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 Honourable Company’s first permanent post on the Malabar Coast.
The entrance gate and garden
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. Anjengo came to a bloody (and somewhat self-inflicted) end in 1721, but more on that later.
I wandered around the fort alone, hoping for some indication of the people who once lived here. But there is little here now: 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”.
The flagpole (really quite a big deal at the time)
The well and caretaker
But like I said, it doesn’t look like much these days.