Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 15, november 16-30, 2009
People’s Park – December 1864





Colonel W.P. Macdonald


Col. G.W.Y. Simpson,    Hon’ble A.J. Arbuthnot,    H.B. Montgomery, Esq., M.D.

Col. W.K. Worster,    Dr. C.M. Duff J. Rhode, Esq.

Surgeon Major J.W. Mudge, M.D., Secretary

Mr. D. Riordan, Superintendent

We owe the People’s Park to Sir Charles Trevelyan. It is not at all improbable that the idea of some such place suggested itself to many a man in power before his day. It would be singular indeed if Europeans should for a hundred years have seen a large native town growing up on the site of a small village, – a vast population massing together with lungs to be fed with fresh air and limbs to be allured to exercise and health – without sometimes thinking it possible that the “village greens”, “commons,” and “parks” of his native land might perhaps be re-produced with advantage within reach of Black Town. The monotony of Indian life, and the lack of sympathy between the classes of Indian society, may be regarded as the causes why such an idea, if suggested, was never carried into execution. While the “upper ten thousand” could have their drive along the Beach, and round the Island, it mattered little to them that the “masses” (unfriendly phrase) who could not drive, or were to be stimulated to recreation, had no place convenient for health, exercise, and amusement.

But then Sir Charles Trevelyan was a man not given to routine; and somewhat wide in his sympathy. So the idea of the people’s want suggesting itself to him, and he having the power as well as the will, – the People got their Park. Thousands who know nothing of the step that cost him a Governorship, or the skill that makes him to-day our Chancellor of Finance, will hold his name in memory by the People’s Park.

But when Sir Charles was re-called, the scheme was in a most elementary state. The plan was on paper; the ground was staked out. Little else was done, and little else would have been done if the inheritors of Sir Charles Trevelyan’s dignity had not also inherited his sympathy with the people. We owe it to the various gentlemen who have been entrusted with the execution of the scheme, that the “plan” was not thrown into the official waste paper basket, and the idea recorded as one of Sir Charles’ amiable follies. It is in unison with Sir William Denison’s career, previous to his arrival in this country, that he should have shown a hearty approval of an undertaking so intimately connected with the health and pleasure of the middle-class population.

There can be no doubt that the Park has been a success. Any one may convince himself of that by a visit morning or evening. The place has already fixed its character as a popular resort, and it is certain that it will be so in a much greater degree when the attractions of the ground are fully developed. It is pleasing to see that the native population appreciate the pleasure provided for them; and when the sternness of social life amongst them is relaxed, we may expect to see not only the Ramasawmies, but the Luchmies of Black Town taking their ease in the fretted shade of well-grown trees.

But we must suspend any further remarks, and lay before our readers a brief description of the Park.

The gate adjacent to the Hospital Bridge is the main entrance. The trees are planted in avenues and groups. Twelve lakes of various dimensions and shapes are completed; and various other things have been achieved: but we cannot do better than print the following description (though brief) of the Park, kindly furnished by the Superintendent, Mr. Riordan, which, with the help of the lithographic sketch (published here), will convey a clear idea of the Park.

In the north-west angle of the Park is a Serpentine lake with two large raised islands, one at each end. One of these is 30 feet above the water, and is well calculated for a large basin, from which cascades might hereafter be made to fall over the sides. The second or Victoria lake with a central island is situated almost midway between the Bandstand and the northern end of the Park. The Island is approached by two bridges of ornamental design, measuring respectively 150 x 4, and 200 x 4½ feet. Two boats ply on this lake, and provide a pleasant diversion to the public. The third is a small lake on the west side, elliptical in shape, and contains good drinking water for cattle. The fourth is a small lake close to the Aviary. The fifth, a similar one near the giraffe shed. The sixth is a semi-lunar lake near the Bandstand with a gravel walk around it. The seventh is a medium lake between the Bandstand and Superintendent’s house. The eighth is an irregularly shaped lake, with a central island and two small rustic bridges on each side of the main road: gravel walks are completed round the lake and on the island, and trees of various sorts have been planted. The ninth is a large lake on the west side of the main road. The tenth is a medium lake west of the last mentioned. The eleventh is a medium lake, with a central island at the south end. The twelfth is a small lake near the Bear shed.

There are two masonry basins, one elliptical, measuring 170 feet x 73 feet, and 4½ feet in depth, formed of solid masonry, with brick-on-edge foundation; and central fountain: the latter, of ornamental design, galvanized. The roads of the Park, embracing 5½ miles, are completed. Along the whole of the eastern verge of the Park is a beautiful metalled road, called “The Equestrians’ Ride.”

The sheds for Zoological specimens are as follows:-

A large shed with four cages contains 3 Tigers and a Cheetah. A shed and paddock with a giraffe. A large handsome cage for Monkeys. A large Aviary. A Bear pit with ramp and shed. Sheds and paddocks for Sambur, for Nilghau, and for Deer. A large shed has recently been erected for various animals. Sir William Denion, it is said, is in correspondence with a gentleman at the Cape for the importation of two Lions to be located in the Park. This will be a rare addition to the Zoological specimens. The Bandstand forms a fine centre to the Park. It is a very ornamental structure, and found suitable for sound.

The Park is, in some measure, self-supporting, and will be almost so in time. The principal source of revenue just now is the hay, which is cultivated with much success, and obtains a ready sale at Rupees 41 per ton. (From Gantz Madras People’s Almanac and General Directory 1865.)


In this issue

It’s not cricket!
Living with waterlogging
People’s Park...
The Madras of 1878-79...
Ajay Rau in Ocean Race...
Historic Residences...
Other stories

Our Regulars

Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


Back to current issue...