Black granite plaque lay tucked in a corner of Old Washermenpet police station

For years, policemen attached to the Old Washermenpet police station believed the small square plaque, in black granite, on the left corner at the entrance of the station was its foundation stone. 

But, it now turns out the piece of stone has more history behind it than the policemen were privy to. For the first time, after The Hindu mailed them the pictures, historians S. Muthiah and Sriram V. confirm the plaque was the first boundary pillar of the original boundary of the erstwhile Madras drawn by the British in the mid 18 century.

After the British defeated the invading French troops and re-gained control over Madras in the mid 1700s, they planned to fortify Fort St. George by clearing the ‘Black Town’ (settlements of the natives) area, which now houses the Madras High Court and Law College campuses.

This was done to get a clear field of fire in the event of any future invasion, especially by the French. The boundary was marked by pillars. 

Earlier, historians believed the boundary of this fortification was marked by six pillars in Parry’s Corner, Thambu Chetty Street, Kondi Chetty Street, Broadway, Stringer Street and Badrian Street (now N.S.C Bose Road). Of these, only one pillar, at Parry’s Corner, has survived, says Mr. Sriram.

“It is a very important finding because so far, we thought the boundary of early Madras was around N.S.C Bose Road. Now, with the discovery of the pillar, we learn the actual boundary began from Old Washermenpet,” he says.

“That there was a boundary pillar at Old Washermenpet was actually recorded by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in its annual report of 1912-13.

The structure, both the police station and the boundary pillar, should be protected,” says an ASI official.

Each obelisk pillar was around 15 feet tall with a plaque on its lower part.

Tucked beneath Parthasarathy flyover, the boundary pillar formed part of the main building of the police station that was opened on December 31, 1898, by the then commissioner of police, Agar Padley. The original building of the police station has not been in use over the past month. It was vacated after part of the roof caved in.

Now, the Old Washermenpet police station functions in a temporary accommodation near the old building.

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