The Reverend Edward Porter and Martha Kilpin Porter Missionaries in India 1835-1868
by Linda Ayres
The Rev. Edward Porter was born on the 19th July 1810 at Sherborne, Dorset, and was one of the six sons of Benjamin Coombs Porter, a grocer (1782-1816) and Rebecca, née Long (1772-1821).
Joseph Long Porter
Edward’s older brother, Joseph (1809-1884), was born at Sherborne. By 1843 Joseph was a book seller and stationer living at 43 Sloane Street, Chelsea, London and by 1847 was an auditor for the Mutual Fire Assurance, 97 New Bridge Street, Blackfriars. The 1851 census records Joseph living at Sloane Street, Chelsea, London, with his wife, Sarah and their three daughters, Mary Eliza aged 15, Harriet aged 13, Elizabeth aged 9.
Mary Eliza Porter – First Headmistress of the Bedford Girls’ Modern School
Mary, eldest daughter of Joseph and Sarah, was born in London on the 6th October 1835. She was educated partly at home and partly at Queen’s College, Harley Street, London. On leaving Queen’s College, Mary spent much of her time studying art and exhibited pictures at the Royal Academy and other London Exhibitions. Mary became the first headmistress of four major new schools. One of these schools was the Bedford Girls’ Modern School that opened in 1882. During her time in Bedford, she lived in Spencer Road. In 1894 Mary retired and moved to London. Mary died aged 69 years on the 9th January 1905 at Barnet, London.
In 1946 the school changed its name to Dame Alice Harpur School. In 2010 the School became known as the Bedford Girls’ School when the Dame Alice School merged with the Bedford High School.
Early life of the Rev. Edward Porter
By the time he was 11 years old both of Edward’s parents were dead and a close relative became his guardian. On leaving school his guardian arranged for him to serve his apprenticeship to Rev. Joseph Fletcher (1784-1843) who was a congregational minister of the Meeting House in Stepney, East London. Edward was very keen and quick to learn and assisted the Rev. Fletcher with Sunday School and reading the lessons in church. From an early age Edward had wanted to do missionary work and the Rev. Fletcher recommended him for admission to the London Missionary Society (LMS). The LMS accepted Edward and sent him to Homerton College, near Hackney Marshes, London where he studied theology for four years.
The marriage of Rev. Edward Porter to Martha Kilpin
Soon after Edward left Homerton College he married Martha Kilpin on the 8th April 1835 at St. Paul’s Church, Bedford. Martha was born on the 10th June 1800 at Mill Lane, Bedford, (now known as Mill Street). She was the eldest of the seven children of John Kilpin and Elizabeth née Jones.
Martha’s uncle, Thomas Kilpin ran his ironmongers shop at 17 High Street, Bedford. Thomas was deacon of the Old Meeting House, Mill Lane, Bedford (where John Bunyan was once minister.) Martha also attended the Old Meeting House, and from a young child she wanted to devote her life to Foreign Missions.
Edward and Martha travel to India as Missionaries.
Edward’s ordination took place in May 1835 at Bond Street Chapel, Leicester. On the 6th May 1835 Edward and Martha sailed to Madras, India, (now known as Chennai). They landed in Chennai a few months later on the 3rd September. Six weeks later, Martha and Edward set sail on a perilous journey from Chennai to Visakhapatnam, southern India. They arrived there on the 6th November. Martha and Edward were to assist the Rev. John Gordon and his wife who had arrived in in Chennai on the 4th February 1835.
Soon after they arrived in Visakhapatnam Edward employed a Moonshee, an Indian teacher of languages. He studied Telugu; the language spoken locally by eleven million people. Edward was a hard working student and became fluent in Telugu. Through the combined efforts of Edward and the Rev. Gordon a chapel was erected for services in English and Telugu languages. Those who went to the services were European soldiers and Eurasians.
Martha sets up an orphanage and school
In 1836 Martha set up an orphanage and boarding school for Hindu girls. There were only a few schools of this kind in India at that time. The scheme met with opposition at first from the European residents. The Indian men thought it a waste of time to teach Hindu girls, and were against female education. One Indian man is quoted as saying, “Our wives are sometimes saucy now and if they learn as much as their husbands, what then?”
Despite this opposition and with the help of voluntary subscriptions, Martha opened her school. Her first pupil was a young girl given up by a woman who had bought her for one rupee. She told Martha, “She was tired of her, for she eats plenty, but worked none.” Martha was more than willing to have the little Hindu girl. In time the little girl had learned to cook, and to read and write and eventually passed on what she learned to the other Indian girls.
In 1837 there were sixty Indian girls at the school. The number of pupils continued to rise and the school became overcrowded. There were not sufficient funds to build extra classrooms and Martha had no way of finding extra money to carry on the school. Martha wrote a letter to the Missionary Chronicle hoping that someone would help to raise funds. She subsequently received a letter from an anonymous person in Hong Kong who had read Martha’s letter in the Missionary Chronicle. The letter stated that such an important institution should not have difficulty in obtaining funds and enclosed in the letter was three hundred rupees which enabled Martha to build extra classrooms and a house for the matron.
On the 2nd February 1844 Martha and Edward left Vizagapatam. Twelve days later they arrived at Chennai and spent a few days with Edward’s younger brother, the Rev. William Porter. Martha and Edward left Chennai on the 28th February 1844 and arrived at Kadapa (formerly known as Cuddapah) a week later. During the four years they were at Kadapa, Edward held services in the Mission Chapel. They also set up new boarding schools.
Rev. William Porter (1812-1908)
William Porter, Edward’s younger brother, was born in Sherborne, Dorset. He trained as a missionary with the London Missionary Society. On the 15th September 1840 William and his wife, Ann sailed to Chennai on the ship Owen Glendower. William took charge of the Mission at Chennai. For a few years Ann ran the boarding school for girls. By 1858 William, Ann and their three children had returned to England. Their children were born in India. Eliza was born in 1842, William born in 1845 and Llewellyn born in 1846.
They moved to Hasting where William became the Principal of West Hill House School, Hastings, Sussex. The 1861 census records William and Ann with their two children, Eliza and Llewellyn living at West Hill House School. Also living there are 18 schoolboys whose ages were from 8 years to 16 years.
In 1867 Ann died aged 49 years at Hastings. In 1871 William married his second wife, Emma Huffam. In January 1894 Emma died aged 78 years, following a fall at her home, 8 Tillington Terrace, Clive Vale, Hastings. In 1900 William went to live with his son, William Porter Jnr, and his wife, Elizabeth. They lived at Plaisance Lodge, 15 Clements Road, St Helier, Jersey. William Jnr. and his business partner, Clement Noel ran a drapery shop at Rutland House, Charing Cross, Jersey. Messrs. Noel and Porter had traded there from 1871 to 1899.
The Rev William Porter died on the 10th March 1908. His burial took place at St. Saviour Churchyard Jersey. Plot 2.05.02
The Porter family return to England
Nine years of living in India had taken its toll on Martha’s health. In 1845 she returned to England with their five children. Elizabeth Rebecca born in 1837; Edward Samuel born in 1839; Benjamin Kilpin Porter born in 1840; Annie born on the 5th February 1842 and Harriet born on the 24th October 1844.
Edward stayed behind in India and carried on with his missionary work and visiting many parts of India. In 1846 Edward felt that it was his duty to visit England to be with Martha and the children. His health had also suffered as a result of living in a trying climate for 11 years. On the 15th February 1846 Edward returned to Kadapa. During the latter part of the journey he had difficulty in getting proper bearers and finished the journey on a pack bullock that he managed to bargain for. The animal carried him at the rate of four miles an hour.
On the 23rd March 1846 Edward left Kadapa for Chennai where he boarded the ship “Sir Thomas Arbuthnot” bound for England. The ship arrived three weeks late on the 19th July. Edward spent much of his time in England giving talks on the progress of Christianity in India.
Martha and Edward return to India
After spending three years in England, Martha felt well enough to return to India. It was hard for Martha and Edward to leave their oldest children, Elizabeth, Edward, and Benjamin in England, knowing that it would be a few years before they would see them again.
On the 21st August 1848 Martha and Edward and their two youngest children, Annie and Harriet, returned to India. They arrived at Chennai four months later on the 21st December, where they were met by Edward’s brother, the Rev. William Porter.
A few days after they arrived at Chennai, their daughter, Annie, became seriously ill with gastric fever. Sadly, she died 12 days later, aged six years. Her burial took place in Chennai Cemetery.
Within days of Annie’s funeral Edward, Martha and Harriet set off to Kadapa. There were no railways and it was a long and tiring journey. Martha and Harriet travelled on a coach drawn by a bullock and Edward rode on his pony. They arrived at Kadapa on the 30th January 1849. From 1854 to 1856 Edward’s time was taken up with visiting villages, opening new stations, and establishing schools.
In 1856 Martha and Edward sent their youngest daughter Harriet, aged 12, to school in England. Martha accompanied her daughter from Kadapa to Chennai. She sailed on the 9th March under the care of Mrs Hathaway, a family friend. Having said goodbye to her daughter, Martha returned to Kadapa.
Elizabeth Porter returns to India
By 1857 their eldest daughter Elizabeth, had returned to India, having finished her education in England. She had helped in the schools, and often took Bible Class. She was a healthy girl when she arrived, but the climate at Kadapa was too hot and oppressive, and she became ill with a fever. Martha and Edward also had frequent attacks of fever and a decision was made to leave Kadapa and travel to the cooler climate of Bangalore.
On the 10th May 1857 the Indian Mutiny broke out. In June reports were sent from Kadapa to send a column of cavalry from Bangalore. Martha and Edward wanted to return to Kadapa, but reports from Kadapa informed them that it would be too dangerous for them to return.
They subsequently returned to Chennai. Edward was suffering from repeated attacks of fever. On the 28th February 1858 Elizabeth died aged 21 years. Her burial took place in the chapel graveyard, at Chennai, where a small tomb marks her resting place.
Benjamin Kilpin Porter
Following the death of Elizabeth Martha and Edward returned to Kadapa. The last months of 1858 and the year 1859 were devastating. Cholera had broken out and many people died. The children who were orphaned were taken into the orphanage.
In January 1860 Martha and Edward left Kadapa for Chennai. Three months later they sailed from Chennai for England. They landed at Gravesend on the 27th June 1860. Sad news awaited them when they arrived in Bedford, their son Benjamin was ill with tuberculosis which was the most feared disease of that time. They had left him, aged 8 in 1848, in the care of the Rev. Alexander Stewart, a Congregational minister, of Palmer House School, Holloway, London.
Benjamin moved to Bedford after leaving school. He served his apprenticeship with John Greaves Nall, a printer and bookseller at 5 High Street, Bedford. (William Hale White,) better known as “Mark Rutherford,” the novelist, was born in 1831 above his father’s bookshop at 5 High Street, Bedford. The Riverside Cafeteria now occupies this site).
Benjamin died aged 20 years on the 8th August 1860, at 58 St John’s Street. Benjamin’s death certificate records that Mary Smith was with him when he died. Mary lived with her husband Robert and their six children at 52 St. John’s Street, Bedford. Mary worked as a staymaker (corset maker) and her husband Robert was a boot and shoe maker.
Benjamin’s burial took place on the 13th August 1860 at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. His grave is unmarked. Grave Ref C7 19
Edward Porter returns to India
On the 11th September 1861 Edward sailed from Gravesend to Kadapa, India. Martha and their daughter Harriet, and their only surviving son, Edward Samuel Porter, stayed behind. The 1861 census records Martha and Harriet living at 56 St. John’s Street, Bedford. They would join Edward the following year. When Edward arrived in Kadapa, in January 1862 he learned that his son Edward was ill with tuberculosis. Edward Snr had hoped that his son would assist him in India.
Edward Samuel Porter Jnr
On leaving school Edward Jnr. served his apprenticeship to the Rev. Henry March, pastor of the Congregational Church, Newbury, Berkshire. In 1857 he went on to study at the Seminary (College) at the “Howard Manse”, 16 Dame Alice Street, Bedford. He studied under the direction of the Rev. John Jukes and the Rev. William Alliott. Two years later, Edward went to Cheshunt College, Hertfordshire. He left college early when he became ill with tuberculosis and he went to live with his uncle, Rev. William Porter at Hastings. He subsequently moved to Harpur Place, Bedford, where he died aged 23 years on the 10th March 1862. His death certificate records his occupation as an Independent Minister. Dorcas Ann Denny was with him when he died. Dorcas and her husband, Richard and their six children lived at 11 Dane Street, Bedford.
Edward’s funeral took place on the 15th March at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Twenty Missionary students of the Bedford Seminary walked behind the coffin to the grave. The Rev John Jukes assisted by the Rev. John Joseph Insull conducted the service. Edward’s burial took place close to his brother, Benjamin. His grave is unmarked. Grave C7 52
From the age of 12 to 18 years Harriet went to school in England. Soon after Edward died Harriet and her mother returned to India. They arrived in India in October 1862. Harriet worked in the school and taught singing and needlework, in addition to taking Bible Classes.
On the 21st December 1865 Harriet married John Hands Morrell Cox who was the Deputy Commissioner of the Revenue Settlement. After their marriage they lived in Bangalore. Sadly, the marriage was short lived as she died on the 26th June 1866. Harriet’s burial took place the following day at Bangalore. John died aged 54 years on the 30th March 1891 at Bellary, Chennai. His burial took place the following day at Chennai.
The final years of Edward and Martha
In 1868 Martha and Edward retired and returned to England. Thirty three years of living in India had taken its toll on Edward’s health. He suffered recurrent episodes of fever. They arrived at Southampton on the 7th November 1868. They lived in Reading until 1880 when they moved to Alumhurst Road, Holdenhurst, Hampshire. Edward continued to work for the London Missionary Society.
During the time Edward lived in Holdenhurst he was in much pain. Edward died on the 24th June 1882, aged 71, at his home. At his request his burial took place at Foster Hill Road Cemetery near his sons, Edward and Benjamin. Grave B3 240.
Martha died aged 90 years at Moffat Villa, Bournemouth on the 30th March 1890. Her burial took place at Foster Hill Road Cemetery in the grave next to that of her husband Edward. Grave B3 251
Short Records of the Missionary Work of the Rev. Edward Porter – 1885
Register of Missionaries Deputations 1796-1896-Page 93
Northampton Mercury 30th July 1796 and 1824
Eastbourne Chronicle January 27th 1894
Bedfordshire Mercury 13th March 1908
Bedfordshire Mercury 12 April 1890
The Weekly Review London 1st August 1863
Hastings and St Leonards Observer January 27th 1894
Census 1841- 1881
Martha sets up an orphanage and school
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