- Fort St. George (India)
Fort St George (or historically, White Town) is the name of the first British fortress in
India, founded in 1639[Roberts, J: "History of the World.". Penguin, 1994.] at the coastal city of Madras (modern city of Chennai.) The construction of the fort provided the impetus for further settlements and trading activity, in what was originally a "no man's land". [cite news | last =Muthiah | first =S | title =A centenary's links with Chennai | publisher =The Hindu | date =08/12/2002 | url =http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2002/08/12/stories/2002081200230300.htm | accessdate =09/06/2002 ] Thus, it is a feasible contention to say that the city evolved around the fortress.
The British East India Company, which had entered India around
1600for trading activities, had begun licensed trading at Surat, which was its initial bastion. However, to secure its trade lines and commercial interests in the spice trade, it felt the necessity of a port closer to the Malaccan Straits. It succeeded in purchasing a piece of coastal land, originally called "Madraspattinam" ("Channapatnam" - by a few accounts.), from a Vijayanagarchieftain named Chennappa Nayaka based in Chandragiri, where it began construction of a harbour and a fort. The fort was completed on April 23rd, coinciding with St. George's Day, celebrated in honour of St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort, hence christened Fort St. George faced the sea and a few fishing villages, and soon became the hub of merchant activity. It gave birth to a new settlement area called George Town (historically referred to as Black Town), which grew to envelop the villages and led to the formation of the city of Madras. It also helped establish British influence over the Carnatic region, and keep the kings of Arcotand Srirangapatna, as well as the French forces based at Pondicherry, at bay.
The fort is a stronghold with 6 meter high walls that withstood a number of assaults in the 18th century. It briefly passed into the possession of the French from
1746to 1749, but was restored to the British under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which ended the War of Austrian Succession.
Today, the Fort serves as the administrative headquarters for the legislative assembly of
Tamil Nadustate, and still houses a garrison for troops in transit to various locations at South India and the Andamans. The Fort Museum contains many relics of the Raj, including portraits of many of the Governors.
Buildings inside the fort
St. Mary's Church is the oldest
Anglicanchurch in India. It was built in 1678-80 AD. The tombstones in its courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. This ancient prayer house solemnized the marriages of Robert Cliveand Governor Elihu Yale, who later was first benefactor of Yale Universityin the United States. The church is popularly known as the 'Westminster Abbey of the East'.
The Fort Museum exhibits the items of the British rule. This building was completed in 1795 and first housed the office of the Madras Bank. The hall upstairs was the Public Exchange Hall and served as a place for public meetings, lottery drawings and occasionally for entertainment. These relics are the reminder of the British rule in India. The objects on display in the museum are the weapons, coins, medals, uniforms and other artifacts from Britain, France and India dating back to the British period. The original letters written by Clive and Cornwallis make fascinating reading. One set of quaint period uniforms is displayed for viewing, as well. However, the piece de resistance is a large statue of Lord Cornwallis.
The first floor of the building has the banquet hall, which holds the paintings of the Governor of the Fort and other high officials of the Regime. The canons of Tipu Sultan decorate the ramparts of the museum. The 14.5 ft statue stands at the entrance near a stairway in the museum. This statue was created by Charles Bank in England and then brought to India. The pedestal of the statue is carved with a disturbing scene depicting Tipu Sultan's emissary handing over Tipu's two sons as hostage in lieu of a ransom he was unable to pay to the British.
* [http://indiahistoryspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/12/british-and-tamil-jab-they-meet-fort-st.html Paintings of Fort St George]
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