Kasteel Batavia

Jan Pieterszoon Coen as the the fifth Governor-General of the United Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) negotiated an agreement with the Prince of Jayakarta to build a factory on the east bank of the Ciliwung River where it entered the harbour of Sunda Kelapa in 1619. In those days a factory consisted of a small fortress containing warehouses and accomodation that served as a trading post. The establishment of the Dutch factory was challenged by both the English East India Company and the Sultan of Banten. Coen was forced to sail to Ambon which was then the headquarters for the VOC to get reinforcements. He told those in the factory to hold out as best they could stating:

In the meantime try to hold the fortress as best you can. If the time should come that you can no longer hold on to the place you should try to come to some understanding with either Jacatra or the English. It is our opinion that, if such an emergency should arise, you would be better by surrendering to the English.

In the end the fortress survived and Jan Pieterzoon Coen returned with enough men and materials to build Kasteel Batavia and the adjacent walled city expanded under Dutch rule. Modelled after a typical port city in the Netherlands, it lay at sea level so that small boats had direct access to the city and the warehouses. This painting made in 1649 shows small boats loading and unloading goods from the warehouses in Batavia to the large EastIndiaman waiting to sail to the Netherlands. Kasteel Batavia is shown on the left of the main canal and the spice warehouses or the Westzijdsche Pakhuizen are on the right.

Batavia in 1649 by Adam Willaerts

Batavia in 1649 by Adam Willaerts

This map from 1780 is of Batavia at the height of the trading power of the United Dutch East India Company and shows the outline of the walled city with the Kasteel Batavia able to protect the city, the port and main canal that enters the city.

The walled city of Old Batavia

The walled city of Old Batavia

Here is a 1656 painting which shows the imposing Kasteel Batavia in the background. In the foreground there is a market scene on the banks of the main canal showing daily life in Batavia with the Dutch, Javanese, Ambonese, Chinese and Arab residents of the city.

Andries Beeckman 1656 The Kasteel Batavia

Andries Beeckman 1656 The Kasteel Batavia

As this model from Museum Bahari or the Jakarta Maritime Museum shows the Kasteel was packed with the offices and buildings required to manage the vast commercial empire of the United Dutch East Indies Company which extended not just across the Indonesian archipelago but also to India, Sri Lanka, Malaya, China and Japan.

Model of Kasteel Batavia in the Museum Bahari

Model of Kasteel Batavia in the Museum Bahari

You may notice that the watergate which provided access from the canal and would have been at the bottom of this image is missing. This is because the VOC ship carrying the stone pieces of the watergate, and named the Batavia, was wrecked on the coast of Western Australia in 1629 where it remained undiscovered until 1963. Marine archeologists recovered many historic items from the site including the stern of the ship and the watergate which are now on display at the Shipwreck Museum in Perth.

The watergate for Kasteel Batavia

The watergate for Kasteel Batavia

Regretfully the Kasteel Batavia no longer exists as it was demolished by the Dutch Colonial Government and its building materials recycled to build the former Fort Cornelis in the Jatinegara area of present day Jakarta.

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About ianburnet

Author of the book, Spice Islands. Which tells the History, Romance and Adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years. Author of the book, East Indies.Which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas. Author of the book 'Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia'.
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