The Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah: A Digital Archive of Memories

H.A. Borwater

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Helena Arnolda
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Widow of George Louis (or Lodewijk) Vernet
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To the memory of Mrs. H.A. Borwater, relict of the Hon’ble George Louis Vernet, Ci-divant Director of the Dutch East India Company in Bengal, Obiit. 12th July, 1793.
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Her husband George Lodewijk Vernet, (11/01/1711- 13/12/1775), 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. Probably came to India some time before 1750. Started off as Senior Merchant and gradually came to be second-in-command in the Dutch factory at Kalikapur by 1756. Records show him as being a friend of Warren Hastings and one who showed great kindness to the English after Siraj-ud-Daulah’s capture of Kassimbazar and Calcutta. In 1758 was Chief at Kalikapur. Later Dutch Chief of Kassimbazar. In early 1764 , Vernet succeeded Mr. Louis Taillefert as Governor of Chinsurah and lived a life of hospitality and elegance until 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 1744 (Vernet's name was visible in an inscription above the door of the now-destroyed church - this tablet can now be found in the rijksmuseum 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. Vernet's tomb plate reads:

"Grafbord van George Lodewijk Vernet. Ruitvormig, zwart geschilderde houten lijst, wapen op zwarte grond omringd door rankenwerk. Opschrift in gele letters: 'Den Weledelen Achtbaeren Heer George Lous Vernet. In leven Directeur van Bengalen Gebooren tot scraven Hage Dn 11 Jan Ano 1711 Obiit to Batavia Den 13 December An 1775 oud 64 Jaar'."

The Archives of the Cape of Good Hope record the following about Mrs Vernet and her passage through the Cape in 1775: Borwater (Helena Adriana) ; wife of the Ex-Bengal Director, George Lodewijk Vernet ; arrived here in 1772 with her 2 children from Batavia in the " Hoolwerf." Left the same year for Holland with her children, in the " Borsselen," her husband leaving for Bengal in the " Bovenkerker polder." [She] Had hoped that with her children she would have been able to live quietly at home on the means of her husband, but to her great sorrow the contrary was the case, for shortly after her arrival in Holland, all her husband's effects were seized by his creditors, so that she kept nothing over for her support, and was not only obliged to sell all her jewels and clothing, but in order to escape from further trouble, consequent on the fatal circumstances of her husband's affairs, to leave Fatherland, friends and relatives, and to retire to France, with the hope of finding an opportunity there for proceeding to Bengal, and joining her husband, who, she was told, was at the French Office Chandemagoor [Chandernagore]. With the assistance of his relatives, and the generous help of some persons of quality in the Netherlands, she so far succeeded, that she was permitted to embark with her little daughter at L*Orient in the French private vessel " L'Ajax," in which she arrived here. On the 24th inst. the " Bovenkerkenpolder " returned hither from Bengal, and brought her news that her husband was now at the head office at Hooghly, so that it will be her interest to continue her voyage in the " Ajax," in order the sooner to reach her husband, but sensible that the step taken by her husband to return to Bengal, has caused no slight displeasure to the Masters at home, as well as to the India Government, she dreads with reason that if she were to proceed direct to Bengal in the "Ajax," she might be suspected of having been in collusion with her husband, and thus make her present unhappy condition still worse, by causing further displeasure to the India Government. She therefore prays for a free passage to Batavia in one of the Company's vessels, whence she may be able to proceed to Bengal to join her husband (Signature attached.) Council decide (28th March) to grant her request, but as regards a free passage, to leave that to the India Government. (No. 26 ; date, 28th March.)

Mrs Borwater is said to have received a pension from Warren Hastings from his private funds. The Letters of Warren Hastings to His Wife reveal the following:
'His widow returned to live at Chinsura, andMrs Hastings brought about a marriage between her daughter and Lady Day's brother, Henry Ramus, rather to the displeasure, so Francis says, of Sir John Day. Vernet's elegant hospitality had evidently left his widow in reduced circumstances, for when Hastingsquitted India she figures on his private "pension-list" as the recipient of two hundred rupees a month. There are one or two letters from her, full of affection for him and "the dear Mrs Hastings." Chapman, whose duty it was to pay her the pension, writes of her as " Poor good Mama Vernet." This is in 1793, when he sends the news of her death, which had already been announced to Hastings by her sister, Mme. Fromaget.' (Hastings, Warren, Anna Maria Apollonia von Chapuset Hastings, and Sydney C. Grier. The Letters of Warren Hastings to His Wife. Edinburgh : W. Blackwood, 1905.

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This record has been created by:: 

Purba Hossain