Tamil Nadu

Fort St. David, once crown jewel of Coromandel, now in ruins

A forgotten landmark: The Fort St. David, which was once a seat of power under the British along Coromandel coast.

Once known to house the top echelons of the British Government, the Fort St. David situated on the backwaters of the Gadilam river in Cuddalore now lies in ruins.

Built in 1725, the two-storey colonial style structure, which was the scene of frequent battles between the French and the English, served as the seat of power of the English on the Coromandel coast. It is today a sorry state and awaits restoration.

It prominently displays a plaque stating “Was capital of the English possessions on the Coromandel coast from 1746-1752. Fortifications demolished by the French and site restored to the English in 1785.” Wide cracks and vegetation have taken over the building with plasters peeling off at several places. The fort has been left to decay with termites eating into the wooden beams and numerous pillars located inside. The base of the fort has several underground chambers and secret tunnels but they are now covered with dense vegetation.

The heritage structure is maintained by the Arcot Lutheran Church (ALC). The ground floor of the colonial legacy is now mainly used for conducting church meetings. The structure suffered extensive damages during Cyclone Thane in 2011.

When the cyclone struck, strong winds damaged the tiles on the roofs and chipped away a portion of the fortified wall and the structure. Though minor repair works have been taken up by the church, it depends on renovation for conservation of this structure. “The underground chambers were used as horse stables and to store ammunition. One of the chambers is connected to the Old Collectorate building while the rest are believed to link to nearby towns. The entire structure was built using brick and lime-mortar paste and is nearly 300 years old,” says Augustine Prabhakaran, caretaker of the structure.

The Fort is a part of Cuddalore’s heritage. The ALC has spent ₹70 lakh to take up minor repairs on the facade and has raised the issue several times with the administration.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2022 12:18:49 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/fort-st-david-once-crown-jewel-of-coromandel-now-in-ruins/article29356788.ece