Chennai’s Heritage, One hundred years of Madras George Town
Madras Parry’s corner area was named George Town about hundred years back. Now busy High Court and adjacent road can be seen in the photograph. How it got its name and why? Read on to know the details.
With all these articles recalling the centenary of the Delhi Durbar and the announcement that was made there that thenceforth Delhi would be the capital of India and not Calcutta, completely overlooked has been the fact that George V was remembered in Madras too in 1911. That was the year Black Town became George Town.
This Black Town, however, was the second. The first was the Indian town that developed just north of Fort St. George, on what is the High Court-Law College campus. The use Comte de Lally’s troops made of the buildings in this settlement during his siege of the Fort in 1758-59 led the English, once they had blunted the French threat, to demolish this first Indian settlement they had been responsible for developing and create an esplanade and, beyond it, in the villages of Muthialpet and Peddanaickenpet, a new, planned Black Town, a gridiron pattern consciously followed.
Click on the photo to view larger image of Madras High Court 1957
When George, Prince of Wales, visited Madras in 1905 and proved a popular figure at every venue where he was feted in the growing city, it was much debated what kind of a permanent memorial to him should be created in Madras. Little came of the debate till he became King George V in 1910. A competition was organised in Madras for Carnatic singers to compose classical eulogies in honour of the occasion and it was Sriram V. singing a couple of them during his talk ten days ago in the ‘Namma Chennai’ series organised by the Park Sheraton and MetroPlus that reminded me of the centenary of the way New Black Town became renamed. The visit of George V, King Emperor of India, for the Delhi Durbar was occasion enough for Madras to remember him by naming New Black Town after him.
Recent photograph of Madras High Court
Near the southwest corner of George Town he was further remembered in 1914 with a statue presented to the city by one of its leading Gujarati merchant-princes, Chatoorbhoojadoss Govindoss of the Kushaldoss family (Miscellany, March 6, 2006). The statue by Joseph McLure, to whom the king gave a couple of sittings in Britain, cost Rs. 45,000, quite a sum for the times.