siblings, and their business connections, see my blog: Crowd Sourcing and the Dares.
·       For more on the SCOTTS, see my blog: The Sizzle of Connections.
·       See: Description of Scott Road. Early in the 1890s, King Chulalongkorn, the then King of Siam, acquired "Hurricane House" in the vicinity of Orchard Road
·       For Whitworth Allen’s occupation as a ship and insurance broker: Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping
·       For news of the Importation of Coolie Labour: Straits Times Overland Journal, 30 June 1881. Also: Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants. Sunil S. Amrith. 2013. Harvard College.
·       For sources relating to Suffolk House:
·       The Family Tree – starting with Whitworth ALLEN: 
·       Various related pages on my website: Far East & HSBC connections to the Silver Bowl.

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