The transfer of Bombay from the Portuguese to the British Crown helped East India Co pay just £10 rent yearly!!

Colonial Bombay castle (fort)

Not  many of us know that the city of Mumbai (Bombay) and the surrounding areas were  either sized or acquired by the  East India Company that came to India as a  mercantile trading company in the 1600s. According to Samuel T Sheppard in his book ‘Bombay’ it was the declaration made by  King Charles roughly 352  years ago that made the company “the true and absolute Lords and Proprietors of the [Bombay] Port and Island.''  Do you know how much rent did they pay to the British Brown  for occupying  vast land? Just peanuts,  a yearly rent of  only ten pounds. The EIC's  successful trading activities in Bombay laid the foundation of  the city, now the most important city in India.   Previously owned by the Portuguese, there were frequent ’flare-ups between them and the company over the payment of port axes and custom  duty.

Bombay islands,

The EIC was lucky and the political scenario had changed from one of confrontation to cooperation because  of ’ royal dowry when the Portuguese princess married King Charles II of England. The Anglo-Portuguese marriage treaty was dated 23rd June, 1661 (ratified on 28th August) and  the city was given to the British on a silver platter  as a gift  of Catherine of Braganz who married the English king on 31st May, 1661 in a far-off land in Europe.

With the arrival of 2nd Governor, Gerald Aungier (1640 – 30 June 1677) in Bombay in 1661 the small town of Bombay saw  a drastic change in its growth. During Aungier's  administration  Bombay was converted into an active center  for commerce and mercantile activities  and great care was taken to bring in the best traders, artisans and other professions to settle there. Gov. Aungier was instrumental  in setting up the first court of law and the first Anglican mint in 1676 in Bombay castle.  This move made Bombay more prosperous as the presence of mint attracted the wealthy merchant community. Traveler Tavernier reported in 1678 that the currency (produced by the mint in Bombay) was circulated within the ''fort precincts and some two or three leagues in the country''.

1890 Colonial mint in Bombay (Mumbai)

 St. Thomas cathedral, first built  in colonial

Apart, knowing the growing need of the European community in the Bombay area, the Governor established ''the first Anglican Church in western India in two small rooms of the Bombay Castle'', according to Farrokh Jijina,  Mumbai historian and the former curator of the Maritime History Society.  St Thomas’ Cathedral  celebrated its 300th Christmas in December 2018 and has  a shared history with Mumbai from its earliest colonial days. It is in Mumbai’s Fort precinct; the  first service in this iconic church was held on December 25, 1718. As part of the tercentenary, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)  named a crossroad, St. Thomas’ Cathedral Chowk, after it. In 2004 the St. Thomas cathedral got the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage and Conservation  award 

Soon after receiving Bombay in the form of dowry  by the British Crown, the English administration had begun the process of claiming the land. But there was some delay, as some higher-ups like the Portuguese Viceroy Mello de Castro had qualms about  about handing  over their possession. The local Portuguese government, on purpose, made the  transition process a difficult one. One method of slowing down the transition  is to  make a declaration that  most of the lands of any value were being owned by the private individuals and hence could not be ceded to the crown or company. To solve this impasse, Gov. Aungier came up with an  amicable settlement on property titles by arranging residents to pay annual quit rents in lieu of better administration, an innovative move that won the admiration of all sections of the population, This strategy did not materialize  in the case of acquisition of Colaba and  Old Woman islands off the coast of Bombay and till 1674 they were not handed over to the British by the Portuguese. In 1675  Aungier took possession of both islands, thus successfully completing the transfer of power to the British.  

The first execution of an English soldier under the British law  was taken place on 21 October 1674 in Bombay. The British soldiers engaged in a mutiny and created serious trouble. With no choice, the Gov. ordered the execution and the corporal was shot dead.  

It was Gov. Aungier who  wanted the  Presidency of West India shifted to Bombay, now a fast growing city with a port  and other public services in colonial India. However it happened on 2 May 1687 many years later  after his death in Surat (now in Gujarat).  where, before moving over to Bombay (Mumbai)  he  was the president of the Surat factory run by the English company. Aungier died in Surat on 30 June 1677 and there lies his tomb.