The Barracks of Berhampore
The idea of constructing a cantonment in Berhampore emerged after the battle of Plassey, when the English found it necessary to erect a defensive structure in Murshidabad, ‘capable of resisting any force the country Government could bring against it.’ This is how Captain Brohier divulged the plan of a fort at Berhampore to Mr. Drake. The old fort at Cossimbazar had been pulled down during the reign of Siraj-ud-Dowla and the cost of repairing the forts and the factories inside it would be more than constructing a complete ‘pentagon from the foundation on an open plain’. [i] With this in mind a grant of 400 bighas was obtained from the Nawab Mir Jafar in the form of sanad. However the proposition to build a cantonment in Berhampore was not well received by the Court of Directors of East India Company sitting in London, they replied rather uncaringly, ‘we cannot avoid remarking that you seem so thoroughly possessed with military ideas as to forget your employers are merchants, and trade their principal object, and were we to adopt your several plans of fortifying, half of our capital would be buried in stone walls.’ The Court clearly was not quite happy with the huge expense of construction besides Berhampore being too far from Calcutta. However after the war with Mir Qasim the company finally understood the necessity of building a fort near Murshidabad to keep the future Nawabs in check.
According to Hunter’s Statistical Account of Bengal-“The barracks took two years in building, being completed in 1767, and were at the time looked upon as the northern frontier station of the Bengal army. The cost amounted to enormous sum of 3,02,270 pounds, the price of materials three times as much in Calcutta. In 1768 the Chief of Murshidabad appointed a committee to inquire into the exorbitant charges which had been made, and three covenanted officials were suspended, for overcharges amounting to two Lakhs of Rupees.”