The Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah: A Digital Archive of Memories

A Brief History of the Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah

The Dutch navigator Admiral Jan Splinter Stavorinus visited Chinsurah in the 1770s. In his rather detailed description of the town he also describes the cemetery as follows:

To the westward of the lodge, there was formerly a burying ground, which was adorned with many handsome tombs, and gravestones. But these were all destroyed under the Government of the Director Taillefert, except the monument of the Director Huysman, which was transformed into a powder magazine. The rest was made into a level plain, and the burying place was removed to another part of the town, where now every grave has an upright tombstone upon it.[1]<

The present cemetery dates back from the rule of governor Taillefert who was the only governor, however, to have had two terms, from 1754 to 1755 and then from    so it is difficult  to ascertain exactly when the burial ground was shifted. In a later account, by John Hawkesworth in his Asiaticus in Two Parts: part the first chronological and historical sketches respecting Bengal, the cemetery is described thus:

Mrs Vernet lies interred in the burial ground of Chinsurah under a tomb with no inscription The ground is in bad order and contains no monument dated earlier than 1743 The tomb of the Weston family is the most remarkable one to be seen there.[2]

Hawkesworth is not entirely correct about the tomb of Mrs Vernet. Her tomb is under her maiden name H.A. Borwater and her epitaph states that she was the ‘relict’ (widow) of Mr Vernet. The tombs of Charles Weston’s daughters, Mary Diemer and Elizabeth Johnson, are still very prominently visible with their granite and marble fronts, respectively. The grave of Sir Cornelius de Jong, said to be the oldest, both by Hawkesworth and the Archaelogical Survey of India, is now probably lost amongst the many tombs whose epitaphs are no longer legible lasix 40 mg.  The cemetery contains some tombs that are of signal importance for the history of VOC as well as well as that of later-day Chinsurah. One only needs to go through the life stories of those who are buried here to form a picture of the political, cultural, social and economic life of the VOC in Bengal and their British successors in Chinsurah. Although much of the history of Chinsurah that could have been obtained in this way is now lost due to the destruction of the earlier cemetery, what remains here is extremely important and also at risk.  This digital archive is an attempt to preserve what was there and also to open up this interesting piece of history to the entire world.

The cemetery is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

[1] Stavorinus, Johan Splinter. Voyages to the East-Indies. Translated by Samuel Hull Wilcocke. G.G. and J. Robinson, 1798.
[2]Hawkesworth, John Asiaticus: In Two Parts. Part the First, Ecclesiastical, Chronological, and Historical Sketches Respecting Bengal. Part the Second, the Epitaphs in the Different Burial Grounds in and about Calcutta 1803.