Saturday, January 10, 2009

All the King's men

If you've been reading this regularly - or if you know your Chennai history - you will remember that the French under LaBourdonnais had captured Fort St George in 1746. In 1749, the French diplomats swapped Madras for Cape Breton, but the French garrison continued their attempts to capture Madras. Until LaBourdonnais, the British had not taken the French threat seriously, but after having been handed back Fort St George, they were in no mood to repeat their mistake and began to reinforce the battlements around.

At the same time, they began to expand the military force that was stationed in the Fort. Earlier intended as a trading location, the Fort now began to take on the nature of a military-commercial enterprise. With a greater number of soldiers coming in, there was a need to billet them properly; it was not possible for the houses in the Fort to be given over to them, nor was it feasible to build new houses for all of them. The solution was this: a vast building, covering over 10,000 square metres. The first to use it was the King's Regiment and so it came to be known as the King's Barracks, even though there is nothing regal about the building. Extremely plain and functional, it served its purpose of soldiers' housing for two centuries.

Today, it is still used by the army, largely as the canteen and cafeteria. Some of the living quarters are also in use, but large parts of the building are in poor repair and unfit for occupation.


3 comments:

BABOOSHKA said...

Very interesting again. So much more to your posts than most,

Hilda said...

That's huge! I hope they don't let it completely deteriorate, given its history. Even if you say it's not an architectural wonder.

Shantaram said...

@ Babooshka: Thank you! I'm lucky that my city has so many facets to it! :)

@ Hilda: Yes, keeping fingers crossed. But there're some who would like to impose their version of history... :(