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Circulation and Space Organization. The main circulation route divides the site into administrative and academic zone. Internal circulation of the main colonial building is highly chaotic and confusing. The ground floor is abandoned for unknown reason. A service court is introduced to distribute the circulation due to the later addition of building blocks. Linear type circulation is attained by long corridors in front of the classrooms in later building blocks.

Lighting and Ventilation. The central zone of the old Colonial building is dark and suffer from dampness. There are overhead lighting systems in the upper floor, but they can hardly provide any ventilation to the space below.

Form. The main Colonial building is squarish in shape and two storeyed in height. Later building blocks are elongated rectangular form with verandah in one side, facing the court having no similarity in scale, style or proportion with the main building. There is a ceremonious entry porch with classical columns providing symmetric and grand appearance.

Construction system. The main Colonial building is of load bearing brick wall with wooden or steel beam under roof. Rooms are more than 3.50m in height. Brick arch openings. Later building blocks are constructed in post and lintel system.

Conclusion. These schools are academic complexes and as well as architectural monuments. The meaning and the functions of these built forms must exist together to sustain our heritage and to create a proper environment required by the society.

3.1.5 Colonial Monuments in Chittagong (1517-1947 CE)

Chittagong is one of the oldest seaports of the world and is situated on the bank of the river Karnafuli connecting the Bay of Bengal. It invited seafarers from Arabia on the west and China on the east. It’s geo-political situation always attracted invaders and fortune seekers from outside. It flourished as a part of the kingdom of Harikela from about the seventh century onward with it’s own currency system. It was a famous seat of learning with the ancient university of Pandit Vihara. Metal sculptures found at Jhiari in Anwara Upazila testifies to the pre-mediaeval Chittagong’s artistic and technical capabilities. Many monasteries were also built in resourceful Harikela. The

region was later conquered by Sultan Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah of Sonargaon in the middle of the fourteenth century. The Sultan connected Chittagong with Chandpur by raising an al (road), to gear up commercial transactions. The arsa1 Chatgaon of the Sultanate rule was also famous as a mint town. Fakr al-Din and the officials of the later Sultans built many mosques and tombs in Chittagong to glorify their regime. The tradition was also upheld during the Mughal rule in this sarkar.2

The first European to reach Chittagong, in 1517, was Joao Coelho, a messenger sent by Portuguese captain Fernao Peres d’Andrade. Joao D Silveira, who came after Coelho, asked permission of the Sultan of Bengal to erect a factory at Chittagong where the Portuguese merchants could rest during their voyages and exchange goods with other parts of India. But the attempt to gain a ground failed due to piratical activities of Silveira in the Bay. In 1528 Martim Affonso de Mello built a fort in Sunda (probably Sundip, the abode of the Feringhi merchants) on the Bengal coast and in a changed political situation in 1537 Mahmud Shah also accorded him permission to build factories and set a custom house in Chittagong. Nuno Fernandez Freire had been appointed the chief of the custom house, with a vast establishment comprised of land and many houses. Affonso Vaz de Brito landed in this Porto Grande and met Nuno at the customhouse. The Portuguese settlement of Chittagong grew into a great centre of trade and the chief of custom house welded immense influence. Though their fortune was short lived with the fall of the Husain Shahi rule in 1538, they probably lingered here in the Porto Grande up to 1590.

The dearth of epigraphic and archival source materials hinder the work of identification of the Portuguese settlement sites in Chittagong in detail. In the cartographic work of de Barros’s (1540), Bleav’s (1650) and Broucke’s (1660), Chatigam or Chittagong is shown on the northern bank of the Karnaphuli River almost at it’s mouth. Campos could not trace the remnants of initial Portuguese factory, custom house and other circuit of houses built at the fag end of the Husain Shahi rule near the mediaeval port of Chittagong, but reported the survival of relics of later establishments.

O’Malley’s identification of the remains of a Portuguese fort close to Pahartali is not coeval with the Portuguese records. Fr. Fernandes in a letter written from Dianga on 22nd December 1599 calls Dianga a town in the Port of Chittagong. The first church in Bengal was also built here in1599 dedicated to St. Jean Baptist. The King of Arakan slaughtered six hundred Portuguese in Dianga in 1607. Campos also informs that, after 1615 the Portuguese settled there again and constituted themselves into a piratical power in association with the Arakanese, and built many houses and a church in the locality.

Chittagong was one of the three ceded districts assigned to the East India Company by Nawab Mir Qasim under article 5 of the treaty concluded between him and the Company on 27 September 1760.3


1. A district level administrative unit.

2. An administrative unit like arsa.

3. C.U. Aitchison, A Collection of Treaties, Engagements, and Sanads Relating to India and Neighbouring Countries, Vol. 1, (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing India, 1892), p. 46.

The company, even, tried earlier to conquer Chittagong during the Mughal period by sending three unsuccessful naval expeditions. The first attempt was made on the 17 December 1689 and an English fleet appeared off Chittagong with an intention to seize it.4 ‘Like Christopher Columbus who ‘discovered’ America while in search of India, the British founded their imperial capital of Calcutta by losing their way en route to Chittagong.’5

Mir Qasim’s treaty finally gave them opportunity to achieve their long cherished goal. On their arrival at Chittagong the Chief and the Council members felt the dearth of accommodation for business and residence. In a letter dated 8 January 1761, the Chief and the members of the Council at Chittagong informed the President and Government and others in Council of Fort William that, ‘As we find ourselves distressed for Apartments for our Business as well as to reside in, we request you will permit us to build proper Conveniences in which we shall Act with greatest Frugality.’6

The English were in an urgent need of money to maintain troops for expanding their territorial rights and influence. They were also in search of funds to finance local investment. The revenues from Chittagong provided capital for the factories at Laxsmipur, Jugdia, Colinda and Dhaka. The Chittagong Council of the East India Company was also controlling the affairs of the Company of the whole region east the Meghna uptill 1777, and sometimes calling it in their correspondences ‘the Government of Islamabad’.7

Almost within a month of their arrival the members of the Council realized that “… the province of Chittagong will turn out a valuable and important Acquisition to our hon’ble Masters, such a plan of your honour & desires for a factory with warehouses & as also a survey of the spot we may think properest for it with that of the Town and River, we are Endeavouring to get Executed, which will be forwarded to you, as soon as an Exact one can be taken, in the Meantime we shall Accommodate Ourselves with as little Expence as possible”.8

But the inexpensive office-cum-residence of the Chief was struck by lightning in March 1779, and entirely gutted in fire, though some of the official records were saved.9

The Colonial buildings in Chittagong may be classified into two groups in chronological sequence: (i) the earlier structures and (ii) the late structures. Though


4. a. Captain Pogson’s Narrative During a Tour to Chateegaon, (Serampore: Serampore Press, 1831), p. 10.

b. In the District Gazetteers the year of first invasion was given as 1686, under the command of Admiral Nicholson.

L.S.S. O’Malley, Eastern Bengal District Gazetteers, Chittagong, (Calcutta: The Bengal secretariat Book Depot, 1908),

p. 23. Hereafter referred to as: O’Malley, Eastern Bengal District Gazetteers, Chittagong.

5. Manini Chatterjee, Do and Die, the Chittagong Uprising: 1030-34, (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1999), p. 19. Hereafter: Manini Chatterjee, Do and Die.

6. Sirajul Islam (ed.), Bangladesh District Records, Chittagong, Vol. 1, 1760-1787, (Dacca: University of Dacca, 1978), Letter No. 1.3, p. 54. Hereafter referred to as: BdDRC, V-1.

7. BdDRC, V-1, p. 51 and Letter No. 1.10, p. 62.

8. BdDRC, V-1, Letter No. 1.7, pp. 58-59.

9. H.J.S. Cotton, Memorandum on the Revenue History of Chittagong, (Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press, 1880), p. 10.

many of the earlier structures are popularly assigned as the works of the Portuguese, there is a dearth of evidence to support this view, their architectural style and adornments clearly presenting the contemporary European traditions. The earlier structures were not many, but available information about them is scanty. There is a list with meager data about the late buildings constructed in Chittagong and now under the maintenance of the relevant division of the Public Works Department. This list contains forty-one buildings and structures founded from 1887 through 1945. This list is also not comprehensive as many buildings lay outside the control of the division. On the other hand, the records in the Railway Headquarters are well maintained and many drawings of their early buildings are meticulously kept to tell the early narrative. This attitude of the Railway authority contributed to a successful conservation work of the Battali Railway Station.

Near the mediaeval port site at Sulak Bahar10 and the Mughal Chawk or Sadar Bazar, there are two ancient structures within their vicinity, one situated in the Madrasa Pahar (presently Mohsin College campus) and another now demolished in the Chittagong College area, popularly believed to be the work of the Portuguese. The building, located in the high peak of Madrasa Pahar, was in use as Darul Adalat by the English upto last quarter of the nineteenth century. The demolished old building with colonnaded porticos on it’s all sides, in the Chittagong College campus may also be identified as a Colonial factory with warehouse.

The Colonial building activities gained momentum in Chittagong during the last quarter of the nineteenth century with the setting up of the headquarters of the Assam Bengal Railway in 1872, the reorganization of port administration in 1887, and the associated reformation of local administration. The introduction of railway communications with Chittagong ‘…helped boost commerce and trade enormously, with trains bringing down the rich produce from the interiors of East Bengal and Assam– tea and jute, cotton and rice– for the English to export overseas.’11 The introduction of a municipality in 1860 also fostered the idea of modern urbanization in the town. A new series of Colonial architecture also appeared for the first time, accommodating local heritage and tradition. The construction of the first stage of the Central Railway Building in 1872 and the wooden bungalows in 1887 added a new dimension in this respect. These buildings, with other similar constructions may be grouped into the category of late Colonial structures in Chittagong. This phase saw many new centers of business and administration flourishing in other parts of the developing city. Building types emerged from the purpose it was put into, namely, religious, educational, administrative, living, work, healthcare, entertainment, travel and transport etc. And all of these conform to the principle of Colonial style developed from the mingling of the indigenous and contemporary European architecture.


10. Hereafter referred to as: Cotton, Memorandum. Shamsul Hossain, ‘Madhya Juge Chattagram Bandar’, in Itihas Anusandhan-17, (Kolkata: Firma KLM Private Limited, 2003), pp. 191-199.

11. Manini Chatterjee, Do and Die, p. 20.



Darul Adalat. It consists of the ruins of a two storeyed building located on the peak of a high hill, popularly known as Madrasa Pahar, in the Mohsin College Campus, in the Chandanpura Ward of the Chittagong city. The building has two engaged octagonal turrets of unequal measurements on it’s northeast and northwest corners, containing spiral stairs. The apexes of the turrets are crowned with small low-domed garrets; their exit doors to the open roof are embellished with pediments. Each corner of the octagonal garrets has a slender engaged column, it’s capital being decorated in Ionic order. There is also a prominent keystone over the relieving arch above the lintel of each door. Arched niches are used on the

outside walls of the garrets as embellishments and similar squinches are seen below their low domes in the interior.

The facade of the building is plain and unobtrusive, may be the outcome of a quest for functionality and low cost. The building was laid-out east-west facing north, with a befitting open space in front, now occupied by a mosque and an office. The approaching spacious stairs on the slope of the hill is another distinguishable feature added to the structural environment on the peak. The front portion of the plan of the building is rectangular, but the back has a trigonal form on it’s either side.

The English, as mentioned in the Ahadith al-Khawanin, used this building as Darul Adalat.12 The Chittagong Madrasah was established here in 1874, with the aid of Mohsin Endowment Fund. With the introduction of first year Intermediate class in July 1927, it started functioning as the Islamic Intermediate College.13 After the liberation of Bangladesah, Degree course was introduced in this institution renaming it Mohsin College. The dilapidated building of Darul Adalat is now lying almost abandoned.

The Factory and Warehouse. This one storeyed square building was located in the Chittagong College Campus on a hillock situated on the east slope of the Madrasa Pahar, in the Chandanpura Ward of the Chittagong city. The building was demolished in 1964 (then accommodating the Principal’s office and two class rooms). The


12. Hamid-allah Khan,. Ahadith al-Khawanin [in Persian]., (Kolkata: Moulvi Kabir al-Din Ahmed, 1871), p. 238.

13. S.N.H. Rizvi, East Pakistan District Gazetteers, (Dacca: East Pakistan Government Press, 1970), p. 323. Hereafter referred to as: Rizvi, Chittagong District Gazetteers.

Plan of Darul Adalat

structure, with colonnaded porticos on it’s all sides, may be identified as a factory with warehouse. It was built on a high plinth, probably to control moisture of the floor and save the stored goods. The doors of the building were also high and spacious and there were no specific windows as such. Each side of the verandah had a row of twelve Tuscan columns with necked capital. Wooden sunshades were also provided on the row of columns on the eastern and western side.

The Zilla School– the first English school of the district - started functioning in this building from January 1836. The status of the school was elevated to a second grade college in 1869, and the school section came to be known as the Collegiate School. The college was further upgraded into a first grade degree college in July 1910, known as Chittagong College.14

Court Building. This is a stupendous structure built on the peak of a high hill known as Parir Pahar or Fairy’s Hill in 1892-98, and is one of the best known in the whole of undivided Bengal. The open hilly spaces around the building were beautifully laid as a park and the northern valley had two large tanks. The building is a unique example of Indo-British architecture developed in Bengal. It embodies both European and Mughal traditions with a few decorative indigenous motifs, and particularly in it’s plan influenced by the Mughal mosque architecture. The fronton is well represented in this building with a protruded center having two flanking slender turrets capped with cupolas hitherto unnoticed in design. The topography of the site clearly dictated the other technical aspect of the plan. It was mainly laid in a rectangular form running east west, the eastern end having a major north-south extended wing. The hilly depression was adjusted in the eastern wing by constructing a three-storeyed portion on the northern end, the rest being of two storeyed. This wing also contains the main pedestrian entrance from the east through a richly decorated arched opening. The circular opening with moulded edge and stucco relief foliage on it’s either side, the four centered Gothic arch, the lotus motifs in terracotta mouldings, European pediment form, recesses and niches, and other types of local and foreign motifs and forms are assembled to embellish this opening. The western end of the rectangle has an extension towards south. The levels of the floors received meticulous attention from the builder and are well maintained.

The facade of the building is mainly an assemblage of arches, incorporated into multiple settings and arrangements. The array of arches, the wedge-shaped masonry, is self-supporting with ample capacity to take weight imposed on it. Each true arch on the ground floor veranda supports a twin arch on the first floor with a set of three small-corbelled arches in between. The square edged rainwater down pipes is placed between the two sets of arches and under cornice mouldings. Though the central porch had lost it’s original form due to renovation and addition in 1953, many of it’s antique embellishments might still be enjoyed. The garrets placed on the flanking square towers on the either side are capped with small Mughal type domes and four miniature cupolas at corners. There are two other visible pedestrian entrances located on the southern facade on the center of each flank distinguished by their arched-complexes,


14. Rizvi, Chittagong District Gazetteers, p. 320.

specially it’s twin arch with a central slender column and a circular opening above, recessed inside a big true arch on the first floor.

General Hospital. The dispensary established in 1840 CE was developed into a General Hospital on the Rangmahal Hill in Andarkilla. This Hill is historically important as the site of the Arakani Fort, which was burnt and ravaged by the action of the Mughal Navy in their endeavour to conquer Chittagong in 1666.15 A Dhayni Buddha Sculpture was found on the Rangmahal Hill under a Shimul tree on the 20th July 1904. This sculpture is now preserved in the Chittagong Bouddha Vihara.16 The vestiges of a 2.24m wide ruined wall are currently traceable underneath an extension of the hospital building to the north. The two-storeyed hospital building, with a trigonal engaged tower containing spiral stairs on the centre of the north facade, had an accommodation for 52 indoor patients, 40 males and 12 females. This building is now conserved and remained a landmark of the city.

Notre Dame De Guarde Ioupe a Comcam. Mons. Albert was sent from Chandannagar to establish a factory in Chittagong in about 1750, built a chapel near the Portuguese cemetery, but the Karnaphuly River washed it away in 1812.17 No more information is available about this church built by the French in Chittagong.

Sir William Jone’s House. Captain Pogson located the ruins of this house in 1860 in Jafarabad, about four miles north of Chatgaon, on the north end of a range of hills. He saw the structure concealed by trees, perhaps planted by Sir Jones himself. It’s eastern view was very wild and romantic, and the western one overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Pogson described the ruins and it’s environment as follows; ‘Pepul trees grow exuberantly from the roof, which has in many places fallen. The walls entwined by their roots, are decorated with panels and a festooned cornice. The plinth, or terrace, is built over charcoal, for the obvious purpose of rendering the rooms dry. It has been partly excavated, which has left a cracked and broken crust of masonry. The hall is about 35 feet by 30.’18 The sketch of the ruins published by Pogson depicts a single storeyed structure with a semi-circular central projection having two engaged turrets and five doors on the facade upon a hill. The site is not traceable now as the industrial area presently occupies it.

Central Railway Building. The building was constructed in several stages according to exigencies of workload handled by the authority of the Railway Head Quarters in Chittagong and remains as a most magnificent Colonial structure in Bangladesh. The original construction was made in 1872 to house the head office of the Assam Bengal Railway and subsequently extended during 1897- 1969. The stages of construction and structure particulars are:19


15. Talish, Shihab al-Din. Fathiyah-I ibriyah. Persian MS. Bodleian Library, Oxford. Extracts translated by Jadunath Sarkar in ‘The Conquest of Chatgaon, 1666 AD’, JASB NS III (1907), pp. 405-417; and ‘The Feringi Pirates of Chatgaon, 1665 A.D.’ JPASB NS III, (1907), pp. 419-425.18.

16. Panchajannya, Sharadiya Number, 1345, p. 105.

17. O’Malley, Eastern Bengal District Gazetteers, Chittagong, p. 25.

18. Pogson’s Narrative, pp. 55-56 and the sketch of elevation and ground plan on the following pages. Sir Jone also wrote some letters from Chatigaon dated 21 February 1786 onward, Pp. 60-62.

19. The information is gathered from the Engineering department in CRB.

a. The two-storeyed south block was constructed in 1897 as the Head Quarters of Assam Bengal Railway, the structural particulars being 57.3cm thick load bearing main wall, on 1.15m wide foundation with Bargahs and lime terraced roof slab supported on RS joist, angles, flat bar etc and the first floor roof is of shell type design.

b. During 1918-1931 the original building was extended by 24.39m on the west side and 21.34m on the east side with same structure pattern, except that slabs were casted by cement concrete reinforced by MS expanded metal.

c. In 1958-1960 west block was extended by 44.20m more up to three storeyes, the structural pattern being load-bearing walls of 51cm, 38.2cm and 25.4cm respectively for ground, first and second floors with 11.4cm RCC slab supported on RS joists in one portion and RCC beams in another portion.

d. During 1963-1969 the four-storeyed middle and north blocks were constructed on 51cm, 38.2cm, 25.4cm and 25.4cm main walls respectively for ground, first, second and third floors, with 11.4cm RCC roof, a portion of which is also 11cm thick and corrugated shaped.

e. The eastern side of the building was damaged during the war of liberation in December 1971 and was reconstructed more or less in the same design as that in the middle block.

The building is laid on a flattened hill and shaped as the English alphabet U in plan with some reverse projections. It is located on the CRB Road on the north side of Sath Rastar Mukh (the converging point of seven roads). This junction was also known as ‘Piccadilly Circus’ during the colonial period.20

The oldest south block of this building has a majestic two-storeyed carriage porch at it’s centre. The entry and exit of the porch have two wide and welcoming Gothic four centred arches. The porch leads into a verandah through a series of three other elegant Gothic four-centred arches. From the verandah one can approach a foyer through a pointed arch. Each of these arches is adorned with archivolt. A graceful hemispherical dome built on a high octagonal drum with openings surmounts the foyer. On the apex of the facade a simple inscription on foliaged background gives the date of construction as ‘ABR 1899’.

The floor above the porch has a verandah on it’s three sides embellished with wooden balustrade and other decorative elements upon a projection rested on concrete brackets set on corbelled engaged footings with a sloping tiled roof.21

The flanking southwest corner of this block has a stylized Mughal dome on an

engaged circular turret supported by stepped buttresses, containing spiral stairs, behind a projection of the building. The long verandah embellished by and enclosed behind a series of pointed arches, connects each and every room of this functional building. For the purpose of appropriate lighting of the passage, corbelled light-holes are also provided above the arches.


20. Manini Chatterjee, Do and Die, p. 5.

21. Nazimuddin Ahmed, Buildings of the British Raj in Bangladesh, (Dhaka: University Press Limited, 1986), p. 70. Hereafter referred to as: Ahmed, Buildings of the British Raj.

The present structural condition of the building is deplorable. Specifically the roof leaks during the rainy season and there are some cracks on the walls of different floors and roof slabs on the verandah.

Wooden Bungalow No L/1. The two-storeyed bungalow in Segun Bagan, Pahartali was constructed in 1887. The two-storeyed structure is mainly made of wood with CI sheets being used as hipped roof. The lower end of the roof is embellished with planks of wood carved with latticework. The centre of the upper ridge of the hipped roof is provided with a superstructure for ventilation. The facade of the structure is made prominent with a complex of louvres. The ground floor is comprised of 414.68 sq.m and the first floor has a total area of 325.46 sq.m. It was originally used as residential building but from November 2003 this historic structure was transformed into a Railway Museum.

Wooden Bungalow No T/1. The two-storeyed bungalow was constructed in CRB area in 1887. The structure is made of wood with CI sheets being used as gambrel roof. The lowest end of the roof is embellished with planks of wood carved with latticework. The centre of the upper ridge of the facetted roof is provided with a hipped superstructure for ventilation. The ground and first floors of the structure are of same size and each floor is comprised of 322.21 sqm. The bungalow is used for

residential accommodation of officials. Wooden Bungalow


Mirzar Pool. Mohammad Mirza was a contractor for all the salt of Chittagong District for a period of five years during the early days’ of the company’s rule. His family had become extinct before the last score of the nineteenth century. But his memory is perpetuated by an excellent bridge on the Hathazari Road, built over a wide canal in Muradpur, popularly known as Mirzar Pool.22

This portion of the city is very important historically, as vestiges of ruins and monuments were there on the either side of the road even a decade ago and gradually razed to the ground for the sake of development.

The bridge was 6.5m wide and 21.49m long and had a 92cm thick parapet wall on it’s either side. It was embellished with four domed engaged-square chambers 4.58m away from each end of the bridge diagonally extending the parapet wall. The domes were erected on the octagonal low drums, their apexes being adorned with ogee stucco mouldings. The bridge had three spans built with solid masonry arches; the central one was bigger than the sides, the geometry of the arch foundations also exhibited stately expanse. This bridge was demolished in 1992 by the Chittagong Municipal Corporation.

Battali Railway Station. The two storeyed building was conceived on 07 November 1896 by the Agent and Chief Engineer of the Assam Bengal Railway to accommodate business spaces of the station on the ground floor and the Station Master’s quarters on the first floor. The structure was laid east west, 56.24m in length and 10.37 in breadth. The central portion of the first floor housed Station Master’s quarters and the flanking either ends had open terrace and accommodations for cook and servants.

The facade of the building was majestic and elegant; the carriage porch being embellished with a half-octagonal engaged turret capped with cupola and metal finial containing the spiral stairs to the Station Master’s quarters, supported by a stepped buttress. The splendid porch adorned with 4.58 wide four centered Gothic arches on the east and west and stilted one each on the either side of the turret– created a cozy landing space meant for the upper class passengers. The menial stairs were also provided inside two round engaged turrets capped with cupolas and metal finials, placed on the northeast and northwest corners of the building with stepped buttress formation. This building core was later on renovated and extended more than once, but the recent restoration has made it the best example of architectural conservation in Bangladesh.23

Karnafuly Railway Bridge (popularly known as Kalurghat Bridge). It was commissioned on 4 June 1931 to facilitate railway communications with southern Chittagong and ‘… with the object of eventually connecting up through Ramu to Arakan. …’24 This steel bridge is 638.50m long and built over 18 piers having 19


22. Cotton, Memorandum, 20 with f.n.

23. The age-old drawings of the building are carefully preserved in the CRB in Chittagong.

24. J.B. Kindersley, Final Report on the Survey and Settlement Operations in the District of Chittagong 1923-1933, Alipore: Bengal Government Press, 1938, p. 4.

spans. One or two thick brick piers of the olden days adorned with true arch formation still exist bearing the antique glory. Each well foundation of the pier is 20.78 m deep. From 1962 this railway bridge is also serving as a road bridge, particularly connecting Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf through Old Arakan Road with Chittagong.25

Old Circuit House (presently used as Zia Smriti Jadughar). Imitating the architecture of a British manor house, the impressive two-storeyed building was constructed in 1913 on a hillock in Bagmoniram mouza, on the north of the M.A. Aziz Stadium. The surrounding of the structure comprising an area of thirty-five acres of tableland was laid thoughtfully with lanes of teakwood on the east, and open spaces around dotted with garden, beds of flowers and creepers.

Facing south, the plan of the structure was conceived as the letter E in English alphabet, probably signifying the local seat of ‘Empire’; it’s central projection is being shorter which accommodates porch. The major walls and the roof of the ground floor are made of brick masonry. The multifaceted high-ridged gambrel roof and auxiliary verandah shades were built with Burma teak shingles, replaced by other materials during a late conservation work. There is an elevated open watch pavilion on the second floor with a hipped roof. Some minor walls of the building are erected in net and plaster materials. The attractive roof of the Circuit House is embellished with dormer windows and chimneystacks. The gently curved superstructure with bonnet tiles over the verandah shades on the facade of the ground floor on the flanking wings; the gable ends of the facade on the first floor adorned with king posts and strut, engaged columns on the either side of the doors, chimney breast, added grandeur to the building.

The porch on the ground floor leads into a lobby and a grand wooden staircase to the first and second floors with a colonnaded platform at it’s halfway. A series of five windows above this flat-form provide welcoming light. There is a drawing hall and a large colonnaded ballroom on the western wing with orchestra dais on the south. The eastern wing has a spacious dinning hall, lamp room, store, service pantry and ADC’s room etcetera. The first floor originally had six bedrooms.26

Many world dignitaries had stayed in or visited this magnificent building including the Queen Elizabeth of England, King of Malaysia and Prime Minister Chou en Lai of China. It was also infamous as a torture and execution centre of the Pakistan occupation force during the war of liberation in 1971. President Ziaur Rahman was killed in this building in an abortive coup attempt by a group of uniformed person from the army on the night of May 30, 1981. The building now houses the Zia Memorial Museum, and it’s meticulously planned open spaces are no more there to uphold and enjoy the architecture, being filled with New Circuit House and a Children Park.


25. The information is available in a brochure published by the railway authority on 22 June 2005.

26. Ahmed, Buildings of the British Raj, p. 134.

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