Sunday, 29 March 2009

Tellicherry Church Restored Part 2.

Thalaserry Church being restored February 2009, Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Following my recent blog about the very welcome restoration of Tellicherry Anglican Church, I have received some more very interesting information from George Abraham whose father was a regular worshipper at the church, George wrote..

"In fact I had just returned from a trip to Tellicherry along with my father. Both of us had gone there primarily to see the state of the church which we expected to be in ruins as was visible when my father had visited it few years back. But we were overjoyed to see the current rebuilding process - in fact my father was beaming and was at loss for words.

My father had grown up in Tellicherry and had attended the very same church in his childhood. His father had worked as a deacon (or an elder) during the Sunday's when the chaplain was not available - since in those days the chaplain travelled from afar off (from Manathavadi) only once a month to administer the Holy Sacrament."

Georges father lived in Tellicherry between 1935 and 1947, and was disappointed to find that he could no longer find any of his old friends in Thalaserry. He is keen to make contact with anybody who worshipped in the church during that period, or who knew him at the time.

George Abraham also sent me the following article that appeared in the Hindu dated the 10th of March 2009, which adds to our knowledge of the churches history.

"Inching towards bygone splendour

Special Correspondent

The church, which was built in 1867, had fallen on bad days. Now, a face lift is
being given.

Better days: The St. John’s Anglican Church at Thalassery, which is undergoing renovation.

THALASSERY: Renovation of the 142-year-old St. John’s Anglican Church, overlooking the sea, is nearing completion. The Gothic style brick structure, with stained glass windows and massive doors, will be a functioning church — and a tourist attraction — within a few weeks.

The renovation, estimated at Rs.59 lakh, is being carried out by the Archaeology Department in association with the Tourism Department.

The work has already changed the ambience of the church and its surroundings, including the cemetery. The walls of the church, built in 1867, are being re-plastered and given a coat of whitewash. The vandalised stained glass windows and the wooden door have been restored and the woodwork, including the ceiling, replaced.
Gift from Brennen

The church was built with an endowment from Edward Brennen, the ‘Master Attendant’ at Thalassery during the colonial period. One of the tombs in the cemetery is that of Mr. Brennen.

S. Hemachandran, Superintendent Archaeologist of the Archaeology Department, told The Hindu that the 18th century structure would be open for service to the Church of South India after the works were over. The restored wooden louver window has added to the appeal of the church, which was on the brink of destruction a few years ago, Dr. Hemachandran said."

The full article can be found at

Since my last blog, I have been able to establish that the current church paid for by Edward Brennan's bequest was not actually the first church on the site. It is probably built on the site of the 18th century church, but it is not an 18th century church.

The earlier church had severe structural problems and at one point had to be buttressed to prevent it's falling down. It is still not clear when it was built, but Lieutenants Ward and Connor in their survey of Tellicherry undertaken in July 1824 say..

"To the West of the Castle and fronting the sea is a modern Protestant Church and Burying ground adjoining it only divided by a wall is a Roman Catholic Church, the former was built by subscription, and though of very good materials, it was found necessary to prop it up by buttresses a few years after it was finished. There is no officiating clergyman, but invalids and native protestants have divine service performed on Sundays."[2]

William Logan writing in the 1870's that the construction of the new church had been started in 1869 when Lord Napier laid the foundation stone. It would be interesting to search the lower part of the church walls for evidence of this stone which is likely to be visible in the walls.[3]

Many of those who worshipped in the church are recorded on memorial stones set into the walls of the church.

To the Memory of Ralph Tatham, of Pully Coon, Tellicherry for sixteen years lay trustee of the church. Died at sea on 23rd Dec 1900, Aged 48 Years. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Sacred to the Memorial of Patrick Harry Gordon, Late of Wynaad, Tellicherry and Madras, who died at Acton, Near London, July 13th 1876, in his 31st year and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. This tablet is erected as a tribute of affection by his friends in India and Scotland. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Sacred to the Memorial of Eliza Wills, the dearly loved wife of Henry Crewe who died at Tellicherry on the 17th October 1874, aged 30, and whose mortal remains lie at rest in the adjoining churchyard. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Sacred to the Memorial of Mary, the eldest daughter of Francis Carnac Brown, of Tellicherry and Anjarandy who died on the 19th July 1867, aged 33 years. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

This lady was the grand daughter of Murdoch Brown who played such an important role in local events in and around Tellicherry from 1793 onwards.

I will post pictures of many of the graves in Tellicherry Churchyard in the coming weeks together with short histories of the people buried there. If you are descended from any of the individuals, and can hep to tell their story, please get in touch with me.

[1] Private email dated 24th March 2009.
[2] Memoir of the Malabar Survey, by Lieutenants Ward and Connor, originally published in 1906, and more recently in 1995. Page 40.
[3] Malbar Manual by William Logan, Volume II, page cccvii.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Tellicherry in 1825

Figure 1. Tellicherry Fort entrance gate. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Gething.

By 1824 and 1825 the area around Tellicherry had been at peace for a decade or more, and many of the institutions installed by the East India Company had settled down. Over the first quarter of the 19th century EIC rule had been extended far inland, so that the officials felt safe enough to leave the confines of Tellicherry itself, and several had built themselves substantial garden houses two to three miles away from the town.

The following description comes from a survey published under the name of two Lieutenants Ward and Conner, although Conner's part in the survey must have been very limited as he died on the 29th April 1821.

Lieutenant Benjamin Swain Ward had been the son of an artist in the Madras Infantry, and was born in June 1786. He was highly experienced when he started the survey on North Malabar in July 1824, as he had previously surveyed Travancore between 1816 and 1820, before going to the Nilgiri Hills where he undertook surveys for three years. Ward was soon ill, being granted twelve months leave in medical grounds in August 1824, so two new officers George Aurther and Horiato Noble undertook the survey in his absence. On the 16th of January 1826 Ward returned with his wife and lived in Tellicherry. Ward went on to survey in Wayanad and Madurai, befor retiring to South Africa where he died in 1835.

Ward had two other assistants Keyes and MacMahon, but little is known about them at present.

"Capitals, Forts, Markets and other considerable places--

Tellicherry one of the most considerable places in this Division amd the oldest settlement on this coast is a place of considerable importance as a maritime town. The citadell or castle stands to the N. of the town, the old Residency in it is converted into a Magistrate's and Sub Collector's offices, the lower part is used as a jail."

Figure 2. The old Residency inside Tellicherry under restoration in December 2006. In 1825 the basement of this building was the jail, with the Magistrates court and sub collectors above.

"On the N.W. Bastion is a flag and signal staff. There are no other buildings within of note. The outer part or European town which occupies a considerable space to the S. E. is now inhabited mostly by Portuguese families. It is a place of little strength but sufficient to keep the Nairs and petty Rajahs in check. The walls are in a state of decay."

Figure 3. One of the side streets leading off the bazar in the old town south east of the fort. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Gething.

"The town lies to the south, the principal street (the Bazar) runs parallel to the coast is wide and a mile in length. A few of the houses are built on the European plan. The smaller streets are narrow and filthy, and will scarcely admit of any kind of conveyance. The whole town including the suburbs, occupy about four square miles. There are some tolerable Mosques in the S. E. portion occupied by the higher classes. Some Pagodas are to be seen but few of much note or celebrity. The town was once surrounded by a strong mud wall. On the right of the road leading to Cannanore and 3/4 of a mile from the Castle is the Court House for the Circuit Judges, as well as several garden houses, two of them pleasantly situated in the island of Durmapatam distant 2 and 3 miles from the castle."

Figure 4. One of the Garden Houses, Ayisha Manzil, This house probably dates a little after 1825, but is associated with the Brown family. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Gething.

"To the West of the Castle and fronting the sea is a modern Protestant Church and Burying ground adjoining it only divided by a wall is a Roman Catholic Church, the former was built by subscription, and though of very good materials, it was found necessary to prop it up by buttresses a few years after it was finished. There is no officiating clergyman, but invalids and native protestants have divine service performed on Sundays.[1]

Figure 5. One of the fine old trading houses in the bazaar. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Gething.

William Milburn in his book Oriental Commerce, Or, The East India Trader's Complete Guide, gives a fascinating description of the town, in the years leading up to 1825. As a book of the scale of Milburn's would have taken several years to compile, the description might be dated to about 1820.

"TELLICHERRY, the principal English settlement on the Coast of Malabar, is in latitude 11° 44' N., and longitude 75° 32" E., and about ten miles to the S. of Cananore. In fine weather, ships anchor in the roads in five fathoms, the flagstaff bearing N. E. by N. off the town 1 to 2 miles; but when there is a chance of unsettled weather, they should anchor well out in 7 or 8 fathoms. There is a ledge of black rocks facing the fort, where small vessels have been known to lie during the S. W. monsoon.

Tellicherry Fort is of considerable size, with strong walls, though rather ruinous, having convenient houses for the Chief and gentlemen of the factory ; that of the Chief is a large and handsome building. About a mile to the S. is a small fort called Mile End, and at a short distance to the N. of Tellicherry is a blockhouse. There are two towns, one bordering on the sea-coast, the other in the wood: the principal inhabitants of the former are Portuguese ; those of the latter natives. Between the town and the fort is an extensive and open place; on one side is a pleasant garden belonging to the Chief, who has likewise a small one adjoining his house. There is an excellent ride through the wood, much frequented by the European residents."[2]

From this description and from inspection of Google Earth, it is possible to suggest the following layout for the town in about 1825.

Figure 6. A provisional map showing the layout of Tellicherry in 1825, based on the two descriptions above. Please click on the image for a larger version.

1. Tellicherry Fort and Churches.
2. "Portuguese town" & bazaar.
3. "Wood town" largely occupied by Hindu's.
4. The Courts of Justice.
5. The ride through the wood frequented by Europeans.
6. To the garden houses occupied by the Judges.
7. The Moplah town with its mosques.

If you live in Tellicherry an can help me map these areas more accurately, I would love to hear from you. I am uncertain exactly where the mosques are placed as they are quite hard to pick out on Google Earth. I am especially keen to locate the oldest mosques and temples in the town.

[1] Memoir of the Malabar Survey, by Lieutenants Ward and Connor, originally published in 1906, and more recently in 1995. Page 39 & 40.
[2] Oriental Commerce, Or, The East India Trader's Complete Guide:
by William Milburn, Thomas Thornton published in 1825, Page 172

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Old Fort of Nellialam

The Bald Hill at Nellialam. Please click for a larger image.

Manmadhan Ullattil has drawn my attention to the following paragraph that appears in several editions of the Madras District Gazetteer.

"Nothing remains of the old fort of Nellialam except traces of its ditch. It is said to have been levelled for growing coffee in 1874 by Mr. Adolphus Wright. Just south of the village is a flat-topped hill called Chatur Kottai Dinnai which from the steepness of its sides is almost inaccessible except on the east, and on this are said to have been built two fortified granaries. Traces of the buildings and the defences may still be made out."

From The Nilgiris Madras District Gazetteer, Page 372,by W. Francis 1998.

This raises several fascinating questions.

If the fort was on land capable of growing coffee, could it have been on top of this bald hill?

Presumably even the most inexperienced of coffee planters would not choose to plant coffee on an outcrop, when he had miles of rolling verdant hills to choose from.

If the fort wasn't at this bald hill, where was it?

Is this bald hill Chatur Kottai Dinnai?

Could the two objects on the ground ringed in red be either of the two fortified granaries?

If not, what are they?

If you can help me translate the meaning behind the place name Chatur Kottai Dinnai, I would love to hear from you.

If you live in Nelliyalam and you were able to take photos on this hill, or on any other hill nearby where the fort was actually located, I would love to see those photos.

What does the curved line of rock inside blue line look like close up?

Is it just a bit of natural rock outcrop, or is it levelled boulders from some beast work.

Did Mr. Wright's house face this hill, and did he level it because it spoiled the view, and not so he could plant coffee?

Or was his house somewhere else entirely?

Perhaps he wanted a romantic view of something that reminded him of home, perhaps a Tor or a Scottish Peak, and the derelict remains of the camp spoilt the vista.

The ridge at Nelliyalam showing the bald hill at its eastern end. Please click for a larger image.

As can be seen from this image there is a whole string of villages and plantations along this ridge, but most of these probably date from the 20th Century when the area was opened up to immigrants from other Indian States to promote food growth.

Where are the earliest houses and settlements on this ridge?

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Whish & Kindersley discoverers of the Nilgiris Plateau?

Nelliala,possibly the site of a 1805 military post,
at a place called Nelliyalam today.

History has a habit of changing, and quite often the "established facts" in any history book actually turn out to be incorrect or at best are questionable.

While researching the route that Thomas Baber took in 1823 up to the Nilgiris from Calicut, I discovered an intriguing fact.

It was not in fact John Sullivan who first discovered the Nilgiris plateau at Ootacamund, as is generally believed, but two of his junior officials who had set out from the eastern side of ghats in pursuit of tobacco smugglers who were regularly using it. These officials were J.C. Whish, the Assistant Collector from Coimbatoor and N.W. Kindersley, the Second Assistant Collector also from Coimbatoor.

An interesting connection existed however with Calicut, because J.C. Whish had a brother C.M. Whish who was a magistrate in Calicut during years around 1819, and who shared a common interest in Hindu and Sanskrit texts and astronomy with Thomas Baber.

C.M. Whish was a very gifted linguist and he was able understand the religious texts that he found in the temples in Tellicherry and Calicut well enough to be able to recognise that they contained complex calendars, astronomical calculations and predictions for the return periods of comets.

In 1819 and quite possibly at earlier dates as well, Thomas Baber and Whish met frequently in Tellicherry and at Calicut to work on the texts of the Vedas and other related texts. Thomas Baber was already familar with routes up the Ghats as were other local officials like Waddell and C. M. Whish.

Had Whish told his brother in Coimbatoor about these favoured peaks?

Did the brothers ever meet on the top of the Ghats?

We will probably never know, but it is just possible that they did.

The story of the original journey to the Nilgiris Plateau by Whish and Kindersley is as follows: -

"From the year 1799 up to 1819, these mountains were in the daily view of all the authorities from the plains of the Coimbatoor province, and a revenue was collected from them for the Company by a renter (a Chitty) and paid into the Cutchery of the collector of that province. But of the country nothing was then known.

After twenty years' possession by the Company, two young civilians, Messrs. Whish and Kindersley, were induced, in consequence of the maltreatment of some Ryots in the low country, by a Polygar, who fled up the pass of Danaynkeucottah, to follow his track; and not being- encumbered with him as a prisoner, they afterwards proceeded to reconnoitre a little of the interior of the hills, as they had for some time before intended. Their first halt was at a village called Dynaud, about nine miles to the eastward of Kotagherry near Rungasamy Peak, (the most sacred mountain- on the Neilgherries), where they found the man they were in search of, in a hut. He was exceedingly polite in offering refreshments to the gentlemen, and pretending to go for some milk, took the opportunity of making good his retreat!

They then proceeded across the hills, and descended by the Keloor Pass. But they had seen and felt quite enough to excite their own curiosity and that of the collector, Mr. Sullivan, who, establishing his general residence there, continued to live in this delightful climate with his family, in health and comfort, for the greatest part of the succeeding ten years."[1]

The story behind this pass over the ghats, goes back much earlier than the date of first European journeys across it. The pass had been used by Indian traders for many years and probably centuries. The Badaga Gaudas had migrated along it from the Wayanad as they colonised the slopes of the Nigrilis during the 18th century.

Following the imposition of the tobacco monopoly by the East India Company, it had become a favoured smugglers route, as is described by R Baikie, in 1834, in the following paragraph.

"The only other pass which remains to be described, is the Koondah Pass, which is but little known to the public, being as yet merely marked out, and frequented by Mopilas bringing up various articles, and smuggling tobacco* down. It was marked out by my friend Lieutenant LeHardy, then of the Pioneer corps, now of the Commissariat Department, and does great credit to his skill, perseverance, and ingenuity. It commences at Canoot, at the base of the hills on the Malabar side, and ascending through a deep ravine filled with wood, a distance of 12 miles, reaches the summit of the Koondahs, and crossing them, descends upon the central-table land of the Neelgherries, and reaches Ootacamund, 30 miles from the head of the pass. The slope is so gradual as never to exceed If inches in the foot, and the road, owing to certain obstructions, is in many places level, in others surmounts them by short zig-zags. From Canoot, at the foot of the pass, to Arricode, on the Baypoor river, is 16 miles, and thence to Calicut, on the coast, by the river, (here navigable at all seasons for large boats,) is 28 miles. When this road is (as I hope and trust it will speedily be) fairly opened and made practicable even for bullocks, horses, and palankeens, it will doubtless soon become one of the most frequented, particularly by travellers from Calcutta and Bombay.

* The road, as now marked out, closely follows a path frequented by these tobacco smugglers, who formerly carried on this trade to a great extent. Tobacco is grown in large quantities in Coimbatoor, but Government have a monopoly of it in Malabar, and a heavy duty is charged on it, on entering the latter province; the consequence of which is, an extensive contraband trade, principally across the Neelgherries, as being less liable to interruption. If I am rightly informed, the original discovery of the hills was owing to this circumstance ; Messrs. Whish and Kindersley, of the Civil Service, (in 1819,) having pursued a band of smugglers up a small pass to the N. E. of Kotagherry, and thus become acquainted with the existence of a table-land with an European climate."[2]

However even Whish and Kindersley were almost certainly not the first European travellers onto the top of the Nilgiris.

Tipu's Armies had descended from Mysore into Malabar over the same route, as well as some of the other passes in the 1780's. These armies had contained many French soldiers and officers. Had they in fact been the first European's who passed over the Ooty route?

In the course of the 1796 to 1806 Pazhassi Rajah's struggle against the East India Company a series of posts had been established on top of the highest peaks, in order to try to trap and contain the attacks by the Rajah's supporters.

These were manned by small parties of East India Company soldiers, and the posts appear in many cases to have had intervisibility over the jungles and scrub making up the surrounding tablelands. One post was situated on top of Banasura, and another was at Nelliala, now called Nelliyalam.

"The possible outline of a breast work from 1805 on top of Nelliala"[3]

Websites and gazetteers describe the village as it then was as having been the home of the Nelliyalam Rani (as also called Ratti in some websites, is this right?), and explain that remains of her fort remain to be seen.

It is possible that the ruins on top of this hill are the remains of the Rani's fort, however to me they look far too irregular and poorly built to have been even a minor palace or fort.

The other rulers buildings that I have visited in the area, and especially those built before the arrival of the Europeans appear to have been of higher quality in their construction, and even when ruined leave a far more regular and substantial set of footings.

Consider the ruins at Sultan Bathory for instance.

Does anybody who comes from this area have the time to visit the peak of this mountain and to take photograph of these ruins?

Can anybody confirm that this is indeed the site of the Rani's palace, because I have no idea where in Nelliyalam the palace was actually located, and it might have been at another location in the area entirely, that I have failed to spot on Google Earth.

Of course it is entirely possible even if this had been the site of the palace that the British soldiers and Sepoys had moved into its ruins to make their camp.

From this site the soldiers could have looked out over the surrounding area for signs of trouble. It is quite possible that they had the use of telegraph signals between the posts, as was the case between Portsmouth and London and between the posts of Wellingtons army stationed on the Lines of Torres Vedras a few years later in Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars.

The route along the ridge is described by several travellers including Thomas Baber writing in about 1830.

"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 Parakatneatil, to Nambolacota, and continued along it until within three miles of Koodaloor, where is yet to be traced the course of the high road formerly constructed by Tippoo, by the Caracole 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 Waranoor, 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."[4]

This line of posts appears to have run as far as Gudalur, or Koodalur as it was spelt in 1806.

It is highly likely that the troops stationed in Gudalur patrolled out into the surrounding valleys, and that as the land returned to peace after the Pazhassi Rajah had been defeated in November, that the officers commanding at these posts hunted and rode out into the surrounding area. The track over the crest into what became Ooty was already in regular use by Indian traders.

I believe the Ooty area was first visited by Europeans possibly as early as 1780, and certainly by 1806.

Who were these officers, and do accounts of their trips survive?

[1]From Narrative of a Journey to the Falls of the Cavery; with an historical and Descriptive Account of the Neilgherry Hills. Published 1834 by Smith Elder, London, Page 33. By Lieutenant H Jervis, H. M. 62nd Regt.

[2] Observations on the Neilgherries, including an account of their Topography, Climate , Soil & Productions and of the Effects Climate, on the Europan Constitution, by R Baikie Esq. M.D. Published Calcutta 1834, page 4.

[3] 11 degrees 30' 41.20" N 46 degrees 19' 56.90"E.

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