The Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah: A Digital Archive of Memories

Dutch Buildings in Chinsurah

The Dutch had built several buildings in Chinsurah, some of which still remain. The Dutch church, whose steeple was built by Director J.A. Sichterman in 1742 and the rest by Director G.L. Vernet in 1768, was octagonal with a chime clock, but employed no clergyman of its own. Services were performed by a “ziekentrooster” and a clergyman was often brought from Calcutta for christenings. Its steeple was destroyed in a cyclone in 1864 and the church was later converted into an office for the Hooghly Mohsin College. The current Hooghly Madrasa used to be barracks for the Dutch, and later the English. A marble plaque and two Dutch cannons still stand there. Next to the Madrasa was the Dutch Governor’s residence called Welgeleegen(built in 1744), which contains the VOC logo of 1687. The Sandeswar Temple in Chinsurah contains two massive brass drums gifted by a Dutch Governor [see the Youtube video by Bauke van der Pol]. The original Dutch cemetery near Fort Gustavus was replaced in the 1760s under Director Louis Taillefert by the present one. [1] The Fort Gustavus itself was demolished in 1827 to make barracks for newly arriving British soldiers, and the present District Court was built in 1829 with materials from it. One also notices the ornate, solitary tomb of Susanna Anna Maria Verkirk (nee Yeats) who died in 1809. The so-called Dutch Villa, which was a large building enclosed by a wall,with a courtyard and typical 18th century woodwork details, has recently been demolished to build residential quarters. Contemporary sources mention a Masonic lodge “Concordia” where several important personalities like William Carey had stayed. [2] VOC directors such as George Vernet, Pieter Brueys and Issac Titsingh were associated with it.Mention is also made of a unique “ice-field” near the Chinsurah Burial Ground where ice was made during winter using saltpetre and a freezing apparatus.[3]

[1]SeeAsiaticus in Two Parts, 1803: 43 and Historical and Ecclesiastical Sketches of Bengal ... until ... 1757, 1831: 212

[2]SeeHandbook of Freemasonry. BRILL, 2014: 444.

[3]Prominent personalities such as Thomas Wise and Gregorius Herklots had studied the temperature in the ice-field.