Bengaluru City's British Town

Murphy Town has a history dating back to colonial days. Take a walk through its lanes and you will see houses that are more than 200 years old and schools attended by many generations in families

Published: 11th February 2016 06:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2016 06:05 AM   |  A+A-

This locality in Ulsoor dates back to British times. Murphy Town is one of the oldest planned suburbs of the cantonment. It was known as Knoxpet in the early 1900s.

Densely populated by Tamils, this suburb has been in existence since the 1860s. “When Bengaluru came under British rule, soldiers started bringing in people to serve them, who then started living here. It was not a planned settlement then. There were no roads and sanitation. After the Bengaluru plague of 1898, the city was replanned. Hygiene was given more importance and Knoxpet was re-modelled with better facilities and people re-settled there,” says Arun Prasad, researcher and historian.

In 1937, the town was renamed Murphy Town, after W H Murphy, executive engineer of the municipality. Families have been living here for generations. “My grandparents came here looking for jobs and they settled here. The rent then was just `3,” says 75-year-old retired teacher Elizabeth.

CIT.jpgPeople started businesses here years later.  “Some became big shots,” says Prasad.

The Murphy Shopping Centre has 28 shops most of which sell meat. “This place was meant for the labourers,” says Abdul Haleem, the third generation of his family running a grocery store in the shopping centre. “It was a quarters for Indians serving the British officers. There is a church (The Good Shepherd Church) and a public library which are more than 100 years old.”

The stone building of the public library is situated right outside the shopping centre. The shopkeepers say it continues to function. “It is now run by BBMP and stays open between 8 am and 6 pm, closing only during lunch hours. The library has periodicals and magazines in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Urdu and English and is open on all days except on Mondays,” adds Abdul.    

Government Schools

The local Kannada medium school has a plaque that reads ‘1913 Elementary School’. There are two more in the same vicinity – Tamil and Telugu medium. Most of the children around here study in these schools.

The first school that was established here was Tamil medium, which was later turned into a Kannada medium school.

“Earlier all the three schools had classes only till the seventh. Now, they have extended to 8th grade. To study further, you have to go to a school in Jogupalya,” says resident Rita Mary. The facilities at the schools have improved.

“When my father, uncle and later I studied in the school, there was no water, toilet and benches in the classrooms. We used to sit on the floor and study. Now, there are benches, water and toilets as well. My children go to the same school,” says Leena, Rita’s daughter.

New buildings have been constructed in the vicinity to conduct classes. The old building that housed the Kannada medium is in a bad shape. “The school building was constructed in 1913 by the British. Though the walls and pillars of the old building still stand strong, the roofs aren’t. We just have an office and toilet here in the old building. The other rooms are closed because they are dilapidated. We are looking for someone to repair it,” says the headmistress, Malathi Y. The school also runs classes for special children.     

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