First Line Beach British Era Madras, 1880 Photo

first line beach madras

first line beach madras

An 1880 photo of the First Line Beach street of British-era Madras (Chennai). Once known as the First Line Beach or North Beach Road, now it is the Rajaji Salai. Probably the first commercial street in Madras. Before that commercial businesses were more or less based inside the protective walls of Fort St George.

However, in around 1800 the Governor of Madras gave the order to move all businesses out of the confines of the Fort. The Madras Government, alternately, constructed the First Line Beach for housing the displaced businesses. It faced the beach where the masula boats landed ferrying goods and passengers from ships. It was here that a proper harbour took root in the 1860s. The customs house was relocated from the Fort to the First Line Beach.

Many businesses would open their account on this stretch. Bentinck’s building erected by the government provided the facilities for the merchants. But by and by they outgrew the limited facilities of Bentinck’s building and moved out. By constructing their own larger business premises on the same street. Some of them were Parry & Co, Bank of Madras, Binny, Arbuthnot, etc. The Madras Supreme Court then occupied the Bentinck’s building. This was before they moved out to the High Court premises at Esplanade.

Did you know – that First Line Beach was then just a beach, it was at the time equivalent of the Marina for Black Town (now George Town), and people used to flock there in the evenings.

Past India – Raja Ravi Varma’s Goddess Laxmi 2 Postcards., Carpentry In British Era Malabar, 1910 Postcard., Rare 1792 Newspaper Report On The Defeat of Tipu Sultan., Royal Train For Prince of Wales India Tour, 1905 Print.




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