In November 1992, Christ Church High School on Anna Salai celebrated its 150th anniversary. Now, after 25 years, the school is gearing up to celebrate the 175th of its existence, on November 26.
Steeped in history, the Christ Church High School, situated opposite the General Post Office, Rajaji Salai, came into existence in 1842 during the historic days of the East India Company. Britons who lived and worked in neighbouring Narasingapuram, Chintadripet, Pudupet and Royapettah sought a church and school close to where they lived.
Imagine sharing your study space with horses! That’s exactly what students of Christ Church High School experienced during its initial days.
Thomas Parker Waller, proprietor of Mount Stables Company, gave a small room on the campus to the bishop and the parishioners on Mount Road to conduct worship services. Later, as the parishioners found the space insufficient, he loaned them a bigger room on the campus.
Later, in 1843, two schools were established in the same place — one for boys and the other for girls. In 1905, the two schools were merged and reorganised, which later came to be known as European Schools.
With the help of grants from the British Government and the European School Improvement Association, a new block consisting of five classrooms was added in 1928 at a cost of ₹40,000.
A new beginning
In 1947, the school acquired the status of a high school. Since then, it has been serving the residents of the neighbourhood and beyond. With the introduction of the Higher Secondary section in the academic year 1985-86, the history of the school took a new and exciting turn.
Did you know that Christ Church School was the first school to be commissioned for traffic patrol in south India in 1966? It consisted of 52 students — 28 boys and 24 girls.
As a former student, one of my favourite memories is working alongside the Chennai police. In the 1970s, the school had tied up with the Chennai police to regulate traffic and assist pedestrians on Mount Road. The students of the school would turn up smartly dressed in white with red berets and gloves and would enthusiastically regulate traffic.
Similarly, on Police Martyr’s Day on October 21, every year, the school captain and the head girl would pay tributes to the policemen who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It event would be held at the then police headquarters on Beach Road.
Prominent activities by the school that were meant for wider world included Shakespearean plays hosted at the Museum Theatre by students. These plays were directed by David Samuel and were highly appreciated by the public.
Of course, the plays were produced with hours of labour and practice, with Mr. David spending hours at the piano conceptualising and producing these classical plays. The sets and the costumes were created and produced by the Samuel couple, who dedicated their lives to the service of the school.
On the occasion of the school’s Foundation Day on November 26, the school alumni is proposing a grand celebration to honour and celebrate the teachers and the staff who have contributed to building this grand institution.
The school is encouraging all its students, alumni and teachers (past and present) to take part in these celebrations. Esther Linley Harris, the historian and genealogist of the Waller Family, will participate in the celebrations. She currently lives in Australia and is excited to be a part of the quartoseptcentennial celebrations.
The school has produced many illustrious alumni, including principals of well-known schools such as DAV Chennai. John Varghese, the principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi, is an old student. The school has also produced well-known musicians, actors and has added significantly to the cultural life of Madras.
Then, there are students who have served the country in the Navy and the Air Force, have joined the bureaucracy including the Indian Foreign Service and the Customs as well as Information Service.
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(Esther Kar is the director general of Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity and a student of the 1974 batch)