Fort William, India

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Fort William
Kolkata, India
Fort William, a view from the inside, c. 1828
Fort William is located in Kolkata
Fort William
Fort William
Coordinates 22°33′28″N 88°20′17″E / 22.5577°N 88.3380°E / 22.5577; 88.3380
Type Fortress, garrisoned and armoured Army Headquarters.
Site information
Controlled by British East India Company
Siraj Ud Daulah
Indian Army (Current)
Site history
Built 1781
In use 1781 - present
Battles/wars Battle of Plassey
Garrison information
Garrison Eastern Command

Fort William is a fort built in Calcutta (presently Kolkata) on the eastern banks of the River Hooghly, the major distributary of the River Ganges, during the early years of the Bengal Presidency of British India. It was named after King William III of England and Ireland and II of Scotland.[1] 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.


There are two 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. It was named after King William III in 1700. John Beard, his successor, added the North-East Bastion in 1701, and in 1702 started the construction of the Government House (Factory) 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.

A view of Calcutta from Fort William (1807).

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.

Plan (top-view) of Fort William, c. 1844

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. Fort William is one of Kolkata's most enduring Raj era edifice. This is a fort of stupendous dimensions and is spread over an area of 70.9 hectares.

The Old Fort was repaired and used as a customs house from 1766 onwards.

Today this fort located in the periphery of the lush green Maidan is the property of Indian Army. The headquarters of Eastern Command is based at Fort William and it has provisions for accommodating 10,000 army personnel. The Army guards it heavily, and civilian entry is restricted.

Much of Fort William is unchanged except for the fact that the 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.

Presidency of Fort William


The Fort is built of brick and mortar in the shape of an irregular octagon with an area 5 km². 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 m deep and 15 m 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.[2] It has a 9-hole golf course currently.


See also


  1. ^ Krishna Dutta (2003). Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History. p. 71. ISBN 9781902669595. 
  2. ^ Nandakumar Koroth, History of Forts in North Malabar
  3. ^ Grant, James (1873). British Battles On Land and Sea. Cassell & Company, Limited. p. 69. 
  4. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle. 94 (1): 197. February 1824 Retrieved 13 December 2017.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Coordinates: 22°33′27.57″N 88°20′16.99″E / 22.5576583°N 88.3380528°E / 22.5576583; 88.3380528

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