India Record Series Old Fort William in Bengal Vol.1

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Introductory notes

Charles Robert Wilson, born in London in 1863, was educated at Oxford. Soon after taking his degree he joined the Indian Educational Service. He began his work in 1887 as a Professor in Dhaka College (now in Bangladesh). In 1895, he joined the Presidency College in Calcutta. He was also the Principal of the Government College, Bankipur in Patna, when he was also made the Officer in Charge of the Records of the India Government. He used his tenure as the Officer in Charge of the Records of Indian Government to retrieve the early history of the East India Company in Bengal. Wilson published a compilation of from the Bengal Public Consultation in three volumes, titled "Early Annals of the English in Bengal". C.R. Wilson also did important work on the early history of Calcutta, determining the topography of Calcutta during the early days of English settlement, particularly the plan and extent of the Old Fort William. Wilson oversaw the publication of a compilation of documents pertaining the old Fort William, in a volume titled, "Old Fort William in Bengal". However, Wilson could not see the publication of "Old Fort William in Bengal" in his own eyes, because of his premature death in 1904. "Old Fort William in Bengal" was published as part of the Indian Record Series, by the Government of India in London, in the year 1906.

The selections from the "Old Fort William in Bengal" highlight on the correspondences between the authorities of the Fort William to those back in London during the time of the earthquake and storm that Bengal witnessed in 1737. The event had a calamitous effect on the region causing loss of lives and also creating serious crisis in production and circulation of food crops. The selections also focus on the correspondences pertaining to Maratha raids in Bengal, The annual Maratha raids between 1742 to 1751 in demand for for "Chouth" or one-fourth of the revenue, affected the cultivation process leading to desertion of villages.

Selection details

The selections from the "Old Fort William in Bengal" highlight on the correspondences between the authorities of the Fort William to those back in London during the time of the earthquake and storm that Bengal witnessed in 1737. The event had a calamitous effect on the region causing loss of lives and also creating serious crisis in production and circulation of food crops. The selections also focus on the correspondences pertaining to Maratha raids in Bengal, The annual Maratha raids between 1742 to 1751 in demand for for "Chouth" or one-fourth of the revenue, affected the cultivation process leading to desertion of villages.


[Page 149]

1. 168. OBSERVATIONS BY THE COURT ON THE GREAT STORM, Extract from General Letter from the Court to Bengal. London, December 13, 1738. Paragraphs 80and 81. Letter Book No. 24.

80. For the Reasons mentioned in the 82nd Paragraph We cannot but approve of Relieving the Inhabitants of their Suffering by the Storm, the Loss of their Dwellings and great part of their Substance, in forbearing to Collect the Revenues of the poor People in the Town for some time, which in Consultation the 24th October the Jemindar was order'd to refrain till he receiv'd an Order from the Board to the contrary, We are told in the said Paragraph that the Poor labouring People had rebuilt their Houses, and the Jemindar was again order'd to Collect all the usual Dutys, but We can find no Order Enter'd upon Consultation for the same, on Entring the Accounts of our Revenues for the Months of August, September and October in Consultation the [Page 150] 27th December it is said indeed an Order of Council was made for the Jemindar to Excuse them for three Months, which We can by no means reconcile with the Entry of the 24th October, and there is No other.

81. Our Warehouses and other Buildings must doubtless have suffered in the Hurricane, repairing them was absolutely Requisite, you must always remember to keep every thing in good Order and Condition, We Chearfully acquiesce in laying out our Money for such necessary Purposes provided the due Œconomy is Used, and the Work well performed, whenever any Decay is perceiv'd, don't suffer it to run on, but immediately order the proper Workmen to repair it with the best and lasting Materials.

[Page 150]

2. I69. FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE SAD EFFECTS OF THE GREAT STORM. Extract from Abstract of General Letter from Bengal to the Court. Fort William, January 29, 1739.1 Paragraphs 75-82. Coast and Bay Abstracts of Letters received, K. 80.

75. The Annual Expences exceeded some years ago particularly Charges Merchandize which were occasion'd by the Storm.

76. Which Levelled most of the Walls in the Town, shattered and threw down many of the Buildings and blew up the Bridges, the Tide some days after broke in upon and carried away some of the Wharfs Slips and Stairs, the Places most Damnified are the Peers on the ffactory Wharf, Wharf and Slips at Soota Loota, Walls round the burying place and powder magazine and the ffactory Points, Church steeple was overthrown.

Shall Repair them in the most frugal and Secure manner its Deferred hitherto by Chunams Dearness and Scarcity.

77. A Sad Effect of the Hurricane was a Famine that raged all round the Countrey best part of the Year, were obliged to forbid the Exportation of Rice the 5th June, which affected Private Trade, more particularly Mr. Elliott who had two Ships laden with Rice.

78. Took off the Duty on all rice brought into the Town the 12th June, Hughley Government had done the Same Rice [Page 151] was bought on the Companys Account Delivering it out in small Quantitys at the Buzar Rate, when Rice grew Cheap again, the Duty was Levied as formerly and Madrass was supplied with a large Quantity.

79. Revenues were naturally Decreased hereby and the Impoverished Tenants were Indulged with Time to Pay their Rents, but when the famine was over revenues arose as Usual.

81. The Presidents house and Warehouse purchased the 27th June are very Useful and as cheap as any that could have been Built.

82. The Plan of the Factory with that Purchase is Enclosed they are Contiguous.

[Page 156]

3. 177. ORME'S ACCOUNT OF THE MARATHA DITCH.2 Extract from Materials for 'Bengal History.' Orme Collection, O.V., Vol. LXVI., p. 82.

In the year 1742, the Indian inhabitants of the Colony requested and obtained permission to dig a ditch at their own expence round the Company's bounds from the northern part of Sootanutty, to the southern part of Govindpore. This work would extend seven miles, whilst the force to defend it did not exceed 300 Europeans and 500 Indians. In six months, three miles of this fortification were finished: when the inhabitants seeing that no Morattoes had ever been on the western side of the river within sixty miles of Calcutta, and that Allaverdy exerted himself vigorously to prevent their incursions into the Island of Cossimbuzar, discontinued the work, which from the occasion, was called the Morattoe ditch.

[Page 156]

4. 178. MEASURES TAKEN FOR THE SECURITY OF CALCUTTA IN 1742. Extracts from Bengal Public Consultations. Fort William, April 20, 22, 24, and 27, May 27, June 25, July 1, 3, 12, and 22, and August 3, 1742. Range I., Vol . XV.

Calcutta Ordered to be made Defensible.

Tuesday, April 20, 1742.—From the repeated Advices our Merchants have received from Budwan Radnagore and other Places of the Morattoes near approach to this Country which being confirmed to us by the above Letter from Cossimbuzar [from Sir Francis Russell dated the 16th Instant] We think it Necessary to take some Steps for the Defence and Security of this Place, therefore.

Town to be surveyed.

ORDERED That Captain Commandant William Holcombe Captain John Lloyd and Captain Edward Frederick Reade Gunner taking with them John Allifze Surveyer of the Works Do go [Page 157] Round the Town and take a particular and Carefull Survey of the same Giving us their Opinion in Writing wher and in what Manner the Several Avenues to Calcutta may be defensible in case of the approach of an Enemy and to Report the same as Soon as they possibly can.

Resolutions for fortifying Calcutta

Advices from all Parts still Confirming the News of the Morattoes Near Approach to the Nabobs Army Therefore and that We may lose no time in Making the Place as Defensible as possible.

ORDERED That the Several Batterys be Raised the Ditches made the Gates Walld up and other Works done for the Defence and Security of the Town as are mentioned to be immediately Necessary in the Report delivered in by Captain Commandant William Holcombe &ca.

ORDERED that all such Gun Carriages as may want it be immedeately Repaired and put in order and New Ones made where the same may be required.

ORDERED That the Gunner do Employ as many People as he can in Making a Sufficient Store of Gunpowder for Service with all other kind of Ammunition Necessary.

As We find on the List of Military Stores but a very small Number of Small Arms, ORDERED that the Master of Arms do look out for such good Small Arms as are to be purchased in the Town and that a sufficient Number be proved and bought up for the Companys Use on this Occasion on the best terms we can.

[Page 166]

5. 179. BRIEF ACCOUNTS OF THE MEASURES TAKEN FOR SECURING CALCUTTA IN 1742. Extracts from Abstracts of General Letters from Bengal to the Court. Fort William, July 31(paragraphs 11and 12), and October 30, 1742(paragraph 16). Coast and Bay Abstracts of Letters received, K. 80.

11.On the Morattas coming began to put Fort William into the best posture of defence. A Strong Detachment sent to Cossimbuzar and sent for Mr. Forrestie a good Engineer from Patna to Form a Plan for a Fortification. Subordinates ordered to be put into a State of Security some Bastions are Erected at Cossimbuzar.

12. Tygris and Houghton are ordered up to Calcutta Guard Ships.

16. Mr. Forrestie has formd several Plans for Fortifying the Town, shall consult Major Knipe and send his Sentiments.

[Page 166]

6. 180. PROPOSALS FOR FORTIFYING CALCUTTA. Extracts from Bengal Public Consultations. Fort William, November 1, 15,and 29, and December 18, 1742. Range 1., Vol. XV.

Plans of Fortification brought in.

Monday, November 1.—Mr. Forrestie now laid before the Board a Draught of the Town of Calcutta with several Plans which he had laid down for fortifying the same.

Major Charles Knipe being called in order to take his Opinion thereon agreeable to our Honourable Masters directions and the Draught and Plan being shewn to him and his advice asked He says he will go with Mr. Forrestie round the Town and view the Ground when he shall be better able give his sentiments on the Plans and that he will do this as soon as possible.

Major Knipe's Opinion of Mr. Forrestie's Fortifications.

Monday, November 15.—Major Charles Knipe now laid before the Board his Opinion in Writing on the Plan drawn by Mr. Forrestie for Fortifying the Town with a further Scheme for doing it according to his own Sentiments and offers to go round the [Page 167] Town with Mr. Forrestie and draw out a Plan Conformable thereto.

Resolved that Mr. Forrestie be desired to attend on Major Knipe accordingly.

ORDERED That Major Knipe's opinion be entered after this Consultation....

[Page 168]

7. 181. FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE MEASURES TAKEN FOR SECURING CALCUTTA IN 1742. Extracts from Abstract of General Letter from Bengal to the Court. Fort William, January 8, 1743. Paragraphs 113-131, 135, 136, and 141. Coast and Bay Abstracts of Letters received, K. 80.

113. Advised via Madras of the Methods pursuing to put the Settlement in a proper Posture of defence on the Morattas Invasion.

[Page 169]

114. On the first Alarm Entertained 200 Buxerrys to Man the Choukeys and Patrol a nights on Skirts of the Town and Four Pauncesoys on the River for Intelligence.

115. Ordered 20th April a Survey of the Town, Guns, Small Arms and Ammunition in Store, also a List of Inhabitants.

116. And Mannd the Sloops with full Complement of Men and Stores.

117. Entertained 100 Lascars in the Gun room, Gunner ordered to see everything in his Province put in the best Condition and to make Powder Ready.

118. Formed 24 April a Militia with Officers to Command. River Surveyed up to Chandernagore to make People Masters of the Channel and a Person ordered to Supervise the New Works.

119. Having but few Small Arms, bought 120 Musquetts.

120. On Morattas retiring put a stop to the Works 27th May but ordered Chunam and Bricks to be provided against Mr. Forresties arrival with whom shall advise about a regular Fortification. Discharged 17th June the Buxerrys.

121. The Morattas having seized Hughley Fort thought proper to order a New Survey of the Town and Reentertained the Buxerrys and Pauncesoys—Report of the Town being made Agreed to Finish the Works therein mentioned, Survey of the Fort was brought in the 12th July.

122. Bought 500 Sword Blades at 2 Madras Rupees each, requested from Madras Great Guns and Shot and Small Arms and took a Chest out of the Sumatra.

123. Received from Madras 750 Small Arms with 20 Cannon and Shott.

124. Prohibited 3rd August Sale of Great Guns and Warlike Stores to Blacks to prevent either party taking Umbrage.

125. Mr. Forrestie was directed that day to Survey the Town and Form a Plan of a Fortification, he brought in Several the 1st November, which were shewn to Major Knipe who went round the Town gave his Opinion the 15th and proposed Walling the Town Round at much less Expence and laid before them a Plan the 18th December.

126. These Plans are in a Bamboo per Houghton.

127. The Major has taken great Pains and Mr. Forrestie also.

[Page 170]

128. Discharged Mr. Robert Lennard 29 November and gave him 500 Madras Rupees for Assisting in the Works.

129. Prohibited 22 April Rice being Exported, took it off 3d. June.

130. All Expences of Raising Batterys and other disbursements on account of the Troubles are carried to the head of Fortifying the Town.

131. Cossimbuzar Fortified the Walls of the Factory by Erecting 4 good Bastions so that they feard no Surprize from any Party.

135. Mr. Cotesworth Erected a Brick Wall round Ballasore Factory to prevent Insults, which will cost about 800 Rupees.

136. All Timber and Plank wanted were Surveyed and Reports made.

141. New Warehouses are not yet quite perfected.

[Page 174]

8. 186. MEASURES TAKEN FOR THE SECURITY OF CALCUTTA IN MARCH, 1743. Extracts from Bengal Public Consultations. Fort William, Thursday, March 17, Tuesday, March 29, and Thursday, March 31. Range I., Vol. XVI.

Batterys repaired.

March 17.—Some of the Honourable Companys Batterys wanting to be repaired.

ORDERED that the Buxie do sett about repairing of them with what they may want.

Fort and Town to be surveyed.

March 29.—As it may be proper to make some additional Fortification and take some further Steps for our Defence should the Marrottoes Approach this way.

ORDERED That Captain Commandant William Holcombe and Mr. Forrestie do go round the Fort and the Adjacent parts thereto and take a Survey thereof and report to us what Additional Fortifications or Alterations they may think necessary to be made on this occasion and that they do it as soon as possible.

Merchants allowed to dig a Ditch round the Companys bounds.

March 31.—The Several Merchants and Inhabitants of Calcutta propose to the Board at their own Expence to dig a Ditch Twenty one Covids wide from the Battery at the Prison round the Companys bounds as far as the Cowkeys beyond Perrins Gardens [Page 175] That each Inhabitants proportion towards the same shall be rated by the Jemindar. That the Space of Ground which will be covered by the Bank raised out of the Ditch shall not now or hereafter be Charged with Rent. They also desire for the present that Twenty five thousand Rupees may be advanced out of the Honourable Companys Cash to begin the work Bisnodaseat [Vishnudas Seth] Ramkissenseat [Ramakrishna Seth] Rassbeharryseat [Rasvihari Seth] and Omichund [Amichand] engaging to repay the same in three Months.

AGREED That the above proposal be allowed of and that they have Liberty to Dig the Ditch on the Terms they mention and further that the President do advance them Twenty five thousand Rupees out of the Companys Cash as they request.

Parapet Wall round the Factory to be built and the Avenues to be barricaded up.

Captain William Holcombe and Mr. Forrestie agreeable to the order of last Council now delivered in a Plan of what they thought necessary to be done for the Security of the place but as what they have laid down will require some time to compleat and the present Emergency requiring something that will take up but a short time having continual Alarms of Partys of the Marottoes approaching near us the same was sett aside and those Gentlemen asked what they thought would serve for the present. They said it was absolutely necessary to have a Parapet Wall built round the Curtains of the Factory Inland as also upon the New Godown and and that all the Avenues leading into the Square with the Factory should be barricaded up.

ORDERED that the same be sett about and done accordingly.

ORDERED that the Jemindar do entertain Two hundred more Buxerries for the Companys Service .

[Page 177]

9. 190. OBSERVATIONS BY THE COURT ON THE PRECAUTIONS TAKEN AGAINST THE MARATHAS. Extract from General Letter From the Court to Bengal. London, March 21, 1744.Paragraphs 58and 59.Letter Book No. 26

58. We entirely approve of the necessary Precautions taken on the Morattas Invasion to prevent a Surprize, by hiring a number of Lascars, forming the Inhabitants into a Militia, Surveying the Town, Fortifications, Guns, purchasing some small Arms, and [Page 178] the like, the Expence upon such an Urgent Occasion, We chearfully acquiesce in, relying upon your Care and Frugality in Disbursing our Money on every Article.

59. As the Danger we hope is long before now blown over, such Retrenchments of our Charges We expect were made by Discharging all Supernumerary Hands, putting Us to no further Expence in other Respects than was requisit, agreeable to our Sentiments by the Lapwing.

Mr. Forrestie may be an Ingenious Skilful Engineer, but We dont see any Occasion that We have for him, such Persons have generally Expensive Schemes in their Heads, therefore he must be Discharged from our Service.

[Page 178]

10. 191. BATTERYS ORDERED TO RE REPAIRED AND SOLDIERS ALLOWED FOR THE DEFENCE OF THE DITCH. Extract from Bengal Public Consultations. Fort William, March 29, 1744. Range I., Vol. XVII.

Several of the Batterys raised last Year being much out of repair and Some of them fallen down.

ORDERED that they be again built up and such repairs given to them as they may require. Also that such other Methods be taken for the Defence of the Town against the Marrottoes as may be found convenient.

The Merchants proposing to Defend the Ditch Dug round the Town with their own People Provided we would allow them about Sixty Europeans Soldiers to be Divided and Placed at the Several Bastions thereof in Order to Encourage their People.

ORDERED That the number of Soldiers they require be allowed them.

[Page 180]

11. 193. THE COURT REITERATE THEIR APPROVAL OF THE PRECAUTIONS TAKEN AGAINST THE MARATHAS. Extract from General Letter from the Court to Bengal. London, February 7, 1745. Paragraph 36, Letter Book No. 26.

We entirely approve of putting the Batterys in good order, repairing the Wharfs, raising a Militia, laying in a Stock of Grain, hiring Lascars for the Gunroom, Lending the Black Merchants a Sum of Money to Dig a Ditch round the Town at their own Expence, and other Steps that were taken for your better Defence on the Moratta's approach, observing that when the Danger was over, our Charges were duly lessened by Discharging the People hired upon this Emergency.

[Page 181]

12. 194. THE COUNCIL AT CALCUTTA CONSIDER THAT NEW WORKS WOULD COST TOO MUCH. Extract from Abstract of General Letter from Bengal to the Court. Fort William, February 9, 1745. Paragraphs 86, 90,and 91. Coast and Bay Abstracts of Letters nceived, Vol. 5.

86. The Companys Towns Measured, usual Salamy [salami] 3 will be Collected.

90. As to Fortifying the Town were encouraged by the Governour at Morattas Invasion to make it as defensible as could, Persons of Rank coming for Shelter, Nabob made no Demands for Strengthning Cossimbuzar tho' near his Residence, but apprehend a demand would be made were New Works begun when the Country is in peace.

91. Revenues might thereby be raised but not Answerable to Expence, many Difficultys in Raising Contributions on Merchants and Inhabitants as experience in Digging a Ditch, Money due on that Account—nothing can be received from Strangers but what would be Redemanded.

This is a selection from the original text


grain, rice, storm, zamindar

Source text

Title: India Record Series Old Fort William in Bengal Vol.1

Editor(s): C.R. Wilson

Publisher: Government of India

Publication date: 1906

Original compiled 1887-1904

Original date(s) covered: 1737-1751

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original compiled 1887-1904 Original date(s) covered: 1737-1751

Digital edition

Original editor(s): C.R. Wilson

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 149 to 150
  • 2 ) pages 150 to 151
  • 3 ) page 156
  • 4 ) pages 156 to 157
  • 5 ) page 166
  • 6 ) pages 166 to 167
  • 7 ) pages 168 to 170
  • 8 ) pages 174 to 175
  • 9 ) page 178
  • 10 ) pages 180 to 181


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