Monday, April 24, 2017

Bridges of Calcutta #2: Alipore or Zeerut Bridge

Detail from map produced by the Society
for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
In this post we look South West at a bridge that crosses Tolly's Nullah at Alipore. W.H. Carey describes it as connecting "Calcutta and Alipore", the latter evidently not being considered within the strict municipal limits.

The nullah or creek-bed was completed in 1777, and was meant to facilitate passage of ships from Hooghly to the delta region by making use of the Khidirpur creek. It was the work of Colonel William Tolly.

On 27 August 1795 the old Alipore bridge, "which had been in a ruinous condition gave way and fell into the nullah." Calcutta, it appears, is not new to the phenomenon of collapsing bridges. Thankfully it happened at night and there were no casualties.

It nearly took another forty years for a bridge to be put in place. Once again, Captain John Thomson was assigned the task, and at the expense of rupees 26,430, he built the shortest iron bridge in Calcutta at the time, with a single curve of 89 feet and a roadway that was 24 feet wide.

William Wood, Alipore Bridge (1833), British Library collection
Sir Charles D'Oyly, The Suspension Bridge at Alipore (1848), British Library collection
Frederick Fiebig, Alipore Bridge (1851), British Library collection

H.E. Busteed recalls two trees that stood opposite the bridge. They were called 'The Trees of Destruction', "notorious for duels fought under their shade." This is where the fateful duel between Warren Hastings and Philip Francis took place in 1780.

The suspension bridge built in 1833 appears to have served a short span of time, being reconstructed in 1854. It underwent some alteration around 1904, which "rendered it a bridge worthy of Calcutta", but it is unclear what these were. H.E.A. Cotton felt that the modifications were made with "complete disregard for the picturesque." A new bridge was put in place in 1929, which serves the city to this day. We'll come to that later.


  1. Nice read. Especially for those who have a thing for bridges and rivers! An observation, the Fiebig picture from 1851 I have come across earlier as an earlier version of Kidderpore bridge. Am yet to validate that with another source. You sure its the ALipore one and not Kidderpore?

    1. Hey. Thanks for reading the piece and for your comment. Always happy to meet (virtually) fellow enthusiasts.
      There's another very similar one of the Kidderpore Bridge taken by Fiebig:
      Both are suspension bridges and look quite similar, but the tops of the towers look different. The Alipore bridge appears to have flat towers while the Kidderpor bridge has that short, pagoda like top.
      Found both in the British Library collection. Does this help clarify? If not, do please let me know if you can find the other reference somewhere, and we can take a look.