Howrah

My walk today  (my fourth walk) along the Derwent River must pass through Howrah, an eastern shore suburb adjacent to Tranmere in the City of Clarence (part of the Greater Hobart Area).

The Clarence City Council records that Howrah was named after Howrah House (or Howrah Farm, an alternative source suggests), a property established in the 1830s on Clarence Plains by a retired Indian Army officer Captain James Fielder. According to the Asiatic Journal of the times, when Fielder was a branch pilot in Calcutta (which in our recent times has been renamed Kolkata), his wife had a son in Kolkata on 3 March 1830 so travel to Tasmania occurred sometime after that. On 25 March 1835, ‘the lady of Captain James Fielder’ gave birth to a daughter at Clarence Plains. Fielder arrived in Hobart at least a year earlier if the information in http://vdlworldimmigrants.wordpress.com/stories-of-immigrants-pre-1900 is correct.  “A newspaper notice by James Fielder of Howrah Farm, Clarence Plains, dated 17 November 1834 reads: Run Away On Friday the 14th instant, my apprentice boy, named Charles Connor, a native of India, between 16 and 17 years of age. I therefore warn all persons against harbouring him. He has on a narrow blue striped shirt, under a blue baize shirt, duck trowsers, lace shoes, and a tarpaulin hat. A reward of ten shillings will be given by the Undersigned to any constable who may take him up.”

Captain James Fielder took the name Howrah from a place of the same name near Kolkata. Clarence Plains is now known as Rokeby, a suburb I passed through on route to my first two walking stages on the South Arm peninsula. Rokeby is located over the hill from Howrah.

I found another historical connection when I recalled that Lieutenant John Hayes, who named our Derwent River, sailed from Kolkata in 1793.

With a little online research, I found that Howrah is the twin city to Kolkata in the state of Bengal in India, separated only by the Hoogly River. Back when Hayes was in the India, Kolkata was the capital of India during the British Raj so I imagine a bustling, active and expanding city.

On 11 October 1760, the Indian Howrah district came under control of the East India Company (EIC) – a massive trading company with ships travelling the world.  In 1823, when Bishop Reginald Heber described Howrah as the place “chiefly inhabited by shipbuilders”, it confirmed that location as a significant base for the 27 year old Hayes before he took leave of the EIC, acquired a couple of merchant sponsors who built him two ships, and sailed to Tasmania.  In addition to the shipbuilding industry, I have been pleased to learn that the British created a balance in the landscape by establishing the Indian Botanical Gardens in 1786. Perhaps Hayes experienced this maturing garden before he left in 1793. When he sailed into the Derwent River the Rokeby Hills would have been heavily forested (not cleared or edged with suburbs as they are today) and might have seemed similar to a botanical garden – a place with unusual vegetation.

Is there any chance Lieutenant John Hayes looked at our trees and remembered the Indian Botanical Garden?

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