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

1 comment:

Adil Hisham said...

I hail from Tellicherry (Thalasserry) Thanks for writing this blog about my town. It is very nicely done....good job...If you need any latest information about this town, please dont hesitate to contact me. Presently I live in Dubai. But frequently visits my town. My email, Mobile 00971505718638,