Venables, Edward Frederick (DNB00)


VENABLES, EDWARD FREDERICK (1818–1858), one of the heroes of the Indian mutiny, born on 5 May 1815, was the third son of Lazarus Jones Venables, barrister-at-law, of Liverpool and Woodhill, Shropshire, by Alice, daughter of Thomas Jolley of Liverpool. He early went to India as an indigo-planter, and at the time of the outbreak of the mutiny was settled near Azimghur in the North-West Provinces. After the rising of the 17th native infantry on 3 June 1857, he left Azimghur for Ghazipur. But some planters and clerks having been left behind, Venables and another planter, named M. P. Dunn, determined to rescue them. No help was afforded them by the commissioner of the division, and when they set out on the 16th they had only a few native mounted constables, given them by A. Ross, the magistrate at Ghazipur. To these, however, Venables was able to add some of the tenants on his own estates at Duri Ghat and a few refugees from surrounding villages. Having obtained the assistance from within the town of Ali Bakh, a native collector, Venables compelled the 13th irregular cavalry to abandon Azimghur and reoccupied it. On 10 July he took the offensive against the sepoys with seventy-five mounted constables, an old gun, and a loyal native regiment. He stormed the police-station and released his friends. When, however, on the 16th he attacked the rajputs of the Palwar clan at Koilsa, he was deserted by his sepoys and had to re-enter Azimghur. Two days later reinforcements reached him, but most of them he sent to Ghazipur. On the 20th he marched out again with the rest, and, though compelled to retire before superior forces, the retreat, in which Venables himself led the cavalry, was so masterly that the rebels very soon retired from before Azimghur. But on 29 July, under orders from Commissioner Tucker, it was once more evacuated, Venables retiring a second time to Ghazipur. But Azimghur having been in August occupied by the Nepaulese allies, Venables again took part in an advance on it. On 19 Sept., when the rebels were surprised at Mandori, he, though only a volunteer, commanded the cavalry, was first up to the first gun taken, and killed three men with his own hand. Five hundred rupees were now offered by the sepoys for his head.

Venables next rode as a volunteer with General Sir Thomas Harte Franks [q. v.] in his march from Eastern Oudh to Lucknow, and rendered splendid services. In the early spring of 1858 he had retired to Allahabad in broken health and spirits, and was looking forward to a return to England, when Lord Canning persuaded him to again volunteer his services at Azimghur. His judgment and local knowledge were of great value to Lord Mark Kerr and Sir E. Lugard. With the former Venables re-entered Azimghur on 6 April. While engaged in the pursuit of Koor Singh after his defeat by Lugard on the 15th, he was mortally wounded, and he died four days later, on 19 April. When, in the following June, the Calcutta chamber of commerce met to consider the question of a memorial to Venables, Lord Canning, the governor-general, wrote commending his intrepidity, energy, and calm temper, and his ‘thoroughly just appreciation of the people and circumstances with which he had to deal.’

Venables, his two elder brothers being dead, had inherited from his father in 1856 the family estates near Oswestry in Shropshire. He married, in 1851, Eliza Power, daughter of R. H. Kinchant, esq., of Park Hall, Oswestry, but left no issue. His younger brother became heir to the property.

[Burke's Landed Gentry, 4th ed. pt. ii.; Kaye and Malleson's Indian Mutiny, 1889, vols. iv. vi.; H. G. Keene's Fifty-Seven, ch. vii.; Ann. Reg. 1858, App. to Chron. pp. 462–3; Ward's Men of the Reign.]

G. Le G. N.