|St Andrew's Church, Kolkata standrewschurchkolkata.in|
As the Scottish community living in Kolkata and other places became a major one and more and more Scots heeded to India for employment, there was a great demand for Christian services in Scottish tradition for the Scots living in Kolkata and the surrounding places. In the early days The East India Company had no ecclesiastical establishment and there was no obligation on their part in this respect. It does not mean the officials were not God-fearing. Apparently, each ship headed for India carried a chaplain and some ministers and they were sent to the various settlements where they were of the Episcopal Church of England. The earliest record of an appointment of a chaplain is in 1607 and the number of churches gradually had grown with the development of the establishment. The English company continued to follow a restrictive policies regarding evangelical work by the missionaries in India till 1813 when the English Parliament asked the EIC to facilitate the work of missionaries in India. The Anglo-Indian Presbytery was created by the Charter of 1813 along with the Anglo India Episcopate.
The Rev. Dr. James Bryce as a Chaplain on the Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment arrived in Calcutta on 28th November 1814 to begin his duties as a clergyman of the Church of Scotland at the Presidency. Some misunderstanding cropped up when Dr Bryce wanted to build a church with spire much higher than St. Paul's against the objection of the Bishop.
It took a while for the company to allot a site for a Church of Scotland. The site was in the Old Court House east of Writer's building. Previously the entire site was a piece of waste jungle land on the fringe of a dense forest. The company contributed Rs.100,000.00 towards the building. The construction of St Andrew's Church, situated in the busy Dalhousie area of Kolkata began on a interesting note with the foundation stone having been laid on the St. Andrew's day 30th November, 1813 in the presence of a large and distinguished military and civil dignitaries, including the wife of the Governor General of India, Marquis of Hastings, the Countess of Loudon, et al. It was the top place of veneration for the deeply religious people from Scotland under the English rule. This church belonged to the British East India Company and also the Earl of Moira and the Scottish community in Kolkata, including the military.
St Andrew's Church, unlike other churches, was built by the Government of India especially for the people of Scotland living in early Kolkata. The church was opened to the public only on March 8, 1818. Messrs Burn, Currie and Co. were the builders of the church. Dr. James Bryce, the priest of the church had a plan to build the church carefully as decided before. However, initially he had a row with the customs authorities as they were serious about levying duty on marble intended for flooring. Though the rules were relaxed in his favor later, to keep th work going, main plinth was raised from the ground by 7 feet and the added features included spires or steeples. Both North and South porches are supported by massive Doric columns and the floors are laid in white marble. The Scottish priest wanted to build a spire taller than St. John's. To avoid growing unrest among the Christian heads, the Government declared the entire building might be repaired by the Public Works Department under EIC. In 1843, a big rift divided the Church of Scotland, and its impact was felt even in India. The Presbyterians split into two groups and a new Free Church of Scotland was born. In Calcutta the new ‘Free’ church built its place of worship on Wellesley Street.
Characteristically the church carries a strong Scottish character. It has more than 2000 burials well protected on all sides by a high boundary wall. Most of the graves belong to Scots. The Grave yard was in bad state because of poor maintenance. Steps have already been taken by an association consisting of Scots and Indians to restore the grave yard in the St. Andrew's church to its normal status so that the departed souls in the grave would rest in peace and dignity.