Saturday, 28 November 2015

Writers' building (1777) - first colonial building in Calcutta

Pre-independen the facade, Writers building, Kolcata,
The Writers' Building,

The Writers' Building,  now  secretariat building of the State Government of West Bengal in India, is located in Kolkata, West Bengal's capital. It was the seat of  the office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal until 4 October, 2013. Lots of tourists come here to see this impressive first colonial buiding in the former capital of British Raj that has  Greco-Roman look with a  portico in the central bay and  the  statues sculpted by William Fredric Woodington (in 1883) that line the terrace.

Soon after setting their feet firmly in Bengal under the able leadership of Robert Clive after the wars at Plassey and later at Buxar, the British East India company was on an expansion  mode, acquiring more lands,  taking advantage of Indian rulers' disunity. The British  company 

The Writers' Building,
statues atop Writers' Building, Kolkata.
needed a spacious building to carry out various administrative paper work and storage spaces  to keep their records safely. This first 3 story building in Calcutta, using European architecture, conceived by  Gov. Warren Hastings and  designed by Thomas Lyon in 1777, served as the office for writers - administrative staff and clerks of the English Company; hence  the name.
Writers' Building with RBI building, Kolkata,

Time and tide changes, so does the utility of this  historical building in the early years itself. In 1800  Fort William College  opened to impart training to  writers in Oriental languages,  and  later  it moved over to this building and functioned here for 20 years during which time a hostel for 32 students, exam hall, library and teaching rooms were added. Many of them exist even to day. In 1821, a  long  veranda  stretching 128 feet long supported by beautiful  32 feet high iconic columns, was built  both on the first and second floors. The periods between 1879-1906 saw the addition of two new blocks that could be accessed by impressive iron staircases that are still in use. In the same period the building saw a new face-lift - Greco - Roman look, etc., as mentioned before. 

The Writers' Building, covering  the entire northern stretch of the  water body locally called Lal Dighi in the B.B.D. Bagh area,  has a Cluster of statues atop the building. The terrace of this building has  several other statues, including four clusters of statues,  named 'Justice', 'Commerce', 'Science' and 'Agriculture with the Greek gods and goddesses of these four streams - Zeus, Hermes, Athena and Demeter respectively.

In the British East India days and later under the  

British Crown (soon after the Sepoy Mutiny) in 1857, so many important decisions were taken  by the Governors and other powerful officials  right under the roof of this  building in tune with the British government in London over managing this huge subcontinent, It was once the most powerful seat of British power overseas, next to London.

This building came up on a plot once occupied by St Anne’s church. This plot along with the adjacent plot were granted to Thomas Lyon, Architect for the construction of building purpose.