Monday, August 18, 2008

The 'Gunners' in Chennai?

Even though Fort St George became the launch pad for the British Empire, it does not appear that the original intent of the Fort's construction was to use it for warlike purposes. The walls were meant to protect the British traders (and maybe the Portugese ones, too) and their merchandise from being plundered by their neighbours, native or European. The first buildings inside the Fort were the 'factory' for sorting and storing goods, the Governor's House, St. Mary's Church and houses for about 100 families who qualified to stay inside the 'White Town' of the Fort.

As we've seen elsewhere, the French began to covet this Fort before long. Of those conflicts was born the need for the Fort to have its own ammunition store. So, after the Fort was recovered from the French in 1749, reconstruction included building the Grand Arsenal. Col. Patrick Ross, who was in-charge of redesigning the walls, also laid out the design for the Arsenal, with storage areas on the ground floor and living spaces above. John Sullivan's execution of this design survives to this day and at least partially, the Arsenal continues to be used as originally intended. We were allowed into the rear portion of the Arsenal thanks to Madras Day celebrations - these areas, occupied by the Army, are normally out-of-bounds for visitors.

And so one got to see the words 'Madras' and 'Arsenal' together. If you were hoping to see something about the football club, sorry - it will take quite a few more Madras Days before the Gunners come to Chennai!


Anonymous said...

Whoa, did you happen to attend the lecture by chitra madhavan in the evening?

Hilda said...

Sounds like a very interesting and educational tour!

Shantaram said...

>> Bitterscotch>> No, was not able to... my loss. Catch you at one of the other events, possibly!

>> Hilda>> You bet it was!