Sunday, 22 February 2009

Tellicherry Church Restored

Fig. 1. Thalassery Protestant Church under restoration, January 2009. Photo Jissu Jacob.

Like most of the descendants of English families who formerly lived in India, and who have recently made the long journey out to India to visit the places where our ancestors lived and died; I too have explored overgrown, mouldering churchyards, and collapsing churches.

Fig. 2. The decaying Protestant Church at Tellicherry, in 2006. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Gething.

My trip to Tellicherry was no different. I had arrived at the church yard at dusk, in December 2006 to find the churchyard so overgrown and difficult to access, that I had decided that I wouldn't risk entering it.[1]

Lindsay Gething who also visited the church in 2006, was however made of sterner stuff, as can be seen in the two photos that she took during her visit to Thalaserry.

Fig. 3. Tellicherry church, 2006. Lindsay Gething.

It is easy to understand that these churches are largely irrelevant to the vast majority of Indians and that they have far more pressing tasks in their lives than the restoration of some long over grown and redundant church. Indeed, one only has to see the state of many churches here in Britain to encounter similar neglect and decay, so it is hardly surprising that these churches are fast disappearing.

So it is with the greatest of surprise, pleasure and appreciation that I have discovered through the work of Jissu Jacob that this particular church is being restored by the local authorities. Jissu Jacob is a local tourist guide based near Thalaserry, with keen interest in local history. [2] We have been working on several research projects in the Thalaserry area over the past year. Jissu took the following photos that portray the excellent work being undertaken in January 2009.

I have not been able to find out who is responsible for this very thorough work. I would very much like to be able to find out in order to thank them formally. If you are able to tell who has undertaken this work, I would love to hear from you.[3]

Fig. 4. Tellicherry Church under restoration in January 2009. Photo by Jissu Jacob.

As can be seen from the photo above, this fine little church in the Gothic Revival style is coming back to life. Local tradition says that this church was built by Edward Brennan. Edward Brennan was appointed Master Attendant at Tellicherry responsible for the port, in September 1828. [4]

Brennan emulated his predecessor Mr. Oakes,in the post of Master Attendant, by becoming an important philanthropist in the town.[5] Both Oakes and Brennan must have become deeply involved and committed to the welfare of the many poor Indians in and around the town. They both devoted much of their free time and personal money towards improving conditions for these local people.

In 1862, Brennan founded a college, which he endowed with Rs.8900. "to give the boys of all castes, creeds, and colour a sound English education”.[6]

This college went on to become a very important college for the development of Indians who then went on to play a highly important role in developing Indian capability to rule effectively after independence. It survives to this day as a highly respected teacher training establishment.

Fig. 5. Tablet inside church recording Edward Brennan. Photo Jissu Jacob.

Edward Brennan's grave is believed to be located in this churchyard.

Fig. 6. The newly restored boundary wall between the fort and the church. Jissu Jacob.

It is clear that a graveyard existed on this site for a considerable period before the current church was built, because the earliest gravestone found to date comes from 1768.

The exact date of the churches construction is unknown to me at present.

However, it was probably built in about 1840, or shortly thereafter, judging by the style, which is based on that used in English Medieval churches built in the Perpendicular style between 1300 and 1550, and which had come back into fashion, following its rediscovery by architects like Pugin, in the 1830's.

There was a move away from the Classical styles used by an earlier generation, on the church like St. John's Church at Cannanore [7] and at other places in India like Skinners Church in Delhi.

During the 1830's and 1840's the Gothic Revival style was being used by emerging architects to construct many of new churches that were being built in the rapidly growing suburbs of the industrial cities in England, where a religious revival was underway during this period.[8]

The church had certainly been built by 1854, as is demonstrated by the passage below that was published in that year.

An anonymous writer who had travelled to Tellicherry, wrote an article that appeared in 1854 in the "Home friend, a weekly miscellany of amusement and instruction; By Society for promoting Christian knowledge", described a journey to Tellicherry. This trip appears to have taken place some years before the article was written, so it is possible that the church was built some ten to fifteen years before the account was published.

"Tellicherry Proper, or the town of Tellicherry, is built on a low ground, almost on a level with the sea. The town consists of some two hundred-irregularly built European houses; the bazaars; the market-place; a few so-called shops; an immense prison built on a lofty bastion facing the sea, which prison includes the dens for criminals and the debtor’s gaol comprising also a lunatic asylum; the Zillah Court, and a species of chapel. Besides these, there is a Catholic chapel and a Protestant church, and the burial-grounds of both creeds, situated on a high mound nearly overhanging the sea."[9]

Before the church was built it is probable that any religious services at Tellicherry will have been held inside the fort. It is very likely that the court building had served this purpose for the garrison.

Fig. 7. An aerial photo of the Tellicherry Church and Churchyard prior to restoration commencing. Courtesy of Google Earth.[10]

The earliest grave in the churchyard to survive is that of a Captain of Infantry, Gaspar Moritz Gleetz (1730 - 1768) from Quedlinburg. Quedlinburg is a city located in Anhalt-Saxony, in central Germany north of the Hartz Mountains, midway between Hannover and Leipzig.[11]

Germany was a fragmented region in those days consisting of many independent or semi independent states and principalities, each of which had its own army. These were frequently hired out to other rulers, including the English ones. Many of the minor aristocracy in these states entered into service with armies of neighbouring states.

Gleetz may have been a officer in either the English or Dutch East India Company. In the 18th Century many men recruited for the Dutch East India Company came from Germany, and many subsequently transferred or deserted over to the English East India Company, as the Dutch slowly withdrew their trading efforts from India to concentrate in the Dutch East Indies.

Tellicherry is close to Cannanore which had belonged to the Dutch at this period. The Dutch settlement was becoming less and less economically viable at this time and was sold off in 1772 to the Arrakal family. The Dutch at Calicut and Cochin were being pressured by Hyder Ali as well.

Others may have joined up directly into the EIC Army having previously served in the Hanoverian army, which was closely connected to the English one at this period. If you are able to provide any information about this gentleman, I would be fascinated to learn more about him.

Fig. 8. The earliest surviving gravestone in Tellicherry Churchyard. Capt. Gaspar Moritz Gleetz. 1730-1768. Photo Jissu Jacob.

Gaspar Gleetz must have been familiar with the view out to sea from the fort as he paced the ramparts of the fort. In those days, the area controlled by the East India Company was strictly limited to a couple of miles of shoreline along the coast, and to a hinterland extending at most three miles inland. It must have seemed a very long way from Saxony.

The following drawing taken from a series of coastal views published by Alexander Dalrymple in 1780, shows a drawing done aboard the ship America on the 17th of March 1761 at 9 a.m. in the morning. [12]

Fig. 9. Tellicherry Fort viewed from the sea in 1761. Click on drawing for larger version.

This drawing shows the fort with a mast and flag pole mounted over the North West bastion, close to where the lighthouse now stands. (See Fig. 6.) The fort is shown surrounded by a low crenallated wall, and the area between the walls is filled with smaller buildings built on the glacis of the main fort.

The following drawing is marked to show the outer wall to the fortified area that has subsequently disappeared. It is possible that the grave of Gaspar Gleetz was placed inside this outer wall, where it would have been protected.

By the 1820's this outer wall had been removed and the grave yard was extended down towards the end of the promentary. With the East India Company in firm control of the area, the needs for defence were becoming less pressing than before.

Fig. 10. Drawing of the fort and location of the graveyard marked up. Click on drawing for larger version.

It is quite possible that the line of this outer wall could still be discovered by a careful excavation to find its foundations. The following photo Fig. 11. may show the site of this wall, where the break of slope occurs running across the photo, in line with the tree to the left of the photo.

Fig. 11. View from the church back towards the fort walls. Photo Jissu Jacob.

The following photo from Google Earth is marked in red with my suggested line of the outer wall shown in the 1761 drawing made by members of the crew of the America.

Fig. 12. Possible line of the outer fort wall.

The grave yard contains many stone and brick monuments. The area is being resoiled, and it is hoped that any fragments of gravestones will be preserved and recorded, and not just tidied away.

Fig. 13. The churchyard showing the recently cleared graveyard. As can be seen many grave head stones and monuments survive. Photo Jissu Jacob.

For me personally the discovery that my great great great great aunt's grave remains undisturbed, as been a really welcome development. It is one of nearly fifty grave stones recorded. In the next few weeks I will tell the story of Helen Baber, and post pictures of as many of the stones as I have pictures.

In many cases the individuals named on these stones are easily identified, and I will attempt to explain who they were.

Fig. 13. The table tomb marking the grave of Helen Somerville Baber.

[2]See Jissu Jacobs blog at
[3]You can contact me on
[4]Page 407. The Oriental Herald, and Journal of General Literature. Vol. XIII. April to June 1827.
[6] See
[7] See
[8] For Wikipedia article on Gothic Revival architecture see
[9] Home friend, a weekly miscellany of amusement and instruction; By Society for promoting Christian knowledge. Published in 1854. Pages 193 onwards. Although this article was only published in 1854, it appears to have been written by someone who was in Tellicherry during the 1830’s. It has proved possible to identify some of the people mentioned in the book.
[10] The church is located at 11 Degrees 44’ 51.78” N 75 Degress 29’ 09.34” E
[11] Quedlinburg. 51 Degs, 47' 30"N 11 degs, 8' 50" E. See
[12] Courtesy of British Library Collection.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut. Part 4.

Map showing Thomas Baber's route in 1823, part 4. Please click on map for larger version.

"I left Ottakail Karumba at 10 A.M. on the 11th, and arrived at Koodaloor about 1 P.M. about half-a-mile from the karumba, I reached the road I constructed in 1806, from Nelliala in Parakámeatil, to Nambolacota, and continued along it until with three miles of Koodaloor, where is yet to be traced the course of the high road formerly constructed by Tippoo, by the Carâcole Pass to South Malabar; after going about a mile along it, I struck off to the right, by a path which led to Koodaloor, a village at the post of Neddibett, the pass leading up the famed Neelghurries. Koodaloor is a village of Baddagurs, containing between 20 and 30 houses. There are a few Kottara's houses in its vicinity. Here I was met by the Narabolacota Wáranoor, attended by his dependants, and nearly all the inhabitants of Nambolacota. I halted in consequence here for the night, and obtained from them the following information respecting the Neelghurries.

The summits of these mountains comprise a table-land of about forty miles in length, and about twenty broad; it is formed into four náds, or divisions, viz. Nanganad, or Todanad, Makanad, Foranad, and Koondenâd ; the three former are under the collector of Coimbatoor. The revenue collected from the three náds was about 18,000 rupees; it has since been reduced to 6,000. Koondeenad is under the collector of Malabar, and pays annually into the Manár Gát Hobely Cutcherry (in South Malabar) about 1,000 gold fanams. The Màlewarom (proprietor's share of the produce) is about double that sum, and belongs to the Padignacar Kolgum, Rajah of the Samoory family,— to the Pundalore Nair in South Malabar, and to the Numbolacota Wárànoor, which latter lays claim indeed to the whole western portion of the Neelghurries, bounded by the river Keellaata, as called by Malabars, and Paikara by Badagurs. The Koondee Nâd pays also to the Nambolacota Wellakara Mallen Davasom, 101 gindees (about six pints) of ghee, and 120 old fanams. The grains and products peculiar to these mountains, are wheat, barley, watta kádala (a kind of pulse), párápa (dhall), ruggy, corály, keera, chama (millet), and kadoo (mustard); also affeen (opium), ooly (onions and garlick), ghee in large quantities; bees'-wax and honey. The extent of the population my informers could not tell me, though they said they knew of about forty attys (Baddagur villages), about twenty Mundoos, or Todara villages, and about half that number of Kotageerees, or villages of Koturs; the whole population they estimated at about 5,000 souls. The Baddagurs are both merchants and cultivators. They emigrated from Oomatoor in Poonat or Mysore, about three centuries ago; their language is a dialect of Canareese. The Todara are exclusively herdsmen, and the Kotara, artificers, viz. blacksmiths, carpenters, and potters. They also are cultivators. The Koturs and Todars are the aborigines; their language appears to be a mixture of Tamil, or Malialum, and Canareese. Neither the Todars or Koturs follow any acknowledged Hindoo customs; they worship tutelary deities unknown among the people of the plains, while both complexion and features point them out as a race distinct from both Hindoos and Mahomedans. The whole of the inhabitants are remarkable for their simple and inoffensive demeanour. Alluding to the revival of the trade carried on formerly with Malabar, the people seemed to think that nothing would restore it so effectually as by re-opening the highroad formerly constructed by Tippoo, and by the establishment of a salt gola near the foot of the Caracote pass; and of weekly markets or fairs at Koodaloor in Nambolacotta, and at Nellumboor or Mombât; and certainly nothing is more feasible, since the Caracote pass has advantages over every other, viz. water conveyance from the coast, to within a few miles of the foot of it, a level country the whole way from Nellumboor to Caracote, and a pass that is capable of being made practicable for beasts of burden, and even wheel carriages ; the distance through Nambolacota to the Mysore frontier, is little more than half what it is through every other part of Wynaad, and all the nullahs and water-courses are passable throughout the year.

Map showing the final part of Thomas Baber's journey to Ootacamund. Please click on the map for a larger version.

Left Koodaloor on the 12th, at nine, and reached Neddibett, or the summit of the mountains, about eleven. There is a good path-way up this pass. Within a mile of the top the ascent becomes exceedingly steep, the last half mile so much so, as to require considerable labour to carry an empty palanquin even up it; though the whole distance from Koodaloor does not exceed four miles, I was nearly three hours performing it. The distance from Neddibett to Ottakamund cannot be less than twenty miles; the first part of the road is rugged, and broken by cholas or vallies, some of which are very steep, particularly the first, called Poolee Chola. I counted eight of those cholas at from half a mile to a mile and a half from each other, but generally the road is over bare hills, especially in the vicinity of the Keelaketta or Paikara river. During the fair season the river is fordable, on account of the rocks, the whole way across; in the rains it is passed in a basket boat. Here I encamped for the night , on account of my bearers and coolies, who suffered more this, than any preceding day’s journey, in consequence of heavy rain and bleak winds. From this river to Ottakamund the distance is about ten miles, from the most part over downs more level than those on the western side of the river. The whole face of the country between Neddibett and Ottakamund is decked with the richest verdure, and watered by rivulets and springs in every direction, interspersed with patches of jungle in deep glens and vallies. The productions of these hills are totally different from the lowlands. Here are white dog-rose, honeysuckle, jasmine, marigolds, balsams, with out number (tomentosa), hill gooseberry, wild strawberry, Brazil cherries, violet-raspberries (red and white), &c. &c. Many parts are literally covered with ferns and lichens in great variety. The climate is most grateful to an European in health, and reminds one more of his native air than any part of India I have visited.

Arrived at Ottakamund on the 13th of June, where I met with a most hospitable reception from Mr. John Sullivan, the principle collector of Coimbatore." [1]

If you happen to have passed along this route, or live in one of the places mentioned, I would love to hear from you. I would very much like to locate the villages mentioned, and to get their modern names.

Thomas Baber was at Gudalur as early as 1806, and it is possible that he was one of the earliest, if not the earliest European into the Nilgiris. He wrote: -

"I left Ottakail Karumba at 10 A.M. on the 11th, and arrived at Koodaloor about 1 P.M. about half-a-mile from the karumba, I reached the road I constructed in 1806, from Nelliala in Parakámeatil, to Nambolacota, and continued along it until with three miles of Koodaloor, where is yet to be traced the course of the high road formerly constructed by Tippoo, by the Carâcole Pass to South Malabar; after going about a mile along it, I struck off to the right, by a path which led to Koodaloor, a village at the post of Neddibett, the pass leading up the famed Neelghurries."

Where are "Nelliala in Parakámeatil, to Nambolacota?"

If you know, please email me at

[1]Pages 314-316, Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut, Asiatic Journal (New Series) III.

Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut. Part 3.

In the following extract, Thomas Baber describes the local gold mining and panning activities that he had observed as he reached the summit of the ghats.

"The following information I also gathered from the chetties and a putter Brahmin, in the service of the waranoor, respecting the situations where, and mode in which, golden ores was extracted in the Nambolacotta hobeley. The whole of the soil in the mountains, hills and paddy fields, and beds of rivers, is impregnated with this valuable metal; but it is only in or near watercourses, and consequently in the cholas, nullas, ruts, and breaks in the mountains, and in the beds of rivers, that gold was dug for. The operations commences by removing the crust of black earth; when the soil becomes reddish, it is dug up, and putty into a patty (a kind of wooden tray hollowed in the centre) which is then submerged in water, just enough to overflow it and no more, and kept in an undulating motion with one hand, while the earth is stirred up with the other, until all the earthy particles are washed nearly out of it; a black sediment is left in the hollow, consisting of a mixture of black sand, iron, and gold particles. The patty is then taken out of the water, and one end of it being elevated, the other resting on the ground, the sand, &c. are separated from the gold, by throwing water gently with the hand down the board. The golden particles are then obtained by amalgamation with quicksilver, and in this state are enclosed in a piece of wet tobacco-leaf, which being placed in a crucible, or more generally, between two pieces of lighted charcoal, the heat causes the quicksilver to evaporate, and simultaneously to consolidate the particles of gold. When the gold is found in small lumps, which is often the case in the beds of rivers, there is no occasion for the use of quicksilver or heat. Two persons are employed to each patty, one to dig the earth, the other to hold the patty, wash the earth away, and extract and unite, by means of quicksilver, the golden particles. Each patty pays a tax to government of 3 rupees per month, which, my informers added, absorbed two-thirds of the nett profits; and from the wretched appearance of the persons employed in working the patties, it is evident they are miserably paid. There are remains of pits in which gold was extracted formerly, but they are in utter disuse, owing it is said, to the danger from the earth falling in, not having the skill to support the earth. Gold is to be met with in the beds of rivers, both above and below, to the west and south-west side of the Neelgheerie and Coodanad mountains, as well as in the mountains; nothing , however, is known of its geonostic habitudes, or even localities, as far as regards veins, than that it is found in red earth, as far as the strata extend, in high grounds; and in white earth, below the black crust, in swamps and paddy fields; also in stones dug up at a great depth in beds of rivers. But the most productive places are small nullas, or rather ruts and breaks in the ground, into which the course of the water is most likely to drive the metal during the rainy season. Hence it is that more patties are worked in the rainy, than in the fair season. From the above description, the following conclusions may be drawn; -- first, that golden ore is homogeneous to the soil in the mountains and hills; and, secondly, that what is found in beds of rivers, and water-courses, has fortuitously been brought down by the rains. The very existence of gold would seem to call for a more extended examination, as it might lead to the most important results, both in greater quantity and better quality than any yet met with."[1]

[1]Pages 313-314, Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut, Asiatic Journal (New Series) III.

Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut. Part 2.

Left Nellamboor at 8 A.M. on the 9th, and arrived at Eddakarra at 12. For the first mile the road is through jungle over paramba, or high ground, terminated as usual by a slip of paddy field, and continues so, alternately, parramba and low lands, to the Karunbara river, which also takes its rise at Mangerri Mala, and falls into the Beypoor river about three miles east of Nellumboor. The ferry is called Yânandy and Pallikote Kádâwâ. Here I found a small ferry, and three or four bamboo rafts ready for me: it is fordable only in the fair season. From this river the roads leads, as before, over high and low lands to the Kalakùmpora river, which takes its rise in the Ella Mala, south of Caracote, and falls into the Beypoor river at Walloosherry; the ferry is called Neddumbary Kadawa: though deep and rapid, it is less difficult to cross than at Yanandy. Here also I found a ferry and rafts. From this river the roads leads through an extensive forest jungle, intersected here and there by uncultivated marshes, to the Neddumbary Kollum, a farm belonging also to the Teeroopad, in the middle of an extensive range of paddy fields, where the road is chiefly paramba or high land, for about two miles, to a range of paddy fields named Eddakerrapoilel, at the south-east end of which is a kollum belonginf also to Tachara Teeroopad. The river (Beypoor) approaches it about half a mile to the eastward, and is practicable, for small boats, for ten months in the year. The distance from Nellumboor to this kollum is about eight miles. Nothing can exceed the magnificence of the scenery from the openings in the low lands: both to the right and left, as well as in front, an endless succession of huge mountains, ranging from 3000 to 5000 feet high, clothed with forest jungles, the highest peaks of some of which are 1000 or 2000 feet above the table land of the great chain, called the Gâat Mountains. Those to the right form the table land of the Koondee hills in the Neelghurries. Here literally, as Mickle says, “hills peep o’er hills, and gâats on gâats arise.” Although the monsoon has set in only five days, the rain is pouring in torrents down the sides of the mountains, forming some most beautiful cascades and cataracts. These mountains are the famed teak forests. The chief owner of them is Táchàràkàwil Teeroopad. The largest is Kalla Mala, and runs south-east and north-west, and divides Tiroowambady, or the north-eastern most deshums of Porawye, from Ernaad; up the Waddakarry, there is a pass into Wynaad, that comes out at Koonyore Cota.

Map showing the route taken by Thomas Baber in 1823, part 2. Please click on the map for a larger version.

Left Eddakarra at 4 P.M., and reached Caracote Eddom at sun-set. The road leads through forests, chiefly of teakwood of the largest description, the property of the Nambolacota Waranoor. Midway there are two small rivers, one called Calcum (which takes its rise in the Kombula Mala, and falls into the Beypoor river, near Eddakarra); the other, Caracode, and takes its rise at Davalla, at the top of Carcote Pass; both are at all times fordable. Boats have been known to go up as far as Kodderrypara, which is only two miles west of Caracote. The Caracote Eddom is a farm belonging to the Nambola Cota Waranoor: it is a miserable building, and the only one, excepting a few surrounding huts, inhabited by pariars (slaves.)

Left Caracote at 8 A.M. on the 10th. The first mile and a half is through forest jungle, and so very thick that, had not the road been opened for me, it would have been impossible to have taken my palanqueen further on. The pass is over a succession of mountains covered with forest jungle, until within a mile of the top, -- the whole of which space is nearly bare of trees. The ascent commences at the southern bank of the Wellakatta river, which is fordable at all seasons. For the first few hundred yards, the ascent is not at all difficult; it then becomes exceedingly rugged, and thus it continues alternately easy and steep, in some places precipitous, to within a mile of the top, where it is one continued ascent (forming an angle of 45o ) to Nadkhang, the name given to the summit of the pass, which I reached about midday, having walked nearly the whole of the way. To the left of the pass, within a mile of the top, I observed several persons working in the vicinity of ravines or breaks in the mountains, where golden ore was being extracted. The surface of the ground appeared to have been excavated about a hundred yards in circumference. There was no getting to them owing to the immense chasms between them and me. From Nadkhang to Davalacota, the distance is about four miles: the road, which is a mere foot-path, goes over bare hills (very steep) nearly the whole way. Davalacota is the occasional residence of the Nambolacotta Waranoor. I found here a chetty names Kalapen, whose business it was to light up the shrine of the Waranoor’s household god (named Ayrawelby Paradawar). The approach is extremely difficult, and utterly impracticable for horse or palanquin.

I halted here about an hour; during which time I ascertained that there was a pass leading direct from Davalacota to Caracota Eddom, over the Koothrakela Malla, and about two-thirds of the length of the Caracota pass, and comes out at a place called Kallankooty Manna, about three miles from Caracota Eddom. By the Malabars this pass is called Kata-Mooka; by the Baddagurs of Davalacota, Gullikotoo.

From Davalacota I proceeded to Ottakail-Karaumba; the distance is about one mile and a half. This kararumba is a farm belonging to the Nambolacotta Waranoor, Narangawittel Arashen, the steward of the Waranoor’s estates, as far as the Kakkhang Tode, or nulla, within four miles of Nambolacotta. There are about a dozen houses in its vicinity. I halted here during the night, and had a long conversation with the inhabitants, who are chiefly Badagurs. Speaking of the Neelghurries, they (the Baddagurs) said, “they originally came from those hills, and where more or less connected with all the Baddagurs, and particularly those in the Koondee-Nâd; they spoke in grateful terms of improved condition of the Neelghurries, since Mr. Sullivan took up his abode amongst them, having previously been left to the mercy of those to whom the hills were yearly farmed out.

Pages 311-313, Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut, Asiatic Journal (New Series) III.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut. Part 1.

The Beypoor River, close to the point where Thomas Baber set off from on his journey to the Nilgiris Hills.

When I visited Beypore in December 2006, I knew that is was highly likely that I was following in Thomas Baber's footsteps, however at that time I had no proof that he had ever actually been to the town.

Recently however I have discovered the following account that he wrote in 1830, and which was subsequently published in the Asiatic Journal[1] describing a journey that he had made in 1823, from Calicut to the Nilgiris Hills.

The account makes it clear that he had been present in the area inland of Kozhikode as early as 1802, however at that time it is unlikely that he reached as far inland has the tops of Ghats themselves.

Thomas Baber was a contemporary of John Sullivan, the Collector of Coimbatore who is credited with founding Ootacamund. Sullivan first explored the region in January 1819, reaching the hills from Salem coming up from the eastern side of the hills.

The route in from the east, whilst considerably longer, is much less steep than the shorter route from the western seaboard up over the ghats. The route from Beypore to Ootacamund is about 110 miles long, and climbs up over the 6,000 feet high ghats.

In 1822 Sullivan returned to the hills to build his house, the first European house on the site. During the following year 1823, Sullivan brought his wife to the newly built stone house.

When he arrived at "Ottakamund" on the 13th of June 1823, Thomas Baber must have been one of the very first visitors to Sullivan's new house.

They were both to suffer for their shared interest in improving the conditions of the local Indian's. Like Sullivan in the Nilgiris, Thomas Baber was also experimenting a few miles to the north in the Wayanad with new crops and with ways of encouraging improved forms of agriculture amongst the local tribesmen in the hills.

This journal is interesting both as a record of the changing situations in the rural parts of Malabar following the areas occupation of the region by the East India Company. Thomas, who was often highly critical of the East India Company officials and their public administration of the area, was able to compare the situation in the villages over time, and was in a position to contrast the villages shortly after 1800 with the conditions in the 1820's.

It has proved possible to match the account with maps of the area made in the 1950's and with Google Earth images. I hope one day to return to the area and to repeat the journey.

The account is too long for a single post, so I will break it up into sections to post over the coming weeks.

Thomas wrote the account, which appeared in the Asiatic Journal, whilst living in retirement in Hanwell, a small village to the west of London. Perhaps in that first cold November after thirty four years in India, he was already beginning to miss the area. After two years in a much changed Britain, and missing his family in India, he returned to live out the remainder of his life in India in 1833.

Thomas was to return to Ootacamund on a number of occasions during the final part of his life. On one of these visits in 1841, his son Henry Fearon Baber married the Honourable Maria Jane Harris grand daughter of Lord Harris of Seringapatam on the 26th of September 1841 at Ootacamund.

To the Editor.

SIR: As every thing relating to the salubrious climate of the Neelghurries, Anglice “Blue Mountains,” on the coast of Malabar, must be interesting to all sojourners in India, I venture to submit the accompanying revised journal of a route from Calicut, via the river of Beypoor and passes of Carcote and Neddibett, in the year 1823.
With reference to the account given therein of the gold mines, and the mode in which that valuable metal is obtained, it appears to be deserving of the consideration of scientific persons, how far it would be desirable speculation to apply to the East-India Company for their permission to send out qualified persons to make the attempt to ascertain, by a local investigation and examination, the probable extent of the riches contained in the bowels of the earth in that portion of our Indian empire.

I am, Sir, &c.
Hanwell,15th Nov. 1830. T.H. Baber.


By T.H. Baber, Esq.

LEFT Calicut at 5 P.M., 5th June 1823, and reached the ferry called Mammaly Kadawer, on the Beypoor river, at sun-set, (distance six miles); embarked in one boat, my servants following in another: after rowing all night, reached Ariacotta [2], (a bazaar on the banks of the Beypoor river,) about 7 A.M. – Average distance from Calicut to Ariacotta eight Malabar coss, or thirty-two English miles. I found Ariacotta Angâdy very much fallen off since I last visited it (1803); then there were between two and three hundred houses; at present the number is hardly one hundred. Owing, as the three head men stated, to the timber[3] , tobacco, and salt monopolies, particularly the first, which gave employment to a large proportion of the population of both this and the neighbouring Angâdies and Deshoms, on the banks of the Beypoor river.

Left Ariacotta[2] on the 7th at 8 A.M. The first two miles is by the high road from Ariacotta to Manjerry, after which a path to the left leads through a jungle for about half-a-mile to an open country for about two miles, terminated by a paddy field, intersected by a nulla, dry in the fair, but with about four feet water in the rainy season. About a hundred yards to the right is the illum (house) of the Pooliora Namboory, a land proprietor of considerable influence. After crossing this nulla, the road leads through a jungle for about a mile-and-half: about midway there is a nulla fordable during the fair season, but containing from five to six feet water during the monsoon. Here the road takes a circuitous direction to the right, open ground the whole way (about four miles) to the paddy fields in the vicinity of the Yadamunna Angâdy , in the centre of which is a nulla very difficult for a horse or palanquin to pass in the rainy season; for foot passengers there is a log of wood over a narrow part of the nulla.

Arrived at Yadamunna[4] about 1 P.M. This bazaar is also on the banks of the Beypoor river, and is in a very deplorable state, partly owing to the same causes as Ariacotta, and partly to the turbulent dispositions of its inhabitants. All the worst characters have, however, been removed by death or banishment, and there is little danger to be apprehended of any further attempts to disturb the peace of the country. There are about eighty houses, most of them in very bad condition.

Map showing the first stage of Thomas Babers route to Ootacamund. The actual route is coloured brown. Please click on the map for a larger version.

Started at 3 P.M. for, and arrived at, Mombât Angady,[5] at 5 P.M. The first part of the road leads through jungle along the banks of the Beypoor river; about a quarter of a mile from Yadamunna is a nulla at all times fordable, and another about two miles and a half further on, only passable in boats in the rainy season. Here the country becomes more open, and continues so the whole way to the nulla at the foot of the Mombât Angady, which is always fordable excepting for a few days during the height of the monsoon. Mombat is a Mopilla town, also on the banks of the Beypoor river; it contains about eighty houses, or about half the former number; until within the last twenty years a considerable trade used to be carried on here with the Balagat inhabitants, alias highlanders, viz, Nambolacotta, Parakameetil in Wynaas, Poonat or Mysore, Davaraiputton, and the Neelghurries, but has ceased since the plunder and massacre of a Baddagur, native of the Neelghurries, at Mombat, by a Mopilla maraunder named Cunhy Olan Cooty, who was executed in 1802. The people expressed a strong desire for the revival of this trade, which they said would be much facilitated by the establishment of an Oopakood, or salt gola, and of a shandy, or weekly fair, at Mombat, and probably nothing would contribute so much to humanize the Mopilla population, or tend more to the prosperity of this and the rest of the towns bordering on the Beypoor river, as the renewal of this trade.

Left Mombât on the 8th at 8, and arrived at Nellumboor at 10 A.M. The first two miles of the road is a mere jungle path, where it joins the high road from Manjerry by Wandoor, to Nellumboor. About a mile further on is the river Trikâkoon[6], fordable only during the fair season. It takes its rise at the Munjerri Mala, one of the Gâat mountains, and joins the Beypoor river about a mile east of Mombât, at a place called Moothraketty; I crossed it by means of a bamboo raft. From this river to Nellumboor, the distance is two miles and a half. Here I was met by the Kâristary, or Minister of Tachârâ Kawil Teeroopad, the Nellumboor Nadwâri, who had had the politeness to have the road opened the whole way from the Trikâkoon river to his easternmost farm called Eddakarra, a distance of about ten miles. Within one hundred yards of Nellumboor I was met by the Teeroopad himself, who conducted me to a house he had prepared for my reception.

Nellumboor is the ancient residence of this Nadwari. The kowlgum[7] or palace is on the bank of the Beypoor river, surrounded with a high mud wall. There are from twenty to thirty Nair houses, occupied exclusively by his dependants, and a pagoda dedicated to Watakara the Paradevar (household god) of the Teeroopad family. The Teeroopad and his Kuriastan were very earnest in their wishes for the re-establishment of the commercial intercourse between the lower and upper countries by the Caracote pass, and seemed to think that the facilities for trade were much greater by this than any of the other passes leading through Wynaad.

[1]Pages 310-311, Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut, Asiatic Journal (New Series) III.
[2] Ariacotta = Arikkod
[3] The timber monopoly has been abolished since this was written. Thomas was a strong critic of this monoploy, campaigning over many years for its removal.
[4] Yadamunna = Vadapuram.
[5] In November 1827, when I again visited the Neelghurries, I came by water as far as Mombat. [now Mambad]
[6] Trikakoon= Vada Auram Puzha
[7] An upper room has been lately built by the Teeroopad over the outer gate-way or entrance, purposely for the accommodation of travellers.