White and Whitefield

 An Anglo Indian Colony in Bangalore

The story of Whitefield in Bangalore starts with DS White, a resident of Madras, who held the welfare of the marginalized Anglo Indians or Eurasians, wallowing in the twilight period of the British rule in India, close to his heart. A few villages or colonies were created as a home for some of the pioneers, based on a utopian model and after a ‘hunky dory’ period, declined gradually, eventually to be swallowed up by all the development which transformed a sleepy Bangalore, into a much larger and bustling metropolis today, home to the IT sector. Not many know the details of Whitefield, other than the fact that it was one of those Anglo-Indian colonies and hearing often rumors involving Churchill and a girl named Rose Hamilton, who lived in the general vicinity. Let’s see if we can dig out a little more from the tomes of history, trace the founder’s days, the colony’s times - good and bad, and finally whiff past the days that Churchill spent in Bangalore. 

DS White - a leader in the making

David Emmanuel Starkenburg White was the founder of the AIDE - Anglo Indian and Domiciled European association of South India (an offshoot of the Pro-British EAI, earlier formed in Calcutta). DS White (1832-89), born and brought up in Madras, was the son of an Apothecary of the Madras Medical subordinate Department and was educated at St. Andrew’s. He started his career in 1854 as a clerk in the court of Sadr and Foujdari Adalat, getting transferred the next year to the revenue board. He continued there till 1861, after which he became a Personal Assistant to the Director of Public Instruction, and later the acting registrar of assurances thrice, eventually retiring in 1888. An active member of the Indian National Congress, and a good friend of AO Hume, he was perhaps more native than British, in his heart.

It was following a difference of opinion with the EAI in Calcutta that he founded the AIDE in Madras. In 1879 he got the association kickstarted with a meeting at the Prayer Hall in the White town (Periyamet) of Madras. The Anglo Indians, nervous of both the British intentions and a nationalist India, were quite an aggrieved lot, feeling abandoned and not quite clear as to which side they should take. This community was of divided opinion, some wanting to be part of India, others wanting to cast their lot with the British and take on British Identity. It soon became clear that they really occupied an intermediate position, possessing an alternate identity.

Interestingly, it was DS White who called for stopping the import of educated boys from Britain to man the ICS, to abolish the ICS and utilize local competence, as much as possible. When the controversial Ilbert bill (a complex issue – put simply, senior Indian judges and not Europeans as was the case until then, were authorized to try accused Europeans in court) was floated in 1883, and the pro Indian DS White, as well as the Anglo Indians in the Railways supported it, there was a split across the AIDE, but White’s iron hand managed to keep them together. In fact, it was the passage of this bill (though in a very diluted version where a 50% European Jury was added) which led to the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885.

David White was later instrumental in organizing the annual AI conferences, forming the first volunteer corps or Madras Guards, and raising funds for the construction of the Victoria Public Hall in Madras. An Association office and a small industrial school were established by him at the Mint Street, Washermanpet. White continued to fight for his people, demanding increased political representation, non-discrimination, and a fair playing field, and in meetings with Lords Dufferin and Ripon, tried to press his case. Not a sickly sentimentalist sighing about better days in Britain, he was always convinced that his brethren should stay put in India, labor hard and thus help themselves. His distinguished journal The Eastern Guardian, was quite popular in Madras. He was a prolific writer and speaker and was twice married.

In 1885, at his prompting, the Defense Association took up the cause of the formation of Eurasian regiments in the Indian Army, though without avail. White also traveled twice to England to plead the Eurasian cause. However, the various AI associations were always at cross purposes, with only the Madras AI supporting an Indian attitude. White’s experiment creating agricultural colonies at Bangalore and making them landowners, bore no fruit and the colonies went on to become pensioner’s paradises, instead. The British government in India was of course quite content the lack of unity between the various Anglo Indians and were content that a vast majority (except for those in Madras and the rest of South India) of AI’s were neither with David White nor the INC.

A sad David White passed away on 1st Feb 1889, succumbing to Bright’s disease or nephritis (a kidney ailment), at his residence at Moore’s Garden, Nungambakkam, and was buried at St. Andrew’s Church Cemetery.

It was even rumored that he might have become the congress president like George Yule if he had lived a little longer. Madras did not forget him, the White’s Hall in Egmore was named after him. The Anglo-Indian Association of Southern India moved its headquarters to this White Memorial Hall and became a bigger unit with a membership of many thousands by 1915, as well as being active in various wartime causes such as education, running member’s co-operative societies, etc.

White worked hand in hand with WS Gantz, the lawyer and congressman from Calicut (the founder of the bar association) who had moved to Madras to work in the municipality office. Gantz succeeded White upon the latter’s demise. His leadership was short-lived, as he was not supported by the powerful, but financially weaker Calcutta faction, and was perennially criticized for throwing his lot with the natives and supporting the Congress. Due to some misunderstandings with other Madras AI bigwigs, he resigned in 1891. Interestingly Gantz had declined the position of INC president in 1890 (so also Herbert Gladstone) due to lack of support from his Madras brethren, and the position was hastily accorded to Pherozeshah Mehta.

The net result of this continued infighting was that most of the Eurasians who has become an estranged lot, took the first voyage out to other commonwealth shores.

The Bangalore Colonies  

By October 1882, the Eurasian and Anglo-Indian Association had overcome many of its initial problems and entered a phase of consolidation. A few agricultural colonies had been started, 28 branches had been opened, and a capital of Rs 60,000 had been raised.

White, an environmentalist who promoted agriculture, wrote – that the chief work of the Association, was of settling Eurasians and Anglo-Indians on the soil, to lead them into agricultural and industrial pursuits, and to remove forever the feeling of anxiety as regards their own future and that of their children, and that, of all callings, that of the farmer is least exposed to the vicissitudes of fortune, and that a few acres, with the help of a small capital, will feed a family generation after generation without ever being exhausted.

It was in 1881 that the association wrote to The Maharaja of Mysore Chamarajendra Wodeyar X, for an allotment of land, to form agricultural settlements near Bangalore. Their clear focus on cultivation and profiting from the soil was made amply clear in their request, which the Raja noted and was pleased with, affirming that Agriculture is the healthiest and noble occupation for any class of people, and pointing out that while he encouraged it, they should be prepared to face some disappointments and occasional failures.

Three blocks, covering 5 sites, totaling to 3,900 acres originally valued at Rs 2,764/- were approved by the Raja in April 1882. Four colonies totaling to 3,206 acres assessed at Rs 3,575/-were sanctioned, Glen Gordon and Haldwell Green, Whitefield and Sausmond. The newly named townships at Whitefield (497 acres and previously the villages of Nellurhalli, Nagondahalli, Hagadur), Glen Gordon (527 acres at Srigandhakaval village), two townships of Sausmond 1 & 2 (1376 acres at the former villages of Doddakanelli, Chikkanelli, Halunayakanhalli, the deserted village of Chikkabellandur, Mallur, Gunjur, and Kachamanhalli) and finally Haldwell green (443 acres of the former Kodati village, already home to Roman Catholics) off Bangalore were finalized. The best plan was reserved for Whitefield and the handbook makes it clear that water was a problem in most of them. The assessed value of Rs 3,575/-was payable as 1st and 2nd years free, 3rd and 4th year ¼ assessed, 5th and 6th years ½ assessed, and fully assessed on the 7th year. Dewan Rangacharlu, who supported all these moves, unfortunately passed away in 1883 and thus the association lost a solid government patron, early on.

Sausmond, named after Dr. John Sausman an apothecary serving in the Medical Services of the East India Company's army based at Vellore, had also served during the Sepoy mutiny of 1857. He used to be the Vice president of the Mysore and Coorg E&AI Association. Duckworth was located about 2 miles south of Sausmond was named after the well-known Dr Duckworth. Glen Gordon was named after James Davidson Gordon, the chief commissioner of Mysore, and the man who set up the High court when he was the Mysore resident. The Gordon Park is named after him. The stories of Sausmond, Haldwell Green and Glen Gordon are still to be retold, so let’s focus on Whitefield.

Whitefield was established about two miles off the Kadugodi station, and the railway station was later renamed as Whitefield. After an inspection in 1886, it was determined that the agricultural experiment was a success, farming was doing well and that the settlers were selling pork, ham and bacon, jam and ragi flour at a profit. The association then petitioned the Government of India for a grant of Rs.150/- a month for five years for a school at Whitefield and a similar sum for the school at Sausmond, in order that technical and agricultural instruction might be imparted to the children of the colonists.

The Whitefield Settlement was managed by the E & AI Association, which consisted of over 200 members, with Mr. R.T. Tocher, as President, and a committee numbering 25 headquartered at Bangalore. In the first decade of the 1900's there were about 45 houses of which 18 were on the village Site and the balance were on farms scattered throughout the settlement, which is not less than 3 miles in length and about 2 miles wide and contained about 2000 acres of land, fit for cultivation. As the area had an abundance of kaolin (China clay for ceramics) clay, a thought to process and export of the same was contemplated, but Arbuthnot and Co., who toyed with the idea found it unprofitable.

The original intent was to have a circular format (see picture) with the center housing the school and library, surrounded by a broad 100’ road. The 100 and 180’ main roads were to be named after trees (Pomelo, Jack, Mango, Lime, and Orange) as avenues. Smaller and cheaper houses were to be built near the center, and the larger garden houses to the outer rings. A cooperative store, a barn, a church, public buildings, gardens, and a village green would complete the settlement.

In 1886, David White elucidated the plan - To send the "able-bodied destitute, old and young, only as laborers to be fed and paid, leaving it to them by good conduct to rise to the level of settlers ; to send persons of slender means to carry on trades of various kinds, giving them each one acre of land; to send persons of sufficient, yet moderate, means to farm, giving them allotments of land extending to 20 acres; to build houses and allow all settlers to purchase them by rent for a stated period; to open libraries and schools and allow children to acquire a knowledge of various mechanical arts. The village was to accommodate 90 homes in four circles originally, but it appears that only two circles were completed. The puttahs or leases were granted to the Whitefield colonists containing a stipulation that they are not to sell, mortgage or alienate their lands except to members of the community.

JD Rees after accompanying (circa 1887-88) Lord Connemara writes - So novel an experiment as that described above has necessarily been as unduly lauded, as it has been unfairly disparaged. Mr. White's sanguine disposition led him in the beginning to express views and entertain hopes, which he had to abandon before his scheme was launched. Yet it required no small influence and the possession of no little energy to persuade thirty-two individuals with their wives and families to accept his assurances and to embark in a business of which they knew nothing, a business for which their previous lives and training in no way fitted them.

However, it was becoming clear that many of the allotees preferred living in Bangalore and in general Anglo Indians did not want to focus on becoming tillers of the land. There was a parallel plan in getting the disgruntled community interested in workshops and factory work, but it does not seem to have paid off. Unfortunately, the idea in general did not quite work out as far as paupers were concerned, and wealthier settlers moved in as time went by.

Fitzpatrick inspecting the site in 1887 agreed – He was of the opinion that for pensioners, and others having small independent means of their own, an opportunity here offered of settling down in a healthy place possessing a good climate, with the prospect of obtaining by industry and good management a considerable accession to their incomes. As regards the settlement of artisans and agricultural laborers in the colony he did not think that such men could compete with natives. He observed that Mr. White's project of forming a self- contained community, possessing its own artisans, and excluding competition, was altogether chimerical.

An 1889 inspection report provides an overview - You see the village school, the church, and a dozen cottages more or less, well laid out upon a plan somewhat too ambitious for the actual circumstances of the case. It was intended that from a central circus, different avenues should radiate, these avenues being connected by parallel lines of streets made up of houses, each standing in its own walled garden. A small church is almost completed, and the largest building is the now unused storehouse constructed by Messrs. Arbuthnot and Co. for the abandoned business of working the kaolin clay. An undulating country stretches all around the settlement. Here and there are groves of casuarinas and orchards of fruit trees. There were no crops on the ground, and abundant evidence was forthcoming that crops are sparsely raised. The settlement had not a very flourishing appearance. Some of the cottages were moderately neat, but in no case apparently had any settler the time or inclination to sacrifice to the Graces. The village has a somewhat bare and unattractive appearance. The houses do not look like homes, and many of the settlers in fact live in Bangalore. In no case did it appear that the cultivation of the land had paid the cultivators, though it seemed almost certain that orchards and casuarina groves in the low lying and better lands would eventually pay well. Several settlers had dug wells at considerable expense, having to go down as far as 60 feet in some cases for water.

Jennie Mallin’s page mentions - The settlement had 25 families of which 6 were non-resident, numbering 115 people in total, 12 colonial bungalow cottages were built on the village site and 14 farmhouses built on the surrounding farmland.   There was a school with 31 pupils, a hospital, police station, two churches, a post office, football, and cricket grounds, as well as a Refreshment Room which provided tiffin, lunch or dinners and a welcome place for a resident to sit and read the papers in the evening or play a game of chess or cards.   Ronnie’s page adds - The village site forms a large circle 1500 feet in diameter with about 25 houses on the circumference and the school, schoolmaster's quarters, post office, playground, and lawn tennis courts in the center of the circle. The Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches are near at hand and so are the Whitefield Stores, Waverly Inn, and the Refreshment Room. Outside the circle there is a place for football and a cricket ground. The Village is prettily laid out and its appearance is very striking as it is approached through a pass between "Hamilton Hill" on the left and the "Kaolin Hill" on the right. Several of the settlers work at the Kolar Gold Field while their families remain in the Settlement, and as it is not far off, they take a run into the place periodically.

The Whitefield Store, kept by Messers. Hamilton, Strange & Co., is a surprise to all who come to visit Whitefield from outstation. The Refreshment Room and Waverly Inn are in the same building. The Inn at present has only accommodation for two families and half a dozen single people, and so it is generally full. The Refreshment Room provides dinners, tiffin’s, etc., for casual visitors, and it is largely patronized by Cricket and Football teams and others. The Refreshment Room is also used of an evening by the residents who wish to read the papers or to have a game of chess, draughts, or cards. It is at the Store and at the Refreshment Room that the important questions of the hour are discussed, and a pleasant half hour or so can often be spent there listening to the Whitefield politicians.

In 1921, the Madras government took over the Whitefield settlement, after correspondence with the association on various issues faced by the settlers and seeing that the rules of the original grant (as an agricultural colony) were no longer valid, plus the fact that the place had become an abode for individual settlers. The colony was converted into the Whitefield village while Sausmond and Duckworth were integrated into the villages they were originally part of.

White’s agricultural experiment, a failure, was disbanded after 40 years.

Churchill and Bangalore

Let’s now check if Winston Churchill had anything to do with all of this. He arrived in the town around 1896 to join the 4th Hussars and shared a pink and white bungalow (apparently on Trinity Rd) with Reginald Barnes and Hugo Baring, complete with valets, grooms, and other staff (4 dhobis, 2 gardeners, 3 bhistis and a watchman). Surveying the Indian empire, he grandly concluded that the British were real and proper masters of the lower Indian race.

There was more to Churchill’s life at Bangalore than self-education, political reading, and spiritual pondering: he played a great deal of polo. He also collected butterflies and tended to roses. ‘My garden is full of Purple Emperors, White Admirals and Swallow Tails and many other beautiful and rare insects,’ he told Jack – before his collection was eaten by a rat. He read a lot, was always short of money and considered the Anglo-Indian society to be very vulgar. It was also in India that Churchill learned how to drink (mostly whisky which he hated before, diluted with very large amounts of soda) and how not to get drunk. Some years later, he befriended Colonel Ian Hamilton, they continued to be good friends and fought many a war in India and Africa. Ian Hamilton led the failed attack at Gallipoli and never had any children.

But multiple sources mention a rumor that Churchill visited the inn at Whitefield for sundowners and courted the innkeeper James Hamilton’s daughter named Rose. James Hamilton was a popular man and owned many cottages as well as the Inn and the store.  Now did the perennially short of cash Churchill ride 10-15 miles to the Inn to drink at the Inn (instead of lounging at the Bangalore United service BUS club on Residency Rd and debiting it to his account – which by the way was partly unpaid when he left, with a balance Rs 13/- that Prince Charles once offered to settle, but the Bangalore club which it is now, refused), and did James have a daughter Rose? Well, let’s leave it there.

Though Churchill tended to many a rose bush in his garden, I can only add that Rose the lady, if she once existed, did well in not responding to his courting or getting hitched to that man. Churchill, who scoffed at and hardly interacted with natives other than his servants, would surely have stayed away from the Anglo Indians at Whitefield. So much for Churchill.

You can still see the Inner and Outer Circle Roads, you can see the park in the middle and well, while the progeny of the many of the original settlers have relocated to Australia and Canada, where some of the old timers must be talking about Brigade road and Commercial street, while drinking bottles of Yellow tail wine (its connections to Bangalore may be read here), talking about the boxing matches, the Italians and the Americans who came to Bangalore before they left, not forgetting to mention the feared Bangalore torpedo and of course the Willys jeep.

Those days have all gone by, and the IT crowd who frequent the area now, are talking of bits, bytes, codes and what not…


Guide to the Eurasian and Anglo-Indian Villages proposed to be established in the state of Mysore – Ed Standish Lee 1882
Anglo Indians – Lal Bahadur Varma
Whitefield: An Important but forgotten Chapter of India's Colonial Heritage - Krupa Rajangam
Politics and change in the Madras Presidency, 1884-1894 - A regional study of Indian Nationalism – Ramanathan Suntharalingam
The non-official British in India, 1883-1920- Raymond Kevin Renford
Modern Mysore – M Shama Rao
Allen's Indian mail - Feb 25, 1889
Pioneer Mail – July 15, 1921
Narrative of Tours in India Made by His Excellency Lord Connemara -John David Rees
Anglo-Indians bond in Southern India - Geoffrey K. Francis (Madras Musings, March 16-31, 2014)
Churchill – Walking with destiny – Andrew Roberts

Jennie Mallin’s Facebook page 

Ronnie’s page 

Pic – DS White courtesy Madras Musings, Google maps, Whitefield layout - Standish Lee Handbook

Note: It was a pleasure to hold in my hands, the 1882 print of the Standish Lee handbook, so lovingly archived by the Chicago library, and loaned to me recently. The binding of the 141-year-old book had been partially damaged with the passage of time, but the book had been housed in a hard case, so that it could survive more years in storage. DS White’s forward to the handbook is quite illuminating.

Trivia – DS White wrote a very interesting “A pair of compasses” in the Madras Athenaeum – which narrates the story of Hamilton (of the Ambuttan or Barber’s Bridge at Madras), his beheading at Tipu’s orders and Hamilton’s gift of the compass to a native mason.