The Jennings Family

Rev. Midgley Jennings and Annie Jennings

Rev. Midgley John Jennings was a fervent Evangelical Christian, committed to the conversion of India. His views were expressed in some aggressive sermons and pamphlets. He arrived in Delhi as Chaplain to the Christian population based at St James’s Church in 1852. He had first arrived in India twenty years before in 1832 and quickly gained a reputation for ‘striving against carelessness and neglect in religious observance,’ [Annie Jennings]. He was intensely disliked by many of the British residents in Delhi, who described his manner as ‘brash and insensitive, yet silkily unctuous.’ His churchmanship both attracted and repelled William Sewell, and the ambivalent nature of Sewell’s relationship with him, and consequently his sons at the school, may be detected in Sewell’s letter to Mr Talbot which laments his death:

I opened the letter with fear and trembling… I have never had out of my mind poor Mrs Jennings … The father I had been corresponding with…. [July 6th 1857]

His daughter, Annie, travelled out to join her father in the mission early in 1857. She was described as blonde, pretty and enthusiastic, aged twenty-one. In Delhi, Rev. Jennings and his daughter were invited the share the lodgings of Captain Douglas, Commander of the Palace Guard at the Red Fort, the Mughal’s palace, and his invalid wife. Annie and her equally attractive friend Miss Clifford set about organising a choir for St James’s Church. This had a remarkable effect on the soldiers of the nearby cantonments, who discovered a hitherto unknown enthusiasm for the lengthy services conducted by her father. One of the basses in the choir, Lieutenant Charlie Thomason of the Bengal Engineers, had even succeeded in becoming engaged to the Chaplain’s daughter.

On 11th May 1857, eyewitness accounts described how the riot focussed on the Red Fort. Captain Douglas and John Hutchinson, the Senior Magistrate, were caught unarmed by the palace gate, and severely wounded. They managed to take cover in a ditch, and then were helped inside under cover. Douglas and Hutchinson were carried upstairs to the apartments over the gate, where Annie and Miss Clifford tended to their wounds. Simon Fraser, meanwhile, was trying to negotiate with the mob to allow the girls to escape. His soldiers refused to obey him. As he tried to return to Captain Douglas’s room, he turned his back on the men, who then attacked him. He was killed on the steps. An eyewitness called Makhan then described the scene:

After this the crowd made a rush to the upper apartments, where the gentlemen, viz Captain Douglas, Mr Hutchinson and Mr Jennings had retired. Attacking them with swords they at once murdered them and the two young ladies… On reaching the room where Captain Douglas was I saw that he was not quite dead. Mamdoh, a bearer in the service of the King, perceiving this also, hit hi with a bludgeon on the forehead, and killed him immediately. I saw the other bodies, including those of the two ladies. Mr Hutchinson was lying in one room, and the bodies of Captain Douglas, Mr Jennnings and the two ladies in another on the floor, except Captain Douglas was on the bed.

All the murders were perpetrated within a quarter of an hour of Mr Fraser’s death, and it was now between 9 and 10 o’clock am. After the death of the gentlemen, the crowd began plundering their property. Fearing for my own life I ran off to my own house in the city and never returned to the palace. [Trial evidence of Makhan, Mace-Beare to Captain Douglas. Quoted in W. Dalrymple, 2006. The last Mughal. p. 152]

The Jennings brothers at Radley

William John Jennings. Born 1838. Son of Rev. Midgley Jennings, Chaplain at Delhi. He entered Radley in 1854 and left in 1857 to attend Exeter College, Oxford. He was gazetted to a cavalry commission in the East India Company Service in 1857, and was on Malta in transit to India when his father and sister were massacred at Delhi during the rebellion. He joined the 2nd European Bengal Light Cavalry (afterwards the 20th Hussars) in 1858, serving with Frederick Trench. He transferred to Mayne’s Horse, an irregular cavalry unit formed in 185, which became the Central India Horse in 1860. He was killed in action on 7th June 1860.

On September 22nd 1857, William Sewell wrote to Mr Talbot appealing for money to help support William, and had authorised him to draw on himself, Sewell, for the sum of £100

Robert Melvill Jennings. Born 1841. He entered Radley in 1855 and left in 1858. He joined his brother’s original regiment, the 2nd European Bengal Light Cavalry (later 20th Hussars) in 1859, and transferred into the 6th Bengal Cavalry in 1863. He had a distinguished career as a soldier, serving on the North-West Frontier and in Egypt, eventually attaining the rank of General in 1905. He was knighted in 1909. He married Agnes Gildersdale in 1873. He died at Bournemouth on 16th August 1922.

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