Danish Government House Serampore


Danish Government House Serampore

After covering the Danish church, cemetery now in this blog I take you to the center of Danish rule of Serampore that is their main government building known as Danish Government House.

Now before going into the architecture and its details it’s time for a little more detailed description of the Danish rule of Serampore.

Short History of Danish Rule of Bengal

Serampore is a quiet town located around 35 kilometers from Kolkata. It is located on the other side of the River Hooghly right opposite Barrackpore.

Danish was one of the last to come to this part of India for trade. By then The Portuguese, French, British had already established their base in Bengal.

Their first attempt in 1698 resulted in a disaster since more than legitimate trade they were more into piracy, slave trade, etc. This did not go down well with the local population and with further tradeoffs with the mighty Mughal rulers things got worse and the Danes retreated to their stronghold of Tranquebar (Tharangambadi).

Their second attempt was in 1755 by The Danish Asiatic Company and this time they settled right what we now know as Serampore. This place was however renamed as Frederiksnagore honoring King Frederik V of Denmark.

1827 Frederiksnagore Topographical plan by James Thompson (Courtesy Her Majesty The Queen's Reference Library, Copenhagen)
1827 Frederiksnagore Topographical plan by James Thompson (Courtesy Her Majesty The Queen’s Reference Library, Copenhagen)

In 1777 the administration of Serampore was transferred directly to the Danish Crown which was managed with great success by Governor Ole Bie. He died in the year 1805 leaving a great Danish legacy in Serampore.

In 1845 Denmark withdrew from Serampore and Tranquebar by selling off these places to the British thus ending their short presence in India.

Serampore from across the Hooghly showing the Danish government buildings by Frederic Peter Layard – 1842 (Courtesy British Library)
Serampore from across the Hooghly showing the Danish government buildings by Frederic Peter Layard – 1842 (Courtesy British Library)

During this short rule of Serampore by Denmark which lasted somewhat less than a century it had established very good trade relations with the European markets. The growth of trade also indirectly developed the surrounding villages around Serampore with more people starting to settle down near the administrative zone.

Danish Government House Serampore

During their second attempt at establishing a base at Serampore The Danish Asiatic Company (1755) had decided to do things the right way and one of the very first things that they did was to build an administrative building from where they could manage the day to day operations of the town.

The Government House Painting by Mary Hohlenberg (Courtesy The Maritime Museum of Denmark, Elsingnore)
The Government House Painting by Mary Hohlenberg (Courtesy The Maritime Museum of Denmark, Elsingnore)

They decided to put a strong defensive wall around the administrative compound considering their previous not-so-great attempt and in that process had got them many enemies.

1827 - James Thompson (Courtesy Her Majesty The Queen's Reference Library, Copenhagen)
1827 – James Thompson (Courtesy Her Majesty The Queen’s Reference Library, Copenhagen)

Apart from the government house, there were other ancillary buildings such as gunpowder magazine, kitchen, guardhouse, jailhouse, etc. The compound also had a pond (water tank) for water supply. This was done to have a safe enclave for their officers and administrative staff.

The Gate Outside Danish Government Building – Hand Colored Photographic Print by Frederick Fiebig 1851 (Courtesy British Library)
The Gate Outside Danish Government Building – Hand Colored Photographic Print by Frederick Fiebig 1851 (Courtesy British Library)

Timeline Danish Government House Serampore

In 1755 the Danish Government House was not what we see now. Instead, it was a small mud house with a thatched roof that served as the residence as well as the office space for the Head of Serampore.

In 1771 the old building was demolished as a part of it had anyways collapsed on the 2nd December 1770.

Johan Leonard Fix (1770-1773) began the construction of the new building which was being built with bricks and lime mortar. This initial phase had two rooms and a hall along with a verandah.

Andreas Hiernoe in 1773 made some additions with two more rooms with a verandah.

In 1781 Ole Bie further added two more rooms and a verandah. This included the massive front portico and two rooms on each side.

In 1832 this building had a total of four large rooms, five smaller rooms, two verandas to the side, and the large front portico.

Around 1842 – 1843 two rooms were added on the first floor above the ground floor.

1845 the building gets transferred to the British after the Danish ceased its operations in India and sold all its properties and rights to the British. They transformed this place into a courthouse and offices. They also extended the building further to accommodate more office space.

1860 a long gallery-type hallway was added on the side. Additional walls were put over the existing wall of the old building to reinforce it.

The building over the years was in complete ruins and by 1999 it was no more used and left to crumble slowly.

In 2006 this building was declared a heritage and in 2008 restoration was started by funding from the West Bengal State Heritage Commission.

Very soon we will be able to see the interiors also which have been planned to become an exhibition center featuring the colonial past of Serampore.

Architectural Style of Danish Government House Serampore

The north gate has been completely restored now. The design however is not the same as it’s missing the monogram of the Danish King Christian VII.

The Restored Main Gate (North) Danish Government House Serampore
The Restored Main Gate (North) Danish Government House Serampore
The Plaque Outside Restored Main Gate (North) Danish Government House Serampore
The Plaque Outside Restored Main Gate (North) Danish Government House Serampore

The wall around the compound has also been restored and various encroachments have been removed. However, the guard building next to the north gate does not exist anymore.

There is a huge ground right in front of the main Danish Government House. And behind that, you see the restored building with the grand portico. The portico has four columns with Ionic capitals in front and one on each side. The portico leads to three doors. There are three windows on each side.

Ground In Front of Danish Government House Serampore
Ground In Front of Danish Government House Serampore
Danish Government House Serampore – Front View
Danish Government House Serampore – Front View
Danish Government House Serampore – Side View
Danish Government House Serampore – Side View
Danish Government House Serampore – View of the Portico
Danish Government House Serampore – View of the Portico
Plaque Outside Danish Government House Serampore
Plaque Outside Danish Government House Serampore
Danish Government House Serampore – Columns with Ionic capitals
Danish Government House Serampore – Columns with Ionic capitals
Danish Government House Serampore
Danish Government House Serampore
Danish Government House Serampore
Danish Government House Serampore

On the western side, you can see an open verandah with rooms on either side. The eastern section of the building just has doors and windows of the same pattern without any open sections.

Danish Government House Serampore – Western Side
Danish Government House Serampore – Western Side
Danish Government House Serampore – Western Side Open Verandah
Danish Government House Serampore – Western Side Open Verandah
Danish Government House Serampore – Western Side
Danish Government House Serampore – Western Side
Danish Government House Serampore – South Western Side
Danish Government House Serampore – South Western Side

On the backside (south) you have three doors at the center and a pair of windows on each side. Previously there was also a similar pillar as we see on the north side with a porch but that section now has been removed.

Danish Government House Serampore – South Side
Danish Government House Serampore – South Side
Danish Government House Serampore – South Side
Danish Government House Serampore – South Side

On the south side, there is a small gateway that has two adjoining rooms which also have been restored but with free entry, it has now become a temporary shed for rickshaw pullers.

Danish Government House Serampore – Small Building With Two Rooms On The South Side
Danish Government House Serampore – Small Building With Two Rooms On The South Side
Danish Government House Serampore – Small Building With Two Rooms On The South Side
Danish Government House Serampore – Small Building With Two Rooms On The South Side
Danish Government House Serampore – Small Building With Two Rooms On The South Side (View From The Road)
Danish Government House Serampore – Small Building With Two Rooms On The South Side (View From The Road)
Danish Government House Serampore – South Gate
Danish Government House Serampore – South Gate
Plaque Outside Danish Government House Serampore – South Gate
Plaque Outside Danish Government House Serampore – South Gate
Danish Government House Serampore – South Gate
Danish Government House Serampore – South Gate

Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen

One of the old buildings within the compound which of course was added much later and not during the Danish rule of Serampore has been beautifully restored and converted into a restaurant (Vheto). So, after a tour of Serampore if you want some delicious traditional food head off to this place.

Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Plaque Outside Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Plaque Outside Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Interiors of Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Interiors of Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Interiors of Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Interiors of Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Showcase With Cutleries at Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Showcase With Cutleries at Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore

On a personal note, this place has better food and at much affordable cost than Danish Tavern which I think is overrated and very expensive.

Traditional Bengali Cuisine at Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Traditional Bengali Cuisine at Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore
Vheto Court Compound Heritage Canteen at Danish Government House in Serampore

Location Danish Government House Serampore

Other Heritage Places in Serampore

St. Olav’s Church
Danish Cemetery
Mission Cemetery Serampore

Resources

The Telegraph
British Library
William Carey University
West Bengal Heritage Commission
Danish National Archives
National Museum of Denmark

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