The ruins of Fort St David situated on the River Gadilam has a memorable history. As a small fort built by a Hindu merchant it fell into the hands of the Marathas after the capture of Gingee Fort by Shivaji in 1677. From them it was purchased by the English in 1690: with the English renaming it as Fort St David after the patron Saint of Wales, since the then Governor of Madras, Elihu Yale, was Welsh. The purchase included not only the fort but the adjacent towns and villages within the random shot of a piece of ordnance. A great gun was fired to different points of the compass and all the country within its range, including the town of Cuddalore, passed into the possession of the English. The villages thus obtained are still spoken of as cannonball villages.
James Macrae had been governor of the fort and in 1725 he became the Governor of the Madras Presidency. From 1725 onwards the fortifications were greatly strengthened. In 1746 Fort St David became the British headquarters for the southern India, and attacks by French forces under Dupleix were successfully repulsed. Robert Clive was appointed its governor in 1756; in 1758 the French captured it, but abandoned it two years later to Sir Eyre Coote, KB. In 1782 they again took it and restored it sufficiently to withstand a British attack in 1783. In 1785 it finally passed into British possession.