Lieutenant Colonel John Edwards (1776/7-1817).  Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards, was the son of John Edwards (1740-1822), who was born in Pattingham, Staffordshire. This John Edwards, joined the 64th Regiment of Foot and was in the expedition to Belle Isle off the coast of Brittany, which George III’s fleet had blockaded and which surrendered in 1761. During the fight John was wounded and captured and finally released in 1763. He is then said to have served in the American War of Independence (1775-1782). He accompanied his regiment to Spain and Portugal (this cannot have been the Peninsular War which began in 1808), and during an engagement in Salamanca he is reputed to have saved the Earl of Bath from drowning in the river Tagus, for which ‘daring and good service’ he was promoted.  This cannot be verified. However, he must have found a patron in the army as he was able to place two of his sons, by his wife Mary Plimley Chapman (1757-1827), in the army and bought, in 1793, an ensign for his son John Edwards (1776/7-1817). He eventually left the army and became a coach proprietor and general carrier, employing 200 horses daily. In 1785 he became the lessee of the Castle Inn, Birmingham.  In his will he describes himself as a liquor merchant, living in New Street Birmingham. When he died on 21 August 1822 he was living in The Crescent, Birmingham.

My great-great-great-grandmother Mary Plimley Chapman (1757-1827), John Edwards senior’s wife, the mother of my ancestor Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards, married John Edwards snr. in c.1775 and the descendants of the Plimley family

have a silhouette of John Edwards, (my great-great…… grandfather) seated at a table having a glass of wine with his brother in law William Plimley.

The Plimley family also have another elaborate silhouette with ten figures, showing the family of the Lieutenant-Colonel’s youngest brother Henry Edwards with his wife and children, including the eldest daughter Mary Ann Edwards who married Charles Slingsby. The Slingsby family trace their ancestors back to the Norman Conquest. Many of their effigies and memorials are the wonder of the Slingsby Chapel in Knaresborough Parish Church.

Knaresborough Parish Church. Members of the Slingsby family. Many of their ancestors now live in South Africa

John Edwards and Mary Plimley Chapman had six children, Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards (1776/7-1817), Elizabeth Edwards (d.1859) who married William Hall (d.1885), Richard Edwards who joined the 5th Regiment of Foot as an ensign, Thomas Edwards, Mary Ann Edwards and finally the youngest Henry Edwards (b.1798) who married Frances Chapman (d.1859), whose father was a Birmingham printer.

The father and mother of the wife of Henry Edwards (b.1789) the brother of Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards.

Army career of John Edwards.  The Army Lists show that Thomas Edwards was an Ensign in His Majesty’s 80th Regiment of Foot on 14 September 1793 joining a few days after the Regiment was formed. Why he was registered as Thomas Edwards is a mystery. However within six months John Edwards has purchased a commission as a Lieutenant Captain on 5th March 1794.  He became a Captain on 28 April 1797, a Major on 25 October 1809 and a Lieutenant Colonel on 4 June 1814. He commanded the regiment from 1813 to his death on 6 February 1817.

The 80th Regiment of Foot was raised during the French Revolution in 1793 by a ‘Letter of Service’ addressed to Lord Henry William Paget dated 12 September 1793. The depot for its formation was fixed at Chatham and its first establishment was 700 rank and file.

Gurnsey.  After three months training, the regiment was sent to Guernsey from where they sailed to Flanders, then threatened by invasion by France. In September 1794 the regiment’s ranks were increased to 1000. In September the regiment with Lieutenant Captain John Edwards embarked for the continent where the regiment formed part of the army of the Duke of York’s inglorious campaign which ended with 300 men of the 80th being invalided out and a decisive victory for the French. During the retreat to Bremen many of the men were frozen to death or lost limbs from frostbite due to the carelessness of the War Office in not providing the requisite clothing. An horrific start to his career.

April 1795 Captain Lieutenant John Edwards and the 80th returned to England and arrived at Portsmouth on 9 May. There the 80th refitted and made up their strength to 700. On 19 August 1795 Lieutenant Captain John  Edwards with the 80th embarked at Southampton for a secret expedition to France under the command of Major General Sir N.E.Doyle. They anchored in Quiberon Bay on 12 September

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Fort Penthievre as it looks today, Quiberon Bay

and on 30 September they were despatched to picturesque Ile d’Yeu, off the coast of La Vendee, with it two harbours, the northern one in Port-Joinville and the southern one on the granite coast called Port de la Meule, where they remained till early December.

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Picturesque Ile d.Yeu today with its ancient castle

There they formed part of a force formed to assist in the landing of French Royalist troops on the Ile d’Yeu. Apparently they arrived on the Island in an already weakened state and the regiment lost half its strength by the time it was forced to return to Britain in January  1796.

The 80th then embarked on ships of war and remained on board for five weeks cruising with the squadron until they finally disembarked at Southampton on 6 January 1796.

Regiment sails to Cape Town, South Africa.  From Southampton the Regiment marched to Lyndhurst in the New Forest, where it refitted and completed its strength and on 8 April it proceeded to Portsmouth to embark for the Cape of Good Hope, arriving at Simons Bay on 26 July 1796. Here it was engaged, in conjunction with the British fleet in halting a Dutch Squadron of seven ships of war with reinforcements of troops for the Dutch Settlements in the East Indies.  The Dutch surrendered themselves as prisoners of war and some of the 80th Regiment were put on board the Dutch vessels as guards while the rest of the regiment returned to Cape Town

18th century views of Symonds Bay (top) and Cape Town (bottom)

John Edwards in Cape Town
Letter from Captain Lieutenant John Edwards to his mother

“Cape of Good Hope Sept 8th 1796

My dear mother
I write you a short time since informing you of our having taken from the Dutch-Man of War – the particulars of which you will know long before you receive this. An express was sent from an officer, who was detach’d near a hundred miles up; the country, to Major Craig informing him of the enemy’s force. The general has immediately sent to Admiral Elphinstone whose fleet lay at Symonds Bay about thirty miles from here.  The admiral, on receiving the information, got under weight.  It was so planned that the army should arrive at the bay on the same day as the fleet.  Our regiment with the 78th and a few more troops marched in consequence to the bay in four days.  A forced march of a hundred miles.  We were up to our middle in water and at other times knee deep in sand, and the last three days nothing to drink but bad water and what little meat we could get to eat.  As we marched near to the shore, we found the country very barren, not a field to be found the whole of the distance.  On our approach to the bay, the fleet hove in sight.  Our business then was to drive on board the Dutch soldiers who were landed.  After a few volleys from us they returned to their ships at full speed without waiting to return a shot.
Our fleet was something superior to them in force, which induced our admiral merely on the score of humanity to send a flag of truce on board the Dutch Admiral, to say if he would surrender to his Britannic Majesty, he would allow the officers their private property. One hour only was given them to consult, when they thought proper to submit to the terms offered – (a very handsome present). Our business, as you may suppose, was to stop them from landing as likewise to prevent from running their ships on shore.  As we share the Prize Money with the Navy,  I expect my share to be about £250 – which will compensate for my flagging march.
From the date of my letter you see we are returned to Cape Town. The houses here are remarkably well built and very neat, much in the English style. The inhabitants are very gay amongst themselves but they don’t associate with us – as yet they seem not reconciled to us. The people up the country are all up in arms. The light Companys of the different Regt’s are gone to quell them. We are told they have to march about four hundred miles. We don’t expect their return less than four months.
We understand where the troops are now going the country is very fertile – if there be any fertility on the settlement it must be at that distance for we see nothing of the kind here expect barren land and prodigious high mountains. The only thing we get cheap here is Animal food. We have the best of meat at the rate of two pence per lb. You have heard of the sheep hear having very long tails. I assure you we have them for sixteen to twenty pounds weight. What is a little surprising, all kinds of wearing apparel is double the price you pay in England. Nankeen and Calico is considered more expensive here than with you. As we expect to go to Bengal in December next, I don’t intend purchasing anything of the kind in this second paradise as you call it.
You may safely call old England heaven. We are all very disappointed, as we understand there was everything to be had here that you could wish for. There is one great consolation, the climate is delightful – that is all I can say in favour of this country. We are all very anxious to go on to the East Indies, where we hope to find a much better paradise than the one we are now at. Two very fine women who came out in the same fleet with us are now both married very well. The one to a Major in the army and the other to a Port Captain in the Navy. They were both from very good connections but no cash. I understand that it is frequently the case that English ladies come to this place to find if possible the man they wish to love. Some go as far as the East Indies I shall now conclude for if you read all this nonsense it will certainly put you to sleep. My only wish is this may find you, my father, Betsy and Tom, all in perfect health and may I return in a few years to find you all the same. I beg you all to accept my love. With my best wishes to all my friends and be assured I remain

Yours Sincerely

J.Edwards ”

The original letter is owned by a member of the Slingsby family in Cape Town, South Africa.

John Edwards in Ceylon and India. On 6 December 1796 Captain Lieutenant John Edwards with the 80th left Cape Town for service in India.  The regiment landed on the east coast at Madras Roads on 11 and 15 February, 1797 and encamped on the Esplanade. On 25 February 1797 the regiment re-embarked for Ceylon, where it arrived at Trincomalee on 14 March and stayed for four years. During those four years with little or no fighting, the 80th lost by death, 5 officers and 368 other ranks, and many more were invalided out of the service.  According to the History of the 80th Regiment of Foot, from which most of this information has been obtained, these figures were not in any way abnormal for the time, and the health of the 80th was considered reasonable compared with that of the regiment it relieved. The chief cause of sickness among the troops was undoubtedly excessive drinking of the vile native spirits and particularly a form of toddy made from the coconut!

The journey to Egypt.  In February 1801 Captain John Edwards with the 80th formed part of an expedition assembling at Trincomalee, under Colonel Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) to drive the French out of Egypt. He went on the Expedition to Egypt under the command of

General Sir David Baird, 1st Baronet (1757-1829), Wellesley having withdrawn because of ill-health. On the journey to Egypt the two of the ships carrying some of the 80th regiment were shipwrecked on the coast of Abyssinia, fortunately with the loss of only five lives but they also lost all the mess plate and their regimental records, this part of the regiment finally joined up with the rest of the company in Cairo.

 The Eastern Desert, Egypt.  There were now four companies which formed this part of the Expeditionary Force against the French. They sailed to the small harbour of (Kossier) now Al Quseir

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The gate to the old fortress at Al Quseir. The fortress was built by Sultan Selim

and disembarked on the 8th August 1801 here they began their terrible march across the burning and almost trackless sands of the Great Desert. A description of the Eastern desert taken from  Nagel’s guide to Egypt by James Hogarth is worth quoting.

‘As far as the eye can see extends an undulating plain, featureless apart from an occasional stunted bush or a boulder glinting in the sun. The familiar noises of the town are replaced by an unaccustomed silence, disturbed only by an undefinable murmuring sound which seems to be produced by the imperceptible grating of countless millions of sand grains rubbing against one another. In every direction the parched ground meets the burning sky in a line which eludes the eye behind a shimmering mirage. But even in this featureless desert there is much of interest to see, and the traveller’s senses are sharpened by the very unease he feels in this solitude. The ground seems littered with marvellous coloured stones he has never seen before –magnificent flakes of flint, cornelians shining like jewels, the capricious ‘desert roses’ (coloured gypsum crystals) scintillating fragments of quartz or translucent honey-coloured alabaster.’

It’s hoped that the men of the 80th got some of this beauty but probably not when one considers all that seemed to go wrong.  There were an immense number of camels and dromedaries attached to the Army, solely for the purpose of carrying water for the soldiers, but the heat, was so excessive that the skins containing the water cracked and much of the supply was lost, a matter of grave mismanagement as they would not have done so if the skins  had been properly prepared . Many soldiers died during the march, many suffered from opthalmia and a great number of men from the 80th became totally blind.  During the march the 80th formed the advance guard. They marched from present day Al Quseir a small habour with its old fortress built by Sultan Selim to Moilah then on to Lagheita where they stopped for water and provisions. Legheita is described in Nagel as inhabited by the Ababda tribe and is planted with tamarisks, acacias and low-growing palms, then on to Baroma and finally to Keneh where they finally reached the Nile.

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Quena to Alexandra down the Nile      Quena from the Nile.
Doubt if it  has changed much

Keneh (now Qena) is the stopping off point on the Nile for the famous Temple of Hathor at Dendera which I visited in 1986. They had marched 120 miles in fifteen days. At Keneh they embarked on boats and dropped down the Nile to Giza and Rhoda where they disembarked and went into the army camp at El Hamed, near Rosetta where, only a few years earlier, in 1799, Bussard a French officer had discovered the famous Rosetta Stone, (now in the British Museum) which the French were relieved of by the British.  Here they learned of the defeat of the French who had surrendered at Alexandria. They were then sent to Alexandria on the 10th December 1801 and remained in camp for five months.  The 80th was then ordered to return to India and in May 1802 began their return march across the desert to Suez.   The Nile Campaign was successful, the French defeated but clearly the 80th for all the privations they had suffered had played  little or no part in the defeat; it must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The 80th were then sent to and arrived at Alexandria on 10 December 1801.  There they remained for five months to recover their strength before beginning the long journey back to India. Again they marched across the desert.

In 1802, following the Treaty of Amiens the various volunteer corps that had been formed during the war were to be disbanded. The Staffordshire Volunteers, which had been raised in 1798, chose to be merged with the 80th Foot, which became the 80th Regiment of Foot (Staffordshire Volunteers).

To Madras. On the morning of the 9th of  June 1802 the 80th sailed from Suez – again Captain John Edwards’s Statement of Service records ‘1802 Return to the East Indies’.  Unfortunately the regiment suffered yet another shipwreck. The ‘Calcutta’ transport, which had on board half the Regiment, struck a rock near the Abyssinian shore. The men were taken by frigate to the Arabian coast near Mount Sinai and eventual embarked on HMS Wilhelmina.  They all reached Madras without further mishap and the 80th then proceeded to Calcutta where the regiment remained for two months. In September 1802 the 80th then sailed to Madras.1802.

Fort St George, Madras

The Regiment in India – 1803.  The seven companies of the 80th which had landed at Madras in 1802 were stationed there until March 1803, when they were ordered against the confederate Maratta Chieftains, Captain John Edwards Statement of Service records ‘1803 & 4 Employed with Major-General Campbell on the Maratta Frontier…’.

Sir Colin Campbell, by Thomas Heaphy, 1813 - NPG 4320 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Lieutenant-General, Sir Colin Campbell (1776-1847) by Thomas Heaphy (1775-1835). 1813. National Portrait Gallery.

It is recorded that Campbell accompanied Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) in the Second Anglo-Maratha War against the Maharajah Scindia and the Rajah of Nagpore, and greatly distinguished himself by leading the flank companies at the storming of the Pettah of Ahmednagar on 8 August 1803. The Pettah was a massive fortress with 40 round towers, the eight largest manned by two guns.  Presumably Captain John Edwards was serving with him at the time. The successful assault carried out with such apparent ease made a strong impression on  Golka, a Mahratta chief, who wrote to a friend shortly after the incident ‘The English are a strange people, and their general an extraordinary man. They arrive here in the morning, examine the walls, carry them, have killed all the garrison in the place and have gone back to breakfast. Who can resist such men as these’.

After the fall of Mysore in 1799-1800, the Marathas were the only major power left outside British control in India. The Maratha empire consisted of a confederacy of five major chiefs. The chiefs were engaged in internal quarrels among themselves. Wellesley had repeatedly offered treaties to some of them.  From here it becomes really complicated. Needless to say the chiefs were one by one either defeated and/or signed treaties with the British. ‘The second Anglo-Maratha war represents the military high-water mark of the Marathas who posed the last serious opposition to the formation of the British Raj. The real contest for India was never a single decisive battle for the subcontinent. Rather it turned on a complex social and political struggle for control of the South Asian military economy. The victory in 1803 hinged as much on finance, diplomacy, politics and intelligence as it did on battlefield manoeuvre and war itself.’ [The Anglo-Maratha Campaigns and the Contest for India by  Randolf G. S. Cooper.]

Cannanore (1804-1807). Peace having been concluded in 1804 the whole regiment became united at Cannanore on the Malabar Coast in November of that year.

Water-colour painting of the town and bay of (Cannanore) Kannur by Thomas Cussans (1796-1870).

The Malabar Coast. Cannanor 1804-1807).  Kannur (Cannanore) is situated on a headland overlooking a picturesque bay in Kerala, in the south of India. Vasco da Gama (1460-1524) the Portugese explorer who discovered an ocean route from Portugal to the East came to this area in 1498 and it subsequently became an important trading station. The fort of St Angelo was constructed in 1505 by the first Portuguese Viceroy Don Francisco De Almeda with the consent of the ruling Kolathri Raja. In 1656 the Dutch expelled the Portuguese and subsequently sold the town to the Moplah family (a community of Arab descent) who claimed sovereignty over the Laccadive Islands, a group of coral reefs and islands off the coast of Kerala. Moplah rule was terminated by the British who attacked and captured Kannur (Cannanore) in 1790 and it became their most important military base in the south of India. The barracks, arsenal, cannons and the ruins of a chapel still stand in the fort.

Cannanore Bay by John Johnstone, c.1795-1801

Entrance to the Fort at Cannanore by Thomas Cussans.  c.1817-1822

After a brief rest the 80th was again employed against the Nairs in Wynaud, and when the ringleaders were captured and the country subdued it returned to its quarters at Cannanore. Cannanore served as the British military headquarters on India’s west coast until 1887. In conjunction with its sister city, Tellicherry, it was as this period the third largest city on the western coast of British India.

The regiment Cannanore (1804-1807) in Seringapatam (1807-1809). The regiment remained in Cannore until May 1807 when it left for Seringapatam.

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A view of Seringapatam an aquatint by James Hunter 1804

During its two year spell in the garrison at Seringapatam the Regiment suffered from a malignant fever peculiar to the area and their casualties amounted to 223 deaths and a great number were invalided and sent home, being unfit for service.  Some of the company were sent with the expedition against the Rajah of Travancore under the command of Captain Dalrymple.

Velayudhan Chempakaraman Thampi (1765–1809) was Prime Minister of the Indian kingdom of Travancore between 1802 and 1809 during the reign of Maharajah Bala Rama Varma who was ruler of Travancore from 1798-810. The armies of Travancore consisted mainly of members of the Nair group of castes. In 1804. Thampi proposal to reduce the army’s allowances which was met with immediate discontent. The troops believed that the idea had come from the British and marched to Trivandrum with a ten thousand strong army of sepoys and demanded that the Maharajah immediately dismiss Thampi, who sounds to have been a thoroughly bad lot, and end any alliance with the British. Thampi fled to his good friend the British Resident, a Major Macaulay who raised an army, which presumably included John Edwards, which defeated the Nair troops and led to a Treaty of 1805 between the Maharajah and the British East India Company to the latter’s benefit.

Seringapatam. A few years earlier in 1799 Seringapatam, renowned for its famous ancient temples had been the scene of the last and decisive battle fought between its ruler Tipu Sultan and a combined force of 50,000 men provided equally by the Nizam of Hyderabad and the East India Company under the command of General George Harris. At the battle’s climax, Tipu Sultan was killed within the fort of Seringapatam, betrayed by one of his own confidants. The victorious forces sacked and plundered the city including Tipu Sultan’s magnificent palace. Most of his personal effects were shipped to England and much found its way to the Royal Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The atmosphere in the fort and city must still have been somewhat volatile.

Regiment returns to Cannanore (1809-1811) and back to Seringapatam (1811-1813). In April 1809 the 80th returned to Cannanore. John Edwards was made a Major on 25 October 1809. The regiment remained in Cannanore till 1811 when it was ordered to return to Seringapatam where they stayed till 1813.

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View of Seringapatam an etching by D. Orme 1792

Related image

The fort in Seringapatam where presumably John Edwards was stationed. 

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View of the city and famous temples of Seringapatam in the 1860s

Quilon,  1813-1817. During this period the regiment was stationed at Quilon (now Kollam) on the Malabar coast.  They remained in Quilon from 1813-1817. Quilon as a trading port  has a long history stretching back to the Phoenicians and the Romans.  The Portuguese settled in the 14th century, then the Dutch and finally the East India Company. The fort also known as Tangasseri was originally built by the Portuguese in 1518 to protect its booming trading interests   In 1661 the town and the fort were handed over to the Dutch who made it the capital of Dutch Malabar and in 1795 the British East India Company took possession of it. This is presumably where the 80th Regiment of Foot were stationed.

Plan of the fortress at Quilon in the 1750s.

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Today there is very little to be seen of the Quilon fort, which has been reduced to a few shattered and broken walls .

Children. During this time John Edwards became a  Lieutenant Colonel (4 June 1814), and one assumed, quite wrongly, as it will soon become clear, that not much happened to him during this period of the Regiment’s life, as everyone settled down to life in India on the idyllic Malabar Coast.
1804-1807. Regiment in Cannanore
1807. His daughter Elizabeth Edwards was born.
1807-1809 Regiment in Seringapatam 1808. His daughter Frances Edwards  was born
1809-1811 Regiment in Cannanore
1809. His son John Edwards was born. Captain John Edwards is made a Major
1811-1813 Regiment in Seringapatam
1812. His daughter Caroline Edwards  is born
1813-1817 Regiment in Quilon
1813. His son William Lindsay Edwards is born
1814. Major John Edwards is made a Lieutenant Colonel
1815. In January his son George Frederick Edwards is born. In September his daughter Sarah Edwards is born and baptised and dies at Quilon.
1816. On 28th October his children John, Caroline, William Lindsay and George are baptised at Quilon. No record can be found of the other children being baptised.

Lieutenant Peter Benjamin MosseI have searched all the records I can, to find an image of the Lieutenant-Colonel but to no avail. However, I have found a portrait miniature of one of the officers who served under him. And here he is

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Lieutenant Peter Benjamin Mosse, 80th Regiment of Foot
The label on the miniature states that the Lieutenant was from Rutland House, Carlow, Ireland. The miniature is in the collection of the National Army Museum, London.

Peter Mosse was an Ensign in 1811 and Lieutenant from 1812 but there is no further record of him in the Regiment after 1815.

The Regiment to leave India 1816. The march to Madras,  In September 1816 the 80th was told to hold itself in readiness to return to Europe and on the 11 November being relieved by the 1st Battalion of the 89th Regiment (Royal Irish Fusiliers). Led by its commander Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards, the 80th commenced to march across India from the west coast to the east coast towards Madras for embarkation. When they reached Trichinopoly, just south of Madras,  instructions were received to permit such men as were eligible for the service to volunteer into any Regiment in the Presidency; 273 men, the most effective part of the Regiment immediately availed themselves of this offer and entered the 53rd Regiment, which Corps was at that time stationed there.

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The magnificent rock fort of Trichinopoly

Trichinopoly to Madras. The remnants of the Regiment continued their march and arrived in the neighbourhood of Madras on the 15th of January 1817. Here, in Guindy Cottage, Madras the Lieutenant-Colonel was struck down by a fatal illness, which was ‘short and acute’. He had been the sole surviving Officer of those appointed to the 80th when it was first raised.

John Edwards makes his will.  On the 4th of February 1917 Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards made his will. On 6 February 1817 he died and was buried the same day, and a few days later on the 20 March 1817, the cadre of the Regiment consisting of 32 officers, 36 sergeants, 17 drummers and 126 rank and file, embarked for home on the chartered ship Lucy and Maria after a service of upwards of 20 years in the East.

The last will and testament of Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards:

‘I John Edwards Lieutenant Colonel in His Majesty’s Eightieth Regiment of Foot, being perfectly sound in Mind, but considering the dangers and uncertainties of this Life, do make, publish and declare this my last Will and Testament, hereby invoking and making void all other Wills and Testaments made by me heretofore, in the manner following that is to say.- I recommend my soul to Almighty God who gave it and my Body to the Earth, or Sea as it shall please God to ordain and of all my worldly Estate, I bequeath and dispose as follows.-

I give and bequeath to Moodovailah Coppagee a native woman (resident at Tellicherry on the Malabar Coast) and her Children whose names are as follows, Elizabeth Edwards, Frances Edwards, William Lindsay Edwards, George Edwards, Caroline Edwards and John Edwards, the whole and every part of my property both real and personal that I may be possessed of at the time of my decease and that may hereafter fall due to me.
It is my most particular desire that the Interest which may accrue on a principal sum of Four thousand and One hundred Sicca Rupees which I paid on the 5 December 1816 into a Bwngal Six per Cent Loan and which sum if Paisd to Capt Spinks Military Paymaster in Malabar & Canara be drawn and paid to the said Native Woman Moddovailah Coppagee and her Children, Elizabeth Edwards, Frances Edwards, William Lindsay Edwards, George Edwards, Caroline Edwards and John Edwards but it is to be kept untouched and only paid to whichever of the above may survive all the others.
I also desire it to be understood that the money arising from the sale of those Articles I have directed to be disposed of and all monies now due to me, with the exception of One hundred and fifty Star Pagadas, be immediately placed in the best Government Security and only disposed of in the same manner and at the same time as the principal sum of Sicca Rupees 4100 and the Interest accruing on the money now directed to be placed in Government Security is to be paid in the same manner and to the same persons as the Interest of the Four thousand and one hundred Sicca Rupees.
The One hundred and Fifty Star Pagadas above stated I direct to be as soon as possible paid to the before named Moodovailah Coppagee for the use and benefit of herself and her before named children.
Two Houses at Cannanore & Tellicherry and a Sum of money now at Interest there which I have already made over the before named native woman Moodavailah Coppagee, I give and bequest to her, for her sold use and benefit.
I hereby nominate constitute and appoint Captain Bowes Military Paymaster in Travancore and Tillicherry, Captain Spinks Military Paymaster in Malabar and Canara and Surgeon Dyer resident at Tellicherry on the Malabar Coast to be joint Executors of this my last Will and Testament. In Witness whereof I have hereunto affixed my Hand and Seal this fourth day of February in the year of our Lord One thousand Eight hundred and Seventeen at Guindy Cottage near Madras.

Signed Sealed &                                   )
delivered where no stamp                 )     (signed J. Edwards

Paper is to be hand in the presence of )       Lt.Colonel 80th Regiment

  1. Horne )    H.C.Civil Service
    P Shombom )
    Andrew Nicoll N.D. Assistant Surveyor
    Frederick Bowes
  2. Spinks Captain                                                H.M.80th Regiment

Samuel Dyer Surgeon

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The signature on his will of Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards 

To summarise.   The will provided that the interest from a capital sum of Four thousand and One hundred Sicca Rupees which was held at 6% should be paid to Moodovailah and her childen, but that the capital should only be paid to whoever was the last survivor of Modovailah and her children. It also provided that certain items were to be sold with the exception of one hundred and fifty Star Pagadas, which was to be placed in the best Government Securities and be added to the capital of Four thousand and One hundred Sicca Rupees. The one hundred and fifty Star Pagadas were to be given to Moodovailah and her children for their immediate use. He also bequeathed her two houses at Cannanore and Tellicherry and the sum of money now at interest which he had already given her.

Memorial to Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards. John Edwards was buried in the St Thomas’ Mount Cantonment Cemetery on 6 February 1817 and a monument was erected to his memory with the following inscription:

“SACRED to the MEMORY / of / LIEUt COL.EDWARDS of H.M. 80th REGIMENT /  Ætat XL Anno / Who departed this Life on the 6th February 1817 / after  a continued service with that Corps of 24 years, and 20 of which /  were spent in India. A loss that will be long regretted by the 80th Regiment / as his worth was well known to every Officer and Soldier in it.  His / illness was short, but acute such as to preclude all Hope of Recovery, /  which He knew and bore with a Firmness. and Resignation seldom /  equalled and  never surpassed.  This MONUMENT is erected by his / brother Officers as a Tribute of their Affection and sincere regards /  for a deceased and much lamented friend. He died at Guindy Cottage.”

John Edwards senior the Lieutenant-Colonel’s father makes his will.  The news of his son’s death not having reached him as yet, and assuming that he would possibly inherit something from his son, the Lieutenant Colonel’s father made his will on 10 July 1817. He describes himself as a Liquor Merchant of New Street, Birmingham. He left £500 to his daughter Elizabeth, £100 to his son Richard of His Majesty’s 5th Regiment of Foot ‘And in case any sum or sums of money or other profits shall accrue or become payable to me from my son John lately Lieutenant Colonel in his Majesty’s eightieth Regiment of Foot’ it was to be divided between his daughter Elizabeth and his sons Richard and Henry. The residue of his estate was bequeathed to his wife Mary and his son Henry in equal parts.

Moodovilah Coppagee.  From the Lieutenant-Colonel will it was clear that my grandmother’s grandmother or my great-great-great grandmother Frances Edwards was the daughter of a native woman called Moodovailah Coppagee, resident in Tellicherry on the Malabar Coast and had become the ‘bibi’ of the Lieutenant Colonel John Edwards of the 80th Foot, my great-great-great-grandfather.

The plight of Europeans married to native women.  To say this information, when I finally found it, came as a bolt from the blue, would be to put it mildly. Suddenly we had a rather elevated relative, a Lieutenant-Colonel, no less and a great-great-great-great grandmother who was a native lady called Moddovailah Coppagee. I wondered why they did not marry. Well it appears that at that time, no British clergyman would have married an unbaptized Indian and no Indian cleric would have married a practising Christian.  Maybe this was why, four months before he died, the Lieutenant Colonel arranged for some of his children to be baptised.  But why not all of them including my ancestor his second eldest child, Frances for whom no baptism certificate can be found?  Being the child of a Englishman and a native woman was, by 1817, very much frowned upon, in fact more than frowned upon.  For instance a diktat issued by the Governor General of Bengal under the Regulating Act of 1773 banned mixed race children from jobs with the East India Company, another  forbade the sending of  such children home to be educated.  By 1778 an order was issued that no one with an Indian parent could be employed in the civil, military or marine branches of the Company.  Worse was to come, in 1800 Lord Wellesley banned Indians and Britons  born in India from all Government social functions in Calcutta a practice that spread steadily to other parts of India under British domination. It is interesting to note that it is assumed that any Britons born in India at that time could not be the children of a British lady.   I am indebted to Anne de Courcy ‘The Fishing Fleet’ for some of this appalling information.  It would therefore appear that John Edwards was very much on the wrong foot with regard to his native ‘wife’ by 1814 and could not have been allowed to take any of his children back home with him.

Was he about to abandon his wife and children?  The question remains did he intend to go back home to England and abandon his ‘wife’ and children or did he intend like 273 men in his regiment to opt to stay in India and volunteer to join another Regiment. As Commander he could not, like his other men, abandon the regiment at Trichinopoly. So did he intend to change regiments once he had delivered his men at Madras and stay on? On the other hand, it is noted in his will that he had already made over his houses in Tellicherry and Cannanore to Moodovailah together with a handsome sum of money.  Would he have done that if he had intended to stay?  We shall never know.  I hope he would have stayed but I’m afraid the jury will always be out on the matter.  The decision was finally taken out of his hands.  I also did not know what he died of.  Whatever it was, it must have been pretty dire, as it slew him in a matter of days.

Guindy Cottage, Madras.  Guindy Cottage, Madras, where he died must, I think, have been, what was originally called Guindy Lodge. Guindy Lodge is believed to have been built by Governor William Langhorne (1627-78) in the 1670s in a garden space carved out of the Guindy Forest, now a National Park. In 1678 it was sold to a merchant of Madras. Chinna Venkatadri who after some problems with the East India Company gifted it to the Company’s Madras Government. It somehow then passed into the private hands of Gilbert Ricketts who is recorded as seeking a loan from the Government Bank in 1813 and in 1817. In the year of John Edwards’s death, the property was still in Ricketts hands, though heavily mortgaged (he died intestate in December 1817). The estate eventually fell into the hands of the Bank who sold it to the Government. Guindy Lodge then became the official country residence of the Governor and is recorded as consisting of three single-storeyed bungalows which were eventually enlarged into a rather grand residence for the Governor.  I surmise that it was in one of these bungalows that John Edwards died.

The earliest image of Guindy Lodge I can find is a photographic print by Frederick Fiebig dated 1861. However, this looks like the grand residence which replaced the three Guindy Lodge bungalows

This is an aerial view of Guindy Lodge as it is today from which it appears there are in fact three separate but connected buildings the cores of which were the three single storey bungalows referred to above.  

The Lieutenant-Colonel’s children

1. Elizabeth Edwards (c.1807-1834).  Born on Malabar Coast, India c.1807. Married John William Schmidt.  Died in Tellicherry 1st September 1834

2. Frances Edwards (1808-1884).  Born on Malabar Coast, India 1808.  Married on 4th June in St Mary’s Church, Fort St George Madras to Thomas Lionel (1798/9-1885).  Died in Madras on 28 December 1884

3. John Edwards (c.1809-1884).  Born on Malabar Coast, India on c.1st January 1809. Baptised at Quilon, 28 October 1916.  Married on 30 March 1846, in Bangalore to Margaret Boucher (d.1868)
Died in Sangareddy, Hyderabad, India 19 February 1884

4. Caroline Edwards (b.c.1812).  Born on Malabar Coast, India c.1812. Baptised at Quilon, 28 October 1816.  Married on 20 August 1840 in Bangalore to Alphonso Bertie (d.1848), who died in Bangalore in 1848.  Date of death unknown.

5. William Lindsay Edwards (1813-1869)

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The only photograph we have of one of the children of Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards

Born on Malabar Coast, India on 25 December 1813. Baptised at Quilon, 28th October 1816.  Married (i) in Madras on 1st May 1835 to Anne Caroline Muirhead (c.1815-1836) who died in Madras on 27 January 1836. Married (ii) in Bangalore on 20

December 1841 to Georgina Smaller (c.1822-1845) who died in Madras on 28 November 1845. Married (iii) in Bangalore on 15 July 1852 to Henrietta Wilhelmina Van Ingen (1828-1914) who was born in Bangalore on 6 February 1828 and died in Bangalore on 10 June 1914.
Died in Bangalore on 27 November 1869

Henrietta Wilhelmina Van Ingen (1828-1914),
the third wife of William Lindsay Edwards (1813-1869)

6. George Edwards (c.1815-1858).  Born on the Malabar Coast, India c.January 1815. Baptised at Quilon on 28 October 1816.  Married in Tellicherry, Malabar Coast on 25 May 1837 to Julia Brown (c.1822-1872). Born in Tellicherry c,1822 and died in Hyderabad, India on 4th November 1872.  Died in Madras on 10 June 1858.

7. Sarah Edwards (1815-1815).  Born on the Malabar Coast, India, c.1815. Baptised at Quilon on 26 September 1815.  Died at Quilon on 30 October 1815.

The Lieutenant Colonel and Moodavailah.   As can be seen Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards had seven children by a native woman of the Malabar Coast called Moodavailah Coppagee (Kopagi is a common Keralite name)

So it would seem that Captain John Edwards must have begun his relationship with Moodovailah sometime between 1804 and 1807 when their first child was born. In his Statement of Service it is noted that he had ‘2 Months leave of absence in 1808’ the year my ancestor Frances was born. By the time of his third child John, he had been made a major, and when the 6th child George was born he was a Lieutenant-Colonel and had been in command of the regiment for over a year.

Baptisms of the Lieutenant-Colonel’s children. On 26th September 1815  whilst stationed at Quilon he had his youngest daughter Sarah baptised and Quilon is where she died in the following month. The following year on the 26th October 1816 he had his second eldest son William Lindsey baptised  in Quilon and two days later he had his two remaining sons John and George and one of his daughters Caroline, also baptised in Quilon.  Whether he had his two eldest daughters baptised is not known.

Tellicherry. Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards must have been stationed in both Tellicherry and Cannanore as his will gives Moodovailah as residing at Tellicherry and grants her two properties one at Tellicherry and one at Cannanore. However there is no mention of Tellicherry being one of the Regiment’s postings and therefore I can only assume that maybe it was the home of Moodovailah.   The East India Company constructed Thalaserri Fort in Tellicherry in the year 1708 and it became a military centre for British troops in the region. It still has massive walls and is an imposing structure with a huge gateway, over which are flanked two curious figures holding pike staffs.. It houses a lighthouse, a church, a cemetery and a mansion.

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Thalasseri Fort

Thalaserri Fort in Tellicherry

Cannanore also on the Malabar Coast is situated on a headland overlooking a picturesque bay. It was visited by Vasco da Gama (1460-1524) and became an important trading station. The town is dominated by the  imposing fortress walls of Fort St Angelo, constructed in 1505 by the first Portuguese Viceroy Don Francisco de Almeda with the consent of the ruling Kolathiri Raja. In 1656 the Dutch expelled the Portuguese but subsequently sold the town to a Moplah family, a community of Arab descent, whose rule was terminated by the British who attacked and captured it in 1790. The British made the fort their most important military base in the south west of India. The barracks, arsenal, cannons and the ruins of a chapel still stand in the fort.  In both these towns John owned houses, and presumably was commander of both forts. There exists a contemporary watercolours of Cannanore, dated 1817, by Thomas Cussans (1798-1870) showing the fort with its pepper-pot tower, its massive fortifications and a view of the adjacent village.

Pen and ink drawings of the inside of the fort at Cannanore: 1817 by Thomas Cussans (1798-1870)

Cannanore Fort today

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