Sunday, 2 March 2014

Foreign & Military Secretariat, Esplanade Row East

Most Bengalis remember Lord Curzon for one thing and one thing only; the partition of Bengal. But the fact is that Curzon was behind many of Calcutta’s colonial landmarks, and did much to modernize the city and it’s administration. One example may still be seen on Esplanade Row East.

Built in 1909, and designed by PWD architect W Banks Gwyther, the Foreign and Military Secretariat Building, is a clear indication that the Brits wanted to create in Calcutta a mirror image of their beloved London. Afterall, Calcutta then, was still the capital city of British India. The vast Neo-Classical building, with it’s wide verandahs, recessed rooms and large central court yard, would not look out of place in Edwardian London. Sadly, the capital moved to Delhi only three years later, but the building is still occupied by the Ministry of Defence, and currently houses, among others, the office of the Ordnance Factory Board.

Being an MoD building, there are soldiers and guards who may harass you if they find you taking photographs of the building, even from the road, so if you must photograph, please do be discreet, or do what I did; turn up at some ungodly hour, like 6 am on a Sunday, when no one is around.

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