About

calcutta_1850-8x2x

পুরনোকোলকাতা ওয়েবসাইট, কোলকাতা যেমন ছিল তার একটি সমকালীন চিত্রনির্ভর তথ্যায়নের প্রয়াস ।

This project is my personal and independent initiative. I have taken it up with perhaps too ambitious an objective to be warranted by my little means. Its objective is to build a website on Calcutta in olden times, providing a visual documentation of its social and cultural ethos spanning over three centuries prior to independence. The site is expected to reflect the story of the development of young Calcutta to its adulthood, transformation of its rustic countenance into a fashionable cosmopolitan city profile, and more importantly, the city’s coming into terms with Hindu orthodoxy, and on the other side, reckless westernization, in the process of bringing out a revolution leading to Bengal Renaissance.

The site is now in its early developing stage.

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49 comments on “About

  1. Judith Pincemi says:

    hello, I am a young french student and I am very interested by your country and more precisely Kolkata, your work is a very good “job” and I learning many things. But there is one thing didn’t found et perhaps you could indicate me, it’s a number of inhabitants in Kolkata and in Dalhouisie
    square. Thank you by advance and one more time “Bravo” for your blog

    • Hello Judith,
      Thanks for your interest in Puronokolkata initiative. It is my pleasure to provide some census information you may find useful.
      1. The first complete census was taken. The population then enumerated for the whole area of modern Calcutta was 611,784, which grew to 612,307 in 1881, to 682,305 in 1891, and to 847,796 in 1901. On the last two occasions the increases have amounted to 11 and 24 per cent, respectively.
      in 1752 Howell calculated the population at 409,000, though this was probably an over-estimate, as the number of houses was still less than 15,000.
      The population of Calcutta in 1901 was 847,796, the mean density being 41 persons per acre for the whole city, and 68 in Calcutta proper. …
      2. Judged by European standards, the city is seriously overcrowded; more than half the population have less than half a room per head and 90 percent, have three-quarters of a room, or less. In Burra Bazar no less than 9,531 persons out of 31,574 are crowded four or more into each room.
      3. Only a third of the population of Calcutta in 1901 had been born there : half had been born in other parts of Bengal and one-seventh in other parts of india. the number of persons born in other countries in Asia is 2,973, in Europe 6,701, in Africa 96, in America 175, in Australia 80, and at sea 9.
      4. In the whole population there are only half as many women as men.
      5. No less than 57 different languages are spoken by people living in Calcutta, of which 41 are Asiatic and 16 non-Asiatic. the Bengali-speaking
      6. population numbers 435,000 and the Hindi-speaking 319,000. about 31,000 persons speak Oriya, 29,000 English, and 24,000 Urdu.
      7. By religion 65 per cent are Hindus, 29-4 per cent, Muhammadans, and 4 per cent. Christians, leaving only about 1 per cent, for all other religions combined.

      Source: The Imperial Gazeteer of India. Vol. 9
      https://archive.org/stream/imperialgazettee09greauoft#page/n7/mode/2up

      Warm regards and wishes

  2. Stumbled upon this site by accident when I was researching old hotel buildings. What an incredible site you have created – can see the labour of love. Possible to get some more info? Can you share an email ID?

  3. Mandy Jay says:

    The work you do here is appreciated by many, myself included. Is anyone able to signpost me to someone who would do some (paid) research for me, tracking down the cemeteries where my grandparents lie and other information I need?

    • Thanks Mandy for your kind words. I am fully aware of the desperate situation you may have in hunting materials from remote end. I can’t offer you, however, any solution. If I find someone capable of working for you I will surely come back to you. My wishes – Asok

    • m biswas says:

      Hi Mandy Jay, for getting help for tracking down the cemeteries and some paid research you might approach Anthony Khatchaturian available on facebook.

  4. I have just completed my research for a book on Old Retail Shops of Calcutta. i have a list of 75 shops which are are still operational. the oldest started in 1850 and the youngest on my list opened in 1947. All pre-independence. I am looking for information/photographs of mainly old British shops which no longer exist – the last to shut, sadly was Bourne & Shepard in 2016.

    1 ) Deschamps & Co.

    2) Great Eastern Stores.

    3) Hamilton & Co.

    4) Kellner & Co.

    5) Lazarus & Co.

    6) Leslie & Co.

    7) Walter Locke & Co.

    8) Manton & Co.

    9) Morrison & Cottle.

    10) Phelps & Co.

    11) Rankin & Co.

    12) Stewart & Co.

    13) Thacker Spink & Co.

    14) Francis Harrison Hathway & Co.

    15) Federico Peleti.

    16) Watts & Co.

    17) Whiteways and Laidlaw.

    18) Bathgate Chemist.

    19) Karmalaya – Indian Department Store.

    20) Bourne & Shepard.

    The above mentioned shops will be in the last Chapter of the Book ” They Also Served”.

    Hope to receive some information/old photographs on these shops.

    Best regards

    Ashish J Sanyal

    • Thanks Ashish,
      I think it is always good to start by defining your problem. I am not too sure if all the names of your list can be identified as retailers. Here are some relevant references that you may like to consult
      Book
      “Calcutta” Street’s Indian and Colonial Mercantile Directory for 1869 (Google Books)
      Article
      • “The Early History of Morrison & Cottle (Private) Ltd., a Producer-Retail Enterprise of Calcutta” by Christine Furedy, Bengal Past and Present, Volume XCVIII, Part I, 1979 html version; Original Microsoft Word document, a download to your computer, which must then be opened.
      • “Pioneers in Leather Goods” by Christine Furedy in B. Sarkar (ed.), Capital Book of Nostalgia, Calcutta, Capital Press, 1980, pp.16-17. html version; Original Microsoft Word document, a download to your computer, which must then be opened.
      • “Era of Mail-Order Shopping” “Series of Articles on the History of Retail Trade in Calcutta.” Capital, Vol 183, No. 4587, December 24, 1979, pp 4-10. html version; Original Microsoft Word document, a download to your computer, which must then be opened.
      • “Retail Trade in Calcutta:Offshoot from the land of shopkeepers.” Capital, Vol 183, No. 4587, December 24, 1979, pp 4-10. html version; Original Microsoft Word document, a download to your computer, which must then be opened.
      • “Development of Modern Elite Retailing in Calcutta, 1880-1920” by Christine Furedy The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. XVI, No. 4 1980, pp. 378-394. html version; Original Microsoft Word document, a download to your computer, which must then be opened.
      • “British Tradesmen of Calcutta 1830-1900: A preliminary study of their economic and political roles” by Christine Furedy in C.B. Sealy (ed.) Women Politics and Literature in Bengal east Lansing: Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University, 1981, pp. 43-62. html version; Original Microsoft Word document, a download to your computer, which must then be opened.
      • “Hall & Anderson” by Christine Furedy in B. Sarkar (ed.), Capital Book of Nostalgia, Calcutta, Capital Press, 1981, pp.17-18. html version; Original Microsoft Word document, a download to your computer, which must then be opened.

      All are available freely in Internet. You may also use puronokolkata.com resources. There are few on retailers. Wish you best

  5. শাশ্বত says:

    Found this website quite by accident while searching for Mark Wood’s 1785 map. Seems an incredible effort. I have not had time to go through all of your stuff yet, but I will. Keep up the good work.
    As for my personal interests, I am a great deal interested about Calcutta and Bengal in the early nineteenth century; on which material seems to me far scarcer than about the later half of the century.

    • Thanks Shaswata for your kind words. Yes, published sources for the first half of the 19th century are relatively less but there remain many more unexplored or unnoticed. You may try internet for the digital resources. Almost 90% of literature I used here are hyperlinked. You may get some of your materials by following those links, if you want. Wish you best

  6. Atindra Narayan Dey says:

    It is great to know that such a website exists and that also made possible on a personal initiative. Great work done and hope it will continue. I am interested in the Bengali entrepreneurs of old kolkata and Bengal, like say Ramdulal Dey. More information in this regard will help.

    – Atindra Narayan Dey

  7. Richard Holladay says:

    13th January 2017 – I posted this on Rangan Datta’s site but as yet I have no further information – I gather he lives “the other side of town!!” I have reproduced my posting below and would be pleased to hear of any useful information. I should like also to hear as to how I can contact the Old Misson Church authorities (it must belong to someone!) either a POSTAL or EMAIL Address – is it a Social Centre ? or Museum ? or is it still connected with the “Church authorities” – if so who are they – all help welcomed – thanks to all. Richard Holladay
    June 4, 2016 at 3:52 PM
    http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_people/lovely.php
    Dr Charles Newton Lovely is referred to in the link above. He is my Maternal Grandfather and I am creating a Powerpoint presentation on his life. He was the son of Rev George Lovely and was born in Calcutta in 1864. Hi father was appointed Chaplain at the Old / Mission Church in about 1863 and “George Lovely left India in January 1869 after a total service of 13 years at the Old Church. He was very popular at the Old Church, and a portrait of him was hung in the Old Church Room.”
    Does the Portrait still exist and might I have a colour image of it if this is possible.
    Many thanks,
    Richard Holladay, Chudleigh, Devon, UK

    • Hello Richard,
      I regret my inability to provide you with any current data you look for. I have however come across some relevant sources that you might have already explored.

      1. Family History data at http://ghgraham.org/charleslovely1864.html
      2. In an email from : “Peter Bailey” dated Jan 13, 2002. where he had reproduced the content of a rare book, ‘One Hundred and Seventy-Five Years at the Old or Mission Church, Calcutta’. Edited in 1945 by Rev. G. F. Westcott. You may find the email at http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/INDIA/2002-01/1010924519.

      Wish I could have found out the portrait of Dr Charles Newton Lovely for your pp presentation.

      Kind regards
      Asok

      • Richard Holladay says:

        I was aware of the first lead but the second I will follow up and appreciate your help – regards Richard Holladay

      • Richard Holladay says:

        I have traced a copy of the Book at the Lambeth Palace Library in London and they will, for a fee, look through it for me (though if you visit the Library it can be viewed for free).
        My emails to the Bishop of Calcutta have been as yet unanswered and if you visit the Diocese Website I cannot find the Old or Mission Church Listed under their 30 + churches they control Have you, or anyone reading this know who the appropriate authorities are for this Church and how to contact them by email or a Postal Address – Help really appreciated as I feel if I can get someone in the Church, with Camera and into the Old Church Room then my question will be answered and hopefully an image on its way to me !!
        We can but dream
        Richard H

      • Hello Richard,
        It is disheartening to know that you still awaiting a reply from Bishop’s office. Did you try their phone # +91-33-22825259? Wish I could do more. Please Keep in touch and keep hope. Warm regards

  8. Mandy Jay says:

    I live in England but my father was born in Calcutta (1909) to Portuguese parents. It was lovely seeing the image of the Sacred Heart Church where he was christened. His father was Samuel Ernest Joachim and his mother was Florence Claudius. They owned a taxi company in Calcutta. I am finding research very difficult even with the world wide web. I can’t even find a record of where they are buried and was hoping to pay my respects next year when I visit the area. However, websites like yours, even if only giving a fraction of information, are inspiring and give people like me, hope. Thank you and keep up the good work.

    • Hello Mandy,
      Feel very happy to provide you with some helpful data I picked from http://dentfamlinx.1apps.com

      [A]

      Florence Claudius (Robert Claudius & Anne Maria Ribeiro)
      ◘ Born 1870 (India)
      ◘ Died 7 april 1940 (Calcutta, Bengal, India)
      ◘ Buried 8 April 1940 (Calcutta, Bengal, India)
      ◘ Married 22 January 1890 (Calcutta, Bengal, India)

      (S) Samuel Ernest Joachim (Herbert Gregory Joachim & Unknown)
      ◘ Born 1865
      ◘ Died 13 February 1914 (Calcutta, Bengal, India)
      ◘ Buried 14 February 1914 (Calcutta, Bengal, India)

      Issue Samuel Ernest Joachim & Florence Claudius (See 4th Generation)
      ◘ Sibyl Joachim
      ◘ Denis Nugent Claudius Joachim
      ◘ Ada Joachim
      ◘ Herbert Joachim
      ◘ Florence Joachim
      ◘ Lena Joachim
      ◘ Harold Anthony Osmond Joachim
      ◘ Elsie(?) Joachim
      ◘ Lieutenant Bradford I.H. Joachim
      ◘ Bertrum (?) Joachim
      ◘ Maurice Joachim

      Occupations:
      ◘ Samuel Ernest Joachim: Accountant (1890)
      Contributors:
      ◘ Mandy Joachim, UK (some info)
      Sources:
      ◘ FMP-BIO/Marriages, Ref. N/1/211/Folio 151 (Samuel Ernest Joachim/Florence Claudius)
      ◘ FSO-LDS/Deaths & Burials, Ref. GS Film No. 533205 (Florence [Claudius] Joachim)
      ◘ FSO-LDS/Deaths & Burials, Ref. GS Film No. 527904 (Samuel Ernest Joachim)
      ◘ FMP-BIO/Wills & Probates, Ref. L-AG-34-29-160, Pages 195 & 196 (Samuel Ernest Joachim)
      Notes:
      ◘ Only the father’s name of descendant is shown in the marriage record.
      ◘ Probate of Samuel Ernest Joachim was granted to his wife on the
      30th March 1915 and issued the 22nd April 1915.

      [B]
      Dent Family Linx-Claudius Tree
      dentfamlinx.1apps.com/trees/claudius.htm
      Married 9 September 1811 (Black Town Chapel, Madras, India). (S) Angelica … FMP-BIO/Deaths & Burials, Ref. N/2/11/Page …. FMP-BIO/Births & Baptisms, Ref. N/2/5/Folio …… N/1/211/Folio 151 (Samuel Ernest Joachim/Florence Claudius).

      For further details you may contact the site owner at buurmandent@gmail.com
      I would be always available to support your quest with my limited means. Warm wishes

  9. BIJAY LAL DAS says:

    Sir, Thanks for your great job. I want to know what are the sources of these photographs ? Is it y’r own collections or museums and library ? Am I use these photographs for my hand-written book in bengali ? Waiting for y’r kind response. Again thanks for your precious job.

    • সুচরিতেষু বীজয়,
      আপনার হাতে-লেখা বাংলা কাগজে ‘পুরনো কলকাতার’ পাতা থেকে ছবির প্রতিলিপি ব্যবহার করতেই পারেন। আমার নিজের কোন সংগ্রহ নেই, সবই প্রায় ইন্টারনেট-মাধ্যমে পাওয়া, কপিরাইটের আওতার বাইরে। ভালোবাসা শুভেচ্ছা জানবেন।

  10. Wonderful. Must appreciate your love for our dear city of Kolkata… Keep it up..

  11. Who told that Calcutta was founded by the British Agent Job Charnock ? The Kolkata High Court in the landmark judgement delivered on 16 May, 20013 based upon an Expert Committee Report declared that “Neither Job Charnock can be regarded as the founder of Calcutta nor 24 August is the city’s birthday’….so kindly rectify the article for these type of unauthentic articles only mislead the readers…..

    Devarshi Roy Choudhury
    Joint Secretary
    Sabarna Roy Choudhury Paribar Parishad

    For reference see- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3034419.stm

    • Let me assure you Devarshibabu, I never mind rectifying my mistake, if any. No wrong however I could see in my recent posting on Sutanuti Sahibs. Hope, you find nothing objectionable in my saying, ‘Charnock was the main instrument that worked behind the foundation of the British Empire in the East.’ I believe, the observations of the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court you quoted, is quite in harmony with my views expressed at the end of the essay.
      Your citing of court verdicts was grossly inappropriate and uninvited. My earnest request to my readers, please do not bring about political / legal issues in our discussion. We need to maintain a free and fair academic atmosphere for our gathering and sharing of knowledge and information about Purono Kolkata.

  12. D Sarkar says:

    Great work. I’m researching colonial Bengal and would like some info. How can I contact you?

  13. Debtanu Dutta says:

    How can I contact you, Sir? It is urgent. Can you give me your number or email id???

  14. Anirban Dasgupta says:

    Sir,I am from the City of Joy, now residing in Bangalore. Calcutta has a special place in my heart and your pictures do help transport oneself down the passage of time to those bygone days when Kolkata was regarded as the second city of the Empire.Hoping to see more sepia tinted pictures of my city….albeit thro’ trams,
    roads, palatial buildings, maybe vintage electric lifts. Keep up the good work.

    • Dear Anirban,
      I had a terrible time with my Net connectivity for a long while. That was why I could not response to your kind words earlier. I very much share your feelings for Calcutta as she was, and assure you of my honest commitment to this project as you wish.
      Wis you Happy New Year!

  15. Prajakta says:

    1880s

  16. Prajakta says:

    I had been to Calcutta thrice before. It makes me feel nostalgic.. I appreciate your initiative from my heart…
    In my next trip to Calcutta I want to explore its colonial charm.. Your website would help me a lot. I am a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and was always interested to see Calcutta and west bengal of that time.. 1980s. Thank you for these wonderful pictures.
    Thanks and regards,
    Prajaktta

  17. Sreemanti Chakraborti says:

    Hi, I’m recently started writing a blog on old Kolkata where I’m planning to present various facts, stories, myths and information about old Kolkata. Do you mind if I take relevant photos from here and include those in my posts ?

    • Glad to hear about your new project! You are most welcome to use my resources. I strongly believe in sharing. We may grow really useful resources only through collective approach. It is important, however, to provide addresses of the sources for necessary distribution of responsibilities. Best wishes

  18. Sreemanti Chakraborti says:

    Hi, I’ve recently read about an interesting residential house of 18th century Kolkata- the Belgachhia Villa. It was initially constructed as the garden house of Prince Dwarakanath Tagore, later it was owned by the Paikpara zaminders. This famous house was also used later as a theatre house and Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s play ‘Sharmistha’ was first staged here. This house still exists almost intact near Belgachiia metro. I’m writing here to know if there is any picture or painting of this house available in the archival documents.

  19. Phil Allan says:

    Great initiative. My ancestor, John Buller, was based in Kolkata from 1792 to 1802 as a member of the Board of Revenue. He was married (and later divorced) an English lady in St John’s Anglican Church. He had 3 children with an Indian maidservant (quite common), which is where my family originated. We think his residence is now part of the Botanical Gardens. Still searching. Will share whatever we find. Cheers, Phil

  20. Andrew says:

    Hello,
    I am researching old buildings such as you are showing here that might be potentially renovated in to a concert hall in Kolkata.
    Please contact me if you have thoughts on this matter that you would be willing to discuss.

  21. Sreemanti Chakraborti says:

    Very appreciable effort. I too am a passionate old Calcutta enthusiast. Are you planning to do the documentary with painting and photographs only? I think it would be better if you punch with these documents relevant written information collected from reliable archival source and photos of the current remnants of some of monuments and places that are living till now, reminding us of the past of our beloved “City of Palaces”.

    • It is belated but my sincere thanks in appreciation of your thoughtful suggestions. Wish I had time and resources to do the kind of inputs and perhaps few more. Whatever you find here, I am afraid, is sadly just a token of things we desire. Wish you a very Happy New Year.

  22. Being x calcuttan I feel very nostalgic.Well done job..

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