Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 20, february 1-15, 2010
A landmark that’s gone

Binny’s headquarters in Armenian Street (above) has fallen to the wreckers’ hammers – and so has vanished another bit of Madras history.

Of the Arbuthnot’s, Binny’s and Parry’s, who first developed Madras’s commerce and industry on a substantial scale, it was the Binny’s who were the first to arrive in Olde Madras. Charles Binny arrived in 1769 and entered the service of the Nawab of the Carnatic. He was followed by kin who also served the Nawab. Then there arrived John ‘Deaf’ Binny in l797 to follow the family tradition, which he appeared to have done well enough so as to be able to move into Nawab-owned property on what is now Binny Road and the site of the Connemara Hotel.

John Binny entered the world of Madras commerce in l799, and then teamed up with a Dennison to form Binny and Dennison’s. The firm moved to Armenian Street around 18l2 and in 1814 became Binny & Co., beginning an era of tremendous growth – mainly through the two mills it managed, the 1877-Buckingham Mills and the 1882-Carnatic Mills which were merged in l920 – till it began to slow down after the Arbuthnot crash in l906.

An Inchcape takeover in that cash-strapped period revived the Company and the Mills’ fortunes – but a slowness to modernise and entry of flood waters combined to swamp this significant symbol of Madras’ industrial and labour heritage.

Binny and Dennison’s bought its Armenian Street home in 1804 for Rs.35,000 and, as Binny & Co., bought the rest of the property in bits and pieces, mainly from migrating Armenian merchants.

About 13,000 sq.ft. of land was purchased in 1819 in Errabalu Chetty Street for around Rs.8,500 from the heirs of that leader of the Armenian community in Madras, Shawmier Sultan. In 1836, additional small properties were bought from the estates of Shawmier Sultan and another Armenian, Sarquis Satur, including a house on 5500 sq.ft. of land that fetched about Rs.1800. A few years later, 4500 sq.ft. of land was bought on Errabalu Chetty Street from the Armenians for Rs.2800. This property included a building, outhouses and stables and was long known at Binny’s as ‘The Stables’. By the time all 37,000 sq.ft. was owned by Binny’s, the Company headquarters occupied almost all the land between Errabalu Chetty Street, Armenian Street, McLean Street and Sembudoss Street and was a landmark even to rivals, Parry’s and Arbuthnot’s.

The Binny headquarters of the 19th Century were getting added over the years and, then, in 1930s completely restored, with the art deco façade (seen in the picture) added to it.


In this issue

They’re only transferring the road congestion
Great festivals – but they need greater promotion
The Sabha that made V.P. Hall its home
A landmark that’s gone
A festival to remember
Kuppams oppose expressway
Historic Residences of Chennai - 35
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


Back to current issue...