Wednesday, February 4, 2009

That's the limit

If you remember, the site of today's Dare House was, in 1758, the site from where Comte de Lally shelled Fort St George with his cannons. Today, it is not possible to see the Fort from there; but 250 years ago the only structures between the cannons and the Fort were the dwellings of the first 'Blacks Town' that had come up outside the north wall of the Fort. The cannons therefore had a pretty clear view of the Fort and pounded it with their fire. It is likely that the British were unable to retaliate - the Fort's guns, having to fire through the embrasures would have sent the cannonballs just over the houses of the Town, maybe even hitting some of the taller structures. That would have put them at a considerable disadvantage against the field cannons of the French, which could carve a parabola over the Town and into the Fort.

At least that seems to be the reason why the British decided to clear the area around the immediate vicinity of the Fort; it was now a major prize and had to be made unassailable. So, an esplanade was created, extending up to the point(s?) where de Lally's cannons were based (Sure, they did not account for technological advances...) and the new Blacks Town was created beyond those limits. A survey in 1772 fixed the boundaries of the esplanade by raising six obelisks, each rising about 20 feet high.

Only one remains; maintained by the Murugappa Group, it is painted in the same colour scheme as Dare House is; that is one reason why the passer-by will miss the inscription on the granite slab at its base, saying "Boundary of the Esplande, 1st January 1773"!

(click on picture to enlarge - the inscription can then be seen)

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