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Memories of Yesteryears and the Time Right Now - Husainabad Clock Tower tells it all

Image Ah, Lucknow… This incredible city has a stone bard in every nook and cranny of its snaking and winding “gullys”; a stagnant historian that silently tells tales of days gone standing tall in the vast maidans that dot this city.left, right and center. The protagonist of this episode of Shalimar Shehernama is one such comrade in the city - the iconic timepiece that has withstood the tests of weather, decay and of course, of Time - the Husainabad Clock Tower.

This brilliance of architecture began construction in the year 1881 by the then Nawab of Awadh Nasir-ud-din Haider, right next to the iconic Rumi Gate of Lucknow. The construction was completed in the year1887. The tower was constructed to mark the arrival of Sir George Couper Bart, the first Lieutenant Governor of the Awadh (erstwhile Oudh) province. The construction and installation cost a whopping Rs 1.75 Lakhs, which was a rather hefty amount back then. But then, the Nawabs of Awadh were not known for their stinginess, no sir! The Nawab sanctioned the amount and various events were organised to mark the arrival.

Image The renowned architect Roskell Payne designed the clock tower at 67 meters (220 Feet) high, reminiscent of Victorian and Gothic style structural designs. The Tower is inspired by the illustrious Big Ben of London, one of the biggest clocks in the whole world and a wonder of its time.The clock parts were engineered using Gun Metal owing to the huge size and consistency of motion in the apparatus. The Clock’s humongous pendulum has a length of 14 feet and the dial of the clock was designed in the shape of a 12-petalled flower with bells all around it. Each side of the clock is 13 ft in diameter, with flower shaped dials and petals 3 ft in diameter. The minute hand is 6 ft long and hour hand 4.5 ft. It is also said that its bells used to produce a sound that could be heard across the length and breadth of the city.


Image “James William Benson, the then clockmaker to the Queen of England and makers of the celebrated Big Ben was awarded the contract and Major Norman MT Horsford of the Bengal Staff Corps supervised the construction work,” said Yogesh Praveen, a city based historian. For nearly 2 centuries, the clock tower was a harbinger of the hour to the region and chimed day and night. Due to neglect and lack of upkeep, the clock became completely dysfunctional in 1984. The Tower is not on the protection list of the Archaeological Survey of India(ASI). It gradually became derelict and defunct with various individuals and organisations attempting to repair it at various occasions.

In 1999, the then Administration of the Lucknow District attempted to repair it, but to no avail. Again, in the year 2004, another attempt was made that ended tragically when one of the repairmen hired for the job fled with some of the key parts from the clock. In yet another attempt in 2009, the Husainabad Allied Trust (HAT) tried to contract a Swiss company to repair it, however, it declined the



Image The District Administration then began mulling replacing the giant Moorish Clock on the Tower in 2010 but it was approached by 2 wonderful samaritans of Lucknow, Mr Akhilesh Agarwal and Captain Paritosh Chauhan who were certain that hey could repair it and were ready to put in the enormous efforts needed to do so. They began working on it in April 2010 and were miraculously able to restore the defunct clock to full operability in September 2011, when the minstrel of the city chimed after a sullen silence of 27 long years.

The Husainabad Clock Tower is adjudged to be the tallest clock tower in all of India, a true marvel that has witnessed the passage of some of the most tumultuous and glorious periods in Indian history. As denizens of this beautiful city, we are incredibly lucky to have inherited the glorious heritage of this cities golden past. Stories like these are what drove us to chronicle the architectural and historic heritage of this City, and this Shehernama bears witness to that as it moves on episode after episode. Hope you enjoyed this chapter