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HomeDelhiLutyens Delhi set for new clock tower soon | Latest News Delhi

Lutyens Delhi set for new clock tower soon | Latest News Delhi

Lutyens Delhi set for new clock tower soon | Latest News Delhi

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) is planning to develop a new clock tower at a central location in the Lutyens Delhi area, senior officials aware of the matter said on Sunday, adding that the civic body has begun to look for a suitable site.

he old ‘New Delhi Town Hall’ used to house a clock tower on top of the headquarters building, but the building was demolished in the 1980s to develop the current one (in photo). (Courtesy: NDMC)

A senior NDMC official said that lieutenant governor (LG) VK Saxena has directed the civic body to develop a clock tower. The context to this is that the Town Hall, near Jantar Mantar in central Delhi, housed a clock tower atop the headquarters building of NDMC, which was demolished to make way the complex that houses Palika Kendra.

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“The New Delhi Town Hall was built in 1933 and inaugurated by the viceroy Lord Willingdon. Subsequently, four giant bells were imported from Britain and installed in the tower of the Town Hall with timekeepers deployed to ring the bells every hour, since wristwatches were not that common. In the 1960s, these bells were replaced with modern clocks. The existing complex was constructed after demolishing the clock tower. LG Saxena has directed that a new clock tower needs to be set up in this area. We looking for a suitable site and the clock tower is likely to come up near Connaught Place and the surrounding region,” the official cited above said, requesting anonymity.

A senior official from the LG secretariat confirmed the development.

To be sure, the clocks in the tower were relocated to a building near Shivaji Stadium before the Asia Market while the heavy bells were reinstalled at the entrance of 20-storey Palika Kendra, built in 1984. However, the bells collapsed under their weight in 2007, after which they have been kept inside a glass box, along with the foundation stone, at the reception of the Kendra.

A second NDMC official said that the final location for the clock tower has not been finalised but it will likely be around Connaught Place. “CP is the busiest area in the New Delhi region. We will try to find a location to set up the tower where it can get good visibility without causing any additional congestion. The region has a high tourist influx and it also becomes the first entry point for people coming down from the airport through the Airport line of the Metro. The clock tower will also help reconnect with the origin of NDMC,” the official added.

According to the book New Delhi Eighth City by Madan Thapliyal, the foundation stone of the headquarters of the New Delhi Municipal Committee — the New Delhi Town Hall — was laid on March 14, 1932. Sir John Thompson, chief commissioner, when he laid the foundation stone, said in a speech: “It marks a definite stage forward in the civic history of New Delhi. It is only from the beginning of this month that New Delhi has become what you have called a full-fledged municipality.”

The building was constructed at an estimated cost of 1,36,000 and it started operations on August 13, 1933.

The first NDMC official said that the four bells were sourced from Britain by the former Imperial Municipal Committee (the precursor to NDMC). “As the original bells collapsed, their brass replicas — lighter in weight — were hung at the entrance of the Kendra,” the official said.

The construction of existing buildings — built in the style of Brutalist architecture — was carried out in three phases. Phase 1 comprised a 20-storey building which was completed in 1984 (presently housing NDMC headquarters), phase 2 with a 10-storey tower (presently the office of the ministry of home affairs), and phase 3 comprised an art gallery, committee room and auditorium.

Gopal Krishan, who heads the federation of New Delhi RWAs, said that the clock towers had a role in the city life in the bygone eras but with the advent of technology, their role has become redundant.

“It is a different thing if the agency wants to develop it as a heritage architectural addition to remind about us the past. But clock towers have no role in informing people about time in this day and age. They should take care that the structure does not add to congestion,” said Krishan.

HT reported on March 15 that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has also initiated a project to restore the 72-year-old clock tower on Kamla Market near the New Delhi railway station. Saxena inspected the market on February 23 and directed the agencies to take remedial measures. “Unfortunate that these beautifully designed and planned hubs in the heart of the Capital are crumbling due to unpardonable apathy and neglect on the part of government agencies… Instructed concerned agencies to immediately take up restoration,” Saxena posted on X at the time.

Delhi also has several functional clock towers — at Sabzi Mandi area in North Delhi, Hari Nagar in West Delhi and inside Rashtrapati Bhavan being the prominent ones. The city’s oldest clock tower, Northbrook Clock Tower, used to be at Chandni Chowk outside the old town hall, which was demolished after independence as it partially collapsed in 1950. MCD allocated 2 lakh in 1957 to rebuild the structure but the project never took off and it came to be known as an “English relic”.

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