Monday, June 12, 2023


The address of this institution locates it at 1, Prakasam Salai, which was earlier - much earlier - called Popham's Broadway. But it also has had a hand in bestowing a name to one of the roads nearby, just around the corner, so to say. The 8-acre campus of the Bharathi Women's College is flanked by the Old Jail Road on its northern side. 

Not meeting debt obligations seems to have been a very high crime in late 17th century Madras. It seems to have been bad enough for the British to establish a civil Debtors' Prison in Fort St George. Much later, this Debtors' Prison moved out of the Fort, ending up in these buildings on Broadway. By the 1800s, the prison had gone beyond being just for debtors into a larger scale. It served as the main jail of Madras until the Central Jail was built across the road from the Central Station. That being the new jail, the Debtors' Prison came to be referred to as the 'Old Jail'. 

Sometime after Independence, probably in the 1950s, the Central Jail became the only jail in the city. The inmates of this building were also moved there and these premises were used for housing various educational institutions, culminating in the Bharathi Women's College in 1964. It is somehow very odd that former prisons have given way to supporting education for women.  Apart from this one, the 'new' jail gave way to the Women's Hostel of the Madras Medical College!

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