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HORNIMAN CIRCLE

HORNIMAN CIRCLE

THE CENTRAL GREEN, the old Cotton Green where traders used to buy and sell hales of cotton, was laid out as a public garden in 1869. Later known as Elphinstone Circle, it was renamed after Independence in honour of Benjamin Guy Hornirnan , a former editor of the Bombay Chronicle who was an active supporter of India’s Freedom Movement. Today, the garden remains a delightful spot, much frequented by students and office workers who relax here before the long commute back to their homes in the distant suburbs. The garden is also the venue for open-air theatrical performances and cultural events in the winter. The elegant circle of Neo- Classical buildings around the garden was built in the 1860s, and fashioned after acclaimed English examples such as Bath Crescent and Tunbridge Wells. Designed by James Scott, the buildings around the garden share a uniform facades with pedestrian arcades and decorative terracotta keystones from England, and represent the earliest planned urban compositions in Mumbai.

Anchoring the western edge of the flower-filled green patch of Horninsan Circle is St Thomas’ Cathedral, the city’s oldest church, which was consecrated in 1718. Like many of Mumbai’s great edifices, this too was funded by public donations, collected in large part by a young East India Company chaplain named Richard Cobbe. The church has an imposing bell tower and flying buttresses, and some fine 19th-century stained glass. The cathedral’s spacious interior is especially remarkable for its splendid marble memorials to heroes of the Raj. An exceptionally fine one is the monument to Governor Duncan, which depicts him being blessed by Hindus for his efforts to stop infanticide, In front of the entrance porch is a charming Neo-Gothic fountain. Designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, it was donated by the Parsi financier, Sir Cowasjee Readymoney.

Opposite the Cathedral are some lovely older buildings – the Neo-Gothic Fiphinstone Building, built in the late 19th century, and the Neo-Classical British Bank of the Middle East. Across the road is the Readymoney Mansion with its detailed timbetwork, Mughal arches and carved balconies. Reminiscent of a Rajasthani have*, it was also designed by George Wittet.

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