The Madras Male and Female Asylum's

This was extracted from The church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the presidency of Madras Rev Frank Penny (1904) Publisher Smith, Elder London.

...In the meantime if the Bengal plan was adopted, the Company s officers only would be put under stoppages to maintain the children of H.M.'s soldiers in India, who are greatly more numerous than the European corps in the service of the East India Company. In the next paragraph he mentioned that recourse had been had to private subscription, and that the amount subscribed was sufficient to maintain 50 girls, whilst the Church Fund was sufficient for 50 boys.

Para. 3. The School was to be called the Asylum; the direction was to consist of the Governor, the members of Council, eight other gentlemen of the settlement including the two clergymen.

Para. 4. The house was given by the Nabob out of gratitude to the memory of those who have fallen in defence of his country. The children were to be under governesses and nurses subject to the orders and control of 12 Directresses, ladies belonging to the settlement. There were to be five classes of children.

1.Female orphans of officers and soldiers.
2.Female children who had lost one parent.
3.Legitimate female children of soldiers and their European wives. 
4.Legitimate female children of soldiers and their native wives.
5.Legitimate female children of European civilians of the settlement.

.. from June 1787, the date when the school was opened, for 62 children. The Governor and Council resolved to advance the allowance applied for, having 'no doubt that the Hon. Court of Directors will confirm this monthly contribution.

Beneath this entry in the Consultation Book (Consultations, 13 Jan. 1789) are the names of the girls in the Asylum when the letter was written; from which it appears that 21 girls were taken in in June 1787, 30 in July and 9 in August.

The origin of the Male Asylum may be traced to a despatch from the Court of Directors (Despatch, 14 March 1786) in which they expressed approval of the plan established at Calcutta for the education of the orphan children of officers at that settlement, and recommended that it should be adopted at Madras. When the despatch arrived at Madras the community was engaged in the raising of money to establish the Female Asylum.

The committee was entered in the Vestry proceedings as follows:

Robert Maunsell Esq.
Charles Oakeley Esq.
Lt. Col. Ross, Chief Engr.
William Webb Esq.
Lt. Col. Sydenham, Artillery.
J. du Pre Porcher Esq.
Lt. Col. Moorhouse, Com. Gen.
Nathaniel Kindersley Esq.
Lt. Col. Malcolm, A.G.
Andrew Ross Esq.
Robert Hughes Esq.
The Rev. Mr. Millingchamp - Minister
The Rev. Mr. Leslie  - Minister
William Balfour Esq. - Churchwarden
Thomas Cockburn Esq. - Churchwarden

The appointment of Dr Bell

In July 1789 Millingchamp went on leave, and Bell was appointed by the Government to succeed him as Junior Presidency Chaplain. Although he originally remained at Madras for the purpose of superintending the school at a salary, he now determined in view of his several clerical appointments to offer his services without pay. This he did through Mr. Andrew Ross; and his offer was gratefully accepted. When he became Presidency Chaplain, ex officio Director of the school and Superintendent, he found that the original Committee had completed their labours; that the school had its managing body; and that the Government was paying Rs. 5 a boy monthly for 100 boys.

His first effort was to get a sub-committee appointed to draw up rules. It consisted of Lt. Col. Malcolm, Lt. Col. Moorhouse, William Webb, Andrew Eoss, and himself. They abolished the distinction between directors and sub-directors; and also between the children of officers and others. They recommended a monthly committee of three to represent the Directors as a visiting and managing committee, one of the Chaplains or Churchwardens being always a member of it.

They issued an appeal to the public. They decreed that the education was to be elementary reading, writing, and arithmetic. They prescribed the boys dress shirt, trousers, and a coat for occasional use; and also the masters pay 20 pagodas for one, 15 for another. They laid down the duty of the teachers and of the boys and of the paid officials. And they announced that the great object was to rescue the children of the soldiers from the degradation and depravity of that class to which the mothers mostly belonged.

They then reported to Government what they had done, sending a copy of their regulations, of their subscriptions, and of their first balance sheet; which were duly forwarded to the Directors in London.

The result of the appeal was that all ranks below field officers voluntarily gave two days pay to the endowment fund. Field officers and General officers were not limited to two days pay; they were left to give what they pleased, and doubt less gave more. Col. Floyd of the 19th Dragoons sent the pay of a suspended officer. Col. Brathwaite and other commanding-officers sent the regimental fines for drunkenness. The military Board sent 2270 pagodas, which was prize money of former years unclaimed. After the Mysore war more unclaimed prize money was paid in, amounting to 14,000 pagodas. Financial fears were thus set at rest; and the numbers were increased from 100 to 150 in 1790, and to 200 in 1792.

In 1795 there were 250 sons of soldiers, mostly orphans, in the school. The estimated cost of each boy was Rs. 10 a month; the Company in paying Rs. 5 a month for 100 boys may be regarded as paying the entire cost of 50 boys. So that the remaining 200 had to be provided for out of the income of the endowment locally provided, and the local subscriptions.

Dr. Bell's health began to give way in 1795; the sun affected him in the way so common among Europeans. He obtained a medical certificate and leave to Europe in January 1796; but it was not till August that he was able to set sail for home

The Directors also empowered him to choose a master in England, whom they undertook to pay at the rate of 200 a year, and to give 120 for outfit. Dr. Bell chose James Cordiner, who arrived at Madras in June 1798. Cordiner only remained at the Asylum 11 months; he then went to Ceylon; and the superintendence of the Male Asylum was given to R. H. Kerr, who held it till his death, in 1808.