History of the House

The history of our home GRATITUDE, is inextricably linked with history of the men and women who travelled to India, many from France and French colonies, around the 17th and 18th Century. They built homes, married women from France or of French descent from the Indo-chine, island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius and later, generations of French born in India. Their lives in the French Colony of Pondicherry are still reflected in the homes, paintings and artefacts you will see in our home, as in many others.
Before the British East India Company grew to become colonial masters of India , these early traders, engineers and builders who came to work for the French East India Company have left such an indelible imprint, that we, who now make it our home, find remnants of their personal stories in our homes. Pondicherry remained their one outpost, holding out and not giving in to the English or to India until 1956 when the treaty of cession was signed with India and finally handed over in 1962.

Our story begins with as far back as we could trace, to Abraham Guerre(1695-1736) who came from the French speaking province of St.Imier in Switzerland to work as a Hospital administrator with French East India company sometime in early 1700s.
Imagine running a hospital then, soldiers wounded in war, the ravages of life threatening disease ...all amidst the adventure of claiming new territories and living in strange, foreign lands.

Abraham Guerre married Marie Brunet a young French girl, whose father had made his way to India as part of the French Army. Abraham fathered 9 children (in 11 years), the third child Jacques Guerre...is the ancestor of the Guerre descent who in 1940 sold the house to Francois Ulmans Marie Clark Michel ..
Below is the image of the handwritten extract of the sale deed which we inherited along with other documents, when we bought the house from his descendants in 2004.

Not much remains of the Guerre family in Pondicherry now as some of them migrated to Vietnam and some went back to France.
This is the partial family tree of the Guerre family...

By 1850, the extended Guerre family was well established in Pondicherry and had substantial wealth and a quite a few big family houses in Pondicherry and we can presume that this house (present day GRATITUDE) was built around that time, if not earlier.

In those days, the street was called RUE DES CAPUCINS and the House No. was 36.
Interestingly, the Guerre family who made their fortunes and established themselves as one of the leading families on Rue Des Capucines, also had Tamil concubines and wives. This amazing mix of cultures French and Tamil led to the Creoles, a culture that is fast disappearing, and which we try to hold onto, through Creole cuisine and the stories of the few remaining families in Pondicherry. 

The House was sold by the Guerre's to Ulmans Michel in 1940.
Francois Ulmans Marie Clark Michel had married an English woman called Mary Dorothy Markham who came from Wales and in 1971 he left this house to her which was subsequently inherited by their daughter Josephine Eugene Marie Antoinette Michel, after the passing of Mary Dorothy in 1997.
She continued to live here for several years and finally, like many descendants of the French, she left India to live in France sometime in early 2000.

holding on to the past

We chose to restore the home close to the original based on much research by Intach . We also held on to a little secret .. an iron money safe built into a thick bedroom wall . The key had long been lost and we decided to leave it as it is , with its secrets safe within ..

Details like the etching of the fish on the doorstep are originals from the time the house was built.

52, Rue Romain Rolland, Pondicherry
India, 605001

Email: gratitudeheritagehome@gmail.com
Phone: +919442065029

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