Fort Fredrick (Trincomalee)

Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee
Fort Fredrick (Sinhala: ත්‍රිකුණාමලය බලකොටුව; Tamil: திருகோணமலை கோட்டை), popularly known as Trincomalee Fort is an old fort situated in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

Fort Fredrick, TrincomaleePortuguese were the first Europeans who maintained a garrison at Trincomalee (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). Constantino de Sa, the former captain-general of Ceylon, built a fort at Trincomalee in 1623, by destroying Gokanna Viharaya and the Hindu temple known as Ten Thousand Columns (De Silva, 2006; Esquire & de Silva, 1993).

In 1639, the Portuguese were driven out of the fort by a Dutch force led by Admiral Westerword (Elliott, 1995). In 1672, the French attacked the place and captured the fort at Kodiar (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). However, they were expelled by Dutch and the place remained in their possession until 1782 (Esquire & de Silva, 1993).

In 1778, Great Britain declared hostility against France. At the time there was a squadron of French in the Indian Ocean and therefore, the need for a good harbour on the east coast of India (a place such as Trincomalee in Sri Lanka) became a crucial factor (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). In the latter half of 1781, news reached India that the English had declared war against Holland. Lord Macartney, the then governor of Madras decided to capture the Dutch settlements especially Negapatam in India and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). On 11 November 1781, Britain successfully captured Negapatam under the command of Major General Sir Hector Munro assisted by Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). In January 1782, they capture the Trincomalee Fort.

After conquering the Trincomalee, Hughes returned to Madras. Taking the advantage of this, the French, led by Admiral Suffrein sieged the fort (Elliott, 1995). However, the Dutch again took the control of Trincomalee Fort and held it till 23 August 1795 (Elliott, 1995). But, after a short siege, the British managed to regain the fort from the Dutch.

1623 - Built by the Portuguese.
1639 - (2 May) Captured by the Dutch - Landing at Dutch Bay and breaching the western face.
1640 - Dismantled by the Dutch.
1658 - Expanded (as Pagoda Hill) by the Dutch.
1672 - Unsuccessfully attacked by the French.
1782 - (8 January) Captured by the British 98th, 78th, and 42nd foot, 62 guns, 6 mortars.
1782 - (29 August) Captured by the French.
1783 - Coded by France to British and by Britain to Holland (Treaty of Paris).
1795 - (26-31 August) Captured by the British (71st, 72nd, and 73rd foot) landing at Elizabeth Point.
1800 - (Xmas) Colonel Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) stayed at Wellesley Lodge.
1803 - Named Fort Fredrick (after Commander in Chief the Duke of York).
1842 - St. Stephen's Church reconstructed by Lt. Ogle, R. C. and handed over.
1905 - Defences dismantled.
1916 - Military forces withdrawn.
1923 - Permanent defences reorganized.
1942 - (9 April) Japanese air raid.
1945 - (August) Inter-services, Parade, and Thanks-giving service.
1946 - Reservoir (1/2 million gallons) completed.

Tamil inscription
A Tamil inscription containing a prophecy is found on the right side of the main entrance to the fort (Codrington, 1927). Depending on its palaeography, the Madras Government epigraphist, H. Krishna Sastri has dated this inscription to the 16th century A.D. (Codrington, 1927). A reconstructed version of this inscription had been tentatively proposed by Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam and it was published in 1927, by H.W. Codrington in his article as follows;

  • Tamil inscription at Fort Fredrick

    Period: 16th century A.D.
    Script & language: Tamil
    Transcript : Munne kulakkodan muddun tirup-paniyaippinne Paranki.........>>

    Translation: O King! The Portuguese shall later break down the holy edifice built by Kulakkodan in ancient times, and it shall not be rebuilt nor will future Kings think of doing so
    Citation: Codrington, 1927. p. 451.
This epigraph contains the word "Paranki" (Portuguese) signifying the influence of Portuguese in Sri Lanka (Dias et al., 2016).

Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee
1) Codrington, H.W., 1927. The inscription at Fort Frederick, Trincomalee. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 30(80), pp.448-451.
2) De Silva, D.G.B., 2006. A Study on Trincomalee in the 16th and 17th centuries with special reference to relations with Arakan as revealed by Portuguese Sources. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 52, pp.175-208.
3) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. p.30.
4) Elliott, C.B., 1995. The Real Ceylon. Asian educational services. p.80.
5) Esquire, H.N. and de Silva, D.G.B., 1993. Notes on Military History of Trincomalie. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 38, pp.35-38.

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This page was last updated on 11 April 2023

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