Fort St. George Museum at St. George Fort in Chennai : Museum to Know the History of Madras & the Colonial British / East India Company History in South India – Visit, Timings, History, Entry Fee, Travel Guide (Updated)
– the first east india company fortress in india
| CasualWalker’s Rating for Fort St.George Museum at St.George Fort in Chennai:
8.9 – Great / Excellent
Madras, Chennai is honored to be one of the most historic cities in the world. St. George’s Fort is built by the British in India, is a landmark of Chennai, and is an irresistible destination in Tamil Nadu. The real history of Madras begins at the St. George’s Fort, and the significant events that took place at this fort, currently this fort houses the state government offices and the Chief Secretariat of the Tamil Nadu Government, which has a history of 350 years. Currently, the Fort St.George Museum is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.
History of St. George’s Fort, Chennai
The construction of the fort began in the coastal city of Madras (present-day Chennai) in 1640 by two officers from the English East India Company, and Andrew Cogan.
The British who came to India for trade around 1600 established their trading centers in various parts of India. In particular, they used to stay in the coastal cities to do business and carry out commercial activities. As such, they looked for a viable port to establish their commercial influence in the Bay of Bengal, east of India.
Initially, the British who opted for Masulipetnam in Andhra Pradesh moved towards the southern part of Madrasapatnam as their trade and commercial prosperity did not reach there. They considered Madrasapatnam as the best base camp for their sea trade between Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia across the Malacca Strait.
This fort led to the creation of a new settlement called George Town, which encompassed villages and eventually became Madras or the current modern-day Chennai. Part of the fort was completed in 1640. As the fort was completed on 23rd April, which is St George’s Day, it came to be known as “St George’s Fort”. In 1641, the fort became the headquarters of the English East India Company on the shores of the Chola region.
The coastal village where the fisherman lived was called Chennapatnam after the father of Vengadappar, Sennapar – the Vengadappar who ruled the area at the current time and gave this place. It is also said that there was a place called Madras Pattinam to the north of Chennapatnam which was acquired by the British.
It is believed that the area between Chennapatnam and Madras Pattinam became one after the construction of new buildings and streets, and the united area was called Madras Pattinam by the British and “Chennaipatnam” by the people around this region.
As the city began to develop rapidly around Fort George, a new settlement called Georgetown sprang up. After the fort became an indispensable part of commercial activity. In 1641, Fort St. George was transformed into the headquarters of the English East India Company. In the beginning Cogan and Francis Day were successively overseeing the administration of the British East India Company. After that various British officers and governors were in charge.
An Englishman Elihu Yale was the Governor of Madras in the 1670s and expanded the boundaries of British territory by buying villages like Tiruvallikeni, Thandaiyarpet, and Egmore from the Golconda Sultan.
He then retired from work and went to America, where he donated a part of his property to a school. It grew into what is now the famous Yale University. The British considered Fort St. George so important that they built a 6-meter-high wall around it to protect it and also the British Governor’s house and office were set up in it. English merchants built houses and settled there. Two cities emerged called the White City within Fort St. George and the Black City in the outer area where many artisans and weavers from Andhra lived. The black town later became Georgetown.
St. George’s Fort, Chennai – After Indian Independence
After that, the British left our country on 15th August 1947. After India’s independence from the British, the national flag was hoisted for the first time at St. George’s Fort in Chennai.
On the day of independence, the ‘Jack’ flag of the British Government at St. George’s Fort in Chennai was lowered and our national flag was hoisted for the first time. The flag is preserved today in the Fort St. George Museum. This historic flag has been on public display since January 26, 2013. But currently, it’s not on display because of maintenance.
Although this national flag is slightly faded, it is the only flag hoisted on the day of independence in India that has been preserved to date. The fort complex is a majestic symbol of Chennai’s heritage and history. Spread over an area of about 107 acres, important buildings such as Wellesley House, Clive House, Town Hall, Barracks Building, and Fort Museum are still intact in the fort complex. It is in this legendary Fort of St. George that the Chief Secretariat of the Government of Tamil Nadu, the offices of the Ministers, and the Legislative Assembly are functioning.
Fort St. George Museum
The Fort St. George Museum was organized and opened to the public on 31st January 1948. The museum is on the north side of the fort. The Fort Museum is the only institution within the complex under ASI and is also supported by the Indian army.
The building was completed in 1794 and initially housed the Bank of Madras office and later it was converted into a museum in 1948 after independence.
Fort St. George Museum Chennai – Displayed Items
Then, these rare photographic plates taken by an anonymous photographer are fascinating. These were unknown in Coonoor for a long time. A journalist named Harry Miller discovered them and named them Vintage Vignettes. An imposing marble statue of Lord Cornwallis (1738-1805) greets the visitors near the starting point for the first floor. It was designed by sculptor Thomas Banks. Beneath the statue is carved a realistic depiction of the capture of Tipu Sultan‘s sons as hostages in the Battle of Mysore.
Initially, this idol was placed in Thenampet, which was the boundary of the city, by erecting a canopy. That is Cenatop Road. Cenatop means monument. Later, this statue was brought to the parade ground opposite the fort in 1905. Later, they placed it in front of the Bentinck Building on North Beach Road. The long room on the first floor served as a British entertainment room in those days. Now glittering as a room full of paintings. They have realistically painted portraits of British kings, queens, governors, and Nawabs of Arcot. Sir George Hyder’s portrait of Queen Victoria is mesmerizing. Besides, Robert Clive’s painting by Thomas Day, Arthur Havelock’s painting by Raja Ravivarma, and Nawab Walaja’s painting are brilliant.
Fort Museum accommodates several important items of crucial significance in Chennai’s history an assortment of colonial-era artifacts: coins, uniforms, weapons, and paintings. The Fort Museum houses many artifacts from earlier times, including portraits of the Governors of Madras. The Portrait Gallery exhibits portraits and oil paintings including Queen Victoria, King George III, Sir Arthur Havelock, and Robert Clive.
There are also paintings depicting constructions and renovations carried out since 1640. Various places of Tamil Nadu at that time are recorded in these paintings. A number of ancient cannons are installed around the building. Notes about whose cannon was used in which battle are also placed nearby.
Left to the reception hall artifacts section welcomes, a variety of bombs such as chain bombs, and splash bombs placed in glass frames are terrifying.
Fort St. George Museum Chennai – Medals Showcase
The adjacent room houses a variety of medals. These medals, found in gold and silver, were awarded to Indian provincial kings and officials to honor them. Then come the medals awarded to those who died in World War I and II. Then the saddle cloth worn by the horse in the bodyguard of the Governor of Madras and the uniform worn by the staff at the inauguration ceremony add to the beauty. Their upper garment and turban are displayed separately in a glass case.
Captain Philip Anstruther of the Madras Artillery was captured by the Chinese forces at Tinghai in 1840. He is imprisoned in this cage. Later, when he was released and returned to Chennai, he brought this cage with him.
Fort St. George Museum Chennai – Ceramics Showcase
The next room houses the ceramics of the Nawabs of Arcot, which are added to the charm. You can also see the porcelain cups used in the government ceremonies of that time. In this, the Persian language shines on the ceramics of the Nawabs and their lion seal on the ceramics of the East India Company. These are made in Worcester, England.
Fort St. George Museum Chennai – Armors & Weapons Showcase
There are also fragments of bombs dropped on Madras during World Wars. One of the most important collections in this museum includes ancient armor and weapons, from bows and arrows to swords to cannon shots, mortars, and remnants of shells fired from Madras. In the freedom movement gallery, the details of freedom fighters of Tamil Nadu are provided. A small library with books related to the freedom movement in India is available for visitors.
Fort St. George Museum Chennai – Rare Coins Showcase
There is also a rare 1736 painting depicting the layout of Fort St. George. Coins of Madras province, Indo-Portuguese coins, Indo-Dutch coins, and Indo-French coins are lined up. Coins from pagoda to paisa are also explained in which metal they were made.
We can find four postage stamps featuring Mahatma Gandhi commemorating the first Independence Day, a postage stamp commemorating Air India’s first flight.
Fort St. George Museum Chennai – Oldest Indian National Flag Showcase
Finally, second floor, there are pictures of freedom struggle leaders, pictures of Netaji and their flags. Apart from this, we can also see the multi-faceted development of the Indian national flag. In this room, our national flag, which was hoisted for the first time at Fort St. George on 15th August 1947, is miraculously preserved in a glass vault.
3,661 artifacts from different periods of modern Indian history and among them notable few hundred items are displayed on three floors. The Indo-French Gallery houses clocks, seals, furniture, lampshades, and centuries-old British coins, the Uniform and Medals Gallery displays military uniforms and medals awarded to soldiers who participated in various wars in India.
Fort St. George Museum is a remarkable destination for understanding the growth of Fort St. George, the first British settlement in India, and the rich history of Madras – Chennai. It serves as an invaluable source of information, offering a multifaceted view of social life in Tamil Nadu throughout the ages.
Travel Tips for Fort St.George Museum at St.George Fort in Chennai :
Address of Fort St. George Museum Chennai:
Fort St George, Rajaji Rd, near Legislature and Secretariat, Fort St George, Chennai – 600009
Phone: 044 25671127
Fort St. George Museum Timings: 9 AM to 5 PM (All days except Friday)
Fort St. George Museum Ticket Cost:
Adults: 15 INR
Children below 15 years: Free
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