(Last Updated on : 31/03/2015)
Fort William is a palatial edifice of Kolkata
that dates back to the British Rule
which is situated on the eastern bank of River Ganga
, near the Vidyasagar Setu
or the 2nd Hoogly River Bridge. Fort William is a remnant of the British legacy in India, reminding of the military power that was supreme and still remains as one very impressive structure. The Fort William is at present the property of the Indian Army
and the headquarters of Eastern Command. The huge structure is built on an extensive 532 bighas of land and came into existence in the year 1781. It was built by Robert Clive
and named after King William III of England.
The structure that stands at present is the reconstruction of the original fort that was built in the year 1696 by the British East India Company
. It took nearly 10 years for the completion of the construction of this fort. This fort had two floors, projecting wings and an internal guardroom, which became the Black Hole of Calcutta
. In front of the Fort is the Maidan
, which used to be a part of the Fort and is the largest urban park in Calcutta. The place is well known for its serene and calm beauty and its distinctively green surroundings. In the hub of the city it stands as an ancestor with whom a long history of oppression and rule is associated
History of Fort William
In the history of Kolkata there were actually two Fort Williams in British Calcutta, the old and the new Fort Williams. The original was built in 1696 by the British East India Company under the supervision of John Goldsborough. Sir Charles Eyre started construction near the bank of the River Hooghly
with the South-East Bastion and the adjacent walls. John Beard
, his successor, added the North-East Bastion in 1701 and in 1702 started the construction of the Government House at the centre of the fort. Construction ended in 1706. The original building had two stories and projecting wings. An internal guard room became the Black Hole of Calcutta.
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. In 1758, the foundation of the castle was laid in 1758 and was completed in 1781, which was made at a huge expense of 2 million British Pounds.
Structure of Fort William
The Fort is built of brick and mortar in the shape of an irregular octagon with an area 5 sqkm. Five of its sides face towards landward and three towards the Hooghly River. This was strategically built so that it could be resisted from attacks. To avoid water scarcity, reservoirs were made along with underground tunnels constructed that linked the reservoirs to river Ganges. The design is that of a star fort, suited to defence against cannon, but from before the advent of explosive shells.
The Fort William has the capability to accommodate a 'garrison' of 10,000 men, there is also a museum that attracts the tourist, which showcases arms and armours, swords, muskets and machine-guns, photographs of the Burma campaign and of the Bangladesh Liberation War. The Arsenal can also be visited with permission from the Commanding Officer of Fort William, Kolkata. The architectural brilliance of the Fort is evident in the way it was built. The fort is a massive structure and has six gates namely; Chowringhee, Plassey, Calcutta, Water gate, St. Georges and Treasury Gate.
Present Scenario of Fort William
At present, this fort located in the periphery of the lush green Maidan is the property of Indian Army. It also serves as the headquarters of the Eastern Command. For the convenience of military personnel who reside at Fort William, many facilities have been provided. These include a swimming pool, shopping mall, cinema hall, laundry, restaurants, outdoor playground and a post office. There is also a 9-hole golf course within the complex. St. Peter's Church, which previously served as a chaplaincy centre for the British, has now been converted into a library for the army troops. Hence the Fort William today has a changed face and it is of a colossal stature always personifying the British legacy in Kolkata.
General Information about Fort William
One can easily reach the Fort William via metro, buses or taxis and the Howrah Railway Station
is the nearest among Railway stations. Photography is not allowed due to security reasons. Timing is set from 10 am to 12 pm during the office hours.