~The Deed of Conveyance~

For those of you who don’t know, Max Galstaun is a friend of mine whose family have a long association with Calcutta.  Max and his son Anthony Khatchaturian are great historians and have a passion for the preservation of the city’s heritage and material culture.

The Deed of Conveyance is a legal document that transferred JZK’s personal property to Charles Grant and two other Trustees.  This property included Kiernander’s Mission Church and Mission Burial Ground.

The Mission Burial Ground was demolished some time ago, and a hospital was built in it’s place.  I do not know the details of what happened, or who sanctioned or profitted from the sale, but it is a worry that the same fate might befall the church.

Below are the few references that I have found to the Deed of Conveyance.  Attached also are three pages from Bengal Past and Present, Volume 14, (1917) which reproduces the original document.

It states, “and moreover that the said Church and Burying Ground shall continue and remain for the purposes to which the same were consecrated , and shall not be converted or applied to any secular use of purpose whatsoever”

It is hoped that this document may help safeguard the church in perpetuity.  Certainly that was the spirit of the document.  What to you think, Max, Anthony, others?

~Mentions of the Trusteeship~

Hawkesworth, J., Asiaticus: In Two Parts, (1803):  “The property of the Church, school, and burying ground, was transferred on the last day of October 1787 to three trustees, the Rev. Mr. Brown, Mr. William Chambers, and the purchaser, Mr. Charles Grant; thenceforward it ceased to be the property of an individual.”

The Calcutta Christian Observer, Volume 6, (1837):  “The fact was, that Kiernander, as my authorities (derived from family papers now in my possession, entrusted to me by his grandson), ‘came to Calcutta on the suggestion of Lord Clive, with whom he was on very friendly terms’, having been advantageously known to him previously down the Coast.”

Wilkinson, M., Sketches of Christianity in North India, (1844):  “On the last day of October 1787, the property of the Church was transferred by a deed of trust to Mr. William Chambers, Rev. David Brown, and Mr. Charles Grant, jointly under an engagement on their part, for themselves and their successors, that the building should for ever remain appropriated to the purposes for which it was erected.”

Brown, W., History of the propagation of Christianity among the heathen since the reformation, Volume 1, (1854): “The Church, School, and Burying-ground were purchased by Charles Grant, Esq., and were invested by him in trust for the use of the Mission, and given over to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. – Calcutta Review, vol. vii. p.175.”

Lewis, C.B., The Life of John Thomas, (1873): “In October, 1787, Mr. Grant executed a deed which transferred the church and the property connected with it to three trustees, the Rev. David Brown, Mr. William Chambers, and himself, that it might be for ever appropriated to religious uses, for the benefit of the Protestant inhabitants of Calcutta”

Baierlein, E.R., The Land of the Tamulians and its Missions, (1895): “The late Chaplain, Mr. L. whom I lately met, informed me that he, together with the Trustees, had made over the Church to the Church Missionary Society, in order to remove it from the innovations of the Ritualistic Bishop Milman of Calcutta, and to preserve for it a simple Evangelical worship. He also told me that Kiernander has descendants in Calcutta who are in good circumstances.”

Grier, S.C., The Letters of Warren Hastings to his Wife, (1905): “Known as the Old Mission Church, it remained in the hands of trustees until 1870, when the patronage was vested in the Church Missionary Society.”

Penny, F., The Church in Madras, (1912): [p.220, under the sub-heading ‘The Kiernander Lesson’]: “The danger of this was that in case of financial failure, such as overtook Fabricius in 1787 and Kiernander in Calcutta at about the same time, the creditors might seize mission property to satisfy their claims as well as the private property to which they were entitled. This actually happened at Calcutta. The only reason why it did not happen at Vepery as that the Church and grounds had been made over to the mission by the local Government of Fort St. George, and no creditor would have been allowed to attach them in satisfaction of a personal debt.  There was no trust deed.  The Government Order by which the property was handed over was a good title, and it was sufficient in the case of Vepery to protect not only what the Government had given, but what had been other wise acquired as well.

When Kiernander of Calcutta failed, his creditors took possession of all his property; in this category they included the mission Church, the schools, the burial-ground, and the mission bungalow. They had not been legally conveyed to the Society, nor locally registered in the Society’s name.  The creditors could only regard them as the private property of the missionary who built and used them for his own purposes.

This incident conveyed an alarming lesson to the missionaries in the south, and to those who sympathised with them and their work.  After seventy years of work the missionaries were faced by an old problem, which they appear to have thought they had left behind them in Europe, the problem of property. In various places they had property in land, houses, and burial-grounds.  Whether these were held securely and legally was a question they had never troubled themselves about. In their simplicity they regarded it all as mission property, and they looked upon the funds as entirely at their own disposal.  The S.P.C.K., and they who gave their money to further the mission cause, could not look at the question in the same artless way. They saw the necessity of safeguarding the property of the cause they had at heart.”

 

 

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