Born in Lyon, France, Claude Martin came to India when he was 17, to serve in the French East India Company. After French influence declined in India, he accepted a commission in the British East India Company’s army and promptly promoted to the position of Major-General. After taking up residence in Lucknow, he changed his camp again and occupied an important position in the court of the Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula. During this period, he amassed a huge property, built the luxurious palace named Constantia, which included a big library and a picture gallery. After his death on 13th September 1800, he was buried, according to his will, in a vault specially prepared for his remains, in the basement of Constantia. The major portion of his property was left for founding three institutions in Lucknow, Calcutta and Lyon. After litigation of thirty years, the La Martinière Schools opened in Calcutta on the 1st day of March 1836.
La Martinière Calcutta comprises two single-sex private schools in Calcutta, controlled by the Protestant Church of North India and independent from the Government. Originally the schools were exclusively meant for the Europeans and prominent Bengali Christians of the City. However, by the order of the Calcutta High Court, this discriminating policy was discontinued since 1936. The Schools prepare students for ICSC and ISC Examinations. The Boys’ school is located at 11 Loudon Street, while Girls’ School is on Rawdon Street. Actually, they face each other across Rawdon Street.
The main building of the Boys’ School, completed in 1836, is situated in the centre of the campus. It was constructed in Classic European Style, with the Round Chapel ringed by the imposing Corinthian pillars at the heart of it. The library was housed above the Round Chapel. The top floor housed the dormitories for the boarders. Classrooms were distributed throughout the main building. Unfortunately, the building was stuck by a disastrous cyclonic storm in June 1897, which ruined the stately Gothic porch on the southern side of the building and the magnificent blue dome, which could challenge the beautiful dome of the Calcutta General Post Office. The school chapel was housed in the said dome and the inside portion of the dome was said to be painted in blue, indicating the positions of some of the constellations and the planets of the northern hemisphere. The library of the School was once the proud owner of a mummy, along with an articulated human skeleton. Lack of funds made it impossible to rebuild both these features. However, the building was modified and the western wing was added in 1915.
The north side of the campus contains the new junior school buildings, a basketball court and a memorial bust of the founder, Major General Claude Martin. The old junior school building, previously known as the technical block, and swimming pool are located to the west, on the side of Loudon Street.
Extracurricular activities of the Schools include quizzes, debate, and elocution, and sports like hockey, cricket, football, swimming, athletics, basketball, table tennis, boxing, and rugby.
Students, who distinguish themselves in any field or bring honour and laurel to the School in any extra-curricular activity, are awarded ‘Colours’ – which is like the concept of the “Blue” of Oxford or Cambridge universities.