Charles Russell Crommelin (1763-1822)
by Richard Pugh
A portrait of Charles Russell Crommelin Painted by Arthur Devis c.1790
Wrongly said to be Charles Crommelin, his father, this picture was sold
through Sotheby Parke Bernet in New York in or around the 1970’s.
The purchaser is unknown.
CRC was born in Bombay in 1763 during the Governorship of his father, Charles.
[Note: Russell is spelled here with two "l’s" which, although not always used in the Crommelin family, is nearly always used in the Russell family.]
Probably he was sent back to England with his father in 1767. He attended Charterhouse school from 1775-1780. Late in 1780 he returned to India to start on an interesting life and career.
Nothing is exactly known of the ten years of his early social life prior to his marriage in 1790. In his later letters to his children he warns them to keep out of debt and to look always to him for funds and to avoid the numerous ‘vices’ that can be spread before them. It is known that he had been taking mercury, a remedy for one of the great diseases of that sub-continent.
He was reasonably well provided with money and arrived as the son of a previous governor. No doubt he took a relaxed view of life with social contacts easily made and with bibis as required—no more and no less than others did as well placed as he.
His Indenture of appointment to the E.I.C. reads as follows:
Charles Russell Crommelin, gentleman, appointed Writer and Covenant Servant at Fort William in Bengal in the East Indies to the United Company of Merchants of England, Trading to the East Indies.
His Sureties were John Arden of Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury and George Matcham of Red Lion Square, both in the sum of £500 (approx. £35,000 today!), duly paid. In the 20th year of George 3rd. Signed and dated by CRC, 18th April, 1780.
His career was about to begin.
CRC married twice. His first wife was Juliana Shipton, born in Calcutta in 1773. She was the illegitimate daughter of Col. Sir Robert Barker c in c. Bengal. He died in England without legitimate issue. Juliana had married previously Lt. John Shipton on December 17, 1778. She was widowed on January 15, 1789 without issue.
CRC married Juliana in Calcutta on March 1, 1790. They had five children in five years before Juliana died on November 2, 1795.
* Charles Barker (December 13, 1790 - February 26, 1827) who married Emilia Ellen Ricketts. On the day of his marriage, his illegitimate son, Montague, was christened! [Montague: baptised 27 April 1818 Goruckpore, India; died Oct. 8, 1847 at Nurdah, in zillah Bhagulpore, aged 29.]
From Charles Barker springs a military family [e.g. William Arden Crommelin] and the Crommelins in England--now extinct by name following the death of James Russell Crommelin in 1991.
* Mary (November 3, 1791 - ?) married first James Gilbert, and second William Beckford Gordon with whom she had a son William Elliot who was drowned whilst up at Oxford. It is interesting that the latter couple married at Contai where CRC had a house on the Hoogly River.
* Juliana (January 14 1793, Calcutta - March 22, 1837, Malda, Bengal) who married Doctor John Lamb and there follows a family of Crommelin Lamb. Juliana was the third child of Charles Russel Crommelin by his first wife Juliana Shipton. Juliana was the half-sister of James Arden. She married Doctor John Lamb April 11, 1811. He was born about 1790 and was a surgeon of Maldah.
* Maria Elizabeth (May 10, 1794 - January 18, 1824) married Mordaunt Ricketts whose father was George Poyntz Ricketts from whom a connection can be made to the late Princess of Wales.
* John Dethick, youngest child of Charles Russel and Juliana Shipton was born June 8, 1795, Tipperah, educated at Charterhouse and at Addiscombe (1811-12 - one of two training colleges for E.I.C. cadets) and was commissioned into the Bengal Horse Artillery. He married Isabella Pennington. At the time of his death he was 1st Lieutenant Artillery, killed September 7, 1830 at Kurnaul, Bengal. [Source: LIST OF CASUALTIES - EAST INDIA DIRECTORY & REGISTER 1832]
CRC was somewhat enriched following upon the death of Juliana. There is correspondence relating to these matters in which he refers to his undying love for Juliana and that he has no intention of future marriage. Nevertheless, soon after writing he married Anne Wilkinson in Calcutta in 1798.
His second wife, Anne Wilkinson
CRC's second wife was Anne Wilkinson. She was the daughter of Thomas Wilkinson, a West Indies merchant who died in St. Pierre, Martinique in 1798. His grave was later destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Anne and Charles had six children.
* Anne Susannah (1799-1803) who lived for fewer than four years.
Painting of a Contai storm by James Arden Crommelin,
* James Arden (1801-1893) the great g/father of the writer of these notes and who will be the subject of Part 4 of the Crommelins in India.
as seen from CRC’s house on the Hoogly River.
* Charlotte Frances (1802-1883) married George Hankin in 1825. They had 10 children.
(See Part 4).
* George Russell (1803-1844) educated at Harrow. He married Johanna Maria de Waal in 1824. GR was a major in the Bengal Cavalry. Died of wounds on 1st January 1844 following the battle of Maharajpore of 1843. From this marriage sprang a number of families bearing the Crommelin-named connection eg. Timothy John Crommelin Eggar, an English member of the Privy Council.
* Thomas Lake (1805-1877) was the founder of the Australian and New Zealand branches of the Crommelin family and possibly of South Africa. (More in Part 4).
Thomas Lake Crommelin
* Henry Blyth (January 13, 1808 - January 27 1883) was surgeon on the ship "India Ann" with the EIC. He went to Australia and returned to live in London. He did not marry. Mention of him is made in George Whiting Crommelin's memoirs.
Henry Blyth Crommelin
Anne Wilkinson's mother was Judith Fruishard who was living in Calcutta. CRC became acquainted with JF and thus met Anne. The Fruishards were connected to the family of Nouaille.
Anne left for England after the birth of Henry and never returned. She wrote on numerous occasions asking CRC to return to England. He promised that he would do so but always had the excuse that bigger things awaited him and that he was arranging large financial settlements for the children. He never returned.
Anne died near Cardigan in Wales in 1833 having foreseen in a dream the arrival of the cortege for her funeral.
CRC started as a Writer and then a Junior Merchant in Calcutta. Later his work took him up the Ganges. He became Commercial Resident in Benares and Agent for Opium. He is to be found up and down the Ganges and its tributary, the Hoogly, to Calcutta and the sea.
1779 map of Contai in Hoogly [below in yellow]
His career reached a peak when he became Secretary to the Marquess of Wellesley (Gov. General 1798-1805). He believed he would be invited to join the Governor's Council but this did not happen.
He ended his days as Salt Agent and Collector of Revenue at Hidgellee. This enabled him to live in his house at Contai visited by members of his family and friends. He describes how he looks out for the arrival and departure of the East Indiamen anchored near the mouth of the Hoogly, usually at Kedjeree. His letters back home show how happy, if lonely, he was there.
On the 22nd of September, 1822 he wrote to James Arden mentioning a "slight attack". He died four days later on the 26th.
James Arden writes, "Dr. Clapperton was sent for from Tumlook but arrived too late when my poor father was in extremis, Maria the only one of his children with him. John [John Dethick] and I started by boat for Kedjeree, but arrived there only to meet the corpse at Mrs. Harton's and follow the funeral."
A portrait of Charles Russell Crommelin (1763-1822), about age 57,
by George Chinnery according to James Arden Cr.
Probably CRC's most interesting letter to his family is his description of his voyage from Calcutta to the E.I.C. factory at Canton on the banks of the Pearl river.
(Richard H.C. Pugh, Summer 2007)