Wednesday, 16 October 2019

St. Stephen's Church on Diamond Harbour Road, Kolkata - a historical Colonial church

St Stephen's Church - Calcutta - 1849commons.wikimedia.org.
 The colonial Residencies of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay are home to a large number of colonial churches  mostly built in European style, sometimes mixed with local architectural elements. Despite the long passage of time, these places of worship -legacies of colonial rule in India, have neither lost their charm nor their historical importance and heritage value.
Diamond Harbour Rd, Kidderpore. double-dolphin.blogspot.com
St Stephen's Church - Calcuttadouble-dolphin.blogspot.com
  St. Stephen's Church on  Diamond Harbour Road, Kolkata open to public in 1846, is one of the earliest churches built in Bengal. What is so unique about this church is its appearance, in particular, its odd looking steeple that resembles the body of a rocket, complete with nose cone. On  both sides of the entrance, you will be struck by the way the walls are sloping resembling  like tail fins. An interesting fact is, this church Anglican in origin,  still continues to maintain  the old Anglican traditions in its services,  etc., according to the church authorities. Right from its very origin all services,  have been in English and no native language is used for this purpose.

Typical Gothic in architecture, the steeple was not built  to look like  a rocket.  Rather, the architect  designed it  to look like a ship’s lantern from the old days. Perhaps, we may be wondering why the  Church that has a steeple  resembling a ship’s lantern is constructed  on Diamond Harbour Road.  The answer is simple  and is linked to its proximity to the docks in  Kidderpore docks and the houses of sailors and  seafaring people. There is a likelihood that this would have been the first Church  to be  seen by a  any new comer to this place  traveling East towards the city after  getting off the ship.  St. Stephen’s Church  was close  to the St. Thomas Boys’ School in  Kidderpore Bazaar and the school is functioning well today.

It was in
1846 the Church was consecrated and  on the 6th of January, 1844 its foundation  stone was laid by the Governor General, Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough, along with the Venerable Archdeacon  and  Rev Thomas Dealtry.  This church  is believed to have been frequently visited by the Governor General and his family members  whose residence was at Belvedere. That place is converted into a library.  Having been established as a Chaplaincy in 1848, it became a parish church in 1870.

The church has  an impressive interior with fine architectural style. There are are two closets, on both sides of the altar  and they are meant for nuns, who may have received their communion through windows in the closets. There  are many plaques on the walls, the older among them commemorating European dead, whereas the  newer ones are Indian. Among the older plaques is one for Edgar Belhouse, 3rd officer of the ship Khyber, who was drowned in the Hooghly on 11th May, 1890.  Because of its proximity to the wharves on the Hooghly, many of the plaques inside the church commemorate former parishioners who died at sea.  Behind the altar stands  a very large and  strikingly beautiful stained glass window as well as a  fine pulpit. The Church also has  an  original organ  which has fallen into disrepair; it is not functional now.  After India's freedom, because of the departure of a large chunk of Christians in this location, the community became a small one and the church, unfortunately, fell into disuse. Owing to sheer negligence and poor upkeep, this old legacy of the colonial period had begun to rot leading to the collapse of beams causing cracks in the ceiling  and promoting leaks. The windows took the beatings  as well.  The members of the church in 2013 began to take steps to repair and restore the church back to old glory, Obliviously, they depended on donations from the public. The credit goes to the students of the adjacent St. Thomas School. many of whom were congregants of the church. Through their sustained efforts and with cooperation from the heritage lovers of West Bengal and others later, the church was saved from near oblivion, and now it is in good shape. However, the original marble flooring was not saved and relaid with a new one. 
http://double-dolphin.blogspot.com/2014/11/st-stephens-church-diamond-harbour-road.html