Continued from part 1
In 1746, the French occupied Madras, staying on till 1749 following a peace treaty. The return of the English was a turning point, for major expansions can be traced from then on. The first steps were taken in self-defence. Old Black Town, by then comprising 8700 houses, was considered a security hazard and demolished, the residents there being moved into the twin villages of Muthialpet and Peddanaickenpet, which taken together became New Black Town. In 1772, a survey fixed the southern boundary of Black Town with six stones, each an obelisk of 15 feet. Construction beyond this was forbidden for a clear line of sight to the sea was needed. One of these boundary pillars survives, standing in the shadow of Dare House, at Parry’s Corner. The space beyond developed as the Esplanade and remained as such till the 1860s when the High Court came to be built on it. A similar boundary and esplanade appear to have been created at the northwestern end of Town as well, with five obelisks marking the edge. None of these survive, but one of the plaques was later built into the wall of the Washermanpet police station and was found quite serendipitously a few months ago by a correspondent of The Hindu. There is yet another boundary obelisk standing all by itself between two railway lines between Basin Bridge and Korukkupet Stations. As to what this was supposed to demarcate is not clear.
One of the most significant acquisitions for the British on their return from exile was Santhome and its adjunct Mylapore. They had cast covetous eyes on this erstwhile Portuguese settlement since the 1670s but their attempts to gain control over it had been thwarted by the French and later by the Golconda and Dutch forces. Now in 1750, with the local rulers, the Nawabs of Arcot being more amenable, Santhome and Mylapore became British controlled. A survey done in 1798 shows that the limits of Madras were then Adyar River on the south, Chetpet, Kilpauk and Perambur in the west and Royapuram in the north. This was to remain the extent of the city until the early 1900s.
Black Town had fully developed by the 1790s into the maze of streets that we see today, most of them named after Dubashes who battened on East India Company trade. Several of them built temples, which remain, though the palatial mansions of the patrons have long gone, making way for shops and warehouses. One thoroughfare alone stands out for its width – Broadway or Prakasam Salai as we know of it now. Developed by lawyer and speculator Stephen Popham, it became the fashionable European quarter of Town – home to shops, restaurants and churches.
By 1800, with the British becoming the acknowledged masters of most of South India, most of those living in Fort St George made bold to move out. Mount Road had got its present contours and the Governor, Edward, 2nd Lord Clive, shifted his residence to a vast garden house at the northern end. Known as Government Estate, this was where Governors of Madras Presidency lived till 1948, Guindy being their weekend retreat. Clive also built a magnificent banqueting hall on the premises, which is today Rajaji Hall. A few years ago, historic Government Estate, with its age-old buildings barring Rajaji Hall, was razed to the ground to make way for the new Assembly cum Secretariat, which in turn has metamorphosed into a multi-speciality hospital.
To be continued…