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