A museum catching banking history of Thalassery

KANNUR: History dating back to nearly 140 years, which is also the chronicle of the trading history of north Malabar. The newly opened museum, 'Heritage Gallery', showcasing the business history of the State Bank of India's main branch at Thalassery in the district, which was inaugurated on Tuesday by SBI chief general manager, Kerala Circle, S Venkatraman, sheds light into the history of the old port town that was the trade capital of the British East India Company in Malabar.
It was on January 29, 1878 that the bank started functioning in Thalassery as Bank of Madras, said branch chief manager Rajagopalan P. Later, the branch became the Imperial Bank, and then in 1955 it became the SBI.
"In the beginning the Bank of Madras had the plan to have only an office here but later they changed the decision on seeing the potential of the place and upgraded it," said Rajagopalan.
Those days there was no bank between Virajpet and Mangaluru in Karnataka and all the traders in the region depended on this bank, said the people associated with the branch on Gundert Road.
It was a few years back that such an idea of setting up a small museum evolved and the bank authorities were also interested in it, said P P Pavithran, a former employee in the branch, who was among the ones who made efforts to realise it.

"Though some of the old ledgers were shifted to the bank's archives in Kolkatta a few years back, there were many documents left here that was worthy of setting up a small museum," said Pavithran.
Rare documents on display

The archives here have many rare documents including the account details of Murdoch Brown, the English planter of Cinnamon at Anjarakkandy, details of the financial transactions of the European planters in places like Coorg and Wayanad, as also the local traders here, apart from some rare coins, vintage books of account and bank notes of that period.
Also on display are the details about the bank accounts of companies including Aspinwall, Pierce Leslie and Volkart Brothers, thus shedding light into the trading history of Thalassery.
Those days the ledger books were imported from England and the cheques were printed in London, said the bankers associated with the project. A biographical note of Paduvilan Chandroth Damodaran, who was agent (manager) of Imperial Bank, and later became the chairman of the SBI, is also showcased here.

People like the wealthy Keyis of Thalassery, Kerala Varma Raja, head of Kottayam Kizhakke Kovilakam had opened their account here. Similarly, eminent personalities like justice V R Krishna Iyer, Nettur P Damodaran, who was elected to first Parliament from Thalassery, late Thalassery Bishop Emeritus Sebastian Valloppilly also had account here.
This is one of the oldest branches of the SBI in Kerala after Kochi and Kozhikode and hence the items showcased here are reflections of the trade history of Malabar, said Rajagopalan, who added that the heritage gallery is open to public.

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