W. C. Bonnerjee

Other names: 

Woomes Chunder Bonnerjee

Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee


108 Denbigh Street
London, SW1V 2EU
United Kingdom
51° 29' 18.5676" N, 0° 8' 18.7152" W
'Kidderpore' House
8 Bedford Park
Croyden, CR0 2BS
United Kingdom
51° 22' 43.9104" N, 0° 5' 44.8764" W
Date of birth: 
29 Dec 1844
City of birth: 
Sonai, Kidderpore, Bengal
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
21 Jul 1906
Location of death: 
Croydon, London, England
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1864
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1864-8, 1888, 1890-1902 (on and off), 1902-6


Woomes Chunder Bonnerjee was the son of Girish Chunder Bonnerjee, an attorney, and his wife, Saraswati Devi. He was educated at the Oriental Seminary and the Hindu School, Calcutta. Concerned at his negligence, his father removed him from school and in 1861 articled him to a local British solicitor. Bonnerjee won a government scholarship to study Law in England in 1864 and lodged at 108 Denbigh Street, St George's Road, London. He was admitted a student of  Middle Temple on 19 November 1864 and was called to the Bar on 11 June 1867. He was a founder and Secretary of the London Indian Society, and advocated representative and responsible government in India. He then became a member of the East India Association, which superseded the London Indian Society.

Bonnerjee left England in 1868, and on 12 November was enrolled as an advocate at the Calcutta High Court. He became involved with Calcutta University; he was a member of its syndicate, President of its Faculty of Law (1884), and its first representative on the Legislative Council (1894–5). Bonnerjee was one of the founder-members of the Indian National Congress in December 1885. Proposed by Allan Octavian Hume, he was unanimously elected the first President. In the meantime, Bonnerjee travelled between India and Britain: he sent his four-year old son Shelley, and young Nolini and Susie to be educated in Britain in 1874. He and his wife, Hemangini, travelled to and fro, bringing their children to be educated in Britain. In 1888 Hemangini settled permanently in London.

Wealthy from the Bar, Bonnerjee, in about 1890, bought a large house, 8 Bedford Park, Croydon, Surrey, which he named Kidderpore. Bonnerjee lived partly in England and partly in India until 1902, thereafter living mostly at Croydon and practising before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He died at his home, Kidderpore, on 21 July 1906. Although Hemangini had converted to Christianity, W. C. Bonnerjee had remained a Hindu, but was given a non-religious burial in England, as according to his wishes. Hemangini returned to India after his death and died in 1910. Their descendents live in India and Britain.


Surendranath Banerjea (Bonnerjee defended Banerjea in 1883), Hemangini Bonnerjee (wife), Janaki Agnes Penelope Majumdar (daughter), Kamal Krishna Shelley Bonnerjee (son), Ratna Krishna Curran Bonnerjee (son), Noline Héloise Bonnerjee (daughter), Pramilla Bonnerjee (daughter), Susila Anita Bonnerjee (daughter), Revd Pitt Bonarjee (cousin), Romesh Chunder Dutt, Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, Badruddin Tyabji.

Published works: 

Reform of the Hindu Marriage Laws: A Paper Read at a Meeting Held on the 26th of November 1867 and Reprinted from the Journal of the East India Association (London: Macmillan, 1868)

The Hindu Wills Act, Act Xxi of 1870 (Calcutta, 1871)

Indian Politics: A Collection of Essays and Addresses. With an Introduction by W. C. Bonnerjee (Madras: G. A. Natesan & Co., 1898)

Contributions to periodicals: 

Journal of the East India Association 1.1 (Jul. 1867) [transcripts of first EIA annual meeting in which W. C. Bonnerjee was involved]

Secondary works: 

Banerji, K. L., Life, Letters and Speeches of W. C. Bonnerjee (Calcutta: 1923) 

Bonnerjee, Sadhona, Life of W.C. Bonnerjee: First President of the Indian National Congress (Calcutta: Bhowanipore Press, 1944)

Craig, F. W. S., British Parliamentary Election Results 1885-1918 ([S. l.]: Macmillan, 1974)

Foster, Joseph, Men-at-the-Bar: A Biographical Hand-List of the Members of the Various Inns of Court, Including Her Majesty's Judges, Etc ([S.l.]: Reeves and Turner, 1885)

Ghose, Manmatha Nath, W. C. Bonnerjee - the First and Eighth President of Indian National Congress. Snapshots from His Life and His London Letters. Vol. 1 ... Revised by Manmatha Nath Ghose (Calcutta: Deshbandhu Book Depot, 1944)

Lahiri, Shompa, Indians in Britain: Anglo-Indian Encounters, Race and Identity, 1880-1930 (London: Frank Cass, 2000)

Majumdar, Janaki Agnes Penelope, Family History, ed. and introduction by Antoinette Burton (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Mukherjee, Manicklal, W. C. Bonnerjee: Snapshots from his Life and his London Letters (Calcutta: Deshbandu Book Depot, 1944)

Sanyal, Ram Gopal, A General Biography of Bengali Celebrities, both living and dead (Calcutta: U. C. Chuckerbutty, 1889)

Stearn, Roger T., 'Bonnerjee, Woomes Chunder (1844–1906)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/76337]

Sturgess, H. A. C., Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, from the Fifteenth Century to the Year 1944 (London: Published for the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple by Butterworth, 1949)

Virabhadraravu, Adiraju, Jivita Caritavali = Lives of Great Men: Mudati Bhagamu (Madras: A. Virabhadraravu, 1913)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)