Calcutta Free School Society, Lal Dighi, Calcutta, 1789

Old Court House, Calcutta
কলকাতা ফ্রি স্কুল সোসাইটি ভবন, লালদীঘি, ১৭৮৯
“On the 21st day of December, 1789, a society was formed in Calcutta, for the purpose of providing the means of education for all children, orphans, and others, not object of the care of the (Military) Orphan Society. The management of this new society was confided, under the patronage of the Governor-general, to twelve governors, viz., the chaplains, churchwardens. Sidemen, and six other gentlemen resident in Calcutta chosen by the subscribers. The governors visit the school in rotation, and meet monthly. The funds were to be raised by a ratable contribution from the civil servants of the Company, and such other contributions as might be procurable: the superintending masters and teachers, male and female, to be elected by the governors: the plan of education to be that usually followed in free schools : the children to be recommended by the subscribers.
As the benefits of the school were designed to be extensively enjoyed, the Governor-generalin Council, at the request of the governors, undertook to communicate the plan and objects of the plan throught the Bengal provinces, and to the governors of Chinsurah and Chandernagore, It was also ordered that the Company’s surgeons should attend the school, whenever it would be necessary, gratuitously; and that such medicines as might be required should be furnished, gratis from the Company’s dispensary. In further promotion of the objects of the institution, the Government consented to allow the sum of Rs. 60 per mensem, for the purpose of employing moonshees, capable of teaching the native languages to the children.” See More

With the change of socio-political scenario and due the growing influences of the orientalist movement, the policy guidelines of the Calcutta School Society raised a serious question as to the extent of benefits it provides to the indigenous people. The Society’s policy was a reflection of the mood of the then Government of India. The Court of Directors also did not encourage the Government of India to do anything for the diffusion of education among the inhabitants. The Marques of Hastings was Governor-General of India when the Charter of the East India Company was renewed in 1813. In their letter to the Governor-General in Council of Bengal, dated 3rd June 1814, the Court of Directors wrote :— “The Clause presents two distinct propositions for consideration ; first, the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and the revival and improvement of literature ; secondly, the promotion of a knowledge of the sciences amongst the inhabitants of that country. “Neither of these objects is, we apprehend, to be obtained through the medium of public colleges, if established under the rules, and upon a plan similar to those that have been founded at our Universities, because the natives of caste and of reputation will not submit to the subordination and discipline of a college. So the Indian Government did not take the initiative in the matter of the education of the people of this country. It was the people themselves who had to take the initiative and to do the needful. See More
The featured picture above represents the view of the Old Court House inside Fort William, Calcutta – the first fortress built by the British after their establishment in Bengal. Though this building is commonly known as the Old Court House, it actually did belong to the Charity School, where the old Court, and also the Town Hall were mere impermanent occupants.
The painting is one of the ’24 Views in Indostan(sic)’ composed by WilliamOrme based on a work by Francis Swine Ward (1736-94).

Charity School, later Free School, Calcutta, estb c1726-1731

Old Court House, Calcutta(crp)

চ্যারিটি স্কুল, কলকাতা, স্থাপনা c১৭২৬-১৭৩১
The first Charity School in Calcutta was founded somewhere between 1726 and 1731. The Charity School and later, its successor, the “Free School” began life as the School, on a site on which today stands the Scottish Church, in Dalhousie square, adjacent to Writer’s Buildings. The Mayor’s Court moved to this two-storied building belonging to Charity School in 1732, which also accommodated the Town Hall of Calcutta for a while. The School was established to provide education for European orphans and children of poor Anglo-Indians in the city. The education given by the School is of a ‘plain practical character and the boys generally become signalers in the Telegraph department, assistant apothecaries, writers in Government offices and mercantile houses, overseers of plantations, or obtain employment on Railways or in printing establishments, printing being an art successfully taught in the School.’ The Calcutta Review of 1866.
The Free School, engrafted on the Old Charity School, founded in 1742, and later settled in “the garden house near the Jaun Bazar *, 1795.” The purchase and repair of the premises cost Rs. 56.800. The public subscriptions towards the formation of the charity amounted to Rs. 26,082, of which Earl Cornwallis gave Rs. 2000. The Free School at this period (1792,) was located in “the second house to the southward of the Mission Church.” – All these we know from ‘Good old days’ of Rev. William Carey.
In the lapse of time the education imparted by the School became quite inadequate to the demand for education; and in consequence of the necessity for providing instruction for the offspring of the poor, the Free School Society was established on the 21st December, 1789. Shortly afterwards the children commenced their schoolwork at no. 8, Mission Row. The property—where once stood the house of Impey’s colleague, Mr. Justice Le Maistre—was purchased in 1795, and for some years to come the School profited much from the proceedings of the annual Calcutta lotteries. In 1841 Free School Street was made by the Lottery Committee, and the Governors of the School were enabled to extend and define their boundaries of the School grounds. A great storm in 1852 played serious havoc with the already decayed buildings, and so in the following year, a New Boys’ School was commenced by Messrs. Mackintosh, Burn & Co. from designs prepared by Col. W. Forbes.st_thomas_church_freeSchool_street – The photograph taken in recent time by unknown photographer shows the edifice of St Thomas Church, which is bound up with that of old Calcutta Free School, now known as St. Thomas’ School. The Church was dedicated to St. Thomas, the Patron Saint of India and the Free School was founded on the festival of that apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today, part of the land houses the food and rationing offices. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the authorities decided that the “Free School Street Premises” was “Unsuitable” and thought of shifting the school to Ranchi. The idea was abandoned as parents objected and the choice fell on “Kidderpore House” at 4, Diamond Harbour Road. In 1914 the “Free School Society” approached the government for “Kidderpore House” and the school started in full from there in 1916. In 1917 it was decided, that the “Free School” would be converted, into the St. Thomas’ School for better management and in 1923 the “Calcutta Free School” was officially named St. Thomas’ School after the Apostle on whose day the original “Free School Society” had been founded. See for More
The featured Coloured aquaint by Francis Swain Ward, painted in c1760s, and published in 1804 ln: Views in Indostan by William Orme, Plate 17

St Thomas School, Kidderpore, Calcutta, 1789

StThomasGirlsSchool-sepia
সেন্ট টমাস স্কুল, খিদিরপুর, কলকাতা, ১৭৮৯
St. Thomas’ School, founded in the year 1789 for the English community of Calcutta is the oldest school in Bengal. The origin of St. Thomas’ School, Kidderpore, may be traced to the charity school, which in the words of Reverend W.K. Farminger, was founded somewhat between 1726 and 1731. Proper records were made and preserved from 1787 by the Select Vestry of the new church (new St. John’s Church) which took over the running of the Charity Fund and School – for more about the Charity School See. “A plan for establishing a Free School Society for the Education of Children” was submitted at a meeting held on December 21, 1787, presided over by Lord Cornwallis at the Old Court House. The House of Impey’s colleague Mr. Justice Le Maistre was purchased in 1785. On April 21, 1800, a general meeting was called to unite the Old Charity School Fund and the Free School Funds.
In 1833, a new Constitution was passed with the Governor- General as patrons. A lot of additions were made to the school between 1833-41. During the revolt of 1857, the school continued in the old school rooms. The school came under the Government inspection for the first time in in 1882. Since that time, the school has worked under the Code of Regulations for European Schools. In 1915, the extensive Kidderpore house property was bequeathed to the Free School Society, upon which the present school stands. A couple of years later, this institution was renamed as the St. Thomas’ School Society. A bill called the St. Thomas’ School Act was passed by the Legislative council of Bengal in 1923. The name of the school was also changed from the Calcutta Free School to St. Thomas’ Schools. See
The school began life as the School, on a site on which today stands the Scottish Church, in Dalhousie square, Calcutta, adjacent to Writer’s Buildings. Later on the school premises moved to Free School Street. That site was sold and on the land stand the Food Department and the Free School St. Post Office and other buildings. A part of the St. Thomas’ School still exists at the same site and is called St. Thomas Day School, as legally it is a branch of the main St. Thomas’ School. See