Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The city of Madras, as we know, was initially just the space enclosed within the walls of Fort St George. As in any city, there were some parts which were more favoured as residential areas than others. The most favoured portion in the Fort was its south-eastern quarter. It was the furthest point from the Customs House, and so presumably far enough away for the smells of goods to not bother the residents; plus where the sea-breeze would blow through unhindered.
The two streets in that quarter, running north-south, parallel to each other, are St Thomas Street and Church Street. Church Street is the more eastern of the two and therefore having less of a cachet. St Thomas Street was the favoured residential area, and the nine residences there - four on the eastern side and five along the western flank. These were built sometime in the early years of the 18th century. If you were a resident here, your neighbours would have been Majors, Colonels and members of the Council - and the chaplain of St Mary's Church.
Most of those houses are gone, fallen to ruin. Others are well on their way there. The ASI is gamely trying to do something about preserving these structures. This one - a large building that has its front door on St Thomas Street and its rear verandah on Church Street - would have been used both as a residence as well as a temporary storehouse for bales of cloth or barrels of wine as they were being traded into and out of the country. But today, it is barely able to stand up, a ghostly reminder of the glory that was once the "Snob's Alley" of Madras!