One of the most remembered landmarks of Madras is Moore Market. It was the brainchild of Lt Col Sir George Moore, President of the Corporation of Madras in the 1890s. The market was designed in the center to sort out two problems –get rid of the old and insanitary market off Broadway and provide a home for hawkers who sold their wares at a place called Guzili Bazaar between Memorial Hall and Central Station.
This exceedingly popular market named after Sir George Moore was laid by Sir George in August 1898. The market which occupied 40,000 sq ft was thrown open to the public by Governor Sir Arthur Havelock in November 1900.
Veteran Tamil writer SaVi has portrayed the true colour and chaos in his book where he wrote about popular landmarks of the city in the 1950s under the title Inge Poyirukkirirgala (Have you been here?). Moore Market emerges from SaVi’s pen as a place of hustle and bustle – there are second-hand goods shops for anything and everything, the central courtyard is filled with fancy goods that attracted women, bookshops abounded as did toy shops, and there was a section devoted to meat and to live birds to be sold as pets. Hawkers surrounded visitors and, unfortunately, so did pickpockets. There were palmists, acrobats and even a proselytiser or two, eager to make a conversion.
It is, however, as a mecca for second-hand books and gramophone plates that Moore Market is chiefly remembered today. It was a must on every tourist’s itinerary as much as Calcutta’s New Market continues to remain one.
The heydays of Moore Market’s till the 1970s. It thereafter began to go to seed though it remained filled with people and did roaring business. Pressure on urban space began mounting in Madras in the 1980s. The railways wanted land for expansion. And when the market rather conveniently caught fire in 1985, it was doomed. The building made way for a tasteless piece of high-rise that is in no way in harmony with what surrounds it. In front of this building, in a small patch of lawn, stands a scaled down model of Moore Market. It is a fine piece in its own way but with least maintenance.
The vendors in Moore Market were hastily accommodated in a new building, which was built on land reclaimed by filling in the beautiful Lily Pond. But somehow it never caught on. The vendors vanished one by one and those that remain sell gimcrack goods. Strangely enough, Guzili Bazar has survived and continues to function from behind Central Station but with an forgotten face.