In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Madras, I have expanded the abbreviations for easier reading and added paragraphing, subtitles, and links. The table is from the original. The title-page bears the date 1856, but internal evidence in various entrees makes clear that the text dates from 1851. This discussion of a major city in British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny.— George P. Landow]

Madras, a maritime city in British India and capitol of the presidency in the district of same name, on the Coromandel coast at latitude (observatory) 13 4 6" North and longitude. 80 14 East (R.) It is unhappily situated for commercial purposes, on an open, sterile, and sandy shore, without a harbour or landing-place, and exposed to the swell of the Bay of Bengal, which breaks upon the beach with great violence; vessels in the roadstead, that do not instantly make for sea on the signal of foul weather from the master attendant’s office, are often lost. The appearance of the town, however, when seen from a distance, is agreeable, having a resemblance rather to a row of handsome country houses than to a city, excepting where Fort St. George (or the fort), the magnificent edifices of the supreme courts of justice, the custom-house and warehouses, impart to it an urban character.

A great part of Madras consists of what is called the Black Town, containing the native and East Indian (or mixed) population, with a few European families. It is very closely and irregularly built, and consists of brick houses and bamboo huts; but the garden-houses in the vicinity, in which the Europeans chiefly reside, are very neat, generally only one story high, nicely smoothed over with fine white lime, and embowered among trees and bushes. Very few Europeans reside in Black Town, it being hot, unhealthy, and ill-drained.

The city is built on a dead level, and, with the suburbs, occupies an area of 27 square miles. The suburbs of Madras ure now very extensive, such as Vepery, Royapooram. St. Thomas, Triplicane, &c.; they are chiefly inhabited by Hindoos and Mahometans. Most of the Europeans, and some of the East Indians, live in detached houses in the environs. The public offices and storehouses which line the beach are imposing structures, with colonnades to the upper stories, supported by rustic bases arched, all of the fine Madras chnnam, smooth, hard, and polished as marble. [II, 257]

The Hurricane at Madras: Wrecks on the Beach Source from the 1850 Illustrated London News. “Our Engraving is from a sketch by Mr. R. S. Chisholm.” [Click on image to enlarge it.]


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 21 November 2018.

Last modified 22 November 2018