Lucknow’s historic Hussainabad clock tower, others waiting to catch up with time
The clock tower at the General Post Office (GPO) in Lucknow is not the only one for which the time is not right. Other clock towers in the city too are stuck in time, highlighting the inability of the departments concerned in preserving the city’s rich heritage, prodding demands for their restoration.
Lucknow has around five clock towers—Hussainanabad Clock Tower, one at Central Bank in Hazratganj, Aminabad, Hamid Clock Tower at City Station and the one at the GPO. But almost all the clocks, historians said, had either stopped chiming or were lying defunct.
Of these, Hussainabad Clock Tower, a replica of the famous Big Ben in London, is the most magnificent. The public timekeeper was built by Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider at a cost of Rs 1.75 lakh in 1882-87 to mark the arrival of Sir George Cooper Bart, the first Lieutenant Governor of the then United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. “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.
Carting heavy machinery and installing the huge cast iron bells at a height of 220 ft inside the clock tower itself was no small task. With the Moorish dome on the top, the clock was made entirely of bell metal imported from London. 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.
Sadly, this clock tower, despite being of great heritage value, is not on the protection list of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is lying defunct. Officials of Hussainabad and Allied trust (HAT) said the clock tower stopped functioning completely in 1984.
The district administration began an attempt to start the clock in 1999, but failed. In 2004, another attempt to restore the clock was made but it also was in vain, as the person hired for the job fled with its crucial parts. In 2009 HAT made another attempt to restore the timekeeper and contacted an Anglo Swiss Company for the purpose, but the company’s official said the clock could not be repaired as its parts were missing.
In 2010, the district administration decided to replace the clock. But then, it was approached by Akhilesh Agarwal and Paritosh Chauhan, who came forward to make one last attempt. On April 13, 2010, they began working and were able to make the defunct clock functional by October 28, 2010. Finally on September 13, 2011, they made the giant clock tower chime, after a silence of 27 long years.
But, it went silent again after a few years. Similarly, the other clock towers are also lying defunct. Heritage enthusiasts here demanded their restoration, saying they formed an important part of the city’s heritage and should be saved on priority basis.
“Clock towers are a part of our heritage. How can we turn a blind eye to their sorry state? The state government or the agencies concerned should take proper measures to restore the public timekeeper,” said S Mohammed Haider, a heritage activist.