Consecrated in 1724, the Dutch Cemetery in Kochi is perhaps the oldest existing European cemetery in India. After defeating the Portuguese in 1663, the Dutch ruled Kochi until the end of the 18th century. During these 130 years, while they conducted trade and administered the area, the Dutch did not really integrate with the local community as their predecessors, the Portuguese, had. As a result, most traces of the Dutch occupation of this area are only to be found in a few architectural remnants, and not in food or festivals.
The Dutch Cemetery, now found locked almost all the time, is one such symbol of Dutch occupation. It bears its date of consecration, 1724, at the entrance, but there is little else to observe on entry. There are over one hundred tombs in the cemetery, most employing the Dutch architecture that was prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries and none of them bearing a cross. Stone walls surrounding the cemetery area make casual visits impossible, although the tombs may be accessed by requesting the caretaker of the nearby St. Francis Church. The cemetery also served as a burial site for many of the British traders and administrators who ruled Kochi from 1795 until 1947. According to T.W. Venn’s book on the St. Francis Church, the last person to be laid to rest in this cemetery was Captain Joseph Ethelbert Winckler in 1913.
The cemetery is now administered by the CSI (Church of South India), although occasionally there is wishful talk about it becoming a protected monument and being restored.