Friday, 31 March 2006

Serampore - a shadow of Denmark's past

I took a day tour out of Calcutta to visit the old Danish Trade station of Serampore situated on river Hooghly north of Calcutta. It is lesser known than Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu, allthough an important part of Denmark's colonial history. It prospered initially, but later after continued harassment from the British based in Calcutta, Denmark was forced to sell off Serampore to the British for an almost symbolic sum of money in 1835.

College of Serampore, founded by the Brit William Carey under license from the Danish King. The iron cast gate was a present from the King to the College.

One of the beautiful, old, colonial buildings, now in a state of sad but dignified decay. The whole town is filled with buildings like this, still inhabited but not particularly well cared for.

What might have been one of the main streets of the bustling Danish trade station in the late 18th century is now a sleepy little street with only a few cows and bicycle rickshaws to look at the old buildings.

Some of the buildings have been restored - in this case half a building has been made into a school where the other half stands untouched.

River Hooghly, the lifeline of the Danish trade station at Serampore. My ancestors would sail down this river to the Indian Ocean to begin a gruelling, long journey back to Denmark.

8 comments:

shaunak said...

You mention your ancestors sailing on the Hugli... I found no Agersnap among the list of Danish residents in Serampore?

ABRESTTE, A.
ALPHONSE, A. (court sergeant)


BANG, H.C.
--------, A.
BECKER, H.C.
-----------, C.M.
BELDER, J.
BENDESBOLL, J.
BIE, O.L. (magistrate native-court)
BIRCK, A.
BORRISEN, J.
BOYESEN, N.F.
BROAGER, A.J.
-------------, H.C.
BRUN, F.


CANNON, N.
CARSTENSEN, C.
CHRISTIAN, P.


ERHARDY, A.


FARNON, A.
FIELLERUP, H.J.
FISCHER, S.
FICK, C.
FREY, J.P.
FROM, C.
--------, H.C.


GANTZER, J. (court sargeant)
GRAMBERG, T.


HAMMER, N.
------------, J.
------------, R.
HANSON, T.
-----------, H.
HELSDING, J.H.
--------------, J.C.
HERMENSON, J.P.
HOLM, L.
--------, H.


JACOBSEN, J.
JANSEN, C.
JENSEN, J.
JESSEN, P.


KEIRULF, S.
KIERSGAARDT, N.
KOOTER, L.
KREFTING, Jacob, (late Governor)
KRUSE, H.M.


LAARSEN, J.
LUND, P.J.
-------, N.P.


MAURITZEN, M.
MOSTROPH, P.C.


NEXONE, N.


OLSEN, N.
---------, E.


PAGH, S.
PAY, L.
PETERSEN, L.W.
-------------, H.P.
-------------, M.
-------------, P.S.
PRENSE, P.N.
PRINTZLING, C.H.G. (magistrate Eur.court)


REICRSEN, S.
ROMER, F.


SCHAFFALITZKY, A.
SCHMIDT, P.D.
SIEDLER, S.
SMIDT, C.
SCOTMAN, C.
-------------, F.
SONNIGSEN, C.
STEIEGLER, J.B.
SWANSEGER, G.
SWINGEL, H.


TIDEMAN, C.R.
THIELE, A.
TOP, Casper


WALLICH, N. (settlement surgeon)
WESSEL, J.H.
WESTERMAN, B.W.
WICKEDE, B.V.
WOLFF, J.C.
---------, C.M.


ZANDYK, J.V.

Esben said...

Hello Shaunak

I must readily admit that the claim about my ancestors was not to be taken too literally. It was meant more as a representation of the Danes many houndred years ago, who could possible be my ancestors. I do not know with any degree ofcertainty though. My last name is a fairly rare name and most of my biological ancestors would have other last names. But who knows, maybe one of them was there? That's the charm of historical places - so much room for imagining what once was.

shaunak said...

Hi Esben,
is there any reference to Serampore or Tranquebar in Danish textbooks? Would any young Dane have ever heard of Danish trading posts in India? How did you come across it?

Esben said...

Hi Shaunak

I think Trankebar (Danish spelling) is definately more well known than Serampore in general. Most Danes are aware of the existance of Trankebar (along with our old colonies in Ghana and the Virgin Islands), allthough many would have a very hard time pinpointing it on a map or saying anything about the history of theplace. Serampore is a bit more of a forgotten chapter in Danish history. To be honest I had never heard of Serampore before the day I visited. I was in Calcutta (about one month ago now) and saw a very short mention of Serampore in my Lonely Planet Guide Book, so I decided to take a taxi up there.

shaunak said...

yes you are right the little known european settlements in Bengal... Danish Serampore, Dutch Chinsurah, Portuguese Hugli and the French Chandernagore. Today they are all towns in the district of Hooghly in West Bengal. Your ancestors had a glimpse of the EU in far away Bengal :-) Wonder what my ancestors experienced as subjects.

hudsonjr@ntlworld.com said...

I lived at Serampore College as a child and was greatly impressed by the generosity of the Danish people but surprised when visiting museums in Copenhagen that there is no mention of it even though your present Queen visited it as a princess. Even my Danish friends had never heard of it. But it is a part of Danish history of which you should be proud.

Unknown said...

I would be very thankful if you share more data about this place.

Siddhartha said...

Hi Esben,

Many thanks for your post. I am from Serampore, though currently living in Kuala Lumpur. There's a restoration initiative being take and in my last visit I actually saw work being carried on. You may want to check this:

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130314/jsp/calcutta/story_16670493.jsp#.VSHwNZMhOjh