Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Standard Life Asssurance Building - decaying history

      Standard life assurance building 

One of the most beautiful architecture of the British age in India was built in 1896. The construction started in February, 1894 and was completed two years later in May 1896. Mumbai based architect Fredrick W. Stevens (of Victoria Terminus fame) designed the building. Located at the southern corner of Lal dighee (formerly Tank Square) the building is poorly maintained. Though it has been declared as a heritage building, some of the portion has already been abandoned. Renovation is yet to start. 

A  building with multi domed tower at the Northern corner, beautiful figures in the triangular pediment in the middle cherubs ( musical instruments in the upper windows. Most of the figures are still in good shape. Restoration of these figures which are basically delicate artwork is extremely difficult as the specially skilled masons and the artists specialist in these kind of work is rare. 

The entrance at the north is through an arched gateway with a triangular pediment at the top. The building features the logo of the standard life's which is based on the biblical parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1- 13) ( 

There are two figures at the walls just below the archway and the main entrance of the building. One at the left of the archway is a young lady carrying a lamp and Grim Riper carrying a skull at the right. The two figures represents Life and Death respectively. This is the actual official logo of the company. Unfortunately these two figures are obstructed by the telegraph pole and the telegraph wires (above photos). 

The building actually housed the Life Insurance Company of Scotland which was established in 23rd March, 1825 in Edinburgh. In 1832, the organization changed its name to The Standard Life Assurance by Royal assent. The British insurance companies were reluctant to allow their policy holders to travel let alone live in the colonies due to the very high mortality rate.
Standard Life pioneered insurance for British living abroad.
  • 1846- establishment of the Colonial Life Assurance Company was specifically designed to handle business in the British colonies. They could offer attractive terms based on the colonial's more accurate assessment of mortality risk in the countries concerned. 
  • 1871-  Colonial Life Assurance Company merged with the Standard. After the merger they had their head office here in Calcutta in this building and had a similar building in Mumbai. The Mumbai building is still there and have the logo at the main entrance. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

St Andrew's Church of Calcutta

St Andrew's Church             


(The above picture was taken in 1878 from the Old Court House Street)

St Andrew's Church also known as the Kirk is the only Scottish church in Kolkata and was opened to the public only on March 8, 1818. The foundation stone was laid on November 30, 1815 by Marquis of  Hastings. The Countess of Moira and the Countess of  Loudon attended the stone laying ceremony. In 1835, the clock fitted to the tower. It was designed by M/s Burn, Currie & Co. It was also known as "laat sahib ka girja" (the church of the Governor). Probably the name derived from the fact that the foundation stone was laid by the wife of the Governor General, Marquis of Hastings.
St Andrew's Church was built just at the site of Old Court House which was demolished in 1792. The street just in front of the St Andrew's Church is known as the Old Court House Street. 

St Andrew's Church, Writer's Building on the left

Address- 15 BBD Bag (North), Kolkata- 700001. West Bengal. (

The Kirk from the tank square 

There was a story about the spire of the church. The first Bishop of Calcutta did not allow the erection of the spire, as he thought that only the Church of England had the authority to allow the construction of such church. Reverend Bryce, the priest of the church heard this he declared that he would not only have a steeple higher than the Cathedral Church of St John's but would also place on the top of it a cock to crow over the bishop. Bishop was deeply mortified. Later on Government declared that the entire building might be repaired by the public works department except the bird as it was a little bit controversial. The bird is still there. 

The clock on the spire

Writer's building on the left

The bird at the top of the spire