Portuguese Kollam (Quilon) in 1600, Kerala, India. No Copyright
Portuguese Kollam (Quilon) in 1600, Kerala, India. No Copyright

St Thomas Fort, Tangasseri or Thangassery, Kerala, India

Tangasseri or Thangassery / Kollam is a city located along the coast of the ancient Malabar, in the Indian state of Kerala in southern India. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in this port of Malabar, they landed there in 1502. In the following years Tangasseri or Thangassery / Kollam that the Portuguese called Quilon / Coulão / Coullam became an important center for the trade of pepper. The Portuguese built a feitoria in 1505.  A few years later, around 1518 – to better protect their trades – the Portuguese built the Forte de São Tomé. The fort was conquered by the Dutch on 29 December 1658, but it was recaptured by the Portuguese on 14 April 1659. The fort was under Portuguese control until 1661, when on 24 December 1661 the Dutch conquered it. In the following years the fort was renovated by the Dutch. In the late eighteenth century, the fort was ceded by the Dutch to the British.

Of the current situation of the remains of Tangasseri or Thangassery Dutch/Portuguese settlement we receive the following photos and evidence by Prof. Rahul Basu:

“Please find attached some pictures of my recent trip to Kollam, Kerala and visit to Thangacherry which has an old Portuguese fort taken over by the Dutch later. It appears to be under restoration, though no one was there on the job. Some squatters have built huts and some multistorey apartments have come up near the fort, closer than the 200 m stipulated by the signboard on the entrance.”

St Thomas Fort, Tangasseri or Thangassery, Kerala, India. Author and Copyright Prof Rahul Basu,

St Thomas Fort, Tangasseri or Thangassery, Kerala, India. Author and Copyright Prof Rahul Basu,

“On enquiring from the lighthouse keeper nearby I was shown how to go to the cemetery nearby. Most of the tombs have been desecrated and only some tombstones are visible. Areas which apparently were graveyard have been cleared and one appears to be ready for some building work. There is a multistory apartment complex on one of the adjacent plots. What is visible is hidden at the back of some hutments.”

Tangasseri or Thangassery, Kerala, India. Author and Copyright Prof Rahul Basu

Tangasseri or Thangassery, Kerala, India. Author and Copyright Prof Rahul Basu

“One of the large tombstones was readable as that of a Dutch doctor ( Dr Jacob Van— ), who expired 1810, ( the engravings have become very faint due to weathering and use as a washing stone by the residents) so obviously was a resident at the locality beyond the ceding of the fort to the English in late 1700’s.”

“I am sure the Dutch, Portuguese and English Governments would be interested in preserving these relics. Some of the plaques appear to have been removed recently as the mortar facings behind the original name plaques appear to be un weathered.”

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