Right in the heart of a concrete jungle called Bangalore, a relatively admirable sized colonial bungalow sits among corporate offices and blue chip banks. M.G road was one of the few places that had an avenue of trees and archaic houses. In a parallel universe of course, these old bungalows would still exist. However, in a world filled with corporate giants grappling for prime property it’s no wonder that these architectural marvels have been sold for a 7 figure sum.
I happen to reside in this colonial marvel. There isn’t one day that goes by without a 10 minute glance at the columns or the foundation stone.
When I first moved in, I was certain there was a lot of work to do. The plants had to be cropped, the oxidized red flooring had to be changed, the high beams needed sweeping and the roof had to be re-tiled. But none of this really mattered to me, because what I found in the old out house in the backyard made me stop and think. I found a pile of red tiles with “Basel Mission Tile Works- 1865” engraved on it. It was like my own little portal to history.
With a bit of research I found out that the Basel Mission tile factory was established by a German missionary named Plebot in 1860. Basel Mission was the first ever tile making factory in India. They found large deposits of clay by the banks of the Gurupura and Nethravathi rivers. The factory was located near Morgan’s Gate, a suburb in the city of Mangalore.
A systematic exploration of shipwrecks that had been carried out in Goa waters in 1997, led to the exploration off St George’s Reef that brought light to the remains of a shipwreck at a depth of 15 m, containing various types of terracotta artifacts intended for house construction. ‘Basel Mission Tile Works 1865’ impressed on bricks, roof and floor tiles. Studies show that the company was active in manufacturing terracotta and exported it to Africa, Australia, Borneo, Sumatra, and other countries. It has been renamed ‘Comtrust’, and is still producing terracotta using the same technique.
Here are a few pictures of my 17th Century house and the terracotta tiles.