Thursday, September 05, 2013

Early Technology Transfer? Windmills in 18th Century India

Llancayo Windmill cottage near Usk, photo via the Guardian Newspaper.

We are today all increasingly aware that India has become a world leader in wind farm technology, already with about 20 GW of installed wind power.  Companies like Suzlon from Pune, are believed to be the 5th largest global manufacturer of turbines, making them both for sale in India as well as for export to many countries around the world.

Since 1997 Suzlon has been able to develop very rapidly by benefiting from Globalisation and from the transfer of technologies developed in Belgium and Germany.

What I had not expected to find was that this was certainly not the first time that an attempt had been made to transfer wind power technology to India.

Quite by chance while researching through the records of that pioneer of globalisation the East India Company, I recently stumbled across a fascinating series of records that suggest that a windmill was built as early as 1730 at Horse Tail Point, Cuddalore.

India does not appear to have had a tradition of using wind power, unlike Europe which had developed windmills for uses including pumping water, and grinding agricultural grains over a period of nearly a thousand years.

Because the East India Company was a primarily a trading house, with shareholders, its servants had to maintain meticulous records.  Each settlement had weekly and monthly business meetings called Consultations, at which the settlement board or management team recorded the accounts and most significant events that had taken place during the previous week or month.

These records record in great detail many of the events in the life of these settlements, and often offer really fascinating insights into the life of our ancestors. While looking for the expenses claims submitted by one of my great x 5 grandfather, who was a Captain in the garrison at Fort St David at that time, I first chanced upon  the following…

Fort St David, February 1731.  Tuesday the 15th.

“Windmill Rent Paid.  Poncala Kristna and Vadashavaroro Bound Renters pay in Forty Pagodas for three months Rent of the Windmill to Ulto September.”      [1]

Many of the goods sold inside the settlement at Cuddalore were the subject of monopolies held by the East India Company, and these included the Farm of the Arrack, as well as selling of tobacco, salt, beetle and even running the ferry that existed between Cuddalore and the Fort itself.

Rather than run them themselves the Officials would from time to time let tenders for the right to operate these monopolies.

This was called Farming, and was a long established process common in England during the 17th Century where entrepreneurs were invited to tender to the state for things like the right to collect the taxation of regions in Britain. The state would estimate the nominal taxation value of an area.  The collection of this amount was rarely achieved in practise, and so the tenderers would bid for a lesser amount that they believed they could actually extract, less their expenses for collection.  Key to success was setting this figure lower than the amount they really expected to be able to actually collect.
The “Farmer” took on the risk of collecting the discounted sum, and was liable to the state for any shortfall from this discounted amount.
Poncala Kristna and Vadashavaroro who were active at this period in Cuddalore bidding for several of these concessions were also hiring the wind mill.

The records go on to state that the renters were struggling to make the windmill pay, and that they were unwilling to pay as much for it in future.  The Board of Management had become concerned because they believed that Poncala Kristna and Vadashavaroro were using their influence to prevent other local businessmen from bidding against them.
In the event this does not appear to have been successful, as somebody called “Tarheriffe” is recorded as being the successful bidder, and not just for the wind mill concession.

"May 13 [1731] The Tobacco and Beetle Bounds & Windmill Farms Lett out for 5 years and the Renter Tarheriffe."

I have not had opportunity to go through the earlier records to see if I can find out the origin of this wind mill.  However there is an account of monies paid to Mr Newcombe in the summer of 1730 for the construction of the wind mill.

Fort St David December 1732
Account Disbursements on Building the Windmill at Horse tail Point. Viz.
Wall Bricks                           253920                  Pa           78:13:71
Square Bricks                     1300                                               7:64
Flat Tiles                               2400                                               9:48
Chinam                                 3086 Parra                              62:3:16
Jaggary                                 450 seer                                   2:7:----
Sail Cloth                              10 pc                                            7:9:40
Paid Mr. Newcombe for Cooly’s as per his Receipt 65:--:--
                                                                                Pag        216:12:29
Fort St David
September Anno 1730.      Vishvenada Reddee.

This account tells us quite a bit about the wind mill.

First the location.  It was at Horse Tail Point.  I cannot locate Horse Tail Point on the oldest map I have a copy of dating from 1781, but it is very probable that this Point is the spit of land to the seaward side of the Fort that runs out into the sea part of the way across the river separating the Fort from the town.

Extract from a mid 18th Century Map of Cuddalore & Fort St David.

The map shows several long spits that could be though to resemble a Horse Tail Point. At the northern end of the Humber Estuary lies a similar spit of land called Spurn Point.  Point is used around the English coast to name a long thin piece of land extending out to sea. One of these was probably the site of the wind mill.

Frustratingly, there is no indication of what the wind mill ground up, however if the location is as I have suggested, it is probable that the material being ground was grain for the use of the  garrison.

If it had been intended to grind crops for the Indian population, one would presume that it would have been constructed in a more readily accessed location for Indian’s, nearer the town.

There is one puzzling omission in the accounts.  Where is the supply of wood?

There is also another curious item in the accounts, for which I could not at first account.

Why did they require 450 seer of Jaggary?

I believe Jaggary is a compound made from refining sugar cane juices.

Am I correct here?

Why would you 450 seer of crystalline sugar. 1 seer equals 0.933kg.  420kg of sugar is a lot.
Chunam is I believe a form of plaster.

Could you make plaster or cement with Chunam and sugar?

As so often Google Books provides the answer.  In 1836 the Madras Journal of Literature and Science, contained a long article on Chunam and the use of Jaggery, part of which is shown below.

The article goes on to explain goes on to describe experiments undertaken by Madras Engineers with Jaggary in Chunam.  They found that the bricks and lime mortar used routinely in India were porous.  If however by using Jaggary  mixed into the plaster, it was found that it was absorbed into the surface of the brickwork where it set and then sealed up the pores in the bricks rendering the brick work waterproof.

Its use on a windmill, and especially one built near the sea makes a great deal of sense, as it is essential that the feedstock being ground and especially the processed flour in the mill remains dry.

The sail cloth is easily accounted for. It would have been used to cover the windmills sails.

The cloth was made in strips which were spread over the wooden frames that were called sails. The speed of the sails could be regulated to the wind speeds by rolling back the cloth to reduce its effective wind catching area, and adjusting the sail area down as the wind speed increased.

I would really welcome input from Indian’s here?
Is there any Indian foodstuff that needs grinding in large bulk quantities on a regular basis?

Surely spices were so valuable, and generally needed grinding in such small daily quantities that it was done by hand grinding with stones driven by woman power.  This would probably sufficed for all the general needs of 1730’s Cuddalore inhabitants.

Perhaps it was the lack of real demand for milling that limited the amount of rent that was affordable.

The lack of wood in the account is more puzzling, however there may be a very simple answer to this.

Wind mills in Europe come in two main types.  Post mills that are generally built in wood, even if they have a brick built lower base.

A typical post mill. This type built predominantly of wood, generally predates tower mills.
Note how the millers are spreading sail cloth onto the frame.

The other form, a tower mill, had a far higher brick built tower, with only a limited cap that contained the mechanism.

A drawing showing the gears inside a Tower Mill.

The very large number of bricks purchased point to the mill having been a very substantial brick built building.

To build a brick wall with two rows of brick besides each other 225mm thick, which would be the usual thickness for a house wall, uses 120 bricks per m2 of wall.

However the stresses inherent in a wind mill would be much greater than those in a house, so that the wall was probably built substantially thicker than a house wall would have been.

If we assumed that the walls were built with 4 rows (450mm) of bricks thick, at 240 bricks per m2, there are enough bricks charged for to make 1058 m2 of wall.

We have no idea of the mills actual diameter, but these mills in England are often 30 feet or more in diameter at the base, with a tapering tower.

A tower with an average diameter of 30 feet [9.3 m] would require 29 m2 of bricks per metre of height.  With 1058 m2 of bricks in total paid for, this would give a tower 119 feet high [36 metres] high.

I have used standard English brick sizes, and it is possible that these bricks were made to Indian customary sizes, which tend to be less deep. Does any know what a standard 18th Century brick measured?


A cross Section through a typical Tower Mill.

This seems to give an unnecessarily high tower.  Perhaps more than just a tower was built.  It is quite possible that both a wind mill tower and some sort of house and barn for the wind mill operator was constructed.  This would have allowed for the storage of grain before it was processed, and for flour once it had been ground up.  The wind mill needed to me managed around the clock so that the winds were caught, and they were no respecters of office hours.  The miller had to be on site to regulate the sails as the wind changed speed or direction.

The sheer quantity of bricks in the account suggests very strongly that the wind mill was a tower mill and not a post or smock mill.

The lack of wood could be simply because somebody else put in an account for the wooden bits and this has not survived.

However, I believe that the lack of any wood in the account points towards the East India Company having had the inner workings of the wind mill made in England in prefabricated sections, and then had the bits shipped out to Cuddalore perhaps together  with Mr. Newcombe who was probably an experienced millwright.

With its external walls coated in gleaming white plaster, the mill must have looked much like Llancavo Windmill near Usk.  That windmill has both a millers cottage and attached barn, and must look much like the one at Cuddalore.

At present I have no idea what became of it.  Many abandoned brick built towers dot the English countryside as they are very durable structures even when abandoned. I wonder if the footings or remains of this building are not somewhere along the current shoreline at Cuddalore today?

Does anybody know if any other wind mills were built in India?

Am I correct in assuming that there was no tradition of windmills being built in India before the Europeans arrived?

As I am unaware of any other windmills being built in India after 1730, can we assume that it was an idea before its time?

Nick Balmer can be contacted at

[1] IOR G/18/4 Records of Fort St David 1732-39
[2] Madras Journal of Literature and Science, Volume 3 page 1836 page 93.
[3] From which has a very good article on windmill technology development over time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yale's Big Bang Approach to Land Acquistion

When Raja Rama of Chingee sold Cuddalore to the English it was agreed that the boundary of the land acquired should be set at the distance reached by a cannon ball fired from a large cannon.

One can only wonder what the poor local inhabitants thought about the whole event. Especially those whose homes just happened to be near where the cannonballs landed.

Elihu Yale who eventually went on to found Yale University in America was the East India Company official who handled these negotiations.

The following extracts transcribed from original records in the British Library describe the events.

Rama Raja King of the Chingee Country Did sell and Alienate to the Right Honble English East India Company the Fort of Tegnapatam als: Fort St: David with all the Ground, Huses, Towns, Rivers, Woods etc. within the Circumference of the Random shot of a great Gun, from the said Fort, as May more plainly appear, by his Letters, Patents, or Royal Cowle granted to the said Right Hon’ble Company in conformation thereof whereby all Royal Authority & Kingly rights formerly in the s’d: Rama Raja is now devolv’d & center’d in the said English Company and therefore all Customs etc: Duties formerly paid Rama ------ or his officers ought now to be paid to the ------------ the company—

The said Cowle or Letters Patents Run in general terms without any exception, but It is said that Mr: Thomas Yale who negotiated This affair at Chingee did verbally agree that the Dutch Factory shou’d be excepted; by which pretence the Ministers of Rama Raja wou’d wrong fully wrest from the said English Company all Customs due from the Dutch; however the said Mr: Yale & those with him do affirm that they never intended by that verbal exception anymore than that the Dutch shou’d have the priviledge and use of their Factory as formerley when the Government of these parts was under Rama Raja which is Ended the most genuine sense; nor is there the least notice taken of it in our Cowle.

Translate of a Bill of Sale
under the Seal of Raja Ram
Rajah Chetterpetty Dated
4th Moharram in the 1st year
of the Mahratta Cycle answer
=ing to 1690 September 24

Extract from the Fort St David Diaries and Consultation of the 11th February 1690 relating to the Dutch Factory. (Notes from IOR G/18/1)

consent to the President Yale and Council for
the use of the said Honble Company and their
Successors for ever for the sum of forty thousand
(40,000) Cheokarems which has been fully
received by us through the hands of Rahoojee
Rendernada our servant according to our

A Certificate from Cheveda Balazee
Dated the 1st Rabee Laker in the 1st
year of the Mahratta Cycle answering
to 1690 dec. 19 of the particular
extent of the Right Hon. Company’s
Bounds in this place he being
authorized to measure the same
by King Ram Rajah.

Wheras that Mahraaza Saib (alias Raja Ram Rajah Chetterpetty) has been pleased to give up the Fort of Tevenepatam to the Honble East India English Company at Madras and ordered them to take possession of all such Lands and Villages within the distance of a Cannon shot which was fired in the presence of Davelet Ram and Gopall Dadazee the Subadar and fell near the Tank called Damara Gunta to the Southward of Cuddalore when it was also ordered that the ground should be measured from thence and that all the Villages that were within that distance should be taken possession of and therefore the said Subadar appointed Sevezee Puntoloo Bookkeeper and Semperety alias accountant who have measured the Ground, on this Govinda
Kishava Sankerazee Mahadav, myself and Sava Razoc Mandel have inspected it and the Places within it were as follows:-

Bar of Gardanedy
Rama Kishnaporam
Caravar Cuppem with its woods
Ganganaick Cuppem
Bar of Penna River
Half of Condanga River
and half of the mountains
Wochey Mada
Manja Cupam

These being all the Villages and Lands within the extent of the Cannon Shot the Company may enjoy them. The head subadar, Havildar, Mazomadar, Taraphear, Samperty, Dashey, and other officers have nothing to do with them. The said Company may therefore happily enjoy the premises (which
have been graciously by the said Maharaza Saib) with their sons & Grandsons
Etc. of their line as long as the Sun and Moon Endure.

The line traced by the cannon balls was planted with thorny shrubs and this formed the Bound Hedge. The outline of this boundary hedge can still be identified in property boundaries to this day.

A local man called Anniyan provided me with the following modern equivalents for the names given above.

Bar of Gardanedy                 -             ?
Rama Kishnaporam              -             ?
Caravar Cuppem with its woods -       Karaiyeravittakuppam
Terpopolore                        -             Thirupadripuliyur
Ganganaick Cuppem           -             Kankanakuppam
Bar of Penna River              -             River Pennar/ Pennaiyar/then pennai
Wadagambem                    -              ?
Half of Condanga River      -             Kadilam River
and half of the mountains    -            Capper hills
(Capper Hills was named after Francis Capper who was the Captain till 1796; British built a prison in the Capper Hills. Freedom fighters including Barathiar and other prisoners of war were imprisoned there.)
Chemmendalem                  -            Semmandalam
Wochey Mada                   -                ?
Manja Cupam                    -               Manjakuppam

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cuddalore Fort & Development Pressure

Google Earth image of the area between Fort St. David and Cuddalore Town, showing the increasing pace of development in the area. from February 2009

India is currently going through huges changes, and must of course to strive to look after its rapidly increasing numbers of people. Cuddalore of course has its own specific challenges, and recovering from the Tsunamis had of course to be one of its leaders most important challenges in recent years.

Sometimes in the rush to solve short term issues can create longer term problems can come back to haunt a community.

Recently Google Earth has changed the images of the area surrounding Fort St David and to the north of Cuddalore town.

These two areas have until recently been low lying and open areas at the mouth of the Penny River.

As a historian, and one with very close links to this particular location, I can obviously be accused of having a vested interest in seeing this area left as little changed and developed as possible.

However, as a historian, and one engaged in writing a history of this fort, I cannot help but point out that this particular area has been left undeveloped until now for an extremely good reason.

The area is subject to extremely fierce floods arising from monsoon rains that occur far inland.

The levels of these flash floods obviously vary from year to year, but a great deal of evidence exists that some of these floods can be very damaging indeed.

With rainfall patterns changing globally, and with rainfall intensities increasing rapidly, any development in this flood plain must be at great risk of sudden inundation.

The fort throughout its working life had to be repaired because of flood damage, for year after year.

I fear that the temporary villages now clearly visible on these photos in the former flood plain areas are highly vunerable to flooding.

The area between Cuddalore and Fort Saint David in 2007 from Google Earth.

Tsunamis Relief Camps 2009

However perhaps of greater concern, because it is easy to understand that the local authorities had to act is the damage that is now happening to the site of Fort St. David itself where new houses are being build diretly on the edges of the site, and a large new bridge has been put in which suggests that more houses are likely to developed here in future.

Google Earth Image showing the new developments encroaching into the ruins of Fort St. Davids. 2009.

The same area around the fort in 2006, from Google Earth

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

List of the names of the Fort St. David Garrison 1703

A list of all the Europeans Topasses and Lascars in the Rt. Hono.ble service in Fort St. David & Cuddalore.

Imprimis in the Military

James Hugonin Lieut
James Davis Do. 2

Ensigns 4

Robert Reay – married a White woman
Hendy Kerr
Samuell Williams – married a Black woman
Michaell Smith

Serjts. 13

Francis Carter married B. W.
Edward Brookes
Jacob De Poane married B. W.
John Houseden
Thomas Welch married B. W,
Richard Hobbs
Rowland Willson Gent of arms
William Hobey married B.W.
James Kean
Seth Ward
William Gilbert
John Craven
Robert Tandey

Corporalls 22

George Roow married B. W.
Alexander Pillow Do.
Daniell Jarmon Do.
Daniell Renno
Joseph Cox
William Smith Do.
George Hardick
William Compere
Richard Lec
William Knight Do.
Adam Dixon Do.
Peter Piccar Do.
Samwell Harris
Boenjarmin Hobbs
Boejamin Yardley
Robert Mason
John Brown Do.
Alexander Humber
Henry Watson
John Ros
John Jones
James Neeve

English Sentinells Living 30

Edward Hearnhead
Antony Ayres
Trustrum Fletewood
Edmund Toole married a Black woman
William Goodman
Thomas Corson do.
Benjamin Moreess
Edward Rickets
John Hox
Robert Glover
John Matthews do.
Peter Brown
Henry Colles
Alexandr Hamlet
John Deenecroft Died June 15th 1702.
John Edward
William Poaker
Edward Williams
William Lane
Jeremiah Kent
John Motrum Died Aug 25th 1702
Cornelius Adam
Bejarmin Gladwell
Edward Heiling
Thomas Joy
Thomas Houlding
Peter Belwill
John Wheler
William Thompson
Richard Parrottt
Henry Bready
Joseph Jackson Drumr.

European Portaquez 3

Anthony Veless do.
Franco De Pena
Psaitian Pementa De Saw

Dutch Sentinells 18

Hans Gosper
Hendrick Swart
Henry Peters
Hans Vancink do.
Augustine Powell
George Pyper do.
John Jurdin
Michaell Porockett do.
John Peterson do.
Peter Johnson
William Tunis
Hans Andreas
Joyce Storam
Peter Francisco
Peter Johnson Minor married BW
Sevarand Peterson
Alexander Magnus
John Johnson
George Johnson Run Jan 17th 1701/2
Adrian Johnson Do time
Hans Grocewall Died March 6th 1701/2

Europeans in the Military 92
Topasses in the Military 198
In all 290

Gunroome Crew

William Walker Gunner
Thomas Emmed Chief Mate married W woman
William Owen 2d Mate do.
John Gardiner 3d do.
James Walker Copper
John Williamson
Thomas Champion
Thomas Hubberd
Nathaniell Pane
Benjamin Poremfeild
William Walkers Died October 22d 1701
Vinter Owen Do Decembr 22d 1702
John Wiklefield Do July 28yh 1702

Dutch Men

Hendrick Harrison
Havmum Lambeck
Hendrick Johnson
Convaught Johnson
William Garratson married a Black woman
Jonathan Molt do.
Jacob Scriver
Isaac Martin
Garret Corneliven do.
Wm. Thornbury Run Novemb. 10th 1701
John Wood do.
John Frankland do.
Stephen Emmais do.
Barnet Cornelison
Gabriell Knope
Topasses 4
Lascars 26

English Europeans living 10
Dutch do 11
Topasses 4
Lascars 26

Ri Harmer Paym.

October 1702 Recd Loyall Cooke
20th May 1703

From British Library, OIOC IOR/G/18/9

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Churches in Cuddalore, Part 1.

Ziegenbalg and the early history of Christianity in Cuddalore.


The following article attempts to describe the early history of the churches in Cuddalore. Since I first began my blog I have received a lot of enquiries about the churches in the town, very largely from people whose ancestors, like mine lived in the town. Whilst I was researching these churches, I began to realise that the town had actually played quite an important role in the development of the Protestant movement in India, and that many of the best surviving accounts of early events in the town are actually those that are preserved in the letters that the missionaries were sending back to Europe to their sponsors.

I make no apologies for concentrating on the Protestant church, to the near exclusion of the Catholic churches and indeed the Muslim and Hindu temples, beyond that of my having so little knowledge of Portuguese, Dutch, and the local Indian languages, as to make it very difficult, if not impossible for me to access the necessary sources in those languages.

This is a great regret of mine.

I would be very interested to hear from anybody, be they from any faith whatsoever, that could help fill this gap for me. It would be especially interesting to determine when the first mosques were built in the town and when the first communities of Muslims arrived in Cuddalore, as well as the story of the establishment of any Madressas that are in the town.

For most of Cuddalore's history, the nearby Hindu temples were clearly the most important religious sites, in terms of their influence on events in the area.

Experience gained from my research in Thalassery and elsewhere on the Malabar Coast, where I have found that the temples hold the most incredibly detailed written, and especially accurate oral traditions concerning the events of the past four or five hundred years, I would be very pleased to learn more about any of these traditions that survive to this day, especially where they involve the interactions with the European's.

In this first part of my article, I recount the events up to 1718.

From Earliest Days to 1718.

St. Thomas, one of the first apostle's arrived in Kerala in AD. 52, and travelled onto Chennai before dying at Little Mount in 72 AD.

Did he travel through Cuddalore?

I don't suppose any one can tell.

The first Christian churches on this part of the Coromandel Coast in the modern era date back to shortly after the arrival of the Portuguese.

Christianity had existed in India, between the end of the Roman period and the arrival of the Portuguese, through the medium of the Syrian Church which was first established on the Malabar Coast in the area around the port of Cochin. These early Christian’s had arrived amongst the travellers and merchants from the Roman Empire who traded to India during the first and second centuries after Christ.

It is not entirely clear if these early Syrian Christian’s who settled in India were refugees from Roman persecution, or traders, who happened to be Christians. They belonged to the Nestorian Sect, and preserved a particularly early and unchanged form of Christianity, uncorrupted by the later controversies and schisms that occurred within Christianity in Europe.

They had no knowledge of the Pope or Protestantism. This later led to their being studied with great interest by early 19th century Anglican clergy, seeking to strip away centuries of accumulated changes in church doctrine, by studying their liturgy that was thought to have developed and changed far less than European liturgies had over the centuries.

While it is not clear whether the Syrian christians ever travelled onto the Coromandel, it is quite possible that individual mechants and traders had visited the Coromandel Coast. However, with the growth of the Muslim World, the Syrian Christian’s became cut off from the support of their original community, and dwindled away in both power and influence. It was not until the arrival of the Portuguese on the coast in the 1500’s that Christianity returned in the area in strength.

Following the same routes as the Syrians and Romans, to India several thousand Armenian traders also arrived over the following centuries, however they seem to have kept within their own communities, and not to have attempted to convert Indian’s from Hinduism.

The most active of the Middle Eastern religions to arrive in India, were of course the Muslim’s who following centuries of contacts as traders, and then as invaders, had carved out huge new states in India. In many ways, it was the damage done to the existing Indian Hindu states by these conflicts, that had occurred over many centuries of internicine warfare, that had weakened India to the point where the newly arriving European’s could overwhelm both the Hindu’s and Muslim’s by exploiting the balance of power to their own ends.

Whilst Cuddalore does not appear to have had a Portuguese settlement, the area was still a significant port, and one which was almost certainly visited by Portuguese merchants and shipping in search of trading opportunities. However the Portuguese do not appear to have been allowed by the local rulers to base themselves at Cuddalore. The nearest permanent settlement where the Portuguese were allowed to be established was nearby in Porto Novo, which was their regional base.

The arrival of the Danes at Tranquebar.

Over the following century the Portuguese had only the local rulers to contend with.

However shortly after 1600 other European’s began to feel their way along the coast. Amongst the most significant of these new arrivals from the point of view of the establishment of Christianity in Cuddalore were the Danish who established a settlement in 1621 at the port of Tranquebar.

Tranquebar had previously been used by the Portuguese as a port, and the Jesuits had established a church there after 1540. This was a Roman Catholic church. The newly arriving Danes however were Protestant’s.

At this time in Europe the Thirty Years War was at its height. Relations between the northern European nations like England, Denmark, and Holland, who were predominantly Protestant, were extremely strained by these wars, that they were fighting against the southern Catholic nations including the Spanish, who were the most powerful, and who ruled the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium) and to a lesser extent the Portugese.

For many years during the 17th century, the existence of these European settlements along the Coromandel coast was very precarious, with their presence barely tolerated by the local Indian rulers. The existing India and Arab traders greatly resented the European's presence, as they damaged the existing trading system, by their competition and often with raw piracy undertaken against Arab and Indian shipping.

The Rajah’s, whilst appreciating the benefits of the revenues accruing from trade, also feared that the European's settlements might be the thin edge of a wedge that would develop into colonies just like those already established by the Portuguese at Goa, Cochin and Daman.

It was therefore absolutely vital for the survival of these settlements, that the rulers were placated along with the other local communities, like the merchants, and religious leaders who were often deeply offended by the European religious practises.

The European's were predominantly there as traders, and they did not individually intend to stay beyond a few years, before hopefully retiring to Europe with their pagodas. They had little or no interest in converting locals to Christianity.

In most cases, they lacked the language skills or indeed the desire to convert local peoples. So the Christian religious services that took place were generally undertaken in private, and inside rooms of buildings normally used for other purposes for the rest of the week.

“Such was the state of things when at the commencement of the eighteenth century, Frederick IV King of Denmark on the suggestion of the Rev. Dr. Lutkens, one of his majesty's chaplains, who had proposed the subject to him when only prince regent, determined notwithstanding the advice of some who thought the design premature and ill timed to establish a mission for the conversion of the heathen at Tranquebar. With this view the king directed an application to be made to the celebrated Dr. Francke, professor of divinity in the University of Halle, in Saxony ,whose well-known devotion to the cause of religion, and recent establishment of the Oriental College of Divinity in that place, peculiarly qualified him for such a task; requesting him to recommend from among his pupils those whom he might deem best calculated, by their learning and piety, to lay the foundation of this important work. Dr Francke made choice of Bartholomew Ziegenbalg, a young man of eminent talents and religious excellence, who had been educated at Halle under his own immediate superintendence, and who happening to be at Berlin when Dr. Lutkens was inquiring for suitable persons to be employed as missionaries, joyfully accepted the proposal. He was soon afterwards joined by his friend and fellow student, Henry Plutscho, who was actuated by a similar desire of engaging in the first Protestant mission to India. These pious men, having received holy orders from the bishop of Zealand, embarked at Copenhagen on the 29th of November, 1705, and after a pleasant voyage, arrived at Tranquebar on the 9th of July, 1706. Here notwithstanding their commission from the king of Denmark the missionaries instead of being kindly received, were discouraged and opposed by the Danish authorities.” [1]

The attitude of the locally based Danish authorities at Tranquebar is also reflected by that of the nearby English officials, and indeed also of the Dutch ones at Cuddalore and Tegnapatnam at this time. The purpose of these settlements was trade, not converting Indian’s. The risk of upsetting the Hindu and or Muslim authorities, was very great, and this could easily result in their being attacked and over-run.

Self preservation, if nothing else, meant not upsetting the Indian's who massively outnumbered the traders.

Disputes would cause the settlements to have to spend fortunes on fortification and soldiers for self defence. These costs went onto the overhead and damaged the bottom line.

Unlike the Portuguese and French settlements, which were largely controlled by state run organisations, organised by centralised Catholic governments in Europe, who were engaged actively pushing forward the re-vitalised Catholic church in the Counter Reformation, and who were prepared to devote considerable importance to promoting their form of Christianity,even at the expense of profits.

The Danish, Dutch and English East India companies on the other hand were run by privately owned joint stock companies run by merchants for profit.

These northern European merchants knew that they had to keep the overheads down, and that avoiding disrupting trade by conflict was key to acheiving this aim. This was indeed a lesson the French and Portuguese ultimately learned, when their companies failed. The same fate visited the English company in the years leading up to 1833, as it too moved away from pure trading, and when as a consequence of this change, it became no longer profitable.

These early Danish missionaries although based in Tranquebar, however soon came to greatly influence events in Cuddalore, as I shall shortly demonstrate. They also left some of the best early accounts of the state of both the churches and settlements at Cuddalore.

Following their arrival at Tranquebar, the missionaries realised that first they must learn Portuguese, which was the common language for all communications between the traders and their Indian business partners. Once they had mastered sufficient Portuguese, they could commence learning Tamil. In acheiving these aims these two men seem to have been very effective. One of their tutors was a young man called Modaliapa, who went on to become their first Protestant convert. Shortly afterwards a “female of high rank” was also converted.

These conversions drew the attention of the local Rajah of Tanjore, who tried to lure the converts away into the interior, presumably to rescue them from the influence of the missionaries.

Leaving one's Hindu, or for that matter Muslim faith for Christianity was an extremely serious event, because it immediately damaged ones caste.

The European Christian’s were seen as being pariahs by most Indian's, polluted by their habits including the drinking alcohol, their meat eating diet, and strange beliefs. By becoming a convert to Christianity, you too would also become a sort of odd untouchable, by association. By implication you also damaged your families reputation. It was not something to be undertaken lightly, and this is why so many of the later converts to Christianity came from the poorest sections of society, who had little more to lose by converting.

A mass conversion of Indian converts followed in May 1707, however it is not clear how many individuals were converted. On the 14th of June 1707 the first stone Protestant church was commenced at Tranquebar. It is very probable that this was the first permanent Protestant church on this part of the coast.

The Dutch had become established in Cuddalore by the 1670’s, before the English. It is very likely that this was initially done by renting a house on a seasonal and then annual basis. The English then adopted the same method of establishing a base in turn in the 1680’s. The exact location of these properties is unknown, but it was probably at the northern end of the old town of Cuddalore.

Indian merchants from other regions and states in India like Gujerat already occupied residences in this area, conveniently adjacent to the quays along the shoreline. One of the largest of these houses was a distinctive white building described in sailing directions, as being a landmark to be looked out for when approaching the Penny River.

Both the Dutch and English East India Company had strict instructions in their standing orders that daily prayers should be said and services held on Sundays. These instructions were often honoured more in their breaching, than in their observance, however services must have been a regular event, probably taking place initially in the mess hall or courtyards of these buildings.

Both the Dutch and the English had pressed for the construction of their own settlements. The Dutch were the first in the 1670’s to get permission for one these settlements were granted, but only to the north of the town. In 1686 the English led by Yale were able to buy the town of Cuddalore and an area bounded by a fence several miles in circumference.


They also secured the use of an existing fortified tower facing the river bar, located at a spot that later formed the south east corner of a much larger Fort St David.

In Britain private individuals based mainly in the City of London merchant community, were becoming aware of the potential for missionary work in India. Close connections existed between the City and Denmark, due to the crucial importance of the Baltic trade to England. At this time, this trade far outstripped that with India in its importance to Britain's economy. Most of the timber required for developing our naval and merchant fleet, especially for masts, tar, rope and other crucial materials came from the Baltic states. Several hundred English ships travelled through Danish waters every year.

These merchants were often deeply religious and had considerable sums of money they could devote to what they saw as good works. At this time several Baltic States had East India Companies. Those of Sweden and Denmark were often financed and staffed by merchants origining from Britain, who were excluded from the English East India Company that had a restricted shareholding, made up of men, unhappy to see their control of the shares diluted by more shareholders.

“It was in this year [1709] that the Danish mission became first known in England, by the translation of some letters from the missionaries addressed to one of their friends in London. The attention of religious persons was powerfully excited by this interesting publication, particularly that of the Rev Mr Boehm, chaplain to Prince George of Denmark, one of the earliest members of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, which had been then a few years established. A present both of money and books was immediately sent by the Society to Tranquebar, and a brief but cordial notice of the mission was inserted in the report of its proceedings for that year. Such was the commencement of the disinterested and important patronage afforded to the Danish mission by that venerable Society; which, while it reflected the highest honour on its members contributed so effectually to the extension and support of Christianity in India.” [2]

Prince George of Denmark [1653-1708] had been the late husband of Queen Anne, and as such had considerable influence in the English Court. With powerful sponsors like the Prince, the East India Company had to adapt its attitude for missionaries.

Being established in Tranquebar, with close links with the British, one of the Danish missionaries set out for Madras, passing through Cuddalore on the way.

“In 1710 Ziegenbalg undertook a journey to Madras, to ascertain what prospect there might be of gaining access to the heathen, either by the way and in the neighbouring country, or in the town itself, with a view to their conversion to Christianity. The congregation at Tranquebar entreated him with tears not to quit them, or to return as soon as possible. At Chillumbrum, quitting the territory of Tanjore, he entered what were then the dominions of the Great Mogul, and proceeded to Porto Novo and Cuddalore, and from thence to Fort St David's; and on the tenth day, having touched at St Thomas's Mount, arrived at Madras in the evening. There he was kindly received by the Rev. Mr. Lewis, chaplain to the factory, with whom the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge were in correspondence on the subject of the Danish mission. During his stay at this place, Ziegenbalg made many inquiries respecting the religious wants of its inhabitants. “Madras,” he writes,” is advantageously situated for spreading Christianity if the English who command there would but second our endeavours, or join with us in propagating the gospel in the East."[3]

It is quite possible that Ziegenbalg’s Indian converts realised just how much more dangerous it was likely to be for somebody to be preaching Christianity in the Islamic parts of India ruled over by the Great Mogul, than it had been under the less powerful rulers further south. These Indian's in the regions ruled over by the Rajah of Tanjore, seem at this time to have exercised great tolerance towards religious deifferences as seems to be traditional amongst most Hindu's.

Also illustrated by the extract, is how the missionaries were operating in the face of considerable official English EIC discouragement. This missionary campaign was clearly at first a privately run effort, organised by, and financed by dedicated and committed individuals.

Using monies largely raised by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, an edition of the New Testament was produced in Europe in Portuguese, which was sent out to India together with a printing press equipped with Roman and Italic fonts. Large quantities of blank paper were also sent.

This printing press was unfortunately seized at sea by French ships and sent onto Brazil. Somehow the society was able to buy it back, and then to despatch it once more on to India. In Germany a separate set of Tamil fonts was made, which was sent separately to Tranquebar, which enabled Tamil editions of the bible to be printed by 1714, along with many other pamphlets and texts. These imported Tamil fonts were found to be faulty, but it proved possible to make better versions at Tranquebar.

By 1714 the Danes had made over 300 converts and had established a school at Tranquebar with more than 80 pupils. Later in 1714 Ziegenbalg commenced the long voyage back to Europe, arriving at Bergen in Norway on the 1st June 1715. From there he travelled with one of his Hindu converts to Halle in Germany, and then on to London, where he was introduced to King George the First.

“who made many inquiries respecting the mission, and assured him of his royal patronage. The Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishop of London, treated him with the highest consideration and kindness. By the former of these prelates he was introduced to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, and received a congratulatory address in Latin, to which he returned an admirable reply in Tamul, immediately adding a translation of his speech into Latin. The Society made Ziegenbalg a liberal present both of money, paper, and books; and the Directors of the East India Company having generously given him a free passage on board one of their ships, he embarked at Deal on the 4th of March, and after rather a dangerous voyage during which he improved his knowledge of the English language, landed at Madras on the 10th of August, 1716 where he was most hospitably received by the governor, and the Rev Mr Stevenson, chaplain to that Presidency.”[4]

With such strong patronage behind him, the missionaries’ reception in Madras this time was far more positive than it had been before. The local EIC officials dare no longer stand in his way.

Christian Schools Founded in Cuddalore.

“After a few day’s refreshment at Madras, Ziegenbalg rejoined his excellent colleague, Grundler at Tranquebar, and resumed with renewed vigour the arduous work of his mission. They immediately instituted a seminary for the education of native youths, to be employed as catechists and schoolmasters; and shortly afterwards, at the suggestion of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, and with the assistance of Mr. Stevenson, and the approbation of the governor of Madras, they established Tamul and Portuguese schools at Madras and Cuddalore.” [5]

As far as I can current ascertain, this was the first formal European run school for Indian's in Cuddalore. Undoubtly the temples and mosques had had schools within them for centuries, before this, and Indian’s had an established system of home tutoring for the children of the most senior merchants and religious officials.

At the same time another school seems to have been established for children of the garrsion and officials. Another German had been selected. Writing in 1733 Mr. Sartorius stated that: -

[in 1733] Mr. John Beck, the schoolmaster, had died four days ago. Mr. Beck was a Wurtemburgher, and came out to India in the service of the English East India Company. In 1716, when the English established a Charity-school for the children of Englishmen, at Cuddalore, he was appointed Ĺ’conomus; and as they were unable to procure a suitable schoolmaster, he took that duty also, teaching, first Portuguese, and, afterwards, English.[6]

It is possible that limited teaching had taken place previously in the homes of the earlier European’s, and the garrison, but it was probably very limited in it's extent, with teaching restricted to basic reading of the Bible, taught together with the commercial mathematics needed to cast up accounts. This teaching may however of been of a high order, especially when you consider the complex fractional maths involved in casting up accounts with such complex exchange rates and units of measurement, as existed at that time.

The town of Cuddalore was crowded, and no doubt insanitary, and security was never really assured for the European inhabitants, as their existed considerable potential for a rebellion amongst the indigenous population, whether supported externally or not.

Over time this led to the English officials and officers moving into newly constructed garden houses, located to the north of the town across the river, and away from the original town. The Fort appears to have gone through a series of building phases. It is very probable that initially an old tower down by the shoreline built by Indian’s formed its core, with earthworks and palisades built first. There appears then appears to have been a significant building programme during 1717 to 1718, which may have been when the majority of the brickwork buildings in the fort went up.

“Thursday The 28th February. Present
Thomas Frederick Esq. Chief.
Richard Horden. John Legg.
Josiah Cooke Randall Fowke.
General Letter from the President & Councill at Fort St. David dated 26th. Instant read, inclosing a draught of the Fortifications and Buildings of Cuddalore, with Messrs. Way and Hugonin’s reports of what is necessary to be done thereto, which is agreeable to their Sentiments, and they desire our approval or reasons against it.
The foremention’d draught and report, being thoroughly examin’d into, & fully debated, the board cannot but think the resolutions of the Hon’ble President & Councill highly to the benefit of the place, and agreeable to the Hon’ble Companies orders.

Agreed to prepare a Letter forthwith advising them with our approval of the Measures they have concerted about the Cuddalore Buildings.” [6]

This first letter considers the town, and the next one deals with the Fort across the river.

“March Monday the 4th. Present
Thomas Frederick Esq. Chief.
Richard Horden. John Legg.
Josiah Cooke Randall Fowke.
From the President & Councill at Fort St. David dated the 2nd instant, inclosing a Plan of that place, explaining therein what they think necessary to be done for compleatg. The Buildings and Fortifications within the Fort. Of which they desire our approval or dissent, and advising they have completed a Contract for eighteen hundred bales to be brought in by the end of December, and that the Ship Fort St. David Monchu is affiv’d with the stores sent upon her.

Rge foremention’d Plan of ffort St. David being laid before the board, fully debat’d and consider’d. We cannot find any reason to disapprove of what th Hon’ble President and Councill have agreed upon in relation to the Fortification of the Fort, and buildings to be erected therein but on the contrary think they have concerted measures for the best, & fully agreeable to Hon’ble Companies directions Wherefore.” [7]

It is highly probable, although not certain that at least one of these buildings inside the fort was designed in such a way that it could serve as a garrison chapel.
Sadly Ziegenbalg like so many others, was to have his life cut short, and it is perhaps significant that he was at Cuddalore when he died.

“But the labours of Ziegenbalg were drawing rapidly to a close. In the autumn of the year 1718, the health of this indefatigable man began to fail. He languished for a few months amidst great weakness and pain; and with a faint hope of relief from travelling, he commenced a journey along the coast. Having reached Cuddalore, he found his end approaching, and sent for his friend Grundler, to whom on his arrival he expressed the most humble yet exalted hope of heavenly happiness; and having received the communion, and a favourite Lutheran hymn to be sung, he expired in perfect peace, on the 23rd of February, 1719, in the 36th year of his age deeply lamented by his excellent colleague and the native converts, and esteemed and regretted by the Pagans themselves.” [8]

[1] Pages 11 & 12. “Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of the Reverend Christian Frederick Swartz, To which is Prefixed a Sketch of the History of Christianity in India” By Hugh Pearson, published 1833, London, Courtesy of Google Books.
[2] Pearson page 17.
[3] Pearson Page 18.
[4] Pearson Page 22.
[5] Pearson Page 25.
[6] Mr. Sartorius’s Account of a Journey to Tranquebar.
[7] Records of Fort St George. Diary and Consultation Book 1716-17. Pages 42.
[8] Records of Fort St George. Diary and Consultation Book 1716-17. Pages 43.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Description of Fort St. David, circa. 1773

A Description of Fort St. David, circa. 1773

Fort St. David is a small, but strong and regular fortification, built on a rising ground, about a mile from the Black-Town, which is called Cuddalore. This last has a wall running round it, with the addition of a few bastions, but is too large even for all the English troops on the coast properly to defend.

In it, reside the greatest part of the native Indian inhabitants of Fort St. David's boundaries. Both the town, and the fort, are situated near the sea side; Cuddalore lying almost due south from the fort. The extent of this settlement's boundaries, are, towards the land, about four miles, and three along the sea side: the former are pointed out by a thick hedge of the aloe plant and cocoa-nut tree, having bastions of six or eight guns, at about three-fourths of a mile from each other. In one of these little forts Deputy Governor Starke had fitted up a pleasant apartment, and to which he frequently retired from Fort St. David.

The country within the boundaries is very pleasant, and the air fine, having seldom any fogs. In the district are many neat houses with gardens; the latter were laid out with much good taste by the gentlemen, who either had been, or were in the company's service. These gardens produce fruits of different sorts, such as pine-apples, oranges, limes, pomegranates, plantaines, bananoes, mangoes, guavas, (red and white,) bedams (a sort of almond), pimple-nose, called in the West Indies, chadocks, a very fine large fruit of the citron-kind, but of four or five times it's size, and many others. At the end of each gentleman's garden there is generally a shady grove of cocoanut trees....

In the neighbourhood of the agreeable retreats before mentioned, are many pleasant rows of the ever-green tulip tree, which are planted through great part of the boundaries, in the same manner as the elms in St. James's Park. At some little distance from one of these walks, is a building, belonging to the company, and designed for the governor, and called 'the garden-house.' It is roomy, handsome and well built; and has a very good and large garden belonging to it, with long and pleasant avenues of trees in the back and front.

From: Sir George Forrest. The Life of Lord Clive. Vol. I. London and New York: Cassell, 1918, 52-53.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Alexander Hamilton's Account of Fort St David

Alexander Hamilton was an Interloper, trading to India. An Interloper was someone who was from Britain who was not an official of the East India Company. He travelled and traded extensively around the Indian Coastline between about 1688 and 1723.

It is not possible to date his visit to Cuddalore exactly, but it was probably after 1700.

Fort St. David is next, a Colony and Fortress belonging to the English. About the Year 1686 a Moratta Prince sold it to Mr. Elihu Yale, for 90000 Pagadoes, for the Use and Behoof of the English East-India Company. The Fort is pretty strong, and stands close to a River; and the Territories annexed to the Fort by Agreement, were as far as any Gun the English had, could fling a Shot, every Way round the Fort; but whether the Buyer or Gunner were Conjurers or no, I cannot tell, but I am sure that the English Bounds reach above eight Miles along the Sea-shore, and four Miles with in Land. The Country is pleasant, healthful and fruitful, watered with several Rivers that are as good as so many Walls to fortify the English Colony. And ever since the Time that Aurengzeb conquered Visapore and Golcondah, there are great Numbers of Malcontents and Freebooters that keep on the Mountains, and often fall down into the open Country, and commit Depredations, by ravaging and plundering the Villages; and all the Mogul’s Forces cannot suppress them.

When the English bought Fort St. David, the Dutch had a little Factory there, about a Mile from the Fort, and the good-natured English suffer them still to continue a few Servants in it. Our Company did not find so much grace from the Dutch at Couchin, nor the gentlemen of Bantam and Indrapoura, when the Dutch seized those Places. It is true, the Dutch can drive no open Trade there, but what they must pay the English Company Customs for.

About the Year 1698 the Freebooters aforementioned had almost made themselves Masters of the Fort by Stratagem and Surprize. They pretended, that they had been sent from the Mogul’s Vice-Roy at Visapore, to take Charge of the Revenue collected at Porto Novo, and to carry it to the Treasury at Visapore, and desired Leave to put their feigned Treasure into the Fort for a few Days, to secure it from the Moratta Freebooters aforementioned, who, they said, were plundering the open Country, which Favour Mr. Frazer, Governor at the Time, granted, so they brought into the Fort ten or twelve Oxen loaded with Stones, and each Ox had two or three Attendants, and about 200 more of that Gang, who came along with the Carriage Beasts as a Guard, lodged themselves in a Grove near the Fort Gate, to be ready, on a Signal given, to enter the Fort. The Freebooters within took an Opportunity the very next Morning, and killed the Sentinel and a few more that were asleep in the Gate-way next to the Grove; but, before they could break the Gate open, the Garison was alarmed, and killed all their treacherous Guests, and the Ambush without being come into the Parade before the Gate, met with so warm a Reception, that they retreated in Confusion, and the English pursuing them, killed severals, but lost some of their own Men.

Mr. Frazer ordered directly the Grove to be cut down, for fear of future Danger from it, but Fort St. David being subordinate to Fort St. George, the Governor and Council there called Mr. Frazer to their Court, and fined him for Presumption, in cutting down so fine a Grove for Enemies to skulk in, without Leave asked and given in due Form; but; their Right Honourable Masters adjusted all that Matter, and ordered the Fine to be refunded, with the Interest; but Governors of different Views and Humours seldom agree.

This Colony produces good long Clothes in large Quantities, either brown, white, or blue dyed, also Sallampores, Morees, Demities, Gingees
Missing line
Assistance of this Colony, that of Fort St. George would make but a small Figure in Trade to what it now does.

The River is but small, tho’ very convenient for the Import and Export of Merchandize. And Cuddelore, that lies about a Mile to the Southward, is capable to receive Ships of 200 Tuns in the Months of September and October. The Rivers have both of them Bars, but are very smooth, whereas Fort St. George is always going ashore and coming off.

The Company has a pretty good Garden and Summer-house, where generally the Governor resides; and the Town extending itself pretty wide, has Gardens to most of their Houses. Their black Cattle are very small, but plentiful and cheap. And their Seas and Rivers abound in good Fishes.

From Alexander Hamilton's "A New Account of the East Indies."