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Conserving a slice of history

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Better days ahead: The St. John’s Anglican Church in Thalassery
Better days ahead: The St. John’s Anglican Church in Thalassery

The church, believed to be the first in Malabar, has fallen on bad days. Now, a new project brings hope of revival.

The 141-year-old St. John’s Anglican Church located behind the Thalassery Fort is believed to be the first church built in Malabar. One among the tombs in its cemetery is that of Edward Brennen, “the sterling upright Englishman” as the epitaph reads, whose munificence marked a milestone in the history of this town.

But neglect had not only overshadowed the importance of this historical site but also started to destroy the structure.

Now, the Tourism Department has sanctioned a Rs.59.78-lakh project to be executed by the Archaeology Department for the renovation and reconstruction of this historically important church.

Brennen’s legacy

Edward Brennen, who reached here after a shipwreck, left behind his entire savings for charitable purposes in this town at the time of his death in 1859.

Thalassery would not have Government Brennen College but for his wish that a part of his savings be utilised for establishing an educational institution.

The Master Attendant at Thalassery during the British colonial period, he also made an endowment for an Anglican church to be built here. After his death, Rev. Deane of Thalassery raised more funds and the church was completed in 1867. The project for renovation and reconstruction has been conceived for conserving both the church and the cemetery.

The external and internal walls of the structure have become discoloured, with the plaster flaking and missing in parts.

The eastern Gothic stained glass window has been vandalised. The entrance door and other wooden doors are to be restored. The period furniture in the church is also in need of restoration. The project envisages plastering and repainting of walls with water-repellent coats.

New arrangements

The church will soon have new wooden louvre windows and a stained glass window, wooden joinery and a renovated wall for the church bell to be placed above the front porch.

The conservation work also includes laying of the best quality clay tiles on the floor, restoration of the existing wooden pews, and architectural illumination of the church exterior.

After the completion of the conservation of the church, it will be handed over to the Church of South India (CSI).

District Tourism Promotion Council secretary E.C. Raveendran has said that clearing and appropriate landscaping of the compound would also be done

The church would be among the heritage sites showcased as part of the project to develop this town into a heritage town, he added.

Home and Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has been showing a keen interest in the heritage town project for his constituency.

Mohamed Nazeer

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