Monday, 21 December 2015

Formidable Ft.William (1781), Calcutta, legacy of British

Fort William, named after King William III,Calcutta.www.infoindiatravel.com
 
Fort William is one of the most impressive structures among the   European fortifications  in Asia with a garrison of 15,000 men to defend it. Based on the model of  Vauban’s 17th century defensive  concepts, the work was entrusted to  Archibald Campbell, who replaced  Captain John  Brohier as the latter was charged with some  inexcusable malpractices. Archibald Campbell, unlike his predecessors was friendly with the native workers and never had any racial bias. He also used some innovative methods  to use the locally available construction materials to maintain the European standard. It took nearly 13 years to complete the project  first initiated by Clive. With the completion of a formidable fort, the British could function with complete authority with out any fear of invasions from enemies within the confines of Ft. Williams.

Fort William,Calcutta.work began in 1758.puronokolkata.com

 There are two Fort Williams built by the British.The  earlier one  was built in 1696  and newer one  in 1781. Fort William was a primary trading station for the East India company, their first foray in the maritime mercantile operations  in  the Indian subcontinent, the  rest is history. The  land was leased to the company by the  Nawob of  Bengal. Calcutta was purchased by the English in 1698 and declared a Presidency Town of the East India Company in 1699.
 

The  old  fort  was  built near  the  east bank  of  the River  Hooghly  and named after King William III of  England, other additions included  bastions and a  government house - factory at the center (1700 to 1702). Built under  the  supervision of  John Goldsborough,  it was a  two-storied  building with projecting  wings  built for  security  and  company's trading operations.  It was  in the guardroom  in  this fort  the world famous  'black hole'  tragedy  took place on 20 June, 1756.  Siraj Ud Daulah, the Nawob of Bengal  attacked  the fort  for continuous non payment of trade  duty taxes  due to the Nawob and frequent  wanton violation of trade agreement  by the  English company. The fort was heavily damaged  by the Nawob's army and  the British  got thrashed  in the  massive attack in 1756. The Nawob took control  of  Ft. William   and  changed  the  name  to  Alinagar.  Soon the fort was recaptured by the British and,  consequently  there  arose a necessity for the to have a new fort built  with better defense facilities  and firing lines.  

The new and strong fort with  enough space around it  was built in 1781  at the initiative of Robert Clive who started the work in 1758  soon after  his  victory in the battle of Plassey.  
The  Nawob Siraj Ud Daulah  was caught in a trap  hatched by  Clive and  and  his conspirators  and was murdered by  his  own relative.  The total  construction cost of the fort was roughly   two million pounds.  The fort covers  70.9  heaters  of land. with a vast Maidan - open space  around  3 km in the N-S direction and roughly 1 km wide.

New Ft. William campus at Gobindapur,Calcutta. Designed by John Brohier, puronokolkata.com
The Garrison Church, Ft.William, Calcutta,rom the Illustrated London News, 1866."www.columbia.edu  
 Original, or the first of the two Fort Williams built in 1696 puronokolkata.com
The main aim was  to guard the British interests against the frequent invasion of Muslim rulers. Large areas of  jungle around the fort were cleared  in order to  have clear line of fire. The fort had better visibility and firing range, spanning over 5 sq. km. The overall shape of the fort is  star-like to avoid artillery fire  when explosives were not used for 


Fort William, a view from the inside, c.1828.
en.wikipedia.org
 

military purpose. The fort, made of brick and mortar in irregular octagonal shape with three sides facing the near-by  Hoogley  river,  was a  self-contained 
fort  with enough room for storage of arms  and ammunition, lodging  facilities for soldiers, including a functional Church -  the Neo-Gothic church of St. Peter;  church work  started in 1822 and consecrated in 1828.  It used to  serve as a chaplaincy center for the British.  The fort is surrounded by a dry moat 9 meter deep  and fifteen meter broad and can be flooded.  If the enemies try to cross the moat the  enfiladed positions  are really deadly bear-pits from which they can not escape.  Among the six gates,  the gate facing Chowringhee was exclusively meant for the elite, and  hence known as  the Royal Gate. Above each of the gates was a residence for commanding officers.


Presently Indian military's  Eastern Command 's office  is  functioning in Ft.William. There is a library in the place which was once St.Peter's church.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_William,_India