Madurai

A Collector adored by people

Towering magnificence: An old picture of the Vilakkuthoon, erected near the site of the old east gate of the fort of the town.

Towering magnificence: An old picture of the Vilakkuthoon, erected near the site of the old east gate of the fort of the town.  

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Residents collected money, erected lamppost in recognition of his work

The historic Vilakkutoon was erected in the 1840s near the site of the old east gate of the fort of the Madura town. The residents collected money and erected the lamppost in recognition of the then Collector John Blackburne’s works. During his tenure as a Collector, Blackburne undertook a series of measures for the development of the town.

This is an extract from Madurai District Gazetteer. It says Blackburne spent ₹1.23 lakh for laying roads between 1834 and 1842. The town was also expanded during his tenure.

The old town, confined to Masi streets, was surrounded by fortified walls with 72 bastions built by Visvanatha Nayak in 1559. A moat surrounded the fort which had a broad glacis and ramparts. In 1837, Blackburne planned to raze the fort walls by conscripting convicts and expand the city. However, the convicts were mobilised for work related to Pamban channel.

So, in 1841, Blackburne marked off different portions of the fort wall and sold them in auction. The buyers brought down the wall and using the stones built houses with tiled roofs. Once the town was expanded, Veli, Marrett and Perumal Maistry streets became part of Madurai.

On March 31, 1847, Vilakkuthoon, the lamppost arrived from England and was commissioned by Blackburne.

On this day, Blackburne inspected the new streets which were added to the town and named them after foreman Perumal and surveyor Marret.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 8:42:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/a-venerated-collector/article29793330.ece

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