John Howell 5th Nov. 1781- 28th June 1819




Surgeon in the East India Company -7th Regiment Native Infantry
from Rhydd y Garreg Ddu, Talog, to Kissengunge, India.

On 30th June 2019 a memorial service was held at St Lucia’s, Abernant to remember the life of this young Welsh boy from Abernant, Carmarthenshire.

John Howell (his father Thomas Howell  tells us in a letter written in 1785 to his brother in law)  that John his youngest son was born at 4pm on the afternoon of 5th November 1781 at the farm Rhydd y garreg duu.

John’s eldest brother was Howell Howell, five years older, and born in 1776 in Abernant.
Howell Howell farmed nearby at Cwmgest until his death in 1840. It was this older brother Howell Howell who worded and arranged for the above memorial in St. Lucia’s church to be erected in his brother’s memory.

John, as the youngest brother with no expected inheritance, had to make another way in life.
He seems to have been supported financially and most probably to have been educated by his his ‘Anwyl Ewythr’ the Rev. Thomas Thomas who was a curate at Isham and Farndon in Leicestershire.

At the turn of the century in 1800 John Howell is 19 years old and he is already a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Four years later, in 1804 and  aged 23 he achieves his MD and becomes a surgeon in London.

The following year the  Rev Thomas Thomas receives a letter dated 6th February 1805 from John Howell’s parents Rosamond and Thomas Howell asking his advice about ‘how to raise £150 for India equipment’

However, luck prevails and a few months later in 1805 John Howell is appointed Assistant Surgeon for Bengal, India in the East India Company.

John Howell sailed to Calcutta on the ship Britannia as 3rd mate  arriving in Bengal in the same year December 1805 to take up his appointment.

On the 3rd March 1806 John Howell entered the Indian Medical Service as an Assistant Surgeon in Benares, India. (Present day Varanasi)

No more is heard of John Howell’s life in India for the next 9 years…

Then in May 1814  and aged 33 John Howell writes to his uncle the Rev Thomas Thomas about ‘having had a bad horse riding accident and his consequent poor health that he is suffering’

1814 John Howell  took a  furlough to travel home as a result of certified sickness.

16th June 1814 John Howell surgeon left Calcutta on board the ship Matilda to return home to Portsmouth.There were two employees of the E.I.C. coming home  on the Calcutta Mr John Howell and Captain S. Lutwige of the 11th native infantry who was also on sick leave.

16th December 1814 In a letter John Howell on arrival from India to Portsmouth is writing to his uncle the Rev. Thomas Thomas at Farndon describing a very painful voyage at sea.
 John Howell  is clearly not well.

8th June 1815  Rev Thomas Thomas writes to his niece Phoebe’s husband the Rev.Thomas Skeel at Newhouse, Pembrokeshire asking him to come and collect john Howell from a ‘Mr Talbot’s madhouse’ in Bethnal Green.

’the fall from his horse in Asia probably is the primary cause of his derangement having affected his spine and brain… his removal to his native air is possibly a salutary means of recovery.’
‘There is more to be said about John Howell’s affairs than I can explain on paper. Mr Talbot is to have £1.11.6 pence per week besides some extra expenses each week.’
‘Favour me with a reply as soon as possible
In much trouble of mind’

In that summer of 1815 John Howell is rescued from Bethnal Green, by his cousin’s husband the  Rev Thomas Skeel and taken to Millbrook House, Carmarthen to recover his sanity.

In 1817 John Howell returned to duty as Assistant Surgeon with the East India Company in Bengal with the 7th regiment of native infantry.

In 1818 John Howell was nominated a Surgeon by Sir H. Inglis. Bart.

John Howell died on 28th June 1819 aged 38 at Kissengunge, Maharashtra, India. (See his Will below)
The memorial was requested by him to be placed in St Lucia’s, Abernant.


Crawford’s ‘ Roll of the Indian Medical Service’ 1615-1930 (pub. London 1930)  
Dodwell and Miles ’Alphabetical List of Medical Officers of the Indian Army’ 1839
British Library Reading Room copy of the Bengal Directory 1815
The Bengal Almanac 1815 British Library.
Pembrokeshire Archives.
Letters from NLW Aberystwyth.


John Howell’s will

John died 1819 at Fort William, Bengal  
(EIC wills 1780-1938 L-AG-34-29-31 page 805)

This is the last will and testament of me John Howell Assistant Surgeon in the honourable East India Company Service and upon their Bengal establishment as follows.

‘That is to say first I give and bequeath to my brother Howell Howell the sum of one hundred pounds.To my brother Thomas Howell the sum of one hundred pounds.
To my sister *Catherine Phillips one hundred pounds.
To my sister Elizabeth Bowen and her children the sum of one hundred pounds in equal shares.
To my sister Amy Edwards one hundred pounds and to my sister Sophia Thomas the sum of one hundred pounds. And in case any or either of my said brothers and sisters should die before me then my will and desire is that the legacy of any sister or brother dying  before me should go among the surviving children of my brothers and sisters in equal shares. The above mentioned legacies shall be paid within two years of my death.

I hereby do appoint the Reverend Thomas Thomas of Kibworth Harcourt in the county of Leicester, George Sargent -Captain in the 7th regiment of Bengal native Infantry and **David Lewis Assistant surgeon on the Bengal establishment to be executors of this my last will and testament…….

7th February 1818


John Howell   Mary Fields     Jeremiah Goodman of Kibworth, Clerk.

A codicil added to the will left  £300 to his uncle Rev. Thomas Thomas

** A relative / cousin  of John Howell and the son of the Rev David Lewis Vicar of Abernant the subject of another of the memorials in St Lucia’s Abernant Church.
This Dr David Lewis son of the Rev. David Lewis was also an assistant surgeon with the E.I.C. in India.

Contributed by Jeni Molyneux  (November 2019)