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Along with the Central Railway Station, Fort St George is one of the remarkable colonial structures in the city that hark back to the times of the British rule in India.

Called the White Town, the fort was built in the 1640s to protect the trade interests of the East India Company, a brutal British trading firm with a private army that conquered, subjugated and plundered India for more than a century.

Located at the edge of Chennai along the Coromandel Coast, the origins of the fort can be traced back to the history of the city itself. The fort was completed on 23 April 1644, on St George’s Day, and hence christened St George Fort.

The citadel led to the creation of a new settlement area called George Town, which enveloped the villages and eventually became Madras, or the modern-day Chennai.

The fort was armed, locked and loaded through both the World Wars and most of the 18th and 19th centuries, in order to keep the French forces and local rulers at bay. A symbol of power at that time, its six-metre-high walls withstood several assaults in the 18th century.

Fort Museum

One of the main highlights of Fort St George is its museum. Known as Fort Museum, it houses a diverse collection of antiquities in well-organised galleries. As many as 3,661 artifacts from different ages of modern Indian history are displayed across three floors, which are divided into 10 galleries.

The Portrait Gallery, for instance, exhibits the portraits and oil paintings of former rulers and Madras Governors such as Queen Victoria, King George III, Sir Arthur Havelock and Robert Clive. While the Indo-French Gallery features clocks, stamps, furniture, lampshades and centuries-old British coins, the Uniform and Medals Gallery displays the military uniforms, ceremonial dresses worn by and medals that were given to the soldiers who fought various battles in the Indian subcontinent.

St Mary’s Church

Dubbed the Westminster Abbey of the East, the St Mary’s Church is the oldest masonry building within Fort St George walls. Consecrated on October 28, 1680, the church is believed to be the oldest British building in India as well. It is said to have been built with the help of voluntary contributions from the English who inhabited the fort.

Due to its peculiarly designed roof, the church was the only bomb-proof building in the fort at the time. The church has 104 tombstones, the slabs of many of which were used to mount guns around the fort when Mysore ruler Hyder Ali attacked Madras in 1782.

Entry

Fort St George

Indian: Rs 5

Foreigner: Rs 100

Children below 15 years: Free

St George Museum

Indian: Rs 15

Foreigner: Rs 200

Children below 15 years: Free

Timings

Fort St George: 9 am to 5 pm (all days except Fridays)

St George Museum: 9 am to 5 pm (all days except Fridays)

St Mary’s Church: 10 am to 5 pm (Monday to Saturday). It holds regular mass on Sundays

 

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