Stamford Raffles’s birth
Thomas Stamford Raffles (Sir) (b. 6 July 1781, off Port Morant, Jamaica–d. 5 July 1826, Middlesex, England), known as the founder of modern Singapore, was born at sea off Jamaica on 6 July 1781 on board the West Indiaman Ann. The Ann was the ship captained by his father, Benjamin Raffles.1 His full name at birth was Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, where each name had significance to people who had influence over him or his family.2
Although the ship Ann had been at anchor at Port Morant, Jamaica, for some days, Ann Lyde, Benjamin Raffles’s wife, gave birth only the day after the ship had pulled out of port. Raffles was thus born at sea on 6 July 1781 (or 5 July, according to sea reckoning which calculates a full day from noon to noon rather than midnight to midnight).3
The baby was named Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles at a christening ceremony on board the ship, with Stamford of Jamaica and Bingley of London as the child’s godfathers. But he was rechristened Thomas Raffles by his uncle, the Reverend John Linderman, on 4 July 1784 at Eaton Bishop, Herefordshire, during a combined christening with his sister Harriet who was born in 1783. Linderman was the brother-in-law of Anne Lyde.4 Raffles was the only surviving son of Benjamin Raffles.5
The name Thomas was a reference to his grandfather (d. 1784) who had been a clerk for nearly 40 years at the Prerogative Office, Doctors’ Commons.6 Raffles never used the name Bingley, denying that Thomas Bingley had ever been his godfather, although historians believe the wealthy Bingley had financially assisted the family during Raffles’s cash-strapped childhood years. Stamford remains a shadowy figure, although a Thomas Stamford has been identified – a merchant who traded between London and Jamaica during the same period Raffles was born. Raffles only officially used the name Stamford after his knighthood.7
The Ann was part of a convoy of 200 ships that were on the way to England and North America after a stopover in the lucrative slave trade of the Carribeans. She was a 260-tonner with 8 four-pounders. Built in 1765 in Scotland, the ship was owned by Hibberts & Co. of Glasgow with a possibility that Benjamin Raffles had a share in it.8
1. John Bastin and Julie Weizenegger, The Family of Sir Stamford Raffles (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2016), 13 (Call no. RSING 959.57030922 BAS-[HIS]); John Bastin, Letters and Books of Sir Stamford Raffles and Lady Raffles: The Tang Holdings Collection of Autograph Letters and Books of Sir Stamford Raffles and Lady Raffles (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2009), 17–18 (Call no. RSING 959.5703092 BAS-[HIS]); Hugh Edward Egerton, Sir Stamford Raffles: England in the Far East (London: T.F. Unwin, 1900), 1–3, appendix 1. (Call no. RCLOS 959.570210924 RAF-[GH])
2. Egerton, England in the Far East, 2; C. E. Wurtzburg, ed., Raffles of the Eastern Isles (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 15–17 (Call no. RSING 959.570210924 RAF.W-[HIS]); Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of Days (Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, 1993), 126. (Call no. RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS])
3. Egerton, England in the Far East, 2; Wurtzburg, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 15–17; Book of Days, 126.
4. Wurtzburg, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 15; Wurtzburg, “The Birthday of Sir Stamford Raffles,” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 20, no. 1 (141) (June 1947), 187. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website)
5. Wurtzburg, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 16.
6. Bastin and Weizenegger, Family of Sir Stamford Raffles, 24–25; Wurtzburg, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, appendix v.
7. Bastin and Weizenegger, Family of Sir Stamford Raffles, 24–25; Wurtzburg, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, appendix v.
8. Bastin and Weizenegger, Family of Sir Stamford Raffles, 36; Bastin, Letters and Books of Sir Stamford Raffles and Lady Raffles, 227; Wurtzburg, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 15–17.
Eli Solomon, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: A Comprehensive Bibliography (Singapore: Singapore Resource Library, National Library Board, 1997). (Call no. RSING 016.95957 SIR)
Emily Hahn, Raffles of Singapore: A Biography (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1968), 1–12. (Call no. RSING 959.570210924 RAF)
Maurice Collis, Raffles (Singapore: G. Brash, 1982). (Call no. RSING 959.570210924 RAF)
The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.