Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The administration reports of the municipality of a city, the body that is its guardian and which oversees its growth are the best indicators of the evolution of the city into its current form.

I happened to come across a set of administration reports of the Madras Municipality from the 1870s. They give a wonderful overview of the city as it existed then and the way in which the various aspects of administration were carried out.

I wish to share with all of you a glimpse of the city as it existed then. I hope to do this as and when I make further progress with the reading of the reports.

My first post is about the Divisions of our City.


The city was divided into 8 divisions, each division comprising of 4-5 villages as follows:

DIVISION 1: Tondiarpettah, Washerman’s Pettah, Monegar Choultry(the site where the Stanley Hospital now stands), Royapooram and Cassimode (Kasimedu).

DIVISION 2: Pedoo Naick’s Pettah, Big Parcherry(a place in Black Town), John Pereira’s(was classified as a district even way back in the 1850s as seen from an extract of 1858 street directory of Madras) and Fort St.George

DIVISION 3: Moottealpaettah and Uttapaulliam(?)

DIVISION 4: Gunpowder Mills, Perambore and Veyasarpady

DIVISION 5: Choolay, Pursewaukam, Pareamoot(Periamet), New Town, Vepery, Poodoopettah, Egmore and Comaleeswaram

DIVISION 6: Kilpauk,Chetput, Nungambaukam and Mackay’s Garden

DIVISION 7: Poodoopaukkam,Chintadripettah, Narasinghapuram, Triplicane and Theroovatteeswaranpettah

DIVISION 8: St.Thome, Alwarpettah, Royapettah, Meer Saib’s Pettah, Kistnampettah and Tanampettah.

One name missing from the above list is Mylapore. Though one of the oldest parts of the city, it does not seem to have found a place in the official records of the municipality at least until the 1870s. Of course, going by the logical grouping of the places, Mylapore should have been classified under Division 8.

Each of the divisions was led by Commissioners. It is quite interesting to note that the first time elections were used as a mode to appoint Commissioners was in 1879. The first Municipal Elections were held in April 1879. The number of people eligible to be appointed as Commissioners were 271 and 2196 people were eligible to vote. About 45% poll turnout was recorded. This elective system was the chief feature of the new Municipal Act V of 1878.

P.S:The first municipal elections of the city seems to have been conducted peacefully as there is no record of any kind of disturbance or law and order problem. How times have changed!!


  1. I would be interested to know if you can scan these records and find 'Seven Wells street' in San Thome area; first time I heard about this street, it surprised me as I knew about Seven Wells area in North Madras.

    BTW, we met at the celebrations of Madras Musings at The Cricketer club, MCC.


  2. Hi,

    I am not aware of a Seven Wells Street in Santhome...However, there is a Seven Wells Street in St.Thomas Mount. What this has to do with the Seven Wells we know of is something to research on.

    Will be great if you can give me the context in which you came across this..may be of help in solving this riddle!!!

  3. Yes, I meant to say St.Thomas Mount but got it wrong. There is no specific setting as to how and where I stumbled upon this but my intuition is there must be some kind of connection between Seven wells area in North Madras and this street in St.Thomas Mount.

    Please do ping me if you come across any leads.