Richard Brunton Flindell (1838-1883)

Richard Brunton was born in Birmingham February 18th 1838 richard-b-flindell-portraitand died in Calcutta, West Bengal August 31st 1883 from Melena – a severe gastrointestinal hemorrhage.  He was named Brunton after his mother’s family.  Richard and his sister Ann were baptised at St Martin’s Anglican Church, Birmingham on March 6th 1839.  In their early teens, Richard and his brother James George were apprenticed to their father in the printing business in Birmingham.  Although not confirmed, Richard and James probably continued to work with their father at The Bridgewater Times newspaper when the family moved to Somerset in 1851.

In 1854 Francis Bassett Shenstone Flindell (FBS) joined the Commissariat for the Crimean War (1854-1856) and took Richard with him as his clerk.  Both received Crimean War medals[1].   There is a two-year gap in our knowledge of FBS and his family between the Crimea Campaign and emigration to Western Australia.  One family historian suggested that FBS and Richard were sent from the Crimea to serve in India prior to emigrating[2].  Documented evidence has not been found, but the origin may be connected with FBS arranging for Richard Brunton to be indentured to the East India Company as a Telegraph operator[3].  Richard Brunton’s son, responding in September 1913 to a letter from George Simpson, wrote:

I am the son of Richard Brunton Flindell – born in Calcutta in 1863 Nov 28th.  My father went out to the Crimea as a clerk to his father (my grandfather) Francis Bassett Shenstone Flindell – after the war, on his return to London my grandfather got my father indentured to the East India Coy as a Telegraph operator.

Superficially this suggests they returned directly from the Crimea.  However, the phrase “after the war” does not rule out service in India, where the British waged a constant battle for supremacy.  By 1854 the East India Company telegraph communications system based on West Bengal was operational.  By 1857 the Company was involved in the Indian Mutiny.   It seems that Richard took passage with the rest of the family enroute to the Swan River Colony.  The New Calcutta Directory for 1853 records Mr. Flindell arrived on October 5th 1858 on board the “Nile” from Portsmouth[4] to Calcutta.  See his record of service at the end.

Marriagefbs-richard-and-charlotte1

Richard married Charlotte Mary Amelia Ireland at St John’s Church, Old Cathedral in Fort William, Bengal December 27th 1862.  Charlotte was born on January 2nd 1844, probably in Fort William where her parents John Ireland and Jane Lawa married on February 8th 1843.  Charlotte died on May 28th 1864 of Dysentery, which was a common cause of death resulting from the chronic condition of Cholera.  This was just 6 months after giving birth to their only child:

  • Francis Richard Flindell born November 28th 1863, died June 21st 1915.

After the death of Charlotte, baby Francis was raised by his father and maternal grandparents in Calcutta.  This must have been a worrying period and, no doubt, baby Francis would have been lavished with great care to ease the emotion of the loss of Charlotte and for fear of an infant loss.

Swan River Colony

Richard arrived in Albany from Ceylon aboard the “Ceylon” on 5 December 1874[5].  It is also known that Richard and Charlotte visited Western Australia from family photographs.  Considering the dates of their marriage, the birth of their only child and the death of Charlotte, the visit was probably in 1863 possibly their honeymoon.  It is possible Francis Richard was conceived either at sea or in Western Australia.

Richard Brunton had purchased a property in the Bassendean/Guildford area.  FBS made this his base shortly after the death of his wife Joanna[6].    In 1875, Richard sent his 12-year-old son Francis (Frank) to complete his schooling under the guardianship of his grandfather, preparatory to commencing university in London in 1879.  During this time FBS developed a strong relationship with his grandson.  He was later to apply himself as mediator between father and son, as attested in letters held within the family.  This shows a softer, caring side of FBS that is not generally portrayed, but is nevertheless an important part of this man.  Following Richard Brunton’s death (August 31st 1883) FBS wrote to his grandson expressing his condolences and support.  In this letter he stated that Richard Brunton had made provision for him to live on the property free of charge and he hoped that Frank could see his way clear to allow that to continue.  This indicates that FBS was neither well nor financial, probably due to his commitments to Colony causes. There has been much speculation within the family as to both the location and name of the property, but this has been clarified by the following advertisement[7]:

JAMES MORRISON has received instructions from F. R. Flindell, Esq., to offer for sale by public auction, at the W. A. Land Exchange, Perth, on the above date at 4 p.m. sharp, that Comfortable And Valuable House And Premises, situate in Meadow Street, Guildford, lately tenanted by James Morrison, and now in the occupation of H.E. Parry, Esq., at an annual rent of £40 guineas. The House is of the bungalow type, with good Verandahs round three sides, and contains 8 rooms and hall. The kitchen and servants’ room are detached, and in the courtyard there is a 3-stalled stable, coach house, and lean-to shed. The garden and grounds contain some of the best-grown fruit trees in the district, comprising orange, true lemons, apricot, loquat, plum, mulberry, peach, olive, fig, and almond trees,- all of superior quality, and in healthy condition. There is also a good vineyard of muscatel raisin grapes, and a trellis of Wortley Hall, Sweet-water and Burgundy grapes. The soil is as good as any in Guildford, and the property as a whole may be described a rus in urbe[8], unequalled for quality, comfort, and completeness in the district.

The Property was passed in at auction.  The following advertisement was placed:[9]

Title – Crown to the late Mr. R. B. Flindell, who bought it from the Government. For many years this property was the Official Residence of the Superintendent of Convicts for the Swan district, and is within four minutes walk of the Railway station.  The property was passed in at the vendor’s bid of £350, and offered for sale at that price privately.

richard-b-flindell-mourning-card1

Episcopal Records held by the British Library show Charlotte was buried in the General Episcopal or burial ground of Chowringee, while Richard was buried in General Episcopal Cemetery, Lower Circular Road, Calcutta.  From my research these are one and the same.  The cemetery still exists and a register of burials is held there, but the grounds are in a poor state of repair.

Richard Brunton Flindell – East India Company

The following details were researched by Mr. Peter K. Bennett on my behalf.  His sources were held in the India Office Library of the British Library[10].  The potted version Richard Brunton Flindell’s service the Honourable East India Company is as follows:

  • Indentured in London May 11th 1857 per Bond Number 881
  • Arrived Calcutta per the “Nile” October 5th 1857
  • 1859 – Burhee, Hazareebaugh, assistant in charge of the Electric Telegraph Office
  • 1860 – Inspector in the Electric Telegraph Office, Bengal circle
  • 1861 – Electric Telegraph Inspector, Bengal circle, Midnapore
  • 1862 – First Class Electrical Telegraph Inspector, Raneegunge[11]
  • 1863 – Assistant Superintendent of Electrical Telegraphs, Dacca circle[12]
  • 1864 – page lost[13]
  • 1865 – Superintendent of Telegraphs, Dacca circle, Dacca
  • 1866 – Superintendent of Telegraphs, Dacca circle, Chittagong
  • 1867 to 1874 – Superintendent of Telegraphs, Dacca circle, Dacca
  • 1876 to 1876 – Superintendent of Telegraphs (on furlough[14])
  • 1877 to 1879 – Superintendent of Telegraphs, Ganjam division, Vizagapatam
  • 1880 – Superintendent of Telegraphs, Ganjam division, Vizagapatam (on leave)
  • 1881 to 1882 – Superintendent of Telegraphs, Madras
  • 1883 – Superintendent of Telegraphs, Bengal, 11 Ballygunge Store Road[15].

Notes:

  1. He was promoted to Superintendent 3rd Grade on October 3rd 1857 on a monthly salary of Rs660
  2. When assigned to the Dacca Division as a superintendent in the Headquarters his salary was Rs660.  The page following this statement of employment records:
    1. Superintendents 3rd Grade: R.B. Flindell, Dacca, promotion to present grade January 1st 1866, appointment to Government Telegraph Department October 3rd 1857, service on March 31st 1871: 13.6, salary Rs750.

[1] Crimea Medal Roll, W0100/34, UK Public Records Office

[2] Flindell Family History, compiled by Francy DeGrys 1978/79.  Francy refers to letters and photographs held by family members.  Her paper has been used as a reference for the Western Australian period of the family.

[3] Bond Number 881 dated May 11th 1857 was signed by Francis B. S. Flindell and Richard Brunton Flindell to be an assistant in the Telegraph Department.  Authority of the Court dated May 13th 1857

[4] The Nile sailed from Plymouth.

[5] WAGS Arrivals in Western Australia 1839-1890

[6] July 5th 1870.

[7] The West Australian, Friday 9 January 1885 page 2

[8] This means “Seeing nature and rural life in the heart of the city”

[9] The West Australian, Saturday 31 January 1885, page 6

[10] Z/0/1/12, Bond Book, Miscellaneous; New Calcutta Directory; V/13/246, Civil Lists, Telegraph Department 1866 to 1873; L/F/10/95, Unconveneted Servants, 1866, Telegraph Department; Thacker’s Bengal Directory

[11] Richard married Charlotte December 27th 1862

[12] Their son Francis Richard was born November 28th 1863

[13] Charlotte died May 28th 1864

[14] This was probably taken in Western Australia.

[15] Richard died August 31st 1883