Amidst the looming skyscrapers within the concrete jungle that is Mumbai rests the Bombay Castle – one of the first structures to mark Mumbai as a commercial centre. A remnant of the colonial (and prior to that, the Portuguese) conquest of Mumbai, this fort is one of the city’s oldest defensive structures. Made of local blue Kurla stone and red laterite stone, it was built by the British on the site of a manor previously built by a Portuguese nobleman. Two of its gates open into INS Angre, a naval station south of Mumbai. After the islands of Bombay came into the possession of the British in 1662, the Bombay Castle became the residence of the first British governor of Mumbai, Sir George Oxenden. Ruins of the old manor house and a Portuguese sundial are all that remain now.
A Thriving Commercial Centre
The construction of the Bombay Castle goes hand in hand with its rise as a commercial hub. In 1668, when the East India Company took charge of it from the crown for a sum of 10 pounds per year, it started making fortifications around it. Sir George Oxenden set about opening the islands by constructing a quay and warehouses. A customs house was built, as were more fortifications, marking out a new urban centre. By 1686, the East India Company shifted its headquarters from Surat to Bombay. And by 1710, the Castle had been provided with a strong magazine, quarters for soldiers and tanks to supply fresh water for a thousand people for twenty months.
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