Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Residency at Kollam

Figure 1. The Residency at Kollam

On his Facebook page India Britannicus Julian Craig recently published a photograph of a particularly fine Palladian style house that caught my attention. The photo came from a set of photos from Trivandrum taken by Zacharias D' Cruz in 1900.[1]

It seemed like an enjoyable challenge to try and locate it, and to find out if the building still existed, which by good fortune, it turns out to do. Howeverthe building is actually located not in Trivandrum itself, but in the nearby town of Kollam.

Julian's post then provoked a most interesting correspondence with Jaacob Thomas whose family originates from this area. Former members of his family were both Syrian Christian's and Anglican Christians.

For several years I have been collecting material on Quilon and the Travancore region. So I determined to try to write this up. What I hadn't bargained on, was the sheer quantity of material that is coming forward from sources like Google Books. So that instead of a single blog, I will break up my material into three posts to be released over the next month.

The first will be about the Residency at Kollam and some of the people who lived in the Residency, and the events surrounding the building.

The second blog will address the early relationship between the Syrian church and the East India Company officials, while the final post in the series will look at the history of the earlier settlements at Quilon.

This research is very much work in progress, and there may well be errors in my research. It is very probable that further documents will become available. I would welcome input from you if you can add to the story of this building and the surrounding districts.

For obvious reasons most of my sources are from the British and East India Company perspective.

There is a huge missing part to this story, the Indian dimension.

If you are one of the thousands of Indian's whose forebears were linked to this settlement, and these events, I would would really like to hear from you. I can be contacted at

One of the best descriptions of the Residency and its surroundings comes from Captain Heber Drury who made many trips to Quilon. One of these journeys past Quilon and Kollam was recorded and later published, it describes the Residency and its surroundings. He also confirms the belief that it was originally built by Colonel John Munro.

Captain Heber Drury was Assistant Resident at Travancore and Cochin during the late 1850's and early 1860's, and it is very probable that he stayed there on many occasions. Drury was a very keen botanist and historian. He wrote extensively on the plants and trees of South India and translated an account of the Dutch rule over Cochin during the 1720's by Jacob Canter Visscher.

"The residency here, built by Col. Munro, is charmingly situated on a slightly rising ground overlooking the back-water. It is a lovely spot, and the park like appearance of the grounds at the back of the house add considerably to its beauty. The garden is spacious and well laid out, the walls skirting the water, and towards the south is a small bay on one side of which is seen the house allotted by the Sircar to the officer commanding the station and immediately opposite the house of John Liddell Esq., both prettily situated at the bank and surrounded with Casuarinas and other trees."[2]

Figure 2. The Residency still survives today and is a Government Rest House.

That the buildings has links to John Munro is a particularly interesting discovery for me. My first invitation to India and to Kerala came from Dr. Kocha Varma, a very keen local historian who runs the Travancore & Cochin  Royal Family History Society.
Kocha drew my attention to John Munro's career. In Kochi he is seen today as having been a particularly enlightened ruler.

While they believe that it would have been better not to have had foreign rule, if it occurred it was better to have somebody like John Munro ruling you than Macaulay. Kocha is making a particular study into John Munro's life so I will not steal his thunder beyond the bare details of his life and events that connect him to the residency.

Figure 3. The Residency seen on Google Earth.
Please click on this image for a larger version.

From Figure 3 above the extent of the gardens that once graced the residency is clear. Their layout influenced the route of the circular drive take is still preserved in the town's layout to this day. The garden is laid out much like an English country estate of the period. It is probable that the square roads laid out at the bottom of the photo and garden are the foundations and roads for the former barracks that were located near the Residency.

The Barrack square was situated to the south east of the Residency.

Figure 4. A Google Earth image showing the relationship between the Residency with its garden.

The drill square for the garrison, which can be seen as a large bare patch of earth to the south east of the residency gardens.

Here presumably it provided space for exercising the troops as well as providing a clear swept fire zone in the event of a repeat of the insurrection on the 28th of December 1808 when Colonel Macaulay had only narrowly escaped with his life when an attempt was made to murder him at Cochin. Hearing a commotion outside his house, he looked out the window and saw a mob approaching who fired at him. He was able duck down and to escape.

His Portuguese servant managed to conceal him in the basement behind a hidden door while the insurgents ransacked the house looking for him.  Fortunately for Macaulay their search did not locate him, and he was able to escape the following day to the Royal Navy frigate HMS Piedmontaise that had by good fortune been anchored off Cochin.

A Dewaun or minster had been appointed by the East India Company to rule in place of one previously appointed by the Travancore Royal family.  The new Dewaun commenced a rule of terror and oppression against his subjects, and especially the former Royal family and Syrian Christians.

Appeals for help were made to the East India Company for relief from the Dewaun, but were turned down. Many inhabitants fled north to Tellicherry as refugees.

The Travancore Royal family sent three messengers to seek help from Thomas Baber who had no authority to act in this matter, but he began to campaign for their support writing directly to Madras.

However by attacking Macaulay the Dewaun had gone too far. Troops were set to the relief of the be leagued force trapped in Cochin.

In January 1809 the garrison at Cochin had been seriously attacked by supporters of the Dewaun and it was only prevented from falling by the efforts of fifty men of His Majesties 12th Foot and six companies of the 17th Regiment under Major Hewett.

The insurgents had also moved to attack the East India Company garrison at Quilon.

Although the Dutch had had a Fort at Quilon and another Tangencharey it does not appear that the EIC garrison used these in 1809. They appear to have chosen another site in Kollam. It is not possible to be certain where this was located, but it is very likely that it was on the site of the residency.

"At one time a considerable force was maintained at Quilon including a European Corps with artillery. The grave yard at Tangencharey is filled with tombs of deceased officers and soldiers of a Queen's Regiment formerly stationed there. During the troubles in 1809, an action was fought here between the British and Travancoreans. This took place under Colonel Chalmers, then commanding the forces. He moved out to meet the enemy, who were approaching from the side of Trevandrum and were commanded by the Dewan in person, amounting to nearly 30,000 men with 18 guns. The engagement which ensued was of short duration. In less than five hours the insurgents were totally defeated losing nearly all their artillery and leaving a large number of slain on the ground. Such was the battle of Quilon."[3]

The action had commenced early on the morning of the 15th of January 1809 when the insurgents were seen approaching. According to Colonel Chambers a wing of the HM 12th Regiment of Foot under Lt Colonel Picton

"Col. Chalmers, who commanded at Quilon, lost no time in attacking the Nairs, who were in arms in his vicinity. He was successful in his operations; but they received such accessions from the south that he found it necessary to remain on the defensive, though joined by the king's 12th under Col. Picton. On the 15th January, 1809, the dewan, at the head of from 20,000 to 30,000 men, with 18 pieces of cannon, attacked the British lines before daybreak. But, after a conflict of five hours, he was driven off with a loss of 700 men and 15 guns. A few days after (19th), he made an attempt on the post of Cochin, held by Major Hewitt. Being again repulsed, he spread his forces on the landside, and covered the sea with boats, in order to cut off supplies ; but a frigate, with the resident on board, came and anchored off the town, and her boats quickly destroyed his flotilla.

The dewan, shortly after, was guilty of two atrocities, which deprive him of all claim to our sympathy. An assistant-surgeon, named Hume, being taken as he was travelling by night, was brought before him; and though he knew him personally, and had been benefited by his skill, he ordered him to be put to death. A small vessel, with thirty men of the 12th on board, having touched at Alepi, they were induced to land by the friendly assurances of the people, and they were immediately made prisoners, and were murdered, by order of the dewan.

The government of Madras now found it necessary to make more vigorous exertions. Col. Cuppage, who commanded at Malabar, was ordered to march his troops to Cochin, and join Col. Chalmers ; and Col. St. Leger was directed to move with a force from Trichinopoly, and enter Travancore on the south. As the most practicable passes of the western Ghats are near the southern extremity of the peninsula, this officer selected one of them, named the Arambuli pass. This pass was secured by strong lines passing from mountain to mountain, and fortified by redoubts. But in one night (Feb. 10) the British troops carried the whole of them, and entered Travancore. They met with little or no opposition : Col. Chalmers (19th) sent out two columns under Cols. Picton and Stuart, which attacked and carried the enemy's fortified camp near Quilon ; Col. Cuppage entered from the north, and thus the whole country was now in the hands of the British. The resident now proceeded to the capital, and formed a new treaty with the rajah, by which he was to pay up all arrears, and the expenses of the war, disband the Carnatic Brigade, and some Nair battalions that he had, and leave the defence of his country to the subsidiary force. A new dewan was appointed; and he pursued his unfortunate predecessor, who had sought a refuge in the mountains, with such vigour, that he was forced to betake himself to a pagoda, which was an ancient sanctuary. But his pursuers, though Hindoos, violated it, and forced their way to a chamber to which he and his brother had retreated. They found the dewan expiring of wounds, probably self-inflicted. The brother was taken, and was hanged, in the presence of the 12th regiment, in the murder of whose companions he had been implicated. The resident gratified a paltry feeling of revenge, and which was strongly condemned by the governor-general, by causing the body of the dewan to be exposed on a gibbet." [4]

Following the defeat of the Dewaun's forces by a relief column in which Major James Welsh played a significant role, Chambers force at Quilon was relieved and was able to go over to the offensive.

The Dewaun took sanctuary in a temple. The metal doors of which were forced, and while this was occurring he committed suicide. Four of his chief adherents were however captured. They were brought to Quilon and hanged in the town.

It appears that following the events of 1809 a new permanent garrison was constructed at Kollam, and it is probable that the barracks were located at the bottom of the Residency garden.

The barrack blocks appear to have disappeared, although the outlines of their bases and roads still show up on Google Earth. This suggests that they survived until quite recently.

The town where the Indian part of the civilian population lived is situated towards the bottom of the image above. The population would have been much lower in 1820 and the Indian town had been in existence for several hundred years before the Residency was built.

In Medieval times Quilon had been a centre for Indigo growing, and this had been witnessed by Marco Polo when he visited the town.

Later on this activity was overtaken by textile weaving and lace making, and the town contained many looms working in these industries when the British arrived there,to take over the settlement from the Dutch who had been defeated by the French who were feared to be hoping to enter India again via the new captured Dutch settlements. The British acted to forestall any landings.

They also took the opportunity to destroy the private Dutch merchants Godown's so that they would be unable to compete as effectively if the settlement ever had to be handed back following peace negotiations.

The early years of the British rule in Travancore were extremely unsettled. The situation was not helped by events elsewhere in Southern India. Shortly after the 1809 insurrection there was another serious incident at Vellore when the Sepoy's rose against their officers.

The East India Company officers were also very unhappy with their situation in 1809. A new Governor had been appointed in Madras called Barlow. He had been ordered to retrench and to try to make savings. The Batta or campaign allowances for officers had been cut. With war with France under way in Europe and crop failure in Britain, the financial situation was dire.

It appears that the unrest spread had to the Sepoys garrisoned in Quilon. The following passage is the only reference to these events that I can find so that it is not possible to date them, although I do know that Major Balmain was stationed in Quilon in 1809. It is possible that these events may have occurred in 1809 or 1810, but that they must have occurred before 1812 when the story was reported in Britain.

" Quilon, May 30.

As you have probably heard but vague reports of what is going forward at Travancore, I take the liberty, as it may not prove uninteresting, of informing you of the danger myself, and every other European officer in Quilon, have escaped. I must commence by telling you, that we have had, as State prisoners, a Dewan of Travancore, lately for some misdemeanour deposed; also a man called Pyche Rajah.[5] These together, by bribery, had corrupted a native officer of the 14th regiment of infantry, and they engaged him to bring into their plans the greatest part of the native troops of Quilon; and, I am sorry to say, in a great measure succeeded. The Rajah, the prime instigator of the whole plot, proposed, that when sufficient numbers of sepoys came into their views, to attempt the murder of all the European officers in the place, and to be accomplished in the following manner: —They had heard that the 18th regiment was to be reviewed on a certain day, and that every officer in the cantonment, the Resident included, were to dine at our mess in the evening. The conspirators were to fall upon us when assembled, and to strike off the head of every one. When this horrible murder was accomplished, they were to remain quiet till morning, on the appearance of which the drums were to beat to arms, and the three corps were to be thus disposed of:—one was to march to the southern lines, another to the northern, and the third to the Arunghaut pass, for the purpose of preventing the march of troops into the country. Several battalions were also to be immediately raised, and by these means they expected to keep possession of Travancore. I must tell you, that, to accomplish the intended massacre, and to make it the more easy, the lines were to be fired : and if the officers left the mess-house, which they expected they would do, they intended to bayonet them as they came out. This abominable and atrocious design was prevented only by the absence of one man, who had promised to make his appearance with fifty associates. It was two days after found out by a sepoy, who overheard a few of the conspirators talking of the business, and lamenting why it was not accomplished, and appointing the next public party, which they expected would be on the 4th of June, as the day of business. The Commanding Officer was informed of the whole by this man.

The brigade was immediately ordered out, out, for what purpose not an officer knew. The native officer above-mentioned was called to the front, with about thirty sepoys, by name—these were from the 14th regiment, and were immediately put in irons, and sent to the main-guard. A field officer, one captain, and 2 subalterns, were immediately ordered on duty; and it was then that the officers knew the extent of the danger they had providentially escaped, but never dreamed that more of the native troops were concerned. The following morning a board of officers was held, and a few sepoys turned King's evidence. They informed the Committee of what I have already told you, but did not implicate another person. It was thought strange that so few should have the temerity, without other assistance to attempt such a vile murder; but the following morning a Fakeer, and one or two other persons, were taken up on suspicion, and when the Committee had met, they gave in evidence that two-thirds of the troops, with the native officers, were concerned. The Fakeer called out a great number, by name, from the 14th native officers; live from the 18th, two or three from the 11th and 9th; implicated some of the Resident's Peons, natives of the place, and several officers' servants: he also said, nearly all the sepoys of the 14th, and several from the other corps, were engaged in the plot; said, that the man in charge of the public cattle had been bribed, and many others.

The danger was now thought very great, and Quilon was in great agitation and alarm. It was deemed necessary to make an immediate example of one or two of the ringleaders. All the native officers who had been implicated from the different corps, were sent off to Trichinopoly that day, under the guard of fifty of the Resident's Peons, and the whole under the charge of an officer of the 14th. The 14th itself was ordered to leave Quilon, with its European officers, the following morning, and to march to the same place; but they march in the course of this day instead, as twelve hours was rather too short a notice. On the same day that this information was received (the day before yesterday,) the troops were ordered under arms, and formed a line in brigade at five o'clock. Three guns were advanced to the front of the line, about one hundred paces from the centre; also a gun from each flank the same distance. The latter were primed and loaded with grape shot, and pointed towards the battalion, as it was expected the sepoys would make some opposition to the severe measures in contemplation. Two of the guns in the centre were only loaded with powder. Two prisoners, the Jemidrs, that I first mentioned, and a writer, who had been most guilty, were brought forward, and, without ceremony, were lashed each to the muzzle of a gun. The troops, upon seeing this, were still as death—not a murmur—no, not even a breath was to be heard—and at this awful crisis, Balmain, the Brigade-Major, read over the sentence that had been awarded the prisoners, by the board of officers which sat in the morning, and the Colonel gave the words—"Ready, Fire! An involuntary shudder ran through the whole line, but nothing more. The Colonel then informed the troops why be was obliged to have recourse to this severe measure, and ordered the whole line to march round the bodies, and return to their barracks." [6]

Quilon was one of the major centres for the Syrian Christian Church. Colonel Macaulay appears to have become associated with them in some way. It is not possible to tell at today if it was this association that led to the Syrian Christians being targeted during the Dewaun's rising, or if the Colonel had become sympathetic to their plight as a result of their having been assaulted.

"In 1815, on the demise of their Patriarch, they obtained the aid of the Company's Government, exerted through Col. Macaulay, the Company's resident in Travancore, who having recovered for them their ancient grants and evidences of nobility, assisted them to found a College at Cattayam for the education of a Clergy, and of the Syrian youth generally. Colonel Macaulay effected several other arrangements for the general improvement of their condition. A considerable grant of land was obtained for the College, together with a donation of 20,000 rupees from the Rannee of Travancore, and three English missionaries were attached to the College at the instance of the Resident.

The Syrian Christians now exist under three denominations.

First. The Syrian Churches, of which there are fifty-seven in Quilon and the neighbouring districts, comprehending a Christian population of 70,000 persons, who are governed by a Metropolitan, and retain a comparatively pure doctrine, although its professors are in general in low condition.

Second. The Syro-Roman Churches, who had adopted the Roman ritual with its corruptions, but still perform their worship in the Syrian language. These are in number ninety-seven Churches, with a population of about 96,000 ; viz. fifty-two Churches, with a population of about 49,000, under the Archbishop of Cranganore ; thirtyeight Churches, with a population of 40,000, under the Vicar Apostolique of Verapoli; and seven Churches, with a population of about 7000, under the Bishop of Cochin and Quilon. 

Third. The Latin Churches, which have fully conformed to the Church of Rome, and use a ritual in the Latin language. These are in number forty Churches, with a population of about 54,000; viz. twenty-one Churches, with a population of about 29,000, under the Vicar Apostolique of Verapoli ; and nineteen Churches, with a population of about 35,000, under the Bishop of Cochin and Quilon. In addition to these Churches, and dependent on them, there are numerous chapels of ease scattered over the country: in many instances four to each principal church.

The Syrian Churches keep quite distinct from the Latin Churches, and do not intermix with them.
Such of these Churches, and they are numerous, as are within the Company's territory, have enjoyed not only that general protection for persons and property, which is common to all classes of natives; but many grants or loans of money, and grants of land for the erection of Churches and for cemeteries, have been made to them. [7]

Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the end of the threat from Tipu and the Pazhassi Raja the Southern part of India became relatively peaceful, and the combination of security and cheaper passages enabled Anglican Missionaries  to arrive in India in greater numbers. With the security situation looking fairly good the British officials were less concerned with placating local religious sensibilities, and missionaries were enabled to go out into the community to try to make converts.

These successes were often fairly transitory as is illustrated in the following extract.

"Quilon.—As early as 1822, the Missionaries at Nagercoil extended their visits to these places and commenced Missionary operations there, In a short time a small number of the Natives made a profession of Christianity; but they do not appear to have continued steadfast. The Missions however, properly speaking, were commenced; that at Quilon in 1822 by the Rev. Mr. Smith, and that at Trevandram in 1838 by the Rev. Mr. Cox.

Mr. Smith on his arrival at Quilon received the aid of Col. Newall the British Resident, of Dr. Hutchinson the Chaplain, and of several Military men; and in the first year he had several schools under his charge containing from 20 to 40 boys each. Mr. McAlley was there as Assistant Missionary. "Within two years the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Crow arrived from England; but in 1824 the Mission was deprived of the labors of both Mr. Smith and Mr. Crow, who, by ill health, were compelled to return to England. Mr. Ashton, Assistant Missionary then had charge of the station until the arrival of the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson from England in 1827. The report of that year shows eleven schools with 275 boys and 28 girls, and an attendance of from 20 to 50 Natives at public worship, and four Catcchists from Nagercoil." [8]

Amongst the many officers who passed through Kollam was Lt. Colonel James Welsh. On the 24th January 1824 he was appointed to command the Subsidary force in Travancore and Cochin. It took him several months to travel with his family from Vellore and he arrived in Quilon on the 1st March 1824.

The final bit of his journey is described in the following passage.

" March 1st, ninety miles.—Embarking last night at eight, P.M., with twelve oars and a good breeze, we arrived at daylight at a mud bank in the back-water, over which the boats are always drawn by the posse comitatus. We passed a black stone image in the water, about which the Natives have a ridiculous tradition ; stopped at a Pagoda and bridge to take our breakfast, and reached the Residency at four, P. M., where we were most kindly welcomed by Colonel Newall, and became his guests, while the Ranee's house, next door, was preparing for our reception. The troops at present under my command are the 1st battalion of the 16th, or Trichinopoly Light infantry ; the 2nd battalion of the 1st, and 2nd battalion of the 4th regiments, with a company of European artillery.

Here ends the Journal from Vellore, and this place has been already described in 1817. On the 8th, my servants, and heavy baggage arrived from the Chow Ghaut by water, in several boats. Having lost two or three more on the march to that place, the total casualties by cholera amounted to seventeen."

At this period in India Cholera was raging through the land. It had existed in India for centuries but for some reason, possibly through gene mutation it had become much more virulent during 1817 and 1818. The outbreak of the Third Mahratta War had coincided with this event and Cholera was soon carrying off scores of soldiers. The refugees and displaced people from that war carried cholera with it.

James Welsh as a commanding officer of large districts often had to travel on inspection tours. He would move with a column of servants and attendants, and on several occasions in his book cholera gets into his column. At that time the disease was not understood and no real cure existed. The only way they knew to defeat it was to leave infected people behind and to move on. This actually worked because provided the camp was in range of uninfected water the disease might not follow them, if they had not already been infected.

Death, or the risk of death was never far away in India, as the following event in Quilon shows.

On the 13th of March, I was awakened at midnight by the report of a musquet, immediately under my bed-room window; and running down stairs, and making towards the spot, I was met by several of my servants and Sepoys of the guard, who all entreated me not to venture out: but as they were too confused to tell what had occurred, I made my way through them, and found the Naigue of the guard weltering in his blood. Pushing on beyond him, it being clear moonlight, I then met a Sepoy with a musquet in his hand, whom the people behind declared would shoot me. I ordered him to lay down his arms, which he instantly did, and came towards me. I asked him who had killed the Naigue, he said it was himself, on which I seized him, and ordered the Sepoys to bind him immediately. We found several musquets loaded on the spot, and going towards the guard-room, I was again warned not to approach, as my servants said the house was full of armed men; it was, however, quite empty, and at length I ascertained the real fact.

The guard at my house being an honorary one, was composed of men from the light infantry, who were all armed with short musquets and swords. Observing in the afternoon one of the sentries over my door, with his musquet and sword fixed, I told him to unfix it and lay by the gun, the sword was sufficient. This was to render the duty easier to him, and it did not occur to me to mention the same to the Naigue of the guard, who had the charge of the sentries. Shortly after,the Naigue going his rounds in the compound, found the musquet lying down, and the sentry walking at some distance, he lifted it up, and carried it to the guard-house, to remain with the rest; and my servants afterwards told him, that I had ordered the sentry at my door to use his sword only; when he was perfectly satisfied, and relieved the sentry afterwards, as if nothing had occurred : all this had happened in the evening. Junglee, the Naigue, was a man originally of inferior caste, but had been adopted and brought up as a Mussulman; he was a remarkably smart and good soldier; and, expecting to be promoted to the rank of Havildar, or Serjeant, the next day, had his worsted sash, straps, and distinguishing marks in his knapsack, ready to put on the next morning,as Havildar of the Commanding officer's guard, when this fatal circumstance occurred. He had volunteered the duty, out of his turn,from a laudable desire to appear at the onset of his new rank, in charge of an honorary guard, and being a favourite for good conduct, it was unfortunately granted.

The sentinel in question, Sheik Ally, was also a Mussulman, but of a most vindictive and irritable temper. He considered the Naigue's action of taking his musquet away to the guard-room, as an implied censure on his conduct, and secretly vowed revenge, without any attempt at explanation.

The evening being uncommonly fine, the whole guard, two sentries excepted, had assembled on a sloping bank, between the house and the guard-room, where they amused themselves in social chat, and at nine, P. M., took their suppers. At this time the prisoner passing by, the Naigue called out to him to come and take his supper ; he replied, he did not want any, and passed on to the guard-room, in the shade under some large trees. Some of my servants had now also joined the social party, who, after beguiling the evening, had all gone to sleep, when the assassin having loaded several musquets, crept softly up to the spot on which they were lying, and singling out his victim, put the piece almost close to his body and firing, threw it down and seized another. The ball entering his chest, passed through his body and penetrated the ground, upwards of a foot, while the powder actually set fire to his clothes. The soul escaped with a deep groan, while his comrades rising; on both sides the lifeless trunk, were instantly appalled by the monster presenting the other musquet, and denouncing vengeance on any one who should venture to approach him. They accordingly crept and scampered off, as fast as their terror would permit them, until encountered by me, as already related.

The villain was tried by a general Court Martial,found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged in chains; but the publication of the sentence being delayed for three months, it was supposed he was going to be pardoned, and, strange to relate, he contrived while in prison in the main guard, to create a too general feeling among the Natives, in his favour. When the order at length arrived, the wretch came on the parade, sleek, finely dressed, and smiling, as if he were going to be raised to some dignity, instead of suffering the most ignominious death. In order the more fully to impress the minds of his fellow-soldiers, with a proper sense of his guilt and punishment, after the sentence had been read aloud to the whole, formed in a square, he was led round with a rope about his neck, and then hanged in the centre; I suspect, much to their amazement.

I warned the whole of the punishment which must always await such diabolical conduct; and being informed that his friends intended to remove the body from the most ignominious part of the sentence; I ordered a guard of his own corps over the fixed gallows, to which the body was removed by the Provost Marshal, and kept them there for three days and nights, until it was quite putrid ; explaining my reasons and holding them responsible for it's continuance. They were no sooner removed, than the body, chains and all, disappeared, and were never more heard of. I had, however, carried my point, in retaining it such a time to public view, and I envy not the feelings of those who afterwards purloined the perishing remains."

The threat of sickness was a constant presence for all EIC officers. There was a very heavy drinking culture amongst many of these officers and this often affected their livers. James Welsh was present at the death of one of these officers at Quilon.

On the 11th of July, Captain J.D. Rand, in the temporary command of the 15th regiment of Native infantry, died of the liver complaint at Quilon. He had been confined a whole month, and every exertion made for his recovery. The body was opened, and several quarts of matter taken from his liver, which was in a state of perfect solution, with three large abscesses. His pulse had always been high, from one hundred and five to one hundred and ten ; but otherwise he had none of the symptoms we are accustomed to observe in the formation of abscesses, viz., hiccough, retching, spasms, and shivering fits: any one of the three abscesses would have killed a horse. I never saw any thing equal to them, though he was actually singing a delightful song at the mess the night before he was taken ill; for he was a capital musician, and one of the finest tempered fellows I ever knew. Such a mass of corruption could not possibly be the formation of one short month. He had been extremely unfortunate in promotion, and frequently superseded in the service, which was supposed to be preying on his mind more than disease, at the early part of his confinement; but disease must have been at work for a length of time, to have accomplished such an object. He died in my arms without a struggle, and I had the melancholy satisfaction of giving his cold remains every honour that could be paid to a Field officer; and, there being no Clergyman present at the time of his demise, of also reading the Funeral service over him myself.[11]

However, not all events in Quilon were doom and gloom. Later that year one of the Colonel's daughters was married. As there was no Anglican church in the town, it is very possible that it took place in the Residency.

In the Oriental Herald for for April to June 1825 appears the following notice which probably refers to events in 1824.

"Marriages.—Oct. 18th. At Quilon, Capt. C. Maxtone, commanding Resident's escort, to Bellina Sophia, fourth daughter of Lieut. Col. Com. Welsh, commanding Travancore subsid. force."

Figure 5. The Residency.

In 1837 the Rev. Daniel Tyerman visited Quilon and left the following account of the Residency and the events in the surrounding area. He provides quite a good general history of events in the area from the time of the capture of the town from the Dutch.

Being now within a short distance from Quilon, and the road to it through Travancore being practicable, we thought it advisable to set off immediately for Quilon, and pay our visit at Nagercoil on our return. Mr. Mault kindly accompanied us, and we passed through Trivanderam and Anjengo, and arrived at Quilon on the 25th of July, and put up at the mission-house.

Quilon is a town situated on a flat and low ground on the sea-shore, in lat. N. 9°, and long. E. 76° 30'. This is not the place which formerly bore the name, but is comparatively modern. The ancient Quilon is situated two miles up the coast to the north; it is also on the sea-coast, and is now almost forsaken. Here was a strong fort built by the Portuguese, but it is now entirely destroyed. When the English took possession of the town, they blew up this fort. Near the site of the same is the ancient town, situated in a grove of cocoa-nut and other trees. In its prime it was a considerable place, and laid out in regular streets, which are still to be seen. But few of the houses are yet standing and inhabited, and only two of the churches are now used for public worship. Nothing of importance is to be seen in this place, only the ruins indicating its former dignity. Between it and the present Quilon is the palace of the Divan, who is the prime minister of the Travancore government. Several small pagodas are to be seen, but none of much importance, excepting the carpenter’s pagoda, which is a pretty extensive and curious building, in the style of architecture which is peculiar to Travancore. The town is a scattered place, consisting of several streets and bazaars, under the shade of trees. The south side of the town is occupied by the barracks for the accommodation of native troops, which are officered by Englishmen. Here is an English Episcopal chapel, in which the Rev. Mr. Spring[11] officiates, who is a pious and excellent man. The house of the resident is near the town. It is a large and handsome house, with a spacious lake, called the Backwater, in front. Colonel Morison is the present resident, a man of high character and respectability. Dr. Macauley is the medical gentleman, possessed of great kindness, hospitable feelings, and piety. A deep and wellformed canal runs between the town and the sea, and is nearly finished. It is made by the Travancore government, and extends a considerable distance.[13]

Figure 6. A canal cutting near Trivandrum.

The photos by Zacharias D' Cruz include one of a canal in a deep cutting.It is not certain where this photo was taken. It is quite possibly the one described above. As the photo was taken many years after the account above it probably shows a later maintenance operation. Kollam was one of the very few sources of building stone on the entire Malabar coast that was easily accessible by water, and Visscher says that stone from Kollam was used by the Dutch for many of their forts along the coast. To the left hand side of the photo can be seen a number of very substantial lumps of stone.

Fig 7. The line of the artifical canal cut at Kollam.

The population of Quilon, and the numerous small villages near it, amounts to about 40,000, and not more, according to the statements of the most intelligent. The Malayalim language is that which is most generally spoken, though the Tamil is also spoken by a considerable number The medical men speak of the whole kingdom of Travancore as being healthy, though the atmosphere is humid, and the country has been occasionally visited by cholera.

The mission-premises are well situated for health and the sea-breezes, being close to the beach. The compound is large and good, and contains two habitable bungalows, and several out-houses, in one of which a school is kept. Mr.Ashton resides in one of the bungalows; the other will, we presume, be occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Thomson, who were to sail from Madras two or three days after we left it, to go to this station.

In this mission are nine boys' schools, containing 450 children, and one of girls, in which there are twenty-seven pupils, very lately commenced. On examining these schools, two or three of which were too remote for us to reach, we had much reason to be satisfied; and we found them in as good a condition as schools in general in India. Many of the boys read well, and are acquainted with Watts's First and Second Catechisms. But little could be expected from the girls. The Malayalim and Tamil languages are taught in the schools.

Here are four readers and assistants, of whose piety Mr. Ashton speaks favorably. They are well employed in visiting the schools, and in going to the villages around, of which fifty are visited by them, where they read the Scriptures to the people, and converse with them on the great things of God. One of the schoolmasters, whose name is Chrishna, has given pleasing evidence of having cordially embraced the gospel. He is one of the readers now. These readers, and all the schoolmasters, Mr. Ashton meets at his own house every Saturday, for the purpose of instructing and conversing with them.

Mr. Ashton visits all the schools that are near five times each every month, and those that are distant twice. He catechises the children; and in going and returning, he converses with such persons as he meets with on the road.

English preaching has not been introduced here by the missionaries; but there are thirty, sometimes forty, natives, to wham Mr. Ashton preaches, and to whom he reads the Scriptures, &c., and he has reason to hope well of several of them. Some of the children at the schools -have given pleasing evidence that the sacred truths which they have been taught have had some power on their minds, for they have refused to go and gather flowers for the idols of their parents.

Mr. Ashton, you are aware, is a country-born young man. He appears to be decidedly pious, and entirely devoted to his work.

When at Quilon we were not more than twenty-four hours -from Cotym, and the Syrian churches, which have excited so lively an interest among Christians in England; and, being aware that the worthy Church missionaries there were desirous of seeing us, and that our having seen those Christians would be highly gratifying to you all, we resolved to pay them a short visit. Dr. Macauley lent us his boat; we proceeded up the Backwater, a series of lakes running parallel with the sea-shore northward, and seventy-five miles from Quilon, and arrived next day. Our pious and excellent friends received us with all the cordiality and joy of brethren and sisters, and showed us no small kindness. We saw all that was possible for the short time of our visit, both of the state of these churches, and of this mission among them: we shall give you a general idea, in as few words as we can. The whole Syrian population in Travancore amounts to 13,000 families, perhaps about 70,000 individuals. They have fifty-five churches still in their hands; the papists have appropriated several of others to themselves. These churches, in general, respectable the parish churches of our own country, though , of course they are of various sizes, and differ much as to the style of architecture. Some of them are respectable buildings, and of a considerable extent. They have neither pews nor benches inside. At the east end there is a kind of altar, with steps, on which a cross is placed, and tapers lighted in time of worship. Their mode of worship strongly resembles that of the Armenian churches, and strikingly approaches, in different ceremonies, those of the church of Rome. Though they have crosses in their churches, there is no crucifix, nor carved image. The service is read in the Syriac language, of which the people know nothing; and but few of the Catenars are acquainted with it. The Catenars are the priests. Here is no preaching, and nothing in the whole service for their edification, but a short extract from one of the Gospels, which is read in the Malayalim language, which is the language of these Syrian Christians. Of course they are in a state of the most wretched ignorance. In fact, these churches are but so many limbs of popery, from which, as to doctrinal sentiment, they do not essentially differ. The Church missionaries have for their object the introduction of the pure gospel among these benighted Christians. The Rev. Mr. Bayley is engaged in translating and printing the Scriptures in the Malayalim language, and has made considerable progress. The Rev. Mr. Doran is at the head of the college, in which are fifty-one students and stout boys; twenty-eight of these are intended to be Catenars. On examining all the pupils in mathematics, Latin, Greek, English, etc, etc, we found them in a very reputable state of proficiency. The college-building is large and commodious, and there is in it a valuable library. The Rev. Mr. Baker is at the head of the school-system. Here is a sort of grammar-school, in which are sixty boys ; from these are selected students for the college. We found them also in an excellent state. Besides this there are fifty-five other schools, containing about 1000 children of the Syrian Christians, in different parts of the country. Both the college and the schools are conducted on principles which are decidedly evangelical, to which the Metropolitan does not object. He was from home, but we saw his substitute and representative. Of all the Catenars, there is but one, a young man, who appears to be truly pious. Mr. Bayley has been permitted occasionally to preach in the churches ; and a good understanding appears to exist between the missionaries, and the Metropolitan and Catenars.

Of these missionaries, with Mrs. Bayley and Mrs. Baker, we cannot speak too highly. They are truly pious, and breathe an excellent spirit; and appear to be greatly devoted to their difficult work. Mrs. Baker has one school of fine Syrian girls under her care. A church is about to be built here, in which the gospel will be preached, and all the students will attend there. The missionaries have service in their own houses on Lord's day, after the manner of the Church of England. We were greatly interested in this mission, which we trust will be instrumental of great good, though we fear that" its operations will be slow, and the hopes of good are distant. Persons more suited to the undertaking could scarcely have been found by the Church Missionary Society. The houses of the missionaries are excellent, their situations beautiful, and the neighboring locality exceedingly rich and fine.," [14]

Another visitor to the Residency was Bishop Spencer from Madras.

Quilon,December 19.

This is a very fine place, I mean the Residency, which is all that I have as yet seen of Quilon: It is beautifully situated in a very pretty park-like enclosure, almost surrounded by water; but the water is not, as at Balghauty, so near as to affect, as I suspect it must do there, the healthiness of the house.
We arrived here at five this morning, after the most noisy voyage I have hitherto experienced, as our boat was very frequently aground, and consequently obliged to be wedged through the mud by the shouting, yelling multitude, who seemed to spring up out of the sedgy banks where and whenever their services were wanted. We were exactly ten hours on the water, during which I snatched a little sleep occasionally, but literally by fits and starts. At one of our halting-places, a more than usual uproar made me open the door of my little cabin, and a very striking sight awaited me. We were close to a bridge, in the centre of which the if Tahsildar of the district, whatever it might be, a fine-look-ing fellow, with an ample beard, had taken up his position with his myrmidons to make his salaam and present his limes and tuberoses. The night was very dark, black as it is only in the tropics, and the banks of the river as well as the bridge were thronged with people, every man, with the exception of the rural authorities, carrying a bundle of flaming dry sticks, which he continually waved around and above us, while the long green graceful fans of the cocoa-nut trees caught the reflected light, and might almost have been mistaken for so many beautiful fire-works. I am sure that the most accomplished maitre de ballet could not have grouped his people better; the effect was quite theatrical. As we shot under the bridge the rush of the shouting splashing torch-bearers, the clash of the cymbals, and the perpetual rub-adub-dub of the drums, for they are not beaten in military fashion, but thumped, was quite exciting. Travelling, brings an Indian Bishop acquainted with strange company." [15]

[1]Photo from Julian Craig's blog
[2]The Madras journal of literature and science By Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary of the Royal Asiatic Society page 214, published 1858, from an account written by Captain Heber Drury, 45 N.I.
[3] The Gentleman's magazine, Volume 154, by John Nichols, page 295, published in 1833.
[4]A History of india, from the earliest times to the present day. By Thomas Keightley, page 154 published 18.47
[5] Pyche Raja. Not the same man killed on November 30th 1805, but possibly the heir to his position. This was generally a nephew of the previous Raja, the son of one of his sisters.
[6]The Scots magazine and Edinburgh literary miscellany, Volume 74. Page 860, published January 1812.
[7] Captain Heber Drury
[8]Proceedings of the South India missionary conference, held at Ootacamund 1858. Page 70.
[9]Military reminiscences: extracted from a journal of nearly forty years ...
By James Welsh, pages 206 & 207. Published 1830.
[10] James Welsh, pages 209 & 210.
[11] The Reverend Francis Spring had previously been posted at Tellicherry. See
[12]Journal of voyages and travels by the Rev. Daniel Tyerman and ..., Volume 3,pages 204 to 208. Published 1832.
[13] Tyerman Volume 3, pages 204 to 208.
[14] Tyerman
[15]Journal of a Visitation to the provinces of Travancore and Tinnevelly: in 1840 & 1841... By George Trevor Spencer Page 80.


Rajkumar Thomson said...

There are many mistakes .The residency was built by John Munro.The barrack were at the contonment, about two miles south west of the residency. It is still there, used by local armed police.The then parade ground was alongside the barrecks(Now Muncipal stadium and Tyreman saw it in 1827 (not in 1837).The quilon Chaplaincy was established by Bp.Middleton in 1816)The protugese and Dutch forts were at Tangasserry.There are many big and small mistakes.who is this Mr.Thomas Jacob. may be I can interact with him more on the matter.I am the grand son of the 1st native catechist and church clerk of St. Thomas Church.My address: prof.Rajkumar Thomson, 71-Vidhya Nagar,Pattathanam,Kollam 691021. email:

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Rahul kapoor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nidhin Olikara said...

Excellent post. Though colonial overlords there is no disputing the fact that characters as Baber loved the Malabar as their own home.

Please keep up the good work.

GAPAGE said...

Dear Nick i am an ardent follower of your blogs which throw light into many faces of colonial India , i too compile historical materials and use it for promotion of Tourism ,i Did a book called The Path To the hills in 2012 and by this time it has reached Buckingham palace and to many history lovers bookshelves .It dealt mainly with History of plantations .My new Book deals with many facets of Colonial India , starting from the Spice trade of BC to the present times , may i ask your permission to use your materials on Malabar Days in particular to deal with Travancore and Pazassi ,Baber .. your in dept research is outstanding and i wish to acknowledge your blog details in the new book for more visitors to know the true History of our land and the colonial impact on us .My email is
Fondly George

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George ABRAHAM said...

Very informative much of a worthy correction pointed out...i had a relative of Cl John Munroe as my guest ...Nice to see so many people contribute to Travancore and Malabar history
George Abraham..
My new coffee table book deal a lot with these stuffs

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