Moyapur Achipur Barood Ghar Magazine


Moyapur Achipur Barood Ghar Magazine

“What is in a name”? Everything actually when it comes to history and heritage. Around two years back I had visited a group of abandoned brick buildings that were almost in ruins while on a trip to Achipur. The locals refer to this place as a “Barood Ghar” but no such references exist in any document. There is a signboard out there that says “Land Belongs to Kolkata Port Trust” but getting any information from the port authority is just beyond my reach. So my research started on Barod Ghar about its history and any important reference that we can tie up with this place.

What is a Magazine?

As the name suggests it is just a fortified building or structure where you store active gunpowder or any other types of explosives. The problem of storing gunpowder is that it is a highly flammable explosive and if not stored or handled properly can have serious consequences.

A typical gunpowder storage facility will have multiple small buildings so that the quantity of explosive remains divided in multiple locations instead of just one single unit. In the event of a fire, the damage is limited to the quantity of that single unit only.

Also, these old magazines used to have huge thick walls and a curved ceiling. The main reason for this was the strength of the walls to contain the explosion in the event of a blast and the curved vault roof is also to do with the strength of the top structure.

Why was this Magazine Built?

It was a common thing for ships back in 1800 and early 1900 to carry gunpowder which came handy for various purposes. Firstly and the most important was for self-defense, in the event of a pirate attack or offensive from any rival fleet then the cannons would be loaded with these gunpowders and fired on the enemy.

Apart from this ships also used gunpowder for signaling and also for gun salutes wherein a cannon would fire without any projectile or cannonballs. Gun salutes were required when celebrating or commemorating special occasions.

As per the official record from Fort William which was then the seat of power in this part of the country was worried about the damage that a ship with a load of gunpowder can do if it accidentally ignites. This can very well damage a huge portion of the houses and buildings on the riverfront as well as can cause harm to the structures within the Fort William which was located right next to the Hooghly River. Not to mention the other ships that also remain anchored around it will get damaged.

I would like to think from a different angle altogether. In my personal opinion, the company was worried about a surprise attack from the river or for that matter illegal gunpowder landing into the hands of the enemy from its shores.

On 16th of July 1801, an order was passed by the Governor-General in Council at Fort William stating that any ships arriving in Calcutta up the river must deposit their gunpowder at Atchepore (Achipur) where a magazine had been constructed for the safekeeping of gunpowder. The ship will receive a receipt of deposit and will be able to collect it back while on their return journey from Calcutta downstream.

A ship is allowed to keep 100 pounds of gunpowder which they can use for signaling and gun salutes while the rest has to be deposited at the Atchepore magazine. Any ships carrying excess than what is allowed and found will be seized of its gunpowder and fined with a penalty.

Another very important point in this order is the 8th paragraph which clearly states that all ships already anchored at Calcutta with excessive gunpowder must deposit the same at Atchepore Magazine by 31st of July 1801.

The Copy of The Order From Governor-General in Council at Fort William On 16th of July 1801
The Copy of The Order From Governor-General in Council at Fort William On 16th of July 1801

The above statement implies that the magazine at Atchepore was very much present when the order was passed and ready to accept the gunpowder from the ships.

Tax For Building The Magazine

Ships coming in and out of Calcutta not only had to deposit their gunpowder at the magazine but also had to pay a tax. This tax would cover the cost of building the magazine and its maintenance along with all the officials that would be required to run the Magazine.

A tax of one anna per tonne had to pay for every export and export did too and from Calcutta.

The Mention of Tax Amount of One Anna per Ton
The Mention of Tax Amount of One Anna per Ton

Shifting From Atchepore to Moyapur

So as per records initially there was a gunpowder magazine in Atchepore in 1801 but there was another one built at Moyapur. Possibly with the increase in trade, a much bigger infrastructure would have been required for storing gunpowder. Thus as per records, it was ordered for ships to store their gunpowder at the new location in Moyapur instead of Atchepore. The record indicates that from 1st of June 1803 all ships were asked to store their gunpowder at the new facility in Moyapur instead of Atchepore.

Shifting Of Magazine from Atchepore to Moyapur on 18th July 1803
Shifting Of Magazine from Atchepore to Moyapur on 18th July 1803

Achipur or Mayapur Magazine?

Here comes the name challenge for Barood Ghar. What do we call it Achipur Magazine, Atchepore Magazine, Mayapur Magazine, or Moyapur Magazine?

The confusion arises because most people visit this place after visiting Achipur or from Achipur so people mistakenly started assuming this to be Achipur Magazine instead if you see municipal jurisdiction then this locality comes under Mayapur which of course the British mispronounced as “Moyapur” and the name stuck. All the official old records that we have of this place are under Moyapur Magazine and not as Atchepore Magazine.

The confusion further got enhanced and most online media enthusiasts with little research and no multiple reference sources keep quoting one single official document which states the construction of a gunpowder magazine at Atchepore. In reality, the initial document did say about the construction of the Magazine at Atchepore but was later changed to Moyapur and that is where it got built and that is exactly what you still see today standing (almost).

Several records tell us about the distance if Moyapur from Calcutta and in one particular information source the author mentions the location of Moyapur Magazine in his diary as opposite of Rangamate Khal in Oolaberiah (Uluberia). Luckily Rangamate Khal is still very much in existence and is bang opposite to Moyapur (Mayapur).

The distance of Moyapur from Calcutta Which Can Be Easily Mapped (Convert Miles to Kilometres)
The distance of Moyapur from Calcutta Which Can Be Easily Mapped (Convert Miles to Kilometres)
Entry from the Diary of William Hedges Mentioning Rangamate Khal Opposite to Moyapur Magazine
Entry from the Diary of William Hedges Mentioning Rangamate Khal Opposite to Moyapur Magazine
Satellite Map of the Location with Moyapur Magazine (Red Circle), Rangamati Khal (Green Circle), and Rangamati Ferry Ghat (Blue Circle)
Satellite Map of the Location with Moyapur Magazine (Red Circle), Rangamati Khal (Green Circle), and Rangamati Ferry Ghat (Blue Circle)

Last but not least is an 1899 map of the river. In this document, we can see Atchepore and Moyapur with its magazine marked out.

Map of Hugli (Hooghly) River – 1988
Map of Hugli (Hooghly) River – 1988
Zoomed Up Section Showing Achipur and Moyapur Magazine
Zoomed Up Section Showing Achipur and Moyapur Magazine

Surprisingly even as recent as 1950, the Gazette of India shows the salary of Gurkha watchmen and jamadar at Moyapur Magazine thus it can be assumed that the structures were very much present some 70 years back and the one that we see now are the very same.

Salary of the Staff at Moyapur Magazine
Salary of the Staff at Moyapur Magazine

Thus it can be concluded that the Barood Ghar or the Gunpowder Magazine that we see today is none other than Moyapur Magazine.

The Magazine Now

The land remains under the Kolkata Port Trust thus there are no encroachments but the condition of the buildings is in complete shambles.

Approaching the Magazine from the River Side Road from Achipur towards Mayapur
Approaching the Magazine from the River Side Road from Achipur towards Mayapur
View of the Magazine Almost Covered In Vegetation
View of the Magazine Almost Covered In Vegetation
Signboard Mentioning This as Kolkata Port Trust Property
Signboard Mentioning This as Kolkata Port Trust Property

The structures that you can see are 3 + 1 Magazine Houses on the west side, 2 Pillbox (guardhouse) on the south can be seen while only one is still standing on the northern side. A small portion of the brick wall can still be seen on the northern side.

3 + 1 Magazine Building
3 + 1 Magazine Building
The First 3 Magazines at Mayapur Having Common Wall and Built Together
The First 3 Magazines at Mayapur Having Common Wall and Built Together
The Fourth One Built With a Gap from the First Three Magazine
The Fourth One Built With a Gap from the First Three Magazine
The Fourth One Built With a Gap from the First Three Magazine
A portion of the Broken Wall at Mayapur Magazine
A portion of the Broken Wall at Mayapur Magazine
Close-up of the Wall Shows Red Bricks
Close-up of the Wall Shows Red Bricks
Interior of the Magazine at Mayapur
Interior of the Magazine at Mayapur
Interior of the Magazine at Mayapur with Vaulted Curved Roof
Interior of the Magazine at Mayapur with Vaulted Curved Roof
Floor Completely Damaged
Floor Completely Damaged
A Portion in the Celling Where the Plaster Has Worn Out Shows Tiles with Circular Holes
A Portion in the Celling Where the Plaster Has Worn Out Shows Tiles with Circular Holes
Guard House (Pillbox) 1 on the Southern Side
Guard House (Pillbox) 1 on the Southern Side
Guard House (Pillbox) 2 on the Southern Side
Guard House (Pillbox) 2 on the Southern Side
Guard House (Pillbox) 3 on the Northern Side
Guard House (Pillbox) 3 on the Northern Side

There is another magazine on the extreme east of the property which I am not exactly sure if it was a part of a storage facility or an office building considering the number of entry points to this small structure.

Lone Building with Multiple Entry Points
Lone Building with Multiple Entry Points
Lone Building with Multiple Entry Points
Lone Building with Multiple Entry Points
Lone Building with Multiple Entry Points – Locals Use This as a Cow Shed
Lone Building with Multiple Entry Points – Locals Use This as a Cow Shed

Up ahead you can see a two-storied structure with the floor between the basement and first floor completely gone and the walls standing. There were many speculations as to who used this building and for what purpose. We find references in several archive documents that British officers were posted at Moyapur Magazine for the collection of taxes and record keeping. Logically this could have been their residence or office.

Some reports also mention this building as the residence of the collector of 24 Parganas. In 1907 this building still had its floor covered in chines marble but the outer structure was completely damaged.

List of Manpower Working At Moyapur Magazine Which Totalled To Around 17 at One Point in History
List of Manpower Working At Moyapur Magazine Which Totalled To Around 17 at One Point in History
The Two Storied Building at Mayapur Magazine
The Two Storied Building at Mayapur Magazine
The Two Storied Building at Mayapur Magazine
The Two Storied Building at Mayapur Magazine
As Per Dimension the Building Would Have Had Around 6 Rooms
As Per Dimension the Building Would Have Had Around 6 Rooms
The Floors Have Collapsed and Approaching the Building to Check the Interiors Is Not Advisable
The Floors Have Collapsed and Approaching the Building to Check the Interiors Is Not Advisable
The Plasters Have Gone Exposing the Red Brick Structure In Most Places
The Plasters Have Gone Exposing the Red Brick Structure In Most Places

There is another small room right next to the two-storied structure which can be safely assumed as a house for the guards or servant quarter.

Possible Servant Quarter Next To the Two Storied Structure
Possible Servant Quarter Next To the Two Storied Structure
Possible Servant Quarter Next To the Two Storied Structure
Possible Servant Quarter Next To the Two Storied Structure

Next to the Magazine is another interesting structure that you should not miss. It’s the Moyapur Bar Semaphore signal post. Hooghly River carries heavy silt and at some points, the river is very shallow and dangerous for ships to navigate. One such location is Mayapur (Moyapur) where a signal post was installed atop a tall metal pole. This is a method to alert ships of the height of water during tides. Of course, ships don’t use these anymore as they rely more on digital communication these days but this post is still active and men from Kolkata Port Trust remain at post out here relaying information about Mayapur bar.

Moyapur River Bar Semaphore signaling (Now Not Functional)
Moyapur River Bar Semaphore signaling (Now Not Functional)
Tidal Semaphore Signal Indicators (How to Read the Flag Position)
Tidal Semaphore Signal Indicators (How to Read the Flag Position)
Tidal Semaphore Signal Indicator at Mayapur
Tidal Semaphore Signal Indicator at Mayapur

So finally I can rest and close another chapter. This blog has helped me explore this region of Bengal in many more details so hopefully, a few more blogs will be posted in the coming few weeks. So next time you are in Achipur do visit the Moyapur or Mayapur Magazine and please stop calling it Achipur Magazine.

A Beautiful Sunny Day at Moyapur (Mayapur) Magazine
A Beautiful Sunny Day at Moyapur (Mayapur) Magazine

Location Of Moyapur Magazine

References

Selections From Calcutta Gazettes By Seton-Karr, W. S. Walter Scott) – 1822-1910
The Calcutta Monthly Journal Vol. 6 – 1834
Gazette Of India No. 354
The Regulations And Laws, Vol. Viii By White, Henry
Journal Of The Asiatic Society Of Bengal – 1856
The Good Old Days Of Honourable John Company By W. H Carey
Cones And Co. Directory And Almanac For 1889
Diary Of William Hedges Vol.3 By Yule, Colonel Henry
Journal By Western Society Of Engineers, Chicago
Report On The Administration Of Public Affairs In The Bengal Presidency, For The Years 1855-56 To 1856-57 And Appendix For 1857-58
Sea Seek
Bengal Past and Present 1907

6 thoughts on “Moyapur Achipur Barood Ghar Magazine

  1. Appreciate your efforts to research and write on the Port’s Moyapur Magazine. But I do not understand why you sounded so helpless in getting through to the Port Authority. You could have taken the contact details from the personnel you met at the Semphore. The Port has a Maritime Archives and Research Centre on one its early 20th century warehouses on Strand Road and it has been well publicised as well , particularly after the Port commenced the first ever Heritage Tours in Kolkata. We are also on FB and Twitter ( Kolkata Port Heritage Initiative) . A keyword search on the internet could have easily led you to informed reports and at least one good blog entry on the Moyapur Magazine as well . Yes it is true that the place had fallen into disuse and partial encroachment , but the Port Management has recently resurveyed and set up the signposts you’ve seen at the place. A tourism plan is afoot , but the pandemic may offset all priorities.
    But thank you again for consulting and quoting sources that would be helpful for us in the long run.

    Kolkata Port Heritage Initiative
    Kolkataportheritage@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Sir,

      Thank you very much and trust me I will keep visiting the Maritime Archive from now since I am now connected with you.

      During the time when I was writing this blog I did not have any archive access. I have lots of pending projects and now I shall be able to complete them with your help.

      I really wanted to join the Heritage Tour initiated by Kolkata Port Trust but I guess only very selected few were invited.

      Hopefully a lot blogs will get published now with all the access. Thanks a lot.

      Like

  2. Very well written with extreme details. The pictures are amazing and every house or whatever remains of this place has been captured. I came to know about this place after attending Rangan Datta dada’s virtual tour a few days back.

    Liked by 1 person

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