Outram Institute, Dum Dum, Calcutta, c1860

Outram Institute In DUM DUM, Calcutta Sc1890s
উট্রাম ইন্সটিট্যুট, দম দম, কলকাতা, c১৮৬০

Sir James Outram (1803-1863) at 17 started his long career as a soldier and political officer in India, and in the 1st Afghan War (1839–1842) and Sind (1842–1843) as well. In 1854 he was appointed Resident at Lucknow, and carried out the annexation of Oudh on behalf of the East India Company, and against the wishes of its inhabitants. He is best known for his role during the relief and capture of Lucknow.
Outram was a brilliant soldier and a shrewd diplomat. He brought about many triumphs in military operations serving the undeviating interests of the British.


Lt. General James Outram

In recognition of his extraordinary services, ‘Her Majesty had been pleased to confer the dignity of baronetcy on Sir James Outram.’ He was also presented with the freedom of the City of London, and a sword of the value of a 100 guineas. On the eve of Outram’s last journey home, the Friend of India fervently broadcasted, “To-morrow the Indian army will loss its brightest ornament, and every soldier in India his best friend.” See Bayard of India/ Trotter, The overzealous pronouncement by the English press, however, was found true only for the Britons in Indian army, and not for the soldiers of Indian origin who were most unlikely to share any soft sentiments toward General Outram because of historical reasons.

Outram was known to be a kind-hearted, generous man of ability and power. There is, however, little evidence of any gracious act he ever did that benefitted the people of India during four decades of his stay. Perhaps it was his other traits of character that had made him ignore the interests of the natives of India. Outram, as we understand from his biographers, was a sort of fixed-minded man. ‘An idea too often got complete command of him, and it was then difficult for him to see the other side of a question.’ This could be the reason why Outram had failed to see the other side of Sepoy Mutiny with due compassion and respect.


Unveiling of Statue of Outram on Horseback. 1874

The East India Company and the British Government were not too comfortable during the aftermath of Annexation of Oudh, and made every attempt to enthuse awe in minds of the locals by glorifying the heroic deeds of General Outram. In India and other colonial cities, they erected monuments and statues, dedicated streets and localities in memory of Outram. The statue of Outram on horseback set in Calcutta Maidan was one the finest sculptural specimens modeled by John Foley in 1874. The statue inspired Barbara Groseclose, the art historian, to remark that ‘doubts and anxieties, as well as assumptions about their own place in Indian life, bear strongly on the roles and achievements for which the British sought or received commemoration ..’

Duties apart, there is one thing Outram did for his own contentment. It was a kind of library facility that he designed to serve the needs of the British troops. He expended about £1,000 to provide readable books, newspapers, and games for the use of those who had shared his Oudh campaigns. The 5th, 64th, 75th, 78th, 84th, 90th, and 1st Madras Fusiliers received regularly, some of them for two years, a dozen or more of daily and weekly journals. And when he left Calcutta he made over the suitable books of his own library, about 500, to the Soldiers’ Library at Fort William. As we understand from Evan Cotton, this soldiers’ institute and garrison school continued to function in his time at the ‘Governor House’ once built for the Governor General in 1802, adjacent to St Peter Church within Fort compound. A more permanent record of Outram’s personal interest was the Soldiers’ Institute at Dum Dum, which he established and equipped with the greater part of the amount of Re 10000/ he received as a parting gift from the British community in Calcutta. This happened to be one of the earliest institution of its kind, with the objectives to counteract the temptations to which he was distressed to find the men at that station particularly exposed. The Institute was enthusiastically opened soon after his departure on July 16, 1860, and named Outram Institute after him. The Institute ultimately reunited with the Fort William soldiers’ library where Outram had initialed his project.
Besides the Outram Institute at Dum Dum, and the statue of Outram in Maidan, the British Government took initiative to commemorate him by founding Outram Ghat – an important port on Hooghly in the 19th century, that became later a popular joint for playing billiard or enjoying tea at tables on its deck. There also exists in Calcutta a street named after Outram.

The memory of Outram has been virtually lost with the removal of his statue from Maidan, and there has been no Outram Institute at Dum Dum any more to mark his singular humanitarian effort. A faceless street and an idle ferry ghat can do little for reviving the image of the British hero. His image may be dead or alive in public memory, the relevance of Outram, however, remains undeniably historic. It was none but General Outram who dictated the way Nawab of Oudh was deported to Calcutta accompanied by his fleets of attendants, companions, and entertainers. They all settled with their master in Metiaburz and spread their arts and crafts all around. Calcutta must not forget that if there were no Outram, Calcutta would have been deprived of the cultural enrichment gained through her chance interactions with the Awadhi Society.

The image featured at the top: Outram Institute, Calcutta. Albumen silver print of photograph taken by Captain R B Hill. Note: The date of the photograph should be sometime after 1860, and not 1850 as generally presumed. Because the photographer Captain R B Hill did join Bengal Army cadet only in 1855, and the Institute came into being after  departure of Sir Outram in 1860.  Courtesy: Metropolitan Museum, Gilman collection.

The Portrait of Sir James Outram, oil on canvas by Unknown Painter.
Coutesy: National Army Museum, UK

Revised: 13 May 2015


Dalhousie Institute, Hare Street, Calcutta, 1865


ডালহৌসি ইন্সটিট্যুট, লাল দিঘীর দক্ষিন পার, কলকাতা, c১৮৬৫

The Dalhousie Institute, situated on the south side of Dalhousie Square, was originally constructed as a Monumental Hall to accommodate busts and statues of great men associated with the history of British India, as well as to provide a resort for mental improvement and social intercourse for all classes. The foundation stone of the institute was laid on March 4, 1865 by the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, the Hon’ble Cecil Beadon.
As it is revealed in Archiseek, an Irish architectural journal, that Mr. C.Q. Wray, architect, was assigned for designing the Dalhousie Institute, and that the Institute, as we stated at the time, is intended to be built on a site adjoining Government House at the estimated cost of Rs 25,000 . The cost of its construction was met partly by public subscription and partly from funds raised to commemorate the heroic deeds of those who distinguished themselves in the mutiny of 1857.

The large hall is to be used as a concert and public-meeting room, and will accommodate 1,000 persons seated. It is also to be appropriated to the reception of statues and other memorials of distinguished men. On either side of it are lecture-rooms, lavatories, and an extensive library. The design, externally, may be described as a Corinthian prostyle temple, octastylos; with a lower building, Ionic, on each side. The two outer columns on each side in the portico are close together, and the tympanum is filled with sculpture. Three statues take the place of acroteria on the pediment. The great hall has single Corinthian columns with antae projecting from the wall, on each side at intervals, and a vaulted ceiling, panelled, with lunettes above the entablature of the order. A recces at one end will receive an organ.”dalhousieinst-hall A view of the grand interior of the Institute’s Great Hall where people assemble to witness the statues exhibited.

During World War II, the Institute was requisitioned for the use of US troops and, in 1948, it was shifted from Dalhousie Square to its present location where the original marble plaque commemorating the event has now been relocated in the entrance hall of the current premises at 42 Jhowtalla Street. The building was designed by Walter Granville. The Institute was not a social club in its early years – no drinks were served and no ladies were admitted as members till 1887.As published in The Builder, January 24, 1863. Demolished in 1950

DalhousieInstitute-HareStreetxThis photograph of Hare Street from the ‘Walter Hawkins Nightingale (PWD) collection: Album of views of Calcutta, was most probably taken by photographer Samuel Bourne in the late 1870s. Dalhousie Square, named after Lord Dalhousie who was appointed Governor-General in 1847, was the main administrative area of Calcutta. The square also housed the headquarters of the East India Company known as the Writer’s Building, the Currency Office, and the General Post Office. Pictured here is a view from the top of the Telegraph Office, with the Dalhousie Institute situated below. The Dalhousie Square, with a corner of the Dalhousie Tank, and the General Post Office are in view on the right. This is an edited and enlarged version of the original image.

[A revised version replacing Nov. 28, 2013 post]

Belvedere House, Alipur, Calcutta,1838

বেলভেডিয়ার হাঊস, আলিপুর, কলকাতা, ১৮৩৮
The Belvedere Estate consists of Belvedere House and the 30 acre (120,000 m²) grounds surrounding it with a beautiful garden, located in Alipore opposite the zoo. Belvedere House was the former palace for the Viceroy of India and later the Governor of Bengal. the National Library of India is housed, since 1948. The Governor-General resided in Belvedere House, Calcutta until the early nineteenth century, when Government House (present Raj Bhavan) was constructed. In 1854, after the Governor-General moved out, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal took up residence in Belvedere House. When the capital moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, who had hitherto resided in Belvedere House, was upgraded to a full Governor and transferred to Government House. It is believed that while Mir Zafar Ali Khan was in Calcutta, he built many buildings in the area and gifted Belvedere House to Warren Hastings in the late 1760s. It is believed that the roots of Belvedere House lie in the late 1760s from approximately the time when Mir Jafar Ali Khan, the Nawab of the province of Bengal was compelled by the British East India Company to abdicate his throne at Murshidabad to Qasim Khan in 1760. Mir Jafar moved to Calcutta where he is thought to have owned a large court house, and settled within the safety of English East India Company fortifications at Alipore. It is believed that while he was in Calcutta, he built many buildings in the area and gifted Belvedere House to Warren Hastings. After the Battle of Buxar in 1764 Hastings left for England. He returned to Calcutta as Governor in 1772 and to his garden house, the Belvedere with a certain Baroness Inhoff by his side. The grounds of Belvedere Estate were witness to a duel between Warren Hastings and his legal officer, Philip Francis. The duel may have been over the Baroness Inhoff, or was the outcome of political conflict between the two. It is believed that Hastings finally sold Belvedere House to a Major Tolly in the 1780s for the sum of Rs. 60,000. Charles Robert Prinsep (1790–1864), lived at Belvedere Estate for a time. Prinsep served as standing counsel to the East India Company and then as the Judge Advocate General of India during the time when he resided at Belvedere. After this it was turned into the official residence of the Viceroy of India. National Library of India, Kolkata, is housed in the Belvedere Estate since 1948. The main building, however, is presently under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, as heritage building.
The view of the Belvedere Estate has been captured by the Anglo-Indian merchant and amateur painter William Prinsep in 1838.