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From: "Maureen Evers" <>
Subject: [INDIA] Lower Orphan School, Calcutta-Part 1
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 16:19:49 +1100

Hello List

Following on from my previous listing dated 22 December 2008,relating to the
Lower Orphan School, I have found online, mainly in Google Books, more
about the LOS and orphans generally in Calcutta. Sometime the information
was conflicting, in which case I have chosen the earliest source. The
references are given in Part 3.

The Bengal Military Orphan Society was set up in 1782 to provide for orphans
of the officers and soldiers of the Army of the East India Company from all
over Bengal. However it had additional aims, including the rescue of
children from the vice and intemperance of the barracks. Hawes(p27) says
all children, Eurasian or British, legitimate or illegitimate, orphaned or
not, were required to be sent to the orphanage in Calcutta which enabled
the military to remove an encumbrance to its discipline and movements
.Children were generally sent once they turned four.(The only exception was
for the children at the Regimental School at Dum Dum who could stay there
until aged six or sometimes older.) Children where both parents were
European could be returned to England, however those returned were virtually
all officers' children, or from a later date, occasionally sons of British
Army soldiers.

The officers 'children were funded by contributions from army officers
(this group also included Ordnance Conductors appointed before 1822).The
East India Co paid for the soldiers' children, and also for orphans who had
fathers in the British Army who were admitted from the late 1810's.

The Military Orphan School, which appears to have been the main institution
for orphans in Bengal, was initially in Dakhineswar. By 1785 it had moved to
Howrah. Ghosh(p229) says the children of the officers occupied the upper
floors of the building at Howrah, while the children of lower ranks moved
into the ground floor, and the terms Upper and Lower School came into common

In 1790 the Upper Orphan School (UOS) moved to Kidderpore House, in
Allipore(Allypore,Alipore), about a mile and a half from Calcutta, while the
LOS remained at Howrah. Kidderpore House which was purchased by the BMOS in
1798 was the administrative centre for both Schools. The Boys and Girls
Schools were initially in the same building but new buildings were built for
the boys in 1810.

The LOS moved from Howrah to Allipore sometime between 1811 and 1817, to a
site "wholly distinct and at a considerable distance from" the UOS, with
separate sections for the boys and girls. The move was "induced by the
appearance of opthalmia among the wards".

>From 1782 until 31 December 1820, the number of children "admitted on the
establishment of the upper Orphan Society" was 750. At 31 December 1820
there were 95 orphans(some of whom may have had fathers (37 boys and 58
girls) and 28 boarders (13 boys and 15 girls).For the period 1782 until 31
December 1820 "2859 were admitted on the Foundation of the lower School, of
whom 1464 were boys and 1395 were girls."At 31 December 1820 there were 624
in the Lower Orphan School, 270 boys and 354 girls.

The LOS remained at Allipore until about 1856, when the children were sent
to the Lawrence Military Asylum at Sanawar, near Simla ,near the Himalayas,
where the climate was considered "bracing". This institution had commenced
in 1847 and gave preference to "children of pure European parentage, as
being more likely to suffer from the climate of the plains than those of
mixed parentage." Children had to be legitimate children of soldiers and
entered the asylum aged between three and ten years. Applications for all
children who were entitled to attend the LOS continued to be made to the
Secretary, Military Orphan Kidderpore, who decided on the application and
paid for the travelling expenses of forwarding the children to the Lawrence
Asylum. There is perhaps an implication that these children remained wards
of the BMOS but this is unclear.

There is a British Library index reference, to the fact that the BMOS was
closed to new subscribers in 1861 and to the Public General Act, 1866,an Act
to make Provision for the Transfer of the Assets, Liabilities, and
Management of..., the Bengal Military Orphan Society, and other Funds, to
the Secretary of State for India in Council. Also to the "Closure of
Kidderpore House Military Orphan School" IOR/L/MIL/7/15953 1884-1911. It
would appear that all the records of the orphans ended up in some Government

Two other institutions in Calcutta early in the 1800's which were quite
unconnected with the UOS and the LOS were the European Female Orphan Asylum
and the Calcutta Free School. The former, which was situated in Lower
Circular Road, was run by the European Female Orphan Society which was set
up in 1815 to care for female orphans where both mother and father were
European, and the fathers were principally from "the King's Regiments"(ie
British Army).Although established for orphans, subject to circumstances
those who had lost one parent could be admitted, provided the parent
remaining was the father. If the mother was still alive, a child was
generally inadmissible. Even very young babies could be admitted. There were
76 girls in (approx)1824.

The Calcutta Free School was founded in 1789 to educate poor children of
both sexes and merged with the earlier Charity School in 1800.In admission
it gave preference to orphans of destitute Europeans, then country born
children and the offspring of Native Portuguese. Children with parents
unable to support and educate them were admitted subject to vacancies. Day
Scholars were admitted from 1813. An article in 1818 said "it is still the
only institution at the Presidency which gratuitously supports as well as
instructs Christian children without any regard to the occupation or
profession of their parents." By 1818 it boarded 189 boys and 87 girls as
well as educating 36 day boys. (Hawes p25).

I will give more details, including references, in two more emails.


Maureen in Sydney

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