Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lasting faith

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the 'Town', this building seems to be slightly out of place. The last remaining structure of what was once a large complex of buildings, it celebrated its sesquicentennial a couple of months ago. The origin of the insititution it houses (used to house, rather) can be traced back to 1836, when Rev. George James Laurie and Rev Matthew Bowie, the Chaplains of the Church of Scotland in Madras, requested headquarters for a missionary to run the St Andrews School which they had started a year or so earlier. And thus it was that the Rev. John Anderson came to Madras; in 1837, he opened the General Assembly's School in Armenian Street, with the core group of 59 pupils moving from the St Andrews School. It was to be the first of many schools founded by this Scotsman, whose love for education seems to have been greater than his love for the gospel.

The school grew; in 1877 it was re-christened as "Madras Christian College". College House, College Chapel, College Hall - buildings joined the College itself and, difficult as it is to imagine now, George Town became an important centre for higher education. It was only in 1919 that the Senatus Committee recommended the College's move, upon which it relocated right across the city, to Tambaram, where it continues to function today. Sometime in between (Mr. Muthiah puts it as being after 1895), the College Chapel and College Hall were switched; the latter, which was called Anderson Hall in memory of the college's founder, became Anderson Church.

That holy association has probably saved this building from the fate that befell its companions; though it is listed as a heritage building by INTACH, there is no guarantee that such listing will save it from demolition. A better protection, however, is provided by an active congregation, which travels from various parts of the city to this building!


Hilda said...

And I hope the faithful keep coming, even if just to save this gorgeous structure. Too bad about the rest of the buildings though.

Shantaram said...

@ Hilda: It does take them an effort - this locality is now completely commercial, so there are no 'locals', really.