All those staying in Bombay or present day Mumbai would know that a fort existed in the South Bombay area of Churchgate, Flora Fountain, CST. In fact the name of the area "fort" is derived from the fort of the yesteryear.
The history of Bombay and its fort is so vast that a proper research is required to compile all data into one article or book. Here I have tried to include some details to make the article interesting to read. So where was the actual fort ?
The Bombay castle is in present day INS Angre and the larger Bombay fort at its prime extended from Dongri in the north (St. George fort ) to Mendham's point in the south (near present day Lion Gate of the Navy). History:
To know the history of the fort, we need to know the history of the Island of Bombay during the two periods of the Portuguese and the British. The Portuguese period:
Prior to the Portuguese, the Sultan of Gujarat was the ruler of the area. In 1509 the first Portuguese ship, captained by Francis Almeida landed first on Mahim, one of the 7 islands of Bombay. In 1532, the Portuguese attacked Bassein, and after a weak resistance, they entered the fort and destroyed it. Finally on 23rd December 1534, the Sultan of Gujarat signed a treaty with the Portuguese and ceded Bassein with all its dependencies which also included the 7 islands of Bombaim. The 7 islands of Bombay.
The seven islands ceded by the Portuguese to the British were:-
1. Colaba: whose name is a corruption of the Koli name Kolbhat.
2. Old Womanís Island / Little Colaba: A small islet between Colaba and Bombay.
3. Bombaim: The main harbour and the nucleus of the British fort from which the modern city grew; it stretched from Dongri on the east to Malabar Hill on the west.
4. Mazagaon: A Koli settlement to the east of Bombay island which was separated from it by Umarkhadi and Pydhonie.
5. Worli: North of Bombay which was seperated from it by the Great Breach, which extended westwards almost to Dongri.
6. Parel: North of Mazagaon and called by many other names, including Matunga, Dharavi and Sion. The original population was predominantly Koli.
7. Mahim: to the west of Parel and north of Worli, took its name from the Mahim river.
The Portuguese called Bombay "A ilha de boa vida"
which means the island of good life. Bombaim was just a fishing village and the Portuguese did not do much in Bombaim except for renting it in 1554 to Garcia de Orta, a Portuguese Physician who stayed here till his death in 1570. He built a wooden Manor House, where the sick quarters (MI Room) of INS Agre exist today. The Marriage treaty:
On 23rd January 1661, Prince Charles II of England was married to Infanta Catherine de Braganza, sister of the King of Portugal. The marriage contract was a long one but it was the 11th article that ceded Bombay to the British. So the 7 islands of Bombay were given as dowry by the Portuguese to the British but the British got possession only on 18th February 1665 by a Treaty, but without any dependencies. At the time of the treaty the island had 11 Portuguese families and a few thousand Koli and Bhandari inhabitants. The possession of the islands was taken by Deputy British Viceroy Humphrey Cooke, whom the Portuguese despised for having once been a grocer in Lisbon, Portugal. The documents were signed in the Manor house occupied by Dona Ignez de Castro de Miranda who was called Ďthe lady of the islandí. The house has been located as being somewhere on the premises occupied by the present Naval establishment INS Angre. The British period:
After signing the treaty, the British then appointed Sir George Oxenden as the First Governor of British Bombay. To promote trade he invited traders from everywhere specially from Surat. During his tenure a Customís house and a quay was built.
The actual expansion or building of the fort was done in the British period, which was done around the Bombay castle.
Lets look at some of the development of Bombay & the fort:-
1) After taking possession, in the same year, Cooke built a 50 metres long fort-wall and mounted 18 cannons on it. This was done to prevent the Dutch attack on Bombay. The British destroyed majority of the Portuguese buildings except for one of the gates of the Bombay fort and 10 feet sundial within the fort. The fort was an irregular quadrangle with walls 27 feet high and 25 feet broad. On the walls there were 36 big cannons and the three bastions had another 50. The Portuguese Sundial on the fort
2) While Cooke was signing the Treaty in Bombay, King Charles in England was negotiating a resale to the Portuguese. When the deal fell through he tried other means to raise money. Finally on 27th March 1668, the King of England leased Bombay to the East India Company (E.I.C) based at Surat for an annual rent of 10 pounds sterling payable every September 30 and a personal loan of 50,000 ponds sterling at 6% interest. The Company, which was operating from Surat, was in search for another deeper water port so that larger vessels could dock, and found the islands of Bombay suitable for development. The shifting of the East India Company's headquarters to Bombay led to the eclipse of Surat as a principal trading center. The British then changed the Portuguese name "Bom Baia"
3) St. Thomas Church:
During Aungierís tenure the construction of St. Thomas Church inside the fort was started in 1672 but its construction ended only after his death in 1677. It was opened to the public only on Christmas day in 1718. The church now called St. Thomas Cathedral still stands gracefully and is situated at the end of Veer Nariman road near Churchgate station.
4) Increase in trade let to more and more traders settling in Bombay. So in 1675 the population rose to 60,000. The richer traders were permitted to build houses within the fort.
Also during Aungierís tenure a court of law, a mint, a printing press, a hospital and a dock capable of berthing 20 ships was built. Houses were also built around the fort. The fort had regular barracks and was supplied with 120 pieces of ordinance. In addition 3 warships were kept ready in the harbour.
5) In 1675 the Dutch attacked Bombay but were defeated easily.
After Aungerís death in 1677, Henry Gray was appointed Governor. Fearing a Dutch attack again, he set up more artillery on the fort.
6) Later Charles Boone became the Governor in 1715. In 1716, implementing Aungier's plans for fortification of the island, Boone destroyed the Dongri fort and had walls built from Dongri in the north to Mendham's point in the south (near present day Lion Gate of the Navy). The Bombay fort completed in 1722 was now 3 ľ km. long and 1 km. wide. It had 6 bastions and 3 gates; 1) Apollo gate (between St.Andrewís Church and Rampart Row). 2) Church gate (near Flora fountain. Churchgate station was named after it). 3) Bazar gate on the street of the same name (opposite GPO). Now called Perin Nariman street. A very reputed Parsi gentleman Behdin Horma was hung on the street outside for a crime that he had not committed).
The bastions in the west from north to south from Bazaar gate were: Princess; Banian; Moor; Church; Stanhope and Marlborough. In the east the bastions were: Mandre; Flower tree; Tank; Flagstaff, Barb tree; Dock and Royal. The fort walls
7) Boone also established a fleet called ĎBombay Marineí. This was a sea service of the E.I.C. to invite frigates from Surat. This was also done to persuade the King of England to dispatch a special Naval fleet and accordingly a squadron arrived from England. The vessels were built by the Parsi shipbuilders Wadias.
8) In 1739, North Konkan including Bassein fell in the hands of the Marathas. Fearing an attack on Bombay also the British got a ditch built around the Bombay fort. The ditch took three years to be built.
9) In 1756 the fort defenses were strengthened and all trees within 120 yards of the outer wall were cut down. The Portuguese church was destroyed and more walls added.
10) In 1760 a new practice was started. There was daily gunfire at dawn and sunset, and the main gates of the fort were opened and shut. In the same year the Esplanade was cleared in the fort, and the British armory was moved from Bombay fort to Mazgaon.
11) The northern side of the Bombay fort was dominated by Dongri hill where the Dongri fort stood (destroyed in 1716). The Siddis in 1689 from the Dongri fort and the Marathas in 1739 from the Dongri hill attacked the Bombay fort. Hence the Dongri hill was considered a danger to the Bombay fort and so was blown up in 1764. Later in 1769-70 a new fort called St. George was built on the debris and was linked to the old one. It was named after the British King George III. This fort had 4 bastions called Tank, Flag Staff, North-east and Magazine.
St. George fort
Currently, the fort is completely restored and is the headquarters of the Archaeological Survey of India. The fort is owned by the State Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra (SDA).
12) The Bombay fortifications were challenged by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the Marathas and the Siddis but none were successful except for the Siddis who held the islands for 16 months (February 1689 to June 1690). The danger to Bombay finally ended when the Salcette island, north of Bombay was ceded to them in 1802.
13) In 1803 there was a big fire inside the southern part of the fort. It incurred heavy losses and nearly 1/3rd part of the fort was burnt.
14) In 1829, the Governorís house within the fort was abandoned and shifted to Parel. Parel was actually a retreat place for the Governors from 1719 and became their residence till 1885.
15) In 1833, the Town hall was built within the fort to house the library of the Royal Asiatic Society, a museum and a general hall of assembly. From the top of its steps announcements for public interest were made. It also served as a meeting place for cultural activities. Lord Elphinstone, the then Governor of Bombay donated many rare books to the library from his own collection. To honour his work and contribution a circular garden called Elphinstone circle was built opposite Town hall in 1872 on the site of Bombay Green which once stood inside the fort. Later the circle was named Horniman circle in memory of Mr.B.G. Horniman, a famous journalist who favoured Indiaís struggle for Independence. His office once stood opposite the circle.
16) Within the fort, two sepoys named Hussein and Guddera were tied to the mouths of the cannons and blown up for participating in the Uprising of 1857.
17) As trade flourished the population of Bombay started increasing. In 1850 the population rose to 500,000. All the islands were reclaimed and in 1853 a railway line connected Bombay Boribandar with Thana.
18) The fort had fulfilled its purpose and the walls were now becoming useless. To expand the town, the Governor Sir Bartle Frere (Governor from 1862 to 1867) ordered in 1862 to destroy the fort walls. By 1865 the walls disappeared.
However a small portion of the northern part also called St. George fort still survives as mentioned above. It is in the compound of St. George hospital near CST station. Its outer wall is on P.Dímello road (formally called Frere road). The other remains are inside the Naval establishment INS Angre. INS Angre was named so in 1951 from its earlier name HMS Dalhousie. Even after more than four centuries, the Castle Barracks retains some of the original structures and relics. The three ramparts and the fort walls, the four bastions called Tank Bastion (present base sick quarters), Cavalier Bastion (present Command Meteorological Office), Flagstaff Bastion (present office of Commodore, Naval Barracks) and Barb Tree Bastion (present Court-martial Room), massive wooden gates at two entrances and a ten-feet Portuguese sun dial remind the visitors to this historic establishment of its rich history. Thanks for reading.