It’s quite amazing, you know, of the things one notices, but does not really see. Take for instance the subject of this post. I must have passed it a countless number of times, glancing at it idly but mostly ignoring it. You might have noticed it too, if you are travelling on the Lalbaug flyover towards Byculla, which looms up about 100 metres before the exit on your left.
That day, when I was passing by this structure I felt I was seeing it for the first time. And indeed I was for the slender and elegant clock tower glowed in the mid-morning winter sun in spite of the very obvious look of neglect that it had and stones blackened due to pollution.
Situated at the entrance to the Jijamata Udyan (formerly known as Victoria Gardens and also known as Rani Baug) and among trees, this beautiful clock just begs to be explored. When I attempted to do just that, I found that it is closed to the public with a several “Keep Out” signs placed all around. There is no information board on the clock tower and I had to be content walking around the barrier erected and look at the details through my camera lens. And what did I find?
That the clock tower was erected in A.D. 1864, which makes it nearly 150 years old ! The archway shown in the picture below also has David Sassoon’s name on it, but I’m not sure if he built the clock tower or if it is dedicated to him
That the clock tower is covered with the most beautiful tiles I have ever seen. The tiles range in design from geometrical prints to trellis borders, to what looked suspiciously like a Graeco-Roman border design and even trailing ivy leaves. The colours may have faded on the tiles, but their effect on the overall design of the clock tower has not. This made me imagine how the clock tower must have looked like when it had just been built; the colours on the tiles would have just glowed like jewels.
That the clock in the tower still works much to my delight. I was surprised and very disappointed to not find any substantial information on the clock tower. Who built it? Why was it built? What was the purpose? There is no information on this. Whatever mentions I found was in connection with the Jijamata Udyan or the botanical gardens or the Bhau Daji Lad Museum. There was nothing about the clock tower per se.
Somehow, I am not surprised. Most Mumbaikars, on being asked about the city’s clock towers, would probably only remember the iconic Rajabhai Tower in the Fort area of the city. But I would say that while Rajabhai Tower may be overwhelmingly grand in design and size, this clock tower at Jijamata Udyan stands out with its understated beauty and elegance.
Dear reader, if you like architecture, history and design, then a visit to the clock tower is an absolute must. Besides such neglected structures need to be shown some love and attention.
Update on January 19, 2013 3.45 pm: I came across some information on the clock tower in The Bombay Builder: An Illustrated Journal of Engineering Architecture dated July 5, 1865 (pg.14). It was known as the David Sassoon Clock Tower.
The cost, Rs.30,000, has been entirely defrayed by David Sassoon, Esq.
The style of the building is Italian; 12 feet square at the base by about 75 feet high. The base plynths are in trap stone, the body of Porebunder-stone, with ornamental tile panels occasionally introduced.
The key stones to the ground floor arches …contain subjects representative of morning, evening, noon, and night.
The article also goes on to say that the tiles came all the way from England and are the now famous Minton tiles.
P.S.: If you come across any other information on this clock tower, would you please share them with me?