Saturday, 6 September 2014

Fort Mornington Point, Gadiara

All that remains of Fort Mornington Point

Just over 80 km from the state capital of Calcutta is the village of Gadiara. A popular spot for picnics and day trips, Gadiara has three principal attractions. There is a government bungalow with beautifully manicured lawns, which is now available for picnics. There is a lighthouse, which is…err…well, a lighthouse, which did not interest me much. But the third item in the list most certainly did; the ruins of an old English fort.

Gadiara is at the confluence of three rivers, the Rupnarayan, the Damodar and the Hoogly. Regular ferry services connect it to Geonkhali on the other side of the Rupnarayan, and while a trip across the river is fun, it may involve climbing onto a boat via a single and rather delicate looking wooden plank. Certainly not for the faint-hearted or elderly. Don’t be fooled by the rickshaws at the jetty, all three areas of interest are well within walking distance. A dirt road running alongside the river will bring you to the remains of Fort Mornington Point. Don’t expect a huge castle to loom out of the horizon though, most of the fort has been washed away. The foundations are visible at low tide, a little more in winter when water levels are lower than the rest of the year.

Crossing the Rupnarayan
Information about the fort is very difficult to come by though. All that could be dug up was a mention in the Howrah District Gazette of 1909, and here it is… “Fort Mornington Point. — A point in the extreme south of the district at the junction of the Rupnarayan with the Hoogly. On this point there formerly stood a fort, said to have been built by Lord Clive, which fell into the river owing to the erosion of the bank”. Located as it was, at the confluence of three rivers, Fort Mornington Point was probably built to control river traffic, possibly to threaten Dutch and French interests in the area. On October 16th, 1942, a massive cyclone struck Bengal, and the resultant flooding caused heavy damage to the fort. That’s about all the information that I have been able to glean from books and the internet. But the question that I am still unable to answer is, why was a fort built by Clive called Mornington Point?

The reference cannot have been to the little town of Mornington, Ireland. Could the reference be to the Irish peer Richard Colley Wesley, 1st Baron Mornington? His son English-Irish composer and politician Garret Colley Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington? Or his son Richard Colley Wesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who was also known as The Earl of Mornington from 1781 until 1799? But he would have been only 14 years old when Clive died. But yes, Richard did become Governor General of India from 1798 to 1805, so another possibility is that the fort could have been renamed to honour him, and was called something else when it was built. A definitive answer to this question can only be provided by minds greater than mine.

A trip to Gadiara can be combined with a visit to Geonkhali and the Mahishadal Rajbari. These details I’ll save for another story. Directions to Gadiara may be found here.

I am very grateful to my sister, Deepshikha for first drawing my attention to this fort. Her travels around Bengal have been extensive and she has a small business selling tribal art and crafts and garments to city folk. She may be reached via Facebook. I am also grateful to writer, artist and filmmaker BrianPaul Bach for his help with this article. Brian’s scholarly work on Calcutta’s architecture, Calcutta’s Edifice is an asset to any researcher of the city. Check out his blog here.

- by Deepanjan Ghosh


Disasters – Dr. Asim K. Dasgupta
Howrah – Lewis Sydney Steward O'Malley/Monmohan Chakravarti
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