When the Huzur Cutchery was shifted to suit the preferences of the ruling Collectors

When it came to the administrative establishments in the Malabar, the Huzur Cutchery had its pride of place. Considered to have been located in the city centre, it was a mini-Collectorate housing departments of consequence to the colonial era.

The place had to be big and accessible enough to suit the needs of the administrators and commoners alike. History shows that the Huzur Cutchery in Calicut was moved back and forth as different Collectors were guided by different yardsticks. In a letter written in 1832, the Provincial Collector makes a case for shifting the Huzur Cutchery back to where it was years ago.

A.F. Hudleston’s letter, in effect, gives a brief history of the Cutchery. But may be because it is addressed to the President and the Members of the Board of Revenue at Fort St. George, Madras, he does not get into the details about the exact location of the two buildings. One just comes to know that the place he wants to move back to is in the centre of the town.

He writes in the letter, “In the year 1821 the then Principal Collector of Malabar recommended the purchase by Government of a house in Calicut to be occupied as a Huzur Cutchery.” The recommended house was purchased by the government in 1823 for Rs 8,400. This space continued to be the Huzur Cutchery for the next seven years.

In 1830, when the then Collector of Malabar felt that the space did not accommodate his establishment, he recommended a new one for the Cutchery. After the required approvals were won, another house was taken on a rent of Rs.80 a month. This house ran as the Cutchery until the Collector went back to England.

The exact location of this new house is not revealed in the letter either. Hudleston in his letter though mentions a “hill.” He writes, “This house though in respect to accommodation (is) preferable to the Government Cutchery is situated on a hill at the distance of 3 miles from the town of Calicut.”

On taking over as the Collector, Hudleston realised this Cutchery on the hill had more minuses than pluses. “I found that this circumstance considerably retarded the business of the office by interfering with the punctual attendance of the Cutchery servants and the speedy communication with the subordinate establishments…” The location not only prompted the late arrival of the staff, but also pinched the pockets of those who wanted to give representations to the Collector. The letter mentions a petition from the merchants of the region to the Collector. They “represented that they were put to the expense of hiring conveyances to attend the Cutchery and this was also the case with some of my writers and native establishment.”

With complaints about the house on the hill coming in, the Collector turned his attention to what was the original Cutchery. “I turned my attention to the house belonging to the Government which is conveniently situated in a spacious compound close to the town,” he writes. On inspection Hudleston finds it in excellent condition with minimal repair. “Finding it in excellent repair and that by incurring a moderate expense in making additions it might be rendered ample and commodious, I determined on giving up the house rented by Mr. Sheffald,” says the Collector.

Along with the original Cutchery in town, he suggests taking on rent an adjoining building to accommodate the establishment. “This house has recently been put through repair; it is constructed of desirable material and the rent is only Rs. 35 per mensem.”

He also submits the plan and estimate prepared by the civil engineer on the additions and alternations required for the buildings. Further additions to the Cutchery and treasury along with a building for the records is estimated at Rs. 3,275 – 8 paise – 10 annas.

While making a case for getting back to the Government house, Hudleston also writes that by doing so he was saving the government “Rs. 540 a year, the difference of rent between the house occupied as a Cutchery by Mr. Sheffald and that now rented by me for the assistant and Sea Customs department.”

He requests the Board to give an early sanction to this proposal of enlargement of the Cutchery. An immediate response to this letter is not found. But the spot of the Cutchery in popular imagination is in the heart of the city.

(Source: Regional Archives Kozhikode)