This court was originally housed for many years in the large, white building in the Museum compound to the north-east, close to the Sudder Street entrance, and now in the occupation of the Director of the Zoological Survey of India. It was enclosed by a high brick-wall having an entrance on Chowringhee Road through a large gateway, supported by two upstanding pillars. There used to be only three Judges, First or Chief, Second, and Third, and I recollect some time after my arrival in Calcutta one of the first incumbents of the office of the Chief Judge was the late Mr. J.T. Woodroffe, Advocate-General of Bengal, and father of Sir J.G. Woodroffe, Judge of the High Court. He would, however, only accept the appointment temporarily, as he considered his future prospects at the Bar too good to jeopardise by being absent beyond a certain time. I was very intimate with him at that period; in fact, we lived in the same boarding house for quite a long time in Middleton Row, now run by Mrs. Ashworth, and it is rather a singular coincidence that when this lady was a little girl her mother, Mrs. Shallow, presided over this very house. The present court was built on the site of the old post office and the residence of the Calcutta Postmaster, a Mr. Dove—a large, fat man, but one of the best. As Calcutta grew and litigation increased the number of Judges was also gradually increased until there are now, I believe, six and a Registrar to do the work that three, formerly, were able to cope with.
The Chief Presidency Magistrate has lately changed his court from Lall Bazaar to Bankshall Street, formerly occupied from time immemorial by the Board of Revenue. Originally there were only two Magistrates sitting on the Bench, the Chief, a European barrister designated the Southern, and a native known as the Northern, Magistrate. The courts were formerly held in the large, white building in the centre of the Police compound, since pulled down, on the top floor of which the Commissioner of Police for a long time resided. It was found at last, as in the case of the Small Cause Court, that the increased work had outrun the existing accommodation; so Government built the police court on the site of the old Sailors’ Home which has lately been vacated and found the Commissioner of Police a handsome residence standing on the site of the premises of the United Service Club.
[Illustration: Treasury and Imperial Secretariat Building at the present time]
[Illustration: Department of Commerce and Industry, Council House Street, built on site of Old Foreign Office. Photo by J & H]
[Illustration: Photo. by B. & S. Foreign and Military Secretariat, built on the site of the “Belatee Bungalow”]
[Illustration: Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd Dalhousie Square, showing Post Office and Writers’ Buildings.]
My friend, Willie Bonnaud, the present popular Clerk of the Crown, held for some time the responsible position of Chief Presidency Magistrate, and by his considerate and courteous manners, combined with the able manner in which he discharged the duties of his office, won the approval and respect of Government as well as of the public, both European and native. He only vacated the appointment on account of the age-limit and because there was no pension attached to the office.