''Colonial Police stations'' of Chennai, Tamil Nadu - a legacy of British rule

DGP building, Chennai, TN lawyerchennai.com

Tamil Nadu State Police is one of the oldest  law enforcement agencies in the then Madras Presidency and is   the fifth largest state police force in India.   More than 150 years old in the 1650s  the English company  gave importance to security  of their settlement   and set up a system known as  Bedda Nayak system and the men in charge of guarding the places were  known as Kavalkaras and Thalayaris  Besides, there were other security groups operating in places like  Mylapore,  Chintadripet, Royapettah, etc and they were locally referred to as kotwals and palayakaras. 

Chennai city has some of the oldest police stations in the country that were built during the Raj. According to records in 1832  government under the East India company  had formed a police committee under  G Norton. On his  recommendation  Madras city was divided  into four districts - Black Town, Triplicane, Vepery and St Thome (now St Thomas Mount) to make policing easier and accordingly the jurisdiction limits were drawn up. The plan was that the police office and residence of superintendent would remain in that particular area. Example Triplicane. Senior officers were living within that jurisdiction.   Among them, the  largest  police building was on Kamarajar Sala; prior to  1865 Madras Presidency Police was operating there. The building built in 1800 was owned by a Masonic Movement (the members were called Freemasons). Under the British Crown administration, the police department in 1874  bought the building for Rs. 20000 and had spent additional  Rs. 10000 for repair and renovation.  In 1857 when the great rebellion (Sepoy Mutiny)  was going in the northern states  against the East India company's unjust rule, an interesting event was taken place in the Presidency of Madras. It is about the appointment of Chief Commissioner of Police  and  20  Superintendents  to run the police force in Madras City (Chennai). 

The Tamil Nadu government, not realizing the heritage and historical value of these old buildings made a hasty decision to pull them down replacing wih modern structures and built-in additional facilities. Heritage lovers were sore about the disappearing old structures across the city in the name of modernization.   

After a long struggle with the interference of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) this old structure in Indo-Saracenic style was saved from demolition in the 1990s. In 1993 the building underwent renovation. Offices of the Director General of Police and other  senior officials are housed here. This HQ building has pretty old police stations around it, including  Chintadripet, Mylapore and Royepttah. The Ice House police station (more than 90 years old)   was, unfortunately, pulled down in the recent past. The government never sought the opinion from the public and renovation experts. The decision was arbitrary. 

Triplicane Police Station, Chennai:  

Triplicane police station, Chennai.imesofindia.indiatimes.com

Above image: The room with the wooden door at the back of Triplicane police station served as a  garage for carriages and cars; probably they were used to purse thieves ; may be to go on a beat. This 131 year old building  is on the Wallajah Road (off Anna Salai), Chennai. .........  

Triplicane police station, Chennai. newindianexpress.com

Chennai: colonial .Triplicane police station  tnext.in

Built in 1890  during the time of Commissioner Colonel T. Weldon. The design followed here is Indo-Saracenic ( a blend of Indian and European style)  and the architect was Henry Irwin who had already designed many buildings in India. It represents the legacy of British rule in this part of Chennai city. When the city was experiencing famine the Nawab of Arcot, a close associate of the Raj, set up a large kitchen (langar khana; free kitchen). The purpose was to  serve free food to get rid of pangs of hunger suffered by lots of people.  An interesting fact is the food was  prepared  by Brahmin cooks as it had been a  the custom  then. This structure was also saved from demolition on account of public backlash and protests.

There is a plaque in the front of the building displaying the year it was built. During that period, Lord Connemara was the Governor of Madras and Col T Weldon was the Commissioner of Police, Madras. The  consultant architect of British India, was Henry Irwin.

Old Washermenpet Police station, Chennai: 

Chennai Washermanpet colonial Police station. dtnext.in

Built in 1898; Commissioner Agar Padley Agar. Design:  Indo-Saracenic style. Area: roughly 7,362.8 sq ft.  Once it housed  the Police Tele Communication Branch and Crime Records Bureau of the North Zone,  Old pieces of furniture are retained by  the police and the interior portions were repaired and restored. In 2014 there was a proposal to pull down the building. However, it was given up as the structure was found to be in good shape. In 2000 it got a special award. The structure is designed in a fashion, it can maintain stable  temperature inside because of its high ceiling - roughly 30 feet high with Madras terraced roof. 


Mylapore Police station, Chennai:

Mylapore, Chennai. colonial dtnext.in

Built in  1902;  Commissioner Oswald Routh Jones; Design:  Indo-Saracenic.   
This station came up on the same day as Chintadripet station  under  Commissioner Oswald Routh Jones, In 2002, this station celebrated  its centenary.   A modern building came up behind it and this structure is retained by the police department  upon confirmation that the old  structure was strong enough to last more than 70 plus years. An open library is functioning there in the verandah and it has been there for more than 20 years. Officials coming here for meeting higher-ups can use their spare time in the library.  This police station's jurisdiction includes three important land marks in the city -  the Kapaleeshwarar temple, Santhome Church and Police headquarters.

 Measuring 3,600 sq ft it houses the Deputy Commissioner’s office. The total police land area is 24,000 sq ft, and  the new building 1,325 sq ft. is part of the land. 


Chindatharipet Police station, Chennai:

restored police station, Chinthadaripet, Chennai.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Chindatharipet Police station, Chennai. dtnext.in

Built in 1902;  Commissioner Oswald Routh Jones. Architectural style is that of   Indo-Saracenic.

The jurisdiction of this police station remains still large as in the past,  not yet changed so far. Old structure like Head Post Office and the former Central Prison, and fish market  fall within the limits of this police station. It was in 1955 Single Digit Finger Print Section of Finger Print Bureau came up on the land of this police station. This structure like other police stations was saved from demolition through the efforts of the public and the media. Heritage lovers and historians gave pressure to the government to save the old building that stands as a testimony to the earliest police operation in the city. 

Offices of Law and Order, Crime and All-Women police wings, and Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner were shifted o the new building and  traffic police  section occupied the old structure. Police quarters occupy  33,600 sq ft land,. In 2020 by October, the old structure was restored. 


Thousand Lights Police station, Chennai:   

Thousand Lights Police station, Chennai.dtnext.in

Built in typical colonial style architecture, the structure which is 100 plus year old served as a Guest House of police official of   Kodambakkam. In the later years it became a police station. Built of bricks lime mortar, this masonry structure  somehow managed to survive all these years in spite of vagaries of weather and severe monsoon seasons. But the overall condition of the building was not good.  This once served as Egmore station's  outpost with limited work forces. In 1973 it became a police station and the Light House police station moved in 1988. 

The Police officers had a tough time dealing with workers' strike, etc.,  as many  large establishments  were in its policing  limit. In 1986 this station  drew the attention of the country and countless people's eyebrows arched up  with wonder when  first all-women police station started functioning here.  A new building in 2005 came up within the sprawling campus of 40080 sq.ft. The good news is there was no pulling down of the old European styled building. 

Royapettah, Harbour, Teynampet,  Royapuram and  Saidapet police station stand today as the legacy of colonial police establishment in this city that srved  as the earliest settlement for the newly-formed East India Company. 

/Once a police station on Thruvottiyrroad, Chennai. timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Above image: This old dilapidated building, once a British bungalow (owned by an English man who was an employee of the Madras port)  on Thiruyottyr road, Chennai  was a police station  50 years ago. A single-story structure made of bricks lime mortar at any time may cave in. With it pillared verandah and  narrow wooden front door for entry, it looks like a typical house of this region.  It was one of the police stations built in the 1900s. Much of the damage was caused by the overgrowth of banyan tree  and other plants nearby  This uninhabitable building is owned by the Port-trust. (.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/police-station-that-grew-out-of-house-crumbling/articleshow/62245167.cms)

St. Thomas Mount Police station, Chennai.newindianexpress.com

Above image: Demolition of St. Thomas Mount  Police station.  In Feb. 2010 the 80 year old (at that point of time) police station building was pulled down for good. This was done to make way for the proposed Metro line. The ISO-certified old building was opened by Lord Hamilton during the British regime on October 25, 1929. Once its limit was very large................................. 

Unfortunately, police stations in places like  Mount Road, Esplanade, Flower Bazaar, Egmore, Nungambakkam, etc  were razed to the ground  to build new, modern buildings.  Along with these heritage  structures is lost the continuity of police history of these places in Chennai.   It is a big loss to the posterity.