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Art Street: 19th-century Wellington fountain in Mumbai’s Colaba was erected in memory of the Duke’s visit

The listed heritage structure in Mumbai was built in 1865 and by the time it was restored in 2017, it was the only fountain of its era that had a functional water engineering system.

The Wellington fountain in Colaba’s Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Chowk. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Standing still at one of the most touristy junctions in Mumbai, the Wellington fountain in Colaba’s Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Chowk is something that can be easily missed by the crowds of tourists and locals moving around. The 19th-century fountain that was set up to commemorate the visit of the first Duke of Wellington to India is, however, a listed heritage structure that was restored to its former glory in 2017.

Originally made of basalt with eight marble statues, its top tier is made of metal and has cast-iron leaves. The fountain also has inscriptions in Latin describing the achievements of the Duke. Erected in 1865, it was meant to memorialise the Duke’s visit to India between 1801 and 1804.

The 19th-century fountain that was set up to commemorate the visit of the first Duke of Wellington to India. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

It was during this period that Major General Arthur Wellesley, who later became the Duke of Wellington, led a force that defeated a combined Maratha army in the Battle of Assaye, a major battle in the second Anglo-Maratha war. Assaye is a small village in Maharashtra’s Jalna district.

As per the book ‘Bombay Place Names and Street Names’ by Samuel T Sheppard, “The fountain was erected about the year 1865 by public subscription in memory of the duke.” Like other pyaus or fountains in the city, the Wellington fountain also underwent wear and tear, but to the surprise of conservation architects restoring this pyau, they found that it still had a functional water-supply system.

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Originally made of basalt with eight marble statues, its top tier is made of metal and has cast-iron leaves. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar) The fountain also has inscriptions in Latin describing the achievements of the Duke. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Vikas Dilawari, the conservation architect involved in the restoration of the fountain, said, “This was the only fountain of that time that had a functional water engineering system.” He added that as part of the restoration project, the paint on the structure had to be scraped manually in order to understand the material that had been used underneath. The restoration cost a total of Rs 12 lakh and the structure was unveiled in April 2017.

Today, however, the area around the fountain is used as a parking spot where large vehicles are occasionally parked, so it is easy to miss out on the listed heritage structure. As per history records, in 1888 and 1909, it was proposed that the fountain be moved to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) or the General Post Office (GPO) due to the traffic congestion it caused, but the idea was later shelved.

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 11:57 IST
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