STORY OF MADRAS
GLYN BARLOW, M.A.
WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS
BY THE AUTHOR
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
LONDON, BOMBAY, CALCUTTA, MADRAS
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This little book is not a "History of Madras," although it contains a good deal of Madras history; and it is not a "Guide to Madras," although it gives accounts of some of the principal buildings in the city. The book will have fulfilled its purpose if it helps the reader to realize that the City of Madras is a particularly interesting corner of the world. This fact is often forgotten; and even many of the people who live in Madras itself, and who are aware that Madras has played an important part in the making of India's history, are strangely uninterested in its historic remains. They are eloquent perhaps in denouncing the heat of Madras and its mosquitoes and the iniquities of its Cooum river; but they have never a word to say on its enchanting memorials of the past. Madras has memorials indeed. Madras is an historical museum, where the sightseer may spend many and many an hour—in street and in building—studying old-world exhibits, and living for the while in the fascinating past. Madras is not an ancient city; its foundation is not ascribed to some mythic king who ruled in mythic times; it has no hoary ruins, too old to be historic and too legendary to be inspiring. But Madras is old enough for its records to be romantic, and at the same time is young enough for its earliest accounts of itself to be—not unsatisfying fables, but interesting fact. The story of Madras fills an absorbing page of history, and the sights of Madras are well worthy of sympathetic interest—especially on the part of those whose lines of life are cast in the historic city itself or within the historic presidency of which it is the capital.
In the following pages certain places and events have been briefly described more than once with different details; any such repetitions are due to the fact that the Story of Madras has been told in a series of vignettes, appertaining to particular buildings or particular conditions, and each vignette had to be complete in itself. It is hoped that such repetitions will be of familiar interest, rather than tedious.
In respect of the facts that are recorded, apart from general history, I am indebted principally to the valuable Records of Fort St. George, which the Madras Government have been publishing, volume by volume, during several years, and which I have studied with interest since the first volume appeared. Of other works that I have consulted, I must specially mention Colonel Love's "Vestiges of Madras," which is a very mine of information.
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PAGE PREFACE v
I. BEFORE THE BEGINNING 1
II. THE BEGINNING 5
III. FORT ST. GEORGE 9
IV. DEVELOPMENT 18
V. 'THE WALL' 25
VI. EXPANSION 35
VII. OUTPOSTS 41
VIII. THE CHURCH IN THE FORT 47
IX. ROMAN CATHOLIC MADRAS 56
X. CHEPAUK PALACE 63
XI. GOVERNMENT HOUSE 69
XII. MADRAS AND THE SEA 78
XIII. THE STORY OF THE SCHOOLS 87
XIV. HERE AND THERE 101
XV. 'NO MEAN CITY' 111
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CHEPAUK PALACE Frontispiece
MAP OF MADRAS, ABOUT 1710 10
CORRESPONDING MAP, 1921 11
CLIVE'S HOUSE 16
A BIT OF THE BLACK TOWN WALL 26
CENTRAL GATE OF THE BLACK TOWN WALL 28
A MAGAZINE IN THE BLACK TOWN WALL 30
'THE OLD AND THE NEW' 32
MAP OF MADRAS 36
SAN THOME FORT 42
EGMORE FORT (SIDE VIEW) 44
REMAINS OF THE EGMORE FORT 46
ST. MARY'S, FORT ST. GEORGE 49
GOVERNMENT HOUSE, MADRAS 74
THE SEA GATE 80
THE COMPANY'S FLAG 81
UNIVERSITY SENATE HOUSE 96
PACHAIYAPPA'S COLLEGE 97
DOVETON PROTESTANT COLLEGE 98
ST. GEORGE'S CATHEDRAL 102
ST. ANDREW'S (THE 'KIRK') 104
ST. THOME CATHEDRAL 106
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The East India Company established A.D. 1600
First English settlement, at Masulipatam 1611
Site of Madras acquired by Mr. Francis Day 1639
The acquisition confirmed at Chandragiri by the Hindu 'Lord of the Carnatic' 1639
The Hindu lord of the Carnatic (the Raja of Chandragiri) dethroned by the Mohammedan Sultan of Golconda 1646
The Company secure from Golconda a fresh title to their possessions
The Sultan of Golconda dethroned by the Moghul Emperor, Aurangzeb, who appoints a 'Nawab of the Carnatic' 1687
The Company secure from a representative of the Emperor a fresh title to their possessions
Da-ud Khan, Nawab of the Carnatic, invests Madras for three months, and is finally bought off 1702
In Europe, England and France are engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession 1740-1748
Dupleix, who is possessed with the idea of making France politically influential in India, is appointed Governor of Pondicherry 1742
In the war in Europe he sees an opportunity for fighting the English in India, and French forces under LaBourdonnais capture Madras 1746
Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, by which Madras is restored to the English 1748
Two Carnatic princes quarrel for the Nawabship 1749
The French and the English in South India join in the quarrel on opposite sides. In the name of the claimant whom the English supported, Clive captures Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic, and then defends the town against the rival claimant and his French supporters 1749
The French are defeated in the open field, and the struggle is at an end 1752
In Europe, England and France are engaged in the Seven Years' War 1756-1763
In India, Count Lally besieges Madras unsuccessfully for more than two months A.D. 1758-1759
The English defeat the French at Wandiwash 1760
The English capture Pondicherry 1761
Treaty of Paris, by which Pondicherry is restored to the French 1763
(The town was captured again in 1786 and in 1803).
Haidar Ali makes himself Sultan of Mysore about 1760, and reigns till his death, which occurred in 1781
Tipu, his son, succeeds him, and reigns till he is slain in defending his capital, Seringapatam, against an assault by the English 1799
(Madras was frequently disturbed by the raids of the father and of the son; and Tipu's death relieved the townsmen of constant anxiety.)
The Supreme Court of Judicature established at Madras 1801
In default of an heir, the Carnatic 'lapses' to the Company 1855
The Madras Railway opened for traffic 1856
The Indian Mutiny 1857-1859
The Madras University instituted 1857
The High Court established 1861
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On page 1, for 'Madraspatnam' read 'Madraspatam.'
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BEFORE THE BEGINNING
Three hundred years ago, Madras, under the name of 'Madraspatnam' was a tiny rural village on the Coromandel Coast. Scattered about in the neighbourhood there were other rural villages, such as Egmore, Vepery, and Triplicane, which are crowded districts in the great city of Madras to-day. In Triplicane there was an ancient temple, a centre of pilgrimage, dating, like many village temples in India, from very distant times; this was the Parthasarathy temple, which is the 'Triplicane Temple' still. A little fishing village called Kuppam, lying directly on the seashore, sent out, even as Kuppam does now, its bold fishermen in their rickety catamarans in perilous pursuit of the spoils of the sea. There was one small town in the neighbourhood, namely, the Portuguese settlement at Mylapore, where the tall facades of the several churches, peeping over the trees, formed a land-mark for the Portuguese ships that occasionally cast anchor in the roads.
Such was the scene in 1639, the year in which our story of Madras begins. The Portuguese had already been in India for nearly a century and a half; and under their early and able viceroys they had made themselves powerful. The stately city of Goa was the capital of their Indian dominions, and they had settlements at Cochin, Calicut, Mylapore, and elsewhere. But the influence of the Portuguese was now on the wane. For nearly a century they had been the only European power in India and the Eastern seas; but merchants in other European countries had marked with jealous eyes the rich profits that the Portuguese derived from their Eastern traffic, and competitors appeared in the field. First came the Dutch, who in India established themselves at Pulicat, some twenty-five miles north of Mylapore. Holland had lately thrown off the yoke of Spain, and was full of new-born vigour; and Dutch trade in the East—chiefly in the East India Islands—was pushed with a rancorous energy that roused the vain indignation of the decadent Portuguese. Six years later, in 1600, came the English. The English traders were employees of the newly-established East India Company, and were sent out to do business for the Company in the East; and they had to face the opposition of the Dutch as well as of the Portuguese. Their earliest enterprise was in the East India Islands, and it was eleven years before they gained their first footing in India, at Masulipatam. Here they established an agency and did very considerable business; later they formed a fortified sub-agency at Armagaum, a good way down the coast, not far from Nellore. At first their fortunes went well; but local rulers exacted ruinous dues, and at Armagaum in particular the local ruler, alarmed at the influence that the English merchants had gained, set himself so seriously to the work of handicapping their trade that Mr. Francis Day, the Company's representative at Armagaum and a member of the Masulipatam Council, proposed to the Council that he should be allowed to seek a field for commercial enterprise more favourable than either Armagaum or Masulipatam. To Mr. Francis Day was committed the business of finding a suitable spot for a fresh settlement.
It was an important commission. The East India Company's existence depended entirely upon the profits of their trade. The Company's enterprise at Armagaum was hopeless; at Masulipatam it was very unsatisfactory; and Mr. Francis Day was appointed to find a place where the commercial prospects would be bright.
It should always be remembered that the East India Company was established purely as a commercial association, with its head office in London, and that its employees in India were men with business qualifications, appointed to carry on the Company's trade. The prime concern even of an Agent or a Governor was the making of good bargains on the Company's behalf—and sometimes on his own—getting the best prices for European broadcloths and brocades, and buying as cheaply as possible Indian muslins and calicoes and natural produce, for exportation to London, where they were sold at a large profit. Any fighting in which the Company's servants engaged was merely incidental to the pursuit of business in a land in which the ruling sovereigns, as well as the many small chiefs, were constantly at war. It is a maxim that 'Trade follows the Flag;' but in the case of India the Flag has followed Trade.
It is as a commercial man, therefore, that we must picture Mr. Francis Day setting out on his commercial mission; but it can be imagined that the English merchant, starting on an expedition in which he would be likely to seek personal interviews with rajas and nawabs and bid for their favour, set out in such style as would do the Company credit. In our mind's eye we picture Master Francis Day, Chief of Armagaum, standing on the deck of one of the Company's vessels lying at anchor in the Armagaum roads, and receiving his colleagues' farewells. His garb is that of a substantial merchant in the days of King Charles I. It has none of the extravagances that were the fashionable affectations of gay Cavaliers, but its sobriety makes it none the less smart. He wears a purple doublet and hose, a broad white collar edged with lace, and a gracefully-short black-velvet cloak. Curly hair falls beneath his broad-brimmed black hat, but not in long and scented ringlets such as were trained to fall below the shoulders of fashionable gallants at King Charles's court. He is in every way a fitting representative of the Honourable Company.
The bo'sun has piped his whistle, and the last good-byes have been said. The anchor's weighed, and the white sails are spread to the breeze. Master Day waves his hand to his colleagues in the surf-boat which is taking them shoreward, and the ship is headed to the south. The expedition is important—yes, and it was much more important than Master Day imagined; for something more serious than profits on muslin and brocade was on the anvil of fate.
Mr. Francis Day was not sailing southward without definite plans. As the result of enquiries for a promising spot for a new settlement, it was his purpose to see if there was a favourable site in the neighbourhood of the old established Portuguese settlement at Mylapore. The Portuguese authorities at Mylapore, with whom Mr. Day seems to have corresponded, were not unwilling to have English neighbours. The ill-success of the English merchants at Masulipatam had probably allayed any fears that they would be formidable rivals to Portuguese trade at Mylapore; and furthermore the Portuguese welcomed the idea of European neighbours who would be at one with them in opposition to the forceful Dutchmen at Pulicat, up the coast, who showed no respect, not even of a ceremonious kind, for any vested interests—commercial or administrative—to which the Portuguese laid claim.
So Mr. Francis Day's vessel, standing no doubt well out to sea as it sailed past the foreshore of the Pulicat lagoon with its unfriendly Dutchmen, kept its course till the Mylapore churches were sighted and showed that the place where the first inquiries were to be made had been reached. The sails were furled and the anchors were dropped, and we may imagine that a salute was fired in honour of the King of Portugal, and was duly acknowledged.
It was in winter that Mr. Francis Day arrived—a time of the year when Madras looks its best and when the sea-horses are not always at their wildest tricks; and Mr. Francis Day landed without accident, and was pleased with the scene. There are always breakers, however, on the Coromandel Coast, and Mr. Day found the landing so exciting that in his report to the Council at Masulipatam he wrote of 'the heavy and dangerous surf'. But after an inspection of the surroundings he was satisfied with the conditions; he considered that at the mouth of the Cooum river there was an advantageous site for a commercial settlement; and the local ruler, the Naik of Poonamallee, following the advice of the Portuguese authorities, encouraged him in the idea of an English settlement within the Poonamallee domain.
It is not surprising that Mr. Francis Day was pleased with what he saw; for Madras is not without beauty. In those idyllic days, moreover, the Cooum river, which was known then as the Triplicane river—and which even to-day can be beautiful, although for the greater part of the year it is no more than a stagnant ditch—must have been a limpid water-way; and to Mr. Francis Day, seeing it in winter, in which season the current swollen by the rain sometimes succeeds in bursting the bar, it must have appeared almost as a noble river, rushing down to the great sea—a river such as might well have deserved the erection of a town on its banks. The fact that the Portuguese had been at Mylapore for more than a century showed that a settlement was full of promise—and the more so for men with the energy of the English Company's representatives; and the conditions were such that Mr. Francis Day felt himself justified in entering into negotiations with the Naik for the grant of an estate extending five miles along the shore and a mile inland.
The negotiations were successful: but the Naik was subordinate to the lord of the soil, the Raja of Chandragiri, who was the living representative of the once great and magnificent Hindu empire of Vijianagar; and any grant that was made by the Naik of Poonamallee had to be confirmed by the Raja if it was to be made valid. Two or three miles from Chandragiri station, on the Katpadi-Gudur line of railway, is still to be seen the Rajah-Mahal, the palace in which the Raja handed to Mr. Francis Day the formal title to the land. The palace still exists, and it is a fine building, though partly in ruins. It is constructed entirely of granite, without any woodwork whatsoever; but its abounding interest lies not in its structure but in the fact that it was in this palace that the British Empire in India may be said to have been begotten.
There is no little interest in the thought that it was the Raja of Chandragiri that delivered the deed of possession to Mr. Francis Day. The Raja was an obscure representative of a magnificent Indian Empire of the past; Mr. Francis Day was an obscure representative of a magnificent Indian Empire that was yet to be; and the document that the Raja handed to Mr. Francis Day was in reality a patent of Empire, transferred from Vijianagar to Great Britain. It was at Chandragiri that the British Empire in India was begotten; it was at Madras that the British Empire was born.
Mr. Francis Day had fulfilled his mission. He had secured territory where the conditions seemed to give promise of success; and his work was approved. His superior officer, Mr. Andrew Cogan, Agent at Masulipatam, came away from Masulipatam to take charge of Madras, and with the co-operation of Mr. Francis Day he set about the development of the Company's new possession.
Of Mr. Francis Day's personal history we know little or nothing except that he was one of the Company's employees, and that he founded first an unsuccessful settlement at Armagaum—represented to-day by no more than a lighthouse—and afterwards a successful settlement at Madras. Later he was put in charge of the second settlement that he had founded, but he was relieved of, or resigned, the office at the end of a year. He then went to the Company's head-quarters at Bantam, in Java, and afterwards to England. What finally became of him is apparently unknown.
It would probably be difficult to say whether Mr. Francis Day was a great man with great ideals, or was merely a shrewd man of business, reliable for an important commercial mission. Remembering that the Company was strictly a commercial concern, we may think it likely that, in fixing upon Madras as a site for the Company's business, he was guided almost entirely by the question of trade-profits, and that in his mind's eye there were no prophetic visions of imperial glory. And it has been asked indeed whether or not he really chose well in choosing Madraspatnam by the Triplicane river as the site of the proposed new settlement; for there are those who have argued that the prosperity of Madras has been due to dogged British enterprise and placid Indian co-operation, not to natural advantages, and that Madras has prospered in spite of Madras. We must bear in mind, however, the limited geographical knowledge of the times and the limitations to Mr. Francis Day's choice; and, whatever the verdict may be, the fact remains that the Madraspatnam of Mr. Francis Day's selection is now a vast city, and that the Empire of India which was born at Chandragiri is now a mighty institution.
FORT ST. GEORGE
When the tract of land at Madras had been formally acquired, the European colony at Armagaum was forthwith shipped thereto (February, 1640). According to accounts, the colony, with Mr. Andrew Cogan at the head, assisted by Mr. Francis Day and perhaps another chief official, included some three or four British 'writers,' a gunner, a surgeon, a garrison of some twenty-five British soldiers under a lieutenant and a sergeant, a certain number of English carpenters, blacksmiths and coopers, and a small staff of English servants for kitchen and general work.
'Madras was a sandy beach ... where the English began by erecting straw huts.' So says an old-time chronicle, the work of an early resident of Madras; and, if we take the word 'straw' in a broad sense, we can easily conceive the scene. In Madras the bamboo and the palmyra grow in abundance, furnishing materials for the quick provision of cheap and commodious accommodation; and we can picture the pilgrim fathers of Madras camped in palmyra-thatched mat-sheds on the north bank of the Cooum river, near the bar, the while that the houses within the plan of the fort are being built.
[Footnote 1: The chronicle was written by Manucci, an Italian doctor of an adventurous disposition, who, after varied and surprising experiences in northern India, settled down in Madras in 1686, and married a Eurasian widow. 'Manucci's Garden,' where he lived, covered a large area which is now occupied by a number of the houses at the Law College end of Popham's Broadway, on the side that is nearest the sea. The garden was watered by a stream that used to flow where the Broadway tram-lines now hold their course. Vide map, p. 10.]
The 'sandy beach' has been waked from its longaeval placidity. Trains of bullock-carts are lumbering along new-made tracks, bringing stone and laterite and bricks and timber from various centres; and endless files of coolies, with baskets on their heads, are bringing sand from the summer-dry edges of the bed of the Cooum river. In the foreground of the picture, scores of chattering village-labourers, from Triplicane and other hamlets hard by, are working under the directions of the mechanical employees of the Company, chipping stone, mixing lime, sawing timber, carrying bricks and stones and mortar, or laying them adroitly in place, with little dependence on line and level.
In the course of a few months the buildings were sufficiently advanced for occupation. The main building was the 'factory,' which formerly signified a mercantile office; and it was here that the Company's chief officials, who were styled 'factors' (agents), assisted by writers and apprentices, transacted the Company's business, and were also lodged. Included amongst the buildings were warehouses for the Company's goods, and also barrack-like residences for the Company's subordinate British employees, civil and military, according to their rank.
From the very beginning the settlement was called Fort St. George, but it was several years before the buildings were surrounded by a high and fortified wall. It was in no spirit of military aggression that the Company's agents enclosed their settlement with a bastioned rampart, from whose battlements big cannon frowned on all sides round. The Company's representatives were 'gentle merchaunts,' to whom peace spelt prosperity; but the times were lawless, and the gentle merchants were wise enough to recognize that days might come when it would be necessary to defend their merchandise and themselves, as well as the town of Madras, from the roving robber or the princely raider or the revengeful trade-rival, and that military preparedness was a dictate of prudence. The days came!
On such occasions the excitement in Fort St. George must have been great. We can imagine the anxiety with which, when the sentry gave the alarm, the gentle merchants climbed upon the walls and looked out at the horsemen that were to be descried in the distance, and asked one another disconsolately whether it was in peace or in war that they came. A brief notice of some of the occasions on which the Fort was in danger will be interesting.
Some fifty years after the Fort had been founded, a party of soldiers under the Commander-in-Chief of the Mohammedan King of Golconda pursued some of the King's enemies into Madras, "burning and Robbing of houses, and taking the Companies Cloth and goods," whereupon the Governor of the Fort sent them word that "he would use means to force them out of the Towne: Uppon which they retreated out of shott of the Fort." They returned, however, with additional strength, and for eight months they besieged the stronghold, but without success; and then they wearied of their hopeless endeavour, and marched away.
Later, a Dutch force, supported by Mohammedan cavalry, besieged San Thome, which was then in the hands of the French; and for the purpose of the siege they occupied Triplicane village, mounting their cannon within the walls of Triplicane Temple, which they used as a fort. During the several weeks of the siege of San Thome a powerful Dutch squadron blockaded the coast of Madras; and, as Britain and Holland were at war in Europe, there was constant anxiety in Fort St. George; but the Dutchmen contented themselves with the capture of San Thome, and were prudent enough to let Fort St. George alone.
In the days of Queen Anne, Da-ud Khan, Nawab of the Carnatic, at the head of a large force, was reported to be marching to Madras. In Fort St. George there was much anxiety as to the purpose of his visit, and 'By order of the Governor and Council' various protective measures were immediately proclaimed. The proclamation is to be found in full in the Company's Minutes; and we find an amusing reminder of the Company's mercantile raison d'etre in the fact that immediately after the military edicts comes the order 'That all the Company's cloth be brought from the washers, washed and unwashed, to prevent its being plundered.' The Nawab came, and he uttered threats, but he was mollified with luxurious entertainment. Inviting himself and his dewan and his chamberlain to dinner with the Governor and Councillors in the Fort, he was received with imposing honours, and was feasted in the Council Chamber at a magnificent banquet. The minutes relate that after dinner he was "diverted with the dancing wenches," and finally he got "very Drunk." At breakfast the next day in the Company's 'Garden,' His Highness again got "very drunk and fell a Sleep;" and a few days later he marched his army away. In his sober moments, however, he had been slyly measuring the Company's strength; and six months later he came back with a larger force, and blockaded Madras. He plundered all that he could, and on one occasion his spoil included "40 ox loads of the Company's cloth." For more than three months the blockade continued, and the Company's trade was entirely stopped, and provisions in Madras were exceedingly scarce. Da-ud Khan, eventually wearying of the unsuccessful siege, named the price that would buy him off; and the Council, fearing the wrath of the Directors at the loss of their trade, were glad to come to terms. The Company's Minute on the occasion is a brief but exultant record: 'The siege is raised!'
In 1746 there was a siege of a more serious sort. England and France were at war in Europe, and suddenly a squadron of French ships appeared off Fort St. George. After a week's siege, the English merchants capitulated to superior force, and they were all sent to Pondicherry as prisoners, and the French flag waved over Madras; but by the treaty which ended the war, Madras was restored to the Company. Twelve years later Madras was once more besieged by the French, but unsuccessfully, and eventually the French leaders marched their forces away, quarrelling among themselves over their ill-success.
On several occasions, bodies of horsemen in the service of the adventurous Haidar Ali of Mysore, raided the country almost up to the Fort ditch, and were sometimes to be seen shaking their spears in defiance at the sentries on its walls.
These were not the only occasions on which Fort St. George was assailed, but they suffice to show how necessary it was that the Company's employees and their wares should be housed within the walls of a fort.
Fort St. George in the beginning was very small. Its external length parallel with the seashore was 108 yards, and its breadth was 100 yards. When White Town, which grew up around it, was fortified, there was 'a fort within a fort' (vide Map, p. 10); but eventually the inner wall was demolished. At various times the outer wall has been altered, but the Fort as we have it to-day is the selfsame Fort St. George nevertheless, a glorious relic of bygone times, and verily a history in stone.
The gates of Fort St. George open towards main thoroughfares of Madras, and it is permitted to anybody to pass in and out; but it is not visited nearly so much as its historic associations deserve. Let us pass within, and see if we cannot catch something like inspiration from the scene where so much history has been made, and where a great Empire was born.
An old-world feeling comes over us directly we leave the highroad and make our way down the sloped passage and across the drawbridge over the moat, past the massive gates and under the echoing tunnel that leads through the mighty walls. Within we see the parapets on which in bygone days the cannon thundered at the foe. We pass on into the great spaces of the Fort; and in our imagination we can people them with ghosts of the illustrious—or notorious—dead. It was here that, in the reign of King James the Second, Master Elihu Yale assumed the Governorship of Madras, did hard work in the Company's behalf but also made a large fortune for himself, lost his son aged four, quarrelled long and bitterly with his councillors, and was at last superseded. It was here that Robert Clive, aged nineteen, newly arrived from England, entered upon his duties as an apprenticed writer in the Company's service, at a salary of five pounds per annum; it was here, in St. Mary's Church, eight years later, when he had won his first laurels, that he married the sister of one of the fellow-writers of his griffinhood; and it was here, in 'Clive's House,' which is still to be seen (now the Office of the Accountant-General), that he lived with his wife. The ancient Council Chamber is replete with historic associations; and St. Mary's Church offers material for many researchful and meditative visits. The streets have history in their names. 'Charles and James Street,' for example, which is a present-day combination of two streets of yore, is jointly commemorative of the days of the Merry Monarch and of his royal but unfortunate brother. Enough! It is not my purpose to produce a guide-book to Madras, but to promote an appreciation of the historic interests of the city; and I take it that the reader has realized that Fort St. George is interesting indeed.
When an English colony had settled down in Fort St. George, it was only to be expected that a town would spring up outside. The personal necessities of the numerous colonists had to be supplied, and purveyors and bazaarmen and workmen made themselves readily available for the supply. The requirements in respect of the Company's mercantile business were yet greater. The Company's agents wanted not only native employees in their office—'dubashes' and 'shroffs' and clerks and interpreters and porters and peons, but they also wanted wholesale buyers of the cloth and other articles that they imported from England for sale, and also merchants who could supply them with large quantities of the Indian wares that the Company exported to England; and they were able to get the men that they wanted.
A crowd attracts a crowd; and when once a town has begun to grow, it goes on growing of its own accord; and ten years after the acquisition of Madras, the population of the town was estimated at as many as 15,000 souls. The Fort itself, moreover, had to be enlarged; for the growth of the Company's business meant that more and more factors and writers had to be brought out from England, and more and more warehouses had to be provided for the multiplied wares; and, moreover, the increasing lawlessness of the times necessitated a larger garrison. Outside the Fort, Indian and other immigrants flocked from near and far to settle down within the Company's domains, looking for profit under the white men's protection; and, with their enterprising spirit, they played no small part in the development of Madras.
The town that grew up outside the little fort was divided into two sections—'the White Town' and 'the Black Town.' The boundaries of White Town corresponded roughly with what are now the boundaries of Fort St. George itself. The original Black Town—'Old Black Town'—covered what is now the vacant ground that lies between the Fort and the Law College, and included what are now the sites of the Law College and the High Court (vide Map, p. 10). The inhabitants of White Town included any British settlers not in the Company's service whose presence the Company approved, also all approved Portuguese and Eurasian immigrants from Mylapore, and a certain number of approved Indian Christians. White Town indeed was sometimes called the 'Christian Town.' Black Town was the Asiatic settlement. The great majority of the original Indian settlers were not Tamilians but Telugus—written down as 'Gentoos' in the Company's Records.
The Company's agents encouraged people of various races to reside in Madras; and the names of some of the streets and districts of the town are interesting testimonies as to the variety of the people who came.
Armenian Street—which began as an Armenian burial-ground (vide Map, p. 10)—is an example. Armenians from Persia, like their fellow-countrymen the Parsees, have a racial gift for commerce; and Armenian merchants had been in India long before the English arrived. Enterprising Armenian merchants settled in Madras in its early days to trade with the English colonists, and the Company's agents were glad to have as middlemen such able merchants who were in close touch with the people of the land. The most celebrated of the earlier Armenians in Madras was Peter Uscan, Armenian by race but Roman Catholic in religion, who lived in Madras for more than forty years, till his death there in 1751, at the age of seventy. He was a rich and public-spirited merchant. He built the Marmalong Bridge over the Adyar river, on one of the pillars of which a quaint inscription is still to be read, and he left a fund for its maintenance; he also renewed the multitude of stone steps that lead up to the top of St. Thomas's Mount. His inscribed tomb is to be seen in the churchyard of the Anglican Church of St. Matthias, Vepery, which in olden days was the churchyard of a Roman Catholic chapel. Within the last half-century the Armenian community in Madras has been rapidly declining, as the result, probably, of inability to cope with the hustling style of commercial competition in these latter days; and only a very few representatives of the race are now to be seen in the city.
In Mint Street there is a small enclosure which is the remains of what was once a Jewish cemetery of considerable size; and the graves that are still to be seen are interesting reminders of the fact that in bygone times there was a Hebrew colony in Madras. In more than one of the Company's old records the Jews in Madras are referred to as being rich men, some of whom held positions of high civic authority. Some of them were English Jews, and others were Portuguese; and most of them were diamond merchants, on the look-out for diamonds from the mines of Golconda, which were formerly very productive. The English Jews exported diamonds to England, and imported silver and coral to Madras; coral was in great demand in India, and was sent out by Jewish firms in London. There is still a 'Coral Merchants' Street' in Madras, a continuation of Armenian Street, and it is a living reminder of the old Jewish colony. The Golconda mines eventually ceased to be productive, and Jewish diamond merchants are no longer to be seen in the city, and the Jewish colony has long since disappeared. Jews are notorious all the world over as money-lenders, and it may perhaps be wondered why none of them survived as money-lenders in Madras; but the fact that Coral Merchants' Street is now the habitat of Nattukottai Chetties, who are past-masters in the art of money-lending, suggests that even the Jews were unable to compete with Madras sowcars in the business of usury, and that the Chetties displaced the Jews who used to live in the street. The little Jewish cemetery in crowded Mint Street is an interesting spot. One of the antique tomb-stones has been caught in the branch of a tree and has been lifted high in air, and is a quaint sight; and the deserted little Hebrew graveyard itself is symbolic of the dispersion of the ancient people.
It is a curious fact that the Company's employees in South India never spoke of Indian Mohammedans as Mohammedans or as Moslems or as Mussalmans, but always as 'Moors.' It is thus that the name of 'Moor Street' is to be accounted for. The original 'Moors Street' was a street in which Mohammedans used to live, and the fact that one particular street in a large city should have borne such a name is evidence of another fact, namely, that in the earlier years of Madras very few Mohammedans resided in the town. It should be remembered that Madraspatnam, Triplicane, Egmore, and the other hamlets that went to make up the city of Madras were all of them Hindu villages; and it was only now and again that Mohammedans, in some capacity or another, found their way into the town. In the earlier years of Madras a single mosque sufficed for all the few Mohammedans therein. The mosque was located in 'Moors Street' in old Black Town, a street that was the predecessor of the 'Moor Street' of to-day. It was not till nearly fifty years after the acquisition of the site of Madras that a second mosque was built—in Muthialpet; and these two small mosques supplied Mohammedan requirements for many years. The fact is that Madras was so frequently troubled by successive Mohammedan enemies—the King of Golconda; Da-ud Khan, Nawab of the Carnatic; Haidar Ali, Sultan of Mysore; his son Tipu, and others—that the Company was disposed to regard all 'Moors' with mistrust, so much so that they discouraged Mohammedan residents; and a measure was passed with the special intention 'to prevent the Moors purchasing too much land in the Black Town.' There are large crowds of Mohammedans in Madras now, grouped especially in Chepauk and the adjoining Triplicane and Royapettah; and this is due to the fact that in later days Nawab Walajah of Arcot, who was friendly to the English, came and settled down in Madras. He built Chepauk Palace for his residence, and the many Mohammedans who followed him into the city formed the nucleus of a large Mohammedan colony.
The name 'China Bazaar' appears early in the Madras Records; and it would seem to have been the place where Chinese crockery was on sale. Whether or not the salesmen were Chinese immigrants I cannot say; but the fact that another street in Madras bears the name of 'Chinaman Street' suggests that there was at one time a colony of pig-tailed yellow-men in the city. The supposition is not unlikely, for China was included within the sphere of the Company's commercial operations, with Madras as the head-quarters of the trade, and ships of the Company plied regularly between China and Madras. Tea was one of the articles of trade, but Chinese crockery was in great demand in India, and ship-loads of cheap China bowls and plates and dishes were imported; and valuable specimens of Chinese porcelain were highly esteemed by wealthy Indians—so much so that it is on record that one of the Moghul emperors had a slave put to death for having accidentally broken a costly China dish which the emperor particularly admired.
As the Company's trade was very largely in cloth, it can be understood that the Company's agents were eager to induce spinners and weavers to settle in Madras, so that cloth might be bought for the Company at the lowest possible prices from the weavers direct. Elihu Yale, who was one of the early Governors of the Fort, imported some fifty weaver-families and located them in 'Weavers' street', the street that is now known as Nyniappa Naick Street, in Georgetown. Some twenty-five years later, Governor Collet established a number of imported weavers in the northern suburb of Tiruvattur, in a village that was given the name 'Collet Petta' in the Governor's honour—a name that degenerated into 'Kalati Pettah'—'Loafer-land'—its present appellation. There was still a demand for more weavers, and eventually a large vacant tract was marked out as a 'Weavers' Town,' under the name of Chindadre Pettah—the modern Chintadripet. In order to attract weavers, houses were built at the Company's expense, which weavers were permitted to occupy as hereditary possessions. It was formally decreed that "None but Weavers, Spinners, and other persons useful in the Weaving trade, Painters (i.e. designers of patterns for chintz), Washers (bleachers), Dyers, Bettleca-merchants (beetle-sellers), Brahmins and Dancing women, and other necessary attendants on the pagoda (erected in the settlement) shall inhabit the said town." In Chintadripet to-day there are still many spinners and weavers; and one of the sights in Chintadripet—growing gradually more rare—is the spectacle of primitively-clad urchins or grown men spinning in the streets with primitive gear and in primitive fashion; and it is interesting to recall the fact that this has been going on in Chintadripet for nearly two centuries—an industry which the Company established.
Washermanpet is another such locality. It was not so called, as many people imagine, for being a land of dhobies (male laundresses). In the Company's vocabulary a 'washerman' was a man who 'bleached' new-made cloth; and the Company employed a number of bleachers. The bleaching process needed large open spaces—washing-greens—on which the cloth could be laid out in the sun to be bleached; and Washermanpet covered a considerable area.
A great many more of the streets and districts of Madras have history in their names; but the few that we have dealt with suffice to exemplify the manner of the expansion of the city of Madras. We can picture the rustic suppliers crowding into the city to sell the produce of their fields; we can picture the humble weavers migrating into the city with their wives and their children, and with their pots and their pans and their quaint machines, in response to the Company's tempting invitation; we can picture the small tradesmen and the small mechanics setting up their humble shops in the new city in which they believed that fortunes were to be made. And in the higher grades of life we can picture the grave Armenian merchants, the submissive Jews, the mistrusted 'Moors,' and others seeking interviews with Stuart or Georgian-garbed factors of the Company, and eager all of them to turn the Company to profitable account.
Skirting a thoroughfare in Old Jail Street, in North Georgetown, is still to be seen a part of 'the Wall' that protected Black Town in bygone days. This interesting remnant of the Wall of Madras might before long have been levelled to the ground, either by successive monsoons or by philistine contractors in want of 'material;' but, with a happy regard for a relic of Old Madras, the Madras Government have recently undertaken the task of preserving the ruin, which they have officially declared an 'historic memorial.'
The 'Wall of Madras' is worthy of a meditative visit, but, in order that the meditation may be on an historic basis, it is necessary to know something about the Wall itself.
We have seen that when the Company established themselves at Madras, in 1639, they first built a small fort for the protection of themselves and their goods. Around the walls of the Fort a number of Christians—English and Portuguese and Eurasians—settled down, and what was called 'White Town' came into being. Within a term of years this White Town was itself enclosed within fortified walls, which were finally identical with the wall round Fort St. George to-day. There was thus 'a fort within a fort;' but in course of time the inner wall was pulled down.
Immediately outside the northern wall of White Town lay Black Town, inhabited by Indians—employees and purveyors of the Company, as well as merchants, shop-keepers, industrialists, and the rest. It should be borne in mind that the site of this original Black Town was altogether different from the site of the later Black Town, the 'Georgetown' of to-day. Old Black Town, as already explained, extended from the northern wall of the Fort to what is now called the Esplanade Road, and it covered the ground that is now taken up by the Wireless Telegraph enclosure, the grounds of the High Court, and those of the Law College (vide map, p. 10).
Black Town was at first without any wall, and, as the times were unsettled, the place was exposed to the serious danger of being raided by any adventurous band of marauders. Very soon, however, a beginning was made of enclosing the town with a mud wall; and in the reign of Queen Anne a wall was built with masonry. Meanwhile, moreover, numerous houses and streets had sprung up outside the wall, on the site of the Georgetown of to-day.
In 1746 the French captured Fort St. George; and they destroyed not only the Black Town Wall but also Black Town itself. It was a disastrous episode in the history of Madras. For six years the English and the French had been at war in Europe, and the relations between the English and French colonists in India were naturally strained; but they were settlers within the dominions of Indian rulers, and, although both the English and the French had ships and soldiers for the protection of their settlements, they realized that they were not at liberty to make war upon each other. The settlers, moreover, were employees of mercantile companies, working for dividends; and war, with its calamitous expenditure, was not within their design. But Dupleix, the talented French Governor of Pondicherry, had ambitious ideas for the extension of French influence in India, and, in defiance of Indian rulers, war broke out. In the beginning there were several engagements at sea between a French squadron under Labourdonnais and an English squadron under Captain Peyton. The English squadron was worsted, and had to put into Trincomalee Harbour, in Ceylon, to refit. Thereupon Labourdonnais, after making quick preparations at Pondicherry, sailed for Madras; and the alarm in the Fort and in the city must have been great when his ships appeared off the coast and proceeded to bombard the settlement. His guns, however, did but little damage, and the citizens woke up the next morning to find, to their great content, that the enemy had sailed away during the night. Meanwhile Captain Peyton, having repaired his ships, was unaware of what had happened at Madras, and sailed from Ceylon to Bengal, without touching at Fort St. George. Possibly he was lured to Bengal by bogus messages of French origin; for, as soon as he was out of the way, Labourdonnais reappeared off Madras, better prepared than before. Having succeeded in landing a considerable force, he erected batteries on shore and from various points he bombarded White Town, which was now the actual Fort St. George. At the end of an unhappy seven days the garrison capitulated. The French marched into the Fort, and all the English residents, civil and military—including the Governor and the Members of Council, and also Robert Clive, who was then a young clerk—were sent to Pondicherry as prisoners of war.
For nearly three years the French flag flew over Fort St. George, until, in accordance with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, made between the combatants in Europe, Madras was restored to the Company.
During their occupation the French had made great changes. Feeling the necessity of strengthening their position, their military commanders realized what had apparently not been recognized by the Company's employees, untrained in war—namely that a weak-walled native town lying right against the northern wall of Fort St. George was a serious danger. The houses offered convenient cover for any enemies that might attack the Fort; and, moreover, any disaffected or venal townsman was in a position to give the assailants valuable help. The French Governor set himself, therefore, to the deliberate destruction of Black Town. He first destroyed the Town Wall, and then—for a distance of 400 yards from the northern wall of White Town, or the present Fort St. George—he demolished every house. The area that is now represented by the Wireless Telegraph Station and the grounds of the High Court thus became an open space. Meanwhile they constructed a moat and glacis round the walls of White Town, which, with certain alterations, are the moat and glacis of Fort St. George to-day.
The Records express the melancholy interest with which the Company's employees, when they re-entered Madras, took note of the changes that the enemy had made in the familiar settlement. The Councillors apparently conceived that it was in a wanton spirit of destruction that the greater part of Black Town had been wiped out; for they formally decided that the streets that had been destroyed should be rebuilt. It may be supposed however, that their military advisers counselled them otherwise; for, so far from the old houses being rebuilt, those that had been left standing were destroyed. The open space was allowed to remain; and 'New Black Town'—the modern 'Georgetown'—began to be developed. It continued to be called 'Black Town' until the visit of the Prince of Wales (afterwards King George V) to Madras in 1906 when it was formally re-named 'Georgetown'—ostensibly in Prince George's honour, but in reality to meet the wishes of a number of the residents who sought an opportunity of getting rid of what they regarded—quite reasonably—as an objectionable name for the locality in which their lot was cast. The disappearance of the historic name is a matter for historic regret, but a concession had to be made to the intelligible wishes of residents.
The Company, bearing in mind that the French had been able to capture Madras, realized that it was necessary to strengthen the defences of Fort St. George and also to provide adequate protection for the new native city that had grown up outside the Fort's protective walls and was absolutely without defence. The defences of the Fort were taken in hand at once, though the work was by no means completed; and the Directors in England readily sanctioned the construction of a wall round New Black Town. It was well that the security of the Fort was looked to without any long delay; for in 1758, a large French army under Count Lally besieged the Fort again—but so unsuccessfully that, after sixty-seven days of persistent endeavour, they beat a sudden retreat. It was a good many years, however, before the building of the wall round Black Town was taken seriously in hand—and then only because the Company had been given a succession of sharp warnings that it was absolutely necessary that new Black Town should be protected.
The French themselves had given the first warning during the siege under Count Lally; for, although they were powerless against the Fort, they were able to enter Black Town without opposition, and they made use of some of the houses for the purpose of the siege. The next warning was given a few years later when Tipu, the son of Haidar Ali, Sultan of Mysore, after ravaging the country round Madras, came so near to the city itself that parties of his horsemen were scampering about in the suburb of Chintadripet. Tipu's raid induced the Company to bring forth the approved but long-shelved plans for a wall round Black Town; but there was still much more discussion than work. The Company needed yet another awakening; and they got a stern one two years later. We quote the story from the Company's official records, published by the Madras Government. It is contained in a minute in the official Diary of Fort St. George, dated the 29th of March, 1769, which runs as follows:—
About 8 o'Clock this morning several Parties of the Enemy's (Haidar Ali's) horse appeared in the Bounds of this Place at St. Thome and Egmore, from which latter place some guns were fired at them.... At eleven o'Clock a fellow was caught plundering at Triplicane and brought into Town, who gave Intelligence that Hyder himself was on the other side of St. Thome with the greatest part of his horse. In the afternoon Advice came that the Enemy's horse were moving from St. Thome round to the Northward with a design, as was supposed, to make an attempt on the Black Town.
It would have been difficult to have defended the unwalled town; and on the following day the Council of Fort St. George sent Mr. DuPre, Chief Councillor and succeeding Governor, to Haidar Ali's camp, on the other side of the Marmalong Bridge, to come to terms with the invader; and within three days a treaty had been made. The treaty, said Mr. DuPre, writing to a friend, "will do us no honor: yet it was necessary, and there was no alternative but that or worse."
After this humiliation the building of the Wall was regarded as a pressing necessity; and within a year the work was practically finished.
It was well indeed that the work was done; for a few years afterwards, on the 10th of August, 1780, Haidar's cavalry raided San Thome and Triplicane, killing a number of people; and the terror in Black Town was so great that crowds of the inhabitants took flight. Fortunately, however, the Governor was able to issue the following notification for the reassurance of the public:—'A sufficient number of guns have been mounted on the Black Town wall,' and 'nothing has been omitted that I can think of for the security of the Black Town.' Haidar was not sufficiently venturesome to attack the fortified town; but the terror of the inhabitants was by no means at an end; for a little later came the disastrous news that a British force sent out to meet the invader had been cut to pieces at Conjeevaram. Eventually, however, the Mysoreans were defeated, and the treaty of peace was a triumph for the Company.
The long delay in the building of the Wall was chiefly due to the fact that the representatives of the Company, being commercial men, naturally gave their chief attention to the Company's mercantile business, and were apt to disregard the immediate necessity of expensive schemes which the Company's military officers put forward as strategic requirements. When the Wall was first talked about, after the recovery of Madras from the French, the Directors in England, who always kept a tight hand on the Company's purse-strings, declared that the inhabitants of Black Town ought to be made to pay for the cost of their own defences, and should be taxed accordingly; and the name of the 'Wall Tax Road,' which runs alongside the Central Station to the Salt Cotaurs, is a standing reminder of the Directors' decree, while the road itself is an indication of the alignment of the western wall. The people protested indignantly against being taxed for the purpose, and, as a matter of fact, the representatives of the Company in India doubted whether they would be within their legal rights in compelling them to pay; and the tax was never actually levied. What with the Wall Tax Road on the west and the seashore on the east, the existing remains on the north, and the Esplanade on the south, it is not difficult to form a general idea of the direction of the four sides of the wall within which the later Black Town was enclosed.
Such is the story of 'The Wall;' and the remains are an interesting relic of lawless times when at any minute it was possible that crowds of terror-stricken folk would suddenly be pouring through the gateways of the city at the alarming news that strange horsemen were dashing here and there in one or another of the suburbs, demanding money and jewels from the people and slaughtering unhappy individuals who tried to evade a response.
We have seen that the Company were careful to develop both White Town and Black Town. They were not content, however, with mere developments, for they took pains also to extend their territorial possessions.
The strip of land that was acquired by Mr. Francis Day was not large. Roughly, it extended along the seashore from the mouth of the Cooum to an undefined point beyond the present harbour, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Cassimode, and inland as far as what was called the North River, which is now represented by Cochrane's Canal—the canal that runs between the Central Station and the People's Park. It will be interesting to note how some of the various other parts of the present city came into the Company's possession.
On several occasions the representatives of various dynasties that were successively supreme over Madras made grants of additional land to the Company. The village of Triplicane was the first addition,——some twenty years after the acquisition of Madras. The village was granted by the representative of the Mohammedan King of Golconda, for an annual rent of Rs. 175, which ceased to be paid when the Golconda dynasty shortly afterwards came to an end. Later, in compliance with a petition by Governor Elihu Yale to the Emperor Aurangzeb, the Company received a free grant of 'Tandore (Tondiarpet), Persewacca (Pursewaukam), and Yegmore (Egmore).' Still later, in the reign of Aurangzeb's son and successor, the village of Lungambacca (Nungumbaukam), now the principal residential district of Europeans in Madras, was granted to the Company, together with four adjoining villages, for a total annual rent of 1,500 pagodas (say Rs. 5,250). The Emperor's officers argued that the rent ought to have been larger, but the Company, conforming to the spirit of corruption that was in fashion, were wily enough to send by a Brahman and a Mohammedan conjointly a sum of Rs. 700 'to be distributed amongst the King's officers who keep the Records, in order to settle this matter.' The village of Vepery—variously called in olden documents Ipere, Ypere, Vipery, and Vapery—lay between Egmore and Pursewaukam; and the Company, being naturally desirous of consolidating their territory, proceeded at once to try to obtain a grant of the place; but successive efforts on the part of Governor Elihu Yale came to naught; and it was not till much later (1742) when the Nawab of Arcot was lord of the soil, that Vepery was acquired from the Nawab. The manner of its acquisition is interesting. The preceding Nawab had just been murdered, and the Carnatic army disowning the ambitious rival who had murdered him, proclaimed the dead Nawab's son as his successor. The new Nawab was but a youth, and he was residing at the time in one of the big houses in Black Town. The Company were politic enough to celebrate the lad's accession with grand doings. They escorted him in a splendid procession to the Company's Gardens, which were situated along the bank of the river Cooum, where the General Hospital and the Medical College now stand. In the Gardens there was a fine house, containing a spacious hall, which the Company had specially designed for great occasions; and there the lad's accession was formally announced; and finally he was escorted in procession back to his dwelling. The Company profited by their politic demonstration; for, in return for their courtesies to the young Nawab, the lad gratified their desires by making them a rent-free grant of the village of Vepery, and also of Perambore and other lands. It may be added that the boy-king was unfortunate; for he was murdered within two years of his accession, at the instance of the man who had murdered his father.
San Thome was acquired in 1749; and the story of the acquisition is not without interest. The names 'San Thome' and 'Mylapore' are often used as alternative designations for one and the same locality; but in bygone days the two names represented quite different places. Mylapore was a very ancient Indian town, which seems to have been in existence long before the birth of Christ. San Thome was a seventeenth century Portuguese settlement close by. It is an old tradition that St. Thomas the Apostle was martyred just outside Mylapore; and when the Portuguese first came to India some of them visited Mylapore to look for relics of the saint. They found some ruined Christian churches, and also a tomb which they believed to be the tomb of St. Thomas; and soon afterwards a Portuguese monastery was established on the spot. A Portuguese town grew up around the monastery; and in course of time the town became a commercial centre, and was surrounded with a fortified wall, and was the Portuguese settlement of San Thome, over against the Indian town of Mylapore. An Italian dealer in precious stones who visited India in the sixteenth century wrote of San Thome that it was 'as fair a city' as any that he had seen in the land; and he described Mylapore as being an Indian city surrounded by its own mud wall. Mylapore was thus in effect the Black Town of San Thome; but in later days the two towns were combined. When the English came to Fort St. George, the power of the Portuguese was already waning; and the development of the influence of the English at Madras meant a further lessening of the influence of the Portuguese at San Thome; and it was a natural consequence that San Thome, including Mylapore, became a prey to successive assailants. Its first captor was the lord of the soil, the Mohammedan King of Golconda. Next, the French took it from Golconda; and two years later Golconda, with the help of the Dutch, recaptured it from the French. The Dutch were content with a share of the plunder for their reward, and left Golconda in possession. On the self-interested advice of the English at Fort St. George, Golconda destroyed the fortifications. He then put the town up for sale. The Company were prepared to buy it, and so were the Portuguese; but a rich Mohammedan named Cassa Verona found favour with Golconda's Moslem officials, and secured the town on a short lease. Next it was leased to the Hindu Governor of Poonamallee; and then for a big price it went back again to the Portuguese. Towards the end of the seventeenth century the great Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb dethroned the lord of the soil, the King of Golconda; and, although the Portuguese were not turned out of San Thome, it was now a part of the Moghul Empire, and was put in charge of a Moslem ruler. After Aurangzeb's death, the Moghul Empire broke up, and the Nawab of Arcot eventually became independent, and San Thome was part of his dominions. In 1749, when Madras, after the French occupation, was restored to the English by an order from Paris, in accordance with the treaty of Aix la Chapelle, Dupleix at Pondicherry was bitterly disappointed at the rendition, and he formed designs for the acquisition of San Thome for France, as a set-off for the loss of Madras. The English at Fort St. George had information of his schemes, and, being in no way desirous of having aggressive Frenchmen for close neighbours, they forestalled Dupleix by persuading the Nawab to make the Company a grant of 'Mylapore, alias St. Thome,' on condition that the Company should undertake to help the Nawab with men and money whenever he should call upon them to do so. It was thus that San Thome became a British possession; and, although it was afterwards ravaged successively by the French under Count Lally and by Haidar Ali of Mysore, it has remained a British possession ever since.
We have said enough to show the manner in which the different parts of the modern city of Madras came into the hands of the English. The methods were not always wholly admirable; but we must remember that the East India Company was a mercantile association, fighting for its existence under diamond-cut-diamond conditions; and we must remember also that, although its representatives at Madras were sent out to India not to rule but to earn dividends for the shareholders, yet the Company's rule over Madras was so upright that crowds of people were continually flocking into Madras to enjoy its benefits.
The suburban lands which were successively granted to the Company were not protected either by the walls of Fort St. George or by the walls of Black Town, and it was accordingly necessary that special means should be adopted for their defence. The Company's military engineers devised the erection of small suburban forts ('redoubts'), block-houses, and batteries, which were to be mounted with cannon and to be in charge of an appropriate garrison, and were to serve as outposts for the protection of the outlying quarters of the city.
On the northern side of Black Town the batteries and block-houses were linked together by a thick-set hedge of palmyras, bamboos, prickly-pear, and thorny bushes, such that neither infantry nor cavalry could force a way through. Later it was decreed that the 'Bound Hedge,' as it was called, should be extended so as to encircle the whole city. The work, however, was never completed, for as late as 1785 an influential European inhabitant of Madras, addressing the Government on the subject of the insecurity of the city, wrote:—
"Was the Bound Hedge finished, no man could desert. No Spy could pass; provisions would be cheap. All the Garden Houses, as well as thirty-three Square Miles of Ground, would be in security from the invasions of irregular Horse."
Of the suburban fortifications the two largest were at Egmore and at San Thome. Next in size were those at Nungumbaukam and at Pursewaukam. Of smaller works there were many. Of the fortifications at Nungumbaukam and at Pursewaukam all traces have disappeared; but of the larger ones at San Thome and at Egmore interesting remains are still to be seen.
The remains of the San Thome Redoubt stand within the grounds of 'Leith Castle,' a house that lies south of the San Thome Cathedral. The remains are ruins, but the massive walls fifteen feet high and three feet thick, are suggestive of the purpose for which the redoubt was built. The 'Records' show that the San Thome Redoubt, built in 1751, was a very complete fortification, with a moat forty feet wide, a glacis, and all the other works that are usual in respect of a well appointed building of the kind. That it was of a large size is to be seen in the fact that, when the French under Count Lally were besieging Madras, an English officer was officially directed 'to stay in St. Thome Fort with the Europeans belonging to Chingleput, four Companies of sepoys, and fifty horse.'
The Egmore Redoubt was a good deal older than that of San Thome. It was constructed in the days of Queen Anne. It was intended, of course, for the special protection of Egmore; but in those distant days when trips to the hills were unknown, even Egmore was a health-resort in respect of the crowded Fort St. George, and it was officially reported that the Egmore Redoubt might 'serve for a convenience for the sick Soldiers when arrived from England, for the recovery of their health, it being a good air.' The Egmore Redoubt was evidently a need; for the 'Records' tell us that on various occasions its guns were fired at the enemy. The enemy were for the most part horsemen of Haidar Ali or of Tipu, his son and successor; and in 1799 the year in which Tipu was killed, the need for the Redoubt disappeared. Adjoining the precincts of the Redoubt were the premises of the Male Asylum, an Anglo-Indian Orphanage, which required to be extended, and in the following year the Madras Government gave the Redoubt to the Asylum, and the two premises were turned into a common enclosure. In the beginning of the present century the Directors of the Asylum sold their Egmore estate to the South Indian Railway Company and removed to new premises in the Poonamallee road; and what remains of the Egmore Redoubt is now the habitation of some of the Railway employees.
The remains are of quaint interest. At some date or another the authorities of the Asylum had an upper story added to one of the military buildings, with the result that there is the strange spectacle of a row of windowed chambers on the top of a buttressed and battlemented wall, windowless and grim. The upper story has been built into the battlements in such a manner that the outline of the battlements is still clearly visible, and the building is a composite reminder of old-time war and latter-day peace. The whole of the lower part of the building, with its massive walls and its frowning aspect, is of curious and suggestive interest; and the ground around, which is extensively bricked, is a reminder of the fact that the Redoubt in its original form was large indeed. The place provides interesting material for antiquarian speculation.
THE CHURCH IN THE FORT
St. Mary's Church within the walls of Fort St. George is the oldest Protestant church in India, and, except for some of the oldest bits of the Fort walls, it is the oldest British building in Madras city, and even in India itself. It dates from 1680.
When Madras was rising upon its foundations, the Company's employees were not only without a church but also without a pastor; for the Company did not think it necessary to go to the expense of providing a chaplain for so small a community. But it was an age in which religious services on Sunday were seldom neglected; and it may be conceived that, in default of a chaplain at Fort St. George, the Governor himself or his delegate read the Church Service on Sunday morning and evening, in the hearing of the assembled employees of the Company, and perhaps also some selections from the published sermons of distinguished Elizabethan divines.
In the Portuguese settlement of San Thome there were numerous Roman Catholic priests, and some of them ministered to the numerous Portuguese and other Roman Catholic residents of White Town around Fort St. George, as also of Black Town close by. So numerous indeed were the Roman Catholic residents of White Town within three years of the foundation of the Fort that the Governor permitted a French priest to build a chapel in the Town. It was thus not a little anomalous that in a British settlement, founded under the auspices of such a redoubted antipapist as Queen Elizabeth, there was a Roman Catholic church with a priest in charge, yet neither a church nor a pastor of the established religion.
In 1645, however, the Company's Agent at Fort St. George forwarded to higher authority "a petition from the souldiers for the desireing of a minister to be here with them for the maintainance of their soules health;" and in the following year a chaplain was sent out. There was still no Protestant church, but the celebration of religious services was held in careful regard; for the chaplain read morning and evening prayers every day of the year in a room in the Fort appointed for the purpose, and it was compulsory upon all the youthful employees of the Company to attend regularly, under the penalty of a fine.
Chaplains came and chaplains went, and for some sixteen years they continued their ministrations in the room in the Fort. A small church was then built; but, with the Company's developing trade, the population of White Town increased so rapidly that before long the little church was too small for the number of the worshippers. When Mr. Streynsham Master, after a long term of years in the Company's service, was appointed Governor of Madras, one of his first acts was the circulation of a voluntary subscription paper for the building of a church that should be worthy of the Company's rapidly developing South Indian possession. He headed the list with a subscription of a hundred pagodas (Rs. 350), a sum which represented much more than it does now; for it was more than Mr. Streynsham Master's pay for a whole month as Governor of Madras. Subscriptions from the Councillors, as well as from the factors and writers and apprentices, were proportionately big; and on the 28th of October, 1680, St. Mary's Church was solemnly opened, and the guns of the Fort roared forth loud volleys in honour of the event. The steeple and the sanctuary were added later; but, for the rest, the present church, except for details, is the very same church that was built some two hundred and fifty years ago, in the reign of Charles II.
It is interesting to note that the church at Madras was built during a period when in London a great many churches were being built—or rebuilt—after the Great Fire. Church-building was in vogue, with the distinguished Sir Christopher Wren as the builder in chief; and it is not unlikely that what was being done so energetically in London was one of the influences that inspired Mr. Streynsham Master to be so earnest over a scheme for building a church in Madras. It may be noted, moreover, that St. Mary's Church within the Fort at Madras is of a style that was very much in fashion in London at the time.
In deciding to build a new church, the Governor and his colleagues realized that if ever the Fort should be bombarded, a shot from the enemy's guns was as likely to fall upon the church as upon a fortified bastion; so the roof of the church was made 'bomb-proof,' in preparation for possibilities. Events proved the reasonableness of the measure; for on more than one occasion the church was a factor in war.
In 1746, when the French were besieging Fort St. George, the British defenders lodged their wives and children and their domestic servants in the bomb-proof church, and they took refuge there themselves in the intervals of military duty. During the three years that they occupied Madras, the French, fearing that they might be besieged in their turn, used the bomb-proof church as a storehouse for grain and as a reservoir for drinking-water. The church organ they sent off to Pondicherry as one of the spoils of war.
At the end of the war Madras was restored to the Company, but a few years later the Fort was besieged by the French again. During the interval, some of the houses had been made bomb-proof, and in these the women and children were lodged, but St. Mary's Church was used as a barrack, and its steeple as a watch-tower. Lally, the French commander, failing to capture Madras, had to march away with his hopes baffled; but, notwithstanding its bomb-proof roof, the church, as also its steeple, had been badly damaged during the destructive siege, and the necessary repairs were considerable.
A few years later the English had their revenge. They captured Pondicherry, and they destroyed its fortifications. They recovered, with other things, the organ that had been looted from St. Mary's; but, as a new one had in the meanwhile been obtained for St. Mary's, the recovered instrument was sent to a church up-country. According to accounts, moreover, they took toll for the Frenchmen's loot by sending to St. Mary's from one of the churches in Pondicherry the large and well-executed painting of the 'Last Supper,' which is still to be seen in the church. The origin of the picture is not known for certain; but it is believed with reason to be a fact that it was a spoil of war from Pondicherry on one or another of the three occasions on which that town was captured by the British.
The stray visitor who wanders round St. Mary's without a guide is apt to be astonished at what he sees in the churchyard. A multitude of old tomb-stones, of various ages and with inscriptions in various tongues, lie flat on the ground, as close to one another as paving-stones, in such fashion that the visitor must wonder how there can be sufficient room for coffins below. As a matter of fact, the coffins and their contents are not there, and the inscriptions of 'Here lyeth' and 'Hic jacet' are not statements of facts. The explanation is an interesting story, which is worth the telling.
In the Company's early days, the 'English Burying Place,' (vide Map, p. 10) lay a little way outside the walls of White Town, in an area which is now occupied by the Madras Law College with its immediate precincts. Later, when a wall was built round old Black Town, the Burial Ground was included within the enclosure of the wall. An English cemetery in a corner of an Indian town was not likely to be treated with any particular respect; and on various counts the 'English Burying Place' was a sadly neglected spot. Nearly every Englishman that died in Madras was an employee of the Company, and was a bachelor, without any relatives in India to mourn his loss. His colleagues gave him a grand funeral; but his death meant promotion for some of those selfsame colleagues, and his place in the Company's service was filled up by an official 'Order' on the following day. A big monument in the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar ugliness was piously built over his remains, and possibly there was genuine regret at a good fellow's loss; but water is less thick than blood, and there was no near one or dear one in India to take affectionate care of the big tomb; so it was left to itself to be taken care of by the people of Black Town. An unofficial description of Madras dated 1711 speaks of the 'stately Tombs' in the English cemetery, and an official Record of the same year speaks of the unhallowed uses to which the stately tombs were put. The Record says that "Excesses are Comitted on hallowed ground," and that the arcaded monuments were "turned into receptacles for Beggars and Buffaloes." We have seen in a previous chapter that the French, when they captured Madras, demolished the greater part of old Black Town together with its wall, and that the English, when they were back in Madras, completed the work of demolition. In the two-fold destruction, both French and English had sufficient respect for the dead to leave the tombs alone. But, now that Black Town was gone, the big tombs were the nearest buildings to the walls of White Town and Fort St. George; and when the French under Lally besieged Madras a few years later, they used the 'stately Tombs' as convenient cover for their attack on the city. The cemetery now was a receptacle not for beggars and buffaloes but for soldiers and guns. The siege lasted sixty-seven days, during which the cemetery was a vantage ground for successive French batteries. It is therefore not to be wondered at that when Count Lally had raised the unsuccessful siege, the authorities at Fort St. George decided that the 'stately tombs' were to disappear. The tombs themselves were accordingly destroyed, but the slabs that bore the inscriptions were laid in St. Mary's churchyard. At a later date some of them were taken up and were removed to the ramparts, for the extraordinary purpose of 'building platforms for the guns,' but eventually they were restored to the churchyard and were relaid as we see them to-day.
[Footnote 2: Rev. F. Penny's Church in Madras, vol. i, p. 366.]
When the burying ground was dismantled, two of its monuments were allowed to remain. They are still to be seen on the Esplanade, outside the Law College, and the inscriptions can still be read; and the two tombs are interesting memorials of the past. One is a tall, steeple-like structure, which represents a woman's grief for her first husband, and for her child by her second. Her first husband was Joseph Hynmers, Senior Member of Council, who died in 1680, her second was Elihu Yale, Governor of Madras, whom she married six months after the death of her first. When her little son David died at the age of four, she had him buried in her first husband's grave. The other monument covers a vault which holds the remains of various members of the Powney family, a name which figured freely in the list of the Company's employees throughout the eighteenth century. When the cemetery was dismantled, members of the Powney family were still in the Madras service, and it was doubtless in respect for their feelings that the vault was not disturbed.
It may be added that amongst the gravestones that pave the ground outside St. Mary's Church there are several that record the death of Roman Catholics. It is supposed that they were taken from the graveyard of the Roman Catholic church in White Town, which was demolished by the Company when they recovered Madras after the French occupation.
Although the gravestones around St. Mary's Church bear the names of persons who were buried elsewhere, there are memorials within the church itself which mark the actual resting-place of mortal remains. Most of the monuments in St. Mary's are of historic interest, and it is fascinating indeed to stroll round the building and study
Storied urn or animated bust;
but it is noteworthy that no inscription records the very first burial within the walls of the church. It is noteworthy too that the forgotten grave was not the grave of an obscure person, but of Lord Pigot, Governor of Madras; and, in view of the extraordinary circumstances of his death, the first burial is the most notable of all.
George Pigot was sent out to Madras as a lad of eighteen, to take up the post of a writer in the Company's service. He worked so well that he rose rapidly, and at the early age of thirty-six he was appointed Governor of Madras. It was in the middle of his eight years' governorship that the French under Lally besieged Madras for sixty-five days; and Governor Pigot's untiring energy and skilful measures were prime factors in the successful defence. After the war he did great things for the development of Madras; and when he resigned office at the age of forty-five and went to England, the strenuous upholder of British honour in the East was rewarded with an Irish peerage. Well would it have been for Lord Pigot if he had settled down for good on his Irish estate! But twelve years later he accepted the offer of a second term of office as Governor of Madras. It is not infrequently the case that a man who has been eminently successful in office at one time of his career fails badly if after a long interval he accepts the same office again. Times have altered and methods that were successful before are now out of date. In Lord Pigot's case the conditions at the time of his second appointment were very different from those at the time of the first. On the first occasion he had risen to office with colleagues who had been his companions in the service. On the second occasion he was sent out to Madras as an elderly nobleman selected for the job, and as a stranger to his colleagues, who moreover were particularly given to factious disputes. It is not unlikely too that Lord Pigot himself had become touchy and overbearing in his declining years. Any way, he quarrelled with his Councillors almost immediately, and within six or seven months there had been some very angry scenes. He had been accustomed to being obeyed, and in his wrath at being obstinately resisted he went to the length of ordering the arrest not only of some of the leading members of Council but also of the Commander-in-Chief. The Councillors check-mated the Governor's order by arresting the Governor! It was a daring proceeding. He was arrested one night after dark, while driving along a suburban road on his imagined way to a friendly supper, and he was sent as a prisoner to a house at St. Thomas's Mount. He was in captivity for some nine months, while the triumphant Councillors were representing their case to the Directors in England; and then he died, in Government House, Madras, to which when he fell ill he had been transferred. It is on record that his remains were specially honoured with burial within St. Mary's Church—the first burial within the building—but no permanent memorial was raised to the unhappy Governor's memory; and the particular spot where he was buried is only a matter of conjecture.
St. Mary's Church is less than 250 years old. Compared with hundreds of the grey-walled or ivy-covered churches in England, St. Mary's at Madras is prosaically new; but it is of exceeding interest nevertheless. Madras itself is a great and historic city, which owes its existence to British enterprise, with Indian co-operation, and St. Mary's Church, as the oldest British building therein, is the earliest milestone of progress. It is not a church that is best visited, like Melrose Abbey, 'in the pale moonlight,' but in the bright daylight, when the inscriptions on the tomb-stones without and on the monuments within can be clearly read.
ROMAN CATHOLIC, MADRAS
When the English first came to Madras, there were numerous Roman Catholic churches in the neighbouring Portuguese settlement of San Thome, but there were none within the tract of land that Mr. Francis Day acquired in the Company's behalf. When, therefore, at the Company's invitation, a number of Portuguese from San Thome, both pure-blooded and mixed, came and settled down in the Company's White Town, they were necessarily compelled to resort to the ministrations of Portuguese priests who belonged to the San Thome Mission; and within a year of the foundation of Fort St. George, the Portuguese missionaries built a church in the outskirts of the British settlement. This was the Church of the Assumption, which stands in what is still called 'Portuguese Street' in Georgetown, and is therefore a building of historic note. To the Company's representatives the ministrations of Portuguese priests to residents of Madras were objectionable; for the relations between Madras and San Thome were by no means friendly. It is true that when Mr. Francis Day was treating for the acquisition of a site, the Portuguese at Mylapore had furthered his efforts; but such a mark of apparent good will was no more than the outcome of Portuguese hostility to the Dutch; for they hoped that the English at Madras would be powerful allies with themselves against the aggressive Hollanders. As soon, however, as Madras had begun to be built and English trade to be actively pushed, jealousies arose and disagreements occurred; and the Company's representatives chafed at the idea that Portuguese priests should be the spiritual advisers of residents of Madras.