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The church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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India Company, who, through the judicious persistence of their
wisest members and their most distinguished servants, per-
suaded the Government to adopt all the wise provisions which
made it a prudent measure. And it was a triumph for the
religious-mmded people of England, the friends of the mission
cause, as against those who opposed it on different grounds,
or who were supremely indifferent to it. The additions to the
Chm'ch estabHshment in India came very short of Dr. Buchanan's
suggestions,'^ and the missionary scheme did not come up to
the original demands of the party at Wilberforce's back ; but
it was a triumph all the same that by Act of Parliament men
of good character and assured mcome " should be licensed to
go to India for moral, religious and educational purposes.

' As Hough admits; Christianity in India, iv, 194.

- If men had been allowed to go without an assured income from private
sources, they might have become chargeable to the Company or to the charity
of the Company's servants.



The early policy of not building. The policy of making grants-in-aid. In-
crease of Chaplains after the fall of Seringapatam. The policy of building
in military stations and paying the whole cost. The cheap building.
Further increase of Chaplains, The transition period between the old
policy and the new. The Military Board. Tho ordinary procedure between
1807 and 1833. Churches built during that period. Tho supply of
furniture according to the 1833 Rules. Third period of Church building.
Ownership of Churches. Trustee owners. The consecration of the Churches.
The effect of consecration. The limited powers of trustee owners.

The history of Church building in India may be divided into
several periods corresponding with tho changing policy of the
Directors. From the commencement of their ventures in the
East the Directors had a very distinct religious policy. As
practical business men they knew that they would be best
served by men of religious principle and practice; and they knew
perfectly well how great is the restraining influence of a good
minister. From the beginning, therefore, they appointed
Chaplains to their ships and factories. In each factory the
largest room was used for the common purposes of the mer-
chants. It was theu" consultation room, their commercial
exchange room, and their dining-room. And the Dkectors
ordered that the room should also be used for divine service
on Sundays, and for the daily prayers on other days.

Some of the early merchants recognised the incongruity of
the uses to which the room was put, and remembered with
regret the Churches m the city of London where they had
learned their duty to God and man. Streynsham Master at
Surat was the hrst man to translate this feeling into action,

£ 2


and to raise money among his fellow merchants for a separate
Church building. Before he had carried out the scheme he was
transferred to Fort St. George ; but he took his feelings with
him and was instrumental in buildhig St. Mary's Church in
the Fort, the first English Church in India.

In this effort the Dnectors had no part ; they looked on
with encouragement, but they gave no linancial help. They
obtamed the deeds and instruments necessary for the consecra-
tion of the Church from the Bishop of London, and probaljly
paid all the fees ; but they made no grant from their funds for
the building expenses. They approved, but they stood outside
the movement altogether. This was in 1680. Later on, when
a Church was built at Calcutta in 1709, the Directors assisted
with a grant of money and building material. i And in 1715,
when the merchants at Bombay were building their Church, the
Directors agam co-operated with a gi'ant.

In the Carnatic the policy of approval and co-operation
was pursued during the eighteenth century. Christ Church,
Trichinopoly, was completed in 1766 with the Company's
assistance," and Christ Church, Tanjore, was similarly com-
pleted in 1780.'^ The Directors also approved of assistance
bemg given hi the building of the Churches at Vellore, Eamnad,
Ellore, and North Black To\mi, and in the repair of the Churches
at Vepery and Cuddalore. In none of these cases did they
take the initiative. But they knew of the value of Churches
to then- civil and military servants, and they assisted in then-
building and reparation.

This polic}^ came to an end m 1807. The fall of Seringa-
patam was the cause of the change. By the breakmg up of the
power of Mysore nearly the whole of the south of India came
under the jurisdiction of the Company. Before that conquest
took place British territory in the south was small in extent.
The Nawab of the Carnatic was the nominal owner and ruler.
The Company upheld his power by placing garrisons m various
forts in his dommions. But they did not feel themselves called
upon to build Churches for the different garrisons. When the
temtory becanje then* own, and the garrisons were increased in

' The Pariah of Bengal, by the Ven. H. B. Hyde, p. 23.

- The Church in Madras, vol. i. p. 580. ■* Ibid. i>. 007.


number and strength, the question assumed a new aspect and
the old pohcy was altered.

There was a Brigade at the new cantonment at Trichinopoly,
three miles from the Fort ; also at Secunderabad, Cannanore,
Bangalore, Bellary, and Masuhpatam, and detachments at
smaller stations. None of these new cantonments had Churches
in 1807 ; only two of them had Chaplains. In the year 1805
the Governor in Council strongly recommended the Directors
to appoint more Chaplains. He enclosed in his letter a report
of the Senior Chaplain, Dr. Kerr, on the general neglect of
public worship, and the general deterioration of morals. The
Court replied by increasing the number.^ Before they arrived
the Vellore mutiny took place, and the Commander-in-Chief
was called upon to report upon the cause of it. There was a
suspicion in India on the part of some that the mutiny was due
to a fear that the Government had some design of forcibly
converting the people to Christianity. The Commander-in-
Chief, General Hay MacDowall, wrote thus : ~

' If there is an idea remote from all apparent probabilit}^
and remote from every direct cause of its being suggested to
the minds of the people, the intention on the part of Government
of converting them to Christianity by force is of that descrip-
tion. In no situation has so much toleration and such an
unlimited freedom of religious opinions and ceremonials been
displayed as under the British Government in India ; and in
no situation have so few measures been pursued by British
subjects for the conversion of the people to the religion which
we profess. No Englishmen have hitherto been employed on
this duty in the Provinces of the Peninsula ; and from the
almost total absence of religious establishments in the interior
of the country, from the habits of life prevalent among military
men, it is a melancholy truth that so infrequent are the religious
observances of officers doing duty with Battalions that tlie
sepoys have not until very lately discovered the nature of the
religion professed by the English.'

With the expression of so strong an opinion the matter
could not be allowed to rest. The Commander-in-Chief was

1 Despatch, April 9, 1806, 104-18, Public.
- Despatch, May 29, 1807, 17, Political.


asked to give his opinion as to what should be done. He
recommended ^ that chapels should be erected at all military
stations where European troops arc quartered, ' whatever may
be urged to the contrary,' and reminded the Government that
this pohcy had been pursued in Bengal since 1798. Copies of
this letter were sent to the Directors both by the Public and
the jMilitar}' Departments ; '-^ and the Directors replied to Ihem,^
authorising the buildmg of chapels (upon the same cheap plan
as in Bengal) at all permanent military stations to which a
Chaplain is attached, where no convenient place exists for the
celebration of public worship.

From this time the Government embarked on the new
policy of taking the initiative in military stations and paying
the cost of buildmg. The mention of the cheap buildmg
suggests that they were only half in earnest. What they meant
was a building without architectural adornment ; plain, perhaps
ugly, l)ut solid. And as if to show that they did not mtend
their plan to fail through the adoption of half measures, they
sanctioned the purchase of sacramental plate for every station
to which a Chaplain was attached, and a supply of Bibles and

When the six Churches ^* were finished preparations were
made for their consecration. The erection of the buildings
was at once followed by an mcrease in the number of Chaplains.
The Directors were probably advised b}'' their law officers of the
restriction of the use of consecrated buildings by the Act of
Uniforiiiity, and knew that none except those in Holy Orders
could be licensed to officiate in them. They therefore increased
the number of Chaplains from fifteen to eighteen.^ Their
mind and intention can be gathered from the first draft of
paragraph six of the despatch. They wrote : ^'

' We have recentty been led to review the scale of the

' His letter to the Government is dated Nov. 19, 1807.

' Letter, Dec. 14, 1807, 49-52, Military ; Letter, Jan. 'M, 1808, 120, Public.
'■' Despatch, Jan. 11, 1809, 153, Public.

•• The Churches and burial-grounds at Cannanore, Bangalore, Bellary, St.
John's, Trichinopoly, and the two Churches at Masulipatam.
•' Despatch, April 29, 1814, U, Pubhc.
* Draft Despatches, India OfiSce Records.


Ecclesiastical establishment of your Presidency, particularly
with reference to the enlargement which the Act lately passed
relative to the Company affords to missionary exertions in
India. It may hence be expected that in process of time
persons of different religious denominations will appear in
that country ; and the zeal which carries them thither may
naturally be expected to dispose them to offer their ministra-
tions to any communities of Europeans where there is no stated
clergymen. Without meaning to impeach the motive which
might thus actuate them, we nevertheless think it would be
desirable that there should be a regular supply of Chaplains
of the estabhshed Church of England not only at all the prin-
cipal stations, civil and military, but at the larger stations of
the secondary class, civil or military, not yet provided with a
Chaplain, and where there is a competent community of

This draft was discussed by the Court of Directors and
rejected. It did not appear to them to be necessary to give
any reason for their action, and they substituted a plain state-
ment that they proposed to increase the estabhshment to
eighteen. The draft shows, however, very plainly that they
never intended the Churches they were building and helping
to build to be used by any other rehgious body than that
of the Church of England.

The Company's new policy of providing buildings came
so suddenly upon the old policy of leaving their civil and
military servants to provide buildings for themselves, that in
some stations at a distance from the Presidency town the old
method was pursued for some time after the new policy had
been declared. Of the six Churches above mentioned as
ready for consecration, one was built entirely without the
assistance of the Government, namely St. Mary's, Masulipatam ;
and the other, St. John's, Masulipatam, was built almost
entirely at the cost of the civil and military officers of the station.
The Chaplains were doubtful if the new policy was intended
entirely to supersede the old. At some of the smaller stations
they proceeded to act as if the old policy were still in force, and
erected small buildings at the cost of subscribers. Such a
building was erected at Tellicherry on the west coast. It was
neither well built nor well designed. Consequently the


Government of Fort ISt. George issued an injunction in 1818
that no place of worship should thereafter be erected without
the permission of the Government previously obtained. There
were two reasons for this order. One was that missionaries
might give offence by erecting chapels in too close a proximity
to Hindu temples or Maliomedan mosques, or within the
boundaries of a special Maliomedan or Hindu quarter. And
the other was the possibility of being called upon to repair the
chapels erected in civil or militarj^ stations. If the Government
was expected to repair, it was only right that they should be
certified before erection of the adequacy of the foundations
and the thickness of the walls and such like particulars.

In the Madras Presidency a different system was pursued
from that which existed in the other Presidencies. The Military
Board considered and decided the expediency of erecting and
repairing all military buildings, including the chapels in military
stations. The Directors wished i the matter to be considered
in the Public Dej)artment upon a report from the military
authorities. The Government of Fort St. George replied that
their system was not attended with any disadvantage or in-
convenience, and that they did not therefore judge it requisite
to make any altera tion.^ The Directors acquiesced ^ in their
resolution to retain their own procedure.

Before 1833 there were no special rules regulating the
erection of Churches and other buildings. Every fresh case
was submitted to the Military Board, and was settled by
them on its merits. If approved by them it was sanctioned
by the Government and reported to the Directors for their
consent. If the Directors withheld their consent, as they
sometimes did, their reply was generally too late to prevent the
carrying out of the sanctioned scheme ; for the long period of
one and a half years had to elapse before a reply to a letter
could be received.

The system of providing everything necessary for public
worship in military stations lasted till 1833. During the
period twenty -tlnee Churches and chapels were built for the use

1 Despatch, April 8, 1819, 104, 100, 111, IIG, Military.
■ Letter, Jan. 9, 1821, 119, 120, Military.
3 Pespatch, May 13, 1823, 22, Military.


of Europeans and Eurasians. Of these three were mission
chapels intended also for the use of native Christians. Of
the whole number fifteen were built and furnished by the
Government, two were assisted with grants, and six were
built without Government assistance.

The fifteen were :
1808 Fort Chapel, Bangalore. 1818 C.M.S. Chapel, Black

1811 St. Mark's, Bangalore. Town.

— Cannanore. 1828 Quilon.

— St. John's, Trichinopoly. 1829 St. Stephen's, Ootaca-

— Fort Church, Bellary. mund.

1812 Secunderabad. — Tripassore.
1816 Arcot. 1832 Nagpore.

— St. Thomas' Mount. 1833 Kamptee.

— Poonamallee.

The two were :

1810 St. John's, Masulipatam. 1827 St. Matthias, Yepery

The six were :

1810 St. Mary's, Masulipatam. 1823 John Pereiras Chapel
1815 St. George's (Cathedral). (C.M.S.).

1820 Tellicherry. 1832 Mysore.
1828 Aurangabad.

In the year 1833 the Government of Bengal asked the
Directors to communicate their ' general views regarding the
provision of places of worship, their fittings and the supply of
sacred furniture.' They replied i that they had long since laid
it down as a principle that such edifices as might be necessary
should be plain and simple in style, so as to avoid unnecessary
expense, and that they should be built only at stations where
there was a resident Chaplain. They continued :

' With regard to the supply of sacred furniture we are quite
aware that such articles as Fonts and Communion Plate cannot
be dispensed with; and considering them as forming the
component parts of the Churches, they must be provided by
Government. But we are of opinion that Bells and such like

» Despatch to Bengal, Sept. 4, 1833, 3, 4, Eccl.


appendages are not indispensable requisites, if requisites at all,
and that the Company should not be subjected to the expense of
providing them. We are also of opinioji that if the congrega-
tions desire to have organs, they and not the Company should
defray the charge of providing them, as well as the salaries of
the Organists ; and you will distinctly understand that we
shall not sanction an}' disbursement for these or any other
objects not essentially necessary for the due performance of
Divine service.'

This order drew a distinction between fittings that were
necessary and fittings that were luxuries, and threw the cost
of providing the latter upon those who used the Churches.
Perhaps they were right in reckoning altar fittings, hangings,
and organs among the luxuries ; they were hardly right in
including bells, and excusably wrong in including punkahs.
The order as to bells remamed in force till 1851,i and in the
following year punkahs were included in the list of necessary
furniture in military Churches.^ There was a certain amount
of injustice to officers and men, who marched to Church by
order, in the exclusion of punkahs. They were practically told
either to provide them themselves or to go without. It took
many years to persuade the Directors that the Church is gener-
ally the hottest building in the cantonment, and that sweltering
in perspiration is not conducive to effective public worship.

In April 1850 the Government of Fort St. George caused to
be collected together all the directions, cases, and precedents
scattered about in the records of the Mihtary Board and in their
own Ecclesiastical Proceedings, and published as a code of
rules for the guidance of all concerned in the future. The
Directors approved of this code,"^ and it remained in force until
it was superseded in 1865.

The third period of Church building, which lasted from 1833
to 1865, differed from the second period in this respect. In the
second period the Directors had in their minds chiefly and
principally those stations where British soldiers were quartered,
and they paid the whole cost of the Church building and

' Despatch, July 16, 1851, 17, Eccl.
- iJespatch, March 31, 1852, 4, Eccl.
=' Despatch, August 31, 1853, 9, Eccl.


furnishing. By the year 1833 all the larger military stations
in the Southern Presidency were provided for. Beside these
there were many civil stations where there was also a native
regiment with British officers, and some civil stations where
there were no troops at all. The religious needs of these
stations were ignored in the second period. During the third
period there was an effort to supply them. The local Govern-
ment pursued the earher system of giving grants-in-aid to
build Churches in the smaller stations where a Chaplain was
resident. In 1844 they promulgated a rule i that in all cases
the congregation should bear half the expense of furnishing a
Church, exception being made in special cases where the con-
gregation was small. This exception was quite against the
rules of the Company. Their rule had hitherto been to do
nothing for small congregations. The Government proposed
to do everything for them. The Directors did not approve.
They regarded the new rule as at variance with all precedent.

A little later the Government requested mstructions for
future guidance in the matter of assisting to build Churches at
out-stations. The Directors replied " that in most cases the
expense need not be incurred, but that under certain circum-
stances it might be necessary for Government to contribute.

Before the period came to an end the principle of assisting
in all cases was established and followed, and the amount to
be raised locally both for building and furnishing was fixed
at one half the total cost.

It was during this period that the system of making grants
towards the cost of building Eoman Catholic chapels was com-
menced. The first grant was made in 1840. The grant for
Kamptee was Rs.4000 ; Bellary, Es.2000 ; Bangalore, Es.4000 ;
St. Thomas' Mount, Ks.2000 ; Secunderabad, Es.2000;
Jaulnah, Es.lOOO, &c. And it was also during this period
that the Eoman Catholic missionaries began to receive allow-
ances for their ministrations to British soldiers of their faith.

When the first Bishop of Madras arrived on the coast in
October 1835, he found that the second period of Church building
had come to an end, and that the new poHcy had begun. In

1 Despatch, March 10, 1847, 8, Eccl.; Despatch, Dec. 30, 1844.
- Despatch, Oct. 20, 1847, 50, Eccl.


cantonments where there were troops the mihtary authorities
still took the initiative, and the Government erected buildings
and paid all or most of the cost. In all other cases the initiative
was taken by the local civilians. Sometimes they erected the
])uilding themselves and paid the whole cost of it. Sometimes
a local building committee was formed. Subscriptions were
paid to its honorary secretary. The services of the Company's
engineer were placed at its disposal ; and when the cost of the
building was known the Government paid its half share to the
local connnittee, who paid the contractor by instalments as
the work progressed. This system continued until 1865.

The change of policy with regard to the ownership of the
Churches which took place during the period under review
(1805-35) is one of the noteworthy events of the time. Up to
1805 the Government had no desire to possess the buildings.
They acquired Church buildings in the eighteenth century
from the French at Vepery and Cuddalore, and from the
Dutch at Negapatam, Pulicat, Cochin, Tuticorin, and Sadras.
They helped liberally in the building of the churches at Tanjore
and Trichinopoly. But though they were all used by the
Europeans in their service, and were occasionally repaired at
the Government expense, they handed them all over to the
S.P.C.K. Mission for their pastoral and missionary purposes.
They did not want them. They gave a liberal donation to the
jjuilding fund of the North Black Town Church at the begimaing
of the nineteenth century, but they made no claim to o^vner-
ship. They regarded the building as held in trust by the
Vestry of St. Mary's, Fort St. George, in the same way as St.
Mary's itself was held.

In 1807 they were ordered to baild Churches in several
military stations. The Judges of the Supreme Court had
declared that Vestries in India were not qualified to hold
property. Some who were troubled by the decision moved the
Government to create a trust or a series of trusts by enactment.
The Directors to whom the question was referred replied that
the Government itself was by Charter qualified to act as trustee
of every kind of property. Bishop ]\Iiddleton was anxious
that all the new Church buildings should be put into a special
trust in the same kind of way as St. George's. But he was told


that this was quite unnecessary, and that the Government
would be the trustees in every case. As to the buildings erected
entirely at the expense of Government or purchased by them,
there was never any question as to their being the property
of the Government. It is true that the proprietary rights were
limited by the Acts of Consecration. Still the Government
were the founders and the patrons, and had all the rights and
duties which belong by British law to such persons.

But as to buildings erected partly at the expense of
Government and partly at the expense of others, the ownership
did not appear to be so clear, especially if the others were not
inclined to part with their rights. Consecration had the legal
effect of preserving the rights of private builders and subscribers ;
for it prevented the use of the Church in a way they would not
have approved. It was more of a happy thought than a
deliberate act of poHcy that Archdeacon Eobinson drew up the
Kules of 1829 which made the Chaplain and two senior officers
a Board of Trustees, a committee of management ; placed them
hi charge of the Church, burial-ground, school and parish
funds ; and made them responsible for the care of the whole of
the local Church property. The Eules, which evaded the
question of ownership, were promulgated with the consent and
the approbation of the Madras Government, and were welcomed
by those who were jealous of their rights as an appropriate
compromise. These rules postponed the question of ownership
for a generation. For twenty years the Court of Directors

Online LibraryFrank PennyThe church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 39)