Sunday, December 1, 2013

Finick Bazar Street

The fact that the Fenwick Bazar Street exists was beyond doubt. I was positive that I had read it somewhere and even a plan of the New Market shows it running adjacent to the present-day compound. I thought I had a fair idea of where it is, but I just wanted some confirmation from the Street itself.

Fenwick's Bazar (I am yet to discover the origin of the name) used to be where the New Market is today. The New Market, of course, was built in 1874. We find some references to Fenwick's Bazar in reports through out the 19th century. It was probably demolished in favour of something more sanitised because, as I understand, it had acquired a reputation for being shabby and unclean. Fires in the area seem to have been quite common. The Asiatic Annual Register, for instance, notes in 1804 the incident of a Fire.
A fire, which at first excited considerable alarm, broke out on Saturday evening, in the neighbourhood of Fenwick's Bazar, Chouringhee. It originated, we here, [sic] from a bheesty, who was piping sorrow away, with a chillum of Bang; and carelessly laid the contents, after he had done, against a hut: however, before it could be subdued, upwards of one hundred straw and other houses, were reduced to ashes.
In November 1843 (I am not absolutely sure of the year) another conflagration commenced "at the bazar and huts immediately behind the Chowringhee-road. It was bounded on the South by Fenwick's buildings, on the north by the Jaun Bazar, on the west by the Ouchterlony monument, and on the east by Wellesly street." It appears that several hundred huts and houses were destroyed by this fire.

The 1828 map of Calcutta, prepared for the use of the Lottery Committee, surveyed by I. A. Schalch, with additions from the survey by Capt. J. Prinsep shows the Bazar. This is from a photograph I took of the map, which is there in the National Library:

It appears under controversial circumstances in a report in Allen's Indian Mail on February 24, 1873. It may be a reference to the area, not the market, and I am not at all certain of when the building was broken down. The New Market seems to have been inaugurated on January 1, 1874. The report may also have been from a different time, published on the said date. It appears that the Commissioner of Police at Calcutta, one Mr Wauchope, made a claim that "will seem to many a direct attack upon a pet article of our [British] moral creed." He argued against the notion that crime rates were directly related to presence of liquor shops, and indeed of liquor consumption. He furnishes a list of comparisons: Burra Bazar, which has 31 liquor shops has a lower crime rate compared to Colootollah, which has only 7. Colinga with 6, "has a criminal population as large in proportion as Fenwick Bazar with thirty-one shops of the same kind." He also claimed '[t]hat the most successful dacoit he ever knew "never tasted liquor"'. Is there a half-appreciative note in the way they say "most successful dacoit"?

A few days back, actually almost a week back, while I was waiting for an appointment with probably the only Churrack Sanyasi in town, I took it upon myself to find traces of the Street. I think it's a nice gesture to commemorate the Bazar with an underexposed street name. At first I couldn't see any of the houses or bigger shops which gave out their address as "Fenwick Bazar Street." There's a liquor shop right where the Street meets Lindsay Street, which gives the address as L. Lindsay Street. It could either mean 'lower' or 'little', and may actually be a legitimate street name also. I asked around a bit but no one seemed to know. May be it was a bad day for street name enthusiasts or the wise elderly. Closer inspection and a second semi-resigned walk revealed a couple of small shops which confessed to being located on the said street. They spelt it as 'Finick Bazar Street', which I later realized, is probably a transcription from Bengali of the pronunciation of 'Fenwick.'

Fenwick Bazar Street (facing Lindsay Street)


  1. I have actually been to this street, I think. Is the blue & white double-storey building in the background of the second photograph, immediately behind the tarpaulin-covered shops, the one that houses Old Calcutta Piggery?

    1. Yes, yes, that very. Funny that I never noticed the name, because most of us must surely have gone down that road en route to Nizam.

  2. Also, this link gives one origin of the name (Number 13 in the list.) Slightly suspect since it doesn't give any sources. But it might give a place to start. Official records would probably note the grant of land mentioned.

  3. I found a little more on the dude. New post up!