The British Empire Library

Sir Charles Raymond of Valentines and the East India Company

by Georgina Green

Book Review by kind permission of Chowkidar, the journal of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia
First a bit of background: Valentines is a large house formerly belonging to Sir Charles Raymond and now in the care of the London Borough of Redbridge. Georgina Green is an historian who has published several books on places in the Borough including Ilford; Woodford; and in particular about one Robert Surman who was Sir Charles' immediate predecessor as owner of Valentines. Sir Charles Raymond is an important man. He was in the East India Company's maritime service and made six voyages between 1729 and 1744, the last four as Commander of two successive ships, both called Wager. Each voyage is discussed in detail and the surviving ships' journals, that is, the ships' Logs have been carefully studied. (The British Library reference is lOR L/MAR/B).

By using his private trade privilege Raymond was able to amass a substantial fortune. But that was only the start. His main significance for the historian of the Company is his role as Principal Managing Owner or ship's 'husband' for no less than 113 voyages between 1750 and 1788. The author is excellent at piecing together evidence of how he did this by involving friends and relatives in each investment, since it was usual for the costs of the ship to be spread among several people. It was better to have small shares in several ships than own all of one ship which might fail, by reason of wrecking, piracy, or enemy action. The author clearly categorises the risks and returns. One thinks of Pepys at the end of each year calculating his net worth. Yet many biographies - especially in the field of family history - have our ancestors in a financial vacuum. Admittedly evidence is often sparse, but it is good to see a book where this issue is tackled head-on. The charter-party agreements, mostly in the India Office Records B series at the British Library, have been trawled as well as others in the Essex Record Office.

The book also explores how Raymond spent his wealth - in a country estate on which to live (Valentines), and other property as investment, more charter-parties, and finally in banking - he was the founder of two separate banking companies. The links between the Company's bigwigs such as Raymond and the City of London are well spelled out, with patronage used to oil the wheels. The author points out that m late 18"" century London there were six leading financial institutions: the Bank of England, The East India Company, The South Sea Company, and the three insurance companies (Royal Exchange, London Assurance and Sun Fire). Raymond was involved with the two trading Companies and one insurance company (Sun). The author might also have added Lloyds of London, where just like the financing of charter parties, the risk was spread among, say, 30 Names, though I accept that evidence for this may be hard to find. The interaction of the friends, relatives and neighbours, in and around what is now Redbridge is also admirably described. The absence of private letters or diaries means that we can never know Raymond as an individual, but as a picture of the business of the East India Company and its network of Directors, Owners and Officers, the book provides an excellent description. Anybody interested in researching the Company's maritime service at this period will find this book an invaluable resource.

British Empire Book
Georgina Green
First Published
Hainault Press
Review Originally Published
Spring 2016 in Journal of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia


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