Solomon Earle (1751 - 1824)

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Birthplace: Ashburton Devon ENGLAND
Death: Died in Carisbrooke Church Isle of Wight ENGLAND
Managed by: Carolyne Meade
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Immediate Family

About Solomon Earle

He was in the military and spent an eventful 18 year period in India. His diary was published by his grand son Percy Sheaffe in Australia. His 3 sons and 6 of his son -in--laws were also military men.

From Hodson's List of Officers in Bengal Army

Appointed as Cadet 29 Dec 1767; Arrived in India 21 Aug 1768; promoted to Ensign 13 Feb 1769; posted to 17th battalion Sepoys 1769; promoted to Lieut 15th May 1770; transferred to 2nd Battalion 1776. Fought in First Mahratta War 1778-84; promoted to Captain 21 Aug 1779 when he took command of 2nd Battalion. Siege and capture of Ahmedabad; action at Pawangargh. Captain commanding 2nd battalion. Resident at Court of Baroda 1781-3. Command of 1/30th native Infantry 1784. Furlough s.c. 3 years 6 Dec 1785 and was still on furlough in 1790. Appointed Captain and Paymaster to 1/30th 1814-1816 at Chatham. Retired on pension 1816. Other references: East India Military calendar by J Phillipant The Services of General and Field Officers of the Indian Army pub 1824vol 2,368-75 History of the bengal Native Infantry by J Williams p88 Gentlemans magazine1787 vol 2 p835 (announcement of marriage) Residence 1797 was Southwark (christening of son Solomon) Residence 1819 was Kingsland in the parish of hackney, Middlesex (mentioned in Bond for mary jane Lempriereto travel to Bengal to marry his son John Lucas)Residence at time of making will 10/2/1824 was Clatterford IOW Residence at time of death was Mill House IOW Will proved 13 jan 1825

THE EARLE FAMILY

WHO WAS CAPTAIN SOLOMON EARLE

Solomon Earle was born in Ashburton, Devon in 1751. When he was fifteen years old Solomon left home for London with the intention of travelling to India to work for the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) as a writer in Calcutta. On arrival in London, he discovered that no more appointments of writers were to be made that year. The decision was made that he would go out to India as a Cadet in the Company’s Bengal Army rather than return home to Devon to wait another year before he could join the Company’s Civil Service. He took with him to India, letters of introduction from Mr Sullivan, a Director of the East India Company and from Sir Robert Palk who was then the Member of Parliament for Ashburton and a past chaplain of the HEIC. Solomon spent 18 eventful years in India rising to the rank of Captain.

We are fortunate that there are several published documents relating to Solomon that are readily available and they give a good outline of Solomon’s activities whilst in India. Hodson’s list is a good starting point for anybody researching an Officer who was engaged in the HEIC’s Bengal Native Infantry giving a summary of his military services and promotion dates as well as some biographical information. In addition to this there is a more detailed account of his services in The East India Military Calendar (EIMC) published in 1824. Solomon’s success as a military man is born out by a footnote in the EIMC concerning his inclusion, which I have reproduced below:

As a reason for introducing the services of this officer in a work, the original plan of which, did not embrace those under the rank of Field Officer; the Editor begs to observe, that had Capt. Earle continued on the strength of the army, he would now have stood among the Lieut-Generals of the Bengal Establishment. Further, his services, though performed under a subordinate designation of rank, do honour to the Indian army and the period of time to which they have reference.

He was one of only two officers with the rank of Captain to be included in the Calendar. A request for him to provide information to the editor for inclusion in this book may have been the prompt for him to write a journal of his experiences in India. His grandson Percy Hale Sheaffe arranged for publication of a condensed version of this journal in 1880.

Like most Officers serving in India, Solomon’s career involved several moves from Battalion to Battalion according to demand at the time for someone of his rank. In June 1770 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. He was involved in several conflicts with rising responsibility over the years. There is mention of one conflict against a native chief who was rebelling against the HEIC’s rule where Solomon was in command of a party of 80-100 men at night and by seeing the enemy’s fires at the break of day they were able to locate and subsequently surround the enemy. In the EIMC it is stated "The number of prisoners far exceeded in quantity the strength of Lieut. Earle’s party". Upwards of 800 cattle and 400 goats were also captured as well as other plunder. Because of Solomon’s success in the encounter the Chief begged a truce and subsequently agreed to peace and paid all his arrears to the Company. The Commanding Officer thanked Solomon in Public Orders for his part in the victory.

Shortly after this Solomon went to Balasore (a port town on the Bay of Bengal) for 6 months to recover his health. On his return from Balasore to Midnapore his health was still bad and he was being carried in a palanquin when a party of Mahrattas against whom the army were fighting surrounded him. His bearers took flight leaving him alone to face the enemy. The chief of the party demanded his baggage but Solomon told him that it had gone on ahead and his men had, in all probability, already captured it. The chief, seeing his poor state of health, took pity on Solomon and ordered his men to go and find his bearers and tell them they would have nothing to fear for the rest of their journey. The chief was true to his word and they were able to complete the journey unmolested.

There are several other interesting accounts of Solomon’s encounters described in both his memoirs and the EIMC.

Solomon served for some time under Lieutenant Colonel Goddard who seemed to have recognised his abilities and taken a liking to him. About 1770, the then Brigadier General Goddard introduced Solomon to the Rajah of Baroda, Futty Singh, as his adopted son. Subsequently Solomon was appointed as Resident at the Rajah’s Court representing the English Government. He remained in this position for about 3 years.

The above is only a small extract of the encounters that are described in both his memoirs and the EIMC. Solomon returned to England late 1786 after being granted three years furlough due to ill health. Almost exactly one year after his return to Ashburton, he married Rose Rennell daughter of the then vicar of Stokenham, Devon.

In Solomon’s memoirs he mentions that, on arrival in India, he learnt of the death of his uncle Captain Mills and of his cousin Captain Adams. We believe that his mother’s maiden name was Mill or Mills but so far have yet to find a link to an Adams family. East India Company records show that a Captain John Adams who was born in Ashburton, Devon died in 1767 whilst he was employed on surveying work in Bengal under James Rennell (who was later to become known as "The Father of Indian Geography"). James Rennell was baptised in Chudleigh, Devon. It is probable that Rose was in some way related to James Rennell as her great grandfather, Thomas, also came from Chudleigh.

At the end of his three years of furlough, Solomon applied for and was granted permission to remain an additional year in Europe. At the end of this period, he was about to board ship to Sail for Calcutta when he was prevented by the state of Rose’s health. After her recovery in 1791 (and following the birth of at least one and possibly two of their children), he applied to return to his duties in India but was told that it was against Company regulations as he had exceeded the time specified in his furlough.

We don’t yet know much about what Solomon did in the 18 year period following his return from India but it seems that he was in Ashburton in 1791 and 1794 when his sons John and William and daughter Marianne were christened but his third son Solomon was born and christened in Southwark, London in 1797.

In the Universal British Directory for the period 1793-1798 Solomon was listed as one of two "Gentlemen" resident in Ashburton. An examination of land Tax Assessment records can give some idea of wealth of a person by the amount of tax due and also can identify what property was owned. Unfortunately it only shows what tax was due in the particular parish that the records relate to so, for people like Solomon, who for some time probably also owned land in other parishes, it only gives part of the picture. It is probable that Solomon owned land in Southwark when his third son, Solomon, was born in 1797 and also in the Isle of Wight whilst he was working and living there 1805-1815. There are copies of land tax records for Ashburton for the period 1780-1831. I have reproduced the section relating to the Earles for 1780 below. It shows that Solomon was paying a relatively high tax at the time for the Tything Sheave and he was the occupier (This particular piece of land does not appear as a single entity in the records for other years). The records also indicate that he had inherited some land from his father for which he paid a tax of 3 shillings as well as owning the fields Sergisons and Topshams for which he paid a total tax of 8s 0d. It also shows that there was a John Earle farming in the parish paying a total tax of 8s 9d, presumably this was Solomon’s brother. In later years Solomon rented fields to John to farm. The total tax raised in the Ashburton Parish was about £239 and the population at the time was about 4,000. The main industry of the day was the manufacture of serge cloth mainly for the East India Company.

Solomon’s highest tax year in Ashburton was 1780. In the records available there was some buying and selling of land but most pieces of land only rated a tax of from 2/- to 6/-. Whiddon estate (referred to in his Will) appears under Solomon’s ownership for the first time in these records in 1813 and is shown as rented out to a John Smerdon. This is the same for each year up to 1831 (last available record) which is interesting as Solomon died in 1824. The situation is similar for John Earle who we believe died in 1810 (thanks to Glynis Turner, NSW Australia) for obtaining a copy of his Will) yet his name appears in the tax records until 1815. The tax on Whiddon Estate was £1 12s 0d.

In 1805 Solomon sought appointment to the new East India Company Depot on the Isle of Wight and he was appointed as Captain and Adjutant. In 1814 he was assigned the additional role of Paymaster at the same Depot but by 1817 he had transferred to the Company’s Chatham Depot as Paymaster. Solomon retired from the East India Company’s service whilst Paymaster at the Chatham Depot in 1817 on a pension of £300/a and returned to live in the Isle of Wight where he subsequently died in December 1824. One calculator suggests that £300 at that time was equivalent to about £20,000 today.

Solomon mentions ten children who were alive when he prepared his Will in February 1824, three sons and seven daughters. His army career and tales of India must have had a big impact on his sons as all three of them subsequently went out to India as Cadets in the HEIC Bengal native infantry. Of his seven daughters, all but one of them married military men and at least one of them, Susannah, went out to India to marry a military man there.

His Will is vague about what property he owned referring to all his freehold, leasehold and copyhold lands, covenants and all other real estate without specifically naming property other than Whiddon Estate. His intention was that the value of his estate would be divided equally between all his children with provision made for his wife (who he refers to as Rosa not Rose) to be paid a sum from trusts created by the will of at least £100/a. He also provided for each daughter, upon marriage, to receive a sum of £400. His real estate was to be offered (for purchase from the trust at market value) to each of his sons in turn, in order of age. As all three were Officers in the East India Company’s service at the time of his death I wonder whether six months would been long enough for communication and arranging finances if they had wanted to buy the lands

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Solomon Earle's Timeline

1751
February 27, 1751
Ashburton Devon ENGLAND
February, 1751
Ashburton Devon ENGLAND
1787
August 18, 1787
Age 36
Ashburton Devon ENGLAND
1791
January 29, 1791
Age 39
Ashburton Devon ENGLAND
1794
January 27, 1794
Age 42
Ashburton Devon ENGLAND
1794
Age 42
1797
January 26, 1797
Age 45
Southwark Surrey ENGLAND
1798
December 4, 1798
Age 47
Southwark Surrey ENGLAND
1824
December 4, 1824
Age 73
Carisbrooke Church Isle of Wight ENGLAND
December 10, 1824
Age 73
St Marys Carisbrooke Isle of Wight