The Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah: A Digital Archive of Memories

Important Figures in VOC Chinsurah

Pieter Sterthemius

(1618 - April 24, 1676 ) Governor from 1655 - 1658

Image:The combined coat of arms of Pieter Sterthemius and his wife Maria Calandrini on Schuylenburgh's painting of Chinsurah.

Sterthemius was appointed the first director of the Bengal factories and authorised to choose between Kassimbazar (Cossimbazar) and Hooghly (Hughli) as his headquarters. He provisionally chose Kassimbazar in April 1656 but later in the year moved to Hooghly, which continued to be the seat of the Dutch directorate for nearly a century and a half. The VOC leased the villages of Chinsurah, Baranagar and Bazar Mirpur for an annual rent of Rs. 1,574. The factory was moved to its new site in Chinsurah and used to house a number of Indian merchants and weavers working for the Company. {Source: Prakash, Om. The Dutch East India Company and the Economy of Bengal, 1630-1720. Princeton University Press, 2014.] He started out as a junior merchant in the service of the VOC in the trading posts in Surat and on the Malabar Coast. In 1650, in Batavia, he married Maria Calendrini, the daughter of a member of the Council of India . In the same year he was appointed VOC chief in Deshima, Japan . He traded among other silver, salted vegetables and soy sauce. A year later he left Japan. In 1655 he became director of VOC in Hooghly in Bengal ; in 1658 he became a member of the Council of India . In 1670 he returned to Zeeland and joined the court in Middelburg. The inscription on the stone, bottom right of the well-known painting of the Chinsurah factory, identifies the base as Hougly and the artist as Schuylenburgh, painting in 1665. The arms above the stone are the combined arms of Pieter Sterthemius and his wife Maria Calandrini.

Botha, C. Graham (Colin Graham). Records for the Early History of South Africa. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York, The Macmillan company, 1921. Moodie, Donald. The Record Or, A Series of Official Papers Relative to the Condition and Treatment of the Native Tribes of South Africa. A.S. Robertson, 1838. Prakash, Om. The Dutch East India Company and the Economy of Bengal, 1630-1720. Princeton University Press, 2014. Shurtleff, William, and Akiko Aoyagi. History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Japan, and in Japanese Cookbooks and Restaurants Outside Japan (701 CE to 2014). Soyinfo Center, 2014.

Peter Vuyst

Governor from 1722 - 1724 Vuyst was appointed as the advocaat fiscaal for India. He became raid-extraordinaire for Batavia in 1717 and the governor of Ceylon in 1726. He was accused of the misuse of power, inhuman punishments and corruption. He was summoned in 1729 to Batavia and executed. References:
Indische Verhalen. 'De Kotta oud Batavia en de gruwellijke dood van gouverneur.'

Jan Albert Sichterman

(Groningen, September 19, 1692 - January 15, 1764) Governor from 1734 - 1744

Image:Portrait of Jan Albert Sichterman

Jan Albert Sichterman was an officer in the service of the East India Company. After his career in the East, he returned as a very wealthy man to his hometown, Groningen, where he left a small palace: The Sichtermanhuis. Called the ‘Groningener Nabob’ by historians, Sichterman had an art collection that included paintings by Rembrandt and Ruysdael. In Chinsurah, Sichterman is known for having built the clock-tower and steeple to which later governor Vernet added the octagonal Dutch Church (now destroyed). In the vestry of the church, an old stone taken from the fallen dock tower could be found with the following inscription: 'gebowd door J. A. Sichterman Raad Extraordinar van Nederlands India an Directeur diser Bengaalse Directie 1744.' Like his father, Jan Albert, enlisted in the army, where he became a lieutenant. His carefree youth in Groningen was abruptly interrupted by a quarrel where he stabbed his opponent in a duel. He was 23 years old and to avoid the consequences of his act, he enlisted in the Dutch East India Company (VOC). As a junior merchant he left in April 1716 on board the ship General Peace for Batavia, where he arrived six months later. Sichterman's connections there ensured that he was in good stead in the VOC administration in Asia and that he was among merchants sent to Bengal (Hooghly) a year later. Two years later he was promoted to accountant and transferred to the factory in Cossimbazar, the center of sericulture in Bengal. In Hooghly, on March 20 1721, Jan Albert married Sibylla Volkera Sadelijn, daughter of Jacob Sadelijn, the future director of Bengal. Jan Albert moved back to Hooghly as supervisor of the warehouses. Due to disagreements with the then Dutch director of Bengal, the infamous Peter Vuyst, Sichterman was transferred to Batavia. In 1725, however, he was appointed as a merchant and tax-collector in Bengal when Vuyst was relieved of his duties. After subsequent promotions, in 1734, he was finally appointed as the director of the VOC in Bengal, succeeding Roger Beerenaart who had followed Sichterman's father-in-law, Jacob Sadelijn. The family moved back to Hooghly again. The trading activities of the VOC were very lucrative for Sichterman. Then with the worsening political situation in Bengal, he made a request to the members of the Supreme Government to be allowed to return to the Netherlands. According to Stavorinus, Sichterman had tried to stop a Sati ceremony and had to pay a compensation of 25000 rupees. After 28 years in the East, Sichterman left Bengal for Batavia where he arrived with his wife and some Bengali servants in 1744. He was the admiral of a fleet that returned to the Netherlands in 1745 and through Middelburg and The Hague ,Sichterman arrived in Groningen, where the family moved to their new monumental shelter, Ossenmarkt, which also housed art treasures from various parts of the world. Sichterman had one of the largest collections of Chinese porcelain in the Netherlands. He died when he was 71 years old and is probably buried in the St, Martini Church. His property was then auctioned off by his widow and divided among his children.

To find out more about an ongoing exhibition on Sichterman in the Groningen Museum, go to their website on the 'King of Groningen'

Jörg, Christiaan J.A. “Jan Albert Sichterman. A Groninger Nabob and Art-Collector.” Itinerario 9, no. 02 (1985): 178–95. doi:10.1017/S016511530001617X. Stavorinus, Johan Splinter. Voyages to the East-Indies. Translated by Samuel Hull Wilcocke. G.G. and J. Robinson, 1798. GRUNN.NL: Sichtermanhuis op Ossenmarkt 'The King of Groningen: the art collection of Jan Albertus Sichterman' See the paper art created to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary. Jan Albert Sichterman : VOC-Dienaar En ‘Koning’ van Groningen | 9789050280587. Accessed September 13, 2014. Veenkolonial Museum Vendaam


Abraham Patras

(May 22, 1671 to May 3, 1737), Governor General of March 11, 1735 to May 3, 1737

Image:Portrait of Abraham Patras

Abraham Patras was born in Grenoble on May 22, 1671 His family who were Huguenots fled to the Netherlands in 1685. Abraham was first employed in Amsterdam at the office of the merchant Nathaniel Gauthier. On January 4, 1690, he left the Chamber of Enkhuizen aboard the ship Hobree as a soldier bound for the Indies. He had a varied career. In 1691 he became provisional agent in Batavia; in 1695 he became assistant and secretary of the Chinese estate-master at Amboina; in 1698 was promoted to bookkeeper and secretary. He marriedthe daughter of the bookkeeper and secretary of the Judicial Council on Amboina in 1699. His wife died before December 16, 1700 and their only daughter also died early. In 1700, Abraham Patras was appointed Secretary of the Judicial Council and in 1703, promoted to under-merchant and secretary of the Governor and the Council of the Moluccas. In 1707, he became chief in Jambi where an attack on the lodge took place. Patras was severely injured by a stab, but he recovered. In 1709, he became a merchant and in 1711, chief of Palembang. In 1717, he was promoted to chief merchant and governor of the west coast of Sumatra. In 1720 he became visitateur General of the Dutch East Indies; Commissioner in 1721, and he went as envoy to Jambi. In 1722, he was appointed as the second chief merchant of the Castle in Batavia. In 1724, he was awarded the highly advantageous position of Director of Bengal. In 1731 he was appointed extraordinary member of the Council of India. After the death of Governor-General Dirck van Cloon on March 10, 1735, Patras was very surprisingly appointed Governor-General as a result of a dispute between the other candidates Valckenier and van Imhoff. Patras was himself not happy but took the job on condition that he would give it up as soon as a better candidate could be found. On March 11, 1735, he was appointed provisional Governor-General, until the Heren XVII approved of his appointment. During the short period of his administration no significant events occurred. Although he was a skilled manager and through his many travels had built up a great knowledge of the area, he was, perhaps due to his age of 64, not a powerful Governor-General. He died two years after his appointment as Governor-General on the night of 3 May 1737 On May 6, 1737 he was buried in Batavia. The governorship was taken over by Adriaan Valckenier.


Louis Taillefert

Governor from 1754 - 1755 Taillefert features often in the history of the VOC in Bengal, especially in connection with his communication with the directors in Batavia regarding the political and economic situation in Bengal. He writes about the growing importance of Armenians (particularly of Khoja Wajeed who was a key player in Nawab Siraj-ud -Daula's court) and of Jagath Seth. Taillefert was governor for two terms - pre and post the battles of Plassey and Biderra. He was also responsible for destroying the old Dutch cemetery, which was located to the west of the fort and moving it to its present location. Only the tomb of director Huysman survived - as a powder magazine.

Chaudhury, Sushil, and Gegham Gewonean. Armenians in Asian Trade in the Early Modern Era. Les Editions de la MSH, 2008. Crawford, Dirom Gray. A Brief History of the Hughli District. Calcutta, Bengal Secretariat Press, 1902. India and Indonesia During the Ancien Regime: Essays. BRILL, 1989. Núñez, Clara Eugenia, and Universidad de Sevilla. Entrepreneurial Networks and Business Culture. Universidad de Sevilla, 1998. Prakash, Om. European Commercial Enterprise in Pre-Colonial India. Cambridge University Press, 1998. Stavorinus, Johan Splinter. Voyages to the East-Indies. Translated by Samuel Hull Wilcocke. G.G. and J. Robinson, 1798.

Adrian Bisdom

Governor from 1755 - 1760 Bisdom is a key figure in determining the Anglo-Dutch relationship before and after Plassey. Before the battle of Plassey, Siraj-ud-Daula sent him a parwana demanded Dutch military assistance against the English. Bisdom refused on the grounds that he did not have enough troops and negotiated a settlement of 4 lakh rupees through Khoja Wajeed. After the Nawab's capture of Calcutta, the Dutch sent assistance to the beleaguered English at Fulta, despite the Nawab's injunction to the contrary. The Dutch insisted on maintaining neutrality and with the arrival of the forces of Clive and (Admiral) Watson, continued doing so. After Clive's victory, Bisdom sent him a letter of congratulations saying, 'As you have had the principal charge of the enterprise against the late Nawab Suraj-u-Dawlah, we can not refrain from congratulating you upon your success. Wishing that the arms of His Brittanic Majesty may everywhere prosper and be triumphant, and that your fame, Sir, may become more renowned.' With the Dutch attempt to regain influence in Bengal and the landing of Malay and European troops, the English attacked the Dutch settlement at Baranagar. The communications between Bisdom and the English before the battle of Biderra reveal tension on both sides. Lucas Zuydland (see database) is another key figure in these negotiations. According to the English, 'Mr. Bisdom was in a dying condition during the whole transaction, and opposed jointly with Messrs Zuydland and Bacheracht the violence of their proceedings, but they were over ruled by the rest of their Council, led by Messrs. Vernet and Schevichaven, two men of desperate fortunes and violent and evil principles, who we doubt not will pay severely for this impudence' (source: Indian Historical Records Commission, Proceedings 1926.

1581-1795.]), Staten Generaal (NETHERLANDS [United Provinces, and Joseph YORKE (Baron Dover.). An Authentic Account of the Proceedings of Their High Mightinesses, the States of Holland and West-Friezeland, on the Complaint Laid before Them by His Excellency Sir Joseph Yorke ... Concerning Hostilities Committed in the River of Bengal. To Which Is Added an Appendix Containing the Original Letters of Colonel Clive ... Admiral Pococke, Admiral Watson ... Translated from the Original Dutch, Etc. Robert Bell, 1762. Company, East India, and John Dunning (Baron Ashburton). A Defence of the United Company of Merchants of England, Trading to the East-Indies, and Their Servants, (particularly Those at Bengal) Against the Complaints of the Dutch East-India Company: Being a Memorial from the English Company to His Majesty on That Subject ... J. Brotherton, 1762. Datta, Kalikinkar. The Dutch in Bengal and Bihar, 1740-1825 A.D. [2d rev. & enl. ed.]. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1968. Hill, Samuel Charles. Bengal in 1756-1757: A Selection of Public and Private Papers Dealing with the Affairs of the British in Bengal During the Reign of Siraj-Uddaula. AMS Press, 1968. The Life of Robert, Lord Clive: Collected From the Family Papers, Volume 2, Page 109 | Document Viewer. Accessed September 13, 2014.

George Lodewijk Vernet

(11.01.1711- 13.12.1775) Governor from 1763 - 1769

Image:Vernet's 'Graf-boord' or tomb-plate of Vernet, from the destroyed Dutch Church and now in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

He was born in The Hague and was related to the famous painters Vernet. In his youth he was one of the pages to King Louis XV but in search of better prospects got appointed to the Dutch East India Company. He probably came to India some time before 1750. Starting off as Senior Merchant, he gradually came to be second-in-command in the Dutch factory at Kalikapur by 1756. Records show him as a friend of Warren Hastings, who showed great kindness to the English after Siraj-ud-Daulah’s capture of Kassimbazar and Calcutta. In 1758 he was Chief at Kalikapur, and later the Dutch Chief of Kassimbazar. In early 1764 he succeeded Mr. Louis Taillefert as Governor of Chinsurah and lived a life of hospitality and elegance till February 1770, when he gave up his charge to Mr. Faure. He completed the Dutch Church at Chinsurah in November 1767, whose steeple and a chime clock had been built by A. Sichterman in 1774 (Vernet’s name was visible in an inscription above the eastern door of the now-destroyed church). [See Stavorinus’s Voyage to the East indies] He was therefore the Governor of Chinsurah from 1763 to1769. Vernet died at Batavia aged 64. During his lifetime had also been Director of the Dutch Commerce in Chinsurah and ci-divant Director of the Dutch East India Company in Bengal. The Masonic lodge, Concordia, Is said to have been constructed during Vernet's tenure. His wife Mrs H.A. Borwater is buried in the Chinsurah cemetery (see database).


A Compendious Ecclesiastical, Chronological and Historical Sketches [sic] of Bengal: Since the Foundation of Calcutta, 1818 Bengal: Past and Present. Calcutta Historical Society., 1932. Dept, India Public. Press List of Ancient Documents Preserved in the Imperial Record Room of the Government of India, Public Dept. ... [1748-1800]. Superintendent Government print., India, n.d. Hill, Samuel Charles. Bengal in 1756-1757: A Selection of Public and Private Papers Dealing with the Affairs of the British in Bengal During the Reign of Siraj-Uddaula. AMS Press, 1968. The Indian Historical Quarterly. Calcutta Oriental Press, 1938.

Boudewijn Versewel Faure

(25.01.1734- 06.05.1770) Governor from 1769 - 1770 He was born in Dendermonde, Belgium. He was First Secretary to the Dutch High Government, and was sent from Batavia to become the Director of VOC at Chinsurah (1769-70) after Vernet. He married Theodora Hendrica Piekenbroek (21.07.1746-27.03.1770). The Rijksmuseum holds the grave sign of Faure (, from the now-destroyed Dutch church at Chinsurah. He died aged 36 years, 3 months and 11days of small pox.

Johannes Bacheracht

Governor from 1770 - 1776 His father came from Hannover, a doctor in the Imperial Navy in St. Petersburg. In 1738 Bacheracht sailed on the Heron Daal as midshipman, for the Amsterdam Chamber of the VOC. In 1739 he was in Batavia as an accountant. In 1748 he became Junior Merchant, in 1753 Merchant, in 1759 the Chief of the Dutch factory at Patna, and in 1760 Chief of the Dutch factory at Kassimbazar. By 1766 he was in charge of the second management in Bengal, and finally became Director of the VOC in Chinsurah (1770/71- 1776). During his term, a great aversion to the British led to an anti-British league consisting of north Indian princes and French troops. Bacheracht felt as director that it was appropriate for the VOC to stand on good terms with the French. He was also a member of the Political Council and Department of Justice of Fort Gustavus, during which time he signed several treaties and agreements on behalf of the Dutch settlement there. He was also known as a wealthy promoter of science. In 1776 he was sent to Batavia, where he soon died. He was married to Johanna Adriana Wyborgh (see database).

Johannes Mattheus Ross

Governor from 1776 - 1781 Ross was born in the Netherlands and grew up there. Starting out as a bookkeeper at the Chinsurah mint, he became Dutch Governor of Chinsurah (1776-81). He then entered into contracts with neighbouring merchants, Henry Halsey, amongst others, for supplying the Dutch factory there with coarse clothes, and advanced to him for that purpose a sum of 23,000 on account [See Acton, Thomas Harman. Reports of Cases Argued and Determined Before the Most Noble and Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners of Appeals in Prize Causes: Also on Appeal to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council. [1809-1811] With an Appendix, Containing Orders in Council, Notifications, Instructions, Etc., Relating to Prize and Maritime Law, Issued from June 12, 1809, to August 15, 1810. Little Brown, 1853.]. He was also a friend of Warren Hastings (first Governor-General of Bengal, from 1772 to 1785). William Hickey mentions him in his memoirs [See Hickey, William. Memoirs of William Hickey ... Hurst & Blackett, Limited, 1782.]. An official record of 07.12.1783 shows permission being granted to Ross, “late director at Chinsurah” to take his passage for Europe “by a neutral ship”.

Gregorius Herklots

acting Governor from 1784 - 1785 See database

Pieter Brueys

See database

Izaak (Isaac) Titsingh

(10.01.1745- 02.02.1812) Governor from 1745 - 1792

Image:Titsingh's memoirs from his days in Japan

Isaac Titsingh, one of the most illustrious Dutch governors of Chinsurah, was born in Amsterdam to Albertus Titsingh (1714-90; surgeon and Dean of the Surgeon’s Guild) and Catharina Bitter. Coming from a distinguished burgher family of physicians with close ties to the Dutch East India management, he obtained a doctorate in law at Leiden University in 1765 and went early to India. He was first educated as a surgeon like many in his family, who were one of the patrician families that formed the ruling oligarchy in Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. He entered the service of the Dutch East India Company in an administrative capacity and raised himself to the post of Counsellor. After a residence of seventeen years at Batavia, he was despatched to Japan (Deshima) in 1778 as chief of the Dutch factory for three periods between 1779 and his retirement to Europe in 1784. Titsingh succeeded in making friends amongst a people used to distrusting foreigners and was the first director of Deshima to interest himself deeply in Japanese science and letters. Soon after his return to Batavia, he was appointed director of the East India factory at Chinsurah at a critical time when the Dutch trading post had fallen to the British after the war ended by the Treaty of Paris in 1784. During his residence there, he became acquainted with Sir William Jones and was one of the original members of the Asiatic Society. He was also associated with Sir Robert Chambers (Judge of Bengal High Court and Chief Justice). Titsingh returned from Chinsurah to Batavia and maintained relations with China. Having crowned his career as Ambassador to the court of Emperor Qianlong in Beijing, he returned to Europe in 1796, after a residence of thirty-three years in the East, where he had accumulated a vast fortune. He finally settled in Paris, dying there in 1812 aged 68. He is buried at the Cimetiere-du-Pere-Lachalise. Although he never married, he fathered a son William Titsingh (c.1790-1840) with Amaril (who is describes in Issac’s letters as “one of my nymphs”). He brought William to China and arranged for a monthly income for Amaril in Bengal. Issac Titsingh was the Dutch Govenor of Chinsurah from 1785 to 1792. Titsingh figures as a character in the anime series Samurai Champloo that ran in 2004 (See He is also the protagonist in a biographical novel by Maria Camper-Titsingh called The Man Who Kow-towed (2010).

Blomberg, Catharina. The West’s Encounter with Japanese Civilization 1800-1940. Psychology Press, 2000. Boxer, Charles. The Mandarin at Chinsura: Isaac Titsingh in Bengal, 1785 - 1997, n.d. Screech, Timon. Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822. Routledge, 2006. Shurtleff, William, and Akiko Aoyagi. History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Japan, and in Japanese Cookbooks and Restaurants Outside Japan (701 CE to 2014). Soyinfo Center, 2014. Titsingh, Isaac. The private correspondence of Isaac Titsingh: 1779-1812. BRILL, 1992. Company, East India. The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany. Wm. H. Allen & Company, 1832. For books by him, see Titsingh, Isaac . Illustrations of Japan: Consisting of Private Memoirs and Anecdotes of the Reigning Dynasty of the Djogouns, Or Sovereigns of Japan; a Description of the Feasts and Ceremonies Observed Throughout the Year at Their Court ... R. Ackermann, 1822. For details on his Masonic connection, see Firminger, Walter K. (Walter Kelly), and Andrew D’Cruz. The Early History of Freemasonry in Bengal and the Punjab; with Which Is Incorporated “The Early History of Freemasonry in Bengal” by Andrew D’Cruz by Walter Kelly Firminger. Calcutta Published with the sanction of the R. Wor. Grand Master of Bengal [by] Thacker, 1906. and A Library of Freemasonry, He is also mentioned in The Friend of India, published by Marshman, Carey and Ward at Chinsurah: The Friend of India. Printed at the Mission Press, 1818.


Cornelis van Citters Aarnoutszoon:

(05.04.1747- 19.12.1807) Governor 1791 - 1795 He was born in Middelburg, Zeeland, Netherlands. Son of Aarnout van Citters and Sara Jacoba Ockerse, he married Maria Hester Cloppenburgh (born 24.05.1752 in Cape of Good Hope, and died in 1771 aged 19, probably of complications at childbirth) on 08.04.1770 at Cape Town. Their daughter Sara Jacoba van Citters was born in Cape of Good Hope on 12.03.1771. He later married Julia Dorothea van Wermelskirche, by whom he had a daughter Anna Helena Gerardina van Citters in 1783. Cornelis had two brothers Wilhelm Aarnout van Citters and Casper van Citters, and one sister Cornelia Maria van Citters (who married Hubrecht de Haze Bomme). Citters worked variously as Third watch (1766), Junior Merchant (1767) and First Mate (1769) of the VOC. He was the Director of VOC in 1792-95.


Johan Wilhelm Salomon van Haugwitz

See database


Jacob Andries van Braam

Governor from 1817 to 1818 He was born in Chinsurah on 26.01.1771 to Ursula Martha Feith, and died on 12.05.1820 in Batavia. He married Ambrosia Wilhelmina van Rijck in Batavia on 05.04.1800. He went with his uncle as companion in the Dutch embassy to Peking in 1794-96. In 1800 he was in Batavia, in 1803-07 was Merchant and “licent master”, and in 1808 became the first Resident of the court of the Emperor of Solo. In 1810 he was the President of the Council of India and in 1812 left Batavia. In 1817, he was the Director of VOC. At the first reconstitution of the Council of India in 1819, he was appointed a member thereof, but died shortly afterwards. He figures importantly in the signing of treaties with the English. Records hold that after the arrival of the English, he had asked for the restoration of the privileges the Dutch settlements had enjoyed in consideration of the ancient farmans. He further arranged to abandon the manufacture of salt against compensation in order to aid British revenue monopoly. Van Braam took over as governor after the British administration of Chinsurah from 1795 to 1825. [See the following links:;]


Daniel Anthony Overbeck

Governor from 1818 to 1825, Last Dutch governor of Chinsurah. See database


Jacob Larwoot (?) van Shevichaven

He was a fiscal official in Chinsurah in 1755. He is mentioned in a deposition regarding the landing of Dutch troops in Chinsurah prior to the battle of Biderra. Moreover, a record of 20.08.1756 mentions him as promising a supply to the British with the arrival of the English ship Delaware.


Mynheer Isinck

He was born on 09.07.1709 at Groningen and died on 25.09.17. He was a member of the Dutch Council and mentioned alongside Shevichaven in the deposition regarding the landing of Dutch troops in Chinsurah.


Colonel Jean-Baptiste Roussel

He was the leader of the Dutch expedition at Biderra. In the Battle of Biderra on 25th November 1759, he was taken prisoner when the British under Colonel Francis Forde defeated the Dutch and forced them to withdraw. [For the Battle refer to Bengal: Past and Present (Vol 2) or The History of the Bengal European Regiment by Percival R. Innes.]


Admiral Johan Splinter Stavorinus

He was a rear-admiral in the service of the States-General, then Post-captain in the naval service of the States-General, and then went on a voyage to the East Indies as captain in employment of the VOC. His book Voyages to East Indies gives a vivid description of contemporary VOC activities and the life in the areas then controlled by the Dutch. Stavorinus describes the pomp and the state in which Dutch governors of Chinsurah lived. He also provides a detailed description of the town and here, he mentions the old Dutch cemetery and the Church. Stavorinus also gives a detailed description of the practice of Sati and how governor Sichterman tried to intervene. He also describes the siege of Chinsurah by the Nawab's faujdar in Hooghly. He visited Chinsurah in 1772 - 78. Hailing from Middelburg, Stavorinus was a man of standing in his society and he also sailed for the Admiralty of Zeeland as his father had done before him. He is reported to have been financially well-off from his private enterprise in the Indies and in 1769 joined the Zeeland Scientific Society when it was founded. For Stavorinus's book, see : Stavorinus, Johan Splinter. Voyages to the East-Indies. Translated by Samuel Hull Wilcocke. G.G. and J. Robinson, 1798.

Bruijn, J. R. Commanders of Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century. Boydell Press, 2011. Firminger, Walter K. (Walter Kelly), and Andrew D’Cruz. The Early History of Freemasonry in Bengal and the Punjab; with Which Is Incorporated “The Early History of Freemasonry in Bengal” by Andrew D’Cruz by Walter Kelly Firminger. Calcutta Published with the sanction of the R. Wor. Grand Master of Bengal [by] Thacker, 1906. W K Firminger. Thacker’s GuideToCalcutta, 1906. Mill, James. The History of British India. Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1817.


Susanna Anna Maria

Image:Susanna Anna Maria's tomb in Chinsurah

Susanna Anna Maria Verkerk was a Dutch lady who married Pieter Brueys (1730-83; Dutch Director of Bengal, 1783; See database) and later Thomas Yeats, a well-established Englishman stationed in Bengal. The India Office Records in London contain a record of the marriage of Thomas Yeats Esq. on 30.03.1795 to Susanna Anna Maria de Brueys in the St. John’s Anglican Church, Calcutta. It also records the baptism of Susanna Jacoba (born 1761), the daughter of Susanna Anna Maria and Pieter Brueys, at the Mission Church, Calcutta, on 03.06.1761. She had a son by him, Louis Adriaan de Brueys (who married Carolina, and died in 1823), and also possibly a daughter named Maria Anna de Brueys (who married Johan Salomon van Haugwitz, Director of Bengal, 1795). Her will, made in the presence of Johannes Muller, Louis Adriaan de Brueys and Daniel Anthony Overbeek (last Director of Bengal, 1818-25) in May 1809, made out all her possessions to Louis Adriaan de Brueys. Her possessions included six mares, and old-fashioned coach, and “a house situated at Chitsura [sic.] at the South West side of the Comp. [Company] Factory, adjoining to the South to the compound of Mr. John Andrews; to the West, to the compound of Seigh Jendie, and to the North and East, to the Public Road”. George Toynbee writes in 1888 that by a will dated 21.11.1805, “Mrs. Yeats” bequeathed R. 4000 as a trust, the interest of which was to be applied to repair her own tomb and that of the two husbands Brueys and Yeats. Any surplus would go to the Chinsurah Poor Fund. She also bequeathed to the station, as a burying ground for English and Dutch residents, a house on the Taldanga Road near Tolaphatak, with 60 beeghas of land attached, called Ayesh Baag. She herself is buried in this garden, but this specific instruction in his will was not carried out. In 1825, the government handed over the administration of the property to Lord Bishop of Calcutta along-with the church and the cemetery. As the Dutch cemetery was enlarged in 1833, using the space in Ayesh Baag did not seem advisable. Under the management of Mr. Herklots in 1828, the garden realized an income of Rs. 100, and another 100 came from the proceeds of the house and the trees around it. This sum was given for distribution by the chaplain to sick persons who were not otherwise provided for. She is most famous for her solitary tomb near Taldanga Road, Chinsurah. The white, domed structure that holds her epitaph “Susanna Anna Maria Yeats, nee Verkerk … overleden 1809…” is locally famous as 'saat saheber bibir kobor' (tomb of the wife of seven Europeans), or memsaheber kobor (tomb of the European lady). Local lore holds that she had married 7 men (although records mention only two, and the dates make seven husbands unlikely), all of whom had died under mysterious circumstances. The Anglo-Indian writer, Ruskin Bond’s Susanna’s Seven Husbands (based on which a Bollywood film, Saat Khoon Maaf was made recently) is supposed to have been inspired by Susanna Anna Maria of Chinsurah.


Laurent Garcin

(1683-1752) French-Swiss physician and naturalist. Born at Grenoble, Garcin left France as a child with his Huguenot family after the Edict of Nantes was renounced in 1685. They settled in Switzerland at Vevey, then at Neuchatel. Garcin went on to study medicine in Holland and after qualifying, aged 24, he joined the Dutch army as a surgeon. Over the next decade Garcin served in Flanders, Spain and Portugal. Returning to Holland he was recruited by the Dutch East India Company, making three voyages to Asia between 1720 and 1729. As well as his medical duties, Garcin made observations on the botany of the places to which he travelled, collecting plant specimens and seeds for European herbaria and gardens. Armed with letters of introduction from Leiden's illustrious Herman Boerhaave, he was given freedom to explore many parts of Indonesia (Java, Sulawesi and Sumatra), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Bengal and the Coromandel Coast, Persia (Iran) and Arabia. After his last journey to the Indies, Garcin returned to Leiden to study medicine further under Boerhaave, and graduated as a doctor in Reims. He then stayed several months in Geneva, where he married a Mlle Maystre. Together they went to Neuchatel to see Garcin's aging father and settled there, Garcin practising medicine. From that time he did not travel much, but made several excursions in France and Holland and while staying in Hulst in the Netherlands in 1737 he saw Boerhaave for the last time. Garcin wrote papers on many scientific subjects, but it was his work on the tropical Asian flora that earned his reputation. He was elected a corresponding member of the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1731 and was made an honorary member of the Royal Society of London. He corresponded with several leading naturalists of the day, including Hans Sloane and de Jussieu. His original herbarium does not seem to have survived, but duplicates can be found in several European collections. The best of these is found in the N.L. Burman herbarium in Geneva (G), Burman having used them in producing his Flora indica (1768). He is commemorated in the genus name of the mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana L. [Source: JSTOR Plants, 'Laurent Garcin'] Garcin's journal tells us about contemporary Chinsurah: Garcin visited Chinsurah thrice, between 1724 - 26, as Surgeon of the Dutch East Indiaman S. Heer Arenskerke.

J. Briquet, 1940, "Biographies des Botanistes a Genève", Bulletin de la Société Botanique Suisse, 50a: 233-234 M.J. van Steenis Kruseman, "Cyclopedia of Collectors", Flora Malesiana, online edn:

Johann Zacharias Kiernander

Johann Zachariah Kiernander, a Swedish Lutheran, was a missionary in the south, who was invited to Bengal by Lord Clive. Following a minute of the Calcutta Council, dated March 24, 1760, a large room near the gateway of the old Fort was fitted up as a Chapel. This was in a house given rent free to Kiernander by the Governor. In 1767 he resolved to purchase ground and build a church at his own expense, and the present Old Mission Church was completed, after many setbacks, in 1770. Kiernander himself called it Beth Tephillah (Hebrew: House of Prayer), but it was known to many as Lal Girja. Kiernander’s Mission was the city’s sole Protestant place of worship from 1758 until the completion of St. John’s Church in 1787. Subsequently it became commonly known as the Old Church, or Old Mission Chuch, while St. John’s was often referred to as the New Chuch, or sometimes Pathure Girja, the Stone Church.

Kiernander lost his second wife in 1773, and in 1778 his eyesight was seriously affected. An operation in 1782 gave him temporary relief, but as old age came on his eye-sight entirely failed. Bankrupt, almost blind, cut off by physical weakness from his beloved mission work, he presented indeed a pitiable old figure. Only once again did he appear in public, when the new chancel of his Old Church was opened. On that occasion he administered the Blessed Sacrament, and expressed great joy at the improvements to the Church. Seeing his destitution, Mr David Brown wrote to the S.P.C.K., who sent him £40. Kiernander ministered to the* Dutch Settlement at Chinsurah during the latter years of his life, and died at the advanced age of 88. He was imprisoned by the British during their takeover of the Dutch settlement. A tablet was erected to his memory in the Mission Cemetery by his great-grandson. A portrait of the old man was painted in 1773 by Christof Von Imhoff, which was unfortunately destroyed some twenty-five years ago. An engraving of the original painting is in the Old Church vestry, Calcutta, and underneath it is the following inscription, supposed to have been written by Kiernander himself:

born in Sweden on 1st December 1710, Went
in 1739 as English Missionary to Cuddalore, Founded
in 1758 the Mission in Bengal, and built for the same
out of his own money a Church which he called
Beth Tephillah.

"Not to thy wintry Sweden, No,
Thou must and wilt
To Ganges as God's herald go."


Eyre  Chatterton (1924) The History of the Church of England in India since the Early Days of the East India Company (London: SPCK)

Aidan Kiernander 'Kiernander: The Online Archive of the Kiernander Family'


Robert May

Arguably the pioneer of the education of women in India, May set up his first school for female students in Chinsurah in 1818. He was born in Gosport and spent a brief period in Philadelphia before coming to Chinsurah. He set up his first vernacular school in 1814 and within a year he had sixteen schools with 957 pupils and in 1818 the number grew to 36 schools with 3000 pupils. Governor-general Hastings supported May's plan with monthly grants of Rs. 600 and also encouraged May to plan a school for teachers. May's schools operated on the Bell-Lancastrian system with monitors supervising the other students. May was a member of the London Missionary Society. He reportedly faced some opposition from rival schools set up by 'old teachers' and 'rich natives'. His wife Elizabeth is buried in the Chinsurah cemetery (see database).

Adam, William. Report on the State of Education in Bengal. G.H. Huttmann, Bengal Military Orphan Press, 1835. Johnston, Anna. Missionary Writing and Empire, 1800-1860. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Robert May, Revd. Lecture to the Young on Interesting Subjects. London: James Nisbet and Co., 1836.


Mrs Louisa Mundy

See database


Alphonse Lacroix

Alphonse Francois Lacroix(1799-1859) was considered as 'the preaching apostle to the Bengalis'. In 1799, in the village of Lignieres, on the slope of the Jura Chasseral in French Switzerland, Alphonse Francois Lacroix was born. He was trained in his uncle's school in the suburbs of Neuchatel, then in Zurich for two years under a German pastor, then near Amsterdam where he was prepared for the Netherlands Missionary Society.The Netherlands Missionary Society sent the French Swiss, Alphonse Francois Lacroix, to Chinsurah to evangelize its inhabitants and the surrounding Bengalis." His son is buried in the cemetery. (See database)


William Carey

Image:Portrait of William Carey

A self-educated cobbler and pastor from the English midlands, Carey heralded the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 with his watchword "Expect great things; attempt great things" and his missions pamphlet An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (1792). The following year, in 1793, he and his family journeyed to India to undertake Christian mission work. Over the next 41 years spent primarily in Serampore, Bengal, Carey labored to show himself approved as an evangelist, Bible translator, social reformer, educator, linguist, and botanist. "Serampore" became synonymous with earnest spirituality, intellectual renaissance, and social improvement. Directed by Carey and colleagues William Ward and Joshua and Hannah Marshman, the Serampore mission printed the Bible in numerous Indian dialects, pioneered the education of Indian women, campaigned against caste and widow-burning, and brought numerous converts to a saving knowledge of Christ.


Streynsham Master

Sir Streynsham Master (28 October 1640 – 28 April 1724) was one of the 17th century pioneers of the English East India Company. He served as the Agent of Madras from 27 January 1678 to 3 July 1681 and is credited with having introduced the first administrative reforms in the Madras Government. Returning to England, in 1692 he bought the Codnor Castle estate and for the rest of his life divided his time between Derbyshire and London. Master wrote about Chinsurah in his diaries. (See Master, Streynsham. Diaries, 1675-1680, and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto;. London, Murray, 1911.


Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton was an interloper during the early days of the East India Company who published his famous Travels in the East Indies in 1706. He writes of Chinsurah: "About half a league further up is the Chinsurah, where the Dutch emporium stands. It is a large factory, walled high with brick. And the factors have a great many good houses standing pleasantly on the river's side; and all of them have pretty gardens to their houses. The settlement at Chinsurah is wholly under the Dutch Company's Government. It is about a mile long, and about the same breadth, well inhabited by Armenians and the natives. It is contiguous to Hughly, and affords sanctuary for many poor natives, when they are in danger of being oppressed by the mogul's governor or his harpies." (See Pinkerton, John. A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of Asia: Many of Which Are Now First Translated Into English : Digested on a New Plan ; Illustr. with Plates. Longman, 1819.


William Hodges

(b London, 28 Oct. 1744; d Brixham, Devon, 6 Mar. 1797).

Image:The Chinsurah riverfront by William Hodges

English painter, mainly of landscapes. He was the pupil and assistant of Richard Wilson, 1758–65, and became a skilful imitator of his style. His work took on a more personal character when he travelled as draughtsman on Captain James Cook's second voyage to the South Pacific in 1772–5, and his finest paintings are those based on drawings he made of such exotic places as Tahiti and Easter Island (examples are in the National Maritime Museum, London). In 1779–84 he worked in India (where he earned a good deal of money) and he later visited the Continent, going as far as Russia in 1792. Hodges wrote: "This is the residence of the Dutch Governor and his Council. There is a fort and within that the factories of the Dutch East-India Company in this part of India. Chiunsura is remarkable for the pleasantness of its situation and its healthiness." He painted several landscapes including 'A View of Chinsurah the Dutch Settlement of Bengal' ( [See also, Hodges, William. Travels in India,: During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, & 1783. Printed for the author, and sold by J. Edwards, 1783.]


Sir Robert Chambers

(b London, 28 Oct. 1744; d Brixham, Devon, 6 Mar. 1797).

Image:Sir Robert Chambers after Robert Home lithograph, early 19th century, National Portrait Gallery, London

Indian judge, born at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1737. In July 1754 Chambers was elected an exhibitioner of Lincoln College, Oxford, and proceeded B.A. 3 Feb. 1758; but he was elected a fellow of University College 23 June 1761, and took his degree of M.A. from that college on 11 July 1761. The last degree to which he proceeded was that of B.C.L., 14 Dec. 1765. Chambers determined upon adopting the law as his profession, and was appointed to the Vinerian professorship of laws in 1766. This position he was allowed, when departing for India in 1774, to retain, by the special permission of the university, for three years, in order that he might see whether the climate of that country would agree with his constitution,In 1773 the supreme court of judicature in Bengal was established, and Chambers was appointed its second judge, Elijah Impey being his chief. The friendship of Dr. Johnson with Chambers was established in 1766, and lasted unimpaired until he left for India. In the ideal university of St. Andrews which Johnson and Boswell founded in their imagination, the chair of English law was assigned to Chambers, and when he sailed to his new country he carried with him a warm letter of introduction from the doctor to Warren Hastings. The judge was throughout his life fond of books, and possessed a large library, especially rich in oriental works. His collection of Sanskrit manuscripts was purchased for the Royal Library at Berlin. Chambers was part of the infamous trial of Raja Nandakumar (Nuncoomar) where the accused was controversially hanged for forgery, which was not a capital offence in India. Chambers did argue against this judgement but was overruled.

References Courtney, William Prideaux. “Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 10.” Wikisource. Accessed September 20, 2014.,_Robert_(1737-1803)_(DNB00). Curley, Thomas M., and Samuel Johnson. Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature, and Empire in the Age of Johnson. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1998.


General Perron

French military adventurer in India, whose name was originally Pierre Cuillier, was born in 1755 at Chateau du Loire in France, the son of a cloth merchant . In 1780 he went out to India as a sailor on a French frigate, deserted on the Malabar coast, and made his way to upper India, where he enlisted in the rana of Gohad's corps under a Scotsman named Sangster . In 1790 he took` service under De Boigne, and was appointed to the command of his second brigade . In 1795 he assisted to win the battle of Kardla against the nizam of Hyderabad, and on De Boigne's retirement became commander-in-chief of Sindhia's army . At the battle of Malpura (1800) he defeated the Rajput forces . After the defeat of Ujjain (1891) he refused to send his troops to the aid of Sindhia . His treachery on this occasion shook his position, and on the outbreak of war between Sindhia and the British in 1803 Perron was superseded and fled to the British camp . In the battles of Delhi, Laswari and Assaye, Perron's battalions were completely destroyed by Lord Lake and Sir Arthur Wellesley . He returned to France with a large fortune, and died in 1834 . See H . Compton, European Military Adventurers of Hindustan (1892) . Source: Perron's house in Chinsurah later became the Hooghly Mohsin College, after having belonged to Baboo Pran Krishna Haldar. Perron's wife Madeleine Deridan, whom he married in 1782, died in Chinsurah in 1804 at the age of 36. [See Lafont, Jean-Marie, and Rehana Lafont. French and Delhi. India Research Press, 2010.]