All Saint’s Church- A state of grace

There’s a little corner of colonial England preserved at the busy intersection of Victoria Road and Hosur Road. It is accessed through a gate. Inside are a cluster of trees resembling an English copse, beyond which is a charming little Gothic style country church set amidst a flower garden. It has dressed stone walls and gable fronted dormer windows that extend from a steeply pitched cross gabled roof. Right above the entrance porch is a west facing rose window that filters afternoon light into the nave. Two rows of dark wood pews lead to an altar behind which is a beautiful, three panelled stained glass window. I imagined Rev. Samuel Thomas Pettigrew (1827- 1889) smiling with pride at this pretty picture. He was instrumental in getting the All Saint’s Church built and was a keen botanist- entomologist who ` interested himself in birds, insects, trees, flowers, architecture, school and church building.’ He also designed beautiful gardens around the church cemeteries in Kamptee and Travancore and was asked to plan the laying out of the public gardens in Trivandrum.

DSC_0649.NEFThe Church in Madras

But things were different before the All Saint’s Church was built. Frank Penny, in his book `The Church of Madras’ (1904), says that the Company did not feel an obligation to provide churches to its soldiers and civilians in its early years. It appointed a few Chaplains and services were held in its large factory halls. If a church was required then Company employees could build it themselves. Material and engineering advice could be provided but that was it. During the 17th century, appointments were made by the Company but around the 18th century, nominees were approved of by the Archbishop of Canterbury or a Bishop appointed by him. About 174 appointments were made to the Madras establishment upto 1861. They were chosen carefully by the EIC Directors and almost all were graduates of British and Irish universities. Madras by now, also had its first Bishop, Bishop Daniel Corrie, who was consecrated in 1835.

Public opinion eventually influenced the the Company to alter this stance on church building.  Fifteen churches were built in the Madras Presidency. Six others were built privately and two were built collaboratively by the Company and its `servants’. Around 1835-1851, forty seven churches and Chapels were erected, twenty seven of which were built with territorial revenues and twenty without. The collaborative projects were an acknowledgement that places of Christian worship were now necessary in every station, whether civil or military.

DSC_0628.NEFIn 1853, Bangalore had only only two Chaplains; Rev. R.Posnett and Rev. W.W Lutyens. They had spiritual charge of the entire Cantonment and six `out-stations’ that were located at Seringapatam, Nandi `Droog’, Ryacottah, Chittaldroog, Hunsur and French Rocks near Mysore. Both Chaplains were required to be away for twenty-four Sundays of the year in rotation, with one being left in Bangalore to administer to the C&M Station.  As you can see, they were pretty busy.

Planting the seeds of a church

The London born, nature loving Rev. ST Pettigrew, a Trinity College, Cambridge graduate and anonymous author of `Episodes in the Life of an Indian Chaplain’ was ordained as a priest in 1848. He obtained his appointment to Madras in 1855. During his years in Bangalore (1864-67 and then again in 1871) he was Chaplain at St. Mark’s, Incumbent at All Saint’s and also founded the Cantonment Orphanage, Cathedral High School and both the Bishop Cotton’s Schools.

But building the All Saint’s Church had its fair share of trials.Rev. ST Pettigrew records that it was originally intended for a small colony of European pensioners because his church, St.Mark’s, was splitting at the seams. A small sum of Rs.100 had been collected and a plot allotted at the corner of the parade grounds near Hosur Road. To his delight, his initial plan for the church was rejected by the Church Building Society in Madras (for being too small) in favour of one drawn up by the famous Robert Fellowes Chisholm, Consulting Architect, Madras Government. The satisfied Chaplain left for the Nilgiri’s. He returned two years later to find the project at a complete standstill.The plan was revived and following much deliberation and discussion, it was decided to build the church with private collections.  The estimated cost was Rs.10,000. The foundation stone was laid on 27th November, 1869 and foundations lines were drawn up by an experienced parishioner who volunteered for the job.

DSC_0638.NEFBut the building project continued to face immense difficulties, both financial and otherwise. It was only when the scaffolding went up that the community sensed his determination. The altar, vestments, pulpit, font, communion plate and altar cross were donated and a rose window was presented by the Principle of Cooper’s Hill College. Incidentally, Cooper’s Hill, Surrey, was where the Royal College of Engineering was established in 1872 to train civil engineers for the Indian Public Works Department.

Funds came in and the building exterior was completed for Rs.2, 000 less than the original estimate. But Bishop Edward Henry Mansfield Waller was in England on sick leave. So a visiting Bishop Milman stepped in to consecrate the church on 17th October, 1870. Services finally commenced with Rev. Dr. George Uglow Pope who was also appointed Warden of Bishop Cotton’s School and College.

Bangalore began to emerge slowly, one locality at a time. The European and Anglo-Indian community then built bungalows around the church and Richmond Town, it is rumoured, came up here around 1883.  In 1903, the Richmond Institute in Richmond Town (once a military pensioners reading room and armoury for the Bangalore Rifle Volunteers in the late 19th century) was offered by the British Resident, Sir Donald Robertson to the All Saint’s Incumbent, Rev. Canon Foley to be used as the All Saint’s Church Institute, a recreation space for parishioners. Old time residents recall spending many hours of merriment at what is now the Frank Anthony Junior School.

I stood there lost in the past and as evening shadows deepened, the pretty church began to glow with festive lights.  My mind imagined another cold winter night in Bangalore, perhaps, a hundred and forty years ago. There would have been no traffic jams or honking cars at the signal outside. In fact, there would have been no signal! Instead, I could see horses being tethered in the church compound while carriages rolled in through its gates from a silent Richmond Town.  Dapper gentlemen with top hats,  tailcoats and whiskers hopped out and escorted English ladies in to Mass on Christmas Eve. Hymns floated out from the church and bells pealed at mid-night. In the morning, the Cantonment would celebrate Christmas with mulled wine, mince pies, Christmas pudding and cake. It was another time.But the same place.

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Find it at: Vellara Junction signal, Hosur Road, Bengaluru.

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This story was previously published in the Bangalore Mirror on December 29th, 2014. Read it here. Images courtesy: Dejaview, for Native Place.

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6 comments

  1. Anup kumar · · Reply

    Its interesting to learn that Rev Pettigrew was involved in building this Church.
    I feel so proud to be a Pettigrew House student from Bishop Cotton Boys school .
    Anup

    1. Hi Anup, happy to know you are from Pettigrew house! Its always good to know that names were once real people. I believe the school auditorium is being knocked down to build a `modern’ one…so you see…there’s so little value for the past.

  2. Well researched article, as always in the blog. Wonder if HG Well’s time machine could ever become a reality.

    1. If it were a reality, I would be in it by now.:-)

  3. Pope and Pettigrew are two of the five houses at Cottons. I was in Pope house.
    This article you have written is a museum in word.
    The school auditorium is indeed being knocked down – like the tower bell before it and the Fourth XI’s (one of the playgrounds)
    Thank you for preserving this on the web. Your work is brilliant.

    1. I was amazed that none of the Cottonians i know said anything against the knocking down.Just goes to sow how little we value what we have SO MUCH of-history.

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