Why was N.S.C. Bose Road called Esplanade Road (Miscellany, March 23), ask C. Meenakshi and P. Sumana. The Oxford defines an ‘esplanade’ as “an open, level space separating a fortress from a town”. The open space was necessary to give the defenders an open field for their fire and no shelter for their besiegers.

In the case of Fort St. George, from the first, just outside its north wall was the Indian, or Black, Town. During the French occupation of Madras from 1746 to 1749, they cleared several of the buildings in Black Town to give themselves clear firing alleys. Then, in 1758-59, when Comte de Lally besieged Fort St George, he used the buildings in Black Town, including the temple and the tombs in the English cemetery to the west of Black Town, to provide cover for his troops. When the siege was lifted, one of the first things the British did was to raze Black Town and the cemetery to provide them the clear field of fire they needed. The cleared space became known as the Esplanade and the road at its northern edge, separating it from Muthialpet and Peddanaikenpet, which developed as the New Black Town and, later, George Town, became Esplanade Road.

It was on the Esplanade that the High Court was raised (1889-92), and on the site of the cemetery was built the buildings of Law College, which were opened in 1899. The tombstones from the cemetery had been moved to St. Mary’s in the Fort in 1763 to pave its northern and western courtyards.

In 1782, when Hyder Ali threatened Fort St. George, the tombstones were dug up and used to mount guns on the ramparts. After the threat receded, they were returned to the courtyards in 1807 — but by then many had broken during the rough-and-ready usage, and only 104 survive in the church.

Also, still surviving is one of the six obelisk-like boundary pillars that were placed as boundary-markers at the northern edge of the Esplanade. The lone survivor, at the southwestern corner of Dare House, is tended by Parry & Co.

S. MUTHIAH

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