Wednesday, 30 October 2013


One of the beautiful colonial buildings in Kolkata that perpetuates the memory of Lord Charles Metcalfe located on the junction of Strand Road and Hare Street is majestic Metcalfe Hall. Charles Metcalfe (1785-1846) was the Governor General of India from March 1835 to March 1836, the intervening period between the departure of Lord William Bentinck and arrival of Lord Auckland, and is remembered most for his noble public deed – the emancipation of Indian Press. The brick building was built through public subscription on a land granted by the Government as a tribute to Charles Metcalfe by his admirers.

The foundation stone of the hall was laid with ceremonial function in Masonic honour on 19th  December 1840  by Dr. James Grant, Grandmaster of Bengal and assisted by Dr. James Burness, Grandmaster of Western India and 350 Master Masons. The building was completed in 1844 to accommodate the Agri-Horticulture Society in the ground floor and the Culcutta Public Library on the floor above it. These two institutions were favoured and supported by Charles Metcalfe. The design of the building was taken from the portico of the Temple of Athens by architect Mr. C. K. Rabison.

A broad flight of steps leads to the portico on the western side and there is a portico on its opposite side to the east with similar flight of steps leading to the Central Hall. The building is constructed over a solid 10 ft. high ornamental basement. Thirty beautiful Corinthian columns each of 36 ft. height which rise from the solid basement support the general entablature of the building. The sole appearance of the building externally gives an impression to that of an old Greek temple because of the arrangement of the columns and colonnades which almost surround the whole building enhancing its grandeur and beauty. Internally there are two stories connected by a grand staircase with each other.

The management of public library was not so good as well as Agri-Horticultural Society also could not draw much attention from the public. The building suffered from disrepair till the beginning of viceroyalty of Lord Curzon, who paid a visit to it and took the decision to house Imperial Library in it which was opened in 1903 in a renovated and refurbished Metcalfe Hall. In spite of Curzon’s patronage Imperial library in Metcalf Hall could not be continued for a long time and shifted to 5, Esplanade East. Since then Metcalf Hall  remained occupied by different Government  Departments till its final handing over to Archaeological Survey of India by the Forms and Stationary Department, Govt. of India in 1992.

After its taking over constant efforts  were being made to repair the building and to  maintain its pristine grandeur and glory. The ground floor of the building has been given to The Asiatic Society to house their own books and journals and in the first floor there is a publication sales counter of Archeological Survey of India and brick museum displaying bricks of different periods in showcases in a room drawing enthusiastic attention from the public.

Source :  a)  ASI (Kolkata Circle)
               b) Custodians of the past. – 150 years of ASI.

  Research  -Santanu Roy.


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