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Calcutta: Past and Present

Cover of Calcutta, Past & Present.jpg

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CALCUTTA: PAST AND PRESENT

 

General view of Calcutta by William Baillie (1794).jpg
General View of CALCUTTA, taken near the Sluice of Fort William.
From an engraving by W. Baillie, 1794.

CALCUTTA
PAST AND
PRESENT

By KATHLEEN BLECHYNDEN

 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND
ENGRAVINGS, AND A COLOURED
FRONTISPIECE

 

LONDON
W. THACKER & CO., 2, CREED LANE, E.C.

THACKER, SPINK & CO., CALCUTTA AND SIMLA
1905
All rights reserved

 

PRINTED BY
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
LONDON AND BECCLES.

 

 

PREFACE


In a field of research which has known the learned labours of Sir Henry Yule, Mr. J. Talboys Wheeler, the Record Commission, and Mr. H. Beveridge, followed by Dr. Busteed, the Rev. H. B. Hyde, and the late Mr. C. R. Wilson, it might have been thought that there was little room for other workers; yet, where the harvest is so abundant, a simple gleaner may venture to follow in the wake of these stalwart reapers, and bring her modest sheaf to the great storehouse of history.

Such a thought has encouraged me to put forward this little book. My aim has not been to give any account of the great deeds by which the men of old Calcutta laid the foundations of the British Empire in the East, but rather to try and depict the lives they led, their daily cares and amusements, the wives and daughters who lightened their exile, the houses in which they dwelt, the servants who waited on them, the food they ate, the wines they drank, the scenes amid which they moved, the graves in which they laid their loved ones or sank themselves to rest.

In gathering material for these pages I have had the great advantage of a family connection with Calcutta, extending over many years, which has placed at my disposal old diaries and other personal records, besides maps of the town on which changes and improvements were recorded as they were made. These, together with an intimate knowledge of the city, gained during several years' residence in it, have enabled me to construct a mental picture of the life of old Calcutta, which is so vivid as to leave an impression of having really borne a part in it myself. It is this picture, this sense of reality, which I have tried—inadequate as I feel the effort has been—to convey to my readers.

For the illustrations I am greatly indebted to the publishers, who have spared neither trouble nor expense in reproducing old portraits and engravings, as well as modern photographs. They will be found to be, some of them unique, and all, we believe, of great interest, and such as are not readily available to the larger number of those who are interested in the subject.

In conclusion, I may say that, wherever I have taken information or quoted from the published writings of others, I have been careful to acknowledge my authority. And if the book as a whole owes its inspiration to the labours of others, it is so in every department of human effort; for each fresh toiler must ever hear, echoing out of the past, the message that came to Kipling's builder from the wreckage of a former builder's plan, "Tell him, I too, have known."

K. B.

1905.

 

 

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

EARLY YEARS

page

Founding of Calcutta by Charnock in 1690—The three villages and their situation—Charnock's grave, and its opening in 1892—The 1715 embassy to Delhi—Surgeon Hamilton, his services, death, and epitaph—The building of the old fort—The church—The park—Social conditions
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
1

CHAPTER II

THE SIEGE AND CAPTURE

The Mahratta Ditch—Aliverdi Khan, and Suraj-ud-Dowlah—The siege and capture of Calcutta—The Black Hole, and Monument—Holwell and companions at Murshedabad, and their release
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
31

CHAPTER III

RECOVERY AND AFTER

The refugees at Fulta— Warren Hastings' first marriage—The recovery of Calcutta—The condition of the town and different buildings—The nawab's army—The last Battle of Calcutta—The taking of Chandernagore—"Billy" Speke—Plassey—The fate of Suraj-ud-Dowlah
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
49

CHAPTER IV

PUBLIC BUILDINGS

Calcutta buildings in the eighteenth century—Government House—The Council House—Court House—Hospital—Burying-ground—Old Church and the Rev. Kiernander—The New Fort and Hastings
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
68

CHAPTER V

IN HASTINGS' DAY

Jaffir Ali's deposition, and residence at Alipore—Hastings' connection with Alipore; his second wife—Mrs. Hastings' town house—Mrs. Fay and her house—Francis and his houses—The site of the duel—Major Tolly and "Belvedere," and Tolly's Nullah
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
89

CHAPTER VI

SOCIAL LIFE

Social manners and customs—Servants—Food—Wines—Hookahs—Carriages—Government House festivities—Rejoicings after Seringapatam—Clive's "bill" for earlier rejoicings, 1766—Court House gaieties—Balls
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
107

CHAPTER VII

THE CHURCHES

St. John's Church—Fashions at Church—Palanquins—Carriages—St. Paul's Cathedral—Zoffany's picture at St. John's and at Brentford—Begum Johnson, and her history
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
129

CHAPTER VIII

TOLD BY THE TOMBS

Burying Ground Road (Park Street)—The Cemeteries—Tomb of Sir W. Jones, with contemporary account of his death and funeral—Col. Kyd, his will, details of his funeral, and site of his grave—Tombs connected with English literature: Richmond Thackeray, Col. Kirkpatrick, Rose Aylmer—Chambers' child, with some account of the loss of the Grosvenor East Indiaman
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
150

CHAPTER IX

STREETS AND HOUSES

Old maps—Names of streets—Docks—The main drain—The Creek—Government House grounds—The militia and their parade-ground—Street scenes—Executions—Old houses—Sudder Street—Park Street—Boitakhana tree
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
183

CHAPTER X

NEAR AND FAR

Hughly—The Portuguese—Introduction of tobacco—Chinsurah—Serampore—The Serampore missionaries—River scenes—Suttie—Barrackpore—Dum Dum
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
214

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

page

General View of Calcutta, 1794
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
Frontispiece

From a coloured engraving, one of a series published by Baillie in 1794. The view is taken from Fort point, and shows the Supreme Court on the site of the present High Court. The stern of a vessel on the stocks can be seen on the strand at Cutchagoody Ghat, on the bank of the old creek, the site now occupied by the Bank of Bengal.

The Charnock Mausoleum
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
10

From an original photograph. The pavement round the mausoleum is formed of old tombstones. Many of the epitaphs are in raised lettering, and nearly all are legible.

Plan of Calcutta, 1742
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
32

Reduced from the inset map in Upjohn's map of Calcutta, 1794. Several landmarks of modern Calcutta may be readily recognized, notably the great tank in Dalhousie Square; the old pilgrim route along Chitpore Road, Bentinck Street, and Chowringhee; and "The Avenue," now Bow Bazar. The Kyd Street tank can also be identified at the southern end of the settlement, and near it, just on the southern boundary, a house with extensive grounds, known later as Sir Elijah Impey's Park, from which Park Street took its name. The plan also shows the batteries and palisades hurriedly constructed to defend the town against Suraj-ud-Dowlah in 1756, and the earlier works of 1742, when Mahratta raids were feared. There is also marked on it the line of Clive's march through the fog and darkness of the early morning hours of the 5th February, 1757, when he drove the Nawab and his great army to a hasty retreat.

The Holwell Monument and Bengal Secretariat 1905
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
44

From a photograph by Messrs. Bourne and Shepherd, Calcutta. The monument here shown is a replica in white marble of the brick-built monument which Holwell erected to mark the common grave of his fellow-sufferers in the Black Hole prison. The replica, erected by Lord Curzon in 1902, and by him presented to the city as a personal gift, is slightly taller than the original, to be in keeping with the modern façade and lofty domes which mask the old Writers' Buildings, now the Bengal Secretariat.

Plan and Elevation of the Holwell Monument
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
48

Reduced from an old print.

Lord Clive
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
57

Robert Clive, First Baron Clive of Plassey. From a portrait in the British Museum. Painted by Nathaniel Dance, engraved by Bartolozzi, 1788.

Admiral Charles Watson
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
65

Vice-Admiral of the White, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's forces in the East Indies. From a portrait in the British Museum. Painted by F. Hudson, engraved by E. Fisher.

Government House and Council House, Calcutta, 1794
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
73

From an engraving by Baillie.

The Old Court House, about 1784
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
85

From a photograph of a painting by Lieut.-Colonel Mark Wood, published by Orme, 1805. Lieut.-Colonel Mark Wood surveyed the town of Calcutta for the Commissioners of Police in the years 1784-85, and it may be safely conjectured that it was about this period that he painted the view of the old Court House, which a few years later fell into decay, and was taken down in 1792.

Warren Hastings
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
91

Governor-General of Bengal. From a portrait in the British Museum. Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, engraved by T. Knight.

Hastings House
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
95

From original photographs, 1895.

Mrs. Fay's House and Kidderpore House
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
98

Mrs. Fay's House from an original photograph, 1895; Kidderpore House from an engraving by Baillie, 1794.

Sir Philip Francis
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
106

From a portrait in the British Museum after J. Lonsdale, engraved by Freeman.

Council House and Esplanade, 1792
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
114

From an engraving by the Brothers Daniell.

Chowringhee from the Maidan, 1792
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
126

From an engraving by the Brothers Daniell.

St. John's Church, 1794
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
131

From an engraving by Baillie. This view shows some of the old monuments in a ruinous condition, with trees growing out of the masonry and breaking it asunder.

St. John's Church, 1905
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
137

From a photograph by Messrs. Bourne and Shepherd. This view of St. John's shows the building as it is at the present day, with the various changes made during the century and a quarter of its existence, including the verandahs on each side, and the Venetians fitted to the portico for protection from the weather.

St. Paul's Cathedral
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
139

From a photograph by Messrs. Bourne and Shepherd, Calcutta.

Zoffany's Picture, St. John's Church, Calcutta
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
141

From a photograph.

Zoffany's Picture, St. George's Church, Brentford
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
144

From a photograph by Mr. J. Wakefield, Brentford.

Sir William Jones' and Rose Aylmer's Monuments
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
153

From original photographs. These two views show very clearly the monuments of various shapes and sizes, "obelisks, pagodas, etc.," which crowd the Park Street Burying Grounds.

Sir William Jones and Lieut.-Col. Robert Kyd
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
158

Sir W. Jones, from a portrait in the British Museum. Painted by A. V. Devis, Calcutta, engraved by Evans. Lieut.-Col. Robert Kyd, from a portrait in chalks, now in the possession of the Agri-horticultural Society of India.

Richmond Thackeray's Tomb and Kiernander Family Vault
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
173

From original photographs.

A Street Scene in the Native Quarter, 1792
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
183

From an engraving by the Brothers Daniell. The view is in Chitpore Road.

The Strand, Calcutta, 1900
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
196

From a photograph by Messrs. Johnston and Hoffman. This picture shows what is practically the same view as that shown in the frontispiece with the High Court in place of the Supreme Court, and the Bank of Bengal on the old careening yard.

Writers' Buildings and the Howell Monument, 1792
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
200

From an engraving by the Brothers Daniell. This is a view of the same locality taken from the same point as that of the replica of the monument at page 44, and a comparison of the two is deeply interesting.

The Great Tank, 1788
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
206

From a photograph of an engraving said to be by the Brothers Daniell, 1788. There were at this period no houses between the Old, or Mission Church, and the Tank, Dalhousie Square. The three figures in the fore-ground are those of Militia men on their parade ground.

The Hughly Imambara
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
221

From original photographs.

Chandernagore and Cargo Boats on the Hughly
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
227

From original photographs.

Government House and Park, Barrackpore
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
234

From original photographs.

 

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).