The poignant story of glamorous woman Elizabeth Barwell, Kolkata

the-south-park-street-cemetery, Kolkata
 In the colonial days in the early period, when young people from Britain arrived in India with a view to making  fast bucks, they, at last, realized how difficult it was to be on a job in a tropical country where the sun shines all through a year. Their jobs with the East India company took  them to strange places where the cultures and the languages spoken   were different. No recreation, no booze to gulp down their frustration and  the  pretty young British officials had to put up with a drab, mundane existence. Only social gatherings that gave them a bit of relaxation were congregations in a few churches.
As time went by, with more people from Britain arrived in Kolkata, soon social clubs and recreation clubs  came up where these young people could go for a spin with the local beauty or be content with  British whisky or India Ale.
Being lonesome and away from their mother land, it is quite obvious, the young  boys in the British company were longing for a company of girls. In those days only some officers were living with their families,  and  the competition for the girls from these families was heavy. As for higher officials, their girls  went for ball room dances on the week ends with the elite members. Obviously the arrival of many  middle class European families in the city of Calcutta was a welcome news for the young bachelors of the English company. Below is the brief, plaintive story of a young, innocent girl who died on the soils of Calcutta in the early colonial period and is now  taking eternal sleep in the South Park Street Cemetery there.

A glamorous young girl by the name of  Elizabeth Sanderson arrived in Calcutta in 1775 in style and elegance  and she  made every bachelor in the city turn towards her.  Daughter of a Colonel in  East India Company’s army, for a few days she became a topic of discussion in social gathering and club  houses as one could not shut the blabber-mouths.  Obviously the rumor mill had begun to work overtime ever since her arrival in Calcutta. The girl was stunningly charismatic and soon carried a tag "the  Helen of England  British India. The more she appeared on the social circuit, the higher the number of  officers wanted to seek her hand.
Apart from being a pretty belle of Calcutta, she was also equally mischievous. In one funny  incident, she  told sixteen of her suitors separately that she would be going to a ball in a Parisian dress and it would be nice if they  could wear a similar costume of pea-green, with pink silk trimmings. Driven by blind love and anxious to win her heart on that particular  occasion, no less than a dozen young men turned up at the ball, all dressed in the same pea-green ludicrous clothing  unmindful of of their foolhardy misadventure. She also danced with some of them, while other suitors standing along the road side with the lit torches  and throbbing heart. Such was the spell-binding effect she had on the crazy young officers. 

One day, the British bachelors were in a state of shock and heart broken when she married a wrong man of her choice; he was  no way suitable to her temperament.  More painful is the fact this charming woman chose  one  Richard Barwell, an official of 
E. I. Co and a friend of Warren Hastings. He was a  well-known womanizer and gambler  and the couple lived in the house known today as Kidderpore  House. She had two sons by him. Later Richard's heavy gambling losses, laxity of his private morals, amorous exploits, etc., showed him in bad light and he gained notoriety. In between his romantic escapades and gambling spree, he distinguished himself  in his service.

But this lovely woman, as ill-luck would have it, did not live long in Calcutta. It was the edit of God that she had to tragically die of "fever" (Malaria?) shortly afterwards. Some say she died because of  tough labor and  difficult child delivery. She was  barely 23 years old at the time of her death. A nice woman who had no pretensions about her beauty. Nor was she proud of her beauty. A pale of gloom enveloped over Calcutta on the day of  her death and funeral. 
She was buried in the South Park Cemetery, Calcutta. The tomb of Elizabeth Barwell - a huge stone pyramid one - is the largest in  the grave yard at the Park street Cemetery, Kolkata.