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Created on Aug 06, 1995; last modified Jul 04, 2000.

Index to page

  1. Territorial Disputes
    1. Local Government
    2. The Ship-building Industry
    3. Exit the Portuguese
  2. Consolidation of British Power
    1. The Fort and its Gates
    2. The First Maratha War
    3. City-planning Begins

The Eighteenth Century

Territorial Disputes

By the end of the 17th century, Bombay had developed into an important local port. In 1715 Charles Boone became the Governor of Bombay. He implemented Aungier's plans for the fortification of the island, and had walls built from Dongri in the north to Mendham's point in the south. He established a force of Marines and constructed St. Thomas' Church, within the fort.

Local Government

In 1728 a Mayor's court was established in the town. In the same year the first reclamation was started, a temporary work in Mahalaxmi, on the creek separating Bombay from Worli.

The Ship-building Industry

The shipbuilding industry started in Bombay in 1735. The master shipbuilder, Lowjee Nusserbanji, was induced to move from Surat to Bombay, where he built the first docks and took the name of Wadia. Bombay began to grow into a major trading town. By the middle of the century Bhandaris from Chaul, Vanjaras from the Ghats, slaves from Madagascar, Bhatias, Banias, Shenvi Brahmins, goldsmiths, ironsmiths and weavers from Gujarat migrated to the islands.

Exit the Portuguese

During this time the Marathas had become the paramount power in the Deccan and naturally came into conflict with the sea-faring Portuguese. A long dispute came to an outright war, the battles of Bassein, beginning in 1737. In a series of campaigns over the next two years, Baji Rao Peshwa's army pushed the Portuguese out of the island of Salsette and forced their captain to cede the fort of Bassein.

Consolidation of British Power

The British response to the Maratha victory was to clear big stretches of grounds around the fort walls to provide a clear field of fire. This pushed the Indian settlements further north, into what has now become the inner city. Under new building rules set up in 1748, many houses were demolished and the population was redistributed, partially on newly reclaimed land.

The Fort and its Gates

This century saw an intense rivalry between various powers, the British, the French and the Marathas, for the control of India. Much of British policy in Bombay during this uncertain period was directed to this power play. In the twenty years starting from 1746 the Fort was improved. Many batteries and bastions were added. The depredations of the British, perhaps more than the black basalt walls, gave rise to the name Kala Killa for the fort.

The fort walls had three main gates. One was the Apollo Gate, near the present day location of the St. Andrew's Church. The most well-known was Church Gate, named after St. Thomas', standing almost exactly on the spot that the Flora Fountain now occupies. The third was the Bazaar Gate, right opposite the present dome of the General Post Office, which lends its name to the area even now, long after the gate itself has disappeared.

In 1769 Fort George was built on the site of the Dongri Fort. In the next year the Mazagaon docks were built. In 1772 an order was promulgated to segregate Indian and English houses, both within and outside the Fort. A more important development came five years later, in 1777, when the first newspaper in Bombay was published.

The First Maratha War

Following the First Maratha War, between 1772 and 1775, Nana Fadnawis managed to cobble together a coalition of all the Maratha kingdoms along with Hyder Ali and the Nizam into a force against the British. Although the British, through diplomacy and bribery, broke this coalition, they were defeated in a series of battles. Through the treaty of Salbai, in 1782, they were forced to cede all the land they had won to the Marathas in exchange for Salsette, Elephanta, Karanja and Hog Island.

In 1795, the Maratha army defeated the Nizam. Following this, many artisans and construction workers from the Andhra migrated to Bombay and settled into the flats which were made livable by the construction of the Hornby Vellard. These workers where called Kamathis, and their enclave was called Kamathipura.

City-planning Begins

With British control of Bombay confirmed, city planning began. In the mid 80's roads began to be built at right angles to each other; restrictions were placed on the heights of buildings; segregation was enforced. In the Indian parts of the town, rule by panchayats was set up. Indians became more active in local politics, and in 1777 Bombay's first English newspaper, the Bombay Courier was printed by Rustomji Kashaspathi.

The first major work of reclamation was the Hornby vellard at Breach Candy. Completed in 1784 during the Governorship of William Hornby, it joined the main island of Bombay to Worli, and prevented the flat lands to the north of Bombay from being flooded at every high-tide. Reclamations at Worli and Mahalaxmi followed immediately.

In the beginning, the civil administration of Bombay was directly under the President of the East India Company and his Council. Beginning at the end of the 18th century, a regular civil administration was put in place. Apparently, this was thought to be necessary, since, in a count made in 1794, it was found that there were 1000 houses inside the fort walls and 6500 outside.