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Fort William, India

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Fort William
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Fort William, a view from the inside, c. 1828
Fort William is located in Kolkata
Fort William
Fort William
Coordinates22°33′28″N 88°20′17″E / 22.5577°N 88.3380°E / 22.5577; 88.3380
TypeFortress, garrisoned and armoured Army Headquarters.
Site information
Controlled by
Site history
In use1781–present
Battles/warsBattle of Plassey (1757)
Garrison information
GarrisonEastern Command

Fort William is a fort in Hastings, Calcutta (Kolkata). It was built during the early years of Britain's administration of Bengal. It sits on the eastern banks of the River Hooghly, the major distributary of the River Ganga. One of Kolkata's most enduring British-era military fortifications, other than those in Bombay (Mumbai) and Madras (Chennai), it extends over an area of seventy hectares.

The fort was named after King William III.[1] In front of the Fort is the Maidan, the largest park in the country. An internal guard room became the Black Hole of Calcutta. Today the fort is the headquarters of Eastern Command of the Indian Army.


A view of Calcutta from Fort William (1807)
Plan (top-view) of Fort William, c. 1844

There are two Fort Williams. The original fort was built in the year 1696 by the British East India Company under the orders of Sir John Goldsborough which took a decade to complete. The permission was granted by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.[2][3] Sir Charles Eyre started construction near the bank of the Hooghly River with the South-East Bastion and the adjacent walls. It was named after King William III in 1700. John Beard, Eyre's successor, added the North-East Bastion in 1701, and in 1702 started the construction of the Government House (Factory, see Factory (trading post)) at the centre of the fort. Construction ended in 1706.[4] The original building had two stories and projecting wings. In 1756, the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj Ud Daulah, attacked the Fort, temporarily conquered the city, and changed its name to Alinagar. This led the British to build a new fort in the Maidan. Robert Clive started rebuilding the fort in 1758, after the Battle of Plassey (1757); construction was completed in 1781 at a cost of approximately two million pounds. The area around the Fort was cleared, and the Maidan became "the Lungs of Kolkata". It stretches for around 3 km in the north–south direction and is around 1 km wide.[4] The headquarters of the Indian Ordnance Factories was established in 1775 at Fort William.[5]

Today, Fort William is the property of the Indian Army. The headquarters of Eastern Command is based there, with provisions for accommodating 10,000 army personnel. The Army guards it heavily, and civilian entry is restricted.[4]

Much of Fort William is unchanged, but St Peter's Church, which used to serve as a chaplaincy centre for the British citizens of Kolkata, is now a library for the troops of HQ Eastern Command. A major part of the land parcel is home to the family of Ghosh and Pal.

A war memorial has been created at the entrance of the fort, and the fort also houses a museum which displays artifacts from the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, especially those related to the battles in the Eastern sector and the Bangladesh Liberation War.[6][7]

First Indian Masonic lodge[edit]

In 1730, Ralph Farrwinter and other members of the East India Company opened the first Indian Masonic lodge, a short time after the creation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.[8][9]

Presidency of Fort William[edit]


The Fort is built of brick and mortar in the shape of an irregular octagon with an area of 5 km2 (1.9 sq mi). Five of its sides face landward, and three towards the Hooghly River. The design is that of a star fort, suited to defence against cannon firing solid shot, and dates from before the advent of explosive shells. A dry moat 9 metres (30 ft) deep and 15 m (49 ft) broad surrounds the fort. The moat can be flooded but is designed as an area in which to use enfilade (or flanking) fire against any attackers reaching the walls. There are six gates: Chowringhee, Plassey, Calcutta, Water Gate, St Georges and the Treasury Gate. There are similar forts at places like Thalassery in Kerala.[10][full citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Krishna Dutta (2003). Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History. Signal Books. p. 71. ISBN 9781902669595.
  2. ^ Sudip Bhattacharya, Unseen Enemy: The English, Disease, and Medicine in Colonial Bengal, 1617 – 1847, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 30 Jun 2014, p.54
  3. ^ "Fort William Kolkata India - History of Fort William". www.makemytrip.com. Archived from the original on 10 April 2019. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Verma, Amrit (1985). Forts of India. New Delhi: The Director of Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. pp. 101–3. ISBN 81-230-1002-8.
  5. ^ "History | Directorate of Ordnance (Coordination and Services) | Government of India". Ddpdoo.gov.in. Archived from the original on 19 January 2022. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  6. ^ "Memories of 1971 Bangladesh War come alive in Army museum". Economic Times. 16 December 2013. Archived from the original on 27 December 2022. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Indian Army to throw parts of Eastern Command HQ open for public". Economic Times. 17 December 2013. Archived from the original on 25 December 2022. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  8. ^ Simon Deschamps (2017). "Merchant and Masonic Networks in Eighteenth-Century Colonial India". L'Empire (in English and French) (74). doi:10.4000/1718.828. ISSN 0291-3798. OCLC 7288589062. Archived from the original on 28 March 2021.
  9. ^ Joseph F. G. Golder. Freemasonry in British India (1728–1888). Archived from the original on 28 March 2021.
  10. ^ Nandakumar Koroth, History of Forts in North Malabar
  11. ^ Grant, James (1873). British Battles On Land and Sea. Vol. II. Cassell & Company, Limited. p. 69.
  12. ^ "The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle". The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle. 94 (1): 197. February 1824. Retrieved 13 December 2017.