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]

, Marquess Cornwallis (1738-1805 ) by Thomas Banks. Marble. Fort St George Museum, Madras (Chennai), India. Click on image to enlarge it.

One of the chief objects of interest in Madras is its citadel, Fort St. George, which commands the Black Town and the Eoads, and may be considered the nucleus of the city. It was built in 1639, and is admirably situated for the defence of the town and shipping. It contains a church, the barracks, and an arsenal, with arms for 50,000 men; a marble statue of Lord Cornwallis is erected in the great square.

The sea now washes the bulwarks, and strenuous efforts require to be made to check its inroads. West of the fort, on the Mount Road, is an equestrian statue of Sir Thomas Monro, by Chantrey. The Government-house, the church of St. George, and some of the other public buildings, are handsome structures. These are mostly on the Choultry plain, on the opposite side of a small river which extends around the walls of the fortification.

St Mary’s Church, Madras (Chennai). Founded 1680. Left: Church tower. Right: Side with crenellations. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The other principal buildings are several Episcopal and Armenian churches, an elegant Presbyterian church, Independent, Wesleyan chapels, and Roman Catholic cathedrals and chapels. The charities are numerous and well conducted. Besides a high school and a medical college, supported by Government, there are large missionary institutions that of the Free church, with 700 pupils; the Scottish Establishment, with 400; two grammar-schools, and several other schools. There are also several literary associations.

. Madras is the chief seat of all the Government offices for its presidency, of the supreme court, a board of revenue, marine board, &c. Notwithstanding the disadvantages of its position, it is a place of great trade. In the Koads, ships moor off the shore in from 7 to 9 fathoms. From October to January, storms and typhoons prevail, and from the 15th October the flag-staff is struck, as a signal for ships not to anchor till the 15th December. North of Fort St. George is a new, elegant light-house, 126 feet high, which can be seen 40 miles at sea, in clear weather. [II, 257]


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 26 December 2018