Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Ypres connection to Kolkata

Calcutta High Court

If you are from Belgium and particularly from the town of Ypres, here is some interesting information for you. 
There is a connection between Ypres ( and Calcutta (now Kolkata), one of the most populated city in the world at present. There are two buildings in the two cities which are visually similar. The buildings are Clothes Hall at Ypres and Calcutta High Court. Clothes Hall was built in 12 century and Calcutta High Court was constructed in the late nineteenth century based on the design of the Clothes Hall. 
The Town Hall of Ypress on fire in 1914

Ypres was a strategic township during the first world war. Clothes Hall, the massive structure was burnt down during the war (above photo) in 1914. After the war, the entire township was reconstructed. Architects and the local authorities came at Kolkata to get the design and the architecture of High Court building. They returned back and reconstruct the Clothes Hall with slight modification. The new structure at Ypres has already been declared as the UNESCO World Heritage site. 
The large water tanks (see the photograph at the top) have already filled up

Construction of the High Court building started in 1864. It took four years to complete and in 1872 the Calcutta High Court started to function in this building. Walter B. Granville was the architect. It is a smaller replica of the Clothes Hall of Ypress, Belgium. The High Court building was incomplete when the photograph at the top was taken.  
Built in Gothic style of architecture the front of the building made off stone block. A grand colonnade is at the lower story of the south front. The capitals of the pillars are off beautifully sculptured Caen stone. A tower is at the center of the south front which is 180 feet high and is little taller than the Ochterlony monument (popularly known as the Shahid Minar) at Kolkata. Main entrance is through the tower (photograph- fourth from the top) and the main stair is within it. There is a well maintained lawn inside the High Court building. 
The tower from below the main entrance
Very few know that three Europeans used to stay in three different houses just at the site where the High Court building finally constructed. Longueville Clerk, William Macpherson and Sir James William Colvije were the three person. 
The judges lawn inside the High Court building of Kolkata 

Calcutta High Court is the oldest of all the High Courts in India. The sepoy mutiny in 1857 necessitated rethinking on the administrators of India, reforms and recognition of the law courts did not lag behind. Actually, it was established on 1st July 1862 as the High Court of Judicature at Fort William. It was under the High Court Act which was established in 1861 but the building was constructed later on.     
Calcutta High Court, the above photograph was taken in 1890.

The High Court building from the Western side. 
Over the years, the repairing and the maintenance was not up to the mark. The massive building got the heritage tag and so every repairing works had to be within the specified parameters. 
The series of pillars with triangular arches 
Unfortunately a lot of damage has been done. AC machines and ducts have been installed through the walls more than 30 years ago. That was the first damage. Recently in 2011 and 2012, the stone blocks of the veranda at the ground floor was replaced with thin marble tiles. 
Calcutta High Court (courtesy- LIFE )

In the early days of the High Court building, there was a large tank just in front of the building. It was filled up later on to built a road there (see the photograph at the top),.   What to see- 
Obviously the architecture. 
Entry is not restricted inside the building and the court room but photography inside the building is strictly prohibited.
How to reach- 
Nearest metro station - chandni chowk. It will take around 15 to 20 minutes walk to reach at Calcutta High Court. 
(The building from wikimapia) 
Adjacent to the West Bengal assembly house and Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Kolkata's St John's Church- the church of White Mughal

St John's Church, Kolkata

St John's Church

If you are interested to know about St John's church of Kolkata, you need to know something else at first. Here is an interesting information.
Captain James Achillies Kirkpatrick (1764- 15th October 1805) was a colonel in the British East India Company's army ( He was a resident of Hyderabad. He was very much fond of Indo- Persian culture and popularly known as The White Mughal later on. He was converted to Islam and married Khair- Un- Nissah, a Hyderabadi noblewoman. Khair- Un- Nissah was the grand daughter of the Prime Minister of Hyderabad. James Achillies Kirkpatrick was in the news for his interracial marriage and for his mughal lifestyle which was unusual as a British at the time. William Dalrimple's famous book White Mughals ( was written on the love affair and the interracial marriage of Kirkpatrick and Khair- Un- Nissah.
At the end of the autumn 1801 controversy raised on Col. Kirkspatrick's inter-religion marriage with Khair- Un- Nissah. As Lord Wellesley became the new Governor General of British India, downfall of Col. Kirkpatrick started suddenly. Wellesley strongly disapproved British- India liaison. Kirkpatrick was asked to come to Calcutta, the then capital of India and was dismissed from his service later on. James Achillies Kirkpatrick, The White Mughal died in Calcutta due to ill health on 15th October 1805.  There is a memorial of Colonel James Achillies Kirkpatrick at St John's Church, Calcutta. He was buried at North Park Street cemetery but neither the cemetery nor the grave of Kirkpatrick exists now. 
There are some other memorials also inside the church (Above photo). Marquees of Canning memorial is also here in this church.  
It was one of the first public building erected by the British East India Company in India. The the construction was started in 1784 and and opened to the public 1787. It took Rs. 30000 for construction which was raised by public lottery. Maharaja Nabo Kishen Bahadur, the founder of Sovabazar Raj family donated the land. Warren Hastings, the governor general of East India Company in India laid the foundation stone on 6th April 1784. The plaque is still there. 
Millitary engineer James Agg of Bengal Engineers was the architect. It was almost a simple replica of St Martin's-in-the-field ( in London.  It was built in neoclassical style. It was a combined structure of brick and stone. The spire is 174 feet high. It was built with stone blocks. Stone was not locally available building material at the 18th century. Stone blocks were collected from the medieval structures at Gour and were brought at Calcutta through the Hoogly river.
The veranda was added only on 1811. The structure resting upon tall columns from inside as well as outside. The Blue- Green floor is a rare one. Stones for the floor brought from the medieval structures of Gour. 
Stained glass windows definitely added some value to the structure. The interior is well maintained. 
There is a oil painting at the wall of St John's church. German born British painter Johann Joffany was the painter.
War memorial at the church's compound-(
There is a war memorial of second Rohilla war at the premises of the St John's church. 
It was built in the memory of seventeen military personnel of the British East India company died in the second Rohilla war.
Job Charnock's mauselum- (
Actually St John's church was built on a graveyard. Job Charnock who was believed as the founder of the city of Calcutta was buried here at the premises. At the North Western corner there is an octagonal structure on Moorish style. It was built by Job Charnock's son in law Charles Iyer. Charnock's wife and daughter was also buried here. The epitaph is in Latin. The entire structure is well protected and preserved.
The Black Hole memorial is at the southern end of the premises of the church. It was built in the memory of much controversial Black Hole incident. It was not the original place where the Black Hole incident took place. The memorial was replaced and was relocated at the church's premises. This particular memorial was built by Lord Curzon in 1902. 

What to see- 
  • All the historical structures including the church. 
  • The painting, memorials inside the church. 
  • In addition, the lawn is beautiful. The atmosphere is cool and calm.