General Post Office, Madras

The General Post Office as represented in an early twentieth century Tuck postcard (see bibliography for details).

General Post Office,. Robert Fellowes Chisholm. Designed 1875, completed (because of delay in funding) 1884. This incorporated details like the tower and pointed-roof dormers that Chisholm had picked up on his visit to Travancore, and Paul Walker understands how the building can be used as "evidence that Chisholm did not hold to a narrowly regionalist conception of the utility and applicability of indigenous architectural styles” (138). The architect himself saw it as an expression of indigenous styles. Walker goes on to quote from Chisholm's annual report of 1880-81: "Nearly all the details are careful adaptations of Eastern forms and principles, and, with the exception of the pot metal glass from England and teakwood from Burmah, the whole building will be evolved from local materials and labor"(qtd. p. 138). Yet, interestingly and surely pertinently, Walker seems to find the end result disconcerting, because of "the question of geographical dislocation" that this mix-and-match approach to styles involves (138). Philip Davies's description of the Post and Telegraph Office as "an eloquent essay in Victorian Gothic" (195) puts another complexion on it altogether, and reminds us that Chisholm went out to India as a fan of John Ruskin, whose ideas, on craftsmanship especially, continued to influence him.

Unfortunately, the building has a different appearance now. In particular, as S. Muthiah explains, "The bigger 'caps' [on the towers] were badly damaged in a mid-20th Century storm and never replaced for safety reasons."


Davies, Philip. Splendours of the Raj: British Architecture in India 1660-1947. London: Penguin, 1987.

"General Post Office." TuckDB Postcards. Web. 23 April 2019.

Muthiah, S. "The Madras post office that lost its caps." The Hindu. 5 February 2018. Web. 23 April 2019.

Walker, Paul. "Institutional Frameworks and Architectural Style." Colonial Modernities: Building, Dwelling and Architecture in British India and Ceylon . Edited by Peter Scriver and Vikramaditya Prakash. London: Routledge, 2007. 127-47.

Created 23 April 2019