Indian born Fanny Maxwell, named for her Scottish aunt Frances Maxwell, married Lieut. John Tritton at Cawnpore on 1 November, 1821. This marriage united two families who had settled in Cawnpore at the beginning of the 19th century and whose descendants laid the foundations of the modern industrialized city now known as Kanpur. Fanny was born on 19th April, 1803 at Aleabad in the province of Oude, daughter of John Maxwell (1762-1816) and great granddaughter of Reverend John Lumsden (1694-1770), Professor of Divinity at King’s College, Aberdeen and a Moderator of the Church of Scotland. John Maxwell’s father was Minister at Newmachar near Aberdeen and his early death had left John, his seven sisters and their mother Agnes (nee Lumsden) penniless. Some of the Lumsden cousins had prospered in India and in 1786 John Maxwell arrived in Calcutta where he ran a library, edited the India Gazette and was partner in the firm of Davidson and Maxwell, which sold European goods, and sent shipments up the Ganges on 1st and 15th of each month. John Maxwell, with an Indian bibi, fathered two children in Calcutta – Agnes born in 1790 who died in infancy and Adam born in 1793.
About 1800 John Maxwell settled in Aleabad where Fanny was born to an Indian bibi and where John Maxwell established himself as an indigo, cotton and sugarcane planter on the banks of the Ganges. A few years later John Maxwell moved to nearby Cawnpore where he had the concession distilling and supplying rum to the British troops stationed in the vast Cawnpore cantonment. John Maxwell had four more sons in Cawnpore with a common law wife Elizabeth Nann. They were Peter (1808-1857), Hugh (1809-1883), David (1811-1887) and James (1813-1847). These boys, like their brother Adam, were sent back to Aberdeen to the care of John Maxwell’s sisters and for their education at Aberdeen Grammar School where their uncle Andrew Dun was rector. Fanny, beloved by her father, lived in the beautiful Maxwell family home in Cawnpore until the age of twelve, when she was sent to London to the care of Mrs. Currie where she improved her English, learned music, dancing and English refinements. A letter dated 4th November, 1816 from John Maxwell to his daughter Fanny in London is full of love and wise advice (reproduced by Zoe Yalland in her book – Traders and Nabobs: The British in Cawnpore 1765-1857). However, when Fanny received this letter her father was dead. John Maxwell died on 27th December, 1816 and was buried in Kacheri cemetery in Cawnpore. Fanny was in London, the younger brothers in Aberdeen and Adam was the only one of John Maxwell’s children to attend the funeral.
Adam had returned to Cawnpore in 1811 accompanied by his cousin Alexander Burnett (1790-1827) and these two young men worked in the Maxwell enterprises. However John Maxwell left a complicated estate and five years elapsed before his will was settled. In 1819 John Tritton’s regiment – 11th Light Dragoons arrived in Cawnpore and Fanny’s cousin Thomas Lumsden (1789-1874) was in Cawnpore staying in the Maxwell home. Thomas Lumsden wrote a book Journey from Meerut in India to London in the years 1819 and 1820 – and he described the glittering social scene “all the beauty and fashion of the station”.
One of these beauties was Fanny Maxwell who married John Tritton in 1821 with her brother Adam as a witness. A dispute developed between Adam Maxwell and Alexander Burnett and Adam left Cawnpore around 1822 to live in Aberdeen. Adam later moved to London where he met and married Harriet Ann Vandenbergh, sister of my great, great grandfather, on 20th February 1827 at St. Mary Islington. Newly married, Adam heard that Alexander Burnett had taken his own life, and the Maxwell fortune was lost. Adam and Harriet returned to Cawnpore where the problems were compounded because Adam was regarded as an Anglo Indian and while he could own the land on which huge taxes were due he could not inherit from his father’s estate. Adam was later accused of fraud, fined, sentenced to prison and died in 1838.
Fanny was also an Anglo Indian but she had a northern mother with lighter skin and she had already inherited one sixth of her father’s estate. With her inheritance Fanny was able to live a comfortable life in India with visits to London and Scotland and her husband’s military career prospered. Fanny and John Tritton had four sons and four daughters. Their youngest son, Nicholas Burnett died in Perth, Scotland on 2nd January,1841 at the age of three and two sons had army careers – Robert Burnett (1824-1842) and Edmund Spry (1833-1867).
Fanny and John Tritton’s first child, John Maxwell Tritton born 25th July 1822 joined the East India Company as an administrator. In 1852 he was appointed assistant to the political agent in Bhopal, Assistant Magistrate and Deputy Collector and later served in Nimar. Kumaor, and Gurhwal. However on 26th May, 1859 he left the Civil Service and joined his uncle Hugh Maxwell in establishing the Elgin Cotton Spinning and Weaving Company of Cawnpore. John Maxwell Tritton died in Cawnpore on 1st January 1868.
Fanny’s husband John Tritton had risen to the rank of Lieut. Colonel by the time he retired from the army on 13th December 1853. He had fought with distinction in some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the sub-continent but a civilian accident claimed his life. The incident was reported in Friend of India of January 1854 –“On their way to Bombay, a distressing accident occurred to Colonel and Mrs. Tritton. Their carriage fell over the bridge on the Panwell Road. Colonel Tritton’s arm was broken and Mrs. Tritton was seriously injured”. The accident proved fatal for John Tritton and less than a month later, on 8th February 1854, he died and was buried in Bombay cemetery. Fanny recovered and settled in London. She outlived her sons but she had daughters in London and a brother David in Scotland. Fanny maintained a constant correspondence with the children of her brother Hugh in Cawnpore, sending gifts and advising on their weddings. Her brother Peter and his bibi, a Kashmiri lady, had died in the Cawnpore massacre of 1857. Fanny died on 14thJune, 1874 at Orsett Terrace, Paddington, London. She left a large fortune to be administered by her brother David Maxwell.
Article by Judith Vandenbergh Green