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History of Presidency College Chennai

Updated on September 17, 2014

About the College

Presidency College Chennai. This is the mother of Chennai University. This is also called as Presidency and State College.

This college is situated facing the Marina Beach, Chennai. This red colored building which aged around 140 years and still generating many scholars.

This majestic looking like Italian Palace, history of this college is interesting.

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19th Century

In 1826, the then Madras president Thomas Munro has formed a committee called Committee of Public Instruction. After 10 years in 1836, the recommendations of this committee was initiated by Committee of Native Education. This committee has listed some points about education. This was rejected by then President Lord Elphinstone. Instead he implemented 19 points. One of the important point is to open an University in Chennai. to fulfill this, in 1840, October 15th. a building was taken for rent in Egmore, Chennai and the Presidential school started. The Management was with the English rulers and some prominent Indians, who controlled.

To appoint a Principal of the school, Eyre Burton Powell who completed Maths Honours in Cambridge University, England was nominated and he missed the chance of becoming the first principal.

Based on the invitation, Powell landed in Mumbai Seaport on 20th September 1840. To reach Chennai, it took 4 weeks for him. The committee were unrest without principal and finally called Cooper who was serving in Hooghly University, Calcutta and appointed as temporary principal with a monthly remuneration of Rs. 400.

After the arrival of Powell, Cooper went back to Calcutta. In 1841, the Presidential school was upgraded to High School and place shifted from Egmore to Broadway and developed gradually. In 1853 it has grown as Presidential College.

Children who were laundering in the campus was now the teenagers paradise.

In 1857, when Chennai University started Presidential college came under this University. It is understood that this place in Broadway is insufficient and they decided to construct a new building opposite Marina Beach.

It was announced in 1864 that, Rs.3000 will be awarded to the best drawing for the University building. That amount was huge in those days and the entire nation was waiting for, who wins the jackpot amount and finally England's prestigious engineer Robert Chisholm won the award.

After winning the award, he moved from Calcutta to Chennai. This is the first building constructed by him in Chennai. After that, he designed Central railway Station, Egmore Railway station, Victoria Public Hall, Head Post Office Building and most of the landmarks of Chennai was designed by him.

Presidency college building looks like Italian Palace, because in those days all the English buildings were in Italian style.

In 1867. Lord Napier laid the foundation stone and the construction completed in 3 years of full swing and Edinburg Copenhagen inaugurated the building on 25th March 1870.

20th Century

In 1940, during the centenary celebration, Automatic clock tower on the four side of the building tower was laid. This clock was designed and developed by the college department itself under the supervision of Prof. Parameswaran. This sound of the clock bell every hour was heard up to Triplicane area.

The other attraction of the college is that lot of legends, scholars have studied in this college and list goes a long.

Now this college is heading for 200th anniversary and is still going young.


In 1891, College Principal David Dungton has published a book about the college on the eve of 50th year celebration. This has resulted us to know about the history of the building.

In India, British opened two Presidential college. One in Chennai and another in Calcutta.

In 1987, this college has been made as deemed university status.

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© 2012 Ahdilarum

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