January 15, 2009


When Suraj ud Daula captured Fort William in 1756 the Records of Hooghly and Calcutta, including copies from the subordinate factories of Balasore, Kasimbazar, Decca, Malda and Patna were burnt, and between 1756 and 1770 there are only occasional documents supplied by the Home Government in the Calcutta Record office. Fortunately for those interested in the History of the English in Bengal the Directors of the Honourable East India Company were suspicious of their Agents abroad and in order to keep in close touch with their proceedings insisted on having copies of all their transactions. Had these copies, which are at the India office, been in Calcutta, it is probable that they would have been printed years ago, but as comparatively few people are prepared to spend several months of their leave searching them, the annals of the English in Bengal, except for short periods, have never been published, and the object of this book in to supply that want as far as the River Hooghly is concerned.

Owing to my work which does nit allow one much leisure especially as Branch Pilot, I have had to end this History at about 1823. That year was chosen because, as the following extract from the Calcutta Gazette shows, it marks a new era in the history of the River.

August 14th 1823. “The steam vessel “Diana” may now be daily seen in active operation on the Hughly and groups of wondering Natives crowd both banks of the River to witness its surprising manouvres.”

I am pleased to have this opportunity of thanking those officers of the Government of Bengal who lent me books and Records. Officers of the India Office for their courteous assistance during the time I worked there. My wife and W. D. J. Hughes Esq., Master Pilot who helped me to search the records at the India Office and above all, A. J. Cassels, Esq., C.I. E., whose encouragement and help for many years is responsible for what I have achieved.

Captain Brice has generously given me most of the credit for this History but the fact remains that if it had not been for his ability and enthusiasm and the interest taken in it by Captain W. H. coombs, C. B. E.., R. N. R., it would not have been published, and I am grateful to them both for saving my part of the work from being forgotton.

G. T.. Labey.

St. Clements Farm,




The History of both the Bengal Pilot Service and the Navigation of the Hooghly River has never been published, yet it forms a most important link in the study of this Country’s maritime history, and also that of India.

This book is intended to fill in the gap, for it shows amongst other things, that in the development of British of British India, sea power was the basis on which the whole structure was founded.

Bengal’s enormous net-work of rivers radiating from the Ganges was natural area for the exercise of such power, and the Pilot Service assumed vital importance.

This History has been compiled over forty years for it began as far back as 1922 when Captain Labey spent the whole of one ‘home leave’ at the India Office Library studying all the books and searching the relevant records.

On his return to duty in Calcutta he continued his research in all the available records there and slowly and painstakingly built up his history which he eventually completed up to the year 1823, for reasons explained in his preface.

Captain Labey did not have his book published for, as he said in a letter to me recently “Having completed the book he had achieved what he set out to do, which was to record the early history of the Service, and he was no longer interested except to refer to it from time to time.”

When Captain Labey retired in 1944 he left his note books with W. D. J. Hughes, Esq., then a Master Pilot who intended to write another version and bright it up to date, but retiring prematurely in 1954 he came home to obtain his Master certificate and took up other employment, and was unable to finish it.

I was always interested in such a project and was pleased when early in 1960 J. H. G. Colquhoun, Esq., Branch Pilot (Retired) contacted me after a meeting he had with Captain W. H. Coombs, C. B. E., R. N. R., and Captain G. G. Franklin, Esq., Branch Pilot (Retired) with the request that I would write the History of the Service, as they felt there was an urgent need for it; to assist me in the task he gave me all Captain Labey’s note books.

Other people’s notes are not always easy to understand, so I decided to read as many books as possible from which the notes had been taken to obtain first hand knowledge. AS it would be expensive to stay in London for a long period to study the sources of reference, I contacted the Librarian of the Gloucestershire County Library, Miss E. M. T. Marwick, M. A., F. L. A., who, to my amazement and thanks, was able to produce a large proportion of the books required. They arrived from the Central Library, in London, India Office Library, Bristol University, and from Country and City Libraries all over Southern England. Never heave I met a more efficient service and I am very grateful to them all.

It took me many months taking notes, and adding here and there what I hope are other interesting incidents to Captain Labey’s version, then when all was ready to begin the task of writing, I wrote to Captain Labey explaining what I wished to do and asking his permission to proceed for, after all, he obviously exercised certain prerogative as all my work was based on his careful research.

His reply was typical of his kind and generous nature, for not only did he wish me luck in the venture but actually sent me the bound typescript of his History, with permission to copy from it. He also sent later four Photostat copies of original charts of the River, two of 1690, the others 1720 and 1785.

The result of course, is that this book is based entirely on his, large parts of it being taken verbatim; all have done is to make a few alterations, missing parts out and adding others, write the introductions both Physical and bring it all up to date.

This history is therefore the result of Captain Labey’s industry so all the credit for it must go to him. Posterity owes him a debt of gratitude for recording a part of our nautical heritage that would otherwise have faded into oblivion.

I also wrote to Captain W. D. J. Hughes, Branch Pilot (Retired) to see if he could help with information after 1823. He very generously sent me his work as far as it went, with permission to use it us required; it has been a great help; he also sent with it several excellent photographs for which I am most grateful.

I also wish to thank C. W. H. Ansell, Esq., O. B. E., Branch Pilot, (Retired) for the loan of the official report of the great cyclone of October 16th and 27th, 1942, made by R> P. Ross, Esq., Branch Pilot, (Deceased) and also Peter Collinson, Esq., Branch Pilot (Retired) for information concerning the year after I had left Calcutta which brings the History full cycle from all British English Pilot.

Finally there would have been no hope of publication had it not been for Captain W. H. Coombs, C. B. E.., R. N. R., who needs no introduction to the Seafarers of this land, to whose welfare he has devoted his life. It may not be known to all, that at an early stage in his very distinguished career, he was, for awhile in the “Hooghly River Survey Service”, and has always retained his love for the River. His encouragement and offer of help to see the book published, has made this possible and a great debt is also therefore due to him which I humble acknowledge.

Further I wish to thank Colonel T. M. Cag, C. B. E., one time Deputy River Surveyor, Calcutta, for his kindness and generosity in allowing me to quote from his Report on the Hooghly River and its Headwaters, used in Chapter 12. He is a recognized authority on the rivers of Eastern India. Then I wish to thank Mr. D. K. Deshmukh, Branch Pilot, Hooghly Pilot Service, who has helped me considerably in supplying information which could only be obtained in India, also my thanks are due to Commander C. J. Mohan, I. N. (Retd.) Deputy Conservator, Calcutta Port Commissioner’s for his help in information concerning the Commissioner’s Marine Services, also to Mr. M. J. Pearce, of the India Office Records, Commonwealth Relations Office, who kindly supplied me with information concerning the service records of Branch Pilots from 1800. My grateful thanks are also due to my step-daughter, Sarah Jefferson, who while home on holiday from Montreal, typed a considerable amount of the book, which helped to speed up its completion, as my typing with two fingers is very slow. Then too, there is Mr. Crosland of the Calcutta “Statesman” who has given me invaluable assistance directly and also put a room at the disposal of Mr. D. K. Deshmukh, in “Statesman House while looked old newspaper records for me.

Last but by no means least, I wish to thank my wife Eileen for the very many months she has put up with the disorder I created and my temperamental moods, with a calmness that surprised me.

It can truly be said in the words of Sir Henry Wotton

“I am but a gatherer and

disposer of other men’s stuff.”

R. K. H. Brice.

Framilode House,





Introduction : Historical.

January 14, 2009


B E N G A L P I L O T S E R V I C E.

Being an Account of the

Navigation of the Hooghly River.

Park Complied by

Captain G. T. Labey, M. B. E., M. C.

Branch Pilot, Bengal Pilot Service, (Retired).

Park Compiled and Edited by

Captain R. K. H. Brice,

Branch Pilot, Master Mariner,

Member Institute of Navigation

and of the

Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

Bengal and Hooghly Pilot Services (Retired).




As the Hooghly flows through the Indian State of West Bengal a brief history of the State would not come amiss, to the better understanding of the early struggles of the Honourable English East India Company, and the formation of the Bengal Pilot Service.

The name Bengal is derived from Sanskrit geography, and applies strictly to the country stretching southwards from Bhagalpur to the sea. The ancient Banga formed one of the five outlying kingdoms of Aryan India, and was practically identical with the delta of Bengal. It derived its name, according to the etymology of the Pundits, from a prince of the Mahabharata, to whose portion it fell on the primitive partition called Bangala, near Chittagong, which, although now washed away, is supposed to have existed in the Mohammedan period, appears to have given the name to the European world. The word Bangala was first used by the Mohammedans; and under their rule, like the Banga of old Sanskrit times, it applied specifically to the Gangetic delta, although the later conquests to the East of the Brahmaputra were eventually included within it.

In their distribution of the country for fiscal purposes, it formed the central province of a governorship, with Behar on the North-West, and Orissa on the South-West, jointly rules by one deputy of the Delhi emperor.

Under the English the name has designated very different areas. Francis Fernandez applies it to the country from the extreme East of Chittagong to Point Palmyras in Orissa, with a coast line, which Purchas estimates at 600 miles, running inland for the same distance and watered by the Ganges. This territory would include the Mohammedan province of Bengal with parts of Behar and Oriesa. The loose idea thus derived from old voyagers became the of the archives of the East India Company.

All its North-Eastern factories, from Balasore, on the Orissa coast, to Patna in the heart of Behar, belonged to the “Bengal Establishment”, and as British conquests crept higher up the rivers, the term came to be applied to the whole of Northern India.

The presidency of Bengal, as opposed to those of madras and Bombay, eventually included all the British territories North of the Central Provinces, from the Mouths of the Ganges and Brahmaputra to the Himalayas and the Punjab.

In 1831 the North-Western Provinces were created, which were later included with Oudh in the United Provinces; later still the whole of Northern India was divided into four lieutenant-governorships of the Punjab, the United Provinces, Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam.

It was Lord Curzon who first partitioned Bengal in 1905 into two parts; Bengal, which included Behar and Orissa, and Eastern Bengal and Assam; then in 1912 described it as follows:-

“What is termed officially “the province of Behar and Orissa” has been formed by transferring thereto the Bhagalpur, Patna, Tirhut, Chota Nagpur and orissa divisions of Bengal, comprising 21 districts, but excluding the Darjeeling district of the Bhagalpur division, which has been placed in the Rajshahi division of Bengal. The Presidency of Fort William in Bengal comprises the Chittagong, Dacca, and Rajshi divisions administered since 1905 by the Lieutenant-Govenor of Eastern Bengal and Assam, and the Presidency and Burdwan divisions as hitherto administered by the Lieutenant-Govenor of Bengal. Including Darjeeling there are 27 districts. Assam reverts to the status of a Chief Commissionership, and its limits are the same as when it was incorporated with Eastern Bengal nearly seven years ago.

Lord Carmichael has taken charge as Govenor of the Presidency, Sir Charles Stuart Bayley is the Lieutenant-Govenor of Behar and Orissa while Sir Archdale Earle has taken charge as Chief Commissioner of Assam.”

In 1947, thirty-five years later the Bengal Presidency, as created above, was again partitioned. It was on the 15th Augusts, 1947, on the transfer of power from Britain to India when the latter was granted her independence, that Bengal was partitioned into the two asparate States of West Bengal of India, and East Bengal of Pakistan.

The political history of Bengal naturally forms an integral part of the general history of India. The Northern part, Behar, constituted the ancient kingdom of Magadha, the nucleus of the imperial power of the successive great dynasties of the Mauryas, Andhras and Guptas; and it chief town, Patna, is the ancient Pataliputra (the Palimbothra of the Greeks) once the Capital of India. The Delta or Southern part of Bengal lay beyond the ancient Sanskrit polity, and was governed by a number of local kings belonging to a pre-Aryan stock. The Chinese travelers, Fa Hien in the 5th century, and Hauan Tsang in the 7th century, found the Buddhist religion prevailing throughout Bengal, but already in a fierce struggle with Hinduism, a struggle which ended about the 9th or 10th century in the general establishment of the latter faith.

Until the end of the 12th century Hindu princes governed in a number of small principalities. But in 1199 Mohammed Bakhtiyar Khilji was appointed to lead the first Mussulman invasion into Bengal. The Mohammedan conquest of Behar dates from 1197 A. D., and the new power speedily spread Southwards into the delta. From about this date until 1340 Bengal was ruled by governors appointed by the Mohammedan emperors in the North. From 1340 to 1539 the governors enjoyed a precarious independence, and assumed the role of sovereigns on their own account. From 1540 to 1576 Bengal passed under the rule of the Pathan or Afgan dynasty, which commonly bears the name of Sher Shah.

On the overthrow of this house by the powerful arms of Akbar, Bengal was incorporated into the Mogul empire, and administered by governors appointed by the Delhi emperor, until the treaties of 1765, which placed Bengal, Behar and Orissa under the administration of the East India Company.

The Company formed its earliest settlements in Bengal in the first half of the 17th century. These settlements were of a purely commercial character. In 1620 one of the Company’s factors dates from Patna; in 1624 the Company established itself by the favour of the emperor, on the ruins of the ancient Portuguese settlement of Pippli, on the coast in North Orissa near the mouth of the Hooghly. In 1640-42 an English surgeon, Gabriel Boughton, obtained establishments at Balasore, a small port, also in Orissa, and at Hugli, on the river, some 25 miles above Calcutta.

In 1651 the Bengal Pilot Service was founded.

The vexations and extortions to which the Company’s early Agents were subjected more than once almost induced them to abandon the trade, and in 1677-1678 they threatened to withdraw from Bengal altogether. In 1685, the Bengal factors, driven to extremity by the oppression of the Mogul Govenors, took up arms and enjoyed sufficient fortune to be able to purchase, in 1696, the villages which have since grown up into Calcutta, the metropolis of India, from the grandson of Aurangzeb.

During the next fifty years the British had a long hazardous struggle alike with the Mogul governors of the province, and the Mahratta armies while invaded it. In 1756 this struggle culminated in the great outrage known as the “Black Hole” of Calcutta, followed by Clive’s battle of Flassey and recapture of Calcutta, which avenged it. That battle and the subsequent years of confused fighting, established British military supremacy in Bengal, and procured the treaties of 1765, by which the provinces of Bengal, Behar and Orissa passed under British administration.

To Warren Hastings (1772 – 1785) belong the glory of consolidating the British power, and converting a military occupation into a stable civil government. To another member of the civil service, John Shore, afterwards Lord Teignmouth (1786 – 1793), is due the formation of a regular system of Angle-Indian legislation. Acting through Lord Cornwallis, then Governor-General, he ascertained and defined the rights of the landholders in the soil, in 1793 Lord Cornwallis declared their rights perpetual, and made over the land of Bengal to the previous Minders, on condition of the payment of a fixed land tax. This piece of legielation was known as the Permanent Settlement of the land Revenue. This wise decision was a great benefit to the East India Company, as it settled the fears of the local landlords, as to the Companies demands on their land, and created an atmosphere of co-operation, so essential to trade.

In 1857 the India Mutiny broken out with the rebellion of the sepoys of the Bengal Army which spread rapidly along the valley of the Ganges from Barrack pore (14 miles from Calcutta) through Patna to Delhi.

The Mutiny sealed the fate of the East India Company after a life of more than two and a half centuries. It fell to the lot of Lord Canning both to suppress the Mutiny and to introduce the peaceful revolution that followed. On November 1st, 1858, at a Grand durbar held at Allahabad the royal proclamation was published which announced that Queen Victoria had assumed the government of India.

Peace was proclaimed throughout the whols of India on the 8th July, 1859.

On the 1st January, 1877, Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India at a Durbar of great magnificence, held on the historic “Ridge” overlooking the old Mogul capital of Delhi.

In 1947 on the 15th of August, the British Government handed over power to the Indian people, and India became a free independent Sovereign State, who eventually chose to become a Republic in the British Commonwealth of Nations, acknowledging Queen Elizabeth 2 as Head of the Commonwealth.

On the 15th May, 1948 the Bengal Pilot Service was abolished.


January 13, 2009


1534 – 1696.

On The 22nd November, 1497, Vasco da Gama doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and the Indian Ocean was opened to European trade. In 1510 Albuqurque took Goa. By the year 1530 the Portuguese began to frequent Bengal, and for the next century they remained the sole and undisputed masters of its foreign trade.

It was under their commercial supremacy that the Hooghly began to have any importance to the western world, and it is to them that we are chiefly indebted for our first reliable information about the river. The accounts of the river given us by contemporary native poets cannot be relied on unless they are supported by writers such as De Barrcs or Ceasar Frederick; but by comparing the various native and foreign statements, we may gain a large measure of historical certainty.

When the Portuguese came to Bengal, Chittagong was its chief port and the main gateway to the Royal capital Gaur. The Meghna river was principal route to Gaur, the other being up the Hooghly. With the fall of Gaur (due to the shifting of the river) Chittagong began to decline and trade was diverted to Satgaon, which in its turn was supplanted by Hugli…. all the Portuguese commanders that came to Bengal first entered Chittagong… it is the “City of Bengal” referred to in the early Portuguese writings.

From ancient times the chief port and emporium of trade on the Western side of Bengal, was Satgaon situated on the river Saraswati, which branches off from the Hooghly below Tribeni and joins it higher up. The main current of the Hooghly till the middle of the sixteenth century streamed through the Saraswati, hence the importance of Satagon which was more assessable to larger ships. The town of Hughli was then a mere collection of huts.

This historic inland port was, however, destined to decline on the advent of the Portuguese, chiefly because the river Hooghly diverted its current through the main channel, and caused the silting of the Saraswati which became unsuitable for navigation. The Portuguese then moved down to Hughli which town undoubtedly, a more interesting Indian town than Hughli, because fought for supremacy: the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the Danes, the French, the Flemish and the Prussians. The Dutch settled in Chinsure with headquarters in Fort Gusstavus, the English in Hugli, the French in Hugli then in Chanderenagore. The Danes in Gondalpera S. E. of Chandernagore and then in Sorampore, the Flemish in Bankibazar, and the Prussians or Embdeners in a place a mile south of Fort Orleans in Chandernagore.

The Portuguese established three settlements in the Hooghly district each distinct in origin, time and place. First at Satgaon by Affonso de Mello, the Second at Hugli by Tavares (1579-80) and the third at Bendel in 1633.

Satgaon, on the Saraswati river, was almost as ancient a port as Tamluk on the Rupnarain river, and Ptolemy described it in the second century A. D. as a “Royal City of immense size”. The seagoing vessels using these ports were almost certainly piloted through the Hooghly, for no deep sea mariner could sail his ship up or down the Hooghly, then an unmarked and uncharted river without local assistance.

The men who piloted ships up and down the Hooghly and its tributaries for nearly two thousand years before the Portuguese arrived in India were, in all probability, fishermen with local knowledge of the shoals and currents of the river. Completely illiterate, they used neither chart or compass for their work, and they left no records behind them for future generations to study.

THE PORTUGUSES PILOTS. It is more than probable that Affonso da Mello used native fishermen to pilot his ships up to Satgaon in 1534, but within a few years the Portuguese had their own pilots, and the first charts of the Hooghly were made by them. The Service does not appear to have been highly organized or to have had any regular status or establishment. Like the Indians who preceded them, the Portuguese pilots appear to have been men whose livelihood did not depend on piloting alone. They became officers in the Mogul Emperor’s Navy, traders, or slavers, as opportunity arose, piloting the Portuguese ships when required, after all there could not have been many ships to handle. It is most improbable that the Portuguese ever employed men solely as pilots, and the Service languished and died with the Portuguese trade, towards the middle of the seventeenth century.

A few of their men remsined, and it is probable that first English pilots were taught by the lasts of the Portuguese. Indeed, a Portuguese, Pedro da Lauera, was engaged by Shem Bridges, the English Agent at Balasore, to pilot the ship “Royal Katherine” up… “Ye river of Ganges and so to Hughli, or as near as you can with saiftie of yr ship….”, in October 1663. The ship was of too deep a draught to make the passage, and the remained at Balasore, but Bridge’s letter shows that Pedro da Lauera must have been a contemporary of the earliest English pilots.

THE DUTCH PILOTS. Within a very few years of their firsts arrival at Pippli in 1627, the Dutch established a very well organized and highly efficient service of pilots.

With the foundation of a factory at Balasore in 1635, and of Fort Gustavus at Chinsurah in 1653, the Dutch Service was expanded, and for some years their pilots had a practical monopoly of the river navigation of the Hooghly.

Like the English who followed them, the Dutchmen ran a ferry service with sloops between Balasore and the river ports of the Hooghly, they also did a certain amount of surveying and charting.

The Dutch used their sloops as training ships to a greater extent than we did, manning them entirely with their own nationals who aspired to be pilots, whereas more than half the crows of an English sloop were lascars. Dutch ships sailed up the Hooghly some years before we had even a sloop service on the river.

Holland was the first nation to lay buoys to guide her ships in and out of the river, and to discover and use the Eastern channel, instead of the dangerous passage “across the braces”, as a way in and out of the Hooghly. (It has always seemed strange to me that experienced seamen as the early East Indiamen were should continue for so long as they did, in sailing across the sands, instead of sailing up the channels between them. I can only assume that based on Balasore as they were, they took the shortest route to the mouth of the river without question, or else though trying to sail East them altering course to the North, were, on the first leg, set up with the tide and prevailing south westerly wind. R. K. H. B.)

When the English first made their appearance on the river, Holland and Britain were at war, and trade revelry between the East India Companies of the two nations was at its fiercest. When, however, the Dutch Stadtholder became King William the Third of England, relations between the two Companies changed for the better. Their pilots co-operated in surveying and buoying it. Dutch pilots brought English vessels up the river when English pilots were not available, and the English pilots helped the Dutch in the same way. Dutchmen assisted Admiral Watson’s English pilots in the attack on Chandernagore in 1758.

After the middle of the eighteenth century, the Dutch pilots declined both in numbers and efficiency, with the decline of the Dutch trade with Bengal; but there were Dutch pilots on the Hooghly until the Napoleonic wars brought the Service to an end at the close of the century, and the British were left with a clear field.

THE FRENCH PILOTS. The French Company’s Pilot Service was founded soon after Deslandes settled at Chandernagore in 1690. It was never so efficiently organized a service as the Dutch or the British. The Frenchmen laid no buoys and made few charts. This was not entirely laziness on the part of the French Company, but because were between England and France, in the eighteenth century, limited the work of the French pilots to times of peace only.

When war did not interfere however, the French ran a regular ferry service with sloops between Balasore and Chandernagore, for the benefit of those ships which were too large or too deep to use the latter port. Their pilots were allowed to offer their services to private merchants, when they were not required by the Company.

(English pilots were never allowed this freedom, they served their Company only and there were severe penalties for disobeying).

The French pilots made large fortunes out of this lucrative form of “private practice”. For example, Fournier, the illiterate first pilot of the French Company died in 1712, leaving property worth several thousands of pounds, including a large house in Chandernagore and another at Balasore. Apart from his hired servants Fournier owned no less than thirteen slaves at the time of his death.

The Service was orippled in 1778, when the pilot vessel “L’Orient” was captured at Balasore with the following Officers of the French Service aboard. Two Branch Pilots, two Master Pilots, seven Mate Pilots and all the Apprentices. After taking an oath of allegiance to the King of England, they were permitted to enter the British Company’s Bengal Pilot Service, provided they did not rise above the rank of Mate Pilot. Very few of the Frenchmen took advantage of this offer, most of them preferring to do odd jobs of piloting between Chandernagore and Calcutta, free from control of the British East India Company.

The French East India Company’s Pilot Service came to an end in 1793 with capture, by the British, of their last pilot vessel, “Chandernagore”. It is possible, however, that one or two pilots escaped to be of use to the French Privateers which infested the Sandheads during the Napoleonic ware.

Ever since the Portuguese had opened up trade with the East Indies, the merchants of the City of London had watched Portugal’s growing wealth with envy.

Several English ships had sailed to the East bringing back enticing tales of the lands and peoples they had visited. As these voyages had been undertaken by private individuals without sufficient capital to follow up the enterprise, a number of them agreed to form a Company for the purpose of trading with the East Indies.

This Company came into being in 1600 and received its first Charter from Queen Elizabeth the First on the 31st of December that year.


This the earliest Charter of the Company, constituted the Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading to the East Indies a body corporate, and granted it the exclusive right of trading to the East Indies for a period of 15 years. The Charter gave the Company power to make laws for its own government and for that of the factors, masters and mariners employed in voyages, provided such laws were not repugnant to the laws of England. It also conferred authority to punish offenders by imprisonment or fine, and was later supplemented by:

the CHARTER OF JAMES 1st., 31st MAY 1609.

This Charter confirmed and extended that of Elizabeth 1st.


No copy of this Charter has yet been traced.


This important Charter gave the Company authority over all forts and factories in the East Indies, empowered it to appoint Governors and other officers, and authorized the Governor and Council of a place to judge all persons living under them in all causes, civil and criminal, according to the laws of England, and to execute judgement. The Company was given power to send out ships of war, men and ammunition, to erect fortifications, to provide men for their defence, to govern the forces by martial law, and to make peace or war with any non-Chri stain power.

CHARTER OF CHARLES 2nd., 9th august 1683.

This Charter authorised the establishment at any factory of a Court of Judicature consisting of one person learned in the civil laws and two merchant. It was designed primarily as a Court of admiralty.

CHARTER OF JAMES 2nd., 12th APRIL 1686.

This Charter confirmed those of 1661 and empowered the Company to appoint Admirals and other sea officers, who might raise naval forces. The Company was also authorised to coin any kind money issued by the princes of the country.


The unsuccessful issue of the war with the Mogul aroused strong feeling in England against the East India Company, and a petition was presented to Parliament in 1692 praying for the establishment of a new company. The original or old Company was successful in obtaining two new charters in the following year; but in 1695 a Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inspect the books of the Company. Large sums of secret service money was found to have been disbursed. The Governor, Sir Thomas Cocke, was committed to the Tower, and a protracted enquiry ensued. The Home Government was in urgent need if funds, and the problem of retaining the old or creating a new Company ultimately because a financial one.

The opponents of the old Company offered the best terms, in the shape of a loan of two million pounds at 8%. The offer was accepted and the Charter of William 3rd of 5th September 1698 was accordingly granted to the “English Company trading to the East Indies”. The Charter gave the new Company the sole right of Commerce subject to the proviso that the old or “London” Company, and union was ultimately effected on the July, 1702.


The Act 6th . Queen Anne, cap.17, arranged finally for the union of the Companies, and assigned to Earl Godolphin, Lord High Treasurer, the duty of making a conclusive award for the adjustment of the claims of conflicting interests which were still in difference between the two companies.

Certain financial matters however, remained in dispute until 1708 when the two Companies finally became one in every respect, under the name “United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies”. Generally known as the East India Company and affectionately known to thousands of Indians, even to this day (1963) as “John Company”.


The East India Company’s first two settlements in the Bay of Bengal were founded at “Petapoli” (Nizampatam near Ellore) (1) and at Masulipatam, on the 18th and 31st Augusts, respectively, in 1611 y Captain Anthony Hippon of the “Globe”. Twenty years later, Factors were sent from Masulipatam in the “Hopewell” commanded by Thomas Watts, with the intention of founding a factory at the Head of the Bay.

The Captains wages were £10 to encourage him “the better to proceed with cheerfulness and alacrity in his voyage”. In the following latter, Captain Watts gives an account of his attempt to reach Pippli… “In the time of our abcad in this place (Masulipatam) it was agreed upon by the Agent and Counsell that wee should proceed of a voiag into the Bay of Bangals. All things being fully effected as conveninency required, wee sett saile on our pretended voiag…. the 3rd of August we ankered in the road of Calapara being neare about 100 leaggs to the North of Meslapatame”. (3)

At Calapara the Factors went ashore, but owing to the heavy surf, could not return to the ship, so proceeded overland to Manickpatam, a port 20 mile Wets of Puri, where on August the 18th the “Hopewell” anchored. The letter continues… “Rideing in this Roade wee had extrem bad weather and another very dangerous bar;

(1) Report on the old Records of the India Office. Birdwood.

(2) Calendar of State Papers. W. Noel Sainsbury.

(3) The English Factories in India. 1630 – 1633. William Foster. Original Correspondence. 1413.

yet our merchants comings thether found such as opertunity as to send one of the country boates abord, the which did sertifie that they had settled there resolution to perform there determined business in that place and to goes one father to leuard; for wee wear ordered by the Agent and Counsell to go to People (pippli) being 60 leagues to leuard of this port”.

Accordingly on the 6th of October, the “Hopewell” asset sail for Masulipatam once more, and anchored there on the 11th of the same month.

A chartered junk carried the first English Merchants from Masulipatam to the Head of the Ray. One of the party, named William Bruton, who at one time had been a quartermaster in the “Hopewell” states, in a published account of his adventures, (1) that they anchored in a bay “before a town called Hurssapore” in Orissa on April 21st, 1632, and that Ralph Cartwright, who was in charge of them, after obtaining concessions from the Nawab of Cuttack, founded a Factory at Balasore in 1633. The scarcity of cloth at Masulipatam and the cheapness of provisions in Bengal were the main incentives for linking the two places.

Another attempt to reach the Head of the Bay was made by the “Pearl” in October 1632, but like the “Hopewell” she only goats far as Manickpatam, it being too late in the year for her to proceed any further to the Northward. (2)

The first English ship to reach Balasore was the “Swan”. She left Masulipatam in July 1633 and the 23rd of the same month William Bruton writes…. “in the morning we had newes that there was an English ship at Hassapore and had shot of there pieces of Ordnances and stayed all night, she having not a boat to come from her, she weighed anchor and sett saile for Ballazary”.

(1) William Bruton. “Newes from the East Indies, or a Voyage to Bangalla”, now lately

come home in the good ship “Hopewell” London 1638.

(2) The English Factories in India 1630-33 and original correspondence 1468.

During her stay at Balasore, most of the crew of the “Swan” fell sick and fifteen died, the cause of their sickness being due to intemperancy (1) “for ‘tis a place that abounds with racke and fruitte, and these immoderately taken cannot chuse but ingender surfoits”. Three man were killed out of a boat’s crew going ashore for water, and the remainder were captured and taken to Pipli by “Gelliaes of Warr” belonging to the king of Arracan; later they were ransomed for four hundred rupees, paid by a Portuguese Captain who returned them to their ship. Very few of the “Swan’s” original crew could have survived the voyage, as after her arrival at Bantam from India, she, and a ship called the “Comfort” could only muster fifty men between them.

For some years after its foundation, it was uncertain whether the Factory at Balasore could be maintained due to the inexperience of the Factors and the number of deaths among them, it was thought the outpost would have to be abandoned. The natives were not always friendly, and the following account of the action of the Company’s ship “’Farewell” on Boxing Bay 1647 shows the difficulties our countrymen had to contend with.

Soon after the arrival of the “Farewell” at Balasore, a Danish fleet captured a native vessel carrying elephants. The Company’s Agent was asked to negotiate with the Dance for her release. When he reported to the Governor that he had failed, he was told that because the Dance and the English were of the same religion, both would be held responsible for the capture of the vessel, and that the “Farewell” would not be allowed to leave Balasore.

While attempting to drop down the river, the “Farewell” was seen…. (2) and some 1,000 souldiers were called from the adjacent places and suddenly they made a mud wall and planted nine great guns… that night they made three shott at us and spoild

(1) Ibid and O.C. 1536

(2) The English Factories in India 1646-1650 and O.C. 2060 (Richard Hudson’s account).

some of our fore riggings. The next say they planted two other guns to play on our bows, and other two in the Nabob’s Jounck in the dock, and other three pieces by the Princes ship, all which in less than 300 feet of our ship. Perceiving this, and that there was one hopes to gett downe (nor could without the help of boates, which was denisd), we resolved to stay longer, and would have carried our ship to a more convenient birth (because there was one probability of getting downs, for they had stackt the river in six or seven place and snuck three or four boats filled with wood, straw and such combustible stuff, to fire us,), if it had been possible for us to have gotten past their fortification, but were prevented by 10 or 14 shott from the shoare and shipps in the dock, with 200 small shott and many arrows. The tide being spent and the wind blowing fresh at N.E. we were compelled to fall down to the first birth, where we roade till one or two of the clock without shooteing; when it seemes because of our sufferences they esteemed us their owne, and like a flock of tygere with open mouths they came upon us, fireing the Friendships banckshall and heaving dust at us. At last our patience could hold no longer. We addrest our selves to our guns, and for three or four houres we made warm worked, and truly I conceives each was glad to be at quiet. The Datch have escaped no better, for their business was altogether stopt till the 6th or 7th January (1648) when they also enjoyed lisence, or rather forct it by landing 60 men and 10 pieces of ordinance, which they mounted on their howse and banckshall, keeping one of their three ships they had in Piplee alwaies to scower the river, going downe with the ebb and up with the flood…..”.

From 1633 when the Balasore Factory was founded to 1656 no English ships entered the Hooghly river. The trade that was being developed was handicapped by the fact that all goods from up country for shipment to England, had to be brought down the river in “Country” boats to Balasore and there loaded in to the East Indiamen anchored in the Roads.

These small boats were often attacked by local pirates on their way up and down the river, and were also very liable to loss in the short choppy seas, which even a moderate breeze can raise in the estuary of the Hooghly. The “Bore” tides and Nor”Westers must also have taken a heavy toll. Their carrying capacity was small, and so a great number were needed to fill or empty an East Indiaman.

For these reasons, the Company decided that something bigger, armed with small cannon, and manned as far as possible, by their own seamen, should be employed on the Hooghly ferry service between the river Porte and Balasore. Accordingly in 1651, they bought a sloop of 70 tons, armed her with six pounders, manned her with an English crew, and used her or this purpose.

The little vessel was named the “Transport”, William Bevis was her Master and George Escher her Mats. She set sail from Balasore on the 25th February 1651 to make her historic voyage up the river, becoming the first ship to fly the English flag on the Hooghly and so making Bevis and Becher the first English pilots. Thus began the Bengal pilot Service.

Bevis and Becher were grown men, recruited from among the ratings of the East Indiamen, as were all members of the Service during the first eighteen years of its existence, and it was not till George Herron and his contemporaries were sent out in 1669, that the system of recruiting was altered.


In Bengal the signs were encouraging. Stationed there was Gabriel Boughton, formerly surgeon of the “Hopewell”, who had been sent across from Surat to Agra in 1645 at the special request of Asalat Khan, and had by his professional services acquired great influence at Court. He had in fact become a prime favourite with Shah Shuja, Prince Governor of Bengal, and was residing with his patron at Rajmahal.

The doctor would naturally use all his influence in favour of his countrymen, and would interfere to free their trade from all vexations, imposts and customs. Urged by the necessities of the time and trusting to the goodwill of the Bengal Government, the English Court of Committess resolved to follow the example of the Dutch, and establish of factory inland up the Ganges.

In 1650 the “Lyoness” was dispatched to Bengal for this very purpose. She was under the Command of Captain John Brookhaven, and had on board three Factors, named Robert Spavin, James Bridgeman and William Fairfax, and a large cargo of moneys and goods all destined for Hugli.. (1)

The “Lyoness” arrived in Madras on the 22nd August 1650. The Agent and Factors, who had been eagerly expecting her, at once set about debating the best manner of carrying out their honourable masters wishes…. so far the Madras merchants were prepared to go but they baulked at the idea of sending the Lyoness” up the Ganges to Hugli. With one consent they resolved to avoid so great a hazard and to stay the ship in thither as best they could, upon some other freighted vessels. This is what they did, using, no doubt, some “Country” boat for the purpose.

The Factory at Hugli was established in 1651, but little trade was done in the next years, only four ships (two of them Private ships) coming to Balasore. The “Transport” was undoubtedly used during this period carrying cargo to these four vessels, and convoying country boats, when not engaged in this duty, she was employed in “Discovering” the river, in other words carrying out a Survey.

In December 1654 the Factors at Hugli reported to the Company that (2) “the Dutch invest at least £200,000 sterling yearly and

(1) Hedges Diary. (1681-1687) Hakluyt Society’s publication.

edited by Colonel Yule and R. F, Barlow B. P. S.

(2) Original Correspondence 2179.

some years find lading for seven or eight ships” adding that there was great room for business expansion if the Company were to get….” stock sufficient and honest men”.

Soon after this, difficulties arose, particularly in the Madras districts, Inland trade on the Coromandel coast had become impracticable, owing to the convulsed state of the country; the coasting trade was hazardous from the superior forces of the Dutch, with whom England was openly at war from 1652 to 1654. Finally in 1657, Sivaji invaded the Carnatic. The Madras Council seem to have “despaired of the republic (Cromwells). Once more they resolved to withdraw from Bengal. Madras had recently been raised to the dignity of a separate Presidency, and it seems that the Council found their increased responsibilities overwhelming, never having been keen on the advance into Bengal, they decided the time had come to withdraw. Hughli had its disadvantages; the English were there in the midst of the Portuguese and Dutch, their rivals and possible enemies, and separated from the sea by over 100 miles of difficult and dangerous river. They also had to rely on the good will of the rulers of the country.

But these problems were merely temporary for the English had been wise to come to Balasore in 1633; the provinces at the Head of the Bay were far richer and easier for access to Western merchants than the carnatic and the coast of Coromandel, and it was from Bengal that a maritime empire of India must of necessity begin.

In 1657 the Company obtained a new Charter from Cromwell who agreed to protect their settlements against the depredations of the Dutch and to vindicate the honour of the English in India. Having settled their Charter and exclusive rights in England, the Court turned their attention to the re-arrangement of their factories abroad.

A dispatch, dated the 27th February, 1658, gave an almost complete lists of the Councils Establishment in Bengal. It appointed George Gawton, Chief Agent at Hugli, with a salary of £100 a year. His second was not named. The other members of the Council were Mathias Halstead, William Rogdale, and Thomas Davies. Hopkins was made Agent at Balasore, Kenn at Cassimbazar, Chamberlain at Patna. To each of these Agents three coadjutors were founder of Calcutta. R.K.H.B.) who was appointed fourth at Cassimbazar.

By these arrangements the number of the Company’s servants in Bengal were than doubled. For the first time in that distant land, there was an English society.

By these changes Hughli now became the Chief Agency in Bengal with Balasore subordinate to it.


In 1651 the English had come to Hugli full of confidence in the good will and good order of the Mogul Empire. In less than 10 years confidence had been utterly destroyed. They had seen their friend and patron Shah Shuja barbarously murdered in Arakan’ they had seen India torn with fratricidal wars when Shah Jahan fell seriously ill in Delhi on September 8th, 1657.

His third son, Prince Aurangzeb succeeded to the throne following this strife, and Mir Jumlah, the imperial general, was Nabob of Bengal. They had seen how little control the central Government could exercise over the arbitrary proceedings of its subordinates. They were therefore forced to consider in what way they could best protect themselves and their trade against the oppressions of the local officers.

(1) The Early Annals of the English in Bengal, by C. R. Wilson, M. A., India Office


The seizure of a Bengal boat and the consequent dispute with Mir Jumlah marks the

beginning of a new period in the history of the English in Bengal – a period of growing

anxiety and danger.

This second period was the antithesis, the contradiction, of the first.. Provoked by the

local rulers, the English were led to abandon their peaceful attitude and sought to establish

their trade by force.

The men, who in 1661 had apologized for seizing a small boat, in 1685 waged open

war upon the Mogul, capturing his ships and burning his ports.



In 1658 the Governor of Huhli demanded an annual payment of £3, 000 in lieu of

customs dues, and the following year, the Governor of Balasore claimed exorbitant sums for

permission to another the East Indiamen off the post of Balasore.

This demand for anchorage dues provoked the Agent at Hugli to write to the Directors

for permission to allow the Company’s ships to sail up the river to Hugli. In a letter (1)

written on February 22nd, 1660, they gave their permission but requested that… “A triall

might first be made, with shipping of small burthen, before you venture on such great

shipping as the “Smirna merchant” (450Tons) or the like. However, if upon consultation with the Masters, and the experience which you have made of the depths of the River, you shall conclude it to be favorable, and without hazard, we leave it unto your discretion.”

The Agent at Hugli had the pilots trained in the sloop service established in 1651 ready at hand and keen to try their skill on lager vessels. The difficulty was to be, trying to persuade Shipmasters, to venture their ships up such dangerous waters.

(1) Hedges Diary.

In 1661 (1) the Madras Agent and Council wrote to the Bengal Factors that they had heard from the Company, that Captain Elliot of the “Coast” frigate, and Captain Kelvert of the “Concord” were willing to adventure their ships up the Hooghly…. “You know it hath bin the Companies’ desire, if it could be brought about; but former Commanders have bin backward… if the adventure were so great as some men would make it, the Dutch would not send so many great ships up to Hooghly as they doe”. Finally if the Balasore Factors should find the two Captains of the same mind…. “and no appearance of much danger”, the attempt should be made.

With regard to Captain Elliot’s undertaking to carry his vessel up to Hughly, the

Madras Council reported to the Company in January 1662 that they were informed by him

that the Bengal Factors had forbidden him to prosecute his design and had ordered him

to…. “wait for his leading to be brought him by boats from Hughli”.

They promised…. if it be possible, so to contrive that all your shipping hence forward

may go up directly for Hooghly, then Balasore factory will be unnecessary….. For the Dutch

have had this years no lesse than 8 ships, some whereof were 600 tunns that have tided it up

to Hughly; and the difficulty and danger is not so much as is supposed. And if a gratuity be

given for encouragement to them that shall being it, Your Worships will in the conclusion

receive the benefit by saving the expences that is yearly disbursed in transporting your

course goods from Hooghly to Balasore Road. Besides the ships will be better secured

in the stormy weather that commonly happens in October and the men’s healths preserved”.

(1) English Factories in India 1661 – 1654.

It is obvious that the Board if Directors in London did not wish to commit themselves

to ordering their Shipmasters to sail up the Hooghly, as the responsibility for loss would be

theirs and they must have heard many stories of the dangers to be encountered, stories

which had lost nothing in the telling. Their agreement with Captain Elliot and other Masters must have been a verbal one, not binding on either side.

Their Agents in Madras were aware of this so, in their letter of January 29th, 1662, to the Company they wrote…. .(1) “we are afraid we shall scarcely meet suddenly with any Commander so willing to voyage up as was Captain Elliot; for when we have made the proposicion, other Commanders have demanded security from the proposicion, other Commanders have demanded security from us, in case of miscarriage to pay the value of their ship freight. Therefore we shall say it over again that it will be necessary for your worships to bind your ships by charter party to go up to Hugly.”

On receiving this letter the Court of Committees must have realized that unless they made some financial offer to the Captains they would never get their ships up the river, so they decided (2) at their meeting in November 1662 to help the Masters who were willing to try and get over the Braces, with a Pilot and two boats at the Company’s expense, and that they were to be given an extra ten shillings a ton freight for all goods taken aboard within the Braces.

On the 31sts December, 1662, the directors wrote as follows to the Governor of Fort St. George (Madras)…. (3)… ‘you write us that you intend to contrive that if it be possible, all our

(1) English Factories in India. 1661 – 1664

(2) A Calendar of the Court Minutes etc., of the East India Company (1660 – 1663 by Ethel

Bruce Sainsbury.)

(3) Hedges Diary.

shipping henceforward shall go up for Hooghly directly, and that then the Factory at Balasore will be unnecessary, and our business in the Bay brought into some Decorum. We approve of this your resolution, and hope you have accordingly put it into practice, that so when our ships the “Castle” Frigatt, and :Royal Catherine” shall arrive with you; which ships are engaged in Charter Parties to go up as neare to Hugly as with safety they may, to will appear a business neither Difficult nor dangerous to be prosecuted, and that then the Factory at Balasore bee totally deserted if not already done.”

These two vessels arrived at madras in July 1663 and were sent on to Balasore, no doubt with a letter to the Agent there, suggesting that they should proceed to Hugli without delay. Unfortunately as the following correspondence between Mr. Shem Bridges, the Agent, and the Captains shows no attempt to navigate the river was made.

From the Agent, Balasore, to Captain Charles Wilde, ship “Royal Catherine”.

October 1663. (1)…..”…he required your suddaine fitting of the ship “Royall Katherine” and sailing for the River Ganges and so to Hughly or so near as you can with saiftie of your ship which is also in your dispatch from Fort St. George therefore in Complyance to what the honourable Company have an experienced Pilot Pedro De Lauera whome as Captain Mitchell and you shall agree upon between you may proceed on either the “Royall Katherine” or” Castle” Friggatt. I have ordered the Pinnace “Madras” to go in company with you and if you detard not to long, to saile before you in the Channell and keeps sounding and by some signed, which you shall agree upon between you, acquaint you the depth of water.

(1) Bay Consultaion Book 1664.

I hope by the 22nd or 28th at farthest of this present month you will be in a capacity to proceeds, not questioning but you will use the at most endeavourer the time of the years proving late being the quick dispatch for the const depends upon it; if you should not through dissatisfaction or any other accident proceed into the River of Hughly or over the Braces then I desire you to come to an anchor 4 ledges to the Northward of Pipley Roads which will be more advantageous riding there in reference to the timely dispatch by far then in Ballasore roads where the boats come so far to leeward that it is a question whether we may receive any farther service from them than that end turns this years what boats will be necessaries to proceed with you and you shall require I have left order with Edmund Burden and Naroandas to procure you according to agreement in Charterpertie so wishing you a good voadge Remayne your loving friend. Shem Bridges

Naturally Captain wiled refused to venture up the River under such conditions, no sensible sailor would have co9nsidered the undertaking for a moment, it was against the instant of a deep sea sailor and the ordinary practice of seamen.

He replied as follows.

Ballasore, October 13th 1663. (1) Having Perused your paper of the 23rd instant wherein you desire speedy hastening into the River Ganga you having provided me a sufficient Pilots Pedro De Laura whom you know further before yourself Captain Mitchell and Mr. Bolye he hath flatly denyed to take care of the “Royal Catharine’’ the reason she cannot be brought to 14 foot which we dare not adventure to doe as per Consultation Copies where of is annexed from all my Chief officers our ship now drawing 15 foot 9 inches in her Ballast neither was it ever known that one man could Pilots 2 ship for if we should be separated by winds where is my Pilots to carries over my ship or at least to harbor my ship.

(1) Bay Consultation Book 1664.amongst the sends, which is there duties if able. Your desires I shall strive to Performs by the 22nd or 23rd day if you will afford us sufficient Porgies (local boats) to take our goods and chance which will ask not small time there being such a large quantity of the last also take notice that what men you want for sailing up the “Madras’’ Pinnacles ands Sloop “Good Intent’’ shall be complied with and hope we shall sail with them to the Northward of Pipley and so bears the Braces as with shiftier we may for they better taking in out lading and kindly dispatch not else but rest. Yours Charles Wilde. (Punctuation was not their strong point).

The Balasore Agent wrote several letters to the Company in Landon reporting the lose of many “bores’’ or boats of the country’’ while carrying large both on the River and in the Roads due to weather, groundings, heavy surfer etc., etc. There was also heavy lose of Fatar, i.e Saltpeter, by heavy rains, and as this was one of their most important cargoes the financial loss was great.

He asked that Sloops of 80 or 90 tons burthen for carrying goods in the river be sent out, or that they may e allowed to build them locally. He also masked that… “; Several Trusty Persons by reason o mortality (for of 6 Persons that came down on the Pinnacle “Madras’’ are but 2 now alive) may be sent out to take charge of and Navigate said and so may bee Capable to pilot up ships as the Dutch doe”

These letters show that in 1663 the Hon. Company had two small vessels on the River, “Madras” Pinnacle and “Good Intent” sloop the “Transport” is not mentioned, she may have been exclusively on Survey work or more likely have become causality. They also show that the maximum taught for the River at that time was 14 feet only.

The Board of Directors ignored the request for more men to be sent out, and based all their hopes on being able to persuade the Shipmasters to sail up the river direct to Hughly, this they refused to do, unless they had competent pilots actually aboard their ships.

In August 1665 the “greyhound”and”Amerioan” (225yons) arrived at Balasore but refused to go up the River for the reasons given by the Captain of the “{American” in the following letter:-

(1)Captain Stephen East gate to Mr. Shem Bridges.


….. And as for preparing our ship to follow your Vessels over the bar of Ganges or up the River of Hughly I doe think it impossible to b e done with security by reason of the Extraordinary Currents or Streams which at this season of the years runner in that river so that I cannot with be pleased to apparel Mr. Pagat for Pilot who doth also inform me he will not take charge of her with out she be brought for the draught of 12 foot of water where by she will be made uncap able of being sailed…with out putting our Guns in should which know at present is very dangerous and cannot with Convenience be done by reason is of our difference with the Dutch also as you doe not think it Convenient to let a vessel of seventy Tunes Follow with out a pilots you cannot but Imagine it is fares more Dangerous to follow him withy a ship of three times her burthen so haring you and us from the hands of our Enmesh I subscriber Your friend and Servant to Command.

Stephen East gate.

The maximum draught seems to have fallen by two feet in two years, unless this was done as a precaution against the “freshets” then about to begin. (or else the pilot Mr. Fagot suffered from what we knew as “Freshet fever” which was a reluctance to pilot

(1) 0.0.3066. Val 29.

Deep Aden ships during August – October, especially low powered ones.R.K.H.B.).

Two Dutch ships, thought to carry 50 guns apiece and a Ketch attacked the “Amrican” and “greyhound” while anchored in Balasore roads. This took place on September 12th, 1665. They were due to go up the balasore river top took next day, so their guns were n the holds to, make them sail faster.

The Agent arranged for boats to be placed in the river to mark the shoals and fitted them with flares. The Dutch attacked in the evening and ran the English ships aground in shallow water; their ships being larger could not follow them in, so stood off. At dusk pilots were put aboard and at three quarters flood, the flares were lit; rhea ships floated off and sailed up to safety.

The following morning the Dutch sailed away.

These two vessels could not be dispatched to English because of the great mortality among officers and men. They had to lie at Balasore until they could be supplied with ore we this was not until 1668:

In these early days the ships trading to Bengal were very few, though the trade was a lucrative one: the voyage was long, anything from six to nine months, and a hazardous one, not only were vessels liable to attack from the countries enemies, but unknown own weather conditions were experienced, cyclonic stems of great the greatest inducements could persuade ship owners to venture forth into the little known Eastern seas.

In 1666 only one vessel the “Orcas” (75 tons), one of the smallest vessels over sent out to India and the first to make the direct voyage from English to Bengal./ She left for home in the some year, but was captured by a privateer on her was back.

In 1667 no English vessel came to the Hooghly river: were still being waged with the Dutch: there had been the great fire of London and ships on freight charter were difficult to procure.

For seventeen year the Company had been endeavoring to persuade their ship Master to venture up the River direct to Hughly, they had also during that time done their best to obtain suitable ad sufficient pilots for their ships. Though a few pilots had been trained, the mortality rate was so high that it is doubtful if more then two were ever available, and as regard ships venturing up, not one would risk it: this must have been a terrible disappointment to the Court of Directors in London.

To add to their difficulties, it took at least a year tough a reply to a letter, and they had to rely entirely to the discretion of their Agent in Bengal.

At last, in January 1668 the Company informed their Hughly Agent that they had accepted his advice and were sending our a pinnacle named the “Diligence” of 60 tons ……(1)..”for the discovering of the River Ganges”, and the provision of “able English Pilots”.

The “diligence” arrived at Balasore from Madras, early in 1669 along with her from England there had sailed other ships, including the “Blackamoor”,the “Royal Merchant”, the “Unicorn”, and the “Rainbow”, which were to go on from Madras to Bengal: but owing to the weather, sick ores, lack o water and provisions, they failed to reach Balasore so put back to Masulipatm.

Later in the year 1668, the Company not only renewed their recommendations to their Agent at Hooghly to get men instructed as pilots and to have the river charted, but also sent out some young men “to be bred up” as pilots. The following letter was sent out in the “Antelope” and the “John and Martha”, the only English ships with the exception of the “Diligence” to arrive out in 1669. They did not go beyond Balasore.

(1) Letter Book Vol.4. And Hedges Diary.

November 20th 1668. (1)…”We formerly for the encouragement of those Commanders that would goes into the River Ganges, allowed them 10s 6d per tons fraught extraordinary for all goods they should take there in. But for want of pilots, they did not then Venture, which caused us the last year to build the pinnacle “diligence” and then gave you directions that she should be employed in the River and to take notice of the depths and should of the same and t make Cards or Maps there of our ships which order of 10s 6d per tons we have again this year renewed and have conferred with Captain Go dolphin and come other of the Commanders concerning the same, whom we find willing there into, the River. We therefore do again recommend it to you that as we hope you have already entered upon it, so as to proceed to have divers able persons instructed as pilots for that do command the Vessels, by and down the River put all persons from the youngest to the Eldest upon taking depths, holdings, setting of River, or what else needful for the enabling of them in this affaire, and for a supply of young men, to be bred up we have entertained as apparitions for seven years George Heron, (Herron) James White, Thomas Massena, James Forborne, John Floyd and Thomas Bateman, the first three year at £6,the next two years at £7, and the last two years at £8, per annum, the whole to be paid there by you, for their provision of clothes.

These were the first Covenanted Pilots of the Bengal Pilot Service. Of these six young men only George Herron survived. He retired from the Pilots Service in 1688 to become a trader on his own account, and settled in Madras where he became an Alderman of the town, and finally died there on the 2nd May,1727, at the age of 81 . He made the first English chart of the Hooghly.

(1)Letter Book Vol 4. And Hedges Diary.

Probably in 11684-85 and published he first English

Sailing directions for the River.

Two letters of November and December 1669 from the Balasore Agent to the Company show the two pinnace4s “Madras” and “Diligence” being used for the “disc overy of the river” though complaints are made of there unsuitability for such river worked, attention is also drawn to one of the greatest obstacles in the way of these pioneers of the hooghly, health, the unhealthiness of the obligate combined with unsuitable clothing’s and mode of living. Within a few months of the Commander of the “Diligence” is game, and succeeded by Mr. Water the Chief Mate, who is dead a year later, to be succeeded by Mr. Samuel Hacon who came out in the “Diligence” as a “gunner”. Within three years he is also dead.

The Balasore Agent reports all these difficulties, and asks for an annual supply of men for the Pilots service and for Stricture instructions to be given to the Commanders of ships intended for Hughly

November4 29th 1669….(1) we do seriously take notice how such your Worship design 5that the ships be timely dispatched hence to prevent their heard about the caps as also benefit in arriving to the papering market and there fore we have omitted one care to send hence the “Antelope” and Jon and Martha” as soon as night be but till the River of Hughly be discovered that the Commanders will adventure their ships therein to lade We shall not be able annually to send the first ships away before the letters end of the November end the others before he 5th and 10-th December.

Thew Pinnacle “Diligence” proves a very important vessel for the discovery of the Hughly River and sailing some badly that she came several times on ground coming up the river broke pit, of her

(1)Factory Records Misc. Vol.3.

Rudder and false and was in danger of being overset by the strength of the tides so that she returned without effecting anything’s beside delivering the goods to your Factory etc. At Hughly , (I am not surprised at her groundings if she was doing her survey work while fully laden with cargo for Hughly, as apparently she was. R.K.H.B.) Hereupon was doubt and prepared to repair her in the meantime hoping to have a better success by sending the “Madras” pinnacle. We accordingly dispatched her for a second discovery with Mr. Walters and 5 others the “Diligences” men but she wrought so badly as the “Diligence” and made as fruitless a voyage. Besides the improperness of the vessel an other impediment to your discoveries of he River is the paucity of persons fitting for pilots having but one Viet. Mr. Walters that is capable. Those this years set out being some to younger and some too dull for undertaking that charge. Where fore we did is July last write to the Agent and Council squinting the impossibility of discovering the River with these vessel and men so as carry the shippers up next years and desired then if they either had occasion to employ or could sell these vessel at the Coast it being not o done here except at a great losses they would please to order our ending then thither e3nd in their room builds and send us two others one of 354 and the other of 65 tons burthen being unwilling to b ring a further charge of building upon for the ship till we founds a means to discharge it by their employment.

Likewise unless your Worship please annually to supply us both persons to be employed as pilots and others for mariners was shall not be able to effort anything’s towards carrying up your ships for through the intemperance’s of this sort of men and the insalubrious sire of the Country we are annually deprived of at least of those persons belonging to the Pansies and at present not with standing the 4 that some out this years we have not sufficient to navigate the “Diligence” only without a loan of man from the ships.

December 31st, 1669 (1). About 12 days past was dispatched the” Diligence” and “Madras” Pinnacle from hence to Hughly with a quantity of treasure and Europe commodities and to carry up some of the writers and Assistant but chiefly to make discovery of the Channels between this and the 20th of Feb being the best and only season for that works. And the better to produce a satisfactory discovery of the sands etc. We have ente4rteyned one Mr. Breast one who formerly was in year Wore ship employment but discharge there of by Mr. Blake and his indifferent knowledge already of the River,

For Master of the “Madras” Pinnacle and promised both him and Waters the Master of the “Diligence” to encourage them Rs 80 or Rs 100 gratuity for every ship they shall carry up above the Isle of Cox (Note. At one time Saugus Island was divided into three island, (1) Saugus, (11) Isle of God or Rogues Island,. Due to silt deposit they have all become one- Saugus Island. So these pilots were being encouraged to take ships North of Saugus, R.K.H.B). and to mediate your Worships for an Augmentacon of their salary’s. The former Mr. Bramst one already gives us hopes o carry up the ships this years and assure us that after this voyage hew does not question but to undertake it, which we believe (having some knowledge of the, man) he will not do without he knows himself sufficiently qualified for it but we are still fearful that the Commander of the ships unless Yours Worships positively engages their going up Hughly river will either be deterred by a needless fears or dissuaded through self interest and therefore our endeavourers and the great charge you are at to accomplish this business will be insignificant if the Commander of the freighter ships are not strictly enjoyed to follow our orders for their going up upon our putting or appointing pilots aboard to conduct them or that you send out ships of your own to this place whose Master cannot refuse observance to your Agent or Chief & Councils dispatches and orders for the truth is the Charter party Commanders are grown so arrogant & insolent knowing that the poor ignorant Saylor’s for of their wages.

(1)Original Correspondence. 3389,

Will swore anything they would have them. Shem Bridges. Etc.”

It appears that the few ships which went to Bengal in those early years, were mostly character vessels, the Company’s own ships rarely going of Madras. The Master of the these charted ships seem to have been doing a fair amount of private trading, which they considered more important then running risks for the chatterers goods. They must have been a very independent group of characters, caring little for anyone or anything, many were part owner of the vessels they commended or at least had a financial in the3 venture.

In October 1671 the Hughly Agent had to report to the Company that no ship would venture into the river as follows:-

October 20th 1671. (1)…”…. In expectation that your worship would positively have obliged the ship to come into this River we have several times employed the “Diligence” and “Madras” penance to discover the channels which had rendered a couple of the pilots Mr. Waters and Mr. Brimstone, who since are both deceased this and last month sufficiently capable to have brought up any of the ships this year through the and middle Channel and for their more safe caring out full lean through the outward Channels lately discovered we had prepared 6 great can boys with chains and millions to ride them by to be dropt off the sends but the Commanders though some of them at the Fort experts a willingness to come into this river would none of them adventure unless we would engage to satisfy for their ships in case of miscarriage which at their arrival in England your Worships will be able to understand whether it proceeds through their own doubts and fears or other suggestion.

(1) Factory Records. Miso .Vol 3.

By the death of Mr. Waters the Commend of the “Diligence” is devolved on Samuel Hereon whose industry and temperance given us hope of his proving able to bring your ships into this River if the Commander be positively obliged in charter Party only he is desoncorraged something by the smallness of his wages and allow once for diet having solvated us for an angmentacon but not having permission from your worship we have not presumed to gratified him there in, till answer from your Selves so that we do recommend to your Worships the Licensing us to grant convenient encouragement to persons that shall prove able and industrious……..

The reply to this letter is dated only two months later so it must have been dispatched by the Overland. Route from Bombay to Egypt then by sailing vessel from Alexandria to London

In reply the Company renewed their instructions to take ashore one or two “ingenious persons” from the ships to be trained as pilots. A m ore practical from of encouragement was the raising of the bonus from 10/-to 20/-per ton on goods loaded in the River. Extracts from the letter are given below.

December 18th, 1671. (1)….”…We take notice of the decease of Mr. Waters Commander of the “Diligence” and that Mr. Sam Hacon doth succeed……… whose abilities and industries you hope he will be enabled to carry our ships up the River upon which accept we really consent to your motion in allowing him then same pay his predecessor had and when he shall be able to carry up cur ship we shall further consider him. And that we may not want a supply of person to do this works in once of his remove all or death we do here renew our former order to take a shore one or two ingenious persons out of each ship this year (but not to exceed one out of any ship lease then 300 tons) to be employed in the discovery of the River Ganges (and not on any private designee) and what persons you shall take out advise us there of and make them such salaries as shall be reasonable in

(1)Letter Book Vol 4.

Respect of their qualities.

We wonder that our ships cannot go p the River Ganges as well as the Dutch ships and you did well not to give innocent as to the making good the loss of their ships. But by Charter parties they are bound to come as nears our Factories as they may safely arrive yet upon consideration of what encouragement we formerly gave to the Commanders of ships for going up the River Ganges which was 10/8 the ton and they not complying there with we have for their further encouragement resolved to allows to all ships that shall go up that said River 20/8 per ton above their ordinary fortnight for what goods they shall take in. We have endorsed this agreement on this “Rebecca” charter Party we desire that our smaller ships may first make try all before our ships of greater but them, could this be effected we should have little occasion to repair or build at Balasore which you mention there is great need of,”



The new bonus offers had the desired effect. The “Rebecca” one of the smaller chartered ships of the Company, of 200 tons, Captain James Mariner, arrived t Balasore to discharge ii July 1672. By the middle of August she was ready to sail up to Hughly, but did not leave before September, as explained in the following letter, by that time the “Freshets” were well established a more unsuitable time to make the first attempt could not have been chosen

Letter from the Balasore Agent top the Company dated the 21thAugust,1672 mentions that (1) ……We have removed the treasure brought out on the “Rebecca” concluding you would not our Masters should have to mush in her being the first attempter for the Hughly River”.

(1) Bengal Register of letter received 1671-1672.

In a later
(1) undated but obviously written after the “Rebecca” had completed the return passage from Hughly successfully he reports as follows”-… The “Rebecca” having your orders and encouragements to proceeds up the River Ganges we orders one of your Pilots to take charge of her to carry her in but in regard Walter Clavell we art the time of her arrival; in Hughly her could not so some given order about it if he had been in Balasore there was some time lost and before her coming into the River the reaches came duns so strong that she found great difficulty to get up as high as your Factory and by many attempts received great prejudiced in her ground tackle however she went in end out safely.”

The Pilots who took her up was Samuel Hscon and she was attended by the pinnacle “Diligence” Mr. Henry groyne Master. Hscon took her away to se again at the end of the years and was given a reward of Rs 100 “for his encouragement’

We about not there may be one or two of your ships go in thither with case provided you send them hither timely to be going up the River Hughly in the middle of July however it will not be safe for them to come out again till the middle or latter end of November the weather being until that time so unseasonable that it will be hazardous to adventure as the Dutch this two last years experimented in the loss of the ships “Bryenkerke” in the forms and the “losduymen” this whose loss is calculated at Re 4 to 500,000 nor is it safe to go hence in October to the costs the name time the ‘Happy Entrance” sailed there were two of the Dutch ships dispatched like wise the “Niter Leon cancel “ (and) “Proms and both same to the same unfortunate and she came to. You wee misinformed concerning the “Happy Entrance” she being hailed away but most of her goods shored before she sailed from Balasore and had time enough to act

all her goods in a very.

(1) Register of letter sent 1672-1674. The letter is undated but it was apparently written in December 1672 or January 1673.

Good order…

It hath pleased God to take from among us Samuel Hacon who carried the ship “Rebecca’ in and out of the river Ganges. In two…………after return from Hughly departed this life.

Although the ‘Rebecca” achievement was not imitated during the next few years and good result of the adventure was to impress upon the directors the necessity for a steady supply of youth for the Pilots service if it was to because general for their ships to sail up the River. Year by year more ship was coming to Bengal, and it was difficult and mostly to load them at Balasore.

The number of ships and the value the of the goods they exported from Bengal in 1672 is shown by the following statement.

(1)”Barkley caster 145,239. ‘Royal subject’ Rs 90, 444. “Johanna’’ Rs 147,h2234. “Anne” 45,859. “Rebecca” Rs 88,483.


The Company ‘s ships did not always arrive home safely with thus valuable cargoes as the above ships did in 1772.

Sometime the Company were not so fortunate; for instance, in 1673 their ships met double their number of Dutch in Petioles Bet and were badly damaged.

(2) “ The 1st September 1673 only seven of our ten ships returned from Mechlapatam, with their wounded men torn Hulked, who were dispatched from Mechaspatam, in petioles Bay where as soon as day began to peep, a thicket of twenty sail of our Enemies wits discovered at earring the flowing Tide at an Anchored. Our fleet Wight have passed them with giving Mattel; but that the undaunted

(1) Balasore Register of letter sent. 1672 –1674.

(2) A New account of East India and Persia 1672-1681. By Dr. John Fryer,M.D.

There is a Dutch account of this engagement in ‘haven’t” p. 163 and in the “Histoire des Voyages’ by L’abble Provost, Vol.17.

Britain’s a corned to fly choosing rather to lye a Battery for them, then cowardly. Where fore they braced their Sails to the Master, and being to leeward stayed for the win, which favored the Hollanders: but were intercepted by the headmost of course. Which perceived by the fore most of theirs, they sent their Shallops aboard their Admiral for Orders: for via Consilu experts mole rut sue, Strength void of counsel sinks with its proper reight; which was but two tautly the faults of out Commencers, over Confident and lightly regardsing the Authority of their General,

When they came back again, they brought their Fleet up I a body, and after the signal given, it thundered and hailed Bullets till Night.

The first that felt the warmth of the Showier was the bombing, who after an boars hot dispute almost board and board with one of their biggest ships boars off hardly able to keep above water and never came in again, having received sop that in her built and some between Wind and Water so that in the Hold there was four feet and a half Water; beside innumerable in her Ragging, Master and Sails from these that pelted at a distance.

The next ship that behaved herself stoutly was the Admirals; who last 34 of her men by the scurvy accident of Power 17 of them were slain cut right

But the three fatal ships were the “Antelope” Captain Golsbery, “Sampson” Captain earning rear-Admiral; and the “President’ Vice-admiral Captain Hide Whose rigid Fortune saved Drooping Hon our of English, which is not less Conspicuous in Adversity that in Prosperity. For having sustained the Brunt of the day. They left not off when they were pene4d in by the Enemy and deserted by their friends. For by Five in the afternoon the.

“London” bore away to stop her leaks the rest were glad to follows and left them to maintain so unequal a Fight. The Vice-admiral was seen to below up his decks several times, distributing the Hollanders as Does to the Fishes ad left not off till night parted the fray so that what became of them our ships could give us no account.

The next day was sent from Mechlapatam hither the Copy of a letter from captain Hide, which assured us of his being alive, but wondered his ship as it is at the disposal of the Dutch, as also Captain Ernninge thought he was killed first. That Captain Golsbery sunk his rather that it should go to Batavia; that he, and what Men could shift for themselves were safe.

(1) I have just seen another version of this engagement which differs in some respects from the foregoing account It says it took place off nizampaten on the 22nd August 16673, and the Dutch fleet of 20 vessels contains 12 Men-0f-war, who had set out with the intention of intercepting our 10 ships which on passage from Masulipatem to Madras. Apparently our ships did so much damage to the Dutch that they were unable to peruse the 7 vessels, which escaped. The loss of men killed and wounded on both sides was severs.

A contemporary record of the trade and shipping in the Hooghly River, at this time is contained in an “accept” of the trade of Hughly supplied by Walter Clavell the English Agent at Hughly of Streynsham Master in 1676 (2)

Our Ships if we had more Pilots whose we could oblige to stay after they obtained some experience either by engaging them in familiars or by giving them good wages might with much go over the Braces and come up Hughly river than they can go out of the Dawns into the river of London and one mains encouragements

(1) East India men by Sir Haven Cotton edited by Sir Charles Fawcett.

The batch worth Press 1949, pps 152-153.

(2)Diaries of Streynsham Master, Vol.2, pps 82-84.

Would be that the ships should silt out of England so as to be here the beginning o June, by which mean they will have true tides to carry them up and avoid the freshens. They may be also go up if they come the as of the Monsoon, coming from the coat to the Bay in September after the freshen are abated. If any such thing be designed it will be good to advise by the first ships that a sloops and Pilots may attend for then at balasore. And both these ways the ships avoid the hazard of the stone, and it would be a great case and advantage in the timely supplying o the Inland factory (Kasimbazar Dacca and Patna) with stock to pay off what s owing at Interest, and dispatching the goods that come thence in good season. This way the Dutch bring up ships of six and seven hundred Tons to ride before their Factory (at Chinsura), and take in the greatest part of their lading near it and few years unless in the of the late wars with England (1665-1667), but they have upwards of twenty sails that came into the river. They formally came to Pipley for Pilots but that being to near the braces is found inconvenist, and come cause of removing their Factory thence to Ballasore, where now at the beginning of June, There lye I the roads three or four sloop with Pilots to attend the coming of the ships and to carry them into the river. (Them follows a detailed account of the extensive Dutch trade with Japan, Malaya and Europe), it continues:-

The Portuguese, though numerous in Hughly yet are reduced to a very low and mean Condition their trade not worth mentioning, their Subsistence being to be entertained in the Moguls pay as Soldiers. Your Humble Servant, Walter Clavell”,

(1) Streynshan Master to whom the foregoing report was sent first came out to India when only 16 with his uncle and Godfather, George Oxen den in 1656 and for the next four years he remained in

(1) The Diaries of Streynsham Master, 1675-1680

Edited by Sir Richard Garnacx Temple, Bart.,C.I.E. 1911.

The care of Christopher Oxen den, second in Council at Surat, before he actually entered the company service in that Factory in 1660.

There he stayed for 11 years more. While at Surat he found an opportunity for exercising the great financial ability he undoubtedly possessed and earned the approbation of the Cou8rt of Committees by rectifying the confusing which existed in the account at Surat and by devising a system of book-keeping which was eventually adopted in the Company Factories through out the country and had considerable influence on the public accounts of the English in India for a long time afterwards.

Master returned top England n the ‘Antelope” in June 1672, after narrowly escaping capture by the Dutch the Falcon which accompanied the “Antelope” being seized and carried to Bergen.

In September 1675 he was selected as a Fit and able person to bring order out of chose in the Company Factories on the Coriander coast and in the Bay of Bengal.

His Commission & Instructions form an interesting document. The main concerns of Master enquiry at the Factories of Masulipatan, Balasore Hughly and Kasimbazar were the accounting methods, the disposal of European commendation the mode of contracting for India pieces goods raw silk etc. The character and ability of the Company servant the Company privileges and the formants by which they were obtained and also to use his influences to induce the captain of the company ships to take their vessels as far up the Hughly fiver no pains to increase the Company trade in India and to enhances the prestige of the England among the natives. To this and he was urged to administer justice impartially and t see that duties and customs were duly and indifferently levied. Private trade beyond that specially allowed was strictly condemned, as was also the desertion of Englishman to the King of Goloonda’s service.

Early in 1675 some more apprentices were sent out to be trained for the Pilots service. It was reported however, (1)…”That the Lads sent out to serve in the Sloops are too young and little for that employment and shall be sent to the Inland factories to learn to write. Two of them are dead and the rest subject to debaucheries”,

The sendi9ng of these boys to inland factories instead of using them as intended did not meet with the approval of the Company which gave orders that the boys sent out for the Pilots service were not to be used in any other manner pointing cut that if they had not been removed from the Service the Company Agents would have had at their disposal men capable of taking ships in and out of the River. Their letter is dated December 24th 1675, and is as follows (2)

…”We note with what case the Dutch do bring their ships in and out of the River of Hughly Amongst the rest the “haniball’ and” Experiment”. Had you not diverted those we formerly sent to be bred up as Pilots in that river by employing them in your Owns affaires. We might by this time have some persons able to carry our ships in and out of the Ganges. We would this years have sent out some more but have thought it better at the arrival of our ships with you that you should take out of each ship one or two Ingenious young men that re Artiste and keep them in that Employment that so they may be able to do this works. But we expect that they be wholly kept to this business and that we yearly have every mean particular journal and Draughts sent us. But you must have the Caption consents and also their owns for such as you do take out and acquaint us their Names and take care you choose None but able seamen. And not that under this pretence.

(1)Factory Records. Misc.3a

(2) Letter Book, Vol.5 and the Diaries of Streynsham Master.

Edited by Sir Richard Carnes Temple, Bart, and C.I.E.

Other shall be left in he Country unfit for our service; And the ships may be supplied by some formerly left there that have run fro their Commanders……….

We have seen that for many years now the Board of Directors in London have been doing all they could to build up the Pilots Service but the climate, and mode of life of those recruited was against them no sooner had they become acquainted with the river sufficiently to be in a positions to pilots a vessel, then they died. It has been said that the life of a Pilots in those very early days was at most five years before they succumbed to debauchery and drink.

In 1677 the Company announced more practi9cal measures for the encouragement of the navigation of the River. They must have realized from their Agents reports that their shipmasters were doing a very profitable trade with the Coast ports, and were in consequence reluctant to try new ground up the Hooghly, therefore the main inducement must be financial.

The Court of Directors wrote on December 12th, 1777 (1) “We are very sensible of the great advantage it would be to us if our ships would go up to Hughly which we believe the Commanders will never attempt till you can prevent the great private trade they drive at Balasore; But that we may contribute there into what in us lies, we have given encouragement to the Owners and Commanders Officers & Seamen by an additional Freight & reward as you may se by our Orders of the 14th of this instant, Copy where of is herewith sent. And do also send up to some young Seamen to serve us in the Bay on the terms mentioned in a paper herewith their name whom you are to keep employed in that River for attaining su8ch sufficient knowledge in that navigation as may enable them to Pilots up any ship and when

(1) Factory Records Fort St. George Dispatches from England 1670-77.

They shall bring up any of our ships bound from England, you may given to each of our pilots that shall be on board 20 rupees (1) by way of gratuity and f you can obliged any of them after the Expiration of the first terms to continue 3 0r 5 years longer you may prefer them to the command of our small ve4ssels and we shall have them in out Bye for such other preferment as may offer; and it you can thinks of any better way to encourage them in this service advices them of and you shall have our resolution there on.

The young seamen mentioned above whom ere sent out were Leonard Browns, Benjamin, Ayland, Sampson Balcksaw, Thomas Prefect, David Weldon Samuel Pines, and George Stone.

For the first three years their pay was to be 16/- and the last two years 20/- a month. Thi9s pay was pathetically small considering the arduous work they were expected to do and the appalling climate condition. The Directors appear to have the false impression that piloting on the Hughly was similar to that round the coasts of Britain, where as in fact, it was more difficult.

From the following entry in the Diary and Consultation Book of Fort St. George, Madras under the date 1st August 1678, we learn that five of the young seamen sent out were fro Christ, Hospital School. “The Blue Coat School.

(2) “The 5 Hospital boys came upon the ship ‘Nathaniel” to be bred up as pilots in Bengal having petitioned fro a months pay, upon perusal of the Compass orders it was found that their pay was not to begin until their arrival at Balasore, and there fore nothings was due to them here nor thought fit to be paid”.

Before December 31st 1678, the3 first five mentioned were dead they all coming Sickly to Hughly through bad weather coming & ill & unusual Dyet as was supposed at sea they being very small & not able to endure the hardship of so long voyage”.

(1) Factory records Misc. 3a. (In a letter dated December 20th, 1678 the agent at Hughly requests that the Pilots…may have greater encouragement than Rs 20/- for that the Pilots of the “Rebecca” had 100 rupees.

(2) Hughly Diary December 1678 to November 1679.

Samuel Pines was apprenticed to the dyer Richard Smith at Kassimbaza, who promised to (1) …”…. to take great care of and pains with him and instruct him art and Mystery… the other George Stone we shall employ in such writing and other worked in the factory he may been Capable of’.

The raid of the Bonus per ton to 40/- and the grant of gratuities to commanders and orews of ship navigating the River are set forth in the resolution of the Board in London on the 14th of December 1677.

(2)…”…for as much as it is judged expedient both for the security of the ships as of the Companies cancers there on that the court should introduce they’re sailing up the River Ganges. It is ordered that if any ship shall go up the said River as high as Hughly or at least as far as channock (Barrack pore 14 miles above present Calcutta) the Owners shall be allowed Forty shillings fe5r tons on the whole tonnage above their ordinary freight and a gratuity of one hundred pounds shall be given to the Commanders twenty pounds to the Chief Mate , sixteen pounds to the Second Mate twelve pounds to the Thirds Mate and ten pounds to the fourth Mate and also on month pay to the rest of the inferior officers and Seamen for their encouragement.’

These offers were bound to have affect for everyone concerned were included in the cash payments.



In addition the letter informed the Agent at Hughly tht the “Falcon” a Ship of 380 tons, will follow the example of the “Rebecca” and said up to the factory at Hughly.

(3) December 12,1677’…we having so great a desire to have a ship go up the Ganges and finding the ‘falcon’ fit

(1) Letters received Hughly August 1677 to November 1678.

(2) Records of Fort St. George, Dispatches from England 1670-1677

(4) Factory records, Fort St. George.

Ship to make that experiment, and captain John Stafford, the commander, willing to undertake it, wee have ordered he to go directly to you with a stock of 237,625. 6. 3. in bullein, and £3, 021. 1. So in goods without stopping at the Fort or Masulapatam and God granting him to arrive safe at Ballasore you are to accommodate him with so many of Our Pilots and boats as may ce there and he shall desire to carry him up as high as hughly if conveniently she can or at least as Channock and wee leave it to you on consultation to land or all Pt. Of our treasure at Ballasore according as you may apprehend the hazard”.

They gave the following instructions to Captain Stafford of the “Falcon” dated London 19th December, 1677.

(1) … “ … And the reason why wee direct you not to stay for the rest and to go directly for the Bay is because wee have ordered your ship to go into the River Ganges as high as Highly of conveniently you can or at least as far as Channok that wee might thereby make introduction as to our ships in the future not to lie in that dangerous road of Ballasore at the breaking up of the Monsoons but for their safety and the more convenient

ladeing of our goods may go into the River. Wherefore at your arrival there acquaint our Chief and Councell there with and send up our Pacquet to them whome wee have ordered to afford you what assistance they can with such Boats and Pilots as we have there, and you are also to get the best information you can otherwise o the sholes and chanells and setting of the Tides and what else you judge need full and with your own and Mates most care wee would have you (through Gods blessing) to proceed up the River…”

The “Faleon” arrived safely at Balasore at the very end of July 1678. George Herron, Chief Pilot and the sleep “Arrival”

(1) Letter Book. Vol. 5. 1672-78. The following extract from Captain John Stafford written in London on 9th August 1672 shows that the of the good ship “Faleon” had been eventful enough before she sailed up the hooghly…” … The Ship “Faleon” came from St.Hellena the 24th of April and mett with a Dutch Privateer of flushing, about 60 leagues from our lands End who hath taken her onto Bergen in Norway. She was bought back from the Dutch in 1673.

Were waiting ready for him. The sloop having put the Pilot abroad would have gone on ahead with the “Faleon” following a stern, across the Braces and into the Rove. The following extracts have been taken from the Highly Diary, and show that she was an object of great interest to the local Indian dignit aries.

August 1st 1678.

At 12 Clock at night we received a letter from Captain Stafford advising that he was arrived in the “Falcon” at Rangomotto within Highly River but had met with such bad weather that they lost one anchor with out and another between the Braces where they were forced to another two days.

August 6th

Towards evening the “Falcon” came to anchor before the Factory, having had the fresh strong which made her long on her way up. The “Arrival” sloop came up with her.

August 10th.

The Droga causing lots of trouble to the Company by stopping goods being landed from the “Falcon”, it was resolved to invite him abroad and make him a few presents of guns and toys.

August 12th.

The Droga, Muzzarceefe, etc. officers came on board the “Falcon” and were well pleased to see the ship.

November 16th.

Mallick Cossim, the Chusdar here, came to visit the chief and desired to go on board the English Ship before the Factory, having not seen any here before, where he was entertained to his Satisfaction and content.

December 2nd.

We dispatched the sloop “Arrival” an ordering the Pilot George Herron to take care of the “Falcon” to Barnagur (about a mile North of the present site of Calcutta) with her she was this day sent to take in wood and water against next returns of the “Arrival” for her proceeding to Ballasore road.

December 19th.

This day dispatched the sloop “Arrival” ordering George Herron the Pilot to take charge of and carry down the ship “Falcon” to Ballasore road taking great care in the way and rather to spend some time extraordinary from going than any way to hazard such Ship and good.

January 6th 1679.

Received a General Letter from Ballasore dated the 31 ult, advising of the “Falcon’s” safe arrival into that road the 30th ditto being hindered in the way by calmes happening on the nape tides.

It will be noted that the Pilot of the “Falcon” was George Herron, one of the youths who were sent out to the Bengal Pilot Service in 1669. In under ten years he had risen from apprentice to the rank of Chief Pilot.

Pilot of those says, were not only expected to pilot ships but were also their own surveyors and must have been kept very busy with both tasks. Although deep sea ship were almost none existent, the local Sloop service between Hughli and Ballasore was frequent, as all the Company’s inland trade was carried by them.

It is interesting to see the orders actually giving to George Herron to take away the “Falcon” which were as follows:-

Hughly 19th December 1678. (1) “We having Laden on board the Sloop “Arrival” for account our Honorable Employers what Goods at present thought convenient doe order you immediately on receipt here of, to repair aboard Said Sloope and weigh Anchor and sett saile and to fall down the River Soe low as Barnagur where you will find the Ship “Falcon” ready to saile on board of

(1) Coppie Booked of Letters sent. 1678.

which you are to go and proceed as Pilot into Ballasore roads the above said Sloop keeping you company all the way thither Pray have especial Care of your depths and Soundings down the River and over the Sands into Said roads rather choosing to spend a day or two extraordinary (though it be now late in the years and we would on that Accot. have you make what haste you can Conveniently of Danger when it shall please God that you have brought the Ship “Falcon” together with the Sloop “Arrival” into Ballasore raode you are immediately after you have delivered our letter to Jno. Thredded there, whose orders you are to follow for disposing the Cargoe now sent on our Sloop, to send our letter to Mr. Edwd, Reade and factors ashore at Ballasore, to which place we wish you a good Voyage and Remain. Your Loveing friends Matts. Vincent. Edwd. Bugden.

In spite of the :Falcon’s” successful voyage in and out of the River it was to be some years later before other ships emulated her achievement, but it can be said that from now on the River Hooghly was open to navigation by the largest ships of t he Company.

The lack of Pilots fully acquainted with the River was still a serious problem, and the chief cause put forward by Shipmasters as to why they would not attempt the passage.

In the event of Commanders agreeing to sail up the River Pilots were ordered before the arrival of the ships to survey the channels and George Herron and others were issued with these instructions to do so in June 1681.

(1) “your Sloop “Arrival” being fitted with what thought necessary and the time of the coming of our expected Europe Shipping drawing nigh some of which may possibly this year be

(1) Fort St. George Sumary Book. 1680-1681.

ordered up the River in which respect it is thought convenient that you proceed down to freshen your memory of the sands depths etc of the same. We order you on receipt here of to repair on board the sloope “Arrival” and with the first opportunity of wind and weather weigh your anchor and set saile hence towards the Isle of Cooks and thence over the braces and back thither again which course you may repeat so often as you judge convenient and are satisfied as to the depths bearings and thereof when you are to return hither agains and in your way down and up the river you are to take good notice of the sands shoulds bearings settings of the tides and necessary, we wish you a good voyage and remain. Your Loveing Friends.”

None of the Company’s ships sailed up the River in 1681 as will be seen by this entry in the Bengal Diary. :From Ballasore we again had advices that much contrary to our expectations that this years shipping had not (or at least the Commanders pretended so) sufficient orders to bear them harmless in bringing their ships to Hughly.”

AS a result of the large gratuities offered by the Company, competition by interloping ships and better Pilots, a few ships began to sail up the River from 1682 onwards. The “Welfare”, 250 tons, and the :Crown”, 300 tons, sailed up to Hughli in 1682. The, “Henry and William”, 250 tons, the “Hare” 190 tons, and the” “Prudent Mary”, 350 tons, in 1683. The “Persia Merchant”, 350 tons, and the “Anne”, 470 tons, in 1684.

Here for the first time officially, mention is made of ‘Interloping’ ships. The East India Company by its charters had, so far as Britain was concerned, the sole right to trade in India, it was therefore illegal for privately owned British ships to compete with the Company’s vessels. None the less several privately owned ships did so and these were known as ‘Interlopers’ and every obstacle was officially put in their way to discourage them.

Unofficially they must have had encouragement from some of the Company’s servants, who used them for their own private trade, otherwise they would have been run off the coast by the more powerful company. These interlopers were using the river from at least 1670 onwards, and employing the Company’ pilots to do so, later Pilots were forbidden, under servers penalties to handle any interloper.

Conditions in Bengal between 1682 and 1687 are described by William Hedges (afterwards Sir William) in his Diary, which he kept whilst the Company’s Agent in Bengal during that period.

William Hedges received his Commission from Ye Right Worpll Ye Govr., Depty, and Committee of Ye Honble English East India Company to be their Agent and Govr for their affairs in Ye Bay of Bengal and in the East Indias on November 25th, 1681 being given to him by Ye Right Worsh11 Sir Josia Child Bart, being then Govr, and Thomas Papillion Esq., Deputy.

He left London with his wife and family for Deal on November 30th, 1681, where he boarded the “Defence”, Captain William Heath on December 3rd.

This Diary was edited by Colonel Henry Yule, R. B., LL. D. President of the Hakluyt Society and R. F. Barlow, Esq., Branch Pilot, Bengal Pilot Service.

It was not until January 28th, 1682 that the diary shows:- Jan. 28th. The “Resolution” and “Defence”, about 4 o’clock in ye afternoon sailed out of ye Downes with a fair wind. There follows a day by day account of the voyage, mostly referring to weather and sailing conditions.

The “Defence” rounded the Caps on May 25th, as the entry for that day shows –

“From 10 last night till noon this day it has blown exceedingly fresh. At 4 o’clock this afternoon we hoisted out our boat, and easting ye lead struck ground at 49 fathoms depth, which by ye tallow was white and hard as chalke. We judge Cape de Agullias bears North, at 40 miles distant. Blessed be God we are come thus far on our voyage in perfect health and safety, not having lost a man (except Mr. Richards), either by sickness or any other accident, since we left England, which wants but 3 days of 4 months, and is just 2 months this day since we passed ye Equinoctial Line.”

Then on July, 1682 “These 24 hours it has blown very fresh with hard gusts of rain and dark cloudy weather. We lay by all last night till 10 o ‘clock this morning ye Captain being desirous to see ye Jagernot Pagodas, for his better satisfaction, which we discovered this morning about 8 o’clock. Distance run 106 miles, course ye N. N. E. to E x S; wind from ye South and to ye Wets and S. W.’ Lat. by judgement, ye sun being in our zenith, 10º50º N”.

July 17th. “These 24 hours a fresh gale, with gusts of rain and very dark cloudy weather (typical S. W. monsoon weather. R. K. G. B) from 7 o’clock last night till 5 this morning we lay at anchor in 18 fathom of water, and then made sail, Dist. run 72 miles; courses N x E to East wind West to S. W. About 2 in ye afternoon we doubled ye Point of Palmiras and between 6 and 7 in ye evening came to an anchor in ye Bay.

July 18th. “about 8 in ye morning we had got our Long Boat out, and weighed our anchor. At 11 o’clock this morning we anchored again, about 8 or 10 miles distant from a ship and 5 small vessels we saw in ye road, and 15 or 16 miles from ye shore; however soon after we came to an anchor 1 sent away Capt. Raynes in ye pinnace, ashore with a letter to ye Chief and Council of ye English Factory at Balasore, and Mr. Garret (one of our Mates) in the yall to ye Master of ye first yacht he can speak with, to come off to us, and pilot our ship into ye road.”

This is the letter that Mr. Hedges sent ashore.

Aboard of ye “Define” in Balasore.

July 18th, 1682.


The Honble E. India Coy. have made ye server all Factories in this Bay a Agency from that of Fort St. George, and having sent us hither for ye Government of their affairs, we desire the Chief and Second (as least) of your Factory, to come off as soon as may be, to consult with us concerning ye management of their business; and that you would dispatch ye Sloope to us with all expedition, wherein you will not only do an acceptable piece of service to ye Company but likewise oblige,


Your most humble servants,

William Hedges. Joseph Dodd.

John Beard. William Johnson.”

To Ye Chief and Council of the

English Factory in Balasore.

July 19th. “We weighed anchor again and bore down about 2 or 3 miles to two Sloops when could not turn it up to us, and sending for ye Masters aboard, the one which was ye “Good Hope”. George Herron, Masters aboard, the other ye “Madapolllam”, John Hampton, Master. They told us the Ship we saw in Port was the “Crown” Capt. Dorrell, with Mr. Pitt who had been here 11 days before. That Mr. Pitt had hired a great house at Balasore, carried divers chests of money ashore and was very busy in buying of goods. WE were likewise informed that two other small ships in our sight, over against Pipley, were English vessels, arrived but three days before us…. they all wanted Pilots to take them up to Hughli.”

It is interesting to note that the Mr. Pitt referred to above was the second son of the Rev. John Pitt, Rector of Blandgford, Dorset. He was born in 1653 and married Jane Innes at Hughli in 1680, and she bore him 3 sons and 2 daughters, His eldest son Robert, was the father of William, the first Earl of Chatham; the second Thomas was created Lord Londonderry; and the third John, was a soldier of some distinction. The youngest daughter became the wife of James, afterwards Earl Stanhope.

Mr. Thomas Pitt was an ‘Interloper’ and the Ship “Crown” was his. The Company’s trade had long suffered by the interference of independent merchant captains, known as interlopers. Gyfford, (Governor of Fort St. George) had instructions to put down their unanthorised traffic. Amongst the most prominent of them was Thomas Pitt, destined to become the Governor of Madras. The earliest reference to him that has been noticed in the Fort St. George records occurs in 1679, when he promised to become a law-abiding inhabitant of Madras.


July 21st. “About 1 o’clock in ye afternoon 1 took my leave of Capt. Heath and all others on board ye “defence”, and embarked on ye Company’s Sloop ye “Good Hope” of 100 tons burden, for Hugly in company with ye Madapollam” (another sloop) on which embarked Mr. Beard and his son, Mr. Dodd, Mr. Rush worth, Mr. Lesely (ye Minister) and his son, with 9 souldiers.

On our vessel were all my family, Mr. Johnson, Capt. Heath, and Capt. Raines, besides Mr. Byam of Ballasore and Mr. Hill a young man sent down by Mr. Vincent (Hugly Agent) with orders to the Company’s ships for the delivery of their goods. This night about 9 o’clock we anchored on ye Braces.”

July 22nd. “This morning early, we began to weigh our anchor but ye wind blowing hard and ye sea running high and having broken our Wind lace, were forced (not being able to weigh our anchor) to cut off about 20 fathoms of our cable. Whilst we were endeavoring to weigh, ye “Madapollam” came up; she had broke her cable and lost her anchor.

This morning the Sloop “Arrival”, with Mrs. Richards and her family, Mr. Langly, Mr., Bray, and MR, Ravenhill came up with us. This night we got up as far as a little village called Rangamate, and there anchored.”

July 23rd. This morning about 8 o’clock we weighed and sett sail with a small breeze, scarce stemming ye current, but ye gale soon freshening we got up as high as a village called Great Tanna, by 12 o’clock, from where I sent one of ye boatmen with a letter to Mr. Vincent at Hugly.” (This letter was almost identical to the one he wrote in Ballasore.)

Great Tanna mentioned above was in Garden Reach, where now, 1963, stands the house of the Superintendent of the Botanical Gardens, about 3 miles below Fort William, Calcutta.

In 1682 there stood inside Great Tanna a Fort with mud walls which had been built to prevent the “incursion of the Aracanners (1) for it seems about ten or twelve years since that they were so bold that none durst inhabit lower down the river than this place. The Aracanners usually taking the people of the shoarer to sell them at Tiple (query Tipara?).

July 24th. “Early in ye morning I was met my Mr. Littleton and most of ye Factory, near Hugly, and about 9 or 10 o’clock by Mr. Vincent near ye lutch Garden, who came attended by several boats and (2) Budge rows, guarded by 35 firelocks, and about 50 Rashoots and Peons well armed. He invited me to go ashore with him to the Dutch Garden were he had provided an entertainment for reception. I went along with him and stayed till evening, expecting Mr. Beards arrival in ye other sloop, who not coming in time, we went together to the Factory and there parted company”.

(1) Streynsham Master’s Diary 1676.

(2) Budgerow


This vessels, specially built for the Company, were maids of all work, carrying cargoes outwards from Hughli to load aboard the Ships anchored in Balasore Bay, and returning with the goods from England for sale through the inland Factories supplied through Hughli. They carried fare-paying passengers, messengers with mails and ships papers, and, of course, Company’s officials traveling on business. When not doing this they went surveying. Their Commanders and Mates were Pilots, and the European foretopmast men were apprentice pilots. The very nature of their work was the perfect training ground for their duties as Pilots, for (those who lived long enough to benefit from it) became first class practical seamen with a highly specialized knowledge of the river.

We may continue with further extracts from Hedge’s diary:- December 9th, 1682. “Mr. Beard supposing me on my return to Hugly, wrote to Mr. Pownset a letter dated ye let inst. advising that the Ship “Society” was safely arrived at Ballasore. She set sail out of ye Downs ye 30th May, and not touching at any place by ye way, lost 17 men of ye Sourvy.”

January 22nd, 1683. “About 5 at night I went aboard ye “Madapollam” Sloop with the Honble Company letters, invoices, and Bills of Lading for dispatch of ye “Defense” at Balasore”.

January 23rd. This day having little or on wind, we got no father than Barnagur, though we rowed with our boat all ye way”.

January 24th. “By break of day we weighed anchor, and being a mere calm could get no further than ye ebb would carry us, which was not altogether so far as Jan Pardo. (Poojali)

By ye way I met with ye “Arrival” Sloop, with I hastened to bring away the goods for ye “Society”. Ye tide being spent and not a breath of wind stirring, were forced to come to an anchor, and lye here all night.”

Jan 25th. “This morning by daylight we weighed anchor and with so little wind that we could just stem ye tide. About 11 o’clock we met with ye “Good Hope” Sloop, at an anchor in ye narrows without Hoogly River, (1) and ordered him upon ye first of ye flood to weigh, and make all haste he could to Hugly, to take in what goods he found ready for ye “Society”.

About 9 o’clock this night we found ye “Thomas” Sloop, at an anchor, we hailed her, and commanded her Master to come aboard. But he not having a boat, we were forced to anchor by her, and send our boat for her Master, whom I ordered to take 28 bales of silk and some bales of Cloth out of ye boat we brought from Hugly, and to bring them to me aboard of ye “Defense” with all possible. diligence. We anchored this night on ye head of ye Diamond Sand.”

January 26th. “This morning early we weighed anchor with the tide of ebb, but having little wind got no further than the Point of Kegaria Island, (Modern Khijiri) where meeting with ye tide of flood, were forced to drop our anchor. About 5 this evening ye “Ganges” Sloop. came up to us, whom I ordered to take in 588 bags of Salt Petre that lay ready for her in two boats within kejeria River, and then to return to Hugly. This evening at 7 o’clock we weighed, but growing calm, and being to pass through ye narrow sands of Point Ingelee (Modern Hijili) we chopt to an anchor and lay there all night.”

January 27th. “Before day this morning the gale freshening in our favour we weighed, and after it was day, finding we could stem the tide, made ye best of our way towards ye Braces. About 1 o’clock as soon as we had got clear of them, both wind ye and tide failing of us, we dropped our anchor. At 3 o’clock ye sea breeze coming in we weighed and made all sail till 9 at night, when ye wind proved contrary, so anchored again and lay till morning.”

(1) An old chart or eye sketch, in the English Pilot of 1734, indicates that ‘The portion of the Hooghly river, now called Hooghly Bight was then named the “Narrows”. Above Hooghly Point the river was specially considered the River of Hooghly, in contradistinction to the Roopnarain, or old Ganges, up which at a much earlier period, Chinese junks may have traded to Tumlook.

January 28th. “At daylight we discovered the “Defence” and ye “Society” about two leagues to windward of us. WE made sail, and after 4 hours turning of it, we found we rather lost than gained so came to an anchor.

About 2 in the afternoon we weighed anchor with a small breeze. About 4 ye “Defence” and “Society’s Pinnaces came and carried us aboard ye “Defence”.

January 29th. “The “Msdapollam” Sloop delivered her landing and was immediately dispatched away to Hugly.’

January 30th. “The “Thomas” Sloop delivered her lading and was immediately dispatched away to Hugly.”

January 31st. “This day was taken up in comparing ye Boatswaincs several receipts with ye bills of Lading, and at night I gave ye “Defence” her Dispatches”

February 1st, 1683. “this morning ye “Defence” set sail for England, and by 3 o’clock in ye afternoon was out of sight, Soon after ye “Defence” was under sail 1 went aboard of ye “Society” and lay there this night.”

February 2nd. “I came ashore in Captain Gayer’s Pinnace to ye Bank shall (The office of the Harbour Master or other Port Authority, a word of uncertain origin (1) about 7 miles from Ballosore, where I was met by Mr. Byam, and ye rest of our Factory, together with all of our merchant that trade with us. The Fousdar or Governor, sent his brother to salute and bid me welcome to these parts. Whilst I staid dinner at this plasce Capt. Dorrell and Mr. Pitt passed by in their Sloop, with 4 guns and about 30 English sesmen to work ye vessel and row in ye “Crowns” pinnace, to tow ye Sloop. About half an hour after 4 o’clock I went in my Palenkeen for Ballasore and arrived there about half an hour after 6.”

(1) “Hobson – Jobson” By Col. Sir Henry Yule R. E., C. E.

February 5th. “This morning ye “Crown” and ye other two interlopers sailed out of ye road, together with Mr. Littleton in a Sloop for Fort St. George.”

February 10th. “Mr. Tyler arrived in a vessel of his own, laden with elephants from Tensassarim, advising me he met ye “Defence” ye 5th instant in 18 Degrees with a fair and fresh gale of wind, steering due South.”

February 26th. “This night ye “Society” set sail out of Ballasore Road.

March 7th. “This afternoon about 4 o’clock I left Ballasore and went down to ye Bankshall to embark on ye Sloop “Lilly” for Hugly.”

March 8th. “About 1 o’clock this morning I went on board ye “Lilly”, and sailed over ye her, where we had but 4½ foot water, a few inches more than our vessel drew. Ye wind being contrary we were forced to lie at an anchor all this day till 10 o’clock at night, when we weighed and wade sail with little wind.

March 9th. “All ye last night and this day it continued calm till towards night, when we had a small breeze which brought as over ye towards night, when we had a small breeze which brought us over ye first sand or Brace, when we anchored all night”.

March 11th. “This morning before sun rising we weighed anchor with a small breeze in our favour, and being got up with Kegaria (Kedgeree) we went on shore in our boats, and landed at an old ruined castle with mud walls and thatched. We saw one small iron gun fruitfull, having great store of wild Hogs, Deer, wild Buffalos, and Tigers. This afternoon we stood off towards Sagor and anchored between Cock Island and ye Cyster River.”

March 12th. “We went in our Budgeros to see ye pagodas at Sagor, and returned to ye Cyster River, where we got as many oysters as we desired, and lay at ye mouth of ye river.”

March 13th. “We weighed and came to Jan Pardo”. (Poojali)

March 14th. “We weighted and got to Hugly by 7 o’clock at night all in good health, God be praised for it. This night we had an extraordinary great storm. New Moon tomorrow.” (The storm was the usual Line squall, known locally as N. Westers, common in March and April. They are frequently of greet violence, and cause extensive damage both ashore and afloat. R.K.H.B.)

March 18th. “Ordered Matthia Harrison to deliever over ye charge of ye Sloop “Lilly” to Edward Tench (Pilot). be and several others having petitioned ye same of me and ye council, to find out ye channels, Sands and dangerous places in this River.”

March 15th, 1683. “Two ships ye “Henry and William” and ye “Hare” arrived before ye Factory of Huhli. Received a letter from Captain Brenock, Commander of ye Ship “Kant” dated ye 9th inst., advising of said Ships arrival in Ballasore Road from Tywan and Batavia, and that they and severall goods on board, on account of ye Honble Company., and fearing she may want repairs, having been 2 years out of England, and never out of ye water, desire orders either for her coming up to this place, or going into Balasore River, thinking it dangerous for her (being but a small ship) to ride out ye Monsoon there.”

September 26th. “This say likewise arrived news of the two Interlopers. Alley of the “Lumley Castle” and Smith of the “Constantinople Merchant”, arrival in Ballasore Road; at ye same time came it Cept. Wildy in the “Welfare”, from Gomboon and Fort St. George. Capt. Alley came up to Hugly in his Barge, rowed with English Marines in coats with Badges, and 4 Musicians. (He) applied himself first to Dr. Douglass and then to Mr. Littleton, for advice and directions in all his concernes; put himself into a great Equipage with Flags, like an Agent, and took about 70 or 80 peons to wait on him. Capt. Alley, for ye better conversing of private discourse, and notice not to be taken of them, went to our Garden this afternoon to meet Mr. Evans, our Minister and his brother-in-law Mr. Frenchfield’ what the design should be I cannot imagine.

Mr. Beards’ (the Agent at Hugly) encouragement and partnership in trade with Mr. Douglass has made divers persons extremely regardless of the Company’s strict orders in their dealings and commerce with Interlopers.”

October 8th. “Captain Alley, Interloper, pays a visit to the Fousdar or local Nabob, obviously in the interests of his private trade. “Alley went in a splendid Equipage, habited in scarlet richly laced. Ten Englishmen in Blow Capps and Coats edged with red, all armed with Blundorbusses, went before his Pallankeen, 80 Peons before him, and 4 Musicians playing on the weights, with 2 Flaggs before him, like an Agent. A gawdy show and great noise adds much to a Public Persons credit in this Country. As for Soldjers they are of absolute necessity here in divers respects, and especially whilst we are thus infested with Interlopers, to keep us from Publick affronts, as well as overawe our own people and mariners, who are now very numerous and insolent amongst us, (by reason of Punch) every day give disturbance.

In July, 1684, Mr. William Hedges heard that the Company were superceding him as President by Mr. Gyfford who now become President of Ye Coast of Cormandel and Bay of Bengal. No reason appears to be given for Mr. Hedges dismissal from the Company’s Service, but he had apparently made many enemies locally, chiefly by interfering in their private affairs. He was always accusing them of some malpractice or other, chiefly of accommodating the Interlopers at the Company’s expense.

A typical example is about Mr. S. Hervy, with whome he had been on friendly terms at the time of his visit to the ruined city of Gaur. Here is an extract from his Diary dated the 25th July, 1684…. “The like cheat was clearly proved to me against Mr. Samuel Hervy, deceased, who otherwise, by fair dealing, could never have gott Rupees 220,000 as he has done in a few years out of nothing. His first setting up being with Rupees 1500 he won, or rather cheated, at Play, of a purser of a Shippe at Ballasore, soon after his first arrival in the Bay of Bengal.”

Mr. Hedges left for England in January 1685, he went down the River in the Ship “Recovery” but there is no description of the vessel other than she drew 15 feet of water, neither is there any mention of a Pilot until they reached the Westernmost Brace below Saugor Island then the account goes as follows:-….”Here we met with Mr. George Herron, ye Company’s Chief Pilot, returning to Hugly who came on board and carried us over ye Brace, for which I presented him with Rs 50. At first he seemed unwilling to undertake ye business, or so much as afford us ye least advice or assistance, fearing Agent Board and Council at Hugly might be so displeased with him for showing me any kindness, as to him out of ye Service; but considering, on ye other side, ye promise of so grate a reward, adventured on it. This night about 12 o’clock we anchored on ye Westward edge of ye Outward Brace.

January 19th, 1685. “About 8 in ye morning we got into Balasore Road, passing the “Bengal Merchant”, Capt. Goldsborough (who was at Hughly) His Chief Mate, MR. Hall sent off his boat to know our Ships’ name, and who was in her, but not ye manners to give us a gun by way of Salute. Our Shipe wanting a Pinnace I desired ye Coxon to tell ye Mate Hall I entreated him to lend me his boat to go on board ye “Defence” which he very courteously sent me, but Capt. Heath’s Chief Mate, Mr. Henry Sharpe, coming aboard, assured me his Captain would send me his pinnace immediately, which he performing, I returned Capt. Goldsborough’s boat, with many thanks and gratifying the Crew.

The next Shipp we passed by was the “Ann” Capt. Brown, who was not so courteous as to give us a Salute; but coming near Captain Heath in ye “Defence”, he gave us 9 Guns, I answered with as many more; he returned thanks with 7 and so answered each other with 2 less, till we came to one gun.

Capt. Heath sending his boat for me, I went on board his Shipe to give him thanks for his Civility. After half an hours stay on board, as I was coming ashore in ye Pinnace, I met Mr. Fitz Hugh coming off to me in one of ye Company’s new Sloops, with my bales of goods.

I brought Mr. Fitz Hugh aboard with me without going ashore, and having taken my goods aboard, lay for ye Fbb and a Breeze off ye Shore, which springing up about 12 o’clock at night, we weighed anchor and stood out of ye road, where I first arrived on ye 17th July, 1682, being 2 years and a half, wanting 7 days.

I bless my God, ye Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has been graciously pleased to carry me through so many troubles and affliction of divers kinds, to see this joyfull day; maugre all ye Pilots and Contrivances of my implacable enemies, President Gyfford, Agent beard, Mr. Charnock, and ye rest of that wicked confederacy, but whose hands He hath been pleased to give me Deliverance.

This night we weighed anchor and sailed out of Balasore Road.”

President Beard, the “Agent” of this Diary, survived to witness the “Interlopers’ become the “English Company”, and the two Companies to unite, under the style and title of the “United Company”. MR. Beard died at Madras, 7th July, 1706. (1)

From this time (January/February, 1685) it become the general practice for ships to sail up the River, the smaller vessels to Hugly and the larger, deeper drafted ships to Hijili. This of course put a bigger strain on the Pilot Service, which was always short handed, so the Hugli Agent wrote to the Madras Agent in May 1685 as follows:- (2)…”…we are at a loss for Company sending none out, and those that stay behind their ships which we are forced to make use of, are usually the worst of men.”

A month later the company write to the same effect to their Agent at Fort St. George.

(3) London 17th June, 1685. “We are well assured by Capt. Udall, Capt. Wildly and others that there is water enough for our biggest

(1) Bruce, Annals, Vol.3 p.602.

(2) Letters to Fort St. George. 1684-85

(3) Records of Fort St. George. Dispatches from England 1681-1686

ships to go over the Braces, that we doe resolve the next Shipe wee send you of what burthen soever they are, shall go as high as Ingarles (Hijili), and so we will condition with the next shippes we send thither by Charter party; in the meane time must be your care to secure and have in readiness in Ballasore good Pilots to carry our shipps over the Bar, for a continual supply whereof you cannot doe better then to imitate the Dutch methods in that place, which as near as possible you can, wee would have you observe, as well for the encouragement of our English Pilots, as for ease of the Company’s charge, wee shall not need to recite at length here what those methods are, because you being on the place cannot be ignorant of them…”

Whatever this Dutch system was, it worked, for from this time on, the complaints of shortage of Pilots become less frequent and eventually the supply became adequate. The main reason was obviously the recruitment of a better, more intelligent type of man and sober ones for a change. That this was so is shown by an extract from a letter written about this time to William Gyfford, Esq., Governor of Fort St. George, Agent for Affairs of ye hon. coy etc. & Council, from Matthias Vincent, Edward Littleton, Francis Ellis and Mr. Frenchfield, Hughli Members of Council

“….and some of our Pilots are men whose education and extraction is not inferior to most of nay Factors, and so upon that accot. might have entered upon the Employ of a Factor as well was Pilot had it been their lot and are capable of giving good as Security either here or in England most of them so well skilled in Navigation that they are capable of taking charge of a Ship for any part not needing to learn of any Master or Mates that come from England and their Mate abel enough too…”


From about 1683 the Mogul Governors and local Princes under them had been demanding from the Hon East India Company more and more money, imposing unwarranted taxes on their goods, even to demanding exhorbitant fees from ships anchoring in Ralasore Bay.

There ever increasing demands weant such a loss to the Company that it was becoming evident that unless a stop could be put to them they would have to abandon the trade, which they had no intention of doing. They had come to India for peaceful trade only which they wanted at all costs. The trouble began with the advent of the “Interlopers’. The Nabob of Bengal, seeing that the English appeared to be divided inconveniences the Company by encouraging the Interlopers, then, when requested by the Agent & Council not to do so, agreed on condition they were given large presents of either goods or cash. This process would be repeated several times. It became so bad that several of the Companies boats carrying cargo on the River were stopped and searched, they inevitably lost their cargo to those scarcely disguised acts of piracy.

The Company in 1683-86 had no fortifications of any kind, their Sloops were armed as were all the East Indiamen, but that was normal for the period as defence against the King’s enemies and pirates on the High Seas. Ashore they lives in Indian type Bungalows, the larger ones being built of brick, these houses surrounded their warehouses, all of which were guarded by watchmen, it was a peaceful trading center and they were on most friendly terms with the local traders and inhabitants.

The Board of Directors in London were well aware of the situation in Bengal, and desired to have a fort built, not only to protect their goods and staff ashore, but also their ships at anchor against attack by the Dutch.

On March 5th, 1684, the Directors wrote “To our President, Agent and Council in the Bay of Bengal”.

(1), “the more we think of it, the more advantage we apprehend in having a fortified Settlement for the residence of our Agent

(1) Records of Fort ST. George – Dispatches from England 1681-1686.

and Council of the Bay, in such a place as our Great Ships may lye within Command of the Guns of the Fort…. If you could obtain a Phirmaund for the perpetual inheritance of such a place. We should not think much of your giving 20 or 30,000 Rupees for the obtaining of it, not of the charge of building a Fort to defend it, while our President and great shipping are there not doubting but that our Charter and this Company is longer lived then the youngest of our Grand Children notwithstanding the infractions that have lately been made upon it.”

The Directors in London were very worried about the Dutch aggressive expansion in Eastern waters, and feared for their trade coutes, especially on the Hooghly, so wrote again on June 17th, 1685 urgeing the necessity of a necessity of a fortified base for their shipping..

(1)… “We understand by the “Mexico Merchant” from Suratt that the ?Dutch in the gulph of Persia have made an absolute war with the King, they have seized upon and fortified the Island Kismish; but were besten out of it by the Persians…..

…we have great grounds to believe, that if they had succeeded in Persia they would have immediately have fortified at Bengal stopt the salt boats, and thereby endeavoyr to force the Moguls to deprive us of all trade in the Bay, we do therefore take this occasion by way of Suratt to inculcate our former desire to you that you indeavour to procure a Phirmaund from the Mogul for the Inheritance of some of those Uninhabited Islands in the Ganges that may be fittest for our occasions, and that we may have leave to build a Fort there for our security against the Dutch, if they should attempt to do the same violence in Bengal which they have done in many other parts of the world, the Island of Ingarles (Hijili) we suppose to be fittest for our occasions, because unto that there is water enough for our biggest ships; you may covenant

(1) Ibid.

with the Mogul or Nabob that we will never mount more guns in it than they shall give us leave Vizt: 10 – 12 or 20 and we hope that they having had such long experience of our peaceable temper and disposition, will be so farr from thinking we should use that force against them, that they will rather concludes (as the truth is) that the force we shall have there will always be a guard and defense to the Moguls subjects from any violence that the Dutch may intend against them”

The President and Council in the Bay tried their hardest to obtain the required Phirmaund (D0cument of Permission) but without success perhaps because the Governor and his advisers distrusted the Company’s intentions, though their own experience showed they had no cause to; more likely because the struggle promised them profitable remuneration. Bengal was that time in a state of general unrest, the persecutions of the Hindus by Auranzeb were not forgotten by the Bengalis and it may be that the Governor thought he might take their minds off such things if he created a diversion by action against the European traders, but whatever the cause, the required permission was refused, and more pressure imposed on the Company for money.

Events finally reached such a pass that it because obvious that further concessions could only end in disaster and the Company decided to make a firm stand, so the following letter was sent to the President and Council in the Bay, dated 14th January, 1686.

(1) “The Governor and Committees having for Secresy Sake left it to us to give you such orders and Instructions as we should think needful for reducing our affairs in Bengal to a better temper and condition than they have been in of late years, by Such waies and means as we should think best, we must tell you, that we have often and over Seriously considered the misery and thralldom

(1) Letter from the Secret Committee of the East India Company. (Parts of this letter are to

be found in Hedges Diary Vol.2.)

in which you have lived ever since the beginning of the Interloping times, and the ingratitude of the Nabob and those heathenish Governors that took the advantages of that unnatural Division betwixt the English themselves, to oppresses us all, and deprive the Company of those ancient privileges which for long time they have enjoyed, and we purchased with infinite Cost, and repeated great Presents, Besides the vest charge of likewise considered all that passed in your consultations for remedy of those Grievances while President Gyfford was in the Bay, and also your General and Particular Letters from our President and Council of Fort St. George, and have examined Seriously the opinion of the most prudent and experienced of our Commanders , all which do concenter in this one opinion, (and to us Seeming pregnant truth) Vizt. That since those Governors have by that unfortunate accident and audacity of the Interlopers got the knack of trampling on us, and extorting what they please of our Estates from us, by the besieging of our Factories, and stopping of our Boats upon the Ganges, they will never forbear doing so, till we have made them as Sensible of our Power, as we have of our Truth and Justice, and we after many deliberations are firmly of the same opinion, and resolved (with God’s blessing) to persue it.

To which purpose we have ordered this Bearer Capt. Bromwell in the ship “Rochester” mounted with 65 guns, and furnished with a competent number of all Officers, Seamen and Soldiers, to make the best of his way for Ballasore Road, in company with the “Rochester’ Frigatt of 12 guns, where we hope he will meet you and most part of our Servants on board our small Vessels and Sloops ready to receive him, according to intimation we have formerly given you to prepare your Solves….

The force we have designed you, besides the “Rochester” and the “Rochester” Frigate, and our small vessels in the Ganges will consist of:

“Beaufort” John Nicholson. Admiral 70 Guns 200 Seamen.

“Nathaniel” John Mason. Vice do. 50 150

“Royall James” John wetwang. Capt. 50 150

“Tonqueen” Robert Knox. 24 50

“Loyall” David Hobson. Commander. 16 30

“Beaufort” Frigott 12 20

“Nathaniel” Frigott. 12 20

Besides Six compleat Companies of land Souldiers with their Lieutenants, and all the company’s Sloops and Small Vessels at Fort St. George and Priaman which was have ordered to be immediately Sent to your aid from both those places well mann’d and Arm’d, knowing they may be of great use to you in the River of Ganges…..

When you have waited for the Nabob’s answer, or treated with Commissioners from his, and cannot, or are not agreed until Captain Nicholson our Admiral for this Expedition do arrive with Forces from Fort St. George. We would then have you loose no longer time after his arrival, for fear of loosing the Monsoon, which would be almost as fatall to us, as a defeat, but immediately send our Admiral with so many of our Land Captains as you can spare, with all our Land Soldiers, and Such Recruits as you shall hire in the Countrey all our ships Save one, and all our Small Frigatts and Sloopes that you can Spare, directly to the Fort of Chittegam, (Chittagong) where after Summons if the Fort Town and Territory thereunto belonging be not forthwith delivered to our Lieut. Coll. Job Charnock or in case of his death or inability, to the person that may Command in Chief in this Expedition, we would have our forces to Land, Seize and take the said Town Fort and Territory by forces of Armes, and the same to seize, take and keep for our use, and to kill Slay and destroy as Enemies to his Majesty all such persons whatsoever as shall oppose your Entrance and Possession of the said Fort Town and Territoryes thereto belonging……

But above all things, we would have you very careful, that no viclence or injury be offered to women, children or any innocent people that do not hostiley oppose you, and particularly, that you do not suffer any prejudice to be done to Churches, Mosques, Pagodaes, or other public Places where God is worshiped, or pretended to be worshiped…..

But you must allwaise understand that the we prepare for and resolve to enter into a war with the Mogul (being necessitated thereunto) our ultimate end is peace, for as we have never done it, so our natures are most averse to Bloodshed, and Rapine, which usually attend the most just Wars, But we have no remedy left, but either to desert our Trade or we must draw that Sword his Majesty hath entrusted to us with, to vindicate the Rights and Honour of the English nation in India.

Your very Loving friends

Joseph Ashe Govr.

Josa. Child Depty.

East India House. Ben. Bathurst.

Joseph. Herne.

The fleet which eventually arrived out consisted of the “Beaufort”, “Rochester”, “Beaufort” frigate and “Nathaniel” frigate, The “Diamond” frigate left London with the others but was lost on Diu Point on the way out.

The fleet arrived at Balasore in October 1686, and after a short stay for fresh provisions the “Beaufort” and the two frigates sailed up to Tanna. (Garden Reach). The “Rebecca” joined the fleet in April and the “Berkley Castle” in July 1687.

It must be pointed out that these vessels were all Merchant ships, either the Company’s own East Indiamen or Chartered vessels, and not Naval ships as one would surmise by the use of the words ‘fleet’ and ‘admiral’. The first Royal Navy ships to visit the Bay of Bengal did not arrive till September 1702, when a squadron visited Madras.


The Directors in their letter of January 14th 1686 mentioned Job Charnock in connection with their plan for capturing Chittagong.

He is one of the most memorable figures in the early history of British India. He arrived in India in 1655 or 56, and, though not sent out from England in the Company’s service, it was not long before he joined it and we first read his name in a nominal roll entered in the “Court Books” under the date 12th/13th January, 1657 as junior member of the council of kasmbazar, thus:- Job Charnock, Fourth, (Salary) £20.

His original engagement was for five years, and a memorial of his, from Patna apparently dated 23rd February 1663-64, preserved among the India Office Records, shows that he had intended then to terminate his service and return to England, but at the same time he expresses his willingness to remain, if appointed Chief of the Pattane (Patna) Factory. This appointment, no doubt, was made, for in 1664 he appears incidentally in the records as holding that position, in which he continued till 1680. In 1670 his pay was increased to £40 a year.

In 1675 the court wrote to Fort St. George, to which at that time the Bengal Factories were subordinate:-

“Upon the commendation you give us of Mr. Job Charnock, we have resolved that for his encouragement, during his stay in our service at Pattana to give him £20 per annum gratuity”.

(1) He was Chief at Cassumbazar in 1680 when his merits were handsomely acknowledged by Court of directors, who in a letter to the Government of Fort St. George, wrote that they “Would rather dismiss the whole of their Agents than that Mr. Charnock should not be Chief of Cossimbazar”.

In 1690 after the events now to be related, he negotiated with the Nabob for the site of the three small villages of Sutanati (Chutanuttee) Calcutta and Govindpur which in course of time

(1) Bruce. Annals. Vol 2. pp 450

Became the second city of the Empire; now the Commonwealth.

He died in Calcutta on the 10th January, 1693.



The Kassimbazar Factory was boycotted in about April, 1685, and surrounded by the Mogul’s troops so Job Charnock and the small staff at the Factory withdrew to Hugli. On the 28th August of the same year Agent Beard died and Job Charnock rook over the Agency.

The fleet arrived in Balasore in October 1686 only just in time for on the 28th October hostilities began at Hugli.

During the day there were a few skirmishes and English ships anchored in the “Hole” were fired upon by an Indian battery which was eventually captured by reinforcements brought up from Chandernagore. The Company’s Ketches and Sloops were likewise ordered up against the town, but the Ebb tide setting out, and the wind being contrary, they were unserviceable till evening when conditions improved and they were able to take up station to bombard the town which they did for most of that night and part of the next day. Their crews, besides capturing a large Indian ship, made several sallies ashore, where they pillaged and set fire to the houses, killing all who opposed them, and in the whole action they lost but one man.

On the 29th the Governor of Hugli sued for a truce and as Charnock wanted to remove the Company’s goods he (1) “resolved to forgo this great Victory throwne upon us in our defence, reserving our forces and ammunition for executing the Right Honorable Company’s further orders.” Knowing that it was only a matter of time before overwhelming forces were brought against him, Charnock withdrew from Hughly to Chutanutti on the 20th December, 1686.

(1) Hedges Diary Vol 2. (Letters from Hughly to Surat 24th November, 1686).

On February 9th, 1687, after failing to make terms with the Nawab, Charnock burnt down King’s salt houses and on the 11th Captain Nicholson of the “Beaufort” took the Tanna forts. The Captain’s report stated that (1) “Conformable to orders, we made an assult on the two Forts this morning in which the at first the action seemed hot yet we soon made ourselves Masters of them with very considerable loss. The small damages sustained on board the “Beaufort” was occasioned by an unhappy shot placed on the quarter deck which carried away one mans leg and slightly wounded another. There were two Shot likewise placed on the Ketch “Endeavour” which did some small damage there were two or three more slightly wounded. The damage on their side is not yet perfectly known save the loss of the Forts but its reported that about 16 men killed.

The Soldiers are quartered in the Several positions of the Ports. To morrow I intend to have guns off and see what may be done to the blowing up and destroying of their works, but next day after I intend to weigh and fall downe the River towards the prosecuting further orders for time must not be spent upon trifles therefore if your worship &ca. think convenient to send down the Remainder of the rice &ca. on board the “James” to morrow it will doe well.

I have confined Thomas Leech man (close prisoner) Master of the Ketch “Endeavour” for some Misdemeanors committed by him in this days Action, and therefore think him not fit for that employ which if your Worship &ca. approve of be pleased to send downe Dunkan Mack in or some other next in Succession to supply that place, what further orders your worship &ca. has be pleased to communicate them to John Nicholson”.

It will be appreciated that the Company’s Ketches and Sloops, were Commanded and Officered by Pilots, and they took part in all the Naval Actions which took place both on the River and in the Bay

(1) Bengal letters Received. 1686-1687.

of Bengal, during the 17th and 18th Centuries, as a part of the company’s Marine Service.

Captain Nicholson was ordered to take half of the Fleet and Forces to take possession of Hidgley Island (Hijili) and to hold it as a base for future operations. The Agent Job Charnock remained behind with the remaining half of the forces and demolished the Forts (which were untenable so far up the River) he then dropped down to Hijili where he arrived without incident on the 27th February, 1687.

The Island had been peacefully surrendered to Capt. Nicholson, by the Indian garrison who walked out leaving the Forts and batteries intact.

Immediately upon arrival Charnock began to improve the defences so as to make it the Company’s headquarters in Bengal. He dispatched the Kotch “Good Hope” being well armed and manned into the Bay with two months provisions to act as a Guard Ship.

Charnock had received orders from the Court of Directors in London to attack and seize Chittagong, as previously described, but he now decided against it on the good and sufficient ground s that his ships were not seaworthy enough and were too few.

While the “Beaufort” was employed on the River, the sailors of the “Nathaniel” and “Rochester”, attacked Balasore and burnt fourteen Native ships. During this engagement the “Rochester” had four men killed and thirty wounded, and her long boat containing seventeen men was captured. After this event the “Rochester” and “Nathaniel” joined the “Beaufort” a Hijili.

When the “Berkley Castle’ arrived in July with reinforcements the English were in a critical condition and on the verge of being thrust off the Island of Hijili by the Army sent against them by Shaista Khan, Nawab of Bengal. With the aid of his reinforcements Charnock demoralized the enemy by capturing one of their batteries.

This effect he increased by sending a few men at a time to the Landing place until a crowd was assembled, then marching them back to the fortifications (1) “with Drums beating and Trumpets sounding and the men hussaing”. The Indians thinking that they were reinforcements from the ship and that there was an inexhaustible supply aboard of her, became disheartened. Finally (2) a truce was arranged and Charnock was given permission to build a Factory anywhere on the River below Hugli.


OCT / NOV. 1687.

As a result of the truce, Charnock decided to return to chutanutti and build the new Factory there. Previous to this there had been discussion and letters concerning the use of Ulubaria as the Company’s headquarters in Bengal, and a survey had been carried out with that object in view.

In the early part of 1687 the Company’s Court wrote to Job Charnock the following latter concerning Ulubaria.

(3) “Your town of Ulabarreah we understand hath depth of water Sufficient to make docks and Conveniences for the repairing of any of our biggest Ships, and is a healthful place, and therefore have added a paragraph to our letter to our General, H. E. Sir John Child, Captain General of His Majestic of Great Britain’s Land and Sea forces in the North of India Governor of Bombay, General for the Rt. Hono’ble Company’s affaires in India, Persia etc. and the Council…. that if he can obtain a Phirmaund from the Mogul for our holding that place fortified with the same immunities and privileges we hold Fort St. Goorge, we will be therewith content, without locking further, or being at any new Charge in contending for any other fortifyed settlement in Bengal”.

The Court went on to urge “the getting together of young men

(1) O.C. 5618., and Hedges Diary Vol. 2

(2) June 1687. (Hedges Diary Vol.2) Orme gives date as August 16th 1687.

(3) Hedges Diary Vol.2.

To be brought up as Pilots in the Ganges (i.c. the Hooghly) so that the ships should no longer have to ride at anchor in Balasore Roads, which was an exposed open roadstead, often visited by cyclonic storms of great strength.

Charnock had made up his mind that he wanted the Factory on the sits of the three small, insignificant villages of Chutanutti, Calcutta and Govindpur. Several accounts of the period say that he chose the site because of a very large shady tree on the river bank, under which he used to sit. True or not, for many years after his death a tree on the bank where the Calcutta jetties now are, was known to all as “Charnocks tree”.

His own explanation is given in the following extract from a letter which he wrote to the directors on the 30th September, 1689.

(1) “In our General letter by the “beaufort”, and our diaries of that Year wherein we have layd downe our reasons for the altering our Opinion about Ulubarreah and pitching on Chuttanutte as the best and fittest up the River on the Maine, as we have since experienced, and likewise boon satisfied that Ulubarreah was misrepresented to us by those sent to survey it. But Certainly had Hidgalee been a healthful Island it would have the most proper and most commodious place in all Bengal both for Shipping and Traide”.

One of the few letters written by Charnock during the second sojourn of the English in chutanutti from the end of 1687 to November to Elihu Yale, Governor of Fort St. George and dated chuttanutte 27th June, 1688.

(2) “Wee are in great hopes of obtaining Chuttanutte to settle in with 3 or 4 adjacent Tounes which doubtless may be in some years so improved as to be very profitable to the r. Hon’ble Compas, and possibly be gradually improved to a Considerable

(1) Letters to Fort St. George.

(2) Letters received Port St. George. 1688.

strength. We have been as carefully in providing such Lodgings and conveniences for the R. Honble. Compas. servant as our emergences would permit but it could not be expected they should be extraordinary when we were continually camping and discamping they have such allowances as are necessary for the building themselves thatched houses for the present till such time as we shall here our Rt. Honble. Masters pleasure concerning buildings…’

(1) A letter written in February 1689 from Elihu Yale to the Nawab of Bengal mentions that at this time the English lived for “a whole year in boat and upon the River side”. They must have lived in the most appalling conditions during the S. W. Monsoon of 1688, soaked by the rain, flooded by the river and scorched by the sun.


The Court of Directors in London were adamant that Chittagong should be seized and fortified as a base in Bengal for their trade.

Extract from Courts letter to Fort St. George sent out on Ship “Defence” Capt. W. Heath, Commander and dated 25th January, 1688.

“There is a material objection which may be made against the design as we have now laid it, vizt., that it will be a very difficult thing for Capt. Heath. and the Fleet with him, to get up the Great Ganges as high as Chittegam without the aid of our Pilots in the Bay”…

Chittagong is, of course, on the Arakan coast, 12 miles up the karnaphuli River.

Captain Heath came out strict instructions to capture Chittagong and to use all the Company’s resources in Bengal for that purpose. In a short report written by him after arrival in the Bay he uses the name Calcutta instead of Chutanutti, it appears in the

(1) Letters from Fort St. George 1689.

first paragraph of “A Short Account how affairs stood in Bengal, as I, William heath found them upon my Arrival there in the month of September last, also of my further proceedings, conformable to the Commission received of the Hon’ble President, Elihu Yale and his council, in Fort St. George, bearing date 16th August, 1688 as follows:-

“At my arrival the 12th September, 1688, with the ship “Defence” in the Road of Balasore found only the “Princess of Denmark” there, Capt, Haddock, Commander, and two Company’s Sloops in Balasore River, I presently acquainted Capt. Haddock what order I had, and for the carrying up ourselves and soldiers to Calcutta, sent for the Sloops first, advising Mr. Stanley to send by them from Balasore what goods they had belonging to the Rt. Hon. Company, which was done, so myself accompanied with Capt. Haddock and the 120 soldiers we carried from hence embarked, and about the 20th September arrived at Calcutta where found Agent Charnock with the rest of the Rt. Hon. Company’s servants”.

The arrival of Captain Heath frustrated Charnock’s hopes of acquiring Chutanutti for he had brought with him the following resolutions of a Council Meeting held at Fort St. George on Thursday the 9th August, 1688.

(1) “Returning to our debate upon the Bengal Affair and the Rt. Honble. Compas. Scence and orders concerning it, which first is their ill opinion in the Bay, in not following and obeying their orders in the taking Chettegam &ca. which they are still very pressing for, and desirous of, and positively resolved, to have a fortifyed settlement in Bengal, by fair means or force, or else to withdraw their servants and trade thence, upon consideration whereof and the express ness of their other designs and orders, relating to this affair, as also their good opinion of the ability and

(1) For St. George D & G. 1688

fidelity of Capt. Wm. Heath reposing such trust and Confidence in his conduct that they choose rather soly to rely on that than the irresoluteness of the Bengal Gentlemen, It was therefore according to the Rt. Honble. compass. order proposed to Capt. Heath, to go with his Ship directly to attack Chettigam, and that we would give all possible assistance therein…. Capt. Heath did not refuse but declared that be doubted it would be to little purpose… Its therefore our opinion also and agreement that the “Defence” goes directly for ballasore, with two Compas. of Soldiers consisting of 60 men each which is all we can possibly spare also all the Armes Ammunition stores and Provisions can be afforded being very bare of all, wanting Swords to arm the Soldiers now arrived by the “Defence” and “James”.

Then follows detailed instructions to Capt. Heath to proceed to Chutanutti and he was also given authority to act in the best way he could for the Company’s honour and interests. This was a very difficult assignment for Capt. Heath, for though the Agent and Council of Bengal were subordinate to Madras, Heath himself was subordinate to the Bengal Agent, so his mission needed the utmost tact.

The resolutions continue…”..If they cannot conquer Chuttegam or some other fortifyed place in the Bay to secure our people and trade from future injuries and exaction then to endeavourer it by treaty, writing to the nabob of Dacca, that except he will grant the Rt. Honble. Comp. a fortifyed settlement to secure their estates, and the lives of their servants from Rapine destruction, they have ordered you to depart from their Country and wholly to quit their trade and to repair our Losses where we can.”

Charnock did all he could to persuade Capt. Heath to treat with the Nawab, after all Charnock had for greater knowledge of the Nawab and his officials than Heath Had, having lived in Bengal for many years but Heath would not take his advice and gave orders for the English to leave Chutanutti on November 8th, 1688.

Charnock with his various contacts in the country and Indian friends had every reason to believe that reconciliation with the Nawab was possible, in fact almost a certainly if approached in the right manner, which is shown by the following entry in his Diary of the journey down the River.

November 9th, 1688. (1) “Received a letter from Mullick Burcundar, to Capt. Wm. Heath, and another to Mr. Richard Trenchfield, desiring the former to adhere to a treaty of peace, and the latter to persuade him to the said order to which he was come with full commission from the Nabob Behauder Caun. at reading of which said letter, on board the “Resolution”, the said Ship struck on an unknown sand and fetcht such a sallie that she narrowly escaped oversetting, several of the men falling overboard, which accident caused the fleet to come to an anchor, thereabouts, being a little above Ulaberreah.”

The Diary also record that soon after leaving Chutanutti the budgerow (or Budgaroo was a pleasure boat, used by the upper classes) in which Charnock was traveling broke in half and he had to swim to the shore. ON the same day the Ketch “Thomas” grounded just above Kidder pore and the fleet anchored until she was got off.

Some days later the “Diamond” went ashore on the sand of that name near Buffalo pt.

When they finally arrived in Balasore Roads, the “Madapollam” in which Charnock was a passenger was fireing a salute some loose “cornes” of powder in the carriage of one of the gune caught fire “and with a blaze did set on fire the soldiers bandileers and puches, which caused such a smoke that not anything could be discerned in either the cabin or steerage so that we could think of little but being blown up, if the gun-room, which was under the cabin, should take fire; the sad apprehension whereof caused the men to be expeditious in throwing water; so that, in short time, the fire was extinguished; for which deliverance, God be praised”

(1) Historical notice concerning Calcutta in the days of Job Charnock by the Rev. J. Long, Calcutta 1871 (Reprinted from the Best India and Colonial Magazine 1837).

On the 24th November, 1688 two French ships from Siam, the “Energie” and “Lorette” were captured. Between eight and nine in the morning of the 329th. (1) “all the forces were landed before the Toddies Trees, (at Balasore) where they were opposed by a party of horse and foot; who having but one gun, they discharged that, and soon turned their backs; so that our people had easy access to the place, where they dismounted that gun, and forthwith, bent their forces towards the a dozen great guns, which were disorderly placed and unskillfully leveled fired at them before the enemies quitted the same; which when our people had taken and put up the King’s flag, they were annoyed from a bulwark on the other side of the river; from whence also the enemy was soon routed, and our people being possessed thereof, did find a considerable quantity of ammunition beside ordinance; the ammunition they shipt off, and remained at point of sand the remaining part of the day to refresh themselves, intending, in the night to march up to the town.”

There are various descriptions of these skirmishes and they all show that the Pilot Sloops and Ketches were in the van of the attack, their size and draft were of course ideal for operating in the narrow channels of the hooghly and Balasore rivers, and shallow approaches to the coastal districts. The Pilot Service distinguished itself in every engagement they took part in.

After the surrender of Balasore the forces under Captain Heath withdraw taking with them all the Company’s goods that they could salvage.


The Court of directors in London had or long demanded the capture of Chittagong, and this withdrawal operation was a direct consequence of such policy. What the Directors did not appreciate

(1) Ibid.

was the strength of the port, its captain was not the easy task they assumed it would be.

Chittagong had for many years previous to 1689 been the home of a desperate bunch of pirates and cut-throats who terrorized the whole of the Ganges delta and North Eastern coastal areas of India.

The native inhabitants were the Mugs of Arracan. Portuguese renegades were the first foreigners to seek refuge in the area of Chittagong port (1) which…”..has number of Christian slaves or half-cast Portuguese, and other Europeans collected from various parts of the world. That Kingdom was the place of retreat for fugitives from Goa, Ceylon, Cochin, Malacca and other settlements in India, held formerly by the Portuguese; and no persons were better received than those who had deserted their monasteries, married two or three wives or committed other great crimes. By their actions these people can be deemed Christian only in name; in Arracan they were most detestable, massacring or poisoning one another and sometimes assassinating even their priests, who were often no better than their murderers.

The King of Arracan, who lived in perpetual dread of the Mogul, kept these foreigners as a species of advanced guard, for the protection of his frontiers, permitting them to occupy a sea port called Chittagong, and making them grants of land. As they were unawed and unrestrained by the Government, it was not surprising that these renegades pursued no other trade than that of Rapine and Piracy. They scoured the neighboring seas in light Gallies, called Galliasses, entered the numerous arms and canals of the Ganges, ravaged leagues up the country, surprised and carried away the entire population of villages on market days and at time when the inhabitants were assembled for the celebration of a marriage,

(1) Travels in the Mogul Empire, by Francis Bernier, translated from the French by Irving Brock. London 1826.

or some other festival. The marauders made slaves of their unhappy captives and burnt whatever could not be taken away.

The once thickly populated Islands in the mouths of the Ganges become deserted because of their depredations and became the home of” tigers and other wild beasts.”

As already mentioned, the Tenna Forts in Garden Reach, Calcutta were built as protection against these pirates from Chittagong.

On December 4th, 1688, Captain Heath embarked at Balasore and on the 23rd sailed for Chittagong where he arrived on January the 17th, 1689. There men were sent ashore to spy out the situation there, while the fleet cruised some distance away. these men returned on the 21st with their report and a consultation Extraordinary was held aboard the Flag ship “Defence”.

The report of proceeding stated that….”Those present the

Rt.Worpll. Job Charnock Esq., Agent.

Captain William Heath, Admirall.

Capt. Joseph Haddock of the “Princess of Denmark”

Mr. Francis Elliss, Member of Council

Mr. Richard Trenchfield,

Capt. William Sharp ?

Mr. Jeremiah Peachie Member of Council

Captain George Herron Chief Pilot, Bengal Pilot Service

Capt. Francis Seaton

Capt. Thomas Waltrop

Being then met it was debated whether or not it would be convenient and convenient with the Rt. Honble. Company’s interest to attack Chittagaum, and considering what condition we were in to attempt the same, and what probability of the place otherwise than by report the persons that were on Shoar (being Mr. Ellis, Capt. Seaton, and Samuel Pine) were asked what success might be expected in such an attempt, to which Capt. Seaton made answer that he believed with the small forces we have, consisting of 100 and 15 Europeans and 199 and 69 Portuguese Soldiers (being all that at present are in condition for service) and also with the assistance of the Ships vessels and seamen, in all probability the place might be taken, the great and populous; so that after most serious consideration and matured deliberation, we having but a small number of men, and having at present not any hopes of aid and assistance from Arrackan, at least so much as provisions, I is our real opinion that twill be impossible to maintain the place when taken till such time as we can have recruits from Madras…

Signed by the above.

For some reason or other Captain Heath continued cruising off Chittagong until the 29th when he led the expedition to “Arrackan” with whose King he hoped to make an alliance, failing in this, no doubt due to the King’s fear of reprisals from the Mogul, he left there on February 17th, for Fort St. George.

Capt. Heath’s forces were not strong enough for the venture, though he had twelve vessels half were Pilot Sloops and Ketches carrying small guns and few men.

The following letter dated the 30th April, 1639 from Elihu Yale Governor of Madras to Sir John Child “General of the English Forces in India &ca. Council “Plainly shows what was thought at the time of Captain Heath’s expedition.

(1),,,”,,,As for our late warfare in Bengal under the Conduct of Captain William Heath it has no other success then the return of all the Rt. Honble.Compa. ships servants and stock from thence where they acted little of consequence more then the rash assalting Ballasore with the loss of about 20 men designing to fetch of a few people and goods there which they affected as to part of the goods much of them being burnt upon the Alarm of their landing but the men were all but two Carryed prisoners up the Country beyond their reach or power bow since we here are carried Captives up to Dacca where with Mr. Braddill & Mr. Eyree they remain under confinement.

Capt. Heath with his fleet about 1 Saill & 300 Soldiers sayled from Ballasore to Chitagawm where they attempted nothing but a visit & Surveigh & finding it to force able & untenable for them they peaceably sayled thence for Arrackan where after refreshing their forces and some short treatyes with the King &ca, they returned

(1) Letters from Fort St. George. 1689.

hither the 4th March who we have since disposed the best way we can.

After the expedition arrived at Fort St. George, Elihu Yale sent a Ship, A ketch and a sloop to Bengal “to stop their trade & Salt boats & persecute their people”. It is not surprising therefore that when the “Ruby” belonging to a Mr. Freeman called at ballasore in October 1689 the crew were (1) “ill treated and denyed trade and provisions”.



The following extracts from the records unfold the course of events leading up to Job Charnock’s final return to Chutanutti and his founding of Calcutta.

Friday June 6th, 1690. (2) “The “sapphir” Friggot being yesterday returned to us from Surrat and Bombay with advices of a Certain Peace with the Mogul, and that they had received his gratious Phyrmaund for Peace and Settlement, and that our people were releast and the Siddy going off Bombay, and that a Phyrmaund for our Privelidges and Settlement in the Bay was also daily expected, and should be Suddenly sent us, Twas therefore (upon Serious consideration and Debate) unanimously agreed and resolved that the “Princess” Capt. Joseph Haddock Commander be with all expedition dispatch to Bengal with the Agent &ca. and what Stock we can possibly Spare, but that on their arrival there, they are not to adventure any part thereof ashore, before they hear further from us or have any trade, and for their Assistance we Order all those that came thence and also appoint Mr. John Hill, Nath Halsey, Francis Charlton, Robert Levison, Factors and Mr. Vicessimus Griffith, Wm. Fowles, Jnr. Anthony Tessmaker Writers and a Surgeon…”

July 15th, 1690. Agent Charnock being designed aboard this Evening the President entertained him and his Council at the Fort with a handsome dinner and Salute of Gunns for this good Voyage and Success

(1) Fort St. George D & C Book. 1689.

(2) Ibid.

The story is carried on by the “Diary & Consultation Books for Affaires of the Rt. Honble. English Fast India Company kept by the Rt. Worspfull. the Agent & council at Bengal beginning on the 16th of July, 1690”.

July 16th. The Agent recd. a Pacquet from the Honble. President & Council of Fort St. George….and at 5 a Clock in the Afternoon, took leave and Imbarqued himself on the “Princess of Denmark” for Bengal, Mr. Ellis and Capt. Haddock accompanying him.

July 17th. Mr. Peachis & Capt. Hill came aboard with those others of the Company’s Servants designed for Bengal.

July 18th. This Morning early we set Sayle with a Fair Wind,

July 12th. Early this morning we Espied the Nellegree hills and about noon came to an anchor nigh the “Kempthorn” being the only Shipp in Ballasore Road; The Capt. Came on board and advised us that Mr. Stanley 7 Mackrith departed the 12th Instant on the Sloop “Samuel” for Hughley.

August 8th, 1690. The reason of our Stay so long in this Road is because the Winds are so contrary that the Two Vessels we have freighted to carry the Compas. Concerns cannot come over the Barr where Capt. Hill (who is now come on hoard the “Princess”) hath lain Several days & informs us that they will make use of the first opportunity of wind. One of the vessels about 50 ton belongs to Duchund the freight where of he referrs to the Agent Pleasure the other between 30 and 40 tons is commanded by the Coslho a Portuguese at the usual Rates from Ballasore up the River.

August 24th. This day at Sankraul ordered Capt. Brooke to come up with his Vessel to Chutanutte where we arrived about noon but found the place in a deplorable condition nothing being left for our present accommodation & the Rains falling day & night We are forced to betake ourselves to boats which considering the season of they years is very unhealthy, Mellick burcoordar and the Country away what they could.

We now return to the diary & Consultation Book, of Fort Sts. George for 1690, which contains letters received from Chutanuti dated the 13th, 15th, and 25th September giving an account of the reception accorded to Charnock and his staff on their return to Balasore.

“….they arrived in Ballasore road the 28th July, and very kindly received by all people in the Government especially by the Nabob who had sent down his & the Duans Perwannas with the Copy of the Kings Phyrmaund congratulating them into the Country, with the encouragement of a free & unmolested trade; they also confirm the sad news of Capt. Haddock’s death, who dyed the 23 of August lasts, and that on the 31st of October the French fleet arrived whereupon the Dutch directors sent some Persons with proposals of mutual conjunction offering to fit 2 Ships of 40 Gunns each Suitably manned & that they should do the like, but are thing could be brought to pass, they received advices of the enimy’s fleet had left Ballasore road.”

France had now become the common enemy of England and Holland, since the accession of William of Orange to the English throne. The war with France lasted from 1689 to 1697 when Louis XIV abandoned the cause of James II.

News of the war with France did not reach Calcutta until the 20th of August 1690 by which time “A considerable French Force had arrived in India”.

It was decided by the Council that Pilots should be sent to Ballasore Roads immediately with letters to the Captains of the “Kempthorne” and “Princess of Denmark” advising them to come up the river with their ships.

The French Fleet arrived in Ballasore roads at the beginning of September and in a letter (1) to Job Charnock dated September the 17th, 1690 Captain of the “Kempthorns” mentions that “we have had a very tedious troublesome passage not without a Considerable Loss to out Ship of a Great Anchor & above half my new Cayer Cable upon

(1) Letter Received. Calcutta 1690.

& between the braces, I didn’t think 2 Ships in a condition of engaging of 6 men of war, & 1 hunn’d them what we could though I presume if they had persued us we could not have avoided it & prepared accordingly in our Defence they chacced us &might have come up with us before night & not having a Pilot on board Anchored in sight of them after they were at Anchor 2 hours or thereabouts.

On the 15th got safely over the braces (Blessed be God) for there is not water enough for such ships to sails in.”

From the above report it appears that the Pilots sent down did not arrive until after the French warships, and most likely met the two Indiamen in the vicinity of Saugor Roads, to take them up the River.

The Bengal Factory was slow in getting started again and opening up trade due to several factors, the chief being lack of proper housing, and shortage of European goods for sale, as ships were being held up by the presence of the French fleets cruising in the Bay.

Mr. Francis Fllis become the Company’s Agent in Bengal on Job Charnock’s death.

In 1693 after Job Charnock’s death, Sir john Goldesborough visited Chutanutte and finding it in great disorder, ordered a spot to be enclosed with a mud wall whereon to build a Factory, when permission should be granted, and bought a house for the Company, which he intended to enlarge and use for offices.

It seems that little work had been done towards making a permanent settlement on the site as Charnock wanted. The Company as has been shown desired a fort, and it was this crying need which caused the abortive Chittagong expedition. The surrounding country was also in an unsettled state, which fact was to be their salvation within three years.

In the year 1696 events happened in Bengal which gave the English the very opportunity for which they had so long waited. A Hindu landowner in the district of Burdwan, named Cubha Singha being dissatisfied with the Government broken out into rebellion and invited Rahim Khan, an Afghan Chief, to march from Orissa and join him in his attempt.

The Nabob at Dance, engrossed in his books, took no notice of reports coming in regarding the rebellion. He could only repeat that civil war was a dreadful evil, and that the rebels, if let alone, would soon disperse. What was the use, then, of fighting?

Such being the sentiments of the Nabob, the three European settlements in Bengal perceived that they must shift for themselves, raised bodies of native troops without delay, and wrote to Dacca, asking for permission of fortify their factories. The Nabob in reply ordered them in general terms to defend themselves, and thus tacitly permitted the construction of the forts at Chinsura, Chandanagore and Calcutta.

The rebels for a time prospered and overran Rajmahal, Malda and Cassimbazar and by March 1697 the Afgan held the whole land West of the Ganges. When the Emperor in Delhi heard about this he immediately acted. He ordered the Nabob’s son Zabardast Khan to take the filed and defeat the rebels. This the young general was pleased to do.

The part played by the English at Calcutta in these events though small, was of some significance.

On the 23rd December, 1696, finding that the rebels, who occupied the opposite bank of the river, were growing ‘abusive’, they ordered the “Diamond” to ride at anchor off Sutanuti Point and keep them from crossing the stream. Them had also lent the “Thomas” to the Governor of the Thana fort to lie off it as a guardship, while the fortifying of Calcutta, Sutanati and Govidpur was carried out.

At long last the Company’s dream of a fortified base had come true and the foundations of Fort William laid.

(1) “… More important even than the establishment of fort and the garrison were the Company’s ships and sailors, for the English power was founded on the command of the sea. The Company’s business in Bengal required two fleets. Besides the great sea going ships, there were a large number of small sloops and boats which carried on the trade of the river, and brought down the Saltpeter from Patna. The great ships did not come up the river farther than Calcutta, for the navigation of the river was then, as now, very difficult. It would have been impossible had it not been for the splendid service of Pilot which the Company had established…. A large number of English Pilots must also have been employed on India and other foreign ships. In 1708n we find the Council threatening to stop all the Mogul shipping and Paralyse the trade at Hugli and Rajmahal by ordering all the English Captains in the employ of the India Government to repair to Calcutta. Altogether nothing can be more striking than the hold upon the river which the English had acquired at this early date.”

(1) The Early Annals of the English in English in Bengal. W. Thacker & Co. London. 1895.

2. YEARS OF EXPANSION (1700 – 1800)

January 12, 2009

Chapter 2


By 1700 it can be said that the English were settling down in Calcutta and consolidating the trading rights they had so recently been granted, this in spite of the disturbed political state of the surrounding country.

They did not allow the local unrest to interfere with their shipping on the River for this was their lifeline with home. As their trade developed so their shipping increased bringing with it fresh problems to the already difficult navigation of the Hooghly, in the form of large ships and deeper drafts, and the ever increasing demand for more Pilots.

That trade was their only interest is well illustrated by the following extracts from letters written (1) by the Bengal Council at the time of the loss of the “East India Merchant” (an account of which appears in the chapter “Toll of the River”). The first letter is dated Chuttanunttee January 7th, 1700 and is addressed to The Hon Thomas Pitt Esqr…. After lamenting the loss of the above vessel and her valuable cargo worth Rs. 348784 : 9 annas :

11 pies they write to say….. “we look forward and not backward, making all possible hast to discharge Ship “Josiah”, having sent away above 800 bales and expecting 150 more from Cassimbazar within 5 or 6 days and 200 in house which we shall make hast to prize (price?). Dusticks are gone for 300 more which we doubt not to have in by the 10th of next month to give the Captain his dispatch by the 15th at farthest with a cargo near 8 Lack (A Lack is 100,000) of rupees. See that if it please the Almighty after the afflictions of two ships being lost to send the “Sidney” and “Josiah” Safe home, we doubt not but our Hom’ble Masters by the good sales of these two Ships cargoes will increase in Riches and credit able to withstand their Opposites, who will not send one

(1) Letters to Fort St. George for 1699 – 1700.

Ship this year early enough to save her passage about the Caps; the “De grave” is ordered for Metchlepatam with about 500 bales and will Sayl from Chandinagur where she now rides about 4 or 5 days hence we are

J. Beard

Jon White.

Ralph Sheddon.”

The next letter dated ye 6th March, 1700 at Metchlepatam is sent by the company’s representative there to The Hon. Thomas Pitt Esqr, Governor etc (1) …. “May it please your Honr. etc this serves now to give your honour account of the “Degraves” arrival here yesterday, after 13 days passage from Bengal who bring the bad news of Ye Ship “East India Merchant” being cast away upon ye Sagor (Saugor) sands, and all her cargo lost, except ye Captains, who secured what he had, and was ye first man that left the Ship, we have a very strange account of this Sad Accident as it were Designedly done. God Comfort ye Sufferers and grant their Losses may be restored some other way.

S. Woolston”

Again on the 7th March, 1700 the Bengal Council wrote to Madras as follows:-

Our last to your honr. etc was by a French conveyance. Since then after all Possible means to be used have Saved about 100 bales out of the “East India Merchant’s” Wreck, with Some of her guns and Rigging all the rest is lost, past hope of recovery the S. West winds Setting in and the wreck Sunck into the sand.

On the 26th Ultimo the “Josiah” Sayl’d from Pipley road with a Gale at W. S. W. which continued about 8 or 9 days, so that we doubt not her passage, Pray God Send her Safely home being a rich Ship, her cargo on board cost about 8 Lack of Rupp’s.

This if he 7th of the month and the “Antilope” Captain Hammond, is design’d to be dispatched within 7 or 8 days from

(1) Letter to Fort St. George for 1699 – 1700.

Rungah fullah (Rangafala), so that twill be the latter end of this month before she get clear of ye Sand.

……being disappointed from Surratt, we are building a Buyer (a large type of Sloop – form the Flemish word buyer a sloop.) at Balasore about 70 or 80 tons.

Singed John Beard

Jonath’n White

Ralph Sheldon.

John Russell.

The following extracts from letters give an idea of the in ceased shipping using the River.

May 1700. Thomas South, commander of “Chamber” ffrigot for Bengal from Fort St. David.

Chuttanuttee 26th March, 1700……. “In case any Ship comes up the River this Season to Rungag fullah about 400 tins Burthen, we shall be able to dispatch her.”

Calcutta July 10th, 1700. “Chamber” Frigat and “Fame” from England arrived Balasore Road ye 22nd and 26th May latter vessel brought out President Eyre.

“Anna” and :Colchester” to come

Fort William in Calcutta 5th September 1700. “Colchester” and “Anna” arrived balasore Road 12th ulto.

Fort William, November 13th, 1700.

“King William’ arrived in Bengal, also the new Company’s Ship “London” arrived and the “Tankerville”

“Fame” to be sent home end of December, the “Colchester” in January 1701 and the “Anna” in February.

These vessels were between 350 and 480 tons and carried crews varying from 70 to 100 men and from 30 to 36 guns, so were by no means small vessels, they were in fact some of the largest and finest merchant ships of their day.

Fort William was named after William of Orange, and became in 1700 the headquarters of Sir Charles Eyre, the first President and Governor of Fort William in Bengal.


(1) Extract from a General letter from the Court of directors to the President and council of Bengal. Dated London 5th March, 1702.

“We are well pleased with your promises by all fair and gentle methods to Advance our Revenues not questioning but you will be as good be at in Strengthening your of fortifications you have Chinam (Chunam i.e. lime) and brick enough and if you are not sufficiently instructed in forming them to a Pentagon or figure of 5 equal sides and angles, Scarce a Commander that Comes to you, but will instruct you therein and give you his opinion what is necessary to be done to make your buildings more commodious, strong and tenable, fortification being one part of the usual Study of accomplisht Marriners, If their stay is short that you can’t complete what they advise in that time let them draw you out a Plan or Scheme on paper and do you perfect it at your leisure.

We did not apprehend you wanted a particular order to hoist the flag on your fort in the same manner, as is done at fort St. George although we had sent one if it had not been casually forgot however pray don’t fail wearing it henceforward.”


Up until 1702 no vessels of the Royal Navy had entered the Bay of Bengal, in fact naval ships in Eastern Waters were very scarce indeed and it was not until the Napoleonic wars that they gave any real protection to the Company’s ships, until then the East Indiamen defended themselves.

It was in September 1702 that Madras saw ships of the Royal Navy for the first time.

Commodore Thomas Warren R. N. arrived in H.M.S. “Harwich” with H.M. Ships “Anglesea”, “Hastings” and “Lizard”.

He had brought out Sir William Norris the King’s ambassador to the Mogul in the interest of the new Company.

(1) Old Fort William in Bengal. Letter Book No. 10 Para 50 & 51.


The officers of the Bengal pilot Service have always, by the very nature of there work, been completely independent of official control when it concerned the actual practical art of piloting vessels on the River and this independence still exists.

(During the 30 years I was a Pilot on the on the Hooghly I knew of many cases where the Pilot refused to take a ship to sea because in his professional experience it was vessel was to deep drafted for the Day of Tides, was overloaded, too slow for the strength of the tides, was loaded in such a manner that she had a list making her tender when rounding sharp bends at speed or increasing her draft above the safe draft of the day, or through sheer bad weather and in the vast majority of cases the Pilot’s decision was final. R.K.H.B. Editor).

One of the earliest records of a Pilot refusing to take a ship to sea was the case of the Ship “Duchess” Captain Hugh Raymond in 1704.

(1) The Ship “Duchess” arrived in Balasore in January 1704 and was brought up to Calcutta by Mr. Rainbow, Pilot, and the following is an extract from her Log on the way out to sea again. …”8th March, 1704, Mr. Rainbow, Pilot, boarded left Calcutta; anchored off Tanna. Three tow boats in attendance.

9th March. Anchored Pungelly (Pujali)

13th yesterday afternoon past by us the Pylot Collins having carried out the “Sedgwick” Capt. Rawlings.

14th… this morning we weighed from Poulte (fulta?)

16th…anchored below Danes Town.

17th.. Rogues River.

18th… Channel Creek.

(1) Marine Records Vol. LXXII. A(1) 714.

Monday March 21st….at Channel Creek….At I yesterday the Pylot gave orders to weigh was no sooner done but he ordered the helm to be put hard a weather so bore up bound for the River of Rogues where he Anchored about 5 in the evening and immediately moored her…. declaring positively he would not take charge to carry her being so deep laden also he observed Ye Sotherly Monsoon began to set in strong and that the Springs were coming on which at this time of Year run very violent he also declares he verily believes should he attempt it he should certainly loose Ye Ship & that he ha been merely forced against his will (by ye urgency of the council) to proceed so far.

28th March, 1704….. This morning about 8 a Clock Mr. John Rainbow the Pylot appointed to carry us out went away from the Ship with the “London yacht to Calcutta positively declaring he would take on further charge of the Ship and that he would sooner be hang’d… he rejoiced mightily he proceeded no further and saying if he had the Ship would certainly have been lost the weather proving so very bad.”

“November 7th, 1704, Jn. Rainbow boards to carry them out from Rogues Rover.”



February 3rd 1704. An order is sent to Josia Townsend, Pilot to bring the “Anna” Ketch up the River Hugli to convey the goods of the New Company down to Fort William.

February 4th !704. The Council wanted a Master to navigate the “Hugly Anna” Ketch to Fort St. George and Charles Hopkins offering his services, being an able man, ordered that we accept of him at the wages of fifty-six Rupees per month and that he get the Ketch forthwith ready. Then on the 7th they ordered that there be fifty tunes of petre Laden on board the “Hugly Anna” for Fort St. George and then filled up with rice for that port.

That the vessel be recommended to the Governor and Council there for their use, if they have occasion, by which means the expense of the Company’s small craft may be raised, and that the “William” Smack and “Rising sun” Smack, be laid up till a proper time for their saile, or to be sent to the Fort, if they may have occasion for them there.”

March 9th, 1704. the eight thousand Sicca Rupees borrowed of the New Company ordered it be paid them, also that a Pylot be sent them for Ship “Union” which they desire.

April 24th, 1704. Eighteen looms are ordered to be fitted in the Factory in order to make canvas, in the rainy season, for the use of the Company’s Sloops. (It is probable that this canvas was made from jute locally grown and not of imported hemp of flax, if so this must be one of the first efforts of what was to become one of Bengal’s greatest industries. R. K H. B.).

September 11th, 1704. It appears that the Council were not satisfied with the haphazard manner in which the accounts of the Company’s Sloops were being kept, and probably found that due to private arrangement they were not collecting all the dues they should…. “So it was agreed that they carry down, or bring up from European Ships, or to or from Balasore, that they may not stand at more to give an account to the Accountant of what private goods are sent down on freight, and what quantity of bales etc. are sent down for the Company’s Association, and that the freight be charged as follows:-

To and from Balasore Roads, Every Chest or Bale, Butt or Cask, two Rupees each. Saltpeter, Red Cowries, Iron, and all weighty goods Rupees fifteen per one hundred maunds. (A Maund is 40 Ibs.) Cordage, Coyer, and the like Rupees sixteen per one hundred maunds. And from below in the River in proportion.

The River Tariff to be charged, in charging the Merchant, so that the vessels may not be a charge to the Company.”


Apparently the amalgamation of the two Company’s on the 22nd of July 1702 left some repercussions amongst the New Company’s servants for some time after the event in the form of petty jealousies, one such is recorded in 1704.

“Captain South, commander of an East Indiaman pretending he was affronted by Mr. Robert Hedges, who was Second in Council at the time; he sent him a challenge in the following words directed on Ye back side.

To Mr. Hedges


Sr I’ve had the Honr. to serve the Rt. Hon’ble Ye Old East India Comp any Commdr. of their Ship “Chambers” friggott above these eight years to their Content.

Upon my arrival here I waited on you in your turn you withholding or forbidding ye usual ceremony of Guns (It was usual on ceremonial visits for gun to be fired). given to Captains in my station proceeded from ye secret malice and envy of your heart against the Rt. Hon’ble my Implorers aforesaid and is a very great affront to me.

I demand satisfaction upon it and that you immediately and Secretly appoint ye time and place to fight Thomas South.

Fort William May 15th, 1704. I’ve ordered ye bearer to wait you’re answer who knows nothing of ye Contents.”

Mr. R. Hedges replied as follows:-

“Sr Tis no small surprise to find you under an Imprudent mistake for I thought you’re Discretion greater than ye note I rec’d if it come from you would argue But I am willing to believe if you wrote it ‘twas in some unusual heat and that you will not be pleased with it on a review, for surely you as well as I ought to have more consideration then to be guilty of rash folly and I believe you will think as I do when you Consider more seriously

If any man Suggested what you seem to think ‘tis he and not I is malicious not only to the Hon’ble Old Company but to the New and the United Trade and in time he will reap as he sows.

I am interrupted and cannot enlarge but an willing to see you that we may without mistake understand each other in ye meantime defer yo’r Judgment of my answer to what I rec’d from you.

Sr Yo’r Hunb’le Serv’t

Rob’t Hedges”

Fort wm.15th May, 1704.

This did not satisfy Capt. Thomas South and he replied,

“Sir, I’ve no councilors neither is any man acquainted with my Design, I stand upon my own Legg.

The Ship “Canterbury” on ye 9th December Last was Deliv’d up to the French at some distance and before ye Enemy had fired one Gun at her I defended her overnight from ye Enemy when She was unprovided unready ill fitted or ill fixed and not clear for fighting and whoever reports that I gave a false acco’t of that action I’ll spit in his face.

I’ve slept since rec’d yo’r Letter it is no imprudent mistake or rash folly to resent a malicious affront but ye just contrary.

I will meet you wherever you desire for I must have some acknowledgement from you for ye affront offered to Tho’s South Fort William May 16th, 1704.”

No duel took place for Mr. Hedges consulted the council who advised against it, they of course being the local Government of the Company’s affairs had the power to stop it. It seems obvious from Capt. South’s second letter that the cause of the dispute was that someone had told him that Mr. Hedges did not give him his just Gun salute because he had been heard to pass remarks about the loss of the Ship “Canterbury.”

(1) 3rd December, 1704. “Sir Edward Littleton and council at Hugly having wrote to us for Pylots to carry out the “Tankerville” and “Halifax” and that both Ships were now ordered down to Culphy

(1) Bengal Diary 1704 – 1708.

so desired we would spare the Commanders able Pylots who making choice of Shaw and Rainbow Ordered that they proceed immediately on board to Pylot said Ships’.

(1) 12th February, 1705. “A letter being come yesterday to hand from Mr. Bowcher acquainting us that the ship “Scipio” Capt. Luke Burrish drawing 17 foot water which is surprising the Capt. & Pilots having informed us before she broke ground hence that she drew but 15½ foot water since which she took in no goods &part of the ships water & provisions are still aboard Tow boats Mr. Bowcher further adds that Capt. Burrish resolves to deliver back part of his petre to enable him to take in other goods which Occasions a considerable loss of time all occasioned by the Capt’s humour in Desiring fifty Tons of Petre more than first designed & not acquainting us truly when he found her deep what draught of water she drew.”

Modern Steamship Agents have caused exactly the same type of trouble, which I often had to contend with when I was the Deputy Port Pilotage Officer of Calcutta. R.K.H.B. Ed.)

(2) 17th December, 1706. Another incident which I have experienced being one on which a ship to which I was appointed as Pilot having failed to sail due to the crew claiming they were short handed but with less justification than the one mentioned here. R.K.H.B.Ed.)

“John Rainbow Pilot who was last Consultation day ordered to carry out the “Fleet frigott did last night return with this Report that going aboard to do his duty the Ship’s Company in General except the Mates declared that they would not weigh anchor till their Commander sends more men aboard for that in ye Condition they were in they could not nor would not stir having but 36 men aboard & most of them sick”.

(1) & (2) Bengal diary 1704 – 1708.

This vessel Commanded by Captain Thomas Burgess was of 300 tons with 26 guns and carried a normal crew of 61 men.

1st March, 1708. A Pilot infringes one of the Company’s strictest rules, which was that they were not to handle outside or, as they were called, Interloping ships.

“Antonic de Rota, a Head Pilot, was brought up before them and charged with using their Sloop to attend a Ship that belonged to outside merchants. They resolved this time only to fine him, but to caution him that for the next offence he will be turned out of the Company’s service, towns and protection”.

The foregoing report was taken from the Bengal Public consultation book but another report under the same date appears in the “Bengal Diary” which is identical except that the amount of fine is stated. …”We therefore think it necessary that for this first fault he he fined Rs. 300/- & severely reprimanded”.


October 19th, 1710. At a Consultation.

“Captain Henry Cornwall Commander of the Ships “Sherborne” having sent to the Council a Declaration of the refractory behavior of His officers and seamen who would not obey him nor do their duty in the business of his Ship The President and Council Their upon sent a Positive Command down to Rogues river on board the Ship to every Officer and Command down to Rogues River on board the Ship to every Officer and Seaman (also an Officer and a “Phile of Musqueters”) to do their duty in bringing the Ship to this Place and give their Commander all due obedience which order took such Effect that the Ship arriv’d before the Fort the q6th inst. and finding the Officers and seamen in General Complaining they had been hardly used by their Commander I was resolved to summon the Commanders of the Honourable company’s Shipping and give them a hearing.

The Chief Mate 2nd Mate 4th Mate Gunner Boatswain Carpenter’s Mate and several others were sent for and most of them shewed a very great Unwillingness to go any more on board under ye com’d of Capt. Cornwall allerdging he had used the Ships Company ill by often caning and Wiping ‘em for every Little fault and that most of them had their Discharge from him which ye Capt. says he was obliged to give them otherwise not one man would go on board to help get the Shipp off when she was ashore on Zealone and to excuse themselves to assist him they told him the ship was broken to pieces and her decks fallen in and positively refused to go on board with him all which they don’t deny but made his former ill Treatment of Themselves excuse which we could no waies approve of and severely reprimanded Them for it and would have proceeded to a further punishment but were ferefull of a Total desertion of the Ships Company and knowing the Impossibility of remaining her at this place was obliged to proceed more mildly than we would have don or they deserved.”

A long discussion amongst the Members of the Court of Inquiry must have taken place with the Company’s Commanders wanting to see discipline maintained and the Shore staff wanting a peaceful settlement, as usual a compromise was reached with the result….. “The Ships company to go back on the Captains promise to treat them more leniently except for the 2nd Mate Mr. John Cook who resolutely refuses to go he having declared to us under his hand that if he is obliged to go that he shall comitt such actions that he trembles to Express to ye ruin of himself and others”

He was kept a close prisoner and sent hom to England.


June 23rd, 1710. (1) “It was recorded that Mr. Samuel Blount desires of the council to give him the small piece of ground that lies between Mr. Russel’s warehouses and the house built by Dr. Warren which for the benefit of shipping he is to make a Dry

(1) “The Early Annals of the English in Bengal”.

dock of. Agreed he has it, paying ground rent for the same.”

While Mr. Blount was considering the building of a Dry-dock, there was already, presumable unknown to anyone in Calcutta, a letter from the Board of Directors in London on its way out suggesting the construction of a Dry-dock and other facilities for shipping alongside the Fort.

Work on the construction of a wharf before the fort had already begun as the result of a consolation in Fort William held on February 9th, 1710.

(1) “We have duly considered the Company’s Orders in Relation to building a Wharf before the Fort and find ‘twill be a great Security to the Banks and a strengthening thereto, ‘its therefore.

Agreed we instantly Sett about it and make it with brick and raise a Breast Work to Plant cannon there.”

The letter referred to above was addressed to The President Anthony Weltden and dated London January 9th, 1710.

(2) “We would have you on your arrival in the consider whether it is necessary for us to make a dock there to clean and refit our Ships upon occasions when necessary. What would be the charge and whether it can be made so bear fort William as to be protected by it and what you think is a fitt duty to be paid by every Ship that makes use of it and also whether it be necessary for us to have another at Ballasore or up higher for such of our Ship as can’t come up so high as Calcutta Consider also whether it be not convenient to have a good Hulk at fort William to careen by…”.

The reply to this letter and other matters concerning the alterations and improvements of Fort Williams is contained in the following extracts from abstract of a General Letter from Bengal to the Court and dated October 16th, and December 30th, 1710.

(1) & (2) “Old Fort William in Bengal” Pub. consultations.

(1) Oct.16th, “Shall go on with the Ditch and make it within the reach of the fort guns which will compass ground enough to secure the Inhabitants and Effects and make three passes over and contrive a Place to lay Ships in who Stay there and make them pay for laying may contrive to keep water in it. Think it needless to enclose Govinpore and Sootaloota. The Wharf near completed the two ends will be pallisadced and a Gate to Shutt up at night with Centinells to secure all goods on the Wharf-shall send a plan of all.

Dec.30th, 1710, and Feb.13th, 1711. Shall make the fortifications defensible without alarming the Mocrs the Wharf was raised ¾ the length of the fort and are finishing the ends with a half Moon at each to command the River which is 500 yards over with 20 Culverings, musts carry a strong bridge in the middle to be in 3 or 4 feet of water at low water to work at all times shall make a ditch 40 feet broad 12 deep to Secure the fort from Insults and to have three draw bridges the tide to flow in one end. Palisadoed the other with a gate to make a dock at the open and for Ships to lay in.

To no purpose to make a dry dock, it will not quit the cost Nor will it to have a Hulk the Same reason holds for Ballasore River can’t receive a ship that draws above 12 feet.”

There was a further note to the effect that it would be difficult to make a ditch all round the town lest the rapid River in the wet season should wash all away.

A crane was built on the Wharf to work at all states of the tide.


During the war of the Spanish Succession two French fleets visited the mouth of the Hooghly.

The first comprising four men of war and three prizes anchored

(1) “Old Fort William in Bengal”

is Balasore Roads at the end of 1710. On receipt of the news in Calcutta on January 1st, 1711 the President ordered the Commanders of the East Indiamen (1) “to go down and bring their ships into the River which are now lying at Sago (Saugor) ready to be dispatched fearing the French may make an attempt on them which they may easily do.”

In August 1712 small swift vessels were sent to which the second fleet and a prize reported to be cruising off Point Palmyras waiting to capture the “Marlborough”, “Kent” and “Recovery” bound for Balasore.

In September the Pilot vessel “Russel” was captured while conveying news of the French fleet’s movements to Madras and her Master John Corneilson, Pilot, was a prisoner for several months during which time (2) “he lived very miserably and was in great distress when he was liberated.”

In October two Pilot sloops were fitted out, they were the “Cassimbazar” and “London” with instructions to cruise between Pt. Palmyras and the New Deeps (3)…”and once a week come into Balsore Roads and give Advices by which means all our Shipping bound out will be certain they are gone off the Coast before they do part with their Pilots.”

In all the wars and local conflicts the Pilot Service took an action part and many Pilots lost their lives defending the Company’s ships and property.


There was always the danger of attack from Pirates both Native and European who covered most of the Indian seas, particularly the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

The Native ones were the Angrias and the Halabars who were normally confined to the West coast of India though sometimes ventured round Cape Comorin in to the Bay, the European Pirates

(1) Diary and Consultation.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Bengal Diary and Consultations.

sailed off both West and East coasts and frequently at the Head of the Bay, they were Kidd, Every, Chivers and Culliford, they attacked all and Sundry without discrimination, and even lead raiding parties ashore to sack villages.

On the 21st October, 1720, the ship “Shaw Allum” arrived in Calcutta with the news that Pirates were very active off Bombay and …. “advise of a Pyrate cruzing off that place which had taken a rich Moor ship bound from Judda to Suratt. They put about 100 of her men ashore at Bombay in a long boat who rsported that the Pyrate has two teir of Gunns and about 300 men of different nations.”

The Angrias were a family of Marathas of mixed Indian and Portuguese or may be Arab descent, but to aggravate matters were Joined by renegade Europeans and became so powerful on the coasts of India that a British Naval squadron of 12 warships under Admiral Watson and a Military force under Colonel Clive captured their fortified base at Gheria and broke their power, but this was not until 1755.

The most notorious of the European Pirates were Kidd of the “Adventure”, Chivers of the “Soldado”, Every or Avery of the “Fancy’, Babington of the “Charming Mary” and Culliford of the “Resolution”.

Culliford’s piracies were mostly committed in the Bay of Bengal. In one year, during which time the Captain of a country vessel was a prisoner on board the “Resolution’ Culliford ransacked some native villages and captured five country vessels which he scuttled or burnt.

His most daring escapade was his attempt to capture the East Indiaman “Dorril”, commanded by Captain Hide, and although he did not succeed, the “Dorril” was disabled and sixteen of her crew were killed.

Culliford escaped death by taking advantage of the free pardon offered to all pirates, with the exception of Kidd and Chivers who gave themselves up to Captain arren, R.N. before the end of April 1699.

The Fort St. George Diary and Consultation Book for 1698 has the following account by the Captain of a country vessel of his adventure with Kidd and Chivers…. “The Master of the Ship “Sedgewicke”, Capt. Lockyer Watts acquaints that in going to Anjengo he was persued by Kidd the Pirat three days and three nights and with great difficulty escaped, it being calm and Kidd outrowing him, and that in his return from Anjengo he was taken by another Pirat Chivers a Dutchman in the Algerian gally near Cape Comerine which with her excellent sailing and rowing fetched up the “Sedgewicke” in nine hours.

The cargo of Pepper not being for their returne, they dismissed the Ship after they had robbed her of her two courses, Sheet Cable, anchor, Cordage, Pitch, Tarr, &ca stores. Though several of the Ships Company being Mightily taken with the “Sedgewicke’s build and usefulness for a Cruiser.

Captain Watts with great difficulty prevailed to save her by a merry management of a bowl of Punch among the ships company upon which they said he is an honest fellow left him goe.

With the Racquet came a narrative of Kidds proceedings, particularly that he took the “Quede Merchant” richly leden from Bengal and told the Persian factor (who had 400 bales aboard) that He toke the Ship by the King of Englands Commission and that the Persian would proceed o the Mogulls Camp to complain against the English as Pirates.”

Severs penalties were imposed upon any Pirates who happened to get captures. Ringleaders were hunged or shot, whilst lesser offenders were whipped and had the letter “p” branded on their foreheads.

(1) Some escaped death by claiming the “Benefit of Clergy”, an ancient privilege allowed to those who could read Latin. In order to prevent a Pirate from claiming the privilege a second time, he was branded on the hand.

Kidd was hanged at Execution dock, London, on the 12th May, 1701.

The “Soldado” the Algerian pirate commanded by the Dutchman Chivers was of 250 tons and carried 28 guns.

Coming back to the River on Monday 6th May, 1723, the following case was heard:-

“Gerard Brand Mariner belonging to the Ship “John and Mary” was this day brought before us the Governor and Council in Calcutta in Bengal Accused of Murther and Pyracie in aiding and abetting in with others a Frenchman and two Dutchmen in the Murther of Captain Marmaduke Crompton, Mr. Morrice the Purser and forcing Mr. Maine the Chief Mate with a servant named Carlo overboard on the 6th March last at 12 a clock in the night or near one in the morning and then practically taking Possession of the said Ship “John and Mary”.

The Serang named Behudy and the Tindal Tasundy Witness against Gerard Brand that he was aiding abetting and assisting with ye other pyrates having a Blunderbuss in his hand wherewith He did defend one Murther as aforesaid….. Ordered that Gerard Brand be kept close Prisoner in Irons till the time we can be able to send him where he may receive condign Punishment and for a publick Example as well as to deter others for the future.

Ordered that he be severely whipt every Monday morning and received his first Punishment to morrow the Garrison being under Arms”

(1) Note. Benefit of Clergy. From an early period the Clergy enjoyed an immunity of their persons in criminal cases tried before secular judges. The privilege was subsequently extended to other persons connected with the Church, and ultimately to laymen of education. A layman found guilty and claiming benefit was tested as to his ability to read Latin, usually from a religious book. If he passed the test he was branded on the hand with a hot iron to prevent his claiming the privilege a second time.

Doming a Portuguese a passive accessory was ordered to be whipt every court day.


A foreign interloping ship arrived at the Sandheads under rather suspicious circumstance in June, 1719.

The first news of her received by the Bengal Council was the report made by Captain William Hurst of the Ship “Prances” from Fort St. George. He had picked up his Pilot at Balasore on the 15th inst., and there passed by a large ship with her maintopmast down, and showing French Colours. They had previously received advice that an Ostend ship was in the Bay.

At a Consultation it was recorded ……”We suppose must be a ship from Ostend, who lately had advice was at Trincombar under the Emperours Colours a white flag with the Spread Eagle in the middle as we have already sent the Proclamination down to Balasore with farther particular orders not only to our Pylots but to all others who expect any favour or protection from us so we think none such dare go on board or give them any assistance and that our Merchants here may not pleade forgetfulness of our former orders in Consultation of 15th September, 1718.

Ordered that our Broker do now again repeat the same to them and all Inhabitants under our protection that they neither directly nor indirectly have any Comerce or the least correspondence with them.”

The Ostend Ship referred to above was a French Interloper with the Emperors Commission named the “Emperour Charles” (Charless VI of Austria) she was formerly named the “Griffine” a Zealand Caper.

The arrived at Negapatam at the end of April 1719 where four sailors were questioned by East India Coys officials at Fort St. George.

They found she had been 1 months on the voyage from Ostend, carrying 48 guns and 150 men including 8 and 20 officers, the main part are Flemmings with some French and English.

Sailors pay from 12 to 16 Gilders per month. The ballast was Guns and double headed shot, the cargo was firearms, swords, coral, and broadcloth; she had the Emperors Passport and throughout the voyage wore the Emperors Colours but since she came upon the Coast she used French Colours.

The Hon. Comp. benned her from Calcutta. In spite of the ban she came up the River having been piloted by a man named John comero for which he had one thousand rupees. He was found to be living in the French settlement. He was not English and his name is never mentioned again, in fact the vessel is not mentioned again either, but it is an example of the lengths the Company were prepared to go to prevent anyone poaching on their monopoly rights.


October 25th, 1725.

In 1719 John Bashpool a Pilot murdered Richard Deane another Pilot and then fled for safety, as he could not be arrested the Hon. Company took over possession of all his goods and sold them by ‘Public Outcry’ on April 27th, 1721; the amount realized being Rs 1041 and it was then “Ordered that it be paid into the Coys. Cash account and lay there till the Company’s orders concerning it be received.”

In the meantime the rent on Deance large town house was to be paid towards the maintainance of Richard Deance daughter.

Then on Oct. 25th, 1725, the following entry appears in the records “There standing to the credit of John Bashpool in Ye. Hon’ble Companys books ye sum of Rs 1041 paid into cash by Mr. Wm. Spencer then Buxey as Public order of Consultation ye 17th April, 1721, ye said Bashoopl being the person who murdered Richard Deance our Head Pilot and he being lately dead. Agreed the President deliver the money one their to the Widow and two thirds to the Daughter and that ye house of ye said Richard Deane be divided in the like manner.”

In connection with the above may be mentioned here the Last Will and Testament of one John Brown which was dated June 26th, 1720 from which it appears that either Richard Deanes Widow or Daughter were far from destitute.

(1) The Will. “In the name of God Amen” John Brown of Calcutta, Merchant …… “make my last Will and bequeath to my God Daughter Mary Deane the sum of Eight hundred current rupees. Item. I will and bequeath to my God Sone Henry Collier (a Pilot. RK.H.B.) the Sum of two hundred current rupees…..

Signed and sealed. Jno. Brown.”

Witnesses H. Cole. Thos. Phillips and John Cassells, the last named being a Branch Pilot.

There was a Codicil to this Will written in Portuguese the translation being as follows….. “ Item. I bequeath to Francisco De Aranjo, pilot (I do not think that he was a Hughli Pilot. R.K.H.B.) two pair of gold sleeve buttons with my silver hilted Sword and Belt.

Item. I desire that my pylott will write this in the Portuguese Language, having nobody on board that can write it in English and being myself incapable of taking a pen in hand, Sign’d in the presence of what Persons are on board and witnessed on board the Brigantine “Alexander” this 28th May, 1721.

I have made two of these memorandums of the same date. Ten Degrees thirty-three minutes Latitude. (N? R.K.H.B.)

John Brown.

19th October, 1730.

It was not unusual for Pilot to carry on private trade under the Hon. Company’s protection so long as they abided by the strict rules laid down to protect the Company’s monopoly and some Pilots owned Sloops of their won for such trade, any goods they wished to sell in Britain, had of course, to be shipped in the Company’s won East Indiamen at the standard freights.

(1) The Early Annals of the English in Bengal. Vol.111

Under the above date it was recorded that “Alexander Wood, Pilot having petitioned to go to Pagu to look after his effects there it was agreed that he be permitted to go.”

About this time the Company experienced a shortage of Sloops for the River and Coastal trade, due to several factors, some of which are outlined in the entries which follow.

25th June, 1731.

The British soldiers well known excuse for explaining away the loss of some article of equipment by saying it had been eaten by white ants, was not always as far fetched as it seemed, for under the above date we find the following statement.

“Pursuant to an Order of Council I have surveyed the “William” Sloop and find many of her timbers destroyed by white ants with which Vermin she swarms to such a degree that I am informed the most effective way of destroying them will be to sink the Sloop in some safe place and let her lye under Water five or six days.”

Signed. Thomas Snow.

“Ordered that Alexander Wood Pilot do sink the Sloop in the most convenient part of the River.” So it seems Mr. Wood was only away for a few months in Burma.

The consultation that day was devoted to the shortage of Sloops for the next entry says. “There being the “Cossimbazar” Sloop broken up the “Margery” Sloop employed to cruise in Balasore road in Company with a Dutch Sloop to look out for the Ostenders and “William” Sloop in a bad condition occasion us to want Sloop for the Hon’ble Company’s Service.

Ordered that Mr. Charles Hampton Buxey hire what Sloops are necessary at this juncture.”

27th April, 1732.

More Sloop trouble “The Pilots having complained to us that the “Mary” Buoyer was very Crank and wanted a great deal of Repair we now received a proposal from Edw’d Clarke Ship Carpenter about her. Ordered…… That we give him Rs 3500 to repair her.

17th July, 1732.

The Sloop “Margery” which had been cruising on the Pilot Station had gene aground presumably on her way up River. “The Margery” Sloop being run a shore at Sago (Saugor) Ordered that Capt. Thomas Show send down boats fully manned to her assistance.” They also “Ordered that the Sloop “Union” be purchased for Rs 6000 built of Jarrell and Teak.”

27th August 1733.

“Charles” Sloop having been surveyed by Thomas Show Master Attendant, Phillip Parsons Pilot and Francis Read Carpenter and found generally in good condition but suggested sheathing her with Teak.’

“Cossimbazar” Sloop having been rebuilt appears on the River again.

Thursday 18th October, 173.

Under this date is quite a different story concerning the Pilot Service Sloops.

“This day received a letter from the French Directors &c. Council at Chandonajur (Chandnagore) dated the 28th. N.S. enclosing a Complaint made before the Chief of their Factory at Balasore by the Pilot, Quartermaster and Seamen of one of their Sloops against Phillip Persons Pilot and Sunday Other for assaulting and wounding the said Sloop company and desiring that we would cause Justice to be done on the offenders.

Agreed that we write to the French Directors &c. that MR. Persons not being able to quit his Station had before sent up a Complaint against their People However according to their desire we would send strong and Sure Guard to bring the Offenders up to Calcutta and after Inquiry into the Nature of the Case they may be assured such Punishment shall be inflicted as may be Suitable to their Fault.”

Monday 29th October, 1733.

“Mr. Parsons having been Examined in relation to the complaint of the French Directors &c. who now Delivering his Answer thereto Agreed that it be sent to the French Directors &c. and that Mr. arsons be put under an Arrest till We receive an answer.”

Wednesday 14th November, 1733.

“This day received a letter from Mons’r Dupliex Directors &c. Council at Chandonagur advising they had sent down the Pilot, Quartermaster and people belonging to the Sloop “L’orient” to whom the Insult was made as they advised in their letter of the 28th October N.S.

They have deputed one of their Council Mons. Groiselle to introduce these People to be examined to be examined who has Orders to pursue the Process till a final Sentence be passed.

The People of the French Sloop being first examined in the presence of Mr. Groiselle and afterwards Mr. Parsons the Pilot and what People were up belonging to our Sloop we found that there was no Truth in the ffrench Allegations of their Sloop being pursued and guns fired at Her but that the Pilots and Seamen of both Sloops being in Liquor the using him ill a man who was along with him went aboard the English Sloop and which three or four of them blows were exchanged on each Side. Agreed therefore that we write the ffrench directore &ce. that finding there has been faults on both sides and their People the Aggressors We shall punish our People according to our Customs and that each party shall pay half of the Damages.”

Though England was not at war with France at that time the natural national antipathy of the English for the French kept asserting itself due to the close proximity of the two nations sharing the same River, and so incidents like the one recounted here were frequent. (Ed. R.K.H.B.)

Monday 5th December, 1737.

Received a letter from Mr. Thomas Joshua More dated at Ingellee the 3rd instant acquainting us that the “Bombay” Sloop in laying the Ship “Bedford” aboard to deliver the Hona’ble Company’s Bales had Bilged upon her own Anchor which went through her side about three foot under water. They attempted to run her ashore but she sunk at the mouth of the Ingellee River.”

The loss of Sloops for one reason or another was a heavy drain on the Company. Apparently Mr. A. Wood the then Chief Pilot, with his private trading business in Burma, had contracted for the building of new Sloops there, where there was a plentiful supply of cheep but excellent teak wood.

An undated entry in the Consultation Book was as follows:-

“Received a Letter from Mr. Alexander Wood Pilot dated in Pegue the 3rd October, 1737, advising the two Sloops Built for the Hona’ble Company their were launched the 15th September.

Mr. Smart says he will have them ready to sail by the 1st of November but he believes it will be the 15th, first because of the Holy days Having found the Sloop “Margery’s” false keel all rotten he was laid her on shore to put in another.

Those that send Rigging and other Stores from Madras have been much imposed on by them that provided them For the rigging is unsizable The bolts of Duck are all in short pieces not above thirty-two yards in each. The twine is rotten and they are obliged to make rope out of Cable.

The Master Carpenter is continually drunk which is a great hindrance to the work going forward.”

Monday 9th October, 1738.

“As we are in want of another Pylot for the River Service and Gilbert Sinsnicke who hath served the Hona’ble Company on board their Sloops in different stations upwards of twelve years and hath brought in many ships woth great safety being recommended to us by the Master of Attendance and producing a Certificate from him of his ability in the Seafaring way and another from Phillip Parsons Pylot of his capacity and knowledge of the River with several more from the Commanders of such ships as he hath carried in and out of the River.

Agreed that he be appointed one of the Pylots in the Honourable Company’s Service.”

It can be appreciated from this entry that one had to serve a long apprenticeship and be efficient before being promoted to the rank of Pilot in the Service’s 300 year history.

The Board of Directors in London were still worried about the shortage of Pilots and their standard of efficiency but at the same time being very careful of expenditure, they were yet to learn that if they wanted, as they did, exceptionally efficient men they must pay them well.

(1) 9th February, 1736. London.

“From the great encouragement given to the Pylots of adding five rupees a month to their pay our orders were construed in an extensive sense they were only in general terms.

Observing some of them were ffined we apprehended that such vigorous proceeding against so useful a set of men might prejudice our affairs.

You should be very cautious of making additions to Stated Allowances they swell the Buxey’s (Treasurers) accounts and entail upon us an expense in all future times.’

(2) 6th January, 1737. London.

“For the Wages of pylots and Seamen to be doubled upon us and yet to loose most of our Sloops at the same time is very grating and makes us apprehensive that able and skilled men are not fixed

(1) and (2). Letters to Bengal.” Vol.22.

upon to take charge of them or that by Drunkeness and otherwise the due care is taken you ought severely to check and reprimand the Masters and their Mates whenever you have reason to be dissatisfied with their conduct and on the contary encourage those who are deserving among them.”

The Lascars of today seem to have changed but little from those of the first half of the 18th century. Now as then, the system of Messing themselves is anything but satisfactory. Half way through a pilot Vessels stay at the Sandheads, the Serang will come to the commander and request that two or three men may be allowed to return to Calcutta to obtain more provisions, though more often than not they are not really short, it being merely an excuse to have a few days in town. (R.K.H.B.)

The following letter recorded in the Consultation Book bears out the above observation.

To the Hoboble Thomas Brasdyll Esq. President & Governor Etc at Fort William.

“Whereas the Laskars in the Honoble Company’s Sloops Service on pretence of buying Provisions going to eat and the like are frequently from their Duty and cannot be got together on any emergency and when they are Ordered into the Road they lay in Provisions so scantily that the Sloops are frequently obliged to run into Port to provide more to the great hindrance of the Company’s business and risqué of the Sloops.

To remedy this it is with submission proposed to the Honoble Board that provisions be [it on board for them which with your Honour etc. Approbation I will undertake to do. If their wages which are now five rupees current may be advanced to five rupees Madras per month and it is further proposed to your Honour &ca. in Order to furnish the Sloops with good Syrangs and Laskars that a Person under the Title of the Companys Syrang may be Entertained at ten rupees P. month with an assistant at five rupees P. month who shall be obliged to find such as will enter into a contract to serve on board them for a time Certain which is presumed will be a means to have always a Set of good People in the Sloops who will keep to their duty not having any longer their usual excuses for Absenting

I am with great respect &ce

William West.’

Master Attendant.

Fort William. March 19th, 1739.

Mr. W. West began something here with the proposal to appoint a Serang in Charge, which has continued to this day, in spite of Shipping Masters and a merchant Shipping Acts. In the case of the Pilot Vessels and a large number of Merchant vessels who sign on their crews in Calcutta, the Serang still has power to choose his men.

For as long as any one can remember the three senior Branch Pilots have constituted a Standing Advisory Committee which has made suggestions concerning the Pilot age of the River in all its aspects to whatever Official or Authority may be concerned. Usually their professional advice is accepted.

The following letter could well be one of the first occasions on which the Committee gave such advice.

To Captain William West. Master Attendant.


Whereas we the undersigned Pylots in the Honoble Company’s Service do entirely agree and think it necessary for the more safety of the Hon’ble Company shipping and effect that there should be five buoys laid Vizt. one at the Fairway at the Barrabulla head at Ingellee at Cockeelee and one in the East and West channel.

It is our request that you would represent this to the Hon’ble the President & Council.

WE are &ce. John Ransom.

Wm. Archdeacon.

John Crossfield.


Calcutta the 17th April, 1739.

In 1744 a Captain Alexander Hamilton published a book called (1) “A New Account of the East Indies” in which he gives his impressions of his visit to the Hooghly River, extracts from which now follow.

It has been said that he was an idle gossip, which may be so, however, his account gives a first hand impression of these times, covering as it does the whole of the area from Point Palmyras to the town of Hugli, the scene of this history.

…”four leagues from Raypore is the Island of Palmeire, which lies about a mile from the shore, and has a channel of two fathoms deep between them. the country is here very low, but the Island lower, and it fends off a very dangerous sandbank so far into the sea, that the island can scarcely be seen till a Ship is aground.

Within 50 paces of the bank are fifteen fathoms water, which sudden shallowings make it the more dangerous. Three leagues to the Northward of the Point Palmeira, is Cunnaca, which river is capable to receive a Ship of 200 tuns. It has a bar, but not dangerous, because the sea is smoothe, and the bottom soft.

The nabob of Cuttack commands the North side of the River, and a Rajah the other, which makes them both court the Merchant that comes to trade there, for he pays custom only to the Sovereign whose side of the river his Ship lies on.

About twelve leagues to the Northward of Cunnaca, is the River’s mouth of Ballasore, where there is a very dangers Bar, sufficiently well known by the many Wrecks and Losses made by it. Between Cunnaca and Ballasore rivers there is one continuous sandy bay, and a very delicious fish called the Pamplee (Pomfret? R.K.H.B.) come in sholes and are sold for two pence per hundred. Two of them are sufficient to dine a moderate man.

The town (of Balasore) is but four miles from the sea by land, but by the river, twenty…. The English, French and Dutch have their respective Factories here, but at present (he was writing

(1) “A New Account of the East Indies” by Capt. Alexander Hamilton. Printed for C. Hatch,

Paternoster Row, 1744.

about 1740) are of little consideration, the, in former times, before the Navigation of the Hughly River was cultivated, they were the head Factories in the Bay of Bengal.

The town of Balasore drives a pretty good trade to the Islands of Maldivia. Those Islands as I observed before, have no rice or other grain of their own product, so that Balasore supplies them with what necessaries they want, and in return, bring Cowries and Cayar (Coir) for the service of Shipping.

The sea shore of Balasore being very low, and the Depths of the Water very gradual from the Strand, make Ships in Balasore Road, keep at a good distance from the shore; for, in four or five fathoms, they ride three leagues off.

From April to October is the Season for Shipping to come into the Bay of Bengal. Pilots lie ready at Balasore to carry them up the River Hughly, which is a small branch of the famous Ganges. The European Companies, before mentioned keep theirs always in pay; but when none of their own Shipping is there, their Pilots have the liberty to serve other ships, which is no small advantage to them. (In this instance Capt. Hamilton errs as the Honourable East India Company were most particular that their Pilots should serve no one but the Company and severe penalties were imposed on those who disobeyed; fines up to Rs. 400 were levied, a large sum in those days. There were occasions when they did pilot foreign ships, usually Dutch, but only by permission of the President & Council).

The sides of the River are overgrown with business which give shelter to many fierce and troublesome Tygers, who do much mischief. I knew an Englishman that was in a Ship’s boat laden with fresh water, lying in the River, waiting the Tide to carry her over the Bar, and this man had the curiosity to step ashore, and being a litter way from the boat, had a call to exonerate, and had no sooner put himself in a posture near the bushes but out leaps a Tyger, and caught both his buttocks in his mouth, and was for carrying him away, but one of the seamen in the boat seeing the tragedy, took up a Musket and placed a bullet in the Tygers head, while the man was in his mouth helpless.

The tiger immediately let the man fall, and skulked in among the business , and the wounded man was carried on board of his Ship and the surgeon made a perfect cure of his wounds. I saw the marks of the wounds three or four years after the accident happened to him.

…Piply lies in the banks of river supposed to be a branch of the Ganges, about five leagues from that of Balasore; formerly it was a place of trade, and was honoured with English and Dutch Factories. The country p[produced the same commodities that Balasore does; at present it is produced to Beggary by the Factory’s removal to Hughly and Calcutta, the Merchants being all gone.

It is now inhabited by Fishers, as are also Ingellis and Kidgerie, two neighbouring Islands on the West side of the mouth of the Ganges. These Islands abound also in tame Swine, where they are sold very cheap, for I have bought one and twenty good hogs, between 50 and 80 pound weight each for Rs 17,,or 45 Shilling Sterling.

Those Islands send forth dangerous sand banks, that are both numerous and large, and make the navigation both out and in to Hughly River, both troublesome and dangerous, an after we pass those Islands in going up the River, the Channel for Shipping is on the East side and several Cresks run from the Ganges, two of which are more remarkable than the rest viz. Coxes and Sagor Islands, where great Ships were obliged to anchor to take in part of their cargoes, because several places in the River are too shallow for great Ships to pass over, whom their whole cargoes are aboard.

There are no inhabitants on those Island, for they are too infested with Tygers, that there could be no security for human creatures to dwell on them; nay it is even dangerous to land on them or for boats to anchor near them, for in the night they have swimmed to boats at anchor, and carried men out of them yet among the Pagans the Island of Sagor is accounted holy, and great numbers of Yougies go yearly thither in the months of November and December, to worship and wash in the salt water, tho’ many of them fall sacrifice to the hungry tigers.

The first safe anchorage in the River, is off the mouth of a river about twelve leagues above Sagor, commonly known by the name of Rogues who were followers of Sultan Sujah, when Emirjemal, Aurengzebs’ General drove that unfortunate Prince out of his Province of Bengal; for those Portuguese having no way to subsist after their Masters flight to the Kingdom of Arackan, betook themselves to Piracy among the Islands at the mouth of the Ganges, and that river having communication with all the channels from Vitigam (Chittagong) to the Westward, from this river they used to sally out, and commit depredations on those that traded in the River Hughly.

About five leagues further up, on the West side is another branch of the Ganges, called Ganga, (Rupnarain) it is broader than that of Hughly, but much shallower, and more incumbered with sandbanks. (The Rupnarain river has not been navigable for anything other than small Country boats for centuries, but there was a time long, long ago when it carried, according to legend, the bulk of Bengal’s trade to Ceylon, the East Indias and China. R.K.H.B.)

Along the River of Hughly there are many small villages and farms interspersed in those large Plains, but first of any note on the River side, is Culculla, (This place no longer exists, it was situated on what is now Vanzam’s Creek, which at one time must have been considerably large. The creek is just to the North of the Birla Jute Mill and Calcutta was to the North of that, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the present Moyapore Tidal semaphore, it was on this site that Clive landed in 1756 when he attacked and captured Budge-Budge. (R.K.H.B.) a market town for corn, coarse cloth, butter and oil, with other products of the Country, above it is the Dutch Bankshall, a place where their Ships ride when they cannot get farther up for the too Swift currents of the river.

A Little higher up on the same Eat side of the River is Ponjelly (Poojeli) a village where a Corn Mart is kept once or twice in a week, it exports more rice than any place on this River, and five leagues farther up on the other side Tanna Fort, built to protect the Trade of the River, at a place convenient enough, where it is not above half a like from shore to shore, but it never was of much use; for in Anno 1686, when the English Company quarreled with the Mogul, the Company had several great Ships at Hugli and this Fort was manned in order to hinder their passage down the River. One 60 gun Ship approaching pretty near the Fort, saluted with a broadside, which so frightened the Governor and his Myrmidons, that they all deserted their posts and left their Castle to be plundered by the English seamen.

About a league farther up on the other side of the River, (East) is Governapore, where there is a little Pyramid built for a land mark, to confine the Company’s Colony of Calcutta; of Fort William. On that side and about a league farther up, stands Fort William.

The English settled there about the year 1690, after the Mogul had pardoned all the robberies and murders committed on his subjects. Mr. Job. Charnock being then the Company’s Agent in Bengal, he had liberty to settle an Eaporina in any part on the River’s side below Hugli, and for the sake of a large shady tree chose that place, tho’ he could not have chosen a more unhealthy place on all the River; for three miles to the North Eastward is a salt water Lake that overflows in September and October, then prodigious numbers of fish are left dry, and with their putrefaction affect the air with thick stinking vapors, which the North East winds bring with them to Fort William.

One year I was there, and there was reckoned in August about 1200 English, some Military, some Servants to the Company, some private Merchants residing in the Town, and some Seamen belonging to Shipping lying at the Town, and before the Beginning of January there were 460 Burials registered in the Clerks Book of Mortality.

Mr. Charnook choosing the ground of the Colony, where it now is, Reigned mere absolute than a Rajah, though he wanted much of their Humanity, for when any poor ignorant Native transgressed this Laws, they were sure to undergo a severe whipping for Penalty, and the execution was generally done when he was at dinner, so near his dining-room that the groans and cries of the poor delinquent served him for music.

The Country about being overspread with Paganism, the custom of Wives burning with their deceased Husbands is also practiced here.

Before the Moguls’ war, Mr. Charnook went on one occasion with his ordinary guard of soldiers to free a young widow from that tragic catastrophy, but he was so smitten with the window’s beauty that he sent his guards to take her by force from her executioners, and conducted her to his own lodgings. They lived lovingly many years, and had several children; at length she dies, after he had settled in Calcutta but instead of converting her to Christianity she made him a Proselyte to Paganism, and the only part of Christianity that was remarkable in him was burying her decently, and he built a Tomb over her, where all his life after her death, he kept the anniversary day of her death by sacrificing a Cock on her Tomb, after the Pagan manner; this was and is the common Report, and I have been credibly informed, both by Christians and Pagans, who lived at Calcutta under his Agency, that the story was really a matter of fact.

Fort William was built as an irregular tetragon, of brick and morta, called Puckha, which is a composition of brick dust, lime, molasses and out hemp, when it comes to be dry, is as hard as and tougher than hard stone. The Town was built without order, as the builders though most convenient for their own affairs, every one taking in what ground best pleased them for gardening; so that in most houses you must pass through a garden into the house: the English built near River side and the Natives within land…

…..About 50 yards from Fort William, stands the Church, built by the pious Charity of Merchants residing there, and the Christian benevolence of Sea-faring man, whose affairs call them to trade there. Ministers of the Gospel being subject to Mortality, very often young Merchant are obliged to officiate, and have a salary of Rs 50 per annum, added to what the Company allows them, for their pains in reading prayers and Sermons on Sundays…..

…..The Company had a pretty good Hospital at Calcutta, where many go in to undergo the penance of physic, but few come out to give an account of its operation…..

…..On the North side of the River are Docks made for repairing and filling their Ships bottoms, and a pretty good Garden belonging to the Armenians….

…..Most Gentlemen and Ladies in Bengal live both splendidly and pleasantly, the forenoons being dedicated to business, and after Dinner to rest, and in the evening to recreate themselves in Chaises or Palanking in the Fields, or to Gardens or by Water in their Budgerces, which is a convenient boat, that goes swiftly with the force of oars. On the River there is sometimes the diversion of Fishing or Fowling, or both and before night they make friendly visits to each others houses…. The Garrison of Calcutta at Fort William generally consists of 2 or 300 soldiers….

In Calcutta all Religions are frssly tolerated, but the Presbyterian, and that they brow-beat…

….The Company’s Colony is limited by a land mark at Governpore, and another and another near Barnagul about six miles distant, and the Salt water lake bounds it on the land side. It may contain in all about 10 or 12000 souls…

Barnagul is the next Village on the River side above Calcutta, where the Dutch have a House and Garden; the town is famously infamous for a Seminary Destruction of unwarey Youths, who study more to gratify their brutal passions, than how to shun the evil Consequences that attend their Folly, notwithstanding the daily instances of rettenness and Kortality that happen to those who most frequent those Schools of Debauchery.

The Dutch Shipping anchors there sometimes to take in their cargoes for Batavia and those are all that are remarkable at Barnagul or Barnagur.

There are several other Villages on the river’s sides on the way to Hugli, which is 20 miles above Barnagur but none remarkable until we come to the Dance Factory which stands about 4 miles below Hugli, but the poverty of the Danes has made them desert it, after having robbed the Mogul’s subjects of some of their shipping to keep themselves from starving.

Almost opposite to the Danes Factory is the Place where the Ostend Company settled but in Anno 1723 they quarreled with the Governor at Hugli and he forced the Ostenders to quit their Factory is but, for want of money are not in a capacity to trade. They have a few private families dwelling near the Factory and a pretty little Church to her Mass in, which is the chief business of the French in Bengal.

About half a league farther up is Chinsurah where the Dutch Emporium stands; it is a large Factory, walled high with brick and the Factors have a great many good houses standing pleasantly on the River’s side, and all of them have pretty gardens.

Hugli is a Town of large extent but ill built. It reaches about 2 miles along the River’s side from Chinsura before mentioned to the Bandal, a Colony formerly settled by the Portuguese but the Moguls’ Fouzdar governs both at present.

This Town of Hugli drives a great trade, because all foreign goods are brought thither for import and all goods of the product of Bengal are brought hither for exportation. The Moguls’ Furza of Custom-house is at this place. It affords rich chargoes for 50 or 60 Ships yearly besides what is carried in small vessels.

Bandel at present, deals in no sort of commodities, but what are in request at the Court of Venus, and they have a Church, where the Owners of such goods and merchandise are to be met with, and the Buyer may be conducted to proper shops, where the commodities may be seen and felt.” He discreetly ends his narrative of his Hooghly River visit at this point.

During the month of May, 1739, there was a severe Cyclonic storm in the bay of Bengal, which caused tremendous damage to shipping, and as usual the Sloops suffered too, and three Pilots were lost with the Ships they were in at sea; this storm is recounted in the Chapter on “Cyclonic Storms”.

It left the Pilots Service once again of Sloops and Pilots so the following entry appears in the Consultation Books 15th April, 17140.

“The number of our pylots being greatly decreased by Death and by those who were on board the three Ships missing after the Storms in May last. Ordered that the Master Attendant to lay before the Board a List of the Masters, Mates and others in the Sloop Service with an account of their qualifications, capacity and behavior therein in Order for us from thence to make some pylots to fill up the vacancy occasioned as above.”

Then on Monday 26th May, 1740, the following entry appears:-

“The List of Pylots, Masters, Mates, Boatswains and Seamen in the Honourable Company’s Sloops Service having lain under our consideration for some time Also an examination of them by the Master Attended with Jenathan Ranson and William Kilman Pylots and having made a further strict enquirey into their Characters as to diligence and Sobriety.

Ordered that the following promotions be made. And for the better encouragement of those who shall hereafter behave with sobriety and Care in their stations and in order to discover and bring to punishment such as do otherwise.

Ordered that the Secretary do by letter acquaint all the Super Cargoes and Commanders of the English Shipping that it is the pleasure of the Board they should not fail to Give Certificates of the skill Conduct and Behaviour of the Persons who shall in future Pilot their ships either in or out f this River.


Mates to be made Masters.

John Strange.

Samuel Shirley.

John Afton.

John Bernand.

Anthony Phillips.

John Hobbs.

Boatswains to be made Mates.

John Robinson.

Fabian Stone.

James Pointer.

Clear Brear.

Thomas Allison.

Anthony Rooker.

Seamen to be made Boatswains.

Joseph Cummins.

Patrick Lockington.

John Pennity.

Jacob D. Freize.

Mathew Christopher.

Clois Gomez.

At the same time as these promotions were made two new sloops of 90 tons Burthen were ordered from Bombay (See Chapter on Pilot Vessels.)


In 1742 the Marathas invaded the Carnatic and it was feared in Calcutta that they might move in their direction also.

(1) The first defensive action taken was on the River when it was “Ordered that the Master Attendant do take with him two of the Hon’ble Companys Sloops with such of the Pilots, Masters and others in the River Service as may be necessary and with them proceed up the River as high as Chandnagore, sounding all the way and making proper remarks of the channels, sands shoals & in case it should be necessary to send armed vessels up later to oppose the enemy.”

(1) Old Fort William in Bengal. Indian Record Series 1906.

Then on the Thursday 22nd April, 1742, he was “Ordered to immediately get all the Sloops in readiness for Service. That he do see that all of them have their full compliment of men and that he do put a sufficient quantity of Arms and Ammunition on board of each.”

Thursday July 1st, 1742.

“Ordered that the “Calcutta” Sloop be manned and armed and that Mr. Alexander Wood, Pylot, do repair on board said Sloop and carry her up to Perrins Gardens off which place he is to lay to prevent any party of the Morattoes from crossing the River thereabouts and to give us the most timely notice should such an attempt be made.”

(Note. Perrins Garden was situated at the Northern extremity of Calcutta. It belonged originally to Capt. Charles Perrin, who was in Calcutta in 1703-07. R. K. H. B.)

While precautions were being taken on the River, there was no look of activity ashore for (1) “In the year 1742, the Indian inhabitants of the Colony requested and obtained permission to dog a Ditch at their own expense round the Company’s bounds from the Northern part of Soot a nutty, to the Southern part of Govindpore.

This work would extend seven moles, 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 habitants, seeing that no Morrattoes (Mahrattas) had over been on the Western side of the River within 60 miles of Calcutta, and that Allaverdy (Aliverdi Khan, Nawab of Bengal 1742) exerted himself vigorously to prevent their incursion into the Island of Cossimbazar, discontinued the work, which from the occasion was called the Moratto Ditch.”

( It is interesting to note that from the date of completion of the Mahratta Ditch all Europeans coming to Calcutta were known for their first two years as “Griffins” meaning Greenhorns or if you will Undebauched, and when they entered their third year of residence they

(1) Orme Collection O.V. Vol.LXV1 p.82.

Charter to the Company.”

A few months later the French sloop “L’Becqueel” manned by 27 Europeans captured the Pilot Vessels “Kitty” and “Fort St. George”. Our Pilots not realizing she was French allowed her to draw near when within range she fired a broad side into the “Kitty”; boarded her, and (1) “after securing our arms and us they directly gave chase to Mr. Aston in the Honb’le Company’s Sloop “Fort St. George”. Mr. Aston ran for the Braces closely pursued by the French. In the course of the chase they manned their small boat and tried to board the “Fort St. George” but were beaten off by fire from swivel guns and small arms. Finally she was driven into shoal water close to the breakers on the inner edge of the Eastern Brace and was compelled to surrender”. After a small action on August the 10th, in the vicinity of kedgeree the “Kitty”, “Fort St.George” and “L’Becqueel” were taken from the French by the Sloops “Belvidera”,”Experiment” and “Tryall”.


While Britian was engaged in a major war in which tied down the bulk of her naval forces, the French sent out their warships to Indian waters to support their land forces and attack our Merchant shipping. The result was that Madras fell to the French and the Honourable Company’s affairs were at a low ebb. In this situation the Mahrattas, then the most powerful military force in India, decided it was a suitable time to expand to the North Eastward; they attacked and captured Cuttack in Orissa and entered Bengal, and eventually reached the West bank of the Hooghly.

(2) May 13th, 1745.

“Having this day received certain advices of the Marrottoes taking the Fort at Cuttack under the command of Rogojee Goslah, (Raghoji Bhosal, the Maratha General, who became the first Raja of Nagpur in 1740.) and several small partys having entered this Province and robbed and burnt many villages and made some attempts near

(1) Ibid.

(2) Indian Records Series.

Became known as “Ditchers” as they lived within the perimeter of the “Ditch”, and as such they are still known today. While I was in Calcutta there were two first class Rugby fifteens known as the “Griffins” and the “Ditchers”. R.K.H.B.)


At a time when the Honourable Company’s affairs were a low ebb Destiny decreed that Robert Olive should arrive in India and his arrival od recorded in the Fort St. George Record Book as follows:-

Diary for the 31st May, 1744.

“About seven this evening Anchored in our Road the Hon’ble Ooys ship “Winchester”, Captain Gabriel Steward , from England, last from the Coast of Brasil.”

In the list of Covenanted Servants for that year we find the entry.

“Robert Olive, Time of Arrival 31st May, 1744. Station at Arrival, Writer. Salary at Arrival, Writer. Salary at Arrival, 25 per annum. Present Employment under the Secretary, Age19.On the 25th September, 1744, Olive drew the sum of Pagodas 3 fa 19 ca 53 the equivilent of £1.11.11, being his salary for three months and 25 days from the 1st June.”


Only one incident worth mentioning occurred on the River during this war.

In March, 1747, the President was informed that three French sloops were fitting out at Chandernagore with the intention, it was belived, of attacking our Sloops in Balasore Roads, ordered that twelve European soldiers and six pounders be put abroad each Sloop and that the Deputy Master Attendant in command of them should be given (1) “a Commission to act offensively and Defensively but not to act offensively on this side of the Braces as We think We have a legal Power to grant such a commission by the Kings most Gracious

(1) Diary and Consultations.

Chandernagore and Hugli, and a body of them having crossed this River at Kissnagore and Committed Hostilitys there.

We esteem it necessary to prevent any attempt on our Bounds to entertain 300 Buxerys extraordinary and 6 Ponsways to be kept on the River. (Buxerys and Ponsways were small native river craft.) Also that a lieutenant and 30 men be sent to Perrins Garden as a guard to that end of the Town, and to secure the Gunge (Riverside Bazar) at Govindpore that a party of a Sergeant and 20 men be placed at some Convenient Place thereabouts with the “Belvidera” Sloop to lay off the Gunge.”

A Letter was received by the Governor and council in Bengal last in 1748 from the Court of Directors in London and dated there the 16th October, 1747. This letter brought good news for it said that at last a strong Naval Squadron was on its way out, in fact as the letter came out with the Squadron, they knew it had arrived, an occasion for great rejoicing.

The Letter read, “ Upon our Strenuous Application His Majesty had been Graciously pleased to send a Strong Squadron of Men-of-war under the Command of the Honourable Rear-Admiral Boscawen with three Ships whereupon this letter is sent. (These were three of the Company’s vessels sailing under the protection of the Squadron).

In case Rear-Admiral Boscawen or the Commander-in-Chief of H.M.Forces should require your assistance in Attacking the enemy any where near you, we here by Order you to give it to him to the almost of Power, and to put under his Command what Military, Marine or other forces you can possibly procure or spare consistent with the safety of your Place.”

Admiral Boscawen arrived at Fort St. David ( Which was situated a Little south of Pondicherry) at the end of July 1748 with the strongest fleet which had ever been seen in the Indian seas and with about 1000 troops on board, this large force altered the entire situation in Britain’s favour.

A certain Company’s Military Captain named Fenwick sent in a Report on his views concerning the Defences of Calcutta, in which he was involved during 1747-48. It was as follows.

(1) “To return to my Remarks on what has fell out in a Military way, you will please to recollect, I was ordered by Governor Forster to seize upon the commander of the Morattoes encamped at Dean’s Town side of the River almost opposite Hooghly point, South of the Rupnarain) was I to drop upon him with my detachment in a cloud…..

In the second year of the Morattoes ‘entering Bengal Allyverdy Cawn our Nabob sent a public Compliment to Governor Bradyll, with a Suropaw ( or Rich Habit) warning him to be upon his guard against the Morattoes, and requesting that he would prevent their crossing the River, as much as in our power; the Governor did me the Honour to appoint me to Command the detachment on this public Occasion when he went to receive the Surpaw, which is always out of the Fort and as soon as the Ceremony was over, I was Ordered with a party on board a Sloop to Cruise upon the River, to watch the Morattoes motions and prevent their crossing, agreeable to the Nabobs Advice and Request….

(He proposes to the Governor to build a large redoubt upon the Point of the Ganges near Deans Town on the opposite side of the River. R.K.H.B.)

I Further put the Governor in mind of an Hospital on that spot which stands high….. As the Hospital would be a Receptacle for our sick soldiers, so it lies convenient for the Ships anchoring either at Culpee or Ingelee to send their sick men to. I further added to make it a place for stores, anchors, cables, and topmasts, be readily assisted with any of these necessities; or if she run a ground, which latter is frequent, and to which end 20 Lascars should be kept there with Proper boats, to be ready upon any emergency; and all such Right the Company might have to any Salvage, Would come in,

(1) Extracts from letter No. 5 from Capt. Fenwick on the Company’s affairs 1747-48. Orme collection, India V1. and they should dispose of their own anchors, cables &ce”…..

(Was this I wonder the origin of the name Hospital Point on the East side of Kukurhatti Crossing, North of Diamond Harbour? R.K.H.B.).

Other precautions were taken to prevent them raiding Calcutta but this is only one instance mentioned in Records of where they did any damage on the River.

On April the 20th, 1751, Mr. Viccary Pilot of the Sloop “Fort St. George” was anchored near the Broken Ground buoy bound for Balasore Roads when, owing to bad weather the cable parted unknown to the Watch and the vessel went ashore on the sands three miles below Ingellie Point.

When the tide ebbed Mr. Viccary put all the stored ashore as he expectef the vessel to become a wreck at the next high water and

(1) “Whilst they were there in this Situation a party of Morattoes Horse surprised them when they happened to be dispersed and plundered their Tent of all the Arms cut the Sails all to pieces went in board the Sloops as she was then dry and Plundered or spoiled what ever came to their hands dangerously wounded one of the Europeans on the Arm and carried the Boatswain off to their Camp which was about 4 or 5 miles off but afterwards sent him back again.”


8TH January, 1752.

(2) “We direct that when any of the Company’s Sloops attend on the Country ships or take on board Money or Effects belonging to them that each Country ship pay Rs.100 to the Company for such attendance and Service but the said Sloops are on no account to leave their Stations when they are ordered to wait for the Company’s Ships.

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

(2) Bengal Letter Book.. Vol. 28.

That all the craft used in bringing up or carrying down goods for the Europe Ships to take the Draught of water, Number of Men, Guns, ammunition and Stores and Certify the Condition the Ships are in for the Homeward bound voyage.”

(1) Letter to the Hon. Roger Drake Governor & ce. Fort Wiliams. 25th March, 1754.

“ I am sorry to inform your Honour &ce. That upon a farther examination of the Hon. Coy’s Sloops on their being Held ashore. Find the White Ants to be got into the “Grampus” “Bonetta” and “Mermaid” almost as much as in the “Hawk” Which Sloop I reported to your Honour some time ago and had your permit for sinking her in order to destroy them which is now doing and I hope will have the desired effect.”…. Samuel Lutton. Master Attendant.

(2) “On Friday 23rd August, 1754, at half past Seven in the Evening an account was brought to me that the “Hawk” Sloop had taken fire on which I immediately went on board and having got all possible assistance I could at that time of night we used our almost endeavours to Extinguish it but the fire had got to such a head that all our efforts were in vain finding which got a hawser from the Bakkshall having fastened it to her hauled her ashore to prevent her driving foul of the other shipping as to be able to save her Iron work, Knetledge &ce. On board her where she continued burning very fiercely till almost to the waters edge since which I have made as strict as enquiry as I could how the accident happened but cannot come at any certainly only am I informed by the syrang and Lascars that were on board that one of the Europeans had sometime before carried his tea Kettle down below just after taking it off the Fire

(1) Bengal Letter Book. Vol. 29.


and that a Coal of Fire might have stuck to it……

Samuel Lutton.


In March, 1754, the Directors intimated that the King had ordered a Naval Squadron of six ships under Admiral Charles Watson, together with Colonel John Adlercrons’ Regiment of foot, and a detachment of Royal Artillery under Capt-lieut William Hislop to proceed to the East Indies for the protection of the Company’s possessions.

Two of the ships, the “Eagle” 60 guns, Capt. George Pocock, and “Bristol” 50 guns Capt. Thomas Latham were damaged by a storm at the outset, and were sent to Plymouth to refit.

Admiral Watson sailed with the “Kent” 64 guns, Capt. Henry Speke, “Salisbury” 50 guns, Capt. Thomas Knowle, “Bridgwater” 24 guns, Capt. William Martin and the sloop “Kingfisher”.

Pocock, who had in the meantime been promoted, hoisted his flag in the “Cumberlan” 56 guns, Capt. Harrison, and with the “Tiger” 60 guns, Capt. Latham, followed later as second-in-Command.

In September, 1754, Admiral Watson reached Fort St. David, where Adlercrons’ Regiment disembarked; these where the first of the Crown Troops to land in India.

The Squadron could not have arrived at a more opportune moment, for the whole Province of Bengal was in a state of unrest and insecurity created by the Marataha invasions and economic pressures, and local feude, which had to a certain extent been kept quite during the Govenorship of Ali Wardi Khan, on his death in April 1756 flared up again and his grandson Siraj-ud-daula, who succeeded him, turned to war against the English.

Meanwhile the French, motivated by their defeats in the previous war, were taking active steps to drive the British out of India in 1756.

Dupleix’s intention, when he was appointed Govenor General of the French possessions in India, was to drive the English out of the country, but in the war of the Austrian Succession and in the “Seven Years’ War” which followed in 1756, not only did the English strengthen their position in India but forced the French to abandon hope of founding a Colonial Empire.

During the “Seven Years War” several minor engagements were fought on the River and Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive recaptured Calcutta from the Indians and took Chandernagore from the French.

The main event, the fall of Calcutta, its recapture, and Clive’s victory at Plassey are so well known that here we will only deal with those which are directly connected with the Hooghly river, and which concerned the Bengal Pilot Service.


The first Company’s post to fall was the factory at Cassimbazar on the 4th June, 1756, then the whole of the massive forces of the Nobob marched unmolested on Calcutta.

Fort William had been completed in 1716 and due to neglect was in no position to withstand heavy battering, and in addition the garrison was very small, consisting of about 270 men, assisted by about 250 armed civilians, only 200 of them being European, the India levies did not exceed 1500, so from the beginning no real defence was possible.

The English had gone to India purely for trade and the Company’s soldiers until this date were mainly for local police and guard duties. Unfortunately, due to a weak Govenor at the time, the defence was not properly organized, and no plans were made for an orderly evacuation of civilians and a subsequent rearguard action.

A mass, uncontrolled, exodus took place during the first night of the assult, which was led by the Govenor and Commander of the Garrison. A Mr. Holwell, a junior member of the Council, rallied about 200 men and courageously defended the Fort for a further 24 hours, when he was compelled to surrender, which was on the 20th June, 1756.

At the outset the marine Service was operating normally and a Pilot Sloop was stationed in the River off the entrance to the Mahratta Ditch as an outposts. On the 16th June the following dispatch was received by the Council from the Military officer in charge of the defence party.

(1) “Advice from Ensign Paccard the 16th in the afternoon that the enemy were bringing up heavy cannon it play upon the redout and the Pilot Sloop that lay before it for the defence of the Ditch. They had six pieces of cannon playing on the redout and Sloop. Four Europeans had been killed on the repulse the Enemy.”

At the time of the hasty evacuation there were 30 vessels in the Port and the Mariners in the town were allotted to them.

The only Company’s Ship in Port appeared to be the “Prince George” which it was intended to use as a rearguard. She was lying at Baagbazar, but could not be got down lower than Mr. Watt’s house and was useless…. the position where she stuck was 1500 feet above the Crane Wharf or centre of Fort William

The refugees from Fort William fled ion their motley armada to Fulta, 28 miles below Calcutta. There they lives partly ashore and partly afloat, almost destitute, short of clothing, food, ammunition, medical supplies and other daily necessities. Living with them aboard the Company’s yacht was the Gorernor Drake.

(1) Old Fort William in Bengal. Vol.2.


When Suraj and Daula attacked Calcutta the seamen were ordered aboard their ships. To their lasting shame only Captain Nicholson of the Schooner “Hunter” made any effort to rescue the people left in the Fort after Drake, the Governor, deserted it. Nicholson’s attempt failed because his crew refused duty.

Many books contain accounts of what occurred subsequently but a source of information which I believe has not been used before is the Logs of Ships. The following summarized extracts are taken from the Log of the East India Ship “Delawar”, 425 tons, Captain Thomas Winter, and covers the time the refugees spent at Fulta.

(1) August 4th, 1756….”got up to the shipping in Fulta and moored… Sailed hence the “Bombay” Frigate. Found riding here the “Fort William”, “Dodaly” and sundry other country boats, ships and vessels but the late Inhabitants of Calcutta were greatly distressed and almost destitute of clothing.

August 6th….. the Natives have not yet attempted to molest us here.

August 7th. As the troops in general begin to grow sickly and from the number of our own People being in that Condition a survey was ordered, to be made by Major Kilpatrick and the late Governor &ce. pf Calcutta by the Commanders and principal Officers of the Shipping on the Sloops lying there to see if any could be made to serve as Hospitals but none was thought proper for that Purpose.

Employed in clearing as much as possible between Decks for the Benefit of Air. Carpenter employed in making Flagg Staffs for the “Fort William” on board which Ship Roger Drake Esqr. and family resides.

August 9th…… In the morning the late Governor and Council of Calcutta came on Board sent the 3rd Mate with 10 hands on

(1) Ships Logs 323. C.

Board the “Mermaid” Sloop to proceed to Culpee in order to buy Provisions…

August 10th….. the 3rd mate and People returned in Sloop from Culpee having procured 8 Bullocks only.

Augusts 14th……. Came on Board the Dutch Fiscal from Chintsers. (Chinsura) A Detachment of 70 Soldiers under the Command of Captain Campbell were in the Afternoon sent ashore to forage but the Assurances of being supplied at present from the Dutch Fiscal they were ordered on Board their respective ships again.

August 21st…. came up a Prussian Pinnace who left their Ship on Shore on the Barrabulla Sand and ‘tis believed cannot be gotten off…… This Day the late Governor of Calcutta and some other Gentlemen dined on Board and were saluted as usual.

August 26th……arrives here the Fleet from Dacca with the Chief Mr. Beecher the other Gentlemen and People….

September 12th….(Died) on board other Vessels Lieutenant Bogar of the Military and Mr. Walket long since returned from being Prisoner to the Moors…. (During the 17th & 18th Centuries the Mohammedians in India were always reforred to as Moors. R.K.H.B.)

September 14th….Our Seamen and Soldiers both very sickly and unhappy Circumstance especially in a Enemy’s Country and but few of us in the whole admit we were well.

September 23rd….The Governor and Councill having at last fixed on the “Success” Gally for an Hospital Ship the most of the sick soldiers were sent from the shore on board her.

October 23rd. News of the arrival of the Sloop “King Fisher” at Kedgeree to be followed by a squadron under Admirals Watson and Pocock and a large number of Land forces under colonel Clive “to our great joy and satisfaction.

September 24th…..This morning a Flagg Staff was erected on shore and the British Flagg hoisted which we saluted with 9 Guns it is situated without the Dutch Bounds….

November 18th…..P.M. an Alarm was made on shore it being reported that a largebody of Moors was very near to Fulta Cleared ship &ce. but the Cause of this Alarm was entirely groundless.

December 12th….Anchored here the Honourable Company’s Ship “Protector”.

December 14th, 1756…H.M.S. “Kent” and “Walpole” Indiaman arrived.

January 7th, 1757. Proceeded to Calcutta.’


As already stated, while the British were involved in the above troubles, the Seven Years War also in progress and the first action in Indian waters took place on the 15th July, 1756 when a French Privateer captured the Pilot Sloop “Bermudas” in Balasore Roads.

She was in charge of her Mate, Mr. Spencer Pearson, when two ships were sighted to the Southward flying English Colours so he sailed towards them. As the got abreast of the nearest vessel her English Colours were hauled down and French substituted and a gun was (1) “fired from her larboard side loaded with round shot which did no execution but Immediately after it fired Seven together with Grape Shot from the same side which cutt their rigging but did no other damage that ther upon they endeavoured to get away from them but the Ship haling up her Main Sail bore down after them and Sailed much better than the Sloop came up with them and give them their Starboard broadside which also cutt their rigging that finding no Possibility of getting from them they were obliged to Strike to them and Laying them a Long side with the Sloop that she is a Ship about 200 tons

(1) Diary and Consultations.

built in the Country mounting Bixteen Carridge Guns maned with 30 Europeans besides Lascars that when he came on Board them found them all Cowragiously Drunk and they had 10 Europeans in the Sloop believes they might have taken the Ship.”

From now on to the end of the Section concerning the Seven Years War all actions in both confliots are taken in the order in which they take place as both conflicts were waged simultaneously.


The news of the loss of Calcutta reached Madras on the 16th August, 1756. At that time the British forces in Madras were preparing to attack the French in the Deccan, but the Governor and Council in Fort Sts, George decided to postpone that operation and send a strong force to the Hooghly to recapture Calcutta instead, considering the general situation at the time this was a most courageous decision.

The relief expedition sailed from Madras on the 16th of October with Admiral Watson in Command of the fleet and Colonel Clive in Command of the military.

The following extracts from the Logs of Admiral Watson’s Squadron were copied in 1885by the late R.F. Barlow, Branch Pilot, Bengal Pilot Service, the discoverer and co-Editor with Col.Yule of Hedges Diary.

He states that the Long are “preserved re-bound, in thick folios at Deptford – but several are missing. Forinstance the “Cumberlands” could not be found, and though the folio of the ‘salisbury” contained her doings apparently from January 1753 to December 1762 – the between February 1756 and March 1758 could not be discovered and had never in fact been bound in the volume. The “Bridgewaters” Log could not be found, except between 1741 and 1748. However the Logs of the “kent’, the “Tyger” and of the “Kingfisher” gave an insight into the details of the Actions.’

After the destruction of Geriah (Apirates lair on the West Coast) on February 13th, 1756, the fleet was overhauled at Bombay. It left there on April 27th, and anchored at Fort St. David on May 14th. From there it proceeded to Madras where it remained from July 21st to October 15th.

On December 3rd it arrived off Point Palmyras and on the same day the “Kent” weathered the reef but the “Tyger” drawing 19 ft.8 ins. aft and a little to leeward with a N.E.wind shoaled from 16 fathoms t0 6 and anchored all standing. (1) “had only 4½ fathoms at low water, laid out an Anchor to Windward. Sick 136 seamen and 24 soldiers.”

The “Kent”, Admiral Watson’s Flag Ship, meanwhile got up to Balasore and obtained two Pilots, one of whom was Mr. Alexander Scott, who piloted her the whole way up river. The “Kent” had to wait for the Spring tides so that the “Tyger” rejoined her, after a second narrow escape, for her Pilot anchored her in such little water that (2) “We struck several times in the swell being 3¾ fathoms at low water, but escaped as the flood rose.”

The overall picture of the position was that the “Kent” arrived at Fulta on December 14th, and the “Tyger” on the 16th. The “Cumberland” struck on Palmyras Reef and put back to Vizagapatam. By December 26th the following Ships were assembled at Fulta. H.M. Ships “Kent”, “Tyger”, Salisbury”, “Bridgewater” and “Kingfisher”. The Hon. Comp Cruisers “Protector” and “Delaware” and “Walpole’ Indiaman.

On December 28th 3 men of the “Kent” were punished with 12 lashes each for Mutiny, desertion, and neglect of duty, and a fourth “ran the Gauntlet for theft.”

(1) & (2) Log of the “Tyger”.

December 29th, 1756. The “Kingfisher”, “Kent”, “Tyger” “Salisbury” and “Bridgewater” preceded by six pilot Sloops moved up to Moyapore. Here Colonel Clive and the Company’s troops landed and marched up to Budge Hudge dragging two of the “Kents” guns with them. The “Kents” Log describes what followed.

December 30th. “6 A.M. weighed and came to sail for Burzea Bugee, at ½ pasts 7 the enemy fired at the “Tyger”, at 6.3 disembarked the King’s troops to join Colonel Clive who appeared on the bank of the River to the Westward of the Fort. 9.25 the King’s troops took possession of a battery from which the enemy had withdrawn their cannon. 8.45 P.M Capt. Bridge came on board with an account of our being in possession of the Fort. Received back our two guns from Colonel Clive.’

The Log of the “Tyger” (Captain Latham) has the following entries of her share in the Budge Budge incident.

December 25th. Punished 2 men with 6 lashes each for leaving their boat ashore.

28th. “A Pilot and an assistant Pilot came on board.

29th. “Unmoored. Weighed and moved up the River in company. Backed and filled to Williamourg.” (Colobaria or now Ulubaria)

30th. “Engaged Bougia Bougia Fort.”

31st. “Demolished it and drooped up the River.”

“Amount of ammunition expended in the attack. Round shot of 24 lbs. 283. Round shot of 6 lbs. 542. Half pounders 264. Grape shot of 24 lbs. 57. Grape shot of 12 lbs. 97. Grape shot of 6 lbs. 101. Power 52 barrels.”

January 1st, 1757. “Passed Sangrallor (sankrall) Reach and anchored off Tanna Fort, found it abandoned, dismounted 30 cannon, sent the sick on board the Pilot Sloops, proceeded up to Calcutta and at 10 A.M. after a slight engagement English Colours were hoisted at the Fort.”

(1) Admiral Watson in a dispatch dates H.M.S. “Kent”, Calcutta, January 31st, 1757 reported that Budge Budge fort was well sited but insufficiently armed. The British lost one Captain, one Ensign, and eleven Privates killed and twenty four wounded.

Tannah Fort and the battery opposite contained forty guns. From Tannah he sent a party up River during the night to destroy some fire ships which the enemy intended releasing on the tide.

“The next morning (referring to January 1st, 1757) early, agreeable to the Colonel’s request, I landed the Company’s troops who immediately began their march to Calcutta. (The position where those troops were landed corresponds to the present Akra Tidal Semephore, opposite Munikhali ‘Point. Here the River takes a large sweep round Sankrall Bight to Panchpara Crossing and so into Garden Reach, Clive with his troops, had half the distance to march by land. R.K.H.B.)

The “Kent” and “Tyger” soon after weighed and proceeded up the River together with the twenty gun ship sloop, which last had directions when I should anchor off Calcutta, to pass me and the “Tyger” and anchor above, where they saw they could most annoy the enemy. As there was no necessity for more than two ships at Calcutta and the keeping Tanna Fort was of some consequence, I thought proper to leave the “Salisbury” there as a guard ship to provent the enemy from regaining it, and the battery opposite.

The “Tyger” being the leading ship, at forty minutes after nine o’clock the enemy began to fire upon her from their batteries below Calcutta, which they deserted as we approached. At twenty minutes past ten, the “Tyger” anchored abreast the Line of Guns at Calcutta, at half an hour after ten the “Kent” anchored and both ships made a very warm fire, insomuch that the enemy were soon drove from their guns and presently after ran out of the Fort.

Captain Coote of the king troops and an Officer from the “Kent” entered the Fort a little before eleven, but the flight of the enemy was so sudden that only two or three poor ignorant fellows ere taken. I garrisoned the place that day with the King’s troops

(1) Indian Record Series. Bengal in 1756-57. Ed. by S.C.Hill. Vol.11.

and appointed Captain Coote to take Command. The next day 1 delievered it up to the Company’s representatives with all the effects found within their bounds.

the Governor and Council now being in possession of their principal Settlement, determined for the violence they had received from the Nabob and his subjects, to declare war against him and to publish the same throughout the Country and wrote me a letter desiring I would do the same, in the name of His Majesty, which I accordingly did.”

What Fort William was captured four mortars and ninety one guns of different calibers. In the attack very little damage was done to the ships and there were a few men killed.

A footnote to the dispatch mentions that the casualties aboard the ships from the Floots arrival in the River to the destruction of Hugli Fort were nine seamen and three soldiers killed and twenty six seamen and five soldiers wounded.

Destruction of Hugli Fort. Admiral Watson sent an expedition under the Command of Captain Smith of the “Bridgewater” to destroy Hughly Fort. It was delayed for two days owing to the “Bridgewater” going ashore just above Calcutta.

The “Kingfishers” Log had the following brief entry of the event.

(1) January 11th, 1757. “Attacked, and took, and burned, Hughly Fort.”


In another dispatch from the “Kent” dated the 31st March, 1757 Admiral Watson reports that he sailed from Calcutta with the “kent” “Tyger” and “Salisbury” on March 15th, having previously sent the “Bridgewater” and “Kingfisher” up the River to protect the boats supplying Colonel Clive’s camp. On the 18th he anchored about two miles below Chandernagore as he found the channel barred by sunken vessels and two booms moored with chains. In the night the booms

(1) Bengal in 1756-57. S.C.Hill.Vol.2

were cut adrift and his Pilots found a passage between the sunken ships.

On the 23rd at six in the morning the “Tyger”, “Kent” and “Salisbury” in the order named weighed and sailed up to Fort Orleans. At seven the attack began and at nine fifteen the French surrendered.

With the Fort was captured 500 Europeans, 700 Indians, 183 cannons, three small mortars and a considerable quantity of ammunition.

The French had 40 men killed and 70 wounded. The “Kent” was so irreparably damaged that she was broken up later at Calcutta. Her casualties were 19 men killed and 49 wounded. The “Tygers” 13 killed and 50 wounded. The Salisbury” was not in action at all.

Admiral Pocock was wounded and Captain Speak of the “Kept” and his son were hit by the same cannon ball. The son eventually died and is buried in ST. Johns Churchyard, Calcutta, where his epitaph informs one that was 18 years of age and that he “lost his leg and his life” in the battle.


Fears must have been entertained after the Fleet had left Calcutta that an attempt would be made by the French Men-of-War to sail up the River, because in February 1758 a letter was sent to the President signed by the Master Attendant and several Pilots suggesting that the following measures should be taken to provent them from doing so.

(1) “That it is highly necessary the Buoy of the Fairway Broken Ground and Ingellee should be taken up also the Buoy of the South End of Burrabulla and lower do. of Cowcollea to be displaced the Large tree at Ingellee to be cutt down and the Pagoda to be blacked and one Sloop to lay at the Fairway and another at Ingellee the “Kent” (It seems she was not broken up immediately. R.K.H.B.) to be moored a little above Sermons Gardens (Here they are referring to

(1) Diary and Consultations.

Surnams Garden which was at Kidderpore near the mouth of Adiganga Creek at present known as Tollys Nullah, this point was the Southern extremity of the Settlement. Surnams Bridge corresponds to the present Kidderpore Bridge. R.K.H.B.) with the two Europe Ships and Sea Sloop laded with Stones and Mud in Readiness to Sink them if Required the Said Ships and Sloops to be Dismasted also a Chain Three Hundred Fathoms long to be prepared with Tarr and Pitch Barrells old Coire Cables and other Cobostables and a small Chain to secure them together also between Each Boat a Large Bundle of Dry Bamboes or raft of Do. to drive down on the Enemy In order to Set them on Fire and it is our humble Opinions that the above ought to be got in Readiness as soon as possible for in case of the Enemy Approaching it will be Impossible to get Workmen of any kind.”

Whether this recommendation was carried out or not is not recorded, but some modified scheme on these lines must have been adopted for the defence of the Port. What is recorded is the fact that from how onwards right through the Napoleonic ware there were several Pilot Sloops engaged on reconnaissance across the Head of the Bay of Bengal.


(1) “Colonel Clive informs the Select Committee that Admiral Pocock at his departure represented to him the necessity of having a dock in Bengal for the Reception of H.M.Ships in case the Squadron should winter here, and as he thinks the Expense of making such a Dock would be greatly overbalances by the Advantages resulting from having the Squadron refit at Bengal instead of Bombay, by which means they would have it in their Power to return much earlier to the Coast he hopes further the Committee will immediately order a Survey to be made of the Spot most proper to make a dock at and give

(1) Select Committee Consultation May 29th – June 5th, 1758.

Directions for its being begun and completed as soon as it possibly can be done. The Committee was in full agreement with this.”

“It was immediately ordered that Captain Brohier, the Mester and Deputy Master Attendant give us their opinion if a Dock can be expediously made, and the properest situation for such a Work and the Expense it would amount to”

On June 2nd, 1758, the Master Attendant gave his report the spot he chose was in the vicinity of Surnams Garden slightly above the present Kidderpore Dock. On June 5th orders were given by the Council for work to begin.


There was no knowing when Admiral Pocock might need to use and he obviously communicated with Colonel Clive on this matter and asking for local advice, a the following letter, written by the Pilots to Col. Clive shows.

“Agreeable to your Honours &ce. Orders signified to me by your Secretary the 10th inst. Have summoned the Deputy and Pilots now in Town in conjunction with myself and beg leave to acquaint your Honour &ce. Council that we look upon it there is no Risq of the Squadrons lying in Balasore Road any time in December and January.

We also give it our Opinion there is no Danger in going over the Braces with any ship that does not exceed 21 feet 9 inches at that time of the year.

But if Admiral Pocock should think the Risq too great in going over the Braces we can with greet safety carry the Squadron up the New Deeps to Ingellie by placing Sloops upon the Tail of the Western Sea Reef and so up the Channel at Proper Stations to the Fairway as Leading Marks and the only inconvenience attending this will be its taking up more time than in Standing over in the Proper Track. We are with the greatest Respect &ce. Alexander Scott. Peter Connor. Richard Dean. Archibald McLaughlin. Francis Snaker. John Cheworth.


Calcutta 11th September 1759.


The English and Dutch fought off Melancholy (Munikhali) Point in November, 1759. When the fleets met the Dutch Commander sent a letter of protest to the English Commander under a flag of truce in which he rote that the intention of the English was to hinder him from attaining his destination; that he thought himself within his rights to make what reprisals he could and that he had orders to prevent the three English East Indiamen from passing above the Dutch fleet.

The English Commander’s reply was that he was ordered to proceed to Calcutta with his ships and, should they be opposed, whoever, whoever were the aggressors “let them answer to God and their Country and to the consequences.”

The English ships in the action were the “Duke of Dorset” 499 tons, Captain Barnard Forrester. “Calcutta” n499 tons, Captain George Wilson and the “Hardwick” 499 tons, Captain John Samson. The following account of the action is from the log of the “Duke of Dorset”.

(1), “Monday 12th November, 1759. (at Kulpee)…. Orders came on board to prepare the ship for going up to Calcutta and that with the greatest Expedition on Apprehension the Dutch Intended to Commence Hostilities. Cleared the Gun Deck run out the Guns and loaded fore and aft…sailed hence the Honourable Company’s ship “Hardwick” up the River.

15th Nov. Anchored… just round Hughley Point. Saw the “Hardwick” and “Calcutta” at anchor at Fulta.

16th Nov… not being able to clear the Wilbrahm (Ulubaria) sand dropt the anchor to kedge off. Captain Forrester had advice from Mr. Scott Master Attendant who now has charge of the “Hardwick” that the Dutch had taken and plundered one of our pylot Sloops and the “Leopard” Snow and the “Clive” Sloop.

17th Nov. In the morning Weighed & Dropt up with the flood the Dutch ships weighed at the same time. AT noon the flood being spent

(1) Ship Logs 612. F & H

anchored again.. Capt. Forrester went on board the Commander where a Packett had just arrived for the Governor and Council with orders to make the best of our way to Calcutta &should the Dutch oppose our Passing & to that Purpose fire at us with Ball it is their positive orders to force our way sink, burn, or otherwise destroy them if in our Power all hands were called aft on board of each ship when the Captains acquainted the People the Encouragement the Honourable Company gave viz 2000 pounds to the People of each ship for Defending their Property and saving their ship the three Ships Companies are in great spirits we Understand ColClive has hoisted English Colours in Tanna Fort & that Garrison & one opposite to it is well supplied with men & ammunition being determined they shall not pass up without a strong Resistance…

18th Nov…Weighed & dropt up the River the Dutch Ships Weighed at the same time. At Noon anchored again the flood being done the Dutch Ships being now about 4 miles above us….

19th Nov. At 9 A.M. Mr. Scott Master Attendant came on board & relieved Mr. Sneager the Pylot who went on board the “Hardwick” at ½ pasts 9 weighed at the same time as the Dutch fleet and all dropt up with the flood at noon we had the pleasure to see two of the Dutch ships on shore and another a thwart one of their Hause.

At 1 P.M. anchored with the best bower the tide being done within a cable length of the Dutch fleet the Dutch ships that Tail on shore hove off again…

20th Nov…. this morning weighed & dropt up the River being all in high spirits & very ready for a stout Defence. AT 11 A. M. was in the center of the fleet our Commander & the “Hardwick” above the two sternmost Dutch ships at ½ past P. M. being through them all and the tide being almost spent Anchored off melancholy Point our Commander & the “Hardwick” Anchored abreast of the Dutch Commodore.

At 9 P. M. kedges with the Best Bower a little higher up as did the Commander & “Hardwick” & we are now all above the Dutch fleet and hope in God shall be able to keep our station.

21st Nov…. In the morning weight & dropt higher up as did the Dutch fleet. At 11 A. M. the “Hardwick” unfortunately Grounded on the sand of Sangrall by the timely assistance of the “Calcutta’s” Longboats with anchor and cable & a fine breeze springing up…she soon cleared & anchored in the Fairway Anchored about 1 P. M. as did the Dutch Fleet.

22nd Nov… In the evening weighed and dropt a little higher up & anchored again at 2 in the morning as did the Dutch fleet. In the morning we could plainly see the Dutch troops & Mallays marching with their cannon &filed pieces about two miles from the water edge the “Hardwick” being nearest them fired several guns at them…(There were seven Dutch ships in the fleet and they had transported to this positions no less than 700 European and 800 Malayan soldiers. R.K.H.B.)

23rd Nov…. Weighed in the morning & dropt up stern fore most up Tanas Reach. At Noon Anchored a little above Tannas Fort as did the “Calcutta” and “Hardwick”….. all the troops are in full march from Tannas to join Col. Fort he having got between the Party that Landed belonging to the Dutch & Chineery (Chisurah) Party.

Orders were received for our three Ships to fall down the River again & when near the Dutch fleet to demand with a Flag of Truce a Categorical answer to some Proposals…. IN the Evening Weighed & dropt down the River again as did the “Hardwick” and “Calcutta”… P.M. a Flag of Truce came from the Dutch Commodore begged to know the Reason for our falling down River again the answer was to this purport to demand restitution for sundry damages sustained by the English the answer returned by the Dutch Commander was that the Dutch would by no means submit to the proposal our Commodores orders were if they did not give satisfactory answer to fire into them accordingly every ship was prepared for engaging the “Duke of Dorset” to lead the Van the “Calcutta” in the center & “Hardwick” in the Rear. Capt. Chas. Mason of the late Horourable Companys Ship “Stretham” came on board & with him 10 of his People. Anchored at Night about three miles above the Dutch fleet.

24th Nov. In the meantime weighted according to signal & dropt down. At 9 we being very to the Headmost of the Dutch fleet which was the Commodore; Capt. Wilson hove out a union Jack at the Maintopmast head the signal for us to Engage.

Our Stern Chasers were the only Guns we could bring to bear. Notwithstanding the indifferent situation we were in to the enemy Instantly on the signal fired a General engagement ensued between our ships & the Dutch fleet but more closely with the Dutch Commodore… the whole Dutch fleet by help of springs on their Cables got their ships athwart the tide so brought their broadsides to bear on us being and on they racked us fore and aft those quartered all forward from the two after Guns plyed their small arms the second broadside they gave us Capt. Forrester was wounded.

Mr. Scoot Master Attendant cut the best bower cable and dropt the small Bower by which lucky circunstamance we brought our broadside to bear being now in the middle of their fleet we played on them as fast as we were able to Load & Fire as did the Dutch upon us which was pretty galling on both sides but with the most success on ours for after a smart fire of 2 hours with double round and Grape shot the Dutch Commodore struck his broad Pendant and hoisted a Flag of Truce at their Mizen Peak when we ceased fireing at him but continued engaging the other Ships which on 10 minutes close fire all struck.

Proper Officers were sent on board to secure their magazines spike their cannon, & divide their Prisons on board our three ships two of them were near the shore but by the order & timely assistance of Mr. Scott they were hauled off that flood into the Stream the killed and wounded on board of us is very inconsiderable to that of the enemy.

Captain Forrester was wounded in the knee by a grape shot in the steerage the second broadside when Bravely animating his People to load Brisk and take good aim 6 men more received wounds but not dangerous our ship appears like a wreck…the Crew behaved with great Bravery &n Resolution little or no Damage was received by the other English ships they being bearly within Gun shot.

N.B. the surgeons of the other ships were sent for to assist in dressing Capt. Forrester’s wounds.

25th Nov…. sent on hundred Prisoners to Calcutta… the Commander-in-Chief of the Dutch fleet Monsieur sydland is gone to Calcutta on Parole.

27th Nov… Capt. Forrester had but an Indifferent night. In the morning he was much better the surgeons of the fleet assembled & were so happy to extract the Ball. It proved to be Grape shot weighing about 4 or 5 ounces.

Mr. Thompson senior Master Attendant came on board to take charge of our ships as Pylot.

Saturday 2nd February, 1760…. this morning the most aminent surgeons & Physitions of Calcutta assembled at Capt. Forrester’s House they acquainted him the necessity there was of taking off his leg other sinues having appeared Representing the Danger that might ensue in a few days he gave his consent when Doctor Tennant performed the amputation with great applause from the faculty present. Capt. Forrester bore the pain with surprising resolution.

In the Evening he was as well as a Person in his Melancholy situation could be.

(He died on the 2nd March, 1760.)


(1) Although Calcutta had been recaptured and the Moghuls forces under the Nobob of Bengal, Behar and Orissa had been defeated and completely routed at Plassey, and the French power in Bengal destroyed by the capture Chandernagore, the situation still continued to be critical.

(1) Calcutta Light Gorse. (History of)

Published by Gale & Polden Ltd., Aldershot 1957.

The French were besieging Madras fiercely while to the Northward, a powerful French force held Important town of Masulipatam and the surrounding country. To relive pressure in the Madras area, Clive sent the greater part of his available force (which it will be remembered, originally came from the British forces in Madras) to the Northern Circars, with his best officer, Major Francis Forde, who had recently entered the Company’s service from the King’s Army. Forde defeated the French at Condore, and then performed the remarkable feat of taking Masulipatam by storm although the garrison was considerably larger than his own force.

When it became known that the Dutch, with seven ships carrying 700 European and 800 Malayan soldiers, had arrived in the Hooghly, Clive sent his few remaining troops, less than 300 of the Bengal European Regiment, who were joined by a small body of volunteers and a sepoy battalion, to meet this threat, leaving Calcutta to be held by the Milita.

The Milita had, after the recapture of Calcutta, been reorganized and placed under Mr. Holwell, an officer in the previous Militia who was among the few survivors of the Black Hole.

(1) The Volunteers who accompanied the force sent by Clive included a small mounted troop, probably less than fifty in number. These known as the Calcutta volunteer Cavalry, were the first Volunteer mounted men in the British connection with India, and it is from this Troop that the Calcutta Light Horse claimed decent.

Forde had providently returned from the Carnatic and, though in very poor health, took command of the striking force. With him were some troops of the Nawab who, after conniving at the arrival of the Dutch, joined Clive, at least nominally, in opposing them. These troops were of little value, although they included 150 cavalry.

(1) (For 14 years I had the honour to be a Trooper in the Calcutta Light Horse, as were several other Pilots, this in addition to our Pilotage Dutch which came firsts.

I was in No. 1 Troop, Horsed Squadron. R.K.H. Brice.)

Clive, action with his usual enery, sent the three English ships then in the River to attack the seven Dutch ships, and authorized Forde to fight the Dutch though Holland was at peace with England. Fortunately, the Dutch committed the first hostilities, seizing an English ship (Pilot Sloop) and destroying the Company’s property.

Forde, with equal promptitude, intercepted the second Dutch force, consisting of 120 Furopeans and 300 Sepoys, with four guns, which the authorities at Chinsurah, the Dutch settlement, had dispatched to join the invading troops. Here again the Dutch began hostilities by attacking Forde’s men, who reuted them, took their guns, and chased them aback to Chinsurah.

Forde then heard that the newly landed Dutch were advancing, and obtaining Clive’s consent to fight them immediately, met them in a prepared position. He had only 240 European infantry, with 80 artillerymen, 800 Sepoys, and his small force of Volunteers, of whom probably more than were mounted.

The Dutch had by then landed 700 Europeans and 800 Malayans, with a considerable number of Sepoys, newly enlisted by the Dutch in India. They had, neither guins nor cavalry, (This conflicts with the statement in the “Duke of Dorset’s” Log entry for November 22nd, which stated that they could plainly see the marching troops with their cannon and filed pieces. Perhaps they began by dragging some borrowed artillery from the ships which they abandoned later, due to the heavy going through jungle. R.K.H.B.) and, advancing across an open plain under the fire of the English guns and small arms, were finally halted by an unexpected ravine, in front of the English position. Their discomfiture was completed by a charge of the Volunteer Cavalry. Terrified by the sight of the dashing horsemen, the Dutch broke and fled, and practically the whole force was destroyed – killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The 15o cavalrymen of the Nawab took no part in the action, but joined in cutting down the flying men who had thrown away their arms. The charge of the Volunteer Cavalry on the 25th November, 1759, was certainly a glorious beginning for the history of the Mounted Volunteers of India.

Described by Clive in his dispatches as “short bloody and decisive,” the action lasted no more than half an hour. Kleek de Reuss, in his ‘De Expeditie naar Bengal’, secks to excuse the ineffective showing of the Malay troops by stating that they were “armed with the old plug-bayonets which had been disused in Europe for some sixty years,” The truth would appear to be that Clive obtained complete tactical surprise by finding cavalry at short notice.

As events proved, this single engagement at Bederrah, broke the invasion and destroyed for all time Dutch hopes of succeeding France as Britain’s rival in India.

Note. Colonel Forde was lost at sea off the cape in December, 1769, when the ship he was in disappeared, and was never heard of again.


From the earliest days of the Company’s inception it was only concerned with trade, and all the Members were Merchants; these even included Factors, later Agents, Presidents of Councils, and the First Company’s Governors.

Not only did they carry out their Company’s business but were, within limits, allowed to trade in their own right to augment their incomes.

In 1675 the Board of Directors in London reorganized their overseas staff and their pay. Apprentices were to receive, during their seven year apprenticeship, £5 per annum for the first five years and £10 per annum for the last two. They were then promoted to Writers and after a year’s service in the higher grade were promoted to Factors on £20 per annum.

The next grade was that of Merchant commanding a salary of £40, rising to Senior Merchant at £50 per annum. The Governor and two Senior Members of Council, who headed the local Directors Board enjoyed special emoluments of £300, £100 and £70 respectively, but in the case of the first, only £200 was salary, the remainder being gratuity. These rates prevailed for many years with little modification.

By 1760, as a result of Clive’s victories and expanding trade, the Company found itself for the first time officially administering Indian Territory which had been thrust upon them against their will. Hence, by force of circumstances, they were compelled to appoint Administrators, who, at the beginning, still relied on trade for their living, but in about 1770, for the first time the Company appointed to their expanding empire, Collectors, Magistrates, Government Secretary, and even Judges who were paid a fixed salary, making them quite independent of Trade. It can therefore be assumed that the Civil Service as we know it began then, some 100 years after the Pilot Service. The Pilot Service has always claimed to be the oldest ‘Service’ in India.


At a Consultation held at Fort William on January 12th, 1763: Peter Amyatt Esq., President, informed the Board (1)… “that the Chowky Boat arrived at Town last night at 12 o’clock with William Mirtle on Board late Mate of the “Speedwell” Snow, Captain Ramsay, who brings the following intelligence Namely, that they were taken on the 7th Instant in 25 fathoms of water by a French Squadron consisting of two Ships & Frigate which is cruising in Balasore & has made besides the following Prizes Vizt. The “Walpole”, bound to Madras, the “Grampus” Pilot Sloop, Mr. Savage Pilot, & a Sloop from Chittagong supposed to be the “Clive”. That he (Mirtle) on the morning of the 9th repossessed himself of the “Speedwell” & was pushing in for the River, but finding he was in danger of being again taken by the French Frigate he took to his Boat with ten Lascars and made his escape.”

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

In the debate which followed it was decided that the East Indiamen “Clinton”, “Harding”, and “Drake” should remain at Kedgeree as they might be delayed I they were sailed up to Kulpee, but that Pilots should be sent aboard of them with instructions to sail up he River if the Enemy attacked, and that twenty sepoys should be detailed to each Ship as a further safeguard.

It was also decided to send a Sloop to cruise off Pt. Palmyras to warn in warn bound ships, and that Captain Wedderburn in another sloop well armed and manned should (1)…”watch the Motions of the French Squadron & annoy any Boats or Sloops they may send into the River that if he should see the Capital Ships they or any Part of them making towards the River, to return & give Notice thereof to the Ships at Kedgeree & to keep an open Communication on with the Commanders of them for giving and receiving and receiving Intelligence.

That if he should have occasion to perform the last mentioned Service, to lift the buoys at Cockerley in his way, and take any other steps which may occur to him to deceive and obstruct the Enemy in their Passage up.”

On January 20th, 1763 the Board was informed by Capt. Nathaniel Smoth at kedgeree that the French frigate and Sloop had been in Balasore Roads three days before and had captured three Burrs loaded with rice. He thought the distress the French were in for want of food would induce their Commanders to risk sailing their ships up to Ingelee and he asked for permission in that event to attack them, as he considered his ship, with the assistance of men from the other vessels, a match for the “Fidele”.

The only event of importance during the French Squadron’s visit to Balasore was a fight with the East Indiaman “Winchelsea” which escaped after an engagement lasting for two hours. Commenting on this engagement the Directors wrote

(2) “It is with real pleasure we have received from the President

(1) Ibid.

(2) From the Rev. J.Long’s Selections from Records of the Government of India 1748-1769.

(Courts letter, Dec.30th per.30)

and Council at Fort St. George an account of the gallant defence of Captain Thomas Howe of the “Winchelsea” in an engagement with two French Ships of War in January last off Hooghly River. His behaviour on this occasion having fully shown how worthy he is of the good opinion we have always entertained of him.”

The French Squadron had sailed by February 3rd, 1763, as the Captains of the East Indiamen were allowed to return to Calcutta. Before sailing Captain Palliere of the “Vengeur” and Captain Bellesme of the “Conde” sent ashore officers and men of the ships they had captured who were sick. With Captain Bellesme’s prisoners went the following courtecus letter to the President.

(1) “Sir, I embrace this Opportunity with pleasure to send you 29 Prisoners, Officers, Soldiers & Sailors being part of those who were upon the “Walpole” which ship we took off the Island of Ceylone, the Remainder are no board our Man of War the “Vengeur” & our Frigate “Fidelle”, I do not know if I shall join them again, therefore will not assure you if so favourable an Opportunity will offer again to Convey them to you. I wish it & if I can contribute any Assistance to their Liberty I will with the greatest pleasure. O made the Gentlemen Both the Officers in the Land & Sea Service sign an Obligation a Copy of which I send you. I hope also Sir that you will provide the same of Soldiers & Sailors as I send you, when an exchange shall happen. WE regarding them always as our Prisoners & sending them only to save them from almost certain Death the better half being very bad with the Scurvy. Accompanying I also send you an Account of those who have died since they have been on board this Ship.

I am with Respect


Your Most obedient & humble Servant

Gront De Bellesme.”

Ship “Conde”

At the Mouth of the Ganges the 20th January, 1763.

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.


To the Right Hon. Robert Lord Clive, President &ce, and Council:

The Lascars in our Marine Service are greatly injured from the bad behaviour of the Syrangs of which I have lately seen Instances, the wages they are allowed are as much or rather more than any private Merchant pays out of this Port but from the Villainy of the Syrangs and from bad Practice I find a few of the number on Board receive a small advance, other again short of their wages but the Major part not above half by which means they gett a set of Helpless Wretches unfit for Service and indeed are often Cooleys Picked up in the Streets and either forced or inticed a Board, by which they people taking the first opportunity of deserting and 1½ Sicca Rupees per month for their provisions for which there is only allowed them Coarse Dry Rice, without either Doll or Ghee as is costmary or any equivalient in their room (stead) These are real hardships and is the occasion of our Marine being worse served than any other vessels to prevent which I beg leave to recommend that the pay of the Merchant Service and allow them the same Provisions, by which means those who have no abodes will be sure of having provisions they labour under from the Syrangs and then have no excuse for absenting themselves from their Duty.

The amount Charge of their provisions will not exceed the difference of the Wages, between what is paid in the Merchant Service and what is now allowed by the Honourable Company and for which I make no doubt many Persons in the Settlement would Contract for, or probably less.

Page Keble

Fort William, Master Attendant.

16th June, 1766.

At this time 1765-66 there were 21 Pilot Vessels in the Service, of which 7 were over 13 years of age, and 4 over 10 years old, the remainder less. The minimum number considered absolutely necessary to run the Pilots Service was 10.


The following letter from Capt. Henry Wedderburn, Master Attendant to William Aldersey, Esq., President & Council &ce.was written from the Marine Office, Calcutta on the 20th June, 1772, and gives his views and suggestions for the best use of the Pilot Vessels, under the changed conditions on the River.

(1) “I take the liberty to lay before your Honour the present state of the Vessels that are employed in the Pilot Service by which you’ll be pleased to observe that no less than two of them are sent on voyages, and one to attend Mr. Reed. The increase of the Navigation of this River for some years past requires all the Sloops that are belonging to the Pilot Service to be employed for that Service only.

When they are on other services I have it not in my power to Supply the Roads, with a sufficient number of Sloop, more particularly in the months of May and June, when all of them receive their repairs and are cleaned for the Season. One is generally repaired in February to be sufficient as few or No ships arrive until the month of June when the Europe and other Ships are Expected.

This Season there were some days that No Sloops were in the Roads; the “Grampus” was sent down for that purpose but the Pilot falling sick went into Ingelee creek and lay there several days when I imagined she was in the Roads. The Pilot died and the Master of her instead of proceeding into the Roads came up to Town with the Sloop so that the Roads were deserted for that time until I could get another ready to supply her place.

(1) Fort William Public Consultations.

The taking of Pilot Sloops to carry down the Bales for the homeward bound ships late in the Season when the South West Winds blow hard and the Sloops are generally torn to pirces alongside of the Ships which effectually distresses the Plot Service by being obliged to gave them tedious and expensive repairs. I should therefore be glad if another method could be found to load the latter Ships, which can only be done by getting some person to contract to supply sloops to load and unload the Hon’ble Companys Ships for the Season. This I would with pleasure undertake.

The employing of Pilot Sloops as Yachts for the accommodation of gentlemen going up and down the River is another hardship I labour under in the execution of my Duty, were I allowed two Yachts as usual it would remove these evils in a great measure. I would in that event engage that the Roads would be constantly supplied with a proper number of Sloops, and there would be no reason for Complaints, the property of the Merchants would be les liable to risqué and the Service be carried on with ease and satisfaction to everybody.

Another proposal I have to lay before the Honourable Board, is the many proofs I have of the Pilots in going down the River loitering away their time when out of sight, even when the Europe Ships are expected and the most pressing call for them in the Roads; they remain in Ingellee Creek undisturbed for days together when Ships service to be stationed in Ingellee Creek with orders to the Captain to permit none of the Sloops to Remain there longer than 24 hours to receive provisions and firewood which I could always have ready for them by the time they arrive in the Creek, this would help greatly to having the Roads well supplied with Pilots and as I am well convinced that every step than can be thought of for the benefit of the Navigation of this River will be favourable accepted by the Honourable Board has induced me to make this proposal and hope they will be pleased to take it into consideration and furnish me with their orders accordingly.”

The Board’s reply was dated 2nd July, 1772, and was as follows:-

“Ordered that the Secretary do inform the Master Attendant that we deem the present number of Pilot Sloop to be fully sufficient if properly regulated – that we approve the purpose for stationing an armed Schooner in Ingellee Creek and direct it may be put into execution immediately – with respect to the Companys Sloops carrying Goods down to the Europe Ships the Board remarks it is only done in Case of Emergency, and at such times they must perform this Duty.”

The remarkable thing about these letters is that this was the firsts time that an attempt had been made to use the Pilot Sloops purely as Pilots Vessels, on Pilot age Station. Though on this occasion the Board did not entirely agree, it was not long before they did, for of January the 18th, 1773, the Board decided that “Five Schooners and Four Establishment for the Pilots Service….. the “Minerva” and “Amazon” (Two armed Snows) to be considered as Pilot Vessels, immediately under the Master Attendant, and be employed during the Season when most of the Shipping was expected and when the smaller vessels cannot with safety go into the Road, due to bad weather, but kept in a condition for any longer service.”

The vessels selected for the sole use of the Pilot Service were “Minerva”. “Amazon”, “Harland”, “Phoenix”, “Russell”, “Triton” and “Diligent” Schooners: “Seahore”, “Grampus”, Bonnetta” and “Commett’ Sloops. (The lasts two should be spelt “Bonetto” & Comet”)


The first quarantine regulations for the Port of Calcutta came into being on the 9th June, 1773, as a result of the Council asking the Master Attendant for advice on such, as Plague had broken out is Bussorah, Persia.

The regulations were divided in to ten parts as follows:-

“1st . An armed vessel is stationed in Balasore Roads with orders to make up to and hail every vessel that arrives at the greatest practicable distance, and to question her without any other communication touching her voyage and the last Port she came from, if there is sufficient conviction of her not coming from the Gulph of Persia she is to be allowed to take her Pilot on board, and proceed as usual.

2nd. If it is found that she comes from the Gulph the Master is then to be requested to produce a Bill of Health if he has it and at any rate to be enjoined in the strictest manner to declare the true state of the health of his crew.

3rd. If from his answers or evasions there is ground to believe that he has the Plague on board immediate advice is to be sent by Express to the Govenor, and until his Order arrive in return, the vessel is to be kept in the Roads with the strictest watch over her. In the meantime the Master of the Armed vessel or Pilot Sloop will be required to furnish her in the Manner hereafter prescribed with such Necessaries as she may be in immediate Want of and such as these vessels can spare.

4th. If from the Bill of Health or the declaration of the Captain there is reason to believe that the Distemper has not shewed itself in the Ship then the Master of the Armed Vessel is to take down in writing the Particulars of what he has learned and dispatch them to the Presidency directly to the Govenor, in the meantime (till orders can arrive from Calcutta) the Vessel will be detained in the Roads as in the former case, and will be furnished with such supplies as can be provided, but no boat or person whatever is to be permitted to go on board or any person to be suffered to quit the Ship.

5th. The manner of supplying these vessels with Necessaries in Balasore Roads is as follows. They are after first washing their boat well to veer astern by a rope, the People of the other vessel are to approach to windward and to put in whatever stores or Necessaries they have to supply them with, the boat will then be Hauled on board again.

6th. On the return of the Advices from the President as mentioned in the 4th Article, and an order being received for what Purpose, she will be sent to the Island of Chedube on the Coast of Aracan, and there perform Quarantine; a Guar Vessel will attend her to prevent any communication with the Shore or any of the Lascars from quitting the Ship.

7th. The Vessel must remain there for 40 days and during that time she will be supplied with every kind of Necessary and Refreshment, the People will be sent on shore, particular Directions will be given for their Treatment and Management of the Vessel and Cargo during the Quarantine and proper assistance will be furnished in carrying the Directions into execution.

8th. If on the Expiration of the 40 days no sympton of Infection appears, the Vessel will then be released, but all the Letters on board Publick or Private must be delievered over to a person who will be appointed to receive them and they will be fumigated with Brimstone and dipped in Vinegar before they are dispatched to their address.

9th. The Pilots are instructed to act in Conformity to these Regulations when they happen to fall in with a Ship before the Armed Vessel shall have met with her.

10th. It is also ordered to be observed as a Rule that every Bill of Health, Bill of Leading, or any Paper or Document offered to be produced by any Captain on first hailing him in Proof of the Nature of his Voyage or the Mate of his Ship be fastened on a Board open so as to be read if possible, and lowered down into the Sea, and then veered away until it is within Reach of the Vessel who is to receive it, it must not then be touched by hand but be received on the end of a Pole or Pair of Tengs or Pincers or any other Contrivance both Board and Paper well fumigated with Brimstone and dipped in Vinegar; after the Paper is read it must be returned in the same manner without having over been touched by Hand.”

The same Regulations were to apply to Chittagong also the French, Dutch and Danish Presidents & Councils agreed to the same Regulations.


On the 2nd December, 1773, the Master Attendant reported to the Board that the Dutch buoys in the River were too small and that their moorings were not strong enough as they were always breaking adrift. He said that a cylindrical buoy was the best type and sent in the following “Estimate of the Charges of building a New Buoy.”

“To Coopers work making a buoy.”

Iron work, Hoops Etc……….. Rs. 648. 0. 0

6 cwt 2 qrs 0 lbs @ Rs6. 10. 3. p.cwt 43. 2. 6

One Anchor of 29 cwt 2 qrs 12 lbs

@ Rs13.11.9 per cwt 406. 10. 3

Mooring chain of 8 cwt 1 qrs 10 lbs.

@ Rs18.13.0 per cwt. 155. 9. 6

Chalk. 1 qr @ 2. 0

Pitch ½ Barrell 7. 8. 0

China Dammer. 2 Maunds @ 9 Rs per maund 18. 0 0

Oil 2 @ Rs 10 – 8 21. 0 0

Cheenaum (Lime) @ Rs 1 – 4 2. 8 0

Brimstone. 3. 2. 0

Nails. 10 maunds 2. 14. 6

Tar. 10 @ Rs 8.13.6 a Barrell 11. 9

Cotton. 10 4. 0. 0

Oakum. 20 2. 4. 0

Fire wood. 10 “ 2. 1. 6

Reeds. 50 bundles 2. 11. 3

Dungaree piece. 1. 6. 0

Tin plate 100 10. 14. 0

Cutchery poot. 8. 0

Painter work 8. 0

Cooley hire 5. 0. 0

Current Rupees. 1338. 9. 9

Date Marine Office

29th November, 1773 Signed. H. Wedderburn

Master Attendant.

(Note. A maund is 40 lbs.)


As has been shown, the East India Company began with very small trading posts, precariously balanced on the very edge of the vast sub-continent of India, had by the vagaries of destiny, become by the year 1773 the unwilling rulers of vast domains.

All the Company’s servants in India were merchants engaged in trade, and with few exception were not qualified for the position of Administrators, and the new heavy responsibilities was having an adverse effect on their business. This situation had been foreseen by several of their senior members some time before and they (Clive and Hastings in particular) had suggested to the British Government that they should take over the Administrative responsibilities from the Company, leaving them free to get on with the task of making a commercial profit, which is what they were there for.

Parliament in London passed the ‘Regulating Act’ in 1773 which established the control of Parliament over Honourable Eat India Company, and Government appointed Warren Hastings as the first Govenor General of Bengal. It was on the 2nd of February, 1772, that he sailed from Madras for Calcutta in the Pilot Vessel “Minerva”. HE had under him a Council consisting of four Members who were, General Clavering, Messrs. George Monson, Philip Francis and Richard Barwell.

The Bengal Government had the power to control the other Presidencies in regard to war with the India Princes, and European powers who were at war with us. A Supreme Court of Justice was established in Calcutta, with a Chief Justice and three Judges, besides which other Administrative Officers were appointed, mainly as Revenue Collectors at first, and later extended to Magistrates, and it was this fine body of men who were the pioneers of the renowned Indian Civil Service, which brought a stable civil Government to India for the first time.

The Pilot Service was unchanged by these events, except that from this time henceforth they prospered with the ever increasing shipping using the River, and also from the fact that the Governor General took a great interest in the Service, no doubt due to some favourable impression gained during his voyage up from Madras to Calcutta.

WAR WITH PRANCE 1778 – 1783.

France, encouraged by the victory of the American Colonists at Saratoga, and to avenge her defeat in the “Seven Years War” declared war on Britain in 1778. Peace was signed in Paris in 1783, leaving the French even weaker in India than they were before.

During the 1778 – 1783 war only two incidents of any interest took place. In July 1778 the British captured the Ship “Margaretta” and Snows “Le Vincent” and “Aimable” and the Pilot Vessel “L’Orient” at the mouth of the River and in January 1783 the East Indiaman “Hawke” escaped from the French Battleships at the Sandheads.

Soon after the capture of the “L’Orient” the following letter singed by Puget, Chief French Pilot, Cheneaux 2nd Pilot and J.Lo. Roy Pilot was received by the President.

(1) “Sir, Permit me to claim your Humanity in Favour of the Unhappy French Pilots of the Ganges. We are actually suffering in Prison and have been ever since the Capture of the Kings Pilot Boat “L’Orient” which I commanded as Chief Pilot of the nation; almost all of us established at Chandernagore we ask the Permission of you Sir to return to our families and to live there on our Parole of Honour as you have been pleased to permit the other Inhabitants of that Colony, taken without Defence as they, we think we have the same rights to your Kindness. Our Families will be the Securities for our Conduct and we shall be all our Lives with as much respect as Gratitude” etc.

The French Pilots were released and a year later sent another letter to the President informing him that owing to the oath they had taken not to leave Chandernagore they were unable to earn their living and asking to be allowed to Pilot neutral ships; tale charge

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

of cargo boats on the River, or be granted an allowance sufficient to live on.

After the receipt of this letter the Master Attendant was ordered to employ them as Master in the pilot Service, but they were not to be promoted to a higher rank. Some months later the Master Attendant informed the Board that although they were receiving the pay of their grade they were not doing any work.

On January 27th, 1733, the Govenor General informed the Marine Board that (1) “Lieutenant Leigh and some other Gentlemen just arrived in Town have informed him that they came in the “Hawke” Indiaman which was chased into the Roads by a French Line of Battle Ship and a Frigate, that she ran into the Flatts into shallow water, to avoid them, and is now at anchor in 17 fest of water near the Island of Coja Deep where two boats full of People have left her, the Captain is determined in case the Enemy should follow him to run the Ship shore and so disable her as to render her useless to them.

The Frigate has disappeared but the Line of Battle Ship was still standing towards the “Hawke” at the Distance of about 8 miles. He believes that a Design was formed to board her as some Armed boats which when they approached the Ship perceiving them prepared to defend themselves retired again.”

The Matine Board ordered that the Company’s ships in charge of Pilots should go to the rescue of the “Hawke”, and also that a detachment of Fifty European soldiers and a company of “Golandas” should be sent to her. Before these orders could be carried out the French battleship, finding it impossible to get close enough to the “Hawke” to attack her, sailed away, and she arrives safely in the River.


The following petition was sent by the Pilots to the Governor

(1) Bengal Public consultations.

General and Council on the 21st February, 1780.

“Shewith that your petitioners from Motives of Duty and gfatitude thinking it incumbent on them to disclose whatever may in their Humble Apprehension tend to the Utility or Advantage of the Honourable Company beg leave to represent that for some years past there has been a set of Black Serangs who were originally brought up in your Marine Service on board the Pilot Sloops by which means they have acquired a knowledge of the River, it is usual as soon as they find they are capable of navigating vessels up and down, for them to quit your Service and turn pilots themselves and carry down upon an average as your petitioners compute at least one hundred vessels of different Burthen per annum. (The so called vessels those Indian Serangs were piloting, were of course, small Country boats drawing about two feet of water, currying general cargoes, from village to village, they were not sea going vessels as we know hem R.K.H.B.)

That in consequence of this obligation your Petitioners constantly and regularly attend their Duty in navigating all Ships and Vessels into and out of the River of Hughley and are always employed by Ships coming in, and likewise by those going out when the weather happens to be variable or stormy.

That the Black Serangs and others who have deserted from the Pilots Sloops carrying down a great number of ships and vessels, your Petitioners humbly apprehend they are much injured and deprived of what they conceive they have a right to, by their appointment in the Honourable Company’s Pilot Service. It frequently happens when your Petitioners are attending in Order to give their assistance to outward bound ships that a Serang or other deserter is called and employed as a Pilot and if a Storm or any other great appearance of danger happens then your Petitioners assistance is demanded, as it known they dare not refuse, by which means they are frequently exposed to imminent Danger and they and their families suffer great hardships by being deprived of all the advantages your Honours intended them.

That your Petitioners humbly apprehend exclusive of the above Considerations if the increase of the Serangs is not put under some Restraint it may by productive of great Inconveniency to the Settlement as the Young Officers in the Marine Service are thereby prevented from making themselves Masters of the River and Acquiring Skill by Experience after the Honourable Company has been at Great Expense in order to their being qualified for the Duty and Office of a Pilot, and as these but of a small draft of Water, they are the most proper that can be for the Young officers to initiate themselves, in the less intricate and Difficult parts of their Proffession.

Your Petitioners are credibly informed that there are a great number of Snows and other Small rafts consigned for Mr. David Knox and other Gentlemen annually carried down the River by persons not in the Service of the Company.

That it is the Practice at other Ports for those who chuse to trust their ship without pilots to pay the Established fees due to Pilots.

That your Petitioners cannot avoid being of the opinion, that Little strese ought to be laid on the fidelity of those People who have assumed to themselves the Authority of Pilots and that they would equally serve an enemy or a friend for a small Compensation beyond what is usually paid them.

Your Petitioners humbly hope for such relief as your Honors shall judge reasonable, and further beg leave to observe that a Private Signal may be agreed on by Ships and Vessels when in sight of the Pilot Schooners and Sloops to prevent any approach of the enemy.

Signed. Hugh Castlemain,

Senior Branch Pilot.

and pilots.

A Committee appointed by the Board reported as follows on the foregoing Pilots petition.

(1) May 29th, 1780. “We have maturely considered a Petition laid before us by Captain John Sampson from the Pilot of Bengal to the Govenor General and Council and are of opinion that some of the grievances herein set forth should be remedied the letter to regulate and secure the navigation of this River.

We think that no Blackman or others not properly belonging to or being a part of the Crew should be suffered (under a penalty of Five hundred current rupees) to take charge of any Ship or Vessel in the River unless he has previously passed an examination for such office before the Master Attendant or his Deputy, and three Branch Pilots, and this we judge they ought to be compelled to before they are allowed to take charge or Pilot, no such liberty being granted to any person in the River Thames until they have proved their skill before a Committee of Board for that purpose from the Trinity House.

WE are clearly and unanimously of opinion that the Petty Officers and foremast man in the Pilots Service who have been taught the first rudiments of there art can only gain that experience which is necessary for them to have before they are entrusted with the charge of capital ships in this River by conducting the small Craft up and down.

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

We therefore think for the encouragement of and forming good Branch pilots that those Black Serangs or others after they have passed as above should not be allowed to take charge of any vessel which Burdens one hundred Tons and more unless the owner or Master of her had applied ineffectually for a pilot from the master Attendant or his Deputy.

We know of no such rule at any Port for Merchants to be obliged to pay Pilot age when they risk their ships without Pilots, and we consider Owners and Masters of Ships in this river to be already very effectually prevented from such a practice by being in case of loss subject to a prosecution from freighters or respondentia senders. Yet to prevent a measure of this kind from being risked, we are of opinion that a tax of Rs.50 on all vessels burdening from 50 to 150 Tons and 100 rupees on all that exceeds that tonnage going up or down this River without Pilots being Levied towards defraying the expenses of Buoying the river up, would have a good effect.

Signals to show the pilots on approaching Balas ore Roads cannot we judge have any good tendency. They might probably serve to make the pilots less wary than they at present are. In war time when they have no signal to expect they must necessarily be on their guards.”

Signed. Curd Bert Thronhill.

Master Attendant.

No action seems to have been taken until 1789 when it was ordered that any person not belonging to the pilot services, who should act as a Pilot o the river should pay in to the Master Attendants office one third of the sum he received as pilot age for the use of the company’s buoys. Country vessels (called Doyens) of between 1000 and 4000 pounds, (A pound is 40 lbs.) which were usually piloted by Native pilots, were ordered to pay pilot age at the rate of one sicea rupee for every 100 pounds of their burthen with a minimum charge of Rs.10 and a maximum of Rs.40.


In February, 1793, Republican France declared war on England. This great war lasted for 21 years, with the exception of a short lull from March, 1803, and while Napoleon was in Elba.

The French navy was a powerful one. The ships they built at the end of the 18th Century were in many ways better designed than their opposite numbers in the Royal Navy, but the British officers and men were far superior both in character and ability, their seamanship, then as now, second to none, so France was finally defeated at sea.

With direct reference to India Napoleon said, “Had I been master of the sea, I should have been Lord also of the orient.”

Though the French Military power in India had already been broken, they were still powerful at sea, and their Warships and Privateers remained as a serious menace to British trade.

There were no naval engagements in the Hooghly River, but many took place in Ban galore Roads and the Sand heads at the mouth of the River, which directly involved the Bengal Pilot Service.

As has been shown the Royal Navy were Late in coming out in to Eastern waters, and their numbers were few. France, realizing this, had sent cut a considerable number of first line warships with the deliberate intention of crippling cur trade and Military supply lines.

The French navy, based on Pondicherry and later on Mauritius, known then as the Isle of France, berried the English East Indiamen and ‘Country’ vessels throughout the war. All the honorable company’s ships were armed and actions between them and the French raiders were frequent, particularly at and near the Sand heads where the trade routes to Calcutta converged.

Generally the French were victorious in these actions, as their vessels were regular naval ships fully armed and manned for war, while the Fast Indiamen, were first and foremost merchant vessels and armed primarily for defense.

The British captured the French Pilot Vessel “Chandernagore” of 85 tons in 1793, while a Dutch Pilot sloop, subsequently handed over to the services as the second “Mermaid”, was pinned down at Chins rah in 1796. In contrast to these small gains, the following British Pilot vessels were captured or sunk by the French, “Gillett” 140 tons, in 1795; “Russell”, 110 tons in 1796; “Cartier”170 tons in 1796; “Cornwallis” 170 tons, in 1796; “Harrington” 150 tons, in 1797; “Hay”, 150 tons, in 1797; and the “ Trial” 160 tons, in 1797.

The Lose of these little ships, together with the far more serious financial lose involves by the capture of several Indiamen, induced the British to maintain a patrol at the Sand heads for the safety of their shipping, and East Indiamen sailing up from the Southward would often encounter a Company’s cruiser or one of his Majesty’s frigates, as well as the Pilot vessel, on arrival at the mouth of the Hooghly.

Pilot Vessels were given the strictest orders to skirt the edges of the shoals while cruising at the sand heads, to another at night in shallow water, always to keep to windward of a strange sail, and never to use their own boats to supply inward bound ships with pilots. Special flag signals, varying from month to month, were used to distinguish friendly ships, and great precautions were taken in every possible way to avoid surprise and capture by French Privateers.

What was described as “An act of daring piracy” by the

(1) Calcutta Gazette occurred on October 29th, 1795. Nine French prisoners on parole accompanied by an English woman and child hired

(2) Selections from Calcutta Gazettes: by W.S.Seton-Karr.

A budge row at Calcutta under the pretence of going shooting. They first went to Serampore where they took aboard their luggage, then ordered the boatmen to take them down River.

Arrived at Kedgeree they saw the Pilot Schooner “Gillett” at anchor and approached her. “As the Budge row neared the Pilot Vessel, Mr. Should man observed a man and woman, both very well dressed, seated in chairs on the top of the Budge row; the woman had a young child at the time in her arms; when they were within hail, they enquired for any one of the name of Benjamin Jones. Mr. Should man replies that there was no such person.

The Budge row then came alongside, when a rope was given, and the Pilot expecting the lady would come on board ordered the red ropes to be3 put over the side. The man on the Budge row asked many frivolous questions about his pretended brother, and a conversation was held for several minutes.

The Captain, on walking from the gangway up the deck, heard a signal being given, and in an instant nine Europeans rushed from the budge row up the sides with cut lasses and pistols in their hands, and confined all the Europeans belonging to the Schooner in the cabin under threats of immediate death.

Orders were then given by the Frenchmen for getting under weigh, and the Budge row was sent back. After they had made repeated enquiries for charts and quadrant, and finding none were on board, they seemed to hesitate as to what should next be done.

Soon after this they called a tow boat which they had alongside, and ordered all the Europeans belonging to the “Gillett” on board it, except Mr. Watson, the master, who was detained to pilot them out.

About three o’clock in the afternoon Mr. Should man and the others left the Schooner, and at ten at night overtook the Budge row which they boarded, and proceeded in her to town, they arrived on Saturday morning”.

On November 20th the Governor General in Council was informed by the Marine Board that a Court of Enquiry had been held on Mr. Schoolman and that it was thought (1) “Proper to censure him for having suffered himself to be surprised, but in consideration of all the circumstances of the case together with the opinion of the committee of Enquiry, in Extenuation we directed that Mr. Schoolman should be returned to the Duties of his Station in the Service”.

And to prevent a similar thing happening, they requested that at least one armed vessel should be “Permanently stationed at the proper place in the narrow channel to guard and Defend the river against Pirates”, as although the “Hastinga” schooner had been sent in pursuit of the “Gillet ” the day after her capture she was too late to overtake her nor could Mr. Merridge the Pilot of the “Hastinge”, trace her movements or find out anything of two Budge rows or Ponsways manned by armed Europeans who were reported to be Pirates.

(2) Robert Surcouff, the French Ptivateeraman, in the “L’Emilie”, 180 tons, 30 men, captured the pilot schooners “Russell” and “Car tier” at the sand heads on Saturday January 14th, 1796. The “Russell” commanded by Mr. Thompson, Pilot was captured during the night and a prize crew put abroad her. At daylight Mr. Bartlett in the “Car tier” whose turn it was to Pilot not knowing that the “Russell” had been captured and, presuming that everything was correct by seeing her close to a vessel flying the American Ensign at the fore top gallant as head, made sail and ran towards her.

Arrived a beam of her she hauled up her ports and fired as broadside at the “Car tier” and at the same time hoisted French national colours.

(1) Public O.C., December 7th, 1795, No. 8a.

(2) H. D. Public O. C., 14th March 1796.

The discharge carried away the “Car tier” main stay and cut her sails and rigging so badly that Mr. Bartlett, finding it impossible to escape, surrendered.

A Court of Enquiry held later found that there was no misconduct on the part of the two Pilots in having “suffered” the loss of their vessels.

After capturing the pilot vessels and transferring from the “L’Emile” to the “Car tier” surcouff continued to cruise at the Sand heads. (1) On January 28th, 1796 he captured the “Diana” loaded with rice and sent her and the “Russell” to Mauritius. Next day he sighted the “Triton”, and Indiaman armed with 26 guns and a crew of 150 men.

Not realizing her strength he sailed towards her and approached so close that he found it impossible to run away without the risk of being captured. As usual Surcouff took a bold course. He sailed straight at the “Triton”; fired a broadside; hoisted French colours and boarded her, before the English were aware that she was not a Pilot vessel.

In the confusion which followed caused by numerous casualties from the broadside any by men who Surcouff sent aloft with small arms, to pick off the officers on the Poop, the English were driven below. An attempt to blow up the quarter deck by the men below was stopped by volleys from small arms.

(2) Towards the end of December, 1796 the Pilot Schooners “Cornwallis” (Mr. Atkins, Pilot), “Ranger” (Mr. Murrage, Pilot) and “Hay” (Mr. Harding, Pilot) were captured near the French Flat Buoy by the French Privateer “Le Esperse”, Captain Le Dane, 22 guns.

(1) Final French Struggles in India and on the Indian Seas.

By Colonel A. B. Malleson, C.T.E.,London 12878.

(2) H. D. Public O.C., 2nd January, 1797, No. 17.

The morning after their capture the “Cornwallis”, with a prize crew of a Commander and 4 Europeans, and the “Ranger” with a commander and three Europeans were ordered to Mauritius. That evening the French Commander of the “Ranger” caught one of the Lascars taking a fish from the Pilots stock and warned the Serang that if this occurred again he would cut his throat and throw his body overboard.

After this incident the Serang proposed to the other 19 members of the Crew that they should attempt to recapture the vessel and they agreed to support him. As soon as it was dark enough they crept at and with bamboos, handspikes, and ‘codallies’, killed one of the Frenchmen on watch, and chased the other blow.

Next morning after persuading the three survivors to hand up their arms through the skylight, four or five lascars went into the cabin and put on irons. On the return journey to Balasore Roads the schooner was kept close in along the shore to avoid meeting the Privateer, and later arrived safely on Calcutta.

At a meeting of the Marine Board on December 30th, 1796.It was recommended that in addition to a gratuity the crew of the “Ranger” should be paid salvage and “as prompt payment encourages merit we submit to you the propriety of our immediately paying the Account thereon.” The Members also suggested that as a French squadron was said to be bound for the Sandheads the Bombay Frigates should be ordered to Bengal; the Pilot sloop “Triton” well armed and manned sent to the Sandheads to act against the “Hay” which the French were using as a decoy and the “Laurel” Captain Foggo should be chartered for Rs. 10,000 a month, provided with extra men and guns and stationed in Balasore Roads, or some other suitable place.



On Sunday the 24th March, 1797, the East Indiaman “Osterly” Inward bound from England, arrived at the Sandheads, where her Captain John Piercy, had expected to meet hos Majesty’s frigate “La Sybolle” of 44 guns, or the Hon. Company’s cruiser “Nonsuch”, as well as the Pilot vessel at the entrance to the Eastern Channel. Finding neither, he anchored hos ship on 7 fathoms and waited for them to arrive. Anchored nearby was a large Country ship, also waiting for a Pilot.

It was a hazy morning with a gentle Southerly breeze blowing. The “Osterly” rode comfortably to her anchor, and the crew were piped to breakfast. Everything seemed very peaceful.

At 9.30 a.m. the masthead look-out reported a sail to the S.S.W. In view of his orders with regard to a ‘rendezvous’, her Captain assumed this to be the British patrol and, heaving up his anchor, he stood down towards her.

At 10.30 a.m. the ship were close enough to distinguish each others flags, so “Osterley” hoisted the pre-arranged signal for a Pilot, and fired a gun to draw attention to it. The approaching vessel was head on to the East Indiamen, so that it was difficult to make her out, so that at about 11.00 a.m….. “being resolved not to trust entirely to appearances,” . . .the “Osterly” ran out her guns, and cleared ship for action.

At 12.15 p.m. “being within point blank range, “the stranger hoisted French colours, and at the same instant opened fire with her bow chasers. The “Osterley” replied with a broadside, and the fight was on.

After the battle had lasted for forty-five minutes. . . “finding the ship had received considerable damage to the hull; the rigging out to pieces; the Mainmast, main top mast mizzen most badly crippled; several of the guns rendered useless by the ‘people’ being blown up at them, and finding I cold not continue the action longer with any hope of success, and to prevent unnecessary sacrifice of the ‘people’ under me, Republican frigate “La Forte” of 52 guns and 420 men from the Isle of France, and commanded by Captain Beaulieu La Loup.”

Captain Piercy praises the conduct of his Officers and men, saying “All hands behaved bravely, especially my Officers and Lieutenant Broomhead who commanded a detachment of H.M. ‘s 28th Light Dragoons that happened to be on board at the time. Four men were killed and 13 wounded on board”.

Captain La Loup treated his prisoners chivalrously, and was thanked for doing so by the East Indiaman’s Captain who was allowed to take his ship to Dimond Harbour as a (1) Cartel under French Colours; Captain La Loup had put a prize crew on board under the Command of one of his Lieutenants, unfortunately for the Frenchman, the “Osterley” fell in with H.M.’s frigate “Sybelle” at Kalpi Roads on her way up River and was recaptured without loss.

During the “flurry of the battle” the Country ship escaped.

It should be noted in this engagement between a Merchant ship and a Warship, that the “Osterley” was a vessel of only 775 tons, with a crew of, maybe about 150 men, whereas the “la Forte” was a vessel of 1401 tons and a crew of about 400 men; she was in fact one of the most heavily armed and largest frigates then at sea.


On Chrisman Eve in the year 1799, two ships bound for Calcutta were approaching the Sandheads. They were the Hon.Company’s Ship Eliza Ann” and the American Ship “Atlantic”.

Both Ship’s companies were fully alert, for French privateers

(1) Cartel. A written agreement relating to the exchange or ransom of prisoners etc. (Murray’s Dictionary) The crew were to be landed at Diamond Harbour as prisoners

were known to be active at the Head of the Bay, and on this occasion the Sandheads patrol vessels had been withdrawn to Calcutta to provision the ships, and give their crews Christmas leave.

At whether was fine with a light Northerly breeze, and almost smooth sea and no swell. As the sun rose, the ships were washed down, the brass work polished, and the normal routine of the day began.

At 10 a. m., the masthead lookout of the “Eliza Ann” hailed the deck to report a sail to the North East. The news was signaled to the “Atlantic” and both ships prepared for action, loading and running out their guns, decks sanded, fire pumps and houses connected, the powder and shot ready beside the guns, and in a very short time the two vessels were ready for battle.

The action, however, was delayed till the afternoon, for the breeze was light and fitful. It was not until 4 p. m. that the strange ship hoisted English colours. The two Ships “Eliza Ann” and the “Atlantic” replied by flying their own ensigns, and all seemed well, though the flying of false colours was too well known a ruse of was for vigilance to be relazed. Accordingly, the two Ships kept their guns ready with their crews standing by.

Half an hour later their suspicions were confirmed, for the unknown French Privateer, hauled down British flag, and hoisting his own ensign discharged a broadside at the “Eliza Ann”.

The Indiaman replied immediately with a broadside of her own, and to quote her report…. “A brisk fire was kept up for one hour and ten minutes, the “Atlantic” also joining in with her six pounders, but not being near enough to reach the ship with her carronades, were ship in order to get into close action. The Frenchman, seeing this, shore off for the night.”

“Eliza Ann” and “Atlantic’ followed her, keeping close together, and at 5.30 a.m. on Christmas morning the enemy turned to meet her pursuers. The battle began again when…. “The “Atlantic” being to windward commenced the action by raking her within Pistol shot. Our ship now joined in, and a very heavy fire continued on both sides for 20 minutes, when the Frenchman drew away with two pumps going.”

The Merchantmen gave chase, but they were too slow, or damaged by the action, to overtake the unknown Privateer, who got clear away….. “She appeared to be a complete vessel and a very fast sailer,” wrote the “Eliza Ann’s Captain a little sadly….. “pierced for 26 guns, and mounting 22 twelves, and crowded with men.”

The Honourable Company were naturally delighted with the result of the battle and rewarded the Ships companies with money, while the two Captains received gold cups in recognition of their part in this gallant little action.


28th February, 1799.

Perhaps one of the most brilliant actions ever to take place in Eastern waters, occurred on the night of the 28th February, 1799, when H.M.S. “Sybelle” met the French Republican frigate “La Forte” in Balasore Bay, and battered her into submission, after a fierce and bloody action, lasting for over two and a half hours, and involving a total of 167 casualties.

Naval Officers of the time did not consider the British frigate to be any match for the “La Forte”, which was a vessel of some fourteen hundred tons, with 52 guns, and a crew of 370 men, she was commanded by Captain Beaulieu, an elderly but very experienced Officer, with the fearsome nickname of “La Loupe” (The Wolf).

Captain Edward Cook, son of the great Navigator, who Commanded H.M.S. “Sybelle” thought otherwise. Though his ship was 310 tons smaller and carried fewer guns, of considerably lighter caliber, he knew that the “La Forte’s” discipline was poor and her Captain weak and too old for his work.’

For nearly two years H.M.S. “Sybelle” (sometimes called “La Sybille” R.K.H.B.) based on Calcutta, cruised the Bay of Bengal, giving protection to the Pilot vessels, meeting and convoying East Indiamen and ill found “Country” ships, stopping and searching suspicious foreigners, always however with a weather eye lifted for the Frenchman, who had caused considerable damage to British shipping on the Bay, having captured no less than seven of our ships, besides the “Osterley”, which, as we have just read, was immediately recaptured.

At long last Captain Cook was rewarded for on the evening of the 28th February, 1799, H.M.S. “Sybelle” was patrolling the Sandheads, some miles to the Eastward of Palmyras shoals when flashes were observed to the North West. Supposing this to be lightning from a distant squall, Captain Cook took no particular interest, for squalls, time of the year. But when the “Lightning” stopped suddenly and no squall or even sign of one appeared, he because suspicions. It occurred to him that the flashes could have been caused by gunfire, so the “Sybelle” was put about and stood up to the North West, to investigate.

It was a brilliant moonlight night, when at 9.30 p.m. a ship was sighted right ahead. The “Sybelle” approached the “La Forte” with all her lights covered, and was mistaken by the French naval vessel for a merchantship, and so was allowed to get to windward without interference. Meanwhile the Frenchman was busy putting prize crews aboard two ships which she had captured.

At a quarter to one in the morning, the “Sybelle” was well to windward, with the “La Forte” abaft her beam. Putting his helm up, Captain Cook ran down across the Frenchman’s stern raking her, as he passed, with a most destructive broadside, at very short range.

The “La Forte” was caught at a great disadvantage, with two prize crews away and insufficient men to handle the forecastle and quarter deck guns. She responded gallantly, however, and for nearly two hours the battle continued fiercely.

By 2.30 a.m. the Frenchman had only four guns in action and Captain Beaulieu, seeing that victory was impossible, broke off the action and attempted to escape to seaward. Twice H.M.S. “Sybelle” hailed her enemy to surrender, but there was no reply. Accordingly, “Sybelle” opened fire again; this time she brought down the Frenchman’s masts, and the helpless “La Forte” surrendered.

H.M.S. “Sybelle’s casualties were five killed and seventeen wounded, but amongst the latter was her gallant young Captain who was badly hit in both arms. He lingered for over three months, and died miserably (probably of gangerene) in Calcutta on the 25th May, 1799, Aged 27. He was given a public funeral, and was buried in North Park Street Cemetery, and the East India Company put up a monument to him in Westminster Abbey.

In addition to the “Sybille’s crew there was on board 131 soldiers of the “Scotch Brigade”. The report on the action said briefly…”the soldiers fought very well”. Their Captain Davis, who was A.D.C. to Lord Mornington was killed in the action. (Fort Mornington opposite Hooghly Point was named after Lord Mornington, who was originally Richard Wellesley and was made Marquis Wellesley after the fall of Seringapatam, and was known as Lord Wellesley when Govenor-General.)

Both ships were badly damaged, the British ship having her masts and rigging…”much cut up,” but hull came off lightly, as most of the enemy’s shot had passed overhead, whereas the “La Forte” was in a terrible mess, being completely dismasted and her starboard side almost beaten in from the effect from the “Sybille’s broadsides, having over 300 round shot in her hull.

Wreck though the “La Forte” was, she was towed up to Calcutta, and repaired, and the Royal Navy bought her for a substantial sum in prize money, which was distributed among the Officers and men of H.M.S. “Sybille”. She was rerigged as H.M.S. “Forte” and entered in the Navy List as a 44 gun ship under the Command of Captain Lucius Hardyman, who had been First Lieutenant of the “Sybille”, who had taken over Command of her when Captain Cook was mortally wounded. She was finally wrecked in the Red Sea in June 1801.

After the battle, fifteen Pilot Sloops, each with a guard of soldiers, were sent down the River for carrying the prisoners back to Calcutta.

It was a proud day for the City when the “La Forte” was seen being towed up the Hooghly by the “Sybille”. This did not take place until the 2nd April, 1799.

Chapter 5.


During this century the Bengal Pilot Service was to reach the pre-eminence among the Pilot services of the world they have retained up to the present time.


A particularly fierce engagement took place in the early hours of October 7th, 1800, between the East Indiaman “Kent” and the French Privateer “Confiance.”

The “Kent” and the “Confiance” were evenly matched as regards weight of metal, the “Kent” carrying 20 short 18 pounders on her gun deck and 6 “short nines” on her forecastle and poop, while the Frenchman had 20 guns of different calibers on her gun deck and 6 caronades on the deck above. Apart from their nearly equal armament, however, the ships were as different as it was possible for the two vessels o similar size to be.

The “Confiance” was, to all intents and purposes, a warship of some 550 tons, being a French sloop of war, carrying a well trained, experienced, and disciplined crew of some 250 men under the command of Captain Robert Surcouf, who had for some time carried out successful stacks on British Merchant ships, in the Bay of Bengal. On the other hand the Hon.Company’s Ship “Kent” was a bluff bowed, Merchantman of some 800 tons, armed it is true, but slow and unhandy, whereas the Sloop was fast and manoeuvreable. She had a crew of 104 men and a number of passengers, including 24 women and children, in addition there was a draft of recruits for the Company’s Army. Her bottom must also have been pretty foul, being at the end of a long voyage out from England, this would have reduced her speed, if she ever had any, and make her more unmanageable in action.

Mr. Methold, the Second Officer, kept the morning watch on board the “Kent” on the day of the action. At six bells, an hour before he was due to be relieved, the lookout a sail to the N. E. the “Kent” was then approaching the Sandheads, and thinking the ship was the Pilot Brig or the Sandheads patrol vessel, she held her course and stood towards her; but it soon because clear she was neither of the two vessels expected, so the “Kent’ went to Action quarters, and cleared ship for battle. The women and children were put in a place of safety, below decks, while the male passengers, were ordered to stay on the upper decks, while the male passengers, were ordered to stay on the upper deck and give a hand in defence of the ship.

Captain Revington (0r as one report has it Rivington) of the “Kent” opened proceedings by ordering Mr. Methold, who combined his duties as Second Mate those of Gunnery Officer, to fire a shot across the strangers bows, with the idea of making her declare herself by hoisting her coloure, this having no effect, the “Kent” gave the enemy her full larboard broadside.

This drew an immediate reply, and for an hour and a half there was a fierce fire between the two ships, the Indiaman putting up a stiff fight “with the great guns, supported by musketeers from the poop,” now the Frenchman putting her main topsails aback, dropped astern of the “Kent” to carry out repairs, Captain Remington then tacked, with the intention of bringing his disengaged guns to bear on the enemy, but missed stays and fell off the wind, close to the Frenchman, who putting on sail, ran up alongside, entangling his fore rigging in the “Kent’s” mizzen shrouds.

Immediately the two ships were locked together the boarding parties from the “Confiance”, more than 150 men, leapt aboard the luckless Indiaman, it is reported that the boarding party was led by Surcouf himself disguised as a seaman, to hide his real identity.

A terrific hand-to-hand struggle followed, aboard the Merchantman, Captain Revington was shot dead while repelling the boarders, and eleven of his crew died beside him, while 44 were wounded, 13 of them mortally, before Mr. Hall the Chief Officer, struck his colours, and the “Kent’s” resistence ended. Five male passengers were also killed.

The Chief Officer was taken aboard the “Confiance”, as a prisoner of war, but Mr. Methold, who was wounded in the action, was put off to an Arab vessel, together with the somen and children, and the rest of the wounded. Captain Surcouf treated his prisoners with great humanity and kindness and was most courteous to the ladies. the Arab vessel took them to the Pilot Station at the Sandheads, where they were transferred to the pilot Brig, which set all sail and made a quick passage to Calcutta.

The Second Mate, in his report, attributed the loss of the “Kent” to her “missing stays”, thus allowing the Frenchman to board, and also, (a pathetic commentary on the East India Company’s parsimony in matters not directly concerned with their business)…. “to the badness of the arms.”


(1) The following letter was sent from Fort William, Calcutta tp Fort St. George, Madras at the end November, 1800.

“I am directed by the Most Nobls the Govenor General in Council to request that you will acquaint the Right Honourable the Govenor in Council that “L’Adele”, French Privateer, Commanded by Captain Nicholas Surcouff, (the younger brother of Capt.Robert Surcouf. R.K.H.B.) was captured on the 13th inst about 30 Leagues to the South of the Sandheads by His Majesty’s Ship “Albatrcs”, commanded by Captain Waller.

I am further directed to request that you will inform the Right Honourable the Govenor in Council that the Honourable Company’s Ship “Phoenix” commanded by Captain Moffat, arrived at this Port

(1) Bengal Commercial Consultations and Selections from the Calcutta Gazette.

on the 24th isn’t., and that on the 10th inst., about a degree to the Southward of the Sand heads, she captured the French Privateer the “General Malartic”, commanded by Captain Duterte.

Signed. G.H. Barlow.

Chief Secretary.

Captain William Moffat of the Ship “Phoenix” was presented with a sword of Honour for his gallant action.

In spite of these success great damage was caused at the mouth of the Hooghly by French Privateers. The Calcutta Gazette announced on the 12th of December, 1805, that in the previous ten days the “Melville”, “Waldegrave”, “Commerce”, and “Phenix” valued at 11,000 of Rupees had been captured. (11,00,000 is eleven Lacks, a Lack being 100,000. R.K.H.B.) And, many others, not yet known; for while the “Bellona”, the “Nepoleon”, the “Henrietta”, and “Caroline”, and perhaps other privateers are cruising, there is no knowing what extent they may have carried their depredations.”

From all the foregoing it may be understood that the Pilots very closely concerned with the war at sea, which was right on their doorstep.


(1) The following letter was published in the Calcutta English newspaper “The Englishman” in 1801 and refers to the death and burial of a Mrs Carey, the Country born wife of a Hooghly Pilot.

“Readers of ‘Echos from old Calcutta’ will remember that according to Dr. Busteed’s informant, Mrs Carey, the Country born wife of Peter Carey, Mariner, was buried in the Murgihatta (Catholic Cathedral) Churchyard (1801). In confirmation of this statement it may interest some of your readers to know that both the announcement of her death and the entry of her burial have new been traced, – The following from the Calcutta Gazette of April 2nd, 1801

(1) “Echoes from Old Calcutta” by H.E. Busteed, C.I.E. 1908

Deaths. On Saturday last March 28th, Mrs. Carey.

IN the Cathedral burial Register the entry is in Portuguese runs as follows:- (Translation) “28th March, 1801, Died Mary Carey; was buried in the churchyard, with the accompaniment of one priest.” This does not give her age at the time of her death. It was 60 years for she was but 16 when she entered the Black Hole. There is no inscription over her grave.”

This letter was signed “FitzWalter.”

A. M. Jean Law, Chief of the French Factory at Cassimbazar, wrote a Memoir in about 1763 in which he stated that Mrs. Carey was the wife of one of the “Ganges Pilots.” It is also a fact that a Mr. Peter Carey, described as a Mariner, died in the Black Hole as his name is inscribed on the Holwell Monument.


There is evidence in (1) Captain Hamilton’s work “A New Account of the East Indies” concerning the docks; “on the other side of the river are docks made for fitting and repairing their ships’ bottoms. This would be along the Sibpur Strand, somewhere in the vicinity of the present Shalimar Paint Works. the present sandbank on that side, meaning the Lower College Sand, was formed by the wreck of a ship named “Sumatra”, which diverted the deep channel to the Calcutta side.’

(2) “There so called docks were not docks in the currently understood sense of the term, but slipways or mudbeds for careering. The modern meaning of a dock as a water basing dated from 1811, when St. Katherine’s Dock, near the Tower of London was built, the first such dock in the world.

(1) “A New Account of the East Indies” by Capt. Alexandra Hamilton London, 1744.

(2) The Calcutta ‘Statesmen’ Staff Correspondent. 1955.

From 1707 until at least 1850 the position of the Port of Calcutta remained radically unchanged with regard to the installation of modern docking and berthing facilities. Frequent rention is made in the annals of the period to docks, which is quite misleading, these references musts be understood as referring to shipbuilding and careering slipways, or to natural creeks and gullies improved by digging but not retaining water at low tide.

In 1758 a proposal was mooted to have a dock in Bengal “in case the squadron should winter here”. This led to the formation of a dock at Surnam’s Garden just south of Tolly’s Nullah. Nothing much seems to have came of it. Colonel Watson, Chief Engineer to Government, obtained a grant of land at the same spot for the establishment of wet and dry docks and a marine yard. He began this work in 1780 and spent ten Lakhs of rupees on it.

In 1781 he built and Launched the “Nonesuch” frigate of 36 guns, and in 1788 another frigate the “Surprise”, of 32 guns. By then his resources were exhausted and he was obliged to give up the project. The docks were afterwards bought by James Kyd and became known as Kidderpore. Between 1781 and 1800, 35 vessels were built in Calcutta. From 1800 to 1821 no less than 200 ships were built. In 1800, the largest merchantman ever built at Calcutta was launched from a yard at Titaghur. The was the “Countese of Sutherland”, 1,450 tons. In 1821, James Kyd’s two sons launched the “Castle Huntley” a 74 – gun man -of war, of 1,705 tons. At that time, Bengal ships built of teak and sal were preferred to any other for durability.

About 1758 the old Government House was turned into a narine yard or bankshall imeaning a Warehouse, or office of the Port officer or other Marine authority it has also been suggested it oult be from the Benali banksala, meaning ‘hall of trade’). From this Bankshall Street would appear to have derived its name. Here in 1790 a dockyard was built for the repair of Pilot Vessels; but this was discussed and filled up in 1808. In 1823, Strand Road was constructed, which forced the ship builders in Clive Street to remove to Howrah and Salkia.”

(1) The loss of life and property in the cyclone of 1842 drew the attention of the Government to the importance of providing against such calamities. A committee was appointed to discover different measuresfor the safety of the shipping in the river. This committee recommended the construction of wet docks at Kindderpore, after the design of General Watson. They were to costs 500 lakhs of Rupees and to accommodate 200 vessels per year of 400 tons burden. However, for some reason or other, most probably lack of funds, the whole scheme fell through. During the next few years several other schemes were conceives, and some attempted, including a dock at Akra, but nothing ever came of them.

It was not until another, and more damaging, cyclone swept through the Port of Calcutta in 1864, creating great havoc to the exposed shipping in the river, and causing great financial loss, that the Government and Local Authorities were forced to take the matter of building docks and wharfs seriously. Unfortunately no action was taken, until in 1870 the Port Rust was constituted and the whole management of the affairs of the Port – with the vital exception of the Bengal Pilot Service – was handed over them.

The Howrah Pontoon Bridge was opened for traffic on the 17th of October, 1874. It would have been opened earlier in the year, but completion of the Bridge was delayed by an accident to the steamer “Egeria”, who broke from her moorings in a Bore on the 20th March and rammed the half finished bridge sinking three pontoons, smashing the main truss girders and damaging the superstructure to the extent of Rs 80,000.

The Lieutenant Goveror, Sir Richard Temple, made some trenchant remarks to the Port Commissioners, and ships moorings were very much strengthened before the end of the year.

(1) Various sources.

In 1877, James Kimber, put forward his plan for a ship canal between Calcutta and the Mutlah River. The canal was to be some thirty miles long, and was to cost 1½ crores of rupees. Kimber argued that not only was the Mutlah a deeper river than the Hooghly, but also, through not being connected so directly with the Ganges like the Hooghly, the Mutlah was not what he called “a silt bearing river” and was far less likely to should up at some future date. The scheme, however, never got beyond the stage of discussion.

Calcutta’s continually expanding trade made it absolutely necessary to provide more facilities, in the form of berths for shipping at or near port. Proposals for building docks and jetties at Diamond Harbour were made in 1881, and the Government appointed a committee to examine them.

By a majority the committee was in favour of carrying on with the project, but many of the mercantile firms and shipping agents of Calcutta opposed the scheme, and it was eventually dropped. it seems to have been a waste of time and money appointing all these committees, for no one ever carried out their suggestions.

The merchants’ objections were

(i) Diamond Harbour forms a “Lee shore” during the South West Monsoon.

(ii) There was a possibility of danger to shipping from cyclonic storm waves, and

(iii) Last, but possibly not the least of the objections, the scheme would involve the double expense of running two offices, one at Calcutta and one at Diamond Harbour.

The rejection of the Diamond Harbour project left the Bengal Government with no alternative but to increase the accommodation for ships in Calcutta itself, and so in 1883, Sir Rivers Thompson, the Lieutenant Govenor, appointed a new committee to enquire into measures for extending the existing facilities of the Port.

The committee found that no less than twenty one jetties for sea going ships could be built on the Calcutta side of the river, and twenty on the Howrah side, all in Garden Reach, between the Botanical Gardens and the Panchpara Boundary Pillars. They estimated, however, that the same amount of accommodation could be given by a wet dock. The letter would cost more initially, but its upkeep would be less than that of forty one tidal jetties.

Two great advantages of a wet dock over jetting were stressed: The first was that ships in a dock would be out of tidal water, and therefore much safer, and the second was, that for the same reason, loading and unloading would be eassier and more convenient.

The recommendation of a wet dock was accepted and the excavation of the Kidderpore docks was begun in 1884. The dry dock was first opened on the 10th July, 1891, though the first ship did not enter it until the end of August, as the following paragraph taken from the Calcutta “Statesman” for the 1st of November, 1891 shows.

“Another stage in the development of the Kidderpore docks was reached on Friday when the British India Company’s steamer “Lindula” was taken into the new graving dock to be cleaned and painted. The “Lindula” is a vessel of 2199 tons register (B.I. records show her as being 3, 396 gross.) and 350 feet long, but there was ample room for a much longer vessel, as the working space in the dock is 550 feet long. This is the first vessel taken into the Port Commissioner’s dry dock. The arrangements for pumping the dock are very satisfactory and complete. There are two Gwynne’s centrifugal pumps, which can raise 38,000 gallons of water a minute. The preconce of this vessel in the dry dock commences to give to the locality something of a commercial aspect.’

The wot dock was not opened officially till the 28th September, 1892, due to Lack of railway communications, though the first ship entered it three months before this date. The capital cost of the new docks was 287 Lakhs of rupees.