North Park Street Cemetery - The Legend of the Lost
20-08-2018    135 times
North Park Street Cemetery

There was a time when Park Street was known as the Burial Ground Road, as no less than four cemeteries were located along it, near the Lower Circular Road end. Deliberately those cemeteries were arranged to be located there, since the place was far away from the European quarters, otherwise known as the ‘White Town’. It is to be noted here that, during those days mortality rate among the Europeans residing in Calcutta was abnormally high. Actually, the British and the Europeans could not cope with the heat, humidity and dust of the tropical weather and succumbed untimely to diseases like malaria, cholera & black fever at a very early age. Even, the British insurance companies were reluctant to allow their policyholders to travel, let alone live in the colonies. Under the circumstances, even before the South Park Street Cemetery was officially closed in 1790, the North Park Street Cemetery naturally came into existence on the opposite side of the street around 1785.

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However, the situation changed drastically soon after the Independence of India. When the British Government withdrew funding for the maintenance of the cemeteries, it became a regular headache for the local authority. In the meantime North Park Street Cemetery was also closed and the abandoned cemeteries became the happy hunting grounds of the anti-socials. So a proposal was raised to raze both the South and North Park Street Cemeteries. Ultimately, in 1953 the decision was taken to level the North Park Street Cemetery, lease out the recovered land and use the money for the preservation and maintenance of the more historic and more romantic South Park Street Cemetery.

North Park Street Cemetery.
North Park Street Cemetery. Robertson Monument at the Extreme Right

Accordingly, the age old North Park Street was obliterated from the heart of Calcutta.  The cemetery was cleared in 1953 and the Assembly of God Church and the Mercy Hospital occupied the space. Gradually, the Assembly of God Church Tower, School and Hospital, came into being on the spot. Today the only surviving relic of the cemetery is the Robertson Monument, which is a circular structure supported by six Ionic pillars, crowned with a dome. It is said that, the structure was spared of demolition, since it was the last resting place of Edmund Robertson, who held the position of a Senior Superintend of Calcutta Police.

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In fact, the family was held in high esteem, as two generations of the family served the police force of Calcutta, one was a Police Commissioner the other a Senior Superintendent.  However, its positional advantage in a remote corner may have saved it from being demolished.

Robertson Monument
Robertson Monument

Apart from Edmund Robertson, few of the important graves that were once housed in the North Park Street Cemetery are Richmond Thackeray, father of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray; Lieutenant Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick, the British Resident at Hyderabad from 1798 to 1805, who was immortalized by William Dalrymple in his bestselling book White Mughal; and the family vault of John Zachariah Kiernanders, the first Protestant Missionary to establish a base in Bengal.

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Tutorial at home

The tombstone of his wife, Anne Kiernander, was rehabilitated inside the Assembly of God Church building and cemented into a wall. It may be mentioned here that, Kiernander started a school behind the Mission Church that he founded, which can still be found standing in Mission Row.

Kiernander Memorial Tablet
Kiernander Memorial Tablet

Fortunately, some of the lucky tablets from the North Park Street Cemetery, along with several other tombstones from the Tiretta’s cemetery, otherwise known as the French cemetery, were saved, as they were shifted and plastered on the east end wall of the South Park Street Cemetery. However, the tombstone of Josephine Tiretta, is not included in it. She was the beloved wife of Eduardo Tiretta, after whom Tiretti Bazar is named and who established the cemetery named after him to provide the last resting place for his wife.

Assembly of God Chruch, Calcutta
Assembly of God Chruch, Calcutta

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    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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