In and Around Horniman Circle

The Horniman Circle, named after BG Horniman of Bombay Chronicle, began its journey as Bombay Green, an open space for recreation in colonial Bombay. This open space once spread from the old Secretariat and Government House on Apollo Street in the south to the entrance to Bazaar Gate Street on the north, the Town Hall building (Asiatic Society of Mumbai) to the east and St Thomas' Cathedral on the west.

Bombay Green in the early 19th century became a significant center of trading for cotton and opium. It paved the way for the establishment of the Bombay Stock Exchange in 1875, which was later shifted to its present location at Dalal Street. Bombay Green also became a popular subject in paintings and photography. After the demolition of the fort walls, the space around Green was demarcated into two areas, firstly a central circular garden envisaging a purely recreative space and a surrounding semi-circular line of buildings, assigned for trade and commerce.

The Elphinstone Circle was renamed Horniman Circle post-independence, in memory of Mr. B.G. Horniman, the first editor of the Bombay Chronicle. Bombay Chronicle was an English daily newspaper started by Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, a founding member and former President of the Indian National Congress, in 1910 as a nationalist alternative to the Times of India.

Asiatic Society, located at Town Hall

Horniman Circle was built in front of the Town Hall, on a large open space known as the Bombay Green. In the 1830s, it became the premises of the Asiatic Society, Mumbai. The Society was formed in 1804, by Scotsman Sir James Mackintosh, and aimed at “promoting useful knowledge, particularly such as it's now immediately connected with India.”

Commemorative plaque at the Town Hall

Commemorative plaque at Town Hall, dedicated to Colonel Thomas Cowper and Captain Charles Waddington of the Bombay Engineers. Work started in 1821, however, the original architect, Thomas Cowper died midway and Major John Hawkins was entrusted with the completion of the remaining building, which was completed in 1833.

Department of Registration and Stamps (Govt. of Mumbai)

Other than the Asiatic Society, the Town Hall also has the office of the Department of Registration and Stamps (Government of Mumbai). It also has the head office of the Directorate of Libraries (Maharashtra State), which runs the State Central Library, located inside the Town Hall.

Doric Pillars at Asiatic Society

The western entrance to Town Hall is supported by eight columns of the Doric order. The Doric order was one of three orders of ancient Greek (and later Roman architecture); the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian. The Doric order was fluted or smooth-surfaced, and had no base, dropping straight into the platform on which it stood.

Overhangs at Town Hall

The Town Hall has extended overhangs that cover the doors and windows and protect from rain during monsoons and cut out sunlight during summers. The overhangs are made of wood and supported on wooden brackets. Another design element was the use of window blinds made from horizontal wooden slats (Venetian blinds), instead of glass.

Intersection of Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg and Horniman Circle

The foundation stone for the buildings around Elphinstone Circle was laid in 1864 by Sir Bartle Frere. The Bombay Gazetteer records, "Old Bombay Green was purchased by the Municipality and resold by them at a profit in building lots to English mercantile firms. This gradually transformed the dusty space into an imposing example of street architecture."

Arcade at Horniman Circle

Bombay Green was the hub of cotton trading before the traders were relocated to Colaba Causeway in 1838. Thereafter, Bombay Green was lying derelict, although the Agri-Horticultural Society made some effort to convert it into a public garden. Finally, in 1863, the Police Commissioner, Charles Forjett, proposed to convert the Green into a Circle.

Hermes store at Horniman Circle

The facade of the Circle buildings was designed by James Scott, Chief Engineer of the Elphinstone Land & Press Company, established in 1858 to undertake reclamation projects. The foundation stone was laid in 1864 for the Bank of Bombay, which was the first building developed in the Circle. The remaining buildings were completed by 1873.

Bharat Insurance building

Facade of Bharat Insurance Building, 15 A Horniman Circle. The Horniman Circle buildings were deliberately made using the same materials (Porbandar stone) and design components (decorative keystones), to maintain consistent uniformity, which was the first time such an architectural experiment was carried out in Mumbai.

Keystone at Horniman Circle

The keystones at Horniman Circle are iconic for their portraits of old men. Each keystone has a unique face and set expression, though they all have some common characteristics, like long beards, flowing locks of hair, deep-set eyes, and a floral ribbon tied in a knot on the head.

Blind balustrades at Sir H.C Dinshaw building

Blind balustrades on the facade of Sir H.C Dinshaw building with wave motif band running below. Use of blind balustrades features in every building in the Horniman Circle. Their purpose is decorative, rather than having any utilitarian function, unlike real balustrades, which provide support and provide protection along a ledge.

Sir HC Dinshaw Building

Facade of Sir HC Dinshaw Building, 16 Horniman Circle. The building was constructed in 1924, on the location of the Bank of Bombay (now the premise of the State Bank of India), which was the first building erected on the Circle. The building is one of many establishments owned by the Parsi community in and around Horniman Circle.

Keystone with Greek woman face

Detail of face on keystone. The faces on the upper levels were of women, influenced by Greek art. Like the keystones on the lower level, these are also each unique in their facial features and expressions. They are mostly wearing floral crowns and sport braided locks of hair.

Arcade at Horniman Circle

View from inside the arcade at Horniman Circle. These shady arcades provided protection from the sun during the summer months and from the rain during the monsoon season.

Arcade at the intersection of Homji Street and Horniman Circle

Keystone over the arcade at the intersection of Homji Street and Horniman Circle. Homji Street is named after Behramji Homji (died about 1750), a wealthy Parsi merchant, who with his brother Nusserwanji (died about 1756), founded the fabulously wealthy Dadyseth business family. Homji and his descendants were long-time residents on this street.

Bomanjee Hormarjees Building

The old name of Horniman Circle on the Bomanjee Hormarjees Building. The Parsi after whom the building is named, Bomanjee Hormarjees Wadia (died 1862) was a member of the Bombay Native Education Society and served on the board of Elphinstone Institution. His house was a popular meeting place to exchange gossip, thus earning the epithet Gup House.

Syed Abdullah Brelvi Road

The Bombay Samachar office is located on SA Brelvi Road, named after Syed Abdullah Brelvi, long-time editor of the Bombay Chronicle. Brelvi joined the newspaper as an assistant editor in 1915 and became editor in 1924, a position he held till his death (1949). He supported Mahatma Gandhi and critiqued the Muslim League, which irritated M.A. Jinnah.

The Bombay Samachar Private Limited

Since its inception in 1822, Bombay Samachar changed hands many times. In 1933, the newspaper was taken over by the Cama family who has remained the publisher to this day. The Bombay Chronicle was started in 1910 by Sir Pherozeshah Mehta. From 1913-19, it was edited by B.G. Horniman after whom the Horniman Circle is currently named.

Nameplate, The Bombay Samachar Pvt. Ltd.

Bombay Samachar was established in 1822, making it the oldest continuously published newspaper in India. The bilingual newspaper was published in Gujarati and English. It was founded by Fardunjee Marzaban, the first Indian editor of a newspaper who also established the first vernacular printing press in India and the production of Gujarati type.

Bombay Samachar building

Bombay Samachar was established in 1822, making it the oldest continuously published newspaper in India. The bilingual newspaper was published in Gujarati and English. It was founded by Fardunjee Marzban, the first Indian editor of a newspaper who also established the first vernacular printing press in India and the production of Gujarati type.

Bai Mancooverbai Ardon Pyaav

Located under the shade of a Banyan Tree, Bai Mancooverbai Ardon Pyaav was the site of an important freshwater well in the erstwhile Bombay Green area before it was converted to a drinking fountain in 1873.

Commemorative plaque, Bai Mancooverbai Ardon Pyaav

Commemorative plaque is written in four languages; topmost in English, followed by Marathi, Gujarati, and Urdu, reflecting the multicultural and multi-ethnic diversity of Mumbai and the languages that were most commonly used. The text says that the water fountain was erected in 1873 by Bai Mancooverbai Ardon, of Sha Gungadass Vizbhookundass.

Watering trough, Bai Mancooverbai Ardon Pyaav

The watering trough at the Seth Gangalal V. Mulji Nandlal Pyaav was designed as a drinking spot for horses and other animals used for transport and labor. Made of stone, the watering trough is shaped like a blossoming lotus flower and was filled with water flowing out from the mouths of two lion-faced faucets.

Bougainvillea at Horniman Circle Garden

The Horniman Circle Garden was planned in 1869 and was completed in 1872, shortly before the Duke of Edinburgh's visit. Occupying 2.5 acres of land, the dense foliage in the garden provided a shady space to rest and was a popular meeting place for Parsis, who congregated here to enjoy the band that played music every evening after sunset.

Playground, Horniman Circle Garden

The Horniman Circle gardens are laid out with walkways and used as a playground by kids. People also access the garden for exercising early in the morning. The Circle Garden has been repurposed by the Kala Ghoda Association and every year, since 1999, the garden has been used as a venue for events during the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.

Water Fountain, Horniman Circle Garden

Ongoing restoration work at the water fountain at Horniman Circle Garden. Earlier, the garden used to house statues of British administrators and military heroes like Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, and Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis which were later removed and relocated to the Veermata Jijamata Udyaan in Byculla.

Elphinstone building

Located at the intersection of Veer Nariman Marg and SA Brelvi Road, Elphinstone Building was designed by Rienzi Giesman Walton (1842-1900). As a municipal engineer, Walton executed several landmark projects in Mumbai, notably the Elphinstone Circle Garden, Northbrook Garden, Hanging Gardens at Malabar Hill, and Colaba Market, among many others.

Starbucks, Elphinstone building

Entrance to Starbucks at the Elphinstone Building, which is owned by the Tata Group. It has been the office of Mr. Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of the Tata Group, ever since he shifted to Elphinstone Building from Bombay House. On 19 October 2012, Starbucks opened its first store in India, on the ground floor of the Elphinstone Building.

Windows, Elphinstone building

The Elphinstone Building is built in the Venetian Gothic style, popular in Mumbai during the late nineteenth century. The style originated in Venice, which was a great maritime and financial power in the Middle Ages, with influences from Byzantine and Islamic architecture. Its maritime origin is reflected in the mooring rope motif used in the decking balustrades.

Buildings on Veer Nariman Marg

The row of buildings located along Veer Nariman Marg (former Churchgate Street), facing the St. Thomas Cathedral. Seen from right to left, Elphinstone Building, Brady House, and HSBC Building. Horniman Circle used to be (and still is) the main financial and business hub of Mumbai and is home to several banks, high-end stores, and commercial offices.

Brady House

Brady House is located between the Elphinstone Building and HSBC Bank and was formerly known as the Royal Insurance Building. In the past, Brady House was the office of the Bombay Baroda & Central India Railways and later, the Times of India. Currently, it is the office of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Punjab National Bank.

Windows, Brady House

Detail of windows at Brady House. The overhangs above the windows are finely carved and supported on wooden brackets. The windows are mounted by semi-circular or triangular tympanums, with decorative stucco work. Heraldic shields occupy the space below the pilasters.

Entrance, Brady House

A vintage car is parked outside the Brady House entrance. The ground floor of Brady House (Shop No. 4) has been converted into a Jack and Jones store.

HSBC Building

The HSBC Building was originally built for the British Bank of the Middle East (BBME). BBME started as the Imperial Bank of Persia in 1889. At the time, it was the first modern bank in Iran. In 1952, the bank exited the Iranian market and was later renamed the British Bank of the Middle East (BBME). In 1959, BBME was acquired by HSBC.

Tympanum, HSBC Building

The HSBC Building was built in 1913 in a Neo-Classical style by the architectural firm Chambers & Fritchley. In 2007 and 2017, the building was carefully restored by Abha Narain Lambh Associates. The project involved the careful restoration of its basalt and limestone facades, night illumination, and restoration of its historic staircase, among other changes.

Balconies, HSBC Building

Detail of curved balcony with balustrade at the HSBC Building.

Arcade, HSBC building

Detail of arcade at HSBC Building.

St Thomas Cathedral

The church in the name Churchgate refers to the 300-year-old St Thomas’ Church (now Cathedral). The ‘gate’ comes from the time when Bombay was protected by a Fort. The walled city had three gates, and the western gate was located close to the St. Thomas Church, hence Churchgate. Later when the railways were built, the name Churchgate was applied to the nearby railway station, as did the surrounding neighborhood.

Zero Point Plaque

Plaque commemorating the 'Zero point' which was located at the St Thomas Cathedral, Churchgate. In the past, distances of all major roads were counted from this point, and milestones were placed in different parts of Mumbai (shown on the map). Of the 16 original milestones, 10 have been found at their original locations.

Commemorative plaque, St Thomas Cathedral

St Thomas Cathedral has been a historic landmark within the Fort premise, from which Churchgate derives its name. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1676, although the current building was consecrated for divine service on Christmas Day, 1718. It is the first Anglican church in Mumbai and at 300 years and counting, one of the oldest buildings in Mumbai.

Fountain, St Thomas Cathedral

Detail of the Neo-Gothic fountain at St. Thomas Cathedral, designed by noted Gothic Revival architect Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-78). Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Readymoney had a particular association with Gilbert Scott, and they collaborated on several projects, including the Convocation Hall of the University of Bombay, designed by Scott and financed by Readymoney.

Fountain, St Thomas Cathedral

The fountain at St. Thomas Cathedral was donated by Parsi industrialist and philanthropist Sir Cowasji Jehangir (1812-78), from the fabulously wealthy Readymoney family, who is credited with erecting several other drinking fountains in Mumbai.