Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General > Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Kolkata’s Oldest Existing Building

“I have tried, quiet hopelessly, to discover Calcutta’s oldest building, I suspect it to be Clive’s Country House in Dum Dum.”

Desmond Doig, An Artist’s Impression

Panoramic view of the Courtyard of Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

Panoramic view of the Courtyard of Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

”…built on an artificial mound of considerable height above the neighboring country, and surrounded by very pretty walks and shrubberies. The house has a vulnerable appearance, and its lower storey, as well as the mound on which it stands, is said to be of some antiquity. The building is of brick, with small windows and enormous buttresses.”

Bishop Heber, 1824

Although encroached by box like apartment buildings, the house still stands on the mound and dominates the urban landscape.

Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

Although named after Robert Clive, Clive House predates the man, who helped to establish the British rule in India.

A plaque at the entrance (no longer approachable) says Lord Clive’s Country House, 1757 – 1760, 1756 – 1767. Indicating that Lord Clive did stay here and hence the name Clive House.

Clive also introduced some changes in the building’s architectural pattern and added the upper storey. He also laid the extensive gardens and the walks.

The origin of the Clive House, also known as Burra Kothi, still remains a mystery. Some believe it to be a Portuguese or a Dutch Factory.

Approach to Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

Approach to Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

According to local legend, the mound on which the Clive House stands was built in a single night. Locals believe that the grounds and the house are haunted.

O’Malley in Gazetteer of 24 Parganas quotes “It appears to have been originally a one-storeyed blockhouse, so constructed as to secure a flank fire along each side, in underground chambers or cellars. The walls were of great thickness… further strengthened by huge buttresses, between which the walls were loop-holed for musketry. No authentic account of the origin of this building can be found… The native tradition is that the mound on which it stands was thrown up by a spirit in a single night and to this day the house and the grounds have the reputation of being haunted.”

Back Entrance, Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

Back Entrance, Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

After Clive, the house changed hands several times. It served as a private residence of notable Englishmen and in 1890s, it served as a head quarters of Presidency Volunteer Reserve Battalion.

After independence, about 20 – 25 refugee families from East Pakistan occupied the rooms and the peripheries of Clive House and few families continue to live in the peripheries,  even after the Clive House was taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2003.

In spite of centuries of neglect, the Clive House was is fairly good shape till the late 1990s, when chunks of the roof started falling off. Even during the 1970s, an Air Technical Institute operated from the building and had two model planes displayed at the entrance.

Courtyard of Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

Courtyard of Clive House, Dum Dum, Kolkata

In 2001, a decorated shred of pottery taken from the mound, attracted the attention of ASI. This led to extensive excavation of the portion of the mound, North of Clive House. The excavation revealed remnants of  civilization dating back far beyond the days of Christ. The findings are all set to revolutionise the history of South Bengal.

Excavation also led to the conservation and restoration of the Clive House, the first systematic attempt to conserve the oldest building of Kolkata (Calcutta).

Today, the Clive House is a protected monument and a blue board of ASI, at the entrance, provide the brief history. The main entrance is cordoned off, making entry impossible. The back entrance has fencing, only up to the waist level. The brave hearted and the physically fit can easily jump across it, braving the official ASI warning and ignoring chunk of masonries that can fall from the roof, only to find the main courtyard entrance sealed to the top. But the adventure activity will provide a view of the roof less courtyard of Kolkata’s (Calcutta’s) oldest building.

References:

  1. Excavation at Dum Dum Mound, Archeological Survey of India, Kolkata Circle
  2. Desmond Doig, An Artist Impression
  3. Swasato Kolkata – Ingrej Amal er Sthapotha, Nisithi Ranjan Roy
  4. Sumit Roy, Old House on the Hill, The Telegraph, Calcutta, 23 May, ’03
  5. Soumitra Das, Two Faces of Clive House in Dum Dum, The Telegraph, Calcutta, 24 Jan, 2006

  1. May 28, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    An excellent and illuminating post! People know very little about the heritage of Bengal in general and Calcutta in particular; you are doing a capital service to Bangal, Rangan Datta!

    • June 6, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      Thanks Anirudha da, for your constant inspiration.

  2. May 28, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Had no idea about this. Many thanks for posting.

    • June 6, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      Dear Double Dolphin (Deep), this is one of the most mysteries buildings of Calcutta, do vist it.

      Looking forward for your blog entry on the Clive House.

  3. Indrani Chatterjee
    June 4, 2014 at 3:18 AM

    Thank you for this wonderful work you do. It is both intellectually illuminating, and visually arresting.Keep it up!

    • June 6, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      Thansk Indranil for the inspiring comment.

      • Debojyoti Das
        June 3, 2015 at 5:19 PM

        I have entered the clive house twice as i am studying in seraphims asaembly school.. nearly 2 months ago i had entered the clive house as i was curious too see inside of it.. i went up to the terrace its stairs were not in good conditions.. among my frnds i was only the brave enough to go inside. But u would realy not believe that after i came out from the clive house a strange wound was in my left hand and i did not know it .. my frnds told me about 5 minits later that my hand was bleeding.. really its strang.

  4. September 5, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    Great post. I visited Clive House about 4-7 years ago. The back entrance had not been closed off then.

    • November 15, 2014 at 11:08 PM

      Dear Piali Roy you are right, it was closed about a couple of years back when chunks of the roof started falling off.

  5. September 6, 2014 at 12:50 AM

    I live in Dum Dum, I always wanted someone to write about this place… I loved your blog! thank you Rangan da..

  6. Sujan Saha
    October 12, 2014 at 1:48 AM

    I live in Dum Dum Gol Park.All the history destroy for maintainance.

    • November 15, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      Sujan you are right but it is true not only in Dum Dum but all over India. Its really sad.

  7. November 17, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    I was quite surprised to find such a detailed post about the monument here. I too, like Mr. Saha above, hail from Golpark. And even today, I took my usual evening stroll around the building (obviously maintaining my distance, ASI is scarier than hypothetical ghosts😉 ).

    Recently, Bratya Vasu announced something about restoring the place, I’m not sure. I guess we all should pray for better days. It can indeed be turned into quite a tourist attraction.

    Many thanks, Mr. Rangan, for your illuminating post.🙂

    • November 17, 2014 at 11:05 PM

      Thanks Anirban for the comment, hope the government takes some initiative in heritage conservation and tourism promotion.

  8. March 31, 2015 at 9:24 PM

    recently I started reading 41 years in India field marshal roberts. Your photographs helped me to get necessary photographs of that period thank you.

    • April 2, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      Thanks Richard

      • April 2, 2015 at 4:04 PM

        It is photographers like you, who will make us aware of our heritage. Our fanatics are out burn down the historical threads to satisfy their ego and the uneducated hardly care about our national history.

  9. March 9, 2016 at 7:14 AM

    Just discovered this enjoyable post, Rangan. Always wanted to make an expedition to Clive House. Thanks for the visit. Better to at least have semi-ruins than some forgettable development. Happily, Calcutta still has a considerable number of historical sites that yet remain, though of course, as we know, many need better attention. Note: Most people do not realize that, despite his huge successes in India, back in England, Clive ended up cutting his own throat, as his manic-depressive pressures caught up with him. Earlier, he put a gun to his head in Madras, but did not pull the trigger. PS: You are one of the few people I know who can quote O’Malley in one of his excellent Gazetteers. Well done!

  10. October 18, 2016 at 8:26 AM

    A good one. Thank you Rangan for sharing about this place. I would love to visit here someday. Is the ASI planning to do any restoration work on this building? Its sad that our heritage is in such poor condition. Your post is very informative.

  1. December 1, 2015 at 10:55 PM

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