Calcutta: Past and Present/Chapter 9
A STREET SCENE IN THE NATIVE QUARTER, 1792.
[Face p. 183.
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.
IN studying the history of Calcutta it is the personal element that lays the strongest hold on the imagination; the glimpses that are caught of lives full of incident, and often of romance, are so suggestive, that they make one long to pierce the dark shadows that time has cast over all but the few prominent figures who rise high enough above their fellows to catch the light thrown backwards by history. In some few cases it is possible to piece together a chapter in a life, of the earlier portion of which no record remains, but of which the finis was written on a Calcutta tombstone which has long since crumbled to dust.
One such fragment of a life-story tells of Aaron Upjohn, who, though one of the humblest of Calcutta citizens in his day, perpetuated his name by a map of Calcutta, which he published in 1794, and for which every student of the past history of the town must be grateful.
Upjohn's life was one of adventure, and he experienced many changes of fortune. He reached India in the humble capacity of bassoon player in the band of Captain Wakeman, commander of the Rodney, a position to which we may conclude he had been driven by circumstances, for his varied attainments prove him to have been a man of some education. Possibly the desire to escape importunate creditors suggested the comparatively easy method of obtaining a passage to a land beyond their reach.
Upjohn next appears as a printer, and holder of a one-sixth share in the Chronicle. This journal, which had its offices in Bow Bazaar, where the Police Office now stands, failed in 1797, but long before that date Upjohn had become bankrupt, and his share was sold by the mortgagee in 1792. In the same year, Upjohn began his survey for the map, which he completed and published in eighteen months, a feat which, so far from obtaining praise, was censured by his contemporary critics as proof of careless haste, as they considered that such an undertaking required at least two and a half years for its proper completion. The map was published at sixty rupees a copy, but poor Upjohn does not appear to have prospered as a surveyor. There is a fleeting glimpse of him trying to cultivate cochineal in an Alipore garden, and then, bankrupt once more, he passes finally off the stage, nor is his name to be found in that sad directory of the dead, the "Bengal Obituary."
An earlier map-maker than Upjohn was Captain, afterwards Lieut-Colonel, Mark Wood, who in 1784-5 undertook a survey of the town for the commissioners of police. The work occupied over two years, and cost twenty-eight thousand rupees. This map showed each house in the town, and was on a scale of twenty-six and a half inches to the mile.
A reduced copy of Wood's map was issued in 1792 by Baillie, at the comparatively moderate price of twenty-five sicca rupees a copy, mounted on a roller, or twenty rupees if pasted on cloth. In his advertisement of this "Plan of Calcutta" in the Calcutta Gazette, Mr. Baillie excuses himself for a delay which had occurred in the publication, on the ground that he had been "waiting many months in the expectation that the streets in the native part of the town would have received new names, as those in the European quarter have lately done."
Some of the streets named at this time were, Old Court House Street, Old Post Office Street, and Old Fort Street, which included the present Dalhousie Square West, and Clive Street from Dalhousie Square to New China Bazar Street. Bankshall Street was also named about this time from the Marine House, known by the Dutch name of Bankshall, which, with the Master Attendant's Office, stood on the site now occupied by the Small Cause Court. This was the same house which, some thirty-five years earlier, had been the president's house outside the Fort Another Dutch name then in use was Tackshall for the Custom House; this stood in the south-west angle of the Old Fort; and the street which led to it from the Great Tank was called Tackshall Street, now Koila Ghat Street. In Upjohn's map the name is printed "Tankshall Street," presumably a printer's error.
In 1790 the Company built a dock at the Bankshall, for their pilot vessels. The project was an old one, for, as far back as 1767, there being then no docks in Calcutta, a plan had been considered for building one between the Marine House and the Old Fort, and utilizing the whole space between these two points, for the erection of storehouses and other buildings. The proposal fell through, and by the time the "New Dock" was built, in 1790, to the west of the Marine House, several large docks had been built, not only on the Calcutta side of the river, but also on the opposite bank at Howrah and Sulkea. "The "New Dock" never became old, for, in 1808, it was filled up again, having apparently been of little use during the eighteen years it was open.
The earliest, as well as the most important, of the Calcutta docks was established about the year 1780, by Colonel Henry Watson, chief engineer under Warren Hastings' Government,—the Colonel Watson who acted as Francis's second in his duel with Hastings. Colonel Watson obtained from Government the grant of land at Kidderpore, "for the establishment of wet and dry docks and of a marine yard, in which every facility should be created for building, repairing, and equipping vessels of war, and merchantmen."
A feature of this dock, in Colonel Watson's scheme, was the utilization of the Govindpore Creek, which then joined the river some hundred yards further south than at present. He meant to use it as a backwater to scour out the Dock ` and Circular Basin, but Major Tolly, in his operations for rendering the Creek navigable, turned it further north, so that it passed round, instead of through, Colonel Watson's wet dock. Whether owing to this change, or from some other cause, Colonel Watson was unable to continue the work for more than a few years. He spent ten lakhs of rupees in the undertaking, and built, among other vessels, the Nonsuch frigate of thirty-six guns, launched in 1781, and the Surprise of thirty-two guns in 1788, soon after which date he withdrew from the enterprise. The Dock was then acquired by Mr. A. Waddell, the Company's master builder, who, on his retirement in 1807, was succeeded at the Docks, and in his post of master builder, by Mr. James Kyd, who had been his assistant for some years.
James Kyd, and his brother Robert, who became his partner, were sons of General Alexander Kyd; they were men of high character, and were widely respected, and greatly beloved for their generous charity. James survived his brother ten years, and on his death, in 1836, the Dock, in which many fine ships had been built, was acquired by the Government, and became the Government Dockyard, the sole survivor of the large number of dockyards which had once raised expectations that shipbuilding would become the leading industry of Calcutta.
One of the dockyards from which several good ships were launched was Gillet's Dockyard, which lay to the south of the New Dock at the Bankshall, opposite to the western entrance of St John's Church. Some years later, when Gillet's Dock had been filled up, the site was occupied by the Calcutta Mint; and when this was removed, in 1829, to the New Mint, which had been built on the Strand, the Old Mint passed into the hands of Messrs. Moran & Co., indigo brokers. Long years afterwards, when this firm removed to Mango Lane, they carried with them the well-known designation of "The Old Mint Mart," to become a puzzle to later students of local topography.
In 1890, just one hundred years after the New Dock had been built, a portion of its walls were once more uncovered to the light of day, before being finally destroyed. In that year, the western extension of the Small-Cause Court was built, and, in digging, the foundations, the workmen disclosed masonry remains, which were easily identified as those of the New Dock, which, it was found, had measured fifty-three feet ten inches across, at the level of the first step.
The excavations of 1890, which uncovered the remains of the New Dock, disclosed also a portion of a large drain in perfect order, which was readily recognized as the "main drain," by which the old open sewers of the town used to be flushed. This drain, which was found to lie about sixty feet back from the present roadway of Hare Street, was arranged to admit water from the river at high tides, by means of a sluice-gate. It ran underground from the river to Dalhousie Square, where it emerged, and continued its course as a surface drain. When, at suitable tides, the sluice was opened, the inrush of water, sweeping along this channel, flushed the principal sewers of the town, and finally found an outlet in the Creek, the remains of the old Calcutta creek, which had gradually been filled up as roads were made and houses built The course of the Creek from the river had been eastward, along Hastings Street and Government Place, till it crossed Bentinck Street; here it took a sweep to the south, and so again eastward along the southern side of Dhurrumtolla Street, a locality marked in the old maps as Dinga Banga (" Broken or Wrecked Boat "), till it returned to a more northerly course near Wellington Square. From this point, till it found its way to the salt-water lakes at Belliaghatta, the old bed of the Creek remained, long after the closing of its connection with the river had deprived it of its stream, and turned it into a ditch which served to carry off the surface drainage. It was into this ditch, at what is now Wellington Square, that the sewers discharged their contents.
One of the improvements made in the town, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, was the filling up of as much of the Creek as remained between Circular Road and Wellington Square, which was then made, and laying a road along its course, which still bears the name it then received of Creek Row. About the same time, in 1805, the main drain was utilized for raising the level of the water in the Great Tank, Lai Diggie, by means of an open trench, connecting with the main drain exactly where the Dalhousie Institute now stands. In hot seasons, when the springs which supplied the tank failed to keep pace with the immense drain on them as the only source of a pure water-supply in the town, the river water used to be admitted through the main drain, and the tank kept at a proper level. That this process must have contaminated the tank water may well be imagined, when it is remembered that the river was polluted by the carcases of animals and human corpses, besides every possible form of pollution, so that its waters teemed with the germs of disease and death.
The Great Tank, it has been suggested, is fed by percolation from the river. It is of great depth, and there is a record, that when, in 1783-4, the tank was deepened, "at a depth of forty feet from the surface they found a regular row of trees, which, by the colour, seemed to be soondrie; they were pretty fresh. They were cut to the level of the bottom of the tank." There is a similar record respecting the tank which was made about 1794, and has been recently filled up, at the junction of Chowringhee Road and the Esplanade; and when the present Fort William was built, many traces of trees were found at a considerable depth below the surface of the ground. These remains are thought to be those of the great soondrie forest which once covered the site of Calcutta, when the land had newly emerged from the waters of the Gangetic Delta, which, shifting eastward, have left the once impassable tract to man, and have wrested from him what was a fertile and populated country, now a tangle of waterways among forest-hidden islands, which form the Soonderbunds.
It is something of a coincidence that as the opening years of the twentieth century have brought sweeping changes to Calcutta, and have seen the passing away of many old landmarks, and the creation of a new and more stately city, so the early years of the nineteenth century saw a similar changing of the old order; and a similar desire for the improvement of the city as that which animates her citizens to-day, filled the minds of the men of Old Calcutta.
A hundred years ago a lottery was the most popular means of obtaining money for any purpose. For the building fund of St. John's Church; in aid of the Free School; for the sale of an indigo factory or a diamond ring, a lottery would be arranged. A date would be fixed for the drawing, a committee of independent gentlemen would give their services to see that it was properly carried out, and there were always purchasers ready to take their chances, at prices ranging from one gold mohur (sixteen rupees) to several hundred rupees a ticket, according to the value of the prizes offered. These were usually very valuable, a first prize of one lakh of rupees, in cash, being not unusual. Such a lottery was organized, in 1804, by "the inhabitants of Calcutta" for the erection of the Town Hall, in commemoration of the Administrations of Lord Cornwallis and Lord Wellesley. This lottery was on a grand scale, and was repeated in successive years; so popular did it become that, in 1809, it was merged into a larger scheme of lotteries which were established "for the improvement of the town of Calcutta and its vicinity." These, the "Calcutta lotteries" were established by an order of the Governor-General in Council, to be "conducted by a superintendent, aided by a registrar and examiner, under the immediate control of commissioners appointed by Government;" and excellent work was carried out with the funds realized by them.
It is difficult now to distinguish between improvements carried out by the Lottery Committee, and changes effected at an earlier date, but from this period date some of the most important streets of the business quarter of the town, notably the Strand Road, from Chandpal Ghaut to the Mint, Hare Street, and Government Place North.
It should always be borne in mind, that the river's bank of the present day extends from fifty to two hundred and fifty yards further out than it did a century ago, when the waters flowed all along where are now busy wharves, and warehouses, and numerous buildings. At the northern end of the town, the Mayo Hospital stands on reclaimed ground; so does the Mint, which lies just beyond the highest spot of ground in Calcutta, the point where Cotton Street meets Clive Street. Coming further south, the Small Cause Court is partly, and the Sailor's Home entirely, on ground recovered from the Hughly, so is the stately Metcalfe Hall. The Bank of Bengal stands where, in days before the English occupation, the native boatmen careened their craft, on the bank of the old Creek, at Cutchagoody Ghaut In later years an avenue of trees marked this spot along the river-bank, and shaded the road known, from its neighbourhood to the Supreme Court, as King's Bench Walk. Another and a finer avenue of trees was planted, about the time of the Lottery Committee, on the river-bank from Chandpal Ghaut to the New Fort, This was known as Respondentia Walk, where Calcutta society, alighting from carriages and palanquins, promenaded in the cool of the evening; nor were dogs allowed to disturb the harmony of polite conversation, for an order of the Governor-General in Council forbade persons accompanied by dogs to be allowed in Respondentia Walk. Most of the old walk is included in the Eden Gardens, which were laid out under the direction of the Honble. Miss Eden and her sister, at the time their brother, Lord Auckland, was Governor-General, from 1836 to 1842.
It is not a little interesting and curious to compare a view of this part of the river-bank, as it is at the present day, with Baillie's "General View of Calcutta," in 1794, which shows the same locality. When Baillie made his sketch, the trees of Respondentia Walk had not been planted, to intercept the view, and to-day only one or two gnarled old survivors of their once regular rows are left to mark where stretched the Promenade. The principal object in the modern view is the massive turreted building of the High Court. In Baillie's "View" the same site is occupied by the old Supreme Court, low, and dark in spite of its long verandah, which, with the two adjoining houses, made way for the present Court, so recently as in 1872.The present-day picture shows, facing the Strand, the Bank of Bengal. When Baillie painted his "View" the King's Bench Walk crossed this spot, just above the muddy bank of the river, on which floated the wooden ships which the brave seamen of old sailed up the treacherous Hughly, under the guidance of the skilful pilots of the Ganges, and without the aid of steam or the service of tugs. Not more marked is the difference between these two pictures, of Calcutta at the end of the eighteenth century and Calcutta at the beginning of the
THE STRAND, CALCUTTA, 1900.
[Face p. 196.
The building, in the opening years of the eighteenth century, of a new Government House, which occupied the space where two of the largest of the old buildings had stood, and which dwarfed all others by comparison with its lofty proportions, not only gave a stimulus to the desire to improve the town, but obliged a rearrangement of the streets in its immediate vicinity. The new Government House covered the entire space which had been sufficient for the old Government House, the Council House, and the grounds of both houses to the north. The two southerly wings of the new building rested on the Esplanade Road, while the two wings on the north extended to Wheler Place, a road which had formed the old boundary, and took its name from Mr. Wheler, member of Warren Hastings' Council, who, in 1784, in the Governor's absence, laid the foundation-stone of St. John's Church. This road led from old Court House Street to a large private house, probably "Mr. Wheler's house," which stood just where the north-west wing of Government House ends. The house was pulled down, as were five other dwelling-houses; Wheler Place, carried through to Council House Street, became, as it remains to this day, the carriage-drive within the gates, and the Government House grounds were extended to the north to a new road, Government Place, which was made in continuation of Hastings Street, and from which another new road, Wellesley Place, was made to lead to Tank Square. Fancy Lane, Larkin's Lane, and Vansittart Row still remain what they were, but Corkscrew Lane, which led by devious twists from Wheler Place to Fancy Lane, was improved away.
Another new road made in this neighbourhood was Hare Street, which replaced one of two narrow lanes, which led to the river from an open space lying between the Bankshall and St John's Churchyard. A strip from the churchyard was taken to widen Church Lane, and the new road was laid to form a continuation of the Tank Square Road to the river-bank, which was considerably advanced. It was named after Mr. David Hare, the philanthropic watchmaker, the pioneer of native education in Calcutta, who lived in a house opposite to Bankshall Street, the wide grounds of which adjoined the churchyard. On the north side of Dalhousie Square stands one of the oldest public buildings existing in Calcutta, the handsome range of offices now known as the Bengal Secretariat, but which for nearly a century bore the name of Writers' Buildings.
The late Mr. Reginald Craufuird Sterndale, while Collector of Calcutta in 1884, found among the records of that office the original pottah of the land which was granted in October, 1776, to Mr. Thomas Lyon, " for the purpose of erecting a range of buildings for the accommodation of the junior servants of the company." Although the land was granted to Mr. Lyon, whose name has been perpetuated in Lyon's Range, the street behind the "Range," Mr. Sterndale was of opinion that he acted in the matter on behalf of Mr. Richard Barwell, the friend and steady supporter in council of Warren Hastings. Whether this was the case, or Barwell purchased the property from Lyon, he was the acknowledged owner in 1780, the year in which the building was completed and was taken by the Government on a five years' lease, when Francis wrote in his journal, " Mr. Barwells house taken for five years by his own vote. Mr. Wheler and I declare we shall not sign the lease."
The Buildings contained nineteen sets of apartments, each furnished with a separate set of out-offices, and the rent was two hundred Arcot rupees per month for each set of apartments—a handsome income for their owner.
Previous to the erection of Writers' Buildings, private houses had been leased by Government as required for the occupation of the young writers, who received free quarters, and, in common with all civil servants, drew numerous allowances in the way of diet money, palanquin hire, and, in the case of the seniors, family allowances and house-rent. In 1785, new rules were issued as to the pay and allowances of the Company's civil servants, and it was then ordered that all writers drawing less pay than three hundred rupees per month should be allowed quarters in the "New Buildings," two to each house, or set of apartments, and should receive one hundred rupees a month in lieu of all former allowances, the right to quarters to cease on being appointed to an office the salary of which exceeded three hundred rupees a month.For nearly fifty years Writers' Buildings continued in the use for which it was originally intended, and maintained a reputation for fast living and extravagance of every kind, which was only natural under the circumstances. The youthful writer, arriving in India, released from the irksome monotony of a weary six months' voyage, and free for the first time from the strict
WRITERS' BUILDINGS AND THE HOLWELL MONUMENT, 1792.
[Face p. 200.
"There are few of these young men who do not keep their horses, commonly their curricles, and, in many instances, their race-horses, which, together with the extravagant parties and entertainments frequent among them, generally involve them in difficulties and embarrassments at an early period of their lives."
The costly champagne suppers of Writers' Buildings were famous, and long did the old walls echo to "the joyous songs and loud rehearsing tally-hoes" of many generations of writers. Gradually, however, there came a change; the age for entering the Company's civil service was raised, the period of a writer's stay in Calcutta was reduced, and, at last, writers were no longer provided with quarters, but lived with friends, or in lodgings at their own expense.
For some years Writers' Buildings remained deserted; then the sets of apartments were let to private individuals and for offices. The next change saw them occupied as Government offices; and, lastly, came alterations and additions which crowned the old bare range with domes, and masked it with a stately fagade, and Writers' Buildings were lost in the Bengal Secretariat.
Before leaving this, the oldest quarter of the town, it is well to recall that, up to about 1810, the southern portion of Dalhousie Square, a strip of land about two hundred and fifty yards long by fifty yards wide, at the south-west end of which stood the stables of the Governor's Bodyguard, was the Parade Ground, on which the Militia and Volunteers of Calcutta paraded.
It was in 1752 that the Worshipful Court of Directors sent orders to Calcutta that a body of Militia should be formed; and, in September of that year, the Calcutta Board reported that—
"in obedience to your Honour's orders, Captain Commandant George Minchin proposes, as soon as the weather sets in a little more temperate, to fix and appoint proper sergeants and corporals, out of the military, for instructing such of the inhabitants as are unacquainted with the manual exercise, when we shall appoint officers to command them."
In November, accordingly, the new officers of the Militia, Colonel Cruttenden in command, were ordered to "attend on the Parade on Monday, 20th November, at six of the clock, in the morning." A week later, it was notified that, "several of the inhabitants of this town having absented themselves from attending the Militia," a list of their names was to be affixed at the Fort gates, and, in case of future non-attendance, "they may expect to meet with proper resentment from the Board." Evidently the new orders were unpopular, and the threat too vague to induce obedience, for four years later, in 1756, the Court in severe terms desired to know the reason why a Militia had not been formed, and insisted that their orders should be carried out without delay, "as, at this time in particular, a regular Militia may be of the greatest importance for the defence of the settlement."
This grave warning must have risen accusingly in the minds of many members of the Calcutta Board, when, a few weeks later, they hurriedly prepared to defend Calcutta against the army of Suraj-ud-Dowlah. On the approach of the nawab, a body of Militia two hundred and fifty strong, including Europeans, Armenians, and Portuguese, was hurriedly got together, under the command of civilian officers, among them Mr. Holwell, commanding the first company, and the junior chaplain, the Reverend Robert Mapletoft, as one of the captain-lieutenants. Several others of the Company's civil servants formed themselves into a company of Volunteers, and did excellent service. The Militia, too, fought well in the earlier part of the siege, but became disheartened, and finally collapsed in abject fear, adding greatly to the difficulties of the defenders.
After the fall of Calcutta, the Militia were re-organized at Fulta, and we can fancy that drilling at that time was carried out in deadly earnest Many of the Company's servants joined the Regulars, but the others formed a company of Volunteers, who marched, and fought with Clive's troops at the recapture of Calcutta and in the operations that followed. Colonel Broome, in his "History of the Bengal Army," states that when, in October, 1759,—
"a Dutch fleet arrived in the river, with seven hundred Europeans and eight hundred Malay troops, and, under secret agreement with Meer Jaffir, threatened to dispossess the English of their privileges of trade, etc., Clive called out the Militia, a body of about three hundred, of whom nearly two hundred and fifty were Europeans; and a body of Volunteers was formed from amongst the respectable class of English, of whom about twenty or thirty formed a troop of horse, and about as many more an independent company of foot, who were available for any service."
At the battle of Bedarrah, near Chandernagore, when the English gained a decisive victory over the Dutch troops, while fifteen hundred of the nawab's cavalry looked on, but took no part in the engagement, "the troop of horse were very useful in pursuing the enemy."
Again, in 1763, when the English marched to Murshedabad, to depose Kossim All, the nawab of their own creating, the Militia were once more called out, and a company of Volunteers formed, "which company subsequently left Calcutta in charge of a fleet of store-boats, and continued to perform that duty till the close of the operations."
With the passing away of the days of struggle and stress, went the need for the Militia. The last body raised became the "Alipore Regiment" of Native Infantry, and was incorporated with the regular army. When, in the troubles of 1857, Volunteer troops once more paraded for service, they had the wide maidan for their parade-ground, and it is difficult now to realize what Calcutta must have been when that grassy plain was a jungle-grown swamp, and the only available parade-ground was the narrow strip beside the Great Tank.
A view of the east side of the Great Tank, painted in 1784, shows a narrow portion of the Parade Ground, on which are seen the figures of three Militia men, advancing in single file, musket on shoulder, dressed in a quaint uniform. A close-fitting coat of cut-away pattern shows a tight under-jacket, and broad belt, below which appears a garment, in the nature of a Highlander's trews. No draping kilt nor plaided stockings detract from its severe simplicity, which leaves the limbs to untrammelled freedom. The feet are unshod, and the head crowned with a conical hat apparently of matting.
All the details of this picture repay close study, the crowding figures at the Ghaut, ascending and descending the steep steps, the water carrier toiling under the heavy load of the full water-bag, the bent figure of age, led by a little child, the passing crowds in the street beyond, and over their heads the ungainly shapes of huge vultures flapping heavily through the air, or ranged in rows on the balustraded housetops.In all the old views of Calcutta the street scenes are most striking, and in those executed by the Brothers Daniell the details are worked in with painstaking care, and repay close study.
THE GREAT TANK, 1788.
[Face p. 206.
Many a ghastly tragedy was enacted in these same streets, along which haggard penitents passed, measuring with their own outstretched length every foot of the way to Kali's shrine; and ash-bedaubed jogies, religious mendicants, insolently proud of their degraded hideousness, demanded gifts in the name of alms, and cursed with horrid imprecation any who incurred their displeasure. When cholera swept the town, the dead lay on the roadside, where they were thrown in terror by those who should have performed the last rites; and in years of famine, when the famished villagers of the surrounding country-side sought the town in hope of succour, only to fall exhausted in the unfamiliar streets, the dead and dying lay where they fell, a common prey to ravening bird and beast. It was in the public street, too, that the criminal met his death upon the scaffold. Executions, for robbery as well as murder, were in some cases carried out on or near the scene of the crime. Otherwise they took place at the cross-roads where Chitpore Road and Bentinck Street meet Bow Bazar; and it was here that a European soldier, named Gale, was hung for murder, in December, 1797.
It was in the same year, 1797, that an extraordinary and exciting scene took place in Sudder Street, just off Chowringhee Road, in a house which is now included in the buildings of the Imperial Museum. This house was the property of Mr. Peter Speke, member of Council, who built it in 1790. The grounds extended to Kyd Street, and included the Kyd Street Tank, a sheet of water which may be readily found marked on the "Plan of Calcutta, 1742." The public had the right of access to this tank, which Mr. Speke desired to keep private, and to surround with a garden; to obtain which purpose an ingenious scheme was devised. The ghaut was removed from the east bank, to the south side, where the boundary was formed by the then new road, Kyd Street, named after General Alexander Kyd, who built and lived in the house which has been for so many years the United Service Club. The ghaut opened on this road, and over the steps an arch was thrown, and was built up with a perforated wall, which, while it allowed the water to flow freely through, effectually shut out the people who came to draw water from entering the tank, which was surrounded by a high wall. It was this perforated wall which obtained for the tank its native name of Jhinjherrie Talao (the "Mesh-work Tank ").
In May, 1797, Mr. Speke had refused to receive a petition from a young Sikh, who, becoming importunate, was turned out of the house. Resenting this treatment, the unfortunate man, rushing into the house, killed two servants, and tried to enter Mr. Speke's room. His bearer with great presence of mind locked his master's door and misled the murderer, who, ascending the wrong staircase, reached the terraced roof, and was trapped. A party of sepoys—after trying in vain for some hours to reach the roof, the murderer keeping them at bay by pulling up the balustrades, and throwing the masonry on them in the narrow passage—broke loopholes in the wall of the staircase, and shot him dead, in the sight of an immense crowd gathered below.
The house was afterwards rented to Government by Mr. Speke for the Sudder Dewanny Court, and led to the name of the street being changed from Speke Road to Sudder Street, a name which it bears to this day.
The custom of naming streets after the most important resident has perpetuated the memory of Sir Henry Russell, a former Chief Justice; of Sir John Royds, a judge of the Supreme Court, who lived in the house afterwards the Doveton College; and of Lieutenant Camac, an Engineer officer, who, when the town was spreading southward, took up land in a hitherto unbuilt locality, and erected dwelling-houses as a speculation—as did Colonel Wood, another Engineer officer, on an adjoining piece of land.
Park Street, as all Calcutta residents are aware, received its name at a time when the more sensitive ears of a later generation were offended by the blunt "Burying Ground Road" of their predecessors. The "Park" was formed by the extensive grounds of a house in which Sir Elijah Impey resided, on a site in Middleton Row, now occupied by Lorretto House, the Roman Catholic convent In front of the old house was a circular pond, or tank, at the exact spot where Middleton Row turns at right angles, and the present road runs over what was the carriage-drive from Park Street to the house. That a large house, probably the identical house of Sir Elijah Impey's time, stood on this spot, surrounded by the same grounds, nearly half a century before his day, may be seen by reference to the "Plan of Calcutta" of 1742: it cannot have been an English residence, and was possibly the property of a native official. When Middleton Street was made about 1815, and named after Bishop Middleton, the first Bishop of Calcutta, then newly created a Bishopric, the old house was still standing, but within a few years it was "improved" away, and Middleton Row cut up the old Park, and afforded eligible building sites for speculative builders.
Opening into Park Street nearly opposite to Middleton Row is Free School Street, leading to the Free School. This school was established in 1790, in connection with the Mission Church, and in 1800 it was united to the old Charity School, then seventy-one years old. About the time that the two schools were united, a house in Jaun Bazaar, in which Justice Lemaistre, one of the judges who tried Nuncomar, had lived, was purchased for their accommodation, and there they have remained ever since. The present spacious buildings, however, present a very different appearance to the old house, which fell in 1854, through jackals undermining the foundations. When the school first moved into the Jaun Bazar house, the lands surrounding it were mostly open fields among which were scattered villages, with here and there a garden house, standing in wide grounds. The road leading to it from Jaun Bazar was called Jaun Bazar Fourth Lane, and another lane led to Park Street It was on the line of these two lanes that Free School Street was made, about 1810.
One street, not usually connected with a personal name, is Swallow Lane, where lived, at the time the streets were being named, one Mr. L'Hirondelle; another street, generally supposed, mistakenly, to have received the name of a resident, is Cotton Street, which was known, long before it obtained the English appellation, as Rooie-Hutta or Cotton Market, where, on the highest ground in all Calcutta, raw cotton used to be sold, in all probability to the spinners and weavers of old Chuttanutty.
Another name dating from the earliest years of the English settlement remains in Boitakhana, the locality at the Circular Road end of Bow Bazar. The tree which marked the Boitakhana, or Meeting-place—literally "Sitting-place,"—does not appear to have been an old tree, though it was, no doubt, large and shady. It stood on the edge of the Mahratta Ditch, just opposite the Avenue, as Bow Bazar was called, and must have commanded a clear view of the old Fort, to the main gate of which this wide road led. In 1799, when the Mahratta Ditch was filled up, and the road which followed its course on the town side was widened, and became the present Circular Road, the Boitakhana tree which stood right in the course of the new road was cut down. The felling of the tree caused some little stir at the time, as it was said to be an object of veneration to the natives. The circumstance was reported to the Governor-General, Lord Mornington, who desired that the tree should be spared, but found that it had already been cut down. On inquiry, it was found that the supposed veneration arose from the fact that Suraj-ud-Dowlah, when directing the siege of Fort William, had sat under this tree, safely out of the reach of danger.