ABOUT THE CITY - ORIGIN AND GROWTH
The Beginnings of Madras : The beginnings of the
Madras go back to the earliest stages of English commercial
enterprise in India. The English East India Company was
started in 1600. Twelve years later a Trading House or
Factory was built at Surat on the West Coast under the
protection of the Mughal Governor of Gujarat. On the
Coromandel Coast the English first attempted a landing at
Pulicat. The place is about 25 miles north of Madras and its
great backwater, the Pulicat Lake, afforded a safe shelter
for the shipping of those days. But the Dutch, who were the
bitter rivals of the English, had already been settled at the
place and had the ear of the local Nayak. Hence the English
found it impossible to ply their trade advantageously at that
place. They then attempted to settle at Peddapalli or
Nizampatnam, which was at the mouth of a small channel of the
Krishna Delta. But the climate of the place was deadly to the
English merchants and this settlement had also to be
abandoned after a few years of hopeless struggle.
Masulipatnam was the chief port of the Muhammadan Kingdom of
Golconda. It was well protected from the monsoon winds and
was the chief market for diamonds and rubies for which South
India was then famous, as well as for the valuable chintz and
painted cloths which are even now produced in large
quantities in its neighborhood. The English, after some
effort, secured the privilege of building a factory at this
port. But they later abandoned their factory and crept away
in a small boat to Durgarazpatnam (otherwise known as
Armagaon) situated about 35 miles to the north of Pulicat.
This place was a miserable port and was too poor to supply
the calico cloth which the English wanted for export to
Europe. But it was the only safe shelter for the English at
the time and here they built a small fort and mounted a few
pieces of cannon upon it. But trade did not thrive and the
miserable English traders planned to go back to Masulipatam
under the protection of a Golden Firman which the Sultan of
Golconda was kind enough to give them. But Masulipatam was in
the throes of a famine just then and in spite of every
assurance of protection, English trade did not thrive at that
The English pitch upon the Site of Madras : With Masulipatam
unprosperous and Armagaon hopeless, the English traders
anxiously looked out for a new site that would be more
propitious for them. Mr.Francis Day, the future founder of
Madras, who was then a Member of the Masulipatam Council and
the Chief of the Armagaon Factory, made a voyage of
exploration in 1637 down the coast as far as Pondicherry with
a view to choose a site for a new settlement. At that time
the Coromandel Coast was nominally under the Rajah of
Chandragiri who was a descendant of the famous Rayas of
Vijayanagar. Under the Rajah, local chiefs known as Nayaks,
ruled over the different districts. One of these Nayaks had
given permission to the Dutch to build a strong fort at
Pulicat where they had grown to be powerful enough to deal on
equal terms with the Nayaks of the neighborhood.
Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak ruled all the coast country from
Pulicat to the Portuguese settlement of San Thome now
included within the City of Madras. He had his head-quarters
at Wandiwash and his brother Ayyappa Nayak resided at
Poonamallee, a few miles to the west of Madras, and looked
after the affairs of the coast. It was probably this Ayyappa
Nayak that made overtures to Day, inviting him to choose a
site in the territory of his brother. The offer looked good;
and Day wrote to Masulipatam for permission to inspect the
proposed site and examine the possibilities of trade there.
The results of his personal inspection were apparently
favourable; and he wrote that the calicos woven at
Madraspatnam which was the place offered by the Nayak for the
site of the proposed factory were much cheaper than those at
Armagaon. Day secured a Grant (copies of which endorsed by
Cogan, the Chief of the Masulipatam Factory, are even now
preserved) giving over to the English the village of
Madraspatnam for a period of two years and empowering them to
build a fort and castle at that place. The Grant is dated
August 1639. (Madras
Day is celebrated in the city
commemorating this day)
The English Factors at Masulipatam were satisfied with the
action of Mr. Day and resolved that he should proved again to
Madras and contact the Nayak until the sanction of the
superior English Presidency of Bantam (in java) could be
obtained for their action.
The chief difficulty, as usual with the English in those
days, was lack of money. At last, in February 1640, Day and
Cogan accompanied by a few factors and writers, a garrison of
about 25 European soldiers and a few other European
artificers, besides a Hindu powder-maker by name Naga Battan,
proceeded to Madras and started the English factory. They
reached Madraspatnam on the 20th of February; and this date
is important because it marks the first actual settlement of
the English at the place.
Extent of their First Settlement : The extent of land
transferred to the English under the Nayak's Grant is not
found specified anywhere. But it was the whole area contained
within the traditional village limits of Madraspatnam. This
nucleus area appears to have extended along the coast from a
point a few hundred yards north of the mouth of the Cooum
River, right up to a little beyond the northern end of the
present Geroge Town. In the interior, the area included the
island ground on the west and its western line ran along the
present Cochrane's Canal, then known as the North River,
right up to the north-western corner of the present George
Town. To this area, surrounding villages were added from time
to time in the customary British fashion.
In those days, the Cooum River which had a winding course
through the villages of Chetput, Nungambakkam and
Chintadripet, had, as it still had a common outlet to the sea
along with the North River at some distance to the south of
the limits of the Madraspatnam Village. The North River (or
Elambore River as it was called in those days) flowed
parallel to and a mile distant from the coast along the
western side of Madraspatnam Village. At the site of the
present General Hospital, the river took a sharp bend to the
east and, when near the sea, it again took another bend to
the south; and it then flowed on for about three-fourths of a
mile parallel to the shore and joined the Cooum at its mouth.
The two streams formed a wide and shallow backwater at their
joint outlet. At the point where the North River bent east,
there was only a narrow neck of land about 300 yards in
length that separated it from the Cooum as it curved towards
the sea. At this point a cut was made several years after the
foundation of the City, probably with the object of
equalising flood levels; and thus the Island ground was
literally converted into an Island.
The site of the Fort planned by the English settlers was on
the bank of sand between the North River and the sea, just in
the southern end in the village of Madraspatnam and
three-fourths of a mile north of the river mouth.
The Building of the Fort by Day and Cogan : The Fort was
planned nearly square, with a bastion at each corner and the
Factory House was in the centre of the Fort and was built
diagonally to the square so that each face of the house
opened on the gorge of a bastion. The building of the Factory
House was taken up on March 1st, 1640. A portion of the
structure was presumably completed by St. George's Day (23rd
April) of that year and the name Fort St. George was
consequently given to the Fort.
The bastions were first built and erection of the curtain
walls connecting them proceeded more slowly as funds
permitted. The whole Fort took fourteen years to construct
and was finished only in 1653. It measured about 100 yards by
north to south and by 80 yards east to west. On its northern
and southern sides buildings and streets sprang up and
constituted what came to be known later as the White Town.
Indian merchants and artificers were attracted to the
settlement and encouraged to build houses therein under a
promise of exemptions from import taxes for a period of
thirty years. It is said that within the first year of the
life of the settlement, there arose some seventy to eighty
substantial houses to the north and south of the Fort while
in the village of Madraspatnam nearly four hundred families
of weavers had come to settle permanently.
Day had made himself personally responsible for payment of
interest on the loans got for the building of the settlement.
Charges of private trade were however brought against him and
he was sent to England in 1641 to answer them. He
successfully faced these charges and returned to the
Coromandel Coast as Second-in-Council at Madras. Cogan had
been meanwhile made the Agent of Madras. He remained in the
settlement for more than three years during which time he
nursed the Fort into some strength and the town into some
measure of prosperity. He was also charged with extravagant
expenditure on the fortifications and resolved in disgust to
resign his position to Day and sail away. Day became his
successor in the Agency in Madras but did not enjoy his
position long. He also departed for England within a year of
his assumption of the Agency (1644).
Day had proposed and planned the settlement and secured the
Grant of the Nayak for it. Cogan had been useful from the
beginning and was mainly responsible for the erection of the
Fort and for the colonization of the place. Both were taken
to task by the Court of Directors of the English Company,
Cogan for unauthorised expenditure and Day for private
trading. The memory of neither is kept green in Madras whose
foundations they helped to lay. "Neither Cogan nor Day is
kept in memory by Statue, Portrait or Place name. Not even
does the Secretariat Building in the Fort, the successor of
the old Factory House, bear a tablet to commemorate the
achievements of the joint Founders of Madras".
The Names Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam : We saw the Damarla
Venkatapathy and his brother Ayyappa gave the English the
grant of Madras. The Rajah of Chandragiri was Venkatapathy
Rayalu. From this Rajah the English got a confirmation of the
Nayak's Grant. Venkatapathy was succeeded by his nephew
Srirangarayalu in 1642. To the new Raya, Thomas Ivy, the
successor of Day in the Agency of Madras, sent Factor
Greenhill on a mission which resulted in the issue of a new
Grant to the English (copies of this grant are available
now). It is dated October-November 1645. It confirmed the
Grant of the Raya's predecessor and empowered the English to
administer justice and gave them an additional piece of land
known as the Narimedu (Jackal-ground) which lay to the west
of the village of Madraspatnam. All these three grants, viz.,
of Damarla Venkatapathy Nayak, Kind Venkatapathy and his
successor Srirangarayalu, were engraved on gold plates but
none of them is now extant.
In Srirangaraya's Grant of 1645 the Town of Madras is
expressly called "Srirangarayapatnam, My Town," and a
distinction is made between the town of Madraspatnam and the
new town growing round the Fort which is expressly called
Srirangarayapatnam. The first Grant of Damarly Venkatapathy
Nayak makes mention of the village of Madraspatnam. Both
Venkatapathy and his brother Ayyappa desired that the name
Chennapatnam should be given to the new Fort and settlement
of the English after their father ChennappaNayak. Srirangarya
desired that the name Srirangarayapatnam should be given to
the Fort and settlement of the English in the place of
Chennapatnam. The fact that the family of Damarla
Venkatapathy, son of Chennappa, was disgraced by Srirangaraya,
probably explains the reason why the Raya offered his own
name to be given to the settlement and declared that it was a
mark of his special favour.
In all the records of the times a difference is made between
the original village of Madraspatnam and the new town growing
round the Fort. Thus we may say that the village of
Madraspatnam existed under that name prior to the English
settlement of 1639-40 and the site of Chennapatnam was that
of modern Fort St.George. The original village of
Madraspatnam lay to the north of the site of the Fort and
within a few years of the founding of Fort St.George the new
town which grew up round the Fort was commonly known to the
Indians as Chennapatnam, either in deference to the wishes of
Damarla Venkatapathy or because the site originally bore that
name. The intervening space between the northern Madraspatnam
and the Southern Chennapatnam came to be built over rapidly
so that the two villages became virtually one town. The
English preferred to call the two united towns by the name of
Madraspatnam with which they had become familiar from the
first while the Indians chose to give it the name of
Chennapatnam. In course of time the exact original locations
of Madraspatnam and Channapatnam came to be confused. Madras
was regarded as the site of the Fort and Chennapatnam as the
Indian town to the north.
Origin of the Name Madras : The origin of the name
Madraspatnam has long been a puzzle. The name Madras occurs
in many forms like Maddaraspatnam, Madras Patnam,
Madraspatnam, Madrapatnam, Madrazpatnam, etc. According to
one version there was a village of fishermen on the site, the
headman of which was a Christian named Madaresan who
persuaded Day to call the settlement after his own name. But
we know that the name was in use even before the English came
on the scene. Otherwise writers have derived the name from
the term Madrassa ( a college) and think that there might
have been an old Muhammadan College at the place; or there
might have been a Church of St.Mary (Madre de Deus) at Madras
prior to 1640, probably founded by the Portuguese of San
Thome which had been in existence from the previous century
and the church might have given name to the village; or there
was an Indian rules, Maddarazu, who might have been some
local chief in the region in the past after whom the village
might have been named Maddarazpatnam.
The Very Revd. Mgr. Teixeira, Bishop of Mylapore, has
decently put forward a suggestion based on his discovery of
some tombstone inscriptions that the name might well have
been after Madras, a Portuguese family of the village and
that the family gave their name to the place. Still another
view is that Madras was so called because it produced a kind
of calico cloth of the name. None of these seems to be very
convincing, while the derivation of Madras from the Persian
word Madrassa is somewhat fanciful. There is a curious
resemblance between the names of the English Town of
Madraspatnam, the southern Dutch Factory of Sadraspatnam at
the mouth of the Palar river and the northern settlement of
The First Years of Madras : The growth of Madras in its first
thirty years was all that could be desired. Very soon after
the settlement was founded, a Hindu temple was constructed in
the heart of the Indian village that grew up. It was
dedicated to Chenna Kesava Perumal and built on part of the
grounds of the present High Court. Thus the temple was coeval
with the birth of the town. In 1646 and endowment was made to
it by Naga Battan, the Company's powder-maker; and two years
later another endowment was made to it by Beri Timmana who is
said to have assisted the English in building the settlement
and who was employed as the Company's broker and merchant. It
is presumed that this Pagoda had twin shrines in it,
dedicated to Vishnu (Chenna Kesava) and Siva (Chenna
Mallesvara) even as its present day successor is. Besides
these two Indians, we hear of Raghava Battan who was first
living in the Portuguese settlement of San Thome and helped
the English to get from the Nayak the site of Madras. A cowle
(lease or grant in writing) was said to have been given to
him by Cogan and Day appointing him the Kanakkupillai
(Scrivener) of Madras in 1640 and it was later produced by
one of his dependants in a claim that he put forward to the
Within a few years after the English settled at Madras, the
authority of the Rajah of Chandragiri disappeared. The Rajah
himself was forced to flee to Mysore and the forces of the
Sultan of Golconda came to occupy the region surrounding
Madras. The Kingdom of Chandragiri was hemmed in one side by
the advancing troops of Golconda and on the other by the
forces of the Bijapur Sultan who invaded the Carnatic from
the Mysore Plateau and occupied the coast between Jinji and
Tanjore. Nawab Mir Jumla, who was the Prime Minister of
Golconda at this time, played an important part in this
conquest of the Carnatic. He was originally a famous diamond
merchant and was said to be the richest subject in all India.
He had in his service a number of European gunners and
cannon-founders and well appreciated the advantages of
European aid. The English at Madras lent him the services of
their gunner and several of their best soldiers when he went
to blockade San Thome in 1646. In return for this help he
confirmed all the privileges that they had obtained from the
previous Hindu rulers of the Country and also lent them a
large sum of money free of interest.
Thus the English contrived to maintain good terms with the
Rajah of Chandragiri to the last and yet to preserve the
friendship of the Mussalman, conqueror from the first, a
characteristic worship of both the rising and the setting
Early Stages of the City's Growth : In 1652
was created a Presidency and its Agent came to be known as
President. In those early years the Indian town was governed
by three chief officials who were hereditary, viz., the
Adhikhari, who dispenses justice, the Kanakkupillai, who
assisted the Adhikari, and the Padda Naick, i.e., the Chief
Watchman who was the head of the Talaiyaris and who kept
order in the streets, arrested thieves and evil-doers and
brought them to trial. Many Indians were merchants of the
Company and the contractors for the supply of cotton cloth
that was needed for export and for the sale of the European
goods of the Company. The seniors among them were termed the
Company's Chief Merchants; and the agents and brokers of
individual English merchants came to be later on known as
From time to time, factious fights rose between the
right-hand and left-hand castes of the City. Such factions
were much prevalent in the country round Conjeeveram. In
Madras the Beri Chetties, artisans, Cil-mongers, weavers and
leather workers were the chief elements in the left-hand
faction, while the Vellalas, the Arya Vysias (Komatis), the
Vannias and the Adi-Dravidas belonged to the right-hand
division. The grounds of quarrel were mostly with reference
to the particular routes that the marriage and funeral
processions of these castes should take, and the symbols and
the trappings that should adorn their processions and pandals
on occasions of festivity; and they were as ready to fall out
with each other on the smallest provocation ' as Orangemen
and Ribbonmen were in Ireland or the Montague's and Capulets
in Verona, or the clans in Scotland.'
The earliest dispute between the castes seems to have
occurred in Madras in 1652-53, which was settled by an award
wherein the name of Chennapatnam first occurs in an official
document. The result of this award was that the eastern half
of the Hindu town came to be generally occupied by left-hand
castes and the western half by the right-hand ones.
For a long time the country round Madras was in a great
turmoil on account of the rebellion of Mir Jumla against his
Golconda master and also because of the general weakness of
the Golconda Sultan who was finally destroyed by the Moghul
Emperor Aurangzeb in 1687. During these troubled years,
Madras was frequently threatened by the exactions of
successive local chiefs who ruled over the Poonamalle region
on behalf of the Muhammadans. The worst of them was Bala Rao
who stopped the Indian traders coming to Madras, raised the
customs duties they had to pay at the Great Mettah where
there was a regular customs-house and thus increased the
prices of grains and other provisions. On one occasion the
Muslim troops entered the settlement and burnt some houses.
Later, Madras had to encounter a regular siege for several
months at the hands of Bala Rao and his colleague, Tupaki
Krishnappa Naick. Fort St.George was reduced from the rank of
a Presidency to an Agency, temporarily in 1655, owing to a
fit of economy that seized the Directors of the Company at
the time. However, it was restored to its Presidency status
three years later; and this it has continued to enjoy ever
since. The Dutch were envious of the growing prosperity of
the City and both the Dutch and the Golconda Sultan had an
eye on San Thome. On one occasion the English expected that
San Thome would be ceded to them by the Portuguese instead of
Bombay, for whose cession negotiations were then going on.
Sir Edward Winter, Governor (1661-65), got a permanent
agreement regarding the English right to Madras. Winter was a
bold and bad man who imprisoned his successor in office,
Fox-Croft, on the ground that the latter was of decidedly
Puritanical and anti-Royalist tendencies and could be
suspected of having made treasonable utterances against King
Charles II. He was in enjoyment of his usurped authority for
nearly three years and during all this time Fox-Croft
languished in prison. Even when punishment finally came to
him, he contrived to make his own terms and stayed on in
Madras for a few more years after he was deposed. Fox-Croft,
the unfortunate imprisoned Governor, was the first to he
given the title of Governor of Fort St.George a title which
has been transmitted to a long line of distinguished
successors. The title came to be given by an accident, as it
were. The Company's letter constituting the Madras Agent and
Council 'Our Governor and Agent and Consul in Fort St.
George' and empowering them to execute judgment in all cases,
civil and criminal, was occasioned by the difficulty that
arose as to the jurisdiction of the Madras officials over
capital cases. This difficulty was solved by the new title
and ' to modern occupants of the gubernatorial chair it is
probably unknown that they owe their designation to a Madras
San Thome : Madras and San Thome were generally on friendly
terms. The latter fell into the hands of the Sultan of
Golconda in 1662 and was taken possession of by the French
ten years later. But they were not to enjoy it for long. It
once again went back into the hands of Golconda and the
English urged the Sultan to demolish the fortifications of
the place as they were afraid that the French might recover
the Fort either by force or by purchase. One important
consequence of the French surrender of San Thome was the
withdrawal of Martin, the Captain of the French soldiers,
with a few followers to Pondicherry, where he founded the
famous settlement that was to have a glorious, but
short-lived, prominence in the next century.
The fame of San Thome rests upon its close association with
the Apostle St. Thomas, who is declared to have suffered
martyrdom at St.Thomas' Mount and to have been buried
originally at San Thome, that it, in Old Mylapore, part of
which now lies under the encroaching sea. There is not much
doubt that there existed at the place a Christian colony from
the early centuries of the Christian era. It was known to the
Arab travellers and geographers of the ninth and tenth
centuries as Betumah, that it, the house or Church of St.
Thomas. And from this word was derived the name San Thome. To
this Church it is said that King Alfred the Great of England
sent some emissaries about
883 A.D. Subsequently, Persian merchants who were Nestorian
Christians, established a Church of their own at the place,
built a Chapel over the tomb of St. Thomas and a monastery on
the top of St. Thomas' Mount. The place was visited by Marco
Polo, the famous Venetian traveller, who touched the Madras
coast towards the close of the thirteenth century. But the
town decayed later on; and its revival was the work of the
Portuguese who settled therein in 1522. As the Portuguese
were rebuilding the old Chapel, they stumbled on the grave of
the Apostle, besides which they built a small church which
has now grown into the San Thome Cathedral.
The Luz Church situated a mile to the west of the Cathedral
is associated with an ancient tradition, that some mariners
saw a light beckoning to them from that place when they
tossed about in a storm near the coast. Steering towards this
guiding light, they landed safely, and following it came to
the spot where the church is built. The church is thus
dedicated to 'Our Lady of Light'. But it was not built in
1516 as the inscription on its base claims but only a few
St. Thomas' Mount and Little Mount : At St. Thomas' Mount the
Portuguese came across the famous Bleeding Cross, that is, a
Stone Cross bearing an Old Pehbir inscription, with some
spots on it resembling, blood stains; and a church was
erected at the place, the Stone Cross being built in the wall
behind the Altars. The inscription is similar to that
engraved round the Crosses found in some of the Syrian
Christian churches on the Malabar Coast. In those days a
beacon fire was lighted nightly on the Mount for the benefit
of mariners. In the church itself, which is dedicated to our
Lady of Expectation, there is a picture of the Holy Virgin
and Child which is believed to be one of the seven portraits
painted by St. Luke and brought by St. Thomas to India.
Between St. Thomas' Mount and Madras and a little to the east
of the southern end of the Saidapet Bridge is the Little
Mount or Chinnamalai. This contains a cave to which St.
Thomas is said to have fled when he was pursued by his
persecutors. A church was built in 1551 at this place by the
Portuguese. There is pointed out here a cleft in the rock
where St. Thomas caused a spring of fresh water to gush
forth, by hitting the stone with his staff, and the multitude
who came to hear his preach quenched their thirst therein.
The water was believed to have had healing properties and the
church itself is dedicated to Our Lady of Health. Both the
Big and Little mounts are outside the limits of Madras City,
But the Big and Little Mounts are outside the limits of
Madras city. But hey have been closely associated with Madras
both in the past and in the present epoch.
Mylapore : Mylapore, a village adjacent to San Thome to its
west, has always gone hand in hand with the latter and was
included in its jurisdiction. It is a place of ancient
importance and has long been famous as a Siva Shrine. It is
closely associated with Thiruvalluvar, the great author of
the Kural, and also with the activities of the Saiva Nayanar,
the great Gnanasambandar. The temple of Sri Kapaleesvarar
contains a sculpture depicting one of the miracles wrought by
Gnanasambandar. There are bronze statues within the temple of
the 63 Saiva Nayanmars, in whose honour a grand festival is
conducted annually. Mylapore is also associated with one of
the Vaishnavite Alvars. After the Portuguese town of San
Thome came into being Mylapore was absorbed in it. When San
Thome fell into the hands of the Mussalmans, a number of its
rich Portuguese merchants settled in Madras. The English
themselves endeavoured to get that place for a nominal rent
from the Sultan of Golconda. After the latter's kingdom was
annexed by the Mughal Empire in 1687, the Mughal Governor of
the Carnatic threatened to develop it at the expense of
Madras, frequently visited and resided in it and built a
rampart round the town. The place continued under the rule of
the Mussalmans with very little trade and a decaying
population till 1749 when it was taken possession of by the
English in the name of their protégé, Nawab Muhammad Ali
First Attempts at Conservancy : The gradual growth of Madras,
though interrupted from time to time, was steady and
vigorous. It was when Governor Streynsham Master was in power
(1678-81) that the first serious attempt was made at the
conservancy of the streets. A scavenger was appointed who was
empowered to collect a house-tax and to remove the dirt and
filth of the town and draw up a roll of the houses. This post
was held by a civil servant of high rank. Watchmen were
appointed for going round the streets in the nights.
Tavern-keepers, places of entertainments and others had to be
licensed. The Indian inhabitants had long fought vigorously
against tax saying that it was their privilege to be exempted
from any taxation.
Master also framed rules for the better administration of
justice. Two English official were appointed as Choultry
Justices to administer justice to the Indian inhabitants and
their number was increased subsequently. The Governor himself
began to sit as a Judge thus forming an Appellate Court.
St. Mary's Church in the Fort : It was also in Master's time
that the church of St. Mary within the Fort was built. The
foundation was laid on Lady's Day in 1678 and hence the
Church was named St. Mary's in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
It was finished in 1680 and was consecrated on the 28th of
October that year. It stands much the same as it was when
built, except for the spire and the tower which were
subsequently added. It is full of mementoes of men who have
helped to make Madras history; and its narrow yard is
literally paved with tombs of various ages and with
inscriptions in several languages. The stones were removed
from the stately tombs which were erected over the graves of
dead Englishmen in the old English burying-place of the
settlement which lay in the present Law College compound.
The Vestry of the Church was organised at the same time and
it continued to exist down to 1805. It conducted a Charity
School which subsequently became the nucleus of the Male and
Female Orphan Asylums. After Master's time there was a
reorganisation of the Police arrangements in the so-called
Black Town which had grown up close to the White Town and
which occupied the site of the present northern glacis of the
Fort, part of the western glacis and the grounds of the Law
College and the High Court. During the Governorship of
Mr.Yale (1687-92) a Mayor and Corporation were instituted in
the City by a Charter of the Company under permission from
Acquisition of Suburban Villages : It was in Yale's time that
the Mughul authority spread over the Carnatic. He was very
anxious about the safety of Madras from Mughul injury. And he
applied to the Nawab Zulfiker Khan, the Mughal General for
the free Grant of the villages of Egmore, Purasawalkam and
Thondiarpet. These villages were at first rented out and were
directly taken over by Government in 1720. They were known in
the English records of the time as the "Three Old Towns".
Triplicane was the earliest acquisition and came first into
English occupation in 1668 though it was resumed a few years
later by the Mussalmans. It was only in 1672 that Triplicane
was definitely given over to the English for an annual rent
of fifty pagodas. Including Triplicane these three villages
were known as the 'Four Old Towns'. Shortly afterwards, the
English petitioned for permission to occupy five other
villages in the vicinity composing of Tiruvatiyoor,
Kathiwakam, Nungambakkam, Vyasarpady and Sathangadu. These
places were given over by a Mughal firman in 1708 and they
were hence forward known as the 'Five New Towns'.
Wedged in between Egmore and Purasawalkam which had been
acquired by the English, were two small villages, viz.,
Periamet where the Mussalman authorities collected tolls, and
Vepery, which were acquired by the English only in 1742;
along with Vepery the Company got Perambore, Pudupakkam,
Ernavore and Sadyan Kuppam together with a confirmation of
the right of coining Arcot rupees and pagodas. San Thome and
Mylapore continued to be under Mussalman rule till 1749 when
Madras was restored to English after three years of
occupation by the French who captured it in 1746. Soon after
they got back Madras, the English contrived to occupy San
Thome in the name of their new ally, Nawab Muhammad Ali who
was opposed by Chanda Saheb, the ally and champion of the
Governor Thomas Pitt : From the time of Governor Yale down to
the outbreak of war with the French in 1746, the growth of
Madras was continuous and was seen not only by the expansion
of its trade and wealth but also in the steady political
power of the English. Of the Governors of the period the most
famous was Thomas Pitt who was originally a bold interloper
and in the opinion of the Directors, a desperate fellow. Pitt
was Governor for the unusually long term of 11
years-1698-1709- and his term of office proved to be the
'Golden Age' of Madras. He resisted the demands of the Mughal
Nawab, successively acquired the five new villages and built
fortified walls round the Old Black Town. It was in his time
that the Island ground was embanked, drained and improved. He
also provided for an accurate survey of the City with a view
to the allocation of definite streets and quarters for the
right and left-hand factions. Copies of his map and plan are
now available. They show us that the Old Black Town was more
than a mile and a half in circumference and various gates in
its walls led into the suburbs of Muthialpettah to the north
and Peddunaicken-pettah to the west. A canal ran along the
present Broadway which separated Black Town and Muthialpettah
Weavers' Villages-Collettpettah and Chintadripettah : As
trade increased the number of weavers and painters had
steadily to be increased. Governor Collett (1717-20) founded
a new pettah near Tiruvottiyur which was called, as the
inhabitants desired, after him as Collettpettah. The
inhabitants were mostly weavers and painters of cloth which
the Company required for export to Europe. The present suburb
if Washermanpet lying to the north of George Town grew up
about the same time. The Company had in their employment a
large number of washers, bleachers and painters of cloth
which came from the weavers' looms. A large open space and
plenty of good water were necessary for their work. They were
first settled in Peddunaickenpettah to the north; but they
complained that the water of the river was not pure. They
were subsequently removed to the north of the Black Town
where the ground was rich in fresh springs. The place where
they settled was, therefore, known as Washerman Town and its
present appellation of Washermanpet is apt, as in the case of
Collettpettah, to convey a wrong meaning as to its origin.
The growth of these suburbs indicates a period of great
prosperity in the cotton trade which was the chief investment
of the Company. The Dubashes and chief merchants of the
Company engaged in the supply of cotton goods to the Company
rose to great prosperity. One of them be name Alangatha
Pillai founded and built the Ekambareswarar Temple, and
another of them, Sunkurama had a large garden in the bend of
the Cooum river south of Periamet which was taken over in
1735 for a new weavers' village known as Chintadripettah. By
that time Sunkurama had fallen into disgrace and was
succeeded by his colleague Thambu Chetty as the chief
merchant. Government resolved in October 1734 to erect a
weaving town in the site of Sunkurama's garden and to permit
only spinners, weavers, washers, painters and the necessary
attendants of the temple to settle in the village. A cowl was
granted on these terms and Bemala Audiappa Narayana helped in
the peopling of the village, which grew to contain nearly two
hundred and fifty families within two years after its
The Carnatic fell into confusion after 1740 when the
Mahrattas invaded it. Several disputed successions to the
Nawabship occurred, out of which emerged Anwaruddin Khan.
During all these years the English were seriously engaged in
strengthening the Fort, particularly its western walls. The
Fort as it had grown up by now enclosed the houses of the
White Town, but was much smaller than the present Fort. On
the north the houses of the Old Black Town encroached almost
up to the very wall, the river on the west ran very much more
to the east than it does now. In 1743 plans were prepared for
enlarging the Fort on the west side and for diverting the
course of the river further west. This diversion was not,
however, immediately carried out.
French Occupation of the City and its Results : The French
capture of Madras by Labourdonnais in 1746 is a great event
in the history of the City. The French were in occupation of
the City for three years till August 1749. They planned to
retain it permanently. They demolished the Indian houses of
Old Black Town which adjoined the north wall of the Fort and
formed a glacis with the debris. The southern portion of the
Old Black Town was consequently destroyed. Soon after Madras
came back into English possession, the Company began plans
for remodeling and strengthening the Fort. The river on the
west side was diverted to its present course, and its old bed
was built up and included in the Fort. The west wall was
strengthened with bastions which were named after the
Governor George Pigot, Major Lawrence and Nawab Muhammad Ali
Wallajah. The temple of Chennakesavaperumal which stood in
Old Black Town, was also demolished and compensation was
given by Government and a new site was offered in China
Bazaar where Manali Muthukrishna Mudaliar, the Dubash of
Governor Pigot, built the new temple now known as the Town
temple. He became the first warden of this temple whose
management has continued to remain in his family. Count
Lally's siege of Madras (December 1758 to February 1759) the
next crisis in the History of the City was successfully
resisted by the English; but they abandoned Old Black Town
and the suburbs which were occupied by the French; while the
Fort itself was a sand wreck after the siege. Black Town was
ruthlessly plundered by the enemy who also burnt the village
of Chepauk to the south of the mouth of the Cooum and lying
between the Island and Triplicane.
Building of the Black Town Walls : After the siege, the
Directors resolved that the Fort should be rebuilt upon the
most modern plan. Hyder Ali of Mysore was growing powerful at
the time. In 1767 he made an expedition to the neighbourhood
of Madras, plundered San Thome and burnt several villages in
the neighbourhood. Two years later, he again appeared before
Madras with a formidable cavalry force. Hyder's raids threw
the inhabitants into a state of panic; and the result was the
erection of permanent walls to protect the New Black Town, as
Muthialpettah and Peddunaickenpettah together came to be
called, after the demolition of the Old Black Town. The
rampart walls that were constructed covered the northern and
western fronts of modern George Town and ran a course of 3½
miles, being equipped with bastions and flanking works at
intervals. The north wall presented a slight convex front
towards Tondiarpet. The west wall ran on close to the North
River (Cochrane Canal). On the outer side of the walls the
ground was cleared for a width of six hundred yards and
afforded a field for fire. These spaces were known as
Esplanades. The southern part of the Western Esplanade was
converted in the middle of the nineteenth century into the
People's Park, and the northern part into Salt Cotaurs. The
walls had numerous gates, of which the one known as Elephant
Gate still had its name preserved for the site on which it
stood. Wall Tax Road also is reminiscent of those times. It
was designed to have a good road running on the side of the
western rampart and its cost was met be means of a tax which
was imposed on the house-holders nearby. But the tax was
never collected through an officer, known as the Collector of
Town Wall Tax, was appointed for the purpose. It is also said
that arches in the western wall were occupied by Indians who
paid a rent or tax and hence arose the name of Wall Tax Road
which runs for two miles and was close to the western wall.
Debtor-prisoners were confined in the bastions in the
north-west angle of the wall, which criminals were put in
another bastion in the northern wall; and even to-day the
street next to the demolished north wall, of which some
remnants remain in the compound of the Royapuram Hospital is
called the Old Jail Street. The walls were pulled down about
the middle of the nineteenth century when swords had to be
turned into ploughshares. The remnants of its bastions and
curtains that remain on the north indicate how substantially
the construction work was made. The walls were finished about
Final Formation of the Fort : About the same time the work of
remodeling the Fort was also finished. Many of the private
inhabitants who lived within it were compelled to sell their
houses, and barracks for British troops were built on their
sites. The Fort in its enlarged shape was completed in 1783
when Lord Macartney was Governor. This enlarged Fort stands
perfect to-day as a typical example of the ideal fortress of
the eighteenth century. It is the last of the four phases of
growth which was settlement has passed through. It began as a
small castle of Cogan and Day which was enclosed in a square
of bastioned walls. In the next stage the White Town
inhabited by English, Portuguese and Armenian merchants which
grew round the nucleus came to be protected by walls. This
survived almost up to the date of French Capture of Madras in
1746. The filling up of the old bed of the North River, the
extension of the west front of the Fort and the consequent
increase in its area formed from third stage. The last stage
was completed in 1783 when the outer walls were totally
rebuilt and provided with ample out-works, glacis, reveling
It was in this epoch also that most of the buildings and
barracks in the western portion of the Fort were erected. The
Palace Street, so called because Nawab Wallajaj first planned
to have a place erected for himself in that street, the
Arsenal, the Hanover square and the Western Barracks were all
constructed about this time. The streets in the eastern side
of the Fort were also altered. Lord Pigot who was twice
Governor of Madras, distinguished himself by strengthening
the fortifications and defending it successfully against
Lally. The weakness of his successors led to his
reappointment for a second time as Governor. But he quarreled
violently with his colleagues, was imprisoned by them and
died in confinement. He was buried in a nameless grave in St.
Mary's Church in the Fort.
Modern George Town comes into Shape : In the time of Governor
Macartney (1781-85) Black Town assumed the shape that it now
has. There was a low-lying region between Muthialpettah and
Peddunaickenpettah along which ran a drainage channel. This
channel was filled up and the waste land on both its sides
were raised; and gradually houses came to be built over the
whole area. The main north and south street which traverses
this area known as Popham's Broadway is commemorative of the
efforts of Mr.Popham who reclaimed all this region. It was
also now that the inhabitants of Peddunaickenpettah living in
the south and south-east portions of it were removed
elsewhere as their houses were considered to be dangerously
near the Fort. The ground which was somewhat elevated was
cleared and was converted into an Esplanade of the Fort and
is now occupied by the Ordnance Lines. The removal of these
houses, accounts for the present curiously broken outline of
Peddunaickenpettah on its south-east side and for the abrupt
termination of some of its north and south streets.
Mr. Popham also submitted a plan for the establishment of a
regular police force for Madras and for the building of
direct and cross drains in every street. He also advocated
measures for the naming and lighting of streets, for the
regular registration of births and deaths and for the
licensing of liquor, arrack and toddy shops. A Board of
Police assisted by a Kotwal was subsequently formed. The
Kotwal was to be the officer of the markets under the
Superintendent of Police. For long, there was difficulty
about the collecting of quit rent and scavenger's duty and it
was held that the Company had no power to impose these taxes.
A Parliamentary Act of 1792 finally gave the Company the
power to levy municipal taxes in the City and it was resolved
to order an assessment of five per cent to be collected from
the inhabitants on the estimated annual rents of the houses.
It was now that the Town cleaning duties were entrusted to
the Officers known as Surveyors and Collectors, under whom
conservancy work was to be done by contract.
Madras founded .
The English get Madras Patnam from Ayyapa Naicker.
Francis Day and Cogan landed with 25 Europeans.
Foundation laid for Fort St.George.
Triplicane annexed to the city.
Foundation laid for St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George.
St.Mary’s Church Completed.
Madras City Municipal Corporation inaugurated.
Egmore, Purasawalkam and Tondiarpet annexed to the City.
Thiruvottiyur, Nungambakkam, Vyasarpady,
Kottivakkam and Sathangadu -
Five neighbouring Villages annexed;
wall built around Black Town.
First Printing Press erected in Madras.
Chintadripet was formed.
Veperi, Perimet, Perambur and Pudupakkam annexed to the city.
The French return Madras to the English;
Santhome and Mylapore annexed to the City.
French Commander Lawly siege Madras.
French siege ended.
Hyder Ali’s first invasion.
Chepauk palace built by Nawab of Arcot.
Hyder Ali’s Second invasion.
Veerappillai appointed as First Kotthawal-
Hence the name Kotthawal Chavadi.
Fort St. George repaired and attains the present shape.
The First Newspaper –Madras Courier.
First Post Office.
Triplicane Big Mosque-Walajah Mosque built.
Madras Literary Society founded.
Board of Public Instructions founded.
First Commercial Bank –Madras Bank.
First Census in the City Population
Madras Club founded.
First Survey School inaugurated –
Later developed as Engineering College.
First Medical College –
Later became Madras Christian College.
Ice House was built –
Ice brought from America through ships was stored here;
Later named as Vivekananda House.
First Light House.
Pachaiappan School; Later Pachaiappa’s College.
University Board formed.
First Railway –Royapuram to Arcot.
Madras University founded.
Presidency College built.
Attempt to protected water supply.
First Birth Registered.
Madras Mail Newspaper founded.
Cosmopolitan Club founded.
University Senate house built.
Great Famine – Buckingham Canal dug.
The Hindu Newspaper founded.
Marina Beach Road formed.
Indian National Congress Meet at Madras.
Connemera Public Library founded.
High Court Building foundation laid.
First Car – Mr. A.J. Boag, Director of Parry&Co,
drove the Car on City Roads.
First Tram Car.
First Tamil Newspaper-Swadesamitran.
Port Trust formed.
Indian Bank founded.
King Institute, Guindy founded.
Water mains and drainage formed.
Street lights introduced.
Kilpauk water works inaugurated.
Endon German fighter Vessel bombarded the sea shore
disappeared - First World War.
Simpson & Co., arranged for the trial flight.
School of Indian Medicine.
First Bus Transport.
First Broadcasting Station founded at Ripon Buildings
First Mayor - Raja Sir. Muthiah Chettiyar
All India Radio formed and
broadcasting from Ripon Buildings ceased.
Second World War - Evacuation of Madras.
Japanese Fighter Plane dropped bombs on City and disappeared.
Govt. Farm, Puliyur, Kodambakkam,
Saligramam, Adayar and Alandur Villages which formed part of
Saidapet Municipality were annexed to the city.
Sembiyam, Siruvallur, Peravallur, Small
and Ayanavaram which formed part of Sembium Panchayat
Board were annexed to the city.
Aminjikarai, Periyakudal, Maduvankarai Villages which formed
part of Aminjikarai Panchayat Board were annexed.
Part of Velacheri Village belonging to Velacheri Panchayat
was also annexed to the city.
Indian National Flag Hoisted over Fort. St. George.
Guindy Children’s Park.
World Tamil Congress.
Madras Metropolitan Development Authority.
Madras Corporation Superceded.
Madras Television Centre.
New Light House.
Madras Metropolitan Water supply and Sewage Board
Kanagam, Taramani, Thiruvanmiyur, Velacheri, Kodambakkam,
Virugambakkam, Saligramam, Koyambedu, Thirumangalam,
Villivakkam, Errukancheri, Kolathur, Kodungaiyur
Panchayat areas annexed to the City;
Madras reaches the present stage.
Zoo shifted to Vandalur.
Periyar Science Park
Madras Corporation’s Tri-centenary.
Decentralisation of Administration.
10 Circles formed.