Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The pillar

It was World Heritage Day yesterday; because I had asked a question about a monument within the city yesterday, I'm posting two pictures today in honour of the day. They are both from West CIT Nagar, where Mambalam meets Saidapet. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Long Tank was very long, and the spillover would flow across Mount Road, looking to connect with the Mylapore Tank on the east. This was very much of an inconvenience to the general public; since 1726, when Coja Petrus Uscan bequeathed a bridge across the Adayar less than a kilometre away, the public had become used to fording that waterway. A new watercourse, even if it was mainly a feature of the monsoons, had to be crossed. 

Cue Adrian Fourbeck, a merchant who was an "old resident of Madras". There is little information about the life of the man himself, but that he was pensioned off as a Gunroom Crewman of Fort St George (with a pension of 1-14-0 pagodas) in 1740. He must have been a shrewd merchant, for by the time he passed away in 1783, he had made enough to bestow his fellow citizens a bridge across the canal. Petrus Uscan's bridge half a century earlier had cost around 30,000 pagodas. Even if Adrian's bridge cost only a tenth of that, it was still a princely sum. 

Fourbeck's legacy was built by the executors of his will, T. Pelling, L. de Fries and P. Bodkin, according to plans made by Lt. Col. Patrick Ross, then Chief Engineer of Fort St. George. Their names, as well as that of the Governor of Fort St. George, Maj. Gen. Sir Archibald Campbell, were inscribed on a four-sided pillar, which marked the bridge's inauguration in 1786. While one side had the entire description in English, the other sides had its translations in Tamizh, Latin and Persian. The foundation stone of the bridge erected by Coja Petrus Uscan is out in the open, part of the Chennai Metro's fencing now. The bridge itself has been replaced by the Maraimalai Adigal bridge of the 1960s. Of Adrian's bridge, nothing remains but the pillar, which is today protected by a wall and fencing, and is inside the State Highways Department's office!

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