Royapuram, Chennai and its hoary past

Royapuram fishing harbour Chennai, en.wikipedia. org
Royapuram railway station, 1856. Chennai en.Wikipedia
Royapuram is in North Chennai, Tamil nadu and many fishing communities are living here. The growth of Royapuram that has a hoary past is quite fascinating and the very mention of its name invokes in our mind the  old railway station which was the first one opened in 1856 by Governor Harris of Madras Presidency, connecting  Royapuram to Arcot (present day Walajapet near Ranipet), the titular capital of the Nawab of Carnatic. It is tagged as the oldest surviving railway station in the Indian subcontinent. During the colonial days, the reason why Royapuram  was the preferred destination for a big railway station was its proximity to the British settlement as well as native Indian colonies settled near-by. For 17 years, the Royapuram railway station was the only one in the city  till Madras Central station became operational in 1873. The Royapuram railway station played a crucial role when Madras Port became operational and all the cargoes from the ship were transported via Royapuram railway station. This led to the opening up of Egmore station as terminus  for the south-bound trains in 1907.
If you  go back  and trace  the history of Royapuram, it has close links with  Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars  who were a group of enterprising Hindu  boatmen who had  settled in Fort St. George in Madras Presidency around 1710. it is believed that that these so called boat people migrated from Durgarayapatnam ( north of Pulicat) for better employment opportunities. They offered their boating services to the East India company by way of docking the Naval and Cargo ships  at Madras and transporting goods by boat and in the next two decades, they became prosperous and were staying close to Ft. St. George. The boat people never failed to pay the toll to the marine board.There were boat owners operating both catamarans as well as Masula boat ( it is made of non-rigid planks sewn together with coir ropes and are common along Andhra and Tamil Nadu 

St. Peter's church, Royapuram, chennai,
coasts. They were of immense help to the British and their services in  aiding the British  vessels arriving at Madras and handling cargo was quite indispensable. Marine Board took decision to change the location of landing  and chose  North Beach ( where the main harbour buildings are located today). So,  the boat-owners and their crews too had to move out. In the wake of shifting of Customs House and Master attendant's Office from Ft. St. George to  Black town, the boat people were offered in 1799 a big chunk of  land in a new village comprising 720 acres by the Marine Board that was under the control of East India Company. Lord Edward Clive of EIC granted the lands to them.  Both the English company and the marine boat people were mutually inter-dependent.  Their ties with the English company was so good, during the brief French take over of Ft. St. George in 1746, these boat people also followed suite and moved over to Ft. David, Cuddalore (now in Cuddalore district, TN) and got back to their place when the British repossessed it.

The village that was offered to the boat people, later came to be called Royapuram. It was here  Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars who became Christian converts built a Chapel in 1780 to fulfil their spiritual needs. No details are available about the early structure.  Later, with help from the Marine Board, a Gothic-styled church called St. Peter's was built in 1829 by the boating community. It is the oldest church in this part of Chennai.  Upon consecration, Its keys  to the church were delivered to the headmen of the community. Royapuram takes its name from St. Peter's ( in Tamil Royappar ; puram refers to an area).