Mitford, Robert

Mitford, Robert (1782-1836) Collector of Dhaka District, Second Judge' of Provincial Court of Appeal and Circuit, Dhaka, and benefactor of the first important western medical institution- Mitford Hospital of Dhaka. Robert Mitford was born in England in 1782. His ancestors belonged to the famous aristocratic family of Mitford Castle of the extreme north of England, Northumberland. His father was an important officer of the East India Company's China Trade. From his father's time the family developed a deep relationship with the East.

Robert Mitford completed his education in London. In 1798 only at the age of 16 he took up the job of a writer in the east india company and sailed for India. He was attached with the Bengal Civil administration of the Company. In those days a person who joined the Company's service as a writer could climb up the ladder of high civil positions by dint of his talent, hard work and dexterity. After serving in Kolkata, Murshidabad and Bihar in different capacities, he reached the city of Dhaka on 9 September 1816 as the Collector of the District of Dhaka. Meanwhile on 30 May 1804 he married in Murshidabad the daughter of one Thomas Pattle, Elizabeth Anne Pattle. However his married life proved to be unhappy. Within a short period of his arrival in Dhaka, he proved himself a very skillful and efficient collector. After discharging very successfully for four years his responsibility as collector, Mitford applied for a post in the Judicial service of the Company. His application was accepted, and so he joined the Dhaka Provincial Court of Appeal and Circuit as its Second Judge in 1822. He remained in his post till 20 May 1828, when he retired. After spending thirty years in India Mitford returned to England in 1828.

However, he passed his last days in London very miserably. His marriage nearly collapsed, and he got himself involved with a French woman which made his private life even more stormy. In 1836 he went on a holiday in Paris where he became seriously ill, and died on 21 September.

Before his death Mitfrod made a will concerning his wealth and properties. In clause IX of his will, he mentioned that after fulfilling all the obligations laid down in other clauses of the will, the remainder of his property and money should be handed over to the Government of India for the express purpose of the benefit of the native inhabitants.

Wife of Robert Mitford, Anne Elizabeth and his 'Mistress' Marry Appoline contested the will and filed a case in the court. The case went on for many years and in different courts, and many of his relatives, the British Government as well as the Government of India got involved in it. However, at the end the Chancery Division of the High Court of London gave the verdict that the will 'was a good and valid bequest for the charitable purposes therein mentioned', and ordered all persons concerned to send the money to Dhaka immediately.

With the money given by Robert Mitford, a Mitford Bequest Fund was constituted. By 1860 nearly one and a half lakh rupees were deposited in the Bequst Fund. However as there were no specific instructions from Mitford as to what to do with the money, the local people as well as the government of Bengal and India began to think about the use of the fund. After much discussions, lord dalhousie, the Governor General of India observed that it would be most fruitful and proper if with the Mitford Fund a western style medical hospital was established which would serve not only the people of Dhaka but also the entire population of East Bengal. Accordingly he instructed the local authorities to carry out the work. It was also decided at the time that the new hospital would be called Mitford Hospital after the name of its benefactor. It may be noted that the final amount of money deposited in the Mitford Bequest Fund totaled 17,748 pounds 12 Shilling and 3 pence or 1,77,486 Rupee and 2 anna. Mitford Hospital has been serving the people of Dhaka as well as that of Bangladesh since then. [Sharif uddin Ahmed]

Bibliography Sharif uddin Ahmed, Mitford Hospital and Dhaka Medical School: Itihas and Oetijhoo 1858-1947, Dhaka, 2007; Papers Relating to the case Between Mrs Anne Mitford vs Henry Revell Reynolds, The East India Company and others, T.S.11/154/409, Paper VII, Public Records Office, London (Now National Archives of UK).