Colesworthy Grant Memorial, a little obelisk painted in white, was initially installed on the pavement of Writers’ Buildings in 1881. It is adorned with a head of lion on the either sides of the base and a plaque in the middle, which indicates that it was dedicated to the memory of a man, Colesworthey Grant, the founder of the Calcutta Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA). Subsequently, the little monument was shifted inside the southern front of the Writers’ Buildings, away from the sight of the commoners.
Pyari Chand Mitra, one of the colleagues of Grant at the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, wrote a brief biography of Grant after his death. Pyari Chand Mitra had a literary inclination and said to have authored the first novel in Bengali language. Nevertheless, according to his accounts, with his Scottish and Irish origin, Grant came to Calcutta in 1832 at the age of nineteen. Initially, he joined his elder brother’s business of clock-making and designing mathematical instruments in the city. Their establishment was located on the northeast corner of Dalhousie Square, on the spot where Stephen Court stands today. While engaged in designing, he became proficient as an artist and draftsman. Soon, he started to make made lithographic sketches of notable British personalities of the city, which included, among others, Earl of Auckland, Bishop Wilson, Charles Metcalfe and James Prinsep, who rediscovered Emperor Ashok by deciphering his edicts. Even, his sketches were published in a number of reputed contemporary periodicals, which included the India Sporting Review, Calcutta Review, Indian Review and Calcutta Christian Observer.
As a drawing teacher, Grant also used to take classes in the Calcutta Mechanics Institution, established in 1839. Unfortunately, the Institution did not survive for long. However, two future prime educational institutions of Calcutta, the Bengal Engineering College (now the Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology, Shibpur) and the Government Art College originated from its roots. The Bengal Engineering was founded in 1857 and initially started to operate from the premises of the Presidency College. Grant joined the college, as the teacher of drawing at the Civil Engineering Department and he held the post till his death in 1880. A memorial plaque was installed by his students at the auditorium of the Bengal Engineering College, in recognition of his contribution as a teacher.
The artistic talent of Colesworthy Grant was also recognized by the Calcutta Medical College. Dr F J Mouat invited him to be a part of his highly ambitious project of compiling the bilingual anatomical atlas in English and Hindi. The compilation of the project included anatomical drawings, which were sketched by Colesworthy Grant.
Grant was a prolific writer too. He has left behind a delightful account of how two ships laden with ice ‘retained by an American’ brought the first supplies of ‘common ice’ to Calcutta. A compilation of his letters, written to his sisters in England, was published in 1860, as 'Rural Life in Bengal'. The book was thoroughly illustrated by detailed sketches, depicting the Anglo-Indian Officialdom, its social customs, archaic rural practices, village life, indigo manufacturing, trade and other things. Another compilation of his delightful letters, which he wrote to his mother in England, was published as 'Anglo-Indian Domestic Life' in 1862. Several pages of this book were interestingly devoted to the list of domestic servants in colonial Calcutta, a description of Burrabazar area, illustration on different communities of traders like Persians, Armenians, Chinese, Burmese, Marwaris and particularly the Bengalee community trading in jewels of Golconda, shawls of Kashmir, silks of Benaras and muslins of Dacca.
Above all his talent and artistic pursuit, Grant was an animal lover. He had constructed a drinking fountain for horses, in the north-eastern corner of Dalhousie Square, near his working place. On 4 October 1861, he established the Calcutta Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA) for the ailing animals. It was first of its kind in India, as well as in Asia and Lord Elgin became a patron of the Society. With the help of his friend and colleague, Pyari Chand Mitra, a member of the Bengal Council, he enabled to get the first act in India for the prevention of cruelty to animals passed by the Bengal Council on October 28, 1869. Still today, CSPCA is operating in Calcutta from its office at 276, B B Ganguly Street.
Colesworthy Grant died on 31May1880 and the memorial was built in front of the Writers' Building in 1881, as a tribute to the noble soul.