About City – Origin and Growth
The Beginnings of Madras : The beginnings of the City of 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.
Madras – Name History
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 place.
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 Durgarazpatnam (Armagaon).
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 office.
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 sun.
Early Stages of the City’s Growth : In 1652 Fort St.George 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 Dubashes.
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 murder.’
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 decades later.
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 Wallajah.
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 King James.
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 French.
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 from Peddunaickenpettah.
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 foundation.
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 1772.
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 and lunettes.
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.
Chronology of Events
1639 Madras founded .
The English get Madras Patnam from Ayyapa Naicker.
1640 Francis Day and Cogan landed with 25 Europeans.
Foundation laid for Fort St.George.
1668 Triplicane annexed to the city.
1678 Foundation laid for St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George.
1679 St.Mary’s Church Completed.
1688 Madras City Municipal Corporation inaugurated.
1693 Egmore, Purasawalkam and Tondiarpet annexed to the City.
1708 Thiruvottiyur, Nungambakkam, Vyasarpady,
Kottivakkam and Sathangadu –
Five neighbouring Villages annexed;
wall built around Black Town.
1711 First Printing Press erected in Madras.
1735 Chintadripet was formed.
1742 Veperi, Perimet, Perambur and Pudupakkam annexed to the city.
1746 The French return Madras to the English;
Santhome and Mylapore annexed to the City.
1758 French Commander Lawly siege Madras.
1759 French siege ended.
1767 Hyder Ali’s first invasion.
1768 Chepauk palace built by Nawab of Arcot.
1769 Hyder Ali’s Second invasion.
1777 Veerappillai appointed as First Kotthawal-
Hence the name Kotthawal Chavadi.
1783 Fort St. George repaired and attains the present shape.
1784 The First Newspaper –Madras Courier.
1785 First Post Office.
1795 Triplicane Big Mosque-Walajah Mosque built.
1817 Madras Literary Society founded.
1826 Board of Public Instructions founded.
1831 First Commercial Bank –Madras Bank.
First Census in the City Population 39,785.
1832 Madras Club founded.
1834 First Survey School inaugurated –
Later developed as Engineering College.
1835 First Medical College –
Later became Madras Christian College.
1841 Ice House was built –
Ice brought from America through ships was stored here;
Later named as Vivekananda House.
1842 First Light House.
1846 Pachaiappan School; Later Pachaiappa’s College.
1851 Museum formed
1853 Zoo formed.
1855 University Board formed.
1856 First Railway –Royapuram to Arcot.
1857 Madras University founded.
1864-65 Presidency College built.
1868 Attempt to protected water supply.
1873 First Birth Registered.
Madras Mail Newspaper founded.
Cosmopolitan Club founded.
1874 University Senate house built.
1876-78 Great Famine – Buckingham Canal dug.
1878 The Hindu Newspaper founded.
1882 First Telephone.
1885 Marina Beach Road formed.
1886 Indian National Congress Meet at Madras.
Connemera Public Library founded.
1889 High Court Building foundation laid.
1894 First Car – Mr. A.J. Boag, Director of Parry&Co,
drove the Car on City Roads.
1895 First Tram Car.
1899 First Tamil Newspaper-Swadesamitran.
1905 Port Trust formed.
1906 Indian Bank founded.
King Institute, Guindy founded.
1914 Water mains and drainage formed.
Street lights introduced.
Kilpauk water works inaugurated.
Endon German fighter Vessel bombarded the sea shore and
disappeared – First World War.
1917 First Aeroplane;
Simpson & Co., arranged for the trial flight.
1924 School of Indian Medicine.
1925 Loyola College
First Bus Transport.
1930 First Broadcasting Station founded at Ripon Buildings Complex.
1934 First Mayor – Raja Sir. Muthiah Chettiyar
1938 All India Radio formed and
broadcasting from Ripon Buildings ceased.
1942 Second World War – Evacuation of Madras.
1943 Japanese Fighter Plane dropped bombs on City and disappeared.
1946 Mambalam, Saidapet, Govt. Farm, Puliyur, Kodambakkam,
Saligramam, Adayar and Alandur Villages which formed part of
Saidapet Municipality were annexed to the city.
Sembiyam, Siruvallur, Peravallur, Small Sembarambakkam
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 Board
was also annexed to the city.
1947 Indian National Flag Hoisted over Fort. St. George.
1952 Nehru Stadium.
1956 Gandhi Mandap.
1959 Guindy Children’s Park.
1969 World Tamil Congress.
1971 Snake Park.
1972 Madras Metropolitan Development Authority.
1973 Madras Corporation Superceded.
1974 Rajaji Mandap.
Madras Television Centre.
1975 Kamaraj Mandap.
1976 New Light House.
1977 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.
1983 Zoo shifted to Vandalur.
1988 Periyar Science Park
Madras Corporation’s Tri-centenary.
Decentralisation of Administration.
10 Circles formed.