Orphan Schools in Madras

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There were a number of orphan schools in and around the city of Madras. The details in this article include many references to Google Books sources.

Charity School

  • St Mary’s Charity School in the Fort was established in 1715. Limited View Google Books page 439, The Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume 1994 reprint, original 1939. Church Orphans appear to have been supported from an even earlier date, according to page 68 Fort St. George, Madras by Fanny Emily Penny 1900 Archive.org. The School provided for the education and support of a limited number of the orphans of Europeans in India, without reference to the professions of the parents of the orphans. Page 223 of this Google Books link, published 1855.
  • This institution appears to have amalgamated with the Civil Orphan Asylums in 1872. (Refer below)

Madras Military Male Orphan Asylum

Madras, 1862, showing the Military Male Asylum (centre)
  • This Asylum was opened in 1789. [1]
  • Information about the founding of both the Female and Male Military Orphan Asylums is contained in The church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the presidency of Madras, page 508 by Rev Frank Penny (1904) Archive.org
  • The Rev Dr Andrew Bell was the first Director and Superintendent of the Asylum at Egmore from 1789-1796. At the time of his appointment the system of teaching was inadequate and this lead to his founding the 'Madras System of Education' - a monitorial method whereby older pupils instructed those younger, in addition to receiving instruction from their seniors. The first monitor was a boy named John Frisken, who later became the printer of the Madras Courier. After Bell's return to the UK in 1796, this system of education was adopted in various schools both in England and also in his native Scotland.The Madras College, Fife, still recognises the influence of it's founder. For further details see The Rev Dr Andrew Bell madras.fife.sch.uk.
Bell wrote two books about the system of education he developed, giving details of the Asylum
  • The Rev James Cordiner was only schooltmaster and probably the Director from 12 June 1798 to 23 April 1799. He descibes the Male Orphan Asylum, and also briefly mentions the Female Asylum, in his book A Voyage To India from page 79. Google Books, published 1820.
  • From 1794 the brighter students at the Madras Male Orphanage, usually boys of mixed blood, were recruited to the Survey school.[2] "Madras Observatory ran a surveying school from 1794 to 1810 to train teenager European orphaned boys as practical revenue surveyors".[3]
  • 1829 letter by W Webbe, former pupil, regarding his schooldays c 1790’s, footnotes pages 397-398. He appears as William Webbe in the list of Foundation Boys for 1790 in the listing of names on page 222 of The Madras School
  • From the establishment of the gun-carriage manufactory in Seringapatam in 1802, boys from the Orphan Asylum had been taken as apprentices, and in 1813 there were 13 of these lads, rated as Europeans, and allowed 5 pagodas each per month. There was a draughtsman on the staff at 15 pagodas a month as schoolmaster, and some asylum boys were still shown on the rolls up to 1834.[4]
  • In June 1821, the Governor in Council authorised the formation of a corps of Carnatic Ordnance Artificers, to be recruited from the sons of Europeans born in India and to be enlisted as European soldiers. They were to come from the Orphan Asylum, the fort school, and from other charitable institutions. One of the reasons for the establishment was the desirability of providing suitable employment for a portion of the Eurasian (mixed race) population.[4]
  • Entries to the Madras Military Asylum in 1825-1826 in FIBIS Search. In the majority of the cases the ” Person Recommending Boy” was stated to be the Poonamallee Asylum, (see below) perhaps suggesting transfer from this Asylum at a particular age, or amalgamation of the two Asylums, as happened with the Girls' Asylums. This could imply the boys were orphaned some years earlier.
  • Entry to the Madras Military Male Asylum in July 1835 in FIBIS Search. This listing appears to consist of three groups
    • “Boy at Friend in Need Society”, boys who were blind or otherwise disabled
    • “Poonamallee Boy at Nurse”, probably very young boys previously under the care of the Poonamallee Asylum
    • “Boy for whom employment in the Public Service was solicited “ -perhaps boys readmitted after a failed apprenticeship.
  • Page 59 of this Google Books link, published 1842. A description of the Egmore Redoubt appears in this article in The Hindu [Newspaper]
  • There was a printing press at the Asylum from 1800 Limited View Google Books page 77, Print, Folklore and Nationalism in Colonial South India by Stuart Blackburn (2005)
  • The Madras Veterinary Establishment was set up in 1810 and boys from the Military Male Asylum and the Charity School were to be trained in the veterinary art, with the eventual rank of farriers. Google Books
  • Drummers are mentioned in this link published 1838 Google Books
  • Seven boys (of not less than twelve years of age and of ‘pure European descent‘) arrived in Sydney in February 1841. Refer Australia-Orphans
  • Diet of the boys in 1863 page 401 Google books
  • 1864-1865 Report Google Books. This report is in the middle of a volume of reports relating to the Civil Asylums.
  • In June 1865, the Gun Carriage Manufactory at Madras was made available for the instruction of the pupils of the MMOA, and other similar Educational establishments, in trades and the use of machinery, the number under instruction being limited, experimentally, to twenty. Google Books
  • Page 143 of Six Months in India by Mary Carpenter, educational and social reformer who visited India in 1866. Google Books
  • Amalgamation with the Lawrence Asylum was considered from 1860. In April 1864 the land at Lovedale, near Ootacamund, was selected for the combined institutions and new buildings were constructed. 220 boys from the MMMOA moved in September 1871 Limited View Google Books The Nilgiris,Volume 1 of Madras district gazetteers by W Francis (1994) reprint of an earlier book, probably 1908.
  • Another mention of the transfer to the Lawrence Asylum, Lovedale in September 1871 Google Books
  • Records for the Madras Military Male Orphan Asylum for 1829-1833 were held by the Lawrence Asylum in 1892.[5] The relevant document may be viewed here on FIBIS Search.

Madras Military Female Orphan Asylum

  • Madras Military Female Asylum in FIBIS Search. The record details say: A ranscription of details of several hundred orphaned girls attending the Madras Military Female Asylum in 1839. This includes some details of girls who had left the establishment between 1829 and 1838. The records have been transcribed from those found in India Office Records Collection F/4/1855 Coll. 78480. Note that prior to 1826, orphaned girls of soldiers of the British Army attended a separate asylum at Poonamallee. The two institutions were combined in 1826.
  • Peter Bailey, "The Madras Military Female Orphan Asylum," FIBIS Journal No 6 (Autumn 2001). For details of how to access this article online, see FIBIS Journals.
  • Page 224 of this Google Books link, published 1855
  • Page 61 of this Google Book link, published 1842
  • The Madras Male and Female Asylums (spuddybike.org.uk) about the founding of both the Female and Male Military Orphan Asylums contains information from the book The church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the presidency of Madras by Rev Frank Penny (1904)
  • MMFOA moved to Conway's Garden, Kilpauk before 1822, Limited View Google Books, page 563 Indian Records Series Vestiges of Old Madras 1640-1800
  • In 1842 five girls aged 14 to 16 were sent to Sydney where they arrived in January 1843 and were admitted to the Sydney Orphan School. Refer Australia, Orphans.
  • A newspaper item from the Bombay Times & Journal of Commerce, 2nd April 1851 is shown in Orphan newspaper items
  • The girls, about 100, were transferred to the Lawrence Asylum, Lovedale in October 1904. Limited View Google Books page 263, The Nilgiris Volume 1 of Madras district gazetteers by W Francis 1994 reprint of an earlier book, probably 1908 and Limited View Google Books, page 315 Gazetteer of South India, Volume 2 by W Francis 1988 (probably a reprint of an earlier book, perhaps 1905.)
  • View a 1860 record, part of FIBIS Documents

Poonamallee Military Asylum

Poonamallee is a town about 15 miles from Madras. An asylum for the children of British Army soldiers, was established in 1819. See page 195 The Calcutta Annual Register (1821) Google Books. It is not clear how long this Asylum continued. All the girls were transferred to the MMFOA in 1826. All the boys may have been transferred at this time also,with only very young boys remaining under the care of the Poonamallee Asylum, such as those who appear to have been transferred to the MMMOA in 1835.

Free, Black Town and Civil Orphan Asylums

  • This Google Books link, published 1855, refers page 224 to the Black Town Orphan Asylums and says a Free Day School for Boys was established in 1807, which in turn led to the establishment of a Female Asylum in 1815, and a Male Asylum in 1823.
  • The Annual report of the Madras Free Schools dated January 1, 1815 stated that the Female Free Orphan Asylum was due to open in April [1815]. The Male Free School had completed its eighth year, and the Female Free School its fifth. Page 178 Google Books
  • A volume from Google Books contains an incomplete set of Annual Reports for the Civil Orphan Asylums from 1859-1860 until 1876. (Note the Report for 1864-1865 appears to be for the Military Male Orphan Asylum, refer above.) The following facts were advised:
  1. The Asylums were never intended for illegitimate children (1876 Report, page 6), and
  2. The Woolley Fund supported children of destitute Europeans (1876 Report, page 2)
There are numerous mentions of children throughout the reports
  • In 1903, the South Indian Railway requiring for its new terminus at Egmore, the buildings occupied by the Civil Orphan Asylums, Goverment suggested that the Civil Orphan Asylums move to the premises of the Military Female Orphan Asylum in Poonamallee Road, and that the girls from the latter Asylum move to the Lawrence Asylum at Lovedale. The transfer took place in October 1904. Limited View Google Books page 263, The Nilgiris Volume 1 of Madras District Gazetteers by W Francis 1994 reprint of an earlier book, probably 1908.
  • The name was changed to St George’s School and Orphanage in 1954 according to the article "From Redoubt to school" by S. Muthiah in The Hindu [Newspaper] dated 23 April 2003 . It continues on today. Further article "Survivors of time - The bell still tolls" by Anusha Parthasarathy The Hindu 12 July 2011


  1. Page 223 [1], A Gazetteer of Southern India: With the Tenasserim Provinces and Singapore published 1855. google books
  2. West, Shirley. Revenue Surveyor Rootsweb India Mailing List 27 February 2011, archived.
  3. "Science in British India" by RK Kochhar Indian Journal of History of Science 34(4) 1999 pp317-346 (page 329, page 13 of the link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Page 194 The East India Company’s Arsenals & Manufactories by Brigadier-General H. A. Young, Director of Ordnance Factories in India 1917-1920 Google Books
  5. Cornelius, David B. Madras Artillery Rootsweb India Mailing List 5 May 2008, archived.