Sunday, 23 May 2010

Photos of Bombay in 1857

Figure 1. The Esplanade, Bombay 1857.
Please click on this image and later ones for larger images.

The following photographs of Bombay were taken either by, or for Captain Charles Barton of the Bombay Artillery.

Charles had been serving with the Expeditionary Force which had landed in Persia in 1856. While on that expedition, he or one of his colleagues had acquired a camera.

The expeditionary force started to leave Persia in May 1857 to return to India. It is not clear on which of the ships Charles and his fellow officers came back on, but it is probable that these photos were taken between June and December 1857.

The first photo suggests that the returning troops were at first unable to find room in the barracks or hotels in Bombay, so that they had set up camps inside gardens of bungalows along the Esplanade. The two tents are identical to those in the photo taken of his camp at Bushire earlier that year.

Figure 2. The Adelphi Hotel Bombay. Dec 1857.
This hotel is believed to have been at Byculla.

The expeditionary force returned to India expecting to move into Cantonments where they could recuperate after a long and gruelling campaign in the heat and the dust of the Gulf.

As the first ships pulled into Bombay they were greeted with the news that the Bengal Presidency Army had mutinied, and that it was very probable that the Bombay Army might do so at any moment.

Figure 3. Temple at the Byculla Station Bombay.
This temple was close to the Adelphi Hotel shown above.

General Havelock, the expeditionary force commander. and the European Regiments were almost immediately re-embarked on steamers for the voyage to Calcutta, where Havelock was to take over command of the relief forces moving inland up the Ganges.

It must have been a time of extraordinary fear and tension.

Charles Barton at this time was a staff officer working with several batteries and he seems to have spent several weeks and possibly longer in Bombay. During this time most of the balance of the troops returned from Persia were moving up the Ghats and inland towards Ahmednugger.

It appears likely that by December 1857 Charles had moved into the Adelphi Hotel. He had married Elizabeth Birch in November 1854, and it appears from the locations where her children were born that she was living at Ahmednuggur at this time. Nuggur was of course highly exposed in the event of the mutiny spreading, and he was on the coast.

Their third daughter Lily was born on July 27th 1858 "at our house at Nuggur", when Charles was away with the expeditionary force, and it is quite probable that the upheavals of the Mutiny period contributed to her death on the 31st of July 1859. It appears that it was some kind of epidemic that carried her off, because Emily, her younger sister born on 19th July 1859 died on the 6th of August 1859, just a week after her elder sister.

It is possible that Charles move from a camp on the sea front to the Adelphi Hotel was because his wife had come down from Nuggur to avoid the danger of her being attacked in Nuggur.

Figure 4. Captain Charles James Barton.

While in Bombay, Charles who had been born on the 22nd of April 1827 at Matoonga near Bombay took the opportunity to visit locations formerly lived in by his parents.

Charles father, Captain James Barton had also been a Bombay Artillery Officer. In May 1822 he had married Eliza Hawkins, and Charles was their fourth child.

Shortly after Charles was born, his father had become Agent for Gunpowder and Superintendent of Factory, on the 1st of October 1827, a post which he held until the 19th of May 1829 when he died at Matoonga.

James was buried in the church at Matoonga, and his fellow officers put up a plaque to his memory. I have no idea if the church survives, and I would be very grateful if anybody can tell if it is still there.

Charles and his widowed mother returned to Britain, where he was brought up. Much later in his will, Charles would write of being tortured throughout his adult life by having no idea of what his father had looked like. He left strict instructions that pictures should be passed on to his youngest children to avoid this happening to them. Which probably accounts both for the existence of the following pictures as Charles visits the former home of his parents.

Figure 5. The Old Artillery Mess, Matoonga Bombay, Dec 1857.

This building is quite possibly where his father had lived and worked. Does it survive today?

Figure 6. The Old Fives Courts, Matoongha Bombay. Dec 1857.

Did his father play Fives?

I used to play it without much enthusiasm at my school. I wonder, if I might have tried harder, if I had known my great great great grandfather had played it too?

Figure 7. Pattinars, Bombay. 1857.

Bombay was a much smaller place in 1857 than it is today. Much of present day Bombay was under water in 1857. Here are a number of Indian trading vessels laid up at low water. I would be very grateful to any body with good local knowledge of Bombay who could help me locate where these pictures were taken. Sadly, I have never been to Mumbai, but it is one of the places I would like to visit, although, I expect all traces of these buildings must have gone by now.

Figure 8. A map of Bombay in 1846 showing the location of Matoonga
towards the north east tip of the island..

Figure 9. The Woodstacks Bombay 1857.

Where this was taken, or why he had this picture taken, I can only puzzle at today, but presumably there must have been hundreds of similar stacks in Bombay in those days.

1 comment:

Trisha George said...

Hi, I was really glad to come across your blog, since I hope you can help me.

I'm an undergrad student, who's hoping to do a research project on Adelphi Hotel and I was wondering whether you could give me sources for your blog? Adelphi is remarkably elusive and any link to hold on to would be great. I would really appreciate the help.