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Fort William, a view from the inside, c. 1828
|Type||Fortress, garrisoned and armoured Army Headquarters.|
|Controlled by||British East India Company |
Siraj Ud Daulah
Indian Army (Current)
|In use||1781 - present|
|Battles/wars||Battle of Plassey|
Fort William is a fort in Calcutta (Kolkata), built during the early years of the Bengal Presidency of British India. It sits on the eastern banks of the River Hooghly, the major distributary of the River Ganges. One of Kolkata's most enduring Raj-era edifices, it extends over an area of 70.9 hectares.
There are two Fort Williams. The original fort was built in the year 1696 by the British East India Company under the orders of Sir John Goldsborough which took a decade to complete. Sir Charles Eyre started construction near the bank of the Hooghly River with the South-East Bastion and the adjacent walls. It was named after King William III in 1700. John Beard, Eyre's successor, added the North-East Bastion in 1701, and in 1702 started the construction of the Government House (Factory, see Factory (trading post)) at the centre of the fort. Construction ended in 1706. The original building had two stories and projecting wings. In 1756, the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj Ud Daulah, attacked the Fort, temporarily conquered the city, and changed its name to Alinagar. This led the British to build a new fort in the Maidan.
Robert Clive started rebuilding the fort in 1758, after the Battle of Plassey (1757); construction was completed in 1781 at a cost of approximately two million pounds. The area around the Fort was cleared, and the Maidan became "the Lungs of Kolkata". It stretches for around 3 km in the north-south direction and is around 1 km wide.
The Old Fort was repaired and used as a customs house from 1766 onwards.
Today Fort William is the property of Indian Army. The headquarters of Eastern Command is based there, with provisions for accommodating 10,000 army personnel. The Army guards it heavily, and civilian entry is restricted.
Much of Fort William is unchanged, but St Peter's Church, which used to serve as a chaplaincy centre for the British citizens of Kolkata, is now a library for the troops of HQ Eastern Command.
The Fort is built of brick and mortar in the shape of an irregular octagon with an area 5 km². Five of its sides face landward, and three towards the Hooghly River. The design is that of a star fort, suited to defence against cannon firing solid shot,and dates from before the advent of explosive shells. A dry moat 9 m deep and 15 m broad surrounds the fort. The moat can be flooded but is designed as an area in which to use enfilade (or "flanking") fire against any attackers reaching the walls. There are six gates: Chowringhee, Plassey, Calcutta, Water Gate, St Georges and the Treasury Gate. There are similar forts at places like Thalassery in Kerala.[full citation needed] It has a 9-hole golf course currently.
Fort William, Calcutta, 1756
First English Chapel, Fort William, Calcutta. Raised in 1714, with contribution of Rs. 1000 by the East India Company (p. 197, March 1824)
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