Old Court House - The Legend of the Lost
07-09-2018    214 times
Old Court House

Most of the people of Calcutta are well aware of a great stretch of road, known as Old Court House Street, which as an extension of Red Road connects Esplanade East (Sidhu Kanu Dahar) with the western part of Dalhousie Square (BBD Bag). Naturally, an inevitable question immediately comes to the mind, what is the reason behind such naming and if it is named after a court of law, where is that. In fact, the stretch acquired its name from the Old Court house that was once located on the site of the St. Andrew's Church, by the side of the majestic building of the Writer’s Building and served originally as the Supreme Court, until it was demolished in 1792.

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The Old Court of Calcutta has a long history behind it. The Mayor's Court was first established at Fort William of Kolkata, presided by Henry Liol and in 1728 it started functioning at the Ambassador House belonging to the East India Company. In those early days, the Court House stood at the corner of Lalbazar and Mission Row. Subsequently, that site was occupied by Martin Burn and Company’s Building. In 1732, the Mayor’s Court moved to the premises of Charity School, also known as the Free School. The two storey building of the Court, with impressive columns and urn-topped balustrade, was built adjacent to the massive Writer's Building in 1762 by Mr. Bourchier. It was built on the site, where St. Andrew’s Church stands today. Gradually, it became a multipurpose building, besides its main function. At one time, it also served as the Town Hall of Calcutta.

Old Court House
Old Court House - at the site of St. Andrew’s Church

From time to time, additional constructions were made to serve the purpose of the day. It was greatly enlarged by the erection of new balconies, an additional saloon with attached rooms, even a dancing-saloon, so that it can be used as an Exchange, Post Office, Quarter-Sessions Office, Public entertainment centre and Assembly rooms. For more than thirty years the Old Court House was the most popular hub of the local community and the most preferred centre for the public entertainments and assembly balls.

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With the passage of time, toward the close of the century, the community became divided due to class distinction. Assemblies based on subscription went out of fashion. Glittering parties, gala balls, social gatherings and other public events became rare. Consequently, due to negligence and lack of proper maintenance, the old house became unsafe. The final curtain was drawn in 1792, when the building was pulled down.

The Old Court House of Calcutta is lost forever, but the long stretch of road in the heart of the city still bears its name, which is mostly unknown to the people.

Old Court House Street
Old Court House Street Looking North - 1865
Old Court House Street Looking North - 1865
    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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