Sunday, 29 March 2009

Tellicherry Church Restored Part 2.

Thalaserry Church being restored February 2009, Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Following my recent blog about the very welcome restoration of Tellicherry Anglican Church, I have received some more very interesting information from George Abraham whose father was a regular worshipper at the church, George wrote..

"In fact I had just returned from a trip to Tellicherry along with my father. Both of us had gone there primarily to see the state of the church which we expected to be in ruins as was visible when my father had visited it few years back. But we were overjoyed to see the current rebuilding process - in fact my father was beaming and was at loss for words.

My father had grown up in Tellicherry and had attended the very same church in his childhood. His father had worked as a deacon (or an elder) during the Sunday's when the chaplain was not available - since in those days the chaplain travelled from afar off (from Manathavadi) only once a month to administer the Holy Sacrament."

Georges father lived in Tellicherry between 1935 and 1947, and was disappointed to find that he could no longer find any of his old friends in Thalaserry. He is keen to make contact with anybody who worshipped in the church during that period, or who knew him at the time.

George Abraham also sent me the following article that appeared in the Hindu dated the 10th of March 2009, which adds to our knowledge of the churches history.

"Inching towards bygone splendour

Special Correspondent

The church, which was built in 1867, had fallen on bad days. Now, a face lift is
being given.

Better days: The St. John’s Anglican Church at Thalassery, which is undergoing renovation.

THALASSERY: Renovation of the 142-year-old St. John’s Anglican Church, overlooking the sea, is nearing completion. The Gothic style brick structure, with stained glass windows and massive doors, will be a functioning church — and a tourist attraction — within a few weeks.

The renovation, estimated at Rs.59 lakh, is being carried out by the Archaeology Department in association with the Tourism Department.

The work has already changed the ambience of the church and its surroundings, including the cemetery. The walls of the church, built in 1867, are being re-plastered and given a coat of whitewash. The vandalised stained glass windows and the wooden door have been restored and the woodwork, including the ceiling, replaced.
Gift from Brennen

The church was built with an endowment from Edward Brennen, the ‘Master Attendant’ at Thalassery during the colonial period. One of the tombs in the cemetery is that of Mr. Brennen.

S. Hemachandran, Superintendent Archaeologist of the Archaeology Department, told The Hindu that the 18th century structure would be open for service to the Church of South India after the works were over. The restored wooden louver window has added to the appeal of the church, which was on the brink of destruction a few years ago, Dr. Hemachandran said."

The full article can be found at

Since my last blog, I have been able to establish that the current church paid for by Edward Brennan's bequest was not actually the first church on the site. It is probably built on the site of the 18th century church, but it is not an 18th century church.

The earlier church had severe structural problems and at one point had to be buttressed to prevent it's falling down. It is still not clear when it was built, but Lieutenants Ward and Connor in their survey of Tellicherry undertaken in July 1824 say..

"To the West of the Castle and fronting the sea is a modern Protestant Church and Burying ground adjoining it only divided by a wall is a Roman Catholic Church, the former was built by subscription, and though of very good materials, it was found necessary to prop it up by buttresses a few years after it was finished. There is no officiating clergyman, but invalids and native protestants have divine service performed on Sundays."[2]

William Logan writing in the 1870's that the construction of the new church had been started in 1869 when Lord Napier laid the foundation stone. It would be interesting to search the lower part of the church walls for evidence of this stone which is likely to be visible in the walls.[3]

Many of those who worshipped in the church are recorded on memorial stones set into the walls of the church.

To the Memory of Ralph Tatham, of Pully Coon, Tellicherry for sixteen years lay trustee of the church. Died at sea on 23rd Dec 1900, Aged 48 Years. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Sacred to the Memorial of Patrick Harry Gordon, Late of Wynaad, Tellicherry and Madras, who died at Acton, Near London, July 13th 1876, in his 31st year and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. This tablet is erected as a tribute of affection by his friends in India and Scotland. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Sacred to the Memorial of Eliza Wills, the dearly loved wife of Henry Crewe who died at Tellicherry on the 17th October 1874, aged 30, and whose mortal remains lie at rest in the adjoining churchyard. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

Sacred to the Memorial of Mary, the eldest daughter of Francis Carnac Brown, of Tellicherry and Anjarandy who died on the 19th July 1867, aged 33 years. Photo courtesy of Jissu Jacob.

This lady was the grand daughter of Murdoch Brown who played such an important role in local events in and around Tellicherry from 1793 onwards.

I will post pictures of many of the graves in Tellicherry Churchyard in the coming weeks together with short histories of the people buried there. If you are descended from any of the individuals, and can hep to tell their story, please get in touch with me.

[1] Private email dated 24th March 2009.
[2] Memoir of the Malabar Survey, by Lieutenants Ward and Connor, originally published in 1906, and more recently in 1995. Page 40.
[3] Malbar Manual by William Logan, Volume II, page cccvii.


Rakesh Vanamali said...

You've got a brilliant blog with some very descriptive information and pictures! It quite reflects how passionate you are of Telicherry and your pursuits!

I belong to Kannur, which is not very far from Telicherry, but have been living elsewhere for a long time now! Its been a few years since I visited there!

Warm Regards & Wishes


Nick Balmer said...

Hello Rakesh,

Thank you for your kind comments. Look out for some posts on Kannur in the coming months. Thmas Baber wrote some very interesting things about the Bibi of Arrakal, and her trading fleet, and I have recently been working on the various forts and battles around Kannur and Valapattanam in the early 18th century.
Cadalay Fort seems to survive as an earthwork in Kadalay for example.
Nick Balmer

C.K.Samad said...

I belong to Malappuram,(Near Calicut, in Kerala) Now I am a student in Northampton,UK. I have gone through your blog... It is really brilliant and informative. I have written a few words in my blog about Mr. ES Dawson(Forest Sivil Engineer In Malabar during British pereod)in my mothertongue.

Warm Regards and Wishes.... Samad

jithuaravind said...

Hi Nick,
In my recent visit to home ( Tellicherry) I was surprised to see the church almost got back to its glorious look. Hope you remember the photo once I had mailed you, in which the church looked really ruined. I have clicked few good snaps and will share with you soon.


jithuaravind said...

Hi Nick,
In my recent visit to home ( Tellicherry) I was surprised to see the church almost got back to its glorious look. Hope you remember the photo once I had mailed you, in which the church looked really ruined. I have clicked few good snaps and will share with you soon.


HumblePie said...

Hello Nick:
Thanks for your very interesting blog about Tellicherry Church and its restoration. Especially the image of the memorial tablet to Ralph Tatham (1857-1900). He was a distant relative of ours though I don't know much about him. He went to Norwich School in England and in 1887 married his Canadian wife Cecilia at Dagshai. If that's the hill station now in Himachal Pradesh it's a surprisingly long way away. They had 3 daughters, delightfully named Daisy, Elsie and Faith. Each remained unmarried and lived to a great age. I was told Ralph was a tea planter but the place name "Tully Coon" on the tablet is a mystery to me.
Congratulations on a fascinating site about a wonderful region.

Unknown said...

Just curious, has Baber ventured south into Travancore area at any time or he pretty much stayed in the Malabar area?


Julia said...

"I will post pictures of many of the graves in Tellicherry Churchyard in the coming weeks"...Would love to see those pictures.
I am looking for Captain William Piper, Bombay Artillery, died October 1796 at or near Tellicherry.

Leith said...

Hi Nick! This is a fascinating blog! Thank you for sharing your research.
Like Julia, (previous post) I am looking for someone buried in Tellicherry: Mary Disney who died 24th Mar.1800 at Kundapore aged 26, wife of Arthur Disney,(India Monumental Inscriptions Vol. 3 1905, #2063, p.172) Would love to know if this tombstone still exists!

markham W said...

Around the late 1960's I was on the staff of the NTTF Institute at Nettur. On occasions I would attend St John's and preach there. I recall the experiences with great joy; the place had an atmosphere all its own, there by the sea, small and intimate, the cool sea breeze making those sultry evenings more bearable.

I would love to see photographs of the restored interior of the church, if anyone can present them?

Warm good wishes to all at St John's.