The Danish Settlement
The Danish East India Company was founded by King Christian IV of Denmark in 1612 chiefly on hopes that had been aroused by the enormous revenues produced by the initial ventures of the British and Dutch companies. The Danes first settled on the banks of the Hooghly at the same time as the French in about 1676. The Danes first settled near Hooghly in 1698. Their first settlement was at Gondalpara, the south east corner of the French territory of Chandernagor, the spot to this day known as Danemardanga.
The Danish settlement does not figure in the history at all during the first half of the 18th century. In the year 1755 they obtained the permission from Alivardi Khan, the then Viceroy of Bengal to settle and erect a factory at Serampore. The chief of the Danish factory, who took over Serampore, was named as Scotsman. The Danish east India Company built warehouses, paved the banks of the river, appointed native dewans and gomosta and conferred trading rights to both Native and foreign merchants to spread business on a wide scale.
Serampore remained under the Danish rule till 1845, after which the Danish Governor decided to sell it to the British East India Company. Built in 1818, the Serampore College, with its grand facede, reminds one of the glorious days of Danish Serampore. Danish missionary Carey, along with Ward and Marshman, started the Serampore Mission Press and published the first Bengali translation of the Bible. They also started the Friends of India newspaper. Serampore also houses two Cemeteries dating back to the Danish days. The Baptist Mission Cemetery in Serampore contains the family graves of Carey, Ward and Marshman, while the Danish Cemetery houses several other Danish graves.
The Goswami family of Serampore made a fortune by trading with the Danes and the British. Several Goswami mansions are mute witnesses to the glorious days of European trades in Bengal.
Sadly, most of the mansions are in a rundown state as the family is not able to maintain them. In order to generate revenue they are being let out for film shootings and marriage ceremony halls. Despite all odds, the crumbling mansions of Serampore remind one of the once flourishing European trade in Bengal. Presently, the West Bengal Tourism is working on proposals to develop tourism circuits covering the four colonial settlements of West Bengal.
Along the river are several colonial mansions dating back to the days of the Danes, including the Baptist Mission Church. The Baptist Mission Church once served as the residence of the three missionaries Carrey, Marshman and Ward. The church is still active but has largely been modified into a modern structure. The centre of attraction in Serampore is Olave’s Church.
Built in 1805, it has a long slender spire and is approached by a long flight of stairs. The triangular pediment containing the monogram of the Danish King Frederick VI, is supported by four twin pillars. The Church is presently under repair and is funded by the Danish Government.In front of the church is a small triangular park housing 15 Danish cannons. These cannons were once spread out in different parts of Serampore, and in 1940 the Serampore Municipality brought all the canons together for public display.