Mumbai Colaba’s Wellington Fountain in honor of Duke Wellington - now restored

Wellington fountain, colaba,

Above image:   Restored  in its original form  at a cost of about Rs12 lakh in February 2017 the 152-year-old iconic Wellington Fountain,  was one among the  many restoration projects undertaken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the city. The highlight was the work was undertaken  under a public-private-partnership (PPP) model.  The aesthetically-designed railings around Wellington Fountain  were installed by the BMC ....................

During the colonial heyday under the  direct Crown administration, London  the fountain  was established in  Bombay (Mumbai), then the  capital of Bombay Presidency  through public subscription in  1865 and the cost of the neo-classical style fountain was Rs 12,000.  The reason why colonial officer Henry Conybeare chose this particular place was it was here  the Duke had camped and stayed in tents of residence (Esplanade) during his visits.  The structure was designed by Lt Colonel JJ Scott, and the work was done under the care of  Gen. Augustus Fuller,”  according to  conservationist Dilawari. 

The purpose of such water fountain,  giant colonial statues, etc., in a prime place of the  city on the model of  those British cities  was to create  an impression on the new visitors to the  cities. The new civic infrastructure and governance  would be conducive to the growth of  European  trade and mercantile interests of the Empire and also  large businesses run by local Indians.  World over in the 1850s water  fountains  in public places were built to beautify the city; hence  the city of  Bombay had a water fountain  in European style. Mostly located in traffic islands, they later  became bottle necks   when cities began to experience vehicular  traffic.  Besides lack of   maintenance over the decades,   such fountains in the cities became not only obsolete but also  a hindrance for the free flow of traffic in unban and semi urban spaces.  These fountains for a while used to be waterhole in those days for the public. Later  households had municipal water connections. 

The new city plan included the  removal of Fort in 1860 built by the EIC and the Wellington  Fountain became a landmark close to many places like  Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (the former Victoria Terminus), road leading to  the Apollo Bunder (Gateway of India area), etc.   Private companies like  Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd and the MCGM maintained the fountain for 3 plus years. A stage had come to restate it back to old charm.   Tough job of the conservation work was the removal of multiple layers of paint to expose the original layer of old   structure.  They also took care of  the cast iron leaves in the fountain work and they chose the right  technique to clean it. Indeed, a tedious job.    

According to  Mr. Dilawari’ of  INTACH’s Mumbai Chapter,  “For any fountain, aesthetics, location, water engineering and maintenance are vital. In case of Wellington, water engineering was in good shape since it was a functional fountain,” says Dilawari. He explains that the water flows perfectly from one tray to another and then into the lowest trough without soiling the shaft or the eight bas-relief marble panels on it. These are also protected in the monsoon due to the design of the first level cantilever tray.'' His team did a good job well supported by Jeernodhar Conservators Pvt Ltd and they took careful restoration   work without having  to disturb the heritage elements. .

 Mumbai Colaba’s Wellington

Above image: Wellington fountain, Mumbai. A line drawing of the structure Vikas Dilawari....

one side of the column. Duke Wellington on the left

Mumbai Colaba’s Wellington statue with damaged nose

Above image:  Wellington fountain, Mumbai.  The nose of Duke  Wellington on one of the eight bas-relief marble panels was restored earlier, and  the damage  was   discovered during cleaning operation.  Built in 1865 in honor of  the Duke Wellington  who visited Bombay in 1801 and 1804.  The bas-reliefs on the fountain commemorate his victories which  cemented the British hegemony in the southern parts of India  and West India.  Successes in the final Angelo - Mysore war (elimination Tipu Sultan)  and the Maratha war added a new direction to the  the colonial ruler.  

Categorizing  the people who want the colonial statues in India removed to the museum as  xenophobic nationalists may not be a good proposition. It is true Richard Wellesley (Duke Wellington) was a great  army man and  military strategist and was good at  using a diverse set of troops under his command and fighting against his  adversaries across  a variety of terrain. Invariably, the colonial government had countless statues of their administrators as a symbol of their military power and administrative skill.  Did the colonists back in Britain build statues of Indian Maharajahs  or Nawabs or any prominent Indian administrators  who were loyal to them during their rule?  Why this disparity and  lack of reciprocity?

Mumbai Colaba’s Wellington Fountain

Mumbai Colaba’s Wellington Fountain

The other fountains that were restored include  the Ruttonsee Mulji Jetha Fountain, commissioned by a businessman in memory of his late son and the recently restored Flora Fountain, erected where the original Church Gate of Bombay Fort once stood.