MAPS & PHOTOGRAPH


The Inland Customs Line was realigned many times. The central line was probably first reinforced with a cut thorn-tree barrier in the early 1840s, and later in the decade with a live thorny hedge.

A mid-1850s map shows the Customs Line (red and green for different government departments), including a spur to prevent smuggling of salt from the then independent Kingdom of Oudh:




By the 1870s many previously independent states had been absorbed into British India, and the Customs Line substantially realigned to reflect this. The Customs Hedge was now over 1500 miles long, including at least 800 miles made of live thorn trees:






Remnant of the Customs Hedge, 1998 - Pali Ghar , near Chakanagar, Etawah District

Thorn trees on raised earthworks - 26 deg 32.2 min N, 79 deg 9.2 min E

copyright: Roy Moxham

HEDGE SET ON FIRE

I am grateful to Phil Wingfield for drawing my attention to a passage in Christopher Hibbet's 'The Great Mutiny,' which then led me to Mark Thornhill's description of returning to Muttra (Mathura) at the onset of the 'Mutiny' in 1857:

'Presently Mr. Joyce remarked how much lighter it seemed on the left side of the road than on the right. As there was no moon the appearance puzzled me, as it did also our men to whom I pointed it out. We were speculating on the cause, when we came to the track which would lead us, over some fields and the great parade ground, to the back of the station. We passed through the avenue which bordered the road, and perceived the cause of the light. For miles and miles all along the horizon there stretched a line of fire; in some places it was burning brightly, elsewhere emitting only a dull glow.

The spectacle was so beautiful and so singular that with one accord we pulled up to admire it. Our admiration was mingled with other feelings not so ageeeable. The line of fire we conjectured to be the burning Customs' hedge, which was a bank of thory bushes, lately erected by the Government along the Customs' frontier to prevent the smuggling of salt and opium.'

from: 'The Personal Adventures and Experiences of a Magistrate during the Rise, Progress, and Suppression of the Indian Mutiny' by Mark Thornhill (London: John Murray, 1884).

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