Archive for April 6, 2012

Standard Life Assurance Building, Kolkata (Calcutta) ~ Beauty in Neglect

April 6, 2012 3 comments

Ranging from the neo – classical Raj Bhavan to the Greco – Roman Writers’ Building, BBD Bagh (formaly Dalhousie Square), Calcutta (Kolkata) is said to have a large concentration of colonial buildings.

Although lesser known than its famed counterparts of Writers’ Building, General Post Office (GPO), St. Andrew’s Kirk or St. John’s Church the Standard Life Assurance Building can be considered as one of the finest buildings around Lal Dighi (formally Tank Square).

Domed Tower of Standard Life Assurance Building, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Domed Tower of Standard Life Assurance Building, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Located at the corner of BBD Bagh (South) and Red Cross Place (formally Wellesley Place) the Standard Life Assurance Building was constructed in 1896 by the famous Bombay based architect Frederick W Stevens, of Victoria Terminus (VT) fame. The building once housed the office of Edinburgh based Standard Life Assurance company.

Established on 23 March 1825 in Edinburgh, the Life Insurance Company of Scotland changed its name to the Standard Life Assurance Company in 1832 by royal assent. At a time when most British insurance companies were reluctant to allow policy holders to travel let alone live in the colonies, due to the high mortality rate, Standard Life pioneered insurance for British subjects abroad. In 1846 the establishment of the Colonial Life Assurance Company was specifically designed to handle business in the British Colonies and India, and could offer attractive terms based on the Colonial’s more accurate assessment of mortality risk in the countries concerned.

Standard Life’s business grew and it merged with Colonial in 1871. In fact, the Standard, already a leading name at home, was now the best-known life assurance company in the British colonies. Having had a presence in India since 1846, following the 1871 merger, its head office was here in Calcutta and it also had an office in Bombay.

Set in grey – brown sandstone, this is yet another British commercial building which seems to have been transplanted to Bengal from England. Sadly the building is in an extremely run down states and is over grown with large trees, whose roots have embedded deep into the structure of the magnificent building.

Stucco work of Musician, window arch, Standard Life Assurance Building

Stucco work of Musician, window arch, Standard Life Assurance Building

The multi domed tower dominates the building’s North – East corner. The entrance on the Northern wall is through an arched gateway crowned by a triangular pediment housing theĀ  Standard Life’s logo of the biblical Ten Virgins in statue form in the main pediment; the parable of the Ten Virgins.

The building also contains excellent stucco work, starting from the parable of Ten Virgins on the entrance pediment each circular window arch and parapets. The window arches contain beautiful stucco works of musicians.

Although there have been several efforts to revamp and restore the colonial structures of BBD Bagh (Dalhousie Square) this building has received any attention.


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List of my Blog entries on Calcutta (Kolkata)