Anjengo Fort: The English Company and Pepper

Anjengo Fort doesn’t look like much these days: a blackened square stone structure that is 4m tall and 50m square at the most. 

But in the late 17th Century, Anjengo Fort was the Trump Towers of its day, at least as far as the English were concerned. It was the (English) Honourable Company’s first permanent post on the Malabar Coast.

Back then, Kerala was divided into self-governing kingdoms. Acquiring a part of the lucrative spice trade meant doing deals with local rulers. And the spice trade was the reason that the Europeans were here.

Anjengo was part of the Kingdom of Attingal – ruled by a Queen. Her name was Aswati Tirunal Umayamma, but she went by the common name of the Pepper Queen.

In June 1694, the Pepper Queen signed the Grant of Anjengo:

I give unto the English Company

All the pepper in my country

That they may contract and pay for it at the price currant

This grant also gave the Honourable Company the right to build a fortified stone structure in Anjengo and to raise a flag.

 

 

 

 

I wandered around the fort alone, hoping for some indication of the people who once lived here. But there is little: a flag pole that hasn’t seen any flags in years, a garden in the centre, a disused well. There is a tombstone with the inscription “Here Lyes Deborah Iyers”.

Like I said, it doesn’t look like much these days.

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