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………..by 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.


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