Fort St. George and Black Town

July 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

This map was drawn when the French occupied Fort St. George for a short time. Look for Noir Ville to see the location of Black Town.

When William and Lydia Selina were married in 1863, William lived at Fort St. George and Lydia lived in Black Town. ‘These two places eventually combined with other settlements in the area to form the city of Madras. Today, this city is called Chennai and is the fourth largest city in India.

In the 1600s, the East India Company wanted to establish a port on the Bay of Bengal. After a few unsuccessful attempts, they were able to rent a piece of land from a local Raja. One stipulation was that any building erected on the property had to be painted white. The settlement was fortified by tall walls as protection against both local royalty and other European nations seeking to cash in on the lucrative Indian trade. Over the years, the fort expanded, and its population grew.  People, both Indian and European, began to build houses and businesses outside the walls of the fort. This section on the outside of the fort was called Black Town.  Gradually, non-military personnel moved out of the fort and into Black Town. As this area grew, it became the commercial center of the new city of Madras. Its name was changed from Blacktown to Georgetown at the beginning of the twentieth century.

In spite of their names of White Town and Black Town, each of these areas  was populated by both Europeans and Indians. Eventually, the fort was surrounded by the city of Madras. The Fort served as the administrative headquarters for the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu state until the twenty-first century.  Some buildings are open to the public, including the Fort Museum which contains many relics of the Raj era, including portraits of many of the Governors of Madras. The map to the right of the Madras area in 1893, about 20 years after the Halls returned to Scotland, shows the small military fort, just south of the much larger settlement of Black Town.

This model of early Madras clearly shows the difference between White Town and Black Town. The Bay of Bengal is near the bottom edge of the photo.

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Entry filed under: Halls. Tags: , , , , .

My First Official Record – Wm Hall and Lydia Ramsbottom Cincinnati Family History Center

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My Mom Ada


This blog traces the family history of my mom, Edith Porter Duffy. From the time I was a little girl, my mom would tell me stories about her family, who all called her Ada. I only wish I had asked her more questions while she was still here!

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