Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sir Bartle Frere and family




Sir Bartle Frere, his staff and family. From Left to right Sir Bartle Frere, Miss Frere, Moore CS. Mansfield CS. Marston, Lady Frere, Miss Frere.

The photograph above is believed to have been taken in Karachi, as it appears along with several other photos from my great great grandfathers collection, which are all marked as having been taken in Karachi in 1866. Sir Bartle Frere (1815-1884)  who was Governor of Bombay,  was planning to return to England in the following year, and it is very probable that the photograph was taken during his last visit to Karachi where he had spent much of his earlier career as Chief Commissioner for Sindh.


A rather poor photo of government house Karachi in the same year.

One of the two Miss Frere's must be Mary Frere (1845 to 1911) who wrote Old Deccan Days; or, Hindoo Fairy Legends, Current in Southern India. Collected From Oral Tradition with help from an ayah called Anna Liberata de Souza, who was a Christian convert from the Lingayat community.

Mary had received encouragement and assistance from time to time from her father. She accompanied her father on his frequent journeys around the Bombay Presidency.



Anna Liberata de Souza,


Marston, shown in the first was Edward Marston, who at that time was running the police force in Karachi and Sind. He was a larger than life character who led a very eventful life as his obituary written in 1902 shows.

“A BRAVE SOLDIER. DEATH OF GEN. MARSTON. The last mail has brought the news of the death at Karachi of Major-General Edward Charles Marston, of the Bombay Army, at the age of 80. He entered the army in 1839, and served with Gen. Sir Richard England's forces in the Afghan war. the battle of Meeanee, in 1843, when Sir Charles Napier defeated the Ameers Sind, he performed a feat which nowadays would have been rewarded with the Victoria Cross. He encountered and slew with his sword three huge Beluchis who were making for the General, and saved Sir Charles Napier's life. When Sir Charles organized the Sind police, on the model of which the police throughout the rest of India were established later, he entrusted the raising and command of the Karachi district police force to Lieutenant Marston, who became Commandant of Police for the province in a few years, A man of great activity and powerful physique. Sir R. Burton describes him as excelling every native sportsman in stripping the hills of ibex and wild sheep, and in 1855 Sir Bartle Frere brought specially to the notice of the Bombay Government his undaunted courage in a single-handed encounter with a gang of Afghan burglars. After his retirement about 25 years ago he spent the remainder of his life in Karachi, a place for which had a great attachment. He became a major-general 1891.” [2]



[1] From http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Old_Deccan_Days/The_Narrator's_Narrative This narrative is an extremely interesting account which deals with the life of Anna's father and grandfather. Her grandparents had campaigned in the wars with Tipu and were present at Kirkee.  Deccan Days can be read here http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Old_Deccan_Days/The_Narrator's_Narrative
[2] From Cheltenham Chronicle - Saturday 19 April 1902



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Kamptee Bridge & a case of Criminal Conversation




Figure 1. Kamptee Bridge. [Please click on the image for larger version.]

Today my good friend Harshawardhan Nimkhedkar posted several really interesting photos from the cantonment at Kamptee.

One particularly fine photo of a 19th century stone bridge caught my eye, and so I set off to see if I could find out who had built it and when.

As so often when you go off into the archives on Google Books and the British Newspaper Archives you stumble onto much more than you had originally expected to find.

Having found the bridge, I was trying to locate the garrison church shown below. 



Figure 2. Kamptee Church.

Although the images on Google Earth over Kamptee Cantonment are good, no obvious building that matched the church could be seen.  Searching through the newspapers for anything on the church, the following came up in the Morning Post of Friday 25th September 1835..

"Ramasawmy sworn.  I was in the service of Lieutenant M'Nair, of the Artillery. I was a horsekeeper at Kamptee, and in that service in June and July last, and remember going out with my master's pony in the month of July. It was about the middle of last year that I took the pony to a large bridge near the church, where a horse was posted."



Figure 3. Google Earth Image marked with the bridge and church. The central bridge is the road bridge, flanked by two rail bridges.  The arches show up as a shadow cast onto the river bed.

Knowing that the church was located close to the bridge enabled me to find the church very quickly.  The bell tower can clearly be seen on top of the church building.

The clue was contained in a much longer and fascinating report of a court case where a Captain Best was accused of running off with the Colonel's wife.


SUPREME COURT, CALCUTTA-APRIL 9. CALCUTTA-APRIL 9.

CRIM. CON. — LETHBRIDGE V. BEST.

Damages laid at 30,000 rupees. The Advocate-General stated the case for the plaintiff. The plaintiff is a Colonel of Infantry, and the defendant a Captain of Artillery-both in the Company's service. The plaintiff was married to Mrs. Lethbridge in 1823.  The match was originally one of affection; they lived together ten or twelve years, and had five children. The defendant was on intimate terms with the plaintiff, and received from him every attention and kindness which it was possible for him to expect at the hands of a brother officer.  He was welcomed to the house and entertained at the table of the plaintiff, and had every opportunity of witnessing the harmony and feeling which prevailed with the plaintiff and his wife towards each other— yet, in spite of all the happiness he had been witness to, he had done the plaintiff the bitter wrong to take from him the partner who had lived with him so many years in uninterrupted harmony and love. When about to quit Kamptee, Captain Best was invited to a farewell dinner; but though it was specially upon the occasion of his leaving the place, Captain Best to the surprise of all, was not there.

The dinner, however, was partaken of, and Colonel Lethbridge, who was one of the party returned home between nine and ten O’clock, and then he found that his wife had left him.  The plaintiff’s wife at the time of the elopement was on the eve of her confinement, and was subsequently delivered of a daughter at a place called Taukelgaut. The plaintiff hearing of this, sent two female servants to take charge of the child.  Captain Best, who was with Mrs. Lethbridge when these servants arrived, left the tent soon after they came in.  Mrs. Lethbridge inquired after her husband, and wept when she was told that he was in great misery? that he was in tears.  This, if the defendant had any feeling about him, and it is impossible to suppose him dead to all the finer feelings of the human breast, must have stung him more than anything else; and if the Learned Counsel had not mistaken human nature, such a scene as this could not have taken place unless there were an affectionate bearing on the part of her husband, and of fond reflections on her own.  The only redress which the law afforded the plaintiff, would be the damages awarded by the Court. There was hardly bitterness of spirit -- hardly misery of mind, greater than his client must suffer to the end of his days from the deep injury he had received from the defendant.  The Learned Counsel would not expatiate upon the circumstances which he would prove in evidence, with any view to influence the minds of the Court, for those circumstances would speak but too forcibly themselves; and the Court would grant such damages as would mark its sense of the unjustifiable, the unwarrantable, and grievous wrong which the defendant had perpetrated against the peace and the happiness of his client. The Learned Counsel having concluded, put in the defendant's admission of the fact of" the plaintiff's marriage on the 18th of December, 1823, and called

J. C. Morris, Esq., sworn - I am a member of the Civil Service, and know Colonel Lethbridge, of the 22d Regiment N. I. I have known him since 1827, when we met and were near neighbours on the Neilgherry Hills for several months. Mrs. Lethbridge was living with him. They had one little girl with them; another little boy, I understood from them, they had left at Cochin. I became extremely intimate, and visited them daily almost, and had most undoubtedly the fullest opportunity to see on what terms they lived. They seemed to me to be a most happy couple he was very much attached to her, and she appeared particularly attached to him.

Lieutenant J. M. Rowlandson sworn.  I am a Lieutenant in the Company's Service, and am acquainted with Colonel Lethbridge and Mrs. L.  I have been acquainted with them since 1823, and with Mrs. L. since 1824. They were at Trevandrum, near Quilon, in Travancore, when I first became acquainted with them, and spent the month of May, 1824, with them in the same house. In the month of June I left for Madras. I saw them every day, and must have remarked if they were not on affectionate terms. His behaviour to her appeared to me to be particularly kind.

Cross-examined by Mr. Teed.  I am not acquainted with the defendant, but believe he is a Captain in the Artillery ; and think he was promoted about a year or two ago. I imagine his pay is about 400 rupees a month as a Captain of Artillery.

Lieut. George Rowlandson sworn. I am a Lieutenant in the Artillery, and a brother of the last witness. I married Colonel L.'s daughter. I became acquainted with him on his return from England, about three months before my marriage. From having married Colonel Lethbridge's daughter, I became very intimate with the family, and was at their house every day. They lived on the most affectionate terms. The daughter I married was a daughter by a former wife. I have had correspondence with Colonel Lethbridge. They had four children before the birth of the last, three boys and one girl.

Cross-examined.  I know Captain Best, and think he was promoted about June last. I should think it will be at least eight years before he obtains his majority. I don't think he has more than his bare pay. On the contrary, I think he is involved, but have no idea to what extent.

Ramasawmy sworn.  I was in the service of Lieutenant M'Nair, of the Artillery. I was a horsekeeper at Kamptee, and in that service in June and July last, and remember going out with my master's pony in the month of July. It was about the middle of last year that I took the pony to a large bridge near the church, where a horse was posted. A gentleman was coming behind the pony. The pony was going fast and the gentleman (Best) was coming in a bandy. The pony was drawing the bandy. The horse belonged to my master and the bandy to Mr. Best. Mr. M'Nair and Mr. Best were living in the same house. The bandy was put at six o'clock in the evening. There was a mess dinner on that evening. After going along the road, a roundabout way, we went to Col. Lethbridge's house. Mr. Best stopped in the bandy. Then the lady came to the bandy. She came from the back of the house. She came round. The lady was the wife of Col. Lethbridge. I do not know of any message sent before the lady came out. It was one Indian hour before the lady came out. Immediately upon the lady's coming Mr. Best gave her his hand, got her into the bandy, and drove off towards Nagpoore.

 Shaik Ibram sworn.  I am a dressing boy to Captain Best, and remember being at Kamptee last year. I left Kamptee before my master, and went to Nagpoore. Afterwards I went to a place called Goongaum, two days' march from Kamptee. My master came after I had been there one day. He arrived at night, about 11 or 12 o'clock. There was a lady with him. I have seen her before. She was the lady of Major Lethbridge. They stayed at Goongaum two days, and slept in tents. Mrs. Lethbridge was delivered of a child there. There was nobody there except this lady and gentleman. There were three tents, ln the large one the lady and gentleman lived, and in the smaller ones there was baggage. There was only one cot in the room in which the lady and gentleman slept. They eat together in the same place.

Chouree Ummaul sworn.  I am a married woman. I was sent to take a child from a lady, and went upon the directions of Major Lethbridge. My husband did not know I was sent for by master, and I was immediately sent in a palankeen. I came down here seven months ago. I was sent to Goongaum. The child was then about five days old.  I went to fetch the child about two months before I came down. The lady was Mrs. Lethbridge. I knew her before, and was serving in her house. I was sent as Amah and nursed the child. I went to the tent and saw a gentleman, but don't know his name. After I went to the tent- he left it and went to a house. I had no conversation with the lady, but the Ayah had. I left the Ayah in the tent. She was there till about two o'clock.

Caumatchee sworn.  I was an Ayah in the service of Mrs. Lethbridge. About six o'clock in the evening my master dressed himself, and went to a supper. I remember going to fetch a child. My master went to the dinner about five days before I went to fetch the child, my mistress was then in the large hall drinking tea. I remember she went to her bedroom about seven o'clock in the evening. Upon my master's coming home he went and looked in the bedroom, and asked me where she was. I said" She is inside," my master said "No she is not." I repeated that she was. My master said "Come and see; she is not there." Myself and dressing boy then went and looked and my mistress was not there. I never saw my mistress again in that house. The fifth day after my mistress left the house I went to Goongaum from Kamptee.

My mistress was at Taukelgaut. I found her at Taukelgaut in a tent, and spoke to her in the English language. She said .to me, "How is master, Ayah?" I said, "Master very sorry, can't eat anything." Mistress cried, and told me to go out, and I came away. She said, “I was very foolish that I came off.'' I saw a child. Immediately upon my going there, mistress said, “There is the child, Ayah look." Then I was desired to leave the tent. This was about half-past nine. I did not tell her that I came to take the child. I brought a letter from my master to a gentle man named Lador, and that gentleman gave me a letter to Mr. Best. Mistress told me, “Take this little baby, Ayah take care both children ? l can't come any more." I saw, gentleman, Mr. Best, in the tent. When I went into it he went out. Mr. Best was in the habit of coming to my master's to eat his meals.

By the Court.  Captain Best used to come once in two or three days. Mr. C. Teed addressed the Court for the defendants -- He submitted that there was no evidence of any great breach of friendship, or that the defendant or plaintiff had ever been on peculiarly intimate terms. The defendant, it had been proved, was in the receipt of 400 rupees per month, and one of the witnesses had said that he was involved. He was not therefore, in a situation to pay excessive damages; and the Learned Counsel submitted that it did not appear from the evidence to be a case which called for heavy damages. Sir R. Palmer, C. J., remarked that though there was no evidence of any intimacy between the plaintiff and defendant, there was yet no palliative circumstance whatever in favour of the defendant. The Court would not give damages so excessive as would incarcerate the defendant for life, but the Court ought to give such damages as would mark its sense of the great wrong committed by the defendant.

Damages, 10,000 rupees. Sir R. Comyn agreed with the Lord Chief Justice. Poverty was no excuse, and it were monstrous to hold that be cause a man is poor he may therefore commit adultery wit impunity.

Morning Post - Friday 25 September 1835."



Figure 4.  Kamptee Bridge, the Church and what was probably the Colonel's house on Google Earth.  

The bridge may have been rebuilt since the events in 1834.  It appears as if one of the huge seasonal floods that the area often experiences may have seriously damaged the bridge in 1876.


Figure 5. Kamptee Cantonment. The cantonment is nearly three long.

DISASTROUS FLOODS IN INDIA. REPORTED LOSS OF 1500 LIVES. The Standard gives the following extract from a private letter, dated Nagpore Sept. 5 

My dear

Just a few lines to tell you that there has been a disastrous flood in Kamptee. It rained all day Sunday, Sunday night, and Monday, and the rain would appear to have been very heavy to the westward of Kamptee, as the river has swollen, and the Gora Bazaar washed away. It is reported that about 1500 lives are lost, but this may be over the mark. The bridge near the church is washed away. The flood extended as far as the Post Office... I hear since that the Post Office is down to the ground. Many who were saved have escaped as by a miracle. The families of the soldiers were taken away on elephants. Colonel M — went yesterday, but was stopped where the bridge used to be near the church. He then went on to the ' circular drive,' but could not get into the station; the water was too deep, so he had to return, and he has gone to-day." The writer concludes by remarking that these are only rough reports, and that more precise details will be learnt in a day or two. No doubt the number of lives said to be lost is very large, and probably the actual loss will be less. Persons acquainted with the Kamptee cantonment will understand in what great danger the residents were placed by the great overflow of the Kanhan river.

Sheffield Independent -Wednesday 04 October 1876.

What is interesting on Google Earth is how the cantonment has grown over time. It appears that it is now nearly 3 miles across. The cantonment was one of the earliest purpose built cantonments outside of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.  It was founded in 1821 for troops from the Madras Presidency, and was located to overawe Nagpur. Nagpur had had a garrison located to the west of the Sitabuldee Hills but the Battle of Nagpur during the Mahratta War had shown how seriously exposed the garrison had been.

An extremely detailed report on the state of the cantonments in 1869 can be found on Google Books entitled "Report upon the military cantonments of Kamptee and Seetabuldee... By Madras presidency, sanitary commissioner, James Lancaster Ranking."


Figure 6. Kamptee Church circa 1892

The report recognised that the cantonment had been laid out in a very unsuitable place, which was low lying and close to the river.  The area was intersected by streams, and frequently experienced fogs that arose from the river. The roof of the church was apparently a good vantage point from which to observe this phenomena, as the fogs generally were below the level of the church roof.  Malaria was a frequent problem for the troops.  In those days malaria had not been connected with mosquitoes, but was believed to issue out of the ground in miasmas, like the fog.

Besides the several thousand troops from the 91st Highlanders, several Royal Artillery Batteries and the 1st Madras Light Cavalry stationed at the cantonment, there were 681 horses, 230 camels, 216 bullocks and 97 mules.

These all had a detrimental effect on the water supply...

“It is thus seen that the Kanhan is polluted to a great extent by the affluence of the Koolar (in which public cattle are watered, and refuse is often deposited) at its entrance into the cantonment, and the organic matters appeared, during analyses, to be of such a nature as would be got rid of with difficulty.

While living in a house (before mentioned) dependent on the river Koolar for its water-supply, I have often remarked a smell of camel’s dung strongly apparent on warming the bathing water during the cold weather by the addition of a kettleful of boiling water.

Were this source of contamination removed, the river water would be of rather superior quality to that obtained from wells.
Edward Nicholson, Assistant Surgeon.  F-20th Royal Artillery.”

The report strongly recommended removing the barracks occupied by the Europeans from the low ground to a nearby ridge knows as Bloggs Drive. What I wonder is Bloggs Drive called today?

This may account for the evident shift of the cantonment towards the west and away from the 1830's church and OC's House.

It was not just the groundwater that was polluted...

"The number of registered prostitutes within the limits of the Cantonment of Kamptee is 114, 41 of whom are Mahomedhans, and 73 Hindoos.  There are no registered Europeans or East Indian women.
“during 1867 the admissions by venereal amongst the European troops were in the ratio of 23.45 per cent. to strength.”

The report lists the hospital admissions for the 1st Madras Native Infantry at Kamptee in 1868.  The average strength of the battalion was 708 men. On average 28 would be in hospital on any given day.  891 admissions were made in a year, with a total of 19 deaths, 11 of which were due to cholera.
Tables in the report show that Kamptee and Seetabuldee were two of the least healthly cantonments in India and South East Asia at that time.  Only stations in Burma and Malaysia experienced similar levels of fever, as malaria was then known.
It was calculated that between 1829 and 1838 9,574 European Troops had passed through Kamptee of which 7,304 had had to be admitted to hospital with fever or 76.2%. Between 12 and 21 died each year.

Cholera was another hazard..

Cholera, says the Central India Times, has at last made its appearance among the European troops at Kamptee, and "up to date about fifty cases have occurred of which two-thirds have been fatal." The troops it is understood, are to move into camp immediately.

Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury - Saturday 22 August 1868

If you can add anything to the points made above I would be pleased to hear from you. I can be contacted on balmer.nicholas@gmail.com 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Choultries and where to stay of a night?



A Choultry at Visakhapatnam

Recently Julian Craig raised a couple of interesting points in response to an earlier blog post that I had written about the Panwell Inn.

Where did European travellers stay?

And did former EIC soldiers run inns?

It is actually proving hard to find examples of European's running inns or hotels until the 1840's. It appears as if most travellers out side of the largest cities were using the existing system of Choultries.

While reading Robert Grenville Wallace 1823 book, Fifteen Years in India I came across the following very interesting description of Choultries in the period around 1809 to 1816.

  "One effect of the institution of casts is, that no stranger can be received into the house of a Hindoo as a guest or lodger; but a remedy for this is every where to be found by travellers who make regular stages, for in every village there is a building erected at the public charge for the accommodation of wayfaring-men, and a person appointed to provide them with fire, water, and all that the place produces, at regulated prices. In some cities these buildings are on a very large scale, and numerous; but in every town one will be found more or less convenient,according to the wealth of the place. They are called in the Carnatic Choultries and in most other places dhursumsollahs; and are superintended by the cutwal, whose peon is in general remarkably attentive to strangers,particularly to Europeans, who often receive poultry, milk, and butter from the magistrate as a present. The Hindoos really appear to be a tender-hearted people; but their institutions have produced customs and ceremonies at which humanity revolts with horror. To eat, drink, or associate with a stranger, would subject a man of cast to be alienated and forsaken. A military man guilty of cowardice, or a lady who had prostituted her honour in this country, would not meet with a more unfavourable reception from society than a Hindoo whose pity prompted him to help a dying traveller into his house from the road-side,when he saw the vultures and jackals watching the exit of life. The Hindoo women are very charitable, and never refuse to give a thirsty stranger water ;but he must drink it at the door out of his hands, into which they will pour it from a vessel, or stand over him stooping, and let it fall into his mouth; for were he to touch the pot, it would never after be used, but broken, as we destroy what has been impregnated with some filthy or noxious thing. I once by accident trod on a mat where there was an earthen dish full of rice prepared by a woman for her family-dinner. Upon which she burst into loud exclamations of sorrow, broke the chattee,threw away the rice, and tore the mat to pieces. I was very sorry for the pain I had unconsciously occasioned;but upon giving a rupee to a pretty little child which she took up in her arms and bathed with tears, she dried her eyes, looked highly pleased, and made me a salam to the very ground, saying in the sweetest tone of voice imaginable, " Bhote, bhote salam, atcha sahib, — Many, many thanks, good sir." [2]

As Robert wrote

"in every town one will be found more or less convenient, according to the wealth of the place."

they must have varied widely from the relatively modest one at Visakhapatnam shown above to very much grander ones, like the one in the south of India painted in about 1770 by Francis Swain Ward.



Choultries were not just a feature of towns and villages, but were spread along the routes most frequently used by traders. The distances quoted in the route description below between Choultries are interesting as they correspond to the 6 to 7 1/2 miles that pack bullocks were expected to be able to march each day.

This Pass is as remarkable for its length as from the singularity of the road. It commences near Punacatmulla, a hill about two miles west from Caverypooram, and ends about three miles to the S. E. of Caudhully, the first respectable village above the ghat, in going from the eastward; being altogether a distance of near twenty-three miles. For the accommodation of travellers, the distance from Caudhully to Caverypooram is divided by choultries into four stages. The first is from Caverypoorum to Chinnicavil choultry,about seven miles, the road generally good excepting near the choultry. The second stage is from Chinnicavil choultry to Nundacavil choultry, a distance of seven miles more, and the road crosses the river no less than six times in this space. This with the addition of some rocky places, must render the road extremely bad, and at some seasons of the year entirely impassable. The third stage is from Nundacavil choultry to Mootapelly's choultry,'which is near seven and a half miles. For the first three or four miles, the road follows the bed of the river in a great measure, and crosses it three times, after which it quits the torrent, takes a N. westerly direction, and becomes very steep.,[3]


The locations and distances between Choultry's were set out in tables in handbooks like Benjamin Seeley's "The road book of India; or, East Indian traveller's guide through the ..." published in 1825.

When the English first arrived in India they frequently lived in Choultries until they became established enough to set up in buildings of their own. These Choultries had existed for many centuries before the English arrived in India and were used by travellers of all sorts. They seem frequently to have been used as courts to settle trade disputes much like the Medieval Pied Poudre Courts in market towns and at trade fairs in France and Britain. In the 1640's in Madras a Choultry Court was set up, and the first English magistrate was appointed in 1648. The earliest officials were generally Indian's and these included Kanappa, Virranna and Timanna.


Choultry Rules [4]

It is clear that there were rules laid down in some Choultries that were run by temples, but how far these were observed by European travellers is hard to tell.

Choultry were generally positioned on the outer boundaries of settlements. There were often several Choultrys at the larger settlements with one at each of the gates into these towns. It was one such Choultry that won my great great great great grandfather his first promotion from Sergeant to Ensign becoming an officer that would set him on the route to eventually commanding Fort St David. Edward Harrison, an East Indiaman Captain with considerable influence at home was appointed Governor of Madras in 1712 This upset Richard Rawdon, a long serving official at Madras who had expected the post to become his, and who was moved to Fort St David where tried to breakaway from the East India Company. John De Morgan was part of a force sent under Edward Davenport from Madras to attempt to recapture Cuddalore. They captured a choultry located at the bound fence of the settement, and John De Morgan was tasked with holding it as a firm base as Davenport and the main force moved into the town. Raworth sent his men to attack the Choultry.

"Saturday 17th Between one and two this morning Ensigns Handle & Ackman were sent with forty good men to endeavour to surprize Cundapau Choultry and Horsetail point, about four the deputy Governour was advis’d they had gott possession of the former, w’ch they found deserted, they put a guard into it, and immediately advanced towards Horsetail point, where they found only one Gunner, who upon their entering was going to fire an allarum Gun, w’ch. Ensign Handlee prevented by threatening him if he did not instantly lay down his match he was a Deadman. By five this morning the whole body march’d for the bounds where soon after they arriv’d, and advanc’d to Cundapau Choultry where we drew up our men, Deputy Governor order’d Serjeant John D’Morgan with twenty men to keep possession of that Post, and Sergeant John Cordall with Andrew Middleton and twenty men to Horsetail Point,immediately after we passed ye River when was sent a Peon to Ensign Hobbs to summon him to his obedience to the Right Hon’ble: Company, and for what was pass’d shou’d be fogott; he return’d answer that Mr. Raworth was his Governour & he knew no other, so cou’d not quitt his post without his order after we were all over the river, we march’d towards the Company’s Garden always taking care to be undercover from the Forts Gunns, when haulted within a hundred & fifty yards of the Garden Gate, fronting before which they had thrown five or six thousand crows feet to prevent our advancing on them, the Deputy Governour sent Mr. Burton to summon the officers and soldiers to return to their obedience to the Right Hon’ble: Company, who all peremtorily refus’d except Sergeant Fox that came to us upon being summons and submitted himself to the order of the Deputy Governour, telling him that Mr. Raworth had kept ye men in a Continuall heat of Liquor, which he believ’d was the occasion of their being obdurate,& during this parly a single Horseman from the Fort who we perceiv’d came to view us, and immediately return’d when Mr. Raworth was so kind to salute us with an eighteen pounder,which fled just over our heads, and litt between us and ye Garden, this was enough to provoke men of the best Tempers to have reveng’d themselves, when it lay in our power to have Cutt off every man that was lodg’d in the Gardens but to shew Mr. Raworth and the rest of his rebellious Crew, we delighted not in blood, we march’d to secure Cuddalore, between which and Trepopalore he fir’d a second shott at us, w’ch: did no mischief, and was was soon after taken up and brought to the Deputy Governour, at Ten we enter’d Cuddalore by the Braminy Gate,which finding shutt Mr. Hugonin jump’d over the Pallasadoes, and open’d the Gate by Cutting the barr in two, we took possession of the point (finding no body upon it) with a Barrell and a Jarr of Powder; the Forces were drawn up when the Officers were order’d to draw out their men and take possession of severall Guards, after this the Deputy Governour went to Mr. Farmers house which he makes his residence for himself and all the Gentlemen.[5]

I was not entirely surprised to find as I researched this report, that many of the old Chouldries are disappearing from the scene in India, much like our public houses. The following photo shows a collapsed 100-year-old Ram Gopal Choultry in Vijayawada on Wednesday 13th July 2013.


Choultry collapses in Vijayawada [6]

All of the books mentioned in this post are freely available through Google Books, and I express my great appreciation of their having copied so many books onto their system, which I and many others would not have otherwise had the opportunity to read.

If you live near a Choultry and have an opportunity to photograph it and to tell me about it I would be very pleased to hear from you. My contact email is balmer.nicholas@gmail.com 

[1] From an excellent blog by Robert Schick at http://schickrobert.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/visakhapatnam-december-9-10.html

[2] Fifteen Years in India; Or, Sketches of a Soldier's Life: Being an Attempt ...By Robert Grenville Wallace, published in 1823 page 201, Robert was promoted Lieutenant in the 65th Regiment of Foot on the 4th May 1816, and later served in the 84th Foot. He was placed on half pay on the 7th of December 1820. He tried his hand at novel writing, and was published by Longman. He became a solicitor like his father in Newry. His death was announced as follows: - "DEATHS. August 12, In Newry, aged 64 years, Robert Grenville Wallace Esq, solicitor, formerly Lieutenant in the 64th regiment. Freeman's Journal Monday 18 August 1851

[3] Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society ..., Volume 4 By Bombay Geographical Society published 1840, page 8.

[4] http://ram.viswanathan.in/2007/01/travelog-23-sholingar-temple.html

[5]IOR G/18/2/PT3 “Fort St David, 2. Pt 3

[6] http://newindianexpress.com/states/andhra_pradesh/One-injured-as-100-year-old-choultry-collapses-in-Vijayawada/2013/07/11/article1677395.ece

Friday, 27 September 2013

Panwell Inn



Panwell Inn.  
From the Victoria & Albert Collection by Sir Charles Harcourt Chambers (1824-28)
 (click on image for larger version)

Recently a copy of a water colour by Sir Charles Harcourt Chambers of the Panwell Tavern from the Victoria and Albert Museum was posted on Facebook that caught my attention. Although not the finest or most historical of the millions of buildings in India it is one which generations of travellers from Bombay to Poona and the interior will have been familiar with.
My own great great and great great great grandfathers, Bombay Artillery Officers and their families must have known it well as the travelled up and down between Mumbai and Pune, because Panvel was the first stage or last stop on the journey.

Map showing the location of Panwell from Google Earth.
 (click on image for larger version)

Although Panwell (known) today as Panvel was only 21 miles as the Seagull flies, in 1817 it was a frontier town, and the East India Company only had limited control of the area. Captain James Barton by gt gt gt grandfather, appears to have been stationed in Bassein at this time, a little to the north. In late 1816 the Pindarees were raiding down the Ghats seizing silk. They were heading north. Did James see them pass the ramparts?

"The Bombay Courier says, that the communication between the Seroor and Poonah, and the latter place and Panwell, had for a fortnight been unsafe without a guard. ' "Numerous  Mahratta families have within these few days sought for refuge in the islands of Caranja and Salsette. The Principle object of the Pindarees in entering the Concan was to seize a large quantity of kincob (silks) which was exported from Bombay to Chowal for the interior. This they succeeded in. It is their intention to sweep  the coast as far as Surat." [1]

James Barton was tasked with cutting off access down the Ghats to the north. A more senior officer, Colonel Prother was sent with a column to attempt to drive the Mahrattas from the forts lining the crest of the Ghats to the south of the Poona Road. It was while I was researching these subsidiary campaigns, that I came across the following fascinating account of Panwell in a diary of an at present anonymous Bombay Artillery Officer in the British Library.

"Tuesday Jan 13. [1818] "Embarked along with Osborne [2] in a Bunder Boat having sent off the Detachment with Declezean [3] an hour before -- We came up with them about half way & arrived at Panwell about 1/2 past 4 the afternoon -- after disembarking the Detachment getting Baggage etc. on shore we dine along with Mr Walker the Officer of the port, at the Tavern -- This would pass for a very paltry inn in England, nevertheless we got a very excellent dinner at a pretty moderate charge from Don Lewis & he is very much deserves to be encouraged as such an Establishment at a place generally (inhabited?), is a very great convenience. We were all busily employed this day in getting the carts & gun carriage from the Boats, mounting guns & arranging stores. Employed partly as the day before, & also in cutting fuzes, & preparing everything for a march-- The draught cattle arrived and I received instructions to move on as soon as I was able-- In the evening rode out with the others -- Panwell is a considerable village lately ceded to us by the Peishwa chiefly inhabited by Musselmen, & one of the Chief Commercial inlets to the Deccan. Boats come up within half or a 1/4 of a mile of it but the landing place is bad-- there is plenty of water in Tanks, but not particularly good. I had a parade in the pro(?) with bullocks, & I did not intend to start until next day, as the whole of the cattle had not arrived; but about midday there arrived instructions to move that evening to Babenas, about half way on the road to Chouken -- My detachment consists of 1 Serg't & 46 rank & file, 3 Tindals & 36 Lascars, & Mr Walker the officer stationed at Panwell with 30 Sepoys was placed under my orders. I had under my charge 2, 6 pdrs, 2 mortars, 8 inch, light 5 inch howitzers with a considerable quantity of ammunition & Horses, about 350 bullock loads, & 6 carts -- We marched from Panwell a little before 4 in the evening." [4]

Just one month later in February 1818 George Fitzclarence, 1st Earl of Munster travelled down the Ghats in the opposite direction, and like our anonymous artillery officer approved of the food served in the inn. He had been in Poona, and had passed within sight of forts in the Ghats still held by hostile Mahrattas.

"I had gone through so much fatigue and personal exertion, that I was quite unwell when I reached the bottom; and, lying down in my palanquin, was taken up by the hummalls(the Persian word) as they here call the bearers of Calcutta, the cahars of Hindoostan, and the bhoeys of Madras and the Dekhun, and never opened my eyes till called by Colonel Osborne in a little hovel dignified by the name of an inn,at Panwell, the village at which officers generally land from Bombay on their route to the Dekhun. I found a boat belonging to the superintendant of the marine ready for me, and that the tide would answer at nine; and having dressed, and partaken of a splendid breakfast, I walked to the boat, which was very comfortable, and larger than the row boats on the Ganges. Panwell is situated on an inlet of the sea, which takes its name from the town; and, after a passage down of about ten miles, I reached the open harbour, of which the view was beautiful." [6]

The Earl of Munster has left a most interesting account of his travels that is available on Google Books, covering his entire journey across the war torn Mahratta districts. He was travelling with the HEIC forces engaged in the campaigns going on at the time, and is most interesting on the less military aspects of that campaign.

As so often in war, the disruption caused to civilians, gave diseases huge opportunities to develop and spread. Cholera is thought to have been present in the Indian population in a relatively mild form in the Deccan for several hundred years before 1817. At about this time it mutated into a far more dangerous disease. It got into the advancing HEIC army as well the population, killing far more soldiers and civilians than the war itself. Although there are few direct reports of refugees in British accounts, besides the fleeing Pindarees and Mahratta forces, it is highly probable that entire communities were also on the road fleeing the advancing HEIC forces. These people deprived of food and shelter, mixed with other nearby populations creating the ideal opportunity for Cholera to spread. An epidemic was soon underway that would eventually spread across the Middle East and reach as far as the industrial heartlands of the English Midlands where it would kill thousands of working families. Panwell was on one of the major routes from the war zone to the coast, and it not surprising that Cholera soon arrived in the district. In January 1819 readers of the Morning Chronicle will have read the following account of events in far away places, in their morning papers, little imagining that this outbreak would eventually reach as far away as London. The report is referring to events during the previous summer of 1817.

"Bombay. — A report of the Cholera Morbus having appeared at Panwell, reached the Presidency on Thursday, when a Medical Gentleman, with numerous assistants, was despatched to render the sufferers all the necessary aid, and to report on it; since which we have been informed, it has made its appearance in Bombay, though not attended with such violent symptoms as at other stations ; yet we understand that some deaths have occurred, We have, however, but little anxiety of its spreading to any degree, as measures have been taken by the Medical Board to ensure the most prompt assistance. Since the foregoing was written, we have been favoured with a perusal of a letter from Tannah, on the same subject, which mentions the casualties at Panwell as amounting to thirteen in all, among which is a Conductor of Stores, Mr.Llewellyn the Medical Gentleman who went from this to Panwell on Thursday, has we understand been fortunate in his practice, and the most beneficial results have already taken place from his exertions; the village of Bellapoor has been also visited by this malady, and a few casualties have occurred, but ample- supplies of medicine have been forwarded to that place and Tullijah. Connected with this subject we are sorry to state, that with a view to create alarm, in the Tannah district, some evil disposed persons had caused two Buffaloes to be painted in an extraordinary manner, and had sent them from village to village by means of the Haziree Bigaries, and the prevalent idea is that wherever these animals are gone, there the disease will follow; the Buffaloes have however been seized, and we are informed will be sold by public auction, and we treat the reward of 300 rupees that has been offered, will lead to the apprehension of the offenders. Our last letters from Poonah mention that this disease still continues in that city, and the deaths among the lower classes have been as many as thirty and forty a day.

Walter Hamilton writing in 1828, at about the time that Chambers had painted his watercolour was less charitable about Panwell inn.

"PANWELL.—A town in the province of Aurungabad, situated on the river Pan, to which the tide flows up several miles from the harbour; but during the prevalence of easterly winds, the passage to Bombay, from which it is distant twenty-one miles E., is tedious and uncertain; lat. 18° 59' N., Lon. 73° 15 E. This place is extensive, and being eligibly situated for business, carries on a considerable commerce, although it stands in the midst of a salt morass. Panwell is the grand ferry to Bombay, and contains the rare convenience of an inn,although not of the first quality.[8]"

The inn remained in use for many years. In 1840 it was recorded that a wedding took place of the widow of a former innkeeper.

"— At Bombay, Mr. Robert Maidment, to Helen, relict of the late Mr. J. W. Ward, inn-keeper at Panwell," [9]

In the same magazine it is recorded that the "HC Iron Steamer Satellite" was sailing to Panwell from Bombay. Perhaps this was a response to the delays formerly caused by the easterly winds. In 1847 it appears that a more formal and regular steamer route was being set up.

"The Bombay Steam Navigation Company has contracted with government to carry the Calcutta, Madras, and Deccan mails from Panwell, a distance of miles for £50. a mouth. Two light steamers are now being built on purpose at Bombay, and will, it is expected, be in operation by October."

Cholera remained at large in the Deccan for many years, although in a less virulent state than before. However from time to time it burst out with renewed strength. Outbreaks occurred in 1845 in Panwell and the surrounding districts, leading to fears that it would reach Bombay. The route from Panwell left the village through marshy tidal flats before climbing up into the Ghats. The Victoria & Albert collection includes a second watercolour by Chambers showing this road.


Panwell Bunder by Chambers.

By the 1840's the route down the Ghats was becoming increasingly important for commerce. Britain's steam driven cotton mills was importing many thousands of tonnes of cotton annually, and India was being overtaken as the main source of supply by America which grew better quality cotton, and which had better quality roads. Efforts were being made in increase production, and to improve the quality of cotton grown as far away as Dharwar. However the state of the roads was adding to the cost of the transport required to bring it to the coast.

Some of the readers of the Northampton Mercury on Saturday 7th of July 1849 will have read the following report: with interest -

"The East India Company took possession of the Western Dekkan on the overthrow of the Mahratta empire 1818, now thirty years ago. The extent of made road," says Mr. Williamson, " along the great trunk lines of communication does not (exclusive of cross roads) exceed 350 miles, and these are very ill furnished with cross lines of communication." This statement however, though adduced to prove the negligence of the ruling powers, is, truth, far too favorable, if by the term "made road" is to be understood, as in Europe, a road bridged, drained, and covered with broken stones, so as to be practicable throughout for wheel carriages at all seasons. For this is true of very little more than the seventy miles of road from Panwell to Poona, and even this is so bad that nobody travels upon it private carriage. Sir Thomas M'Mahon, when Commander-in-Chief, had his carriage rolled over an unguarded precipice and broken to pieces. The other roads are either without regular bridges or culverts, or are not covered with broken stone; and in no other country or presidency would they be dignified with the title of a road. The Poona, or Bhore road, and another of greater length, but not quite practicable throughout all seasons, over the Thul Ghaut, are the only two tolerable passages across the Western Ghauts, and they receive the produce of country 300 miles long by 250 broad. Wheel carriages can make their way on the Thul road without checks only during the fair season. By far the larger share of the traffic on both is carried on upon the backs of bullocks, ponies, and camels, but especially the former. The cotton stuffed into packs of about 125 1bs. each, and a pair of these form the load of a bullock. The animals travel in droves, from 100 to 1,000, or even more, under the conduct of the Brinjarries, to whom in many cases they belong, and in whose hands is the carrying trade of the country. Under ordinary circumstances, these Brinjarry bullocks pick up the cotton from the various villages at which it collected, traverse the open country, along routes regulated by the bargains made with the farmers of the transit duties, and often, therefore, very circuitous, until they reach the great cotton depots, or the trunk lines of the trackway, by which they descend the Ghauts, and discharge their loads at the sea-shore. This done, they either take return loads of piece goods, or other wares, or proceed to the Pans to to take salt. In fair weather, when forage and water are tolerably abundant, and the means of securing a return load easy, this mode of conveyance, though expensive and injurious to the cotton, is not ruinously so. It is, however, liable to, and frequently suffers, very serious disasters. Dr. Royle, judging from the results of the experimental cotton farms in Guzerat, the Dekkan, Khandeish, and Dharwar, established 1829, strongly of this opinion. The produce these farms, though Injured the cleansing, was worth from 6d 3/4. to 9d 1/2. per lb. The cotton harvest takes place in the interior somewhat earlier than near the sea. but everywhere the shortness of the period for ripening, conveying, and shipping the crop, is a serious evil. The wool does not reach the local market before February, and is not cleansed before April. It therefore work of difficulty to bring the crop into Bombay before the setting in of the rains early in June. The pack bullock does not travel,even when in motion, above six and a quarter miles a day, and from lameness or disease is often stopped for days together. From Kamgaon and Oomrawattee, the principal cotton marts, about sixty days are required to convey the crop to the sea. The hot season immediately precedes the monsoon. To avoid the latter, the bullocks are urged under heavy loads at their greatest speed, at a season when water and forage are least abundant, rather, are very scarce indeed, especially near the sea. The bullock is a slight animal, and quite incapable either of carrying an overload, or of travelling without proper supply of food and water. The droves descend the Ghauts in thousands, and even tens of thousands, drove after drove, pushing on through dense clouds of the minute volcanic dust of that district. The wells are few and low, made by the old Hindoo and Mussulman princes, and seldom repaired by us. At no season could they supply the wants of such numbers. The animals fall and die in scores from drought and fatigue, and their carcases are rolled to the road side. At first their loads are distributed over the others, but this resource soon fails; and after time the packs of cotton are rolled into the enclosure of some neighbouring village, there to take their chance of dirt, damp, or pillage, until the Brinjarries can return and take them up. The mortality of pack bullocks upon the Ghauts estimated at ten per cent, above that in the plain country, and near the salt pans it is much higher. Hundreds of their carcases," writes Mr. Fenwick are to be met with just previous to the monsoon, strewed along the paths they have traversed." When the droves are caught by the monsoon, the consequences are even more fatal. The trackways become heavy and impassable. The cotton absorbs moisture like a sponge, and, becoming double its usual weight, crushes the bullock to the ground. The produce is of course utterly spoiled. The enormous extent of this bullock traffic may be conceived from the fact, that a good cotton crop in the Oorarawattee districts alone, loads about 220,000 bullocks; of which about 20,000 find their way to Muzapoor to be conveyed by the Ganges to Calcutta —the remainder travel westward to Bombay. Some varieties ripen earlier than others ; and Dr. Royle is of opinion, that the crops in general might be brought forward by irrigation, so as to allow a longer time for the transit. But the grand remedy is a good road. The adventures of the cotton are not yet concluded. These two roads terminate, the Bhore upon Panwell, the Thul upon Kusseylee and Kolsette. Panwell is upon a tide river, which falls into Bombay harbour. The wind, during and for some time previous to the monsoon, blows steadily from Bombay; find the native boats (the unpressed cotton piled several feet above their decks) make the passage with great delay and damage from the wind and rain. Panwell is a wretched place, in which the cholera is frequently raging, and which offers little accommodation, either for shipping the cotton, or housing such of it as may arrive after the commencement of the monsoon. The terminations of the Thul road are upon a narrow arm of the sea, separating Salsette from the main land, and flowing into the top of Bombay harbour. [11]

 
 Panwell Mosque drawn circa 1809 by William Westall,
 and later engraved for the Naval Chronicle. 

In 1856 my great great grandfather marched down the Ghats from Poona with his comrades to take part in the Persian Expedition, and once more back up the route on his way to Ahmednugger in 1858 on his return to take part in the Indian Mutiny. 

Sadly, although but that time he had access to a camera, and took pictures of the head of the Ghats on his way to Poona, either the inn had gone, or it was no longer significant enough to justify making a picture of. 

Did he ever stop at the inn? 

Panvel today has become a commuter suburb of Mumbai, and a major town. The town plan appears to have been extensively redeveloped since 1817, so that I am unable to locate the old centre by inspection of Google Earth. Sadly I am unable to work out exactly where the inn was located, although presumably it was close to the main mosque that was such a feature of the village in early days. 

I would be very grateful if any body who lives in Panvel today can hep me locate the site of the inn. I would also like to find out what the modern name of the following two places are Babenas, about half way on the road to Chouken" and where they are. 

I can be contacted on balmer.nicholas@gmail.com 

 I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Google Books, the British Newspaper Archive and the V&A without which this article could not have been written. 

[1] Exeter Flying Post Thursday 29 May 1817 
[2] Probably Henry Lowry Osborne, born 22 July 1797. Addiscombe 1813-14. Lieutenant Fireworker. 3rd September 1815, Lieutenant 1 September 1818. >Died 29 August 1819 at Bombay. Spring. 
[3] Probably Marcus Claudius Decluzean, b. 1 Jan. 1799.  Addiscombe 1814-1816, Lieutenant Fireworker 27 September 1817, Lieutenant 1st September 1818, Captain 28 September 1827, Married 13 Dec 1839. Retired 17th September 1850. Died 30 May 1881 at Baden. From Spring. 
[4]From British Library Asian Collection, MSS Eur C418 Diary of a Bombay Artillery Officer 1818 
[5] George Augustus Frederick Fitzclarence First Earl of Munster. George was born illegitimately on 29 January 1794. He was the son of King William IV and Dorothea Bland. He married Mary Wyndham in October 1819. He died on 20 March 1842 at age 48 having committed suicide. 
[6]Journal of a route across India, through Egypt, to England, in the latter ... By George Augustus Frederick Fitzclarence Munster (1st Earl of) 
[7] Morning Post Wednesday 06 January 1819 courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive. 
[8]The East Indian Gazetteer: Containing Particular Descriptions of ..., Volume 1. Walter Hamilton. 
[9] Leicester Journal Friday 06 August 1847 
[10] The Asiatic journal and monthly register for British and foreign ..., Volume 33 
[11] Northampton Mercury Saturday 7th of July 1849.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Sumbhulpore, Diamonds, Dacoits and Distress


Figure 1. Watercolour of the fort at Sambalpur in Orissa, by an anonymous artist for the Gilbert Collection, c. 1825. Inscribed on the front : 'The Fort of Sumbhulpore'; on the back: 'The Old Fort of Sumbhulpore.'

My good friend  Harshawardhan Nimkhedkar recently drew my attention to two beautiful water colours of Sumbhulpore in Orissa from the collection held by the British Library, which really appealed to me. Deciding to see if I could locate this town which I had never previously heard of, I discovered a series of fascinating accounts of events in and around this town which I have decided to post because these accounts vividly illustrate the lives of many of the lesser known middle ranking officials of the East India Company.

"On the following morning we crossed the Mahanuddy river at sunrise, and started for Sumbhulpore. The road for many miles ran through jungles, with lumps of quartz rock strewn about I have since thought that it was a very auriferous-looking place. Approaching Sumbhulpore, we passed through a fine upland country, clear of jungle, but with noble groves of mango, tamarind, banyan and palm trees, forming a scene like an English park. After travelling all night, we arrived at Sumbhulpore on the morning of the 25th December. The town is situated on the left bank of the Mahanuddy river, which " derives its source amongst the mountains of Gondwaneh." It pursues an extremely winding and devious course, which has never been accurately surveyed; even in the parts which are better known there are many errors. In Arrowsmith's map, the towns of Sooree, Narrain, Kurkurdah, and Chunderpore, to the northward of Sumbhulpore, are all placed from twenty to thirty miles distant from the left bank of the river; whereas I was informed by Mr. Babbington, who had resided several years at Sumbhulpore, and was well acquainted with the country, that they are all situated immediately on that bank. Ten miles above Sumbhulpore, the Eeb river, which takes its rise near Jushpoor, joins the Mahanuddy at Buggra. This river is noted for the gold and diamonds found in its bed. A short distance below Buggra there is a rapid in the Mahanuddy, and it is at this place that the diamonds are chiefly procured. In 1836, a large one of fine water was found. It is of a somewhat pyramidal shape, and about the size of a large walnut It is, or was, in the possession of the Rajah of Sumbhulpore. In fact, all the diamonds found in the rapid are his property. Below Sumbhulpore there are numerous other rapids, but it is from the Eeb river that the diamonds and gold are derived, as they are not met with at any of the rapids below the one near Buggra. Small particles of gold are indeed occasionally found in the sandy bed of the Mahanuddy at Cuttack, but they may probably have been washed down from the upper parts of the river.

At Sumbhulpore, the Mahanuddy is about a mile and a half wide in the rains. In the cold season, the bed of the river for several miles, both up and down the stream, presents a very singular appearance, being thickly strewn with masses of granitic rocks from six to ten feet high, and around these the water winds. In some places pools have formed, and in others low brushwood is found growing on the sands, thus giving to the river the appearance of a large lake studded with innumerable little islets. From Sumbhulpore, the Mahanuddy flows nearly due south to Sohnpore, a distance of about fifty-five miles. It then suddenly bends east by north, and after pursuing a tolerably straight course, terminates in the Bay of Bengal, due east from Sohnpore. In this course it receives numerous tributary streams, and gives off several branches, the "largest of which is the Kajoori, and it is in the bifurcation formed here that the town of Cuttack is situated." I may here mention, en passant, that the Kajoori river in the rains is about two miles wide at Cuttack, and in 1834 the waters rose twenty-six feet in one night This may appear incredible, but it is nevertheless a fact correct measurements having been made of the rise of the river.


To return to Sumbhulpore. My host was the postmaster, as well as a merchant, and with his wife and an
assistant were the only Europeans within a hundred miles of the place. The house was situated on the elevated left bank of the river, and overlooked the singular scene I have described. I also observed two ranges of hills running north and south. The hills on the western side were about a mile from the river, and those on the east about four miles distant.

In the evening, I drove out with my host, and by the road-side, within sight of his house, we passed three human heads, quite fresh, and stuck upon a pole one above the other. One head was that of a grey-bearded, savage looking old man; the other two were those of young men, about twenty or twenty-five years of aga It was with a feeling of horror I looked upon this barbarous sight, but my host spoke in the coolest manner imaginable about it, and informed me that they were the heads of three dacoits (robbers), forming part of a formidable band which had infested the country for a considerable time. The Rajahs of Boad, Sumbhulpore, and another neighbouring chief, with their united forces, surrounded the hill on which it was known that these desperadoes had fixed their residence, and, simultaneously advancing, captured the three men whose heads I saw elevated by the road-side. Many others of the gang escaped. After hearing this account I felt much more reconciled to the events seeing that I had advanced, and should be obliged to return, through the very district infested by these robbers; albeit these gentry rarely venture to attack Europeans, but they might make a mistake. Three days after my arrival at Sumbhulpore, the two men whom I had left at the Burmool Pass to look after the madman returned, and reported his death a few hours after my departure.

In my host's garden I found a few cocoa-nuts growing, which surprised me, as it is far beyond the influence of the sea-breeze. There, indeed, they were, and flourishing very well Vegetables in general thrive remarkably well I measured a brinjal (solatium melongena) fourteen and a half inches in circumference; a casuarina tree, planted four years ago, measured sixteen inches round the trunk, one yard from the ground.

Early on the morning of the 3rd of January I left Sumbhulpore, and arrived at Boad on the 5th . No fresh bearers were to be had for love or money; so, with a promise of ample backshish, I induced those whom I had brought from Sumbhulpore to proceed to Burmool Accordingly we left on the morning of the 6th, and when walking a-head of my palkee, as was my custom for ten or twelve miles, I saw a large splash of blood by the road-side, and the tall grass beaten down, as if the body of some large animal had been dragged through it I had no time to stop, but pushed on, speculating on the tragedy that had evidently been recently performed there. On the morning of the 8th, in passing through the Burmool Pass, and walking as usual a-head of my palkee, I perceived the fresh footprints of a large animal proceeding onwards. I took no notice, for fear of alarming my people, but kept a sharp look-out right and left After proceeding this way for a hundred yards or so, my servant who was behind me exclaimed, "Sahib, Sahib, bhag hy!"—"Sir, Sir, a tiger!"—and pointed to the footprints. I desired him not to say anything; but to give him confidence, I sent him to my palkee for a pair of pistols, one of which I gave to him, and advanced myself, sometimes' treading in the footprints of the tiger. The impressions which they made in the sandy path, wet with the morning dew, were nearly, if not quite, as large as a moderate sized cheese plate. This may appear exaggeration, but it is not so; and any one who has seen the footprints of a large tiger would corroborate this statement Our pistols would have been of little use in an encounter, for if the tiger had been lurking on either hand, we could not possibly have seen him, by reason of the jungle and rocks, until he had sprung upon us. By and by, all the people saw the dreaded footmarks, and stopped. I persuaded them, however, to go on, and to keep close together, I, of course, leading the way; and so we went on for perhaps a quarter of a mile further, when we came upon the site of a catastrophe. In the middle of the path lay a couple of small baskets, such as the natives carry on their heads, and a few cowrie shells were strewn about —this was all We saw no more footprints; the bearer of the baskets and cowries had evidently been swept from the path. A short distance further on we found some natives sitting on the ground and lamenting one of their companions, who, they said, had just been carried off by a tiger, in the place where we found the baskets. I must confess that we breathed more freely after hearing this, as there was less chance of the tiger wanting any of us to break his last on. The deed was done, and we could not help it, so pushed on, and soon arrived at Burmool where I procured a boat, and, after rewarding my bearers, embarked with my two servants, and dropped down the Mahanuddy to Kontillo, where I found my tents; and I never felt so heartily glad in all my life as I did then, in feeling that I was, as it were, at home again, and once more within reach of civilized society."

[From Stray Leaves from the Diary of an Indian Officer, published in 1865 in London, page 134.]




Figure 2. Lieut.-Colonel W.R. Gilbert's bungalow at Sambalpur (Orissa).

It is very interesting to compare the picture [figure 2] with Google Earth images of Sambalpur.

There are two rivers which meet at Sambalpur, the larger one is the Mahanadi River, which is a very wide river with banks about 1.2 km apart. It appears that during the monsoon season the river fills the channel from bank to bank, however at other drier periods of the year, the water drops until it fills two low water flow channels, which are each about 200 metres wide.

By inspection of the Mahanadi river on GE it appears that there is a major sets of rapids that could be the ones shown in the painting.  Drying the dry season the flows over these rapids are so reduced that the rocks are exposed to view.

In line with the rapids on the north bank are a concentration of three municiple buildings.  One of which may well be the building shown in the painting.


I think this bungalow must have stood at a location near 21 degrees 27' 36.62"N 83 degrees 58' 25.02" E where there is a slight raised bit of land that appears to have become the administrative centre of the town a little way out of the centre. I wonder if this administrative centre originally grew up around the Collectors bungalow?




Figure 3.  Sambalpur showing the river and the rapids, and there relation to the possible house site.


Figure 4.  A close up of the house that may be Lieut.-Colonel W.R. Gilbert's bungalow.

Does anybody who reads this blog live close enough to Sambalpur to be able to visit the site and to take pictures of the building?

It appears that the building would no longer have such good views of the river, as the town has grown to surround it, during the intervening years.




Figure 3. Location of Sambalpur or Sumbhulpore

Just how tough life could be for European's, and how remote they were from fellow European's is illustrated by the following extract from missionaries who were attempting to set up in the town in the 1850's.

"Sumbhulpore, a native tributary state, lying on the Mahanadi River, two hundred and fifty miles above Cuttack, was at first selected. After a tedious journey up the river, in native boats, which... occupied them nearly a month, a portion of which time was spent in preaching, and distributing Scriptures and tracts among the villages on its banks, they arrived at their station. .

The town of Sumbhulpore, the capital of a district of the same name, and the residence of the raja, is an important town, of some fifteen thousand inhabitants, and is situated in the midst of a populous country. They found but one European family residing there, but they showed them every possible kindness, and rendered them every assistance in their power. Several months were spent in erecting their houses, and in preparing for a permanent location.

They preached and distributed books as extensively as they were able, and there laid the foundation for our boarding-school system. Six starving children were given them by their parents or relatives, and with them our school commenced. Ere they had become settled in their new abodes, they were one by one prostrated by disease. An Indian fever, without medical treatment, and without nursing, is a formidable foe. Our brethren were their own doctors; and, ill as they were, to a considerable extent their own nurses. Few of the comforts of life surrounded them, and their hastily-constructed houses were not sufficient to shelter them from the scorching heat. Strange faces were about them; but sympathizing friends to care for them, anticipate their wants, and relieve them, there were none. Mr. Noyes on one occasion deeming it necessary to be bled, his wife was called up from her sick bed to perform the operation. For a time they were both prostrated together, while groan answered to groan. And, after consigning a beloved child to the grave, and having themselves been brought to death's door, they regained sufficient strength to admit of their being placed on board a boat, and floated down to Cuttack."


From "Hinduism and Christianity in Orissa: Containing a Brief Description of the ... By Otis Robinson Bacheler, page 127.  

I can be contacted directly on balmer.nicholas@gmail.com