Warren Hastings’ Belvedere House in Kolkata: Where legends and ghost stories abound

[] The home of Bengal’s first governor-general, Warren Hastings, is built amid 30 acres of pristine grounds at Belvedere Estate, in Kolkata’s Alipore region

Warren Hastings is a name etched in Indian history. He was Bengal’s first governor-general, between 1773 and 1785 CE. Located within the Belvedere Estate at 20, BJC Road, Alipore, Kolkata-700027, Belvedere House is where Warren Hastings lived till the 1780s, as per reports. His mansion in Kolkata still bears with it the mark of history, legends and even spooky stories!

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Alipore is one of the most posh residential localities in Kolkata and is home to its wealthiest business families. The Belvedere Estate here, has the Belvedere House and 30 acres of ground on the campus, within which you will also find the National Library of India from 1948 onwards. It lies in close proximity to the Alipore Zoo, having been the former palace for the Indian viceroy and also the Bengal governor. The governor-general stayed at Belvedere House till the early 19th century, when the Government House was built. Following the shifting of the governor-general to the new premises in 1854, the lieutenant-governor of Bengal started residing at Belvedere House. When the capital shifted to Delhi from Kolkata in 1911, the lieutenant-governor became a governor, being transferred to the Government House. The value of Belvedere House, with the surrounding estate, is priceless, considering its prime location in Alipore and the history surrounding it.

Warren Hastings Belvedere House, Alipore

(Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

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Warren Hastings’ Belvedere House: History and interesting facts

Belvedere House may have been one amongst multiple houses that were constructed by Mir Jafar Ali Khan, who later became Bengal’s nawab after betraying Siraj-ud-Daulah (the earlier nawab) and helping the British in their 1757 Battle of Plassey. Mir Jafar became the Bengal nawab, aided by the British, although he could not meet their demand for more money. Henry Vansittart, the then-governor of Bengal, finally ousted him on these grounds. Mir Jafar then took up residence at Alipore. He was reinstated as the nawab by Warren Hastings and as a token of his appreciation, gifted the Belvedere House property to Hastings in the late 1760s, according to reports.

The architectural style of Belvedere House is more in-sync with the Italian Renaissance and is built amid 30 acres of pristine grounds. There was a famous duel held here on August 17, 1780, between Warren Hastings and his legal officer named Philip Francis. It may have been over a political issue between them or Baroness Von Imhoff, as legends go. Hastings departed for England after the Battle of Buxar in 1764 and came back with the Baroness to Calcutta as the governor, in 1772. Reports peg the Belvedere Estate being sold to a Major Tolly, an official of the East India Company. His family sold the estate after his death and it became the home of the lieutenant-governor, until the capital shifted to Delhi in 1911. It was also the home of the viceroy of India until 1947. Hastings may have sold the property to Major Tolly for Rs 60,000 as per historical reports. Charles Robert Prinsep, a barrister and Cambridge graduate, resided here for some time. He was standing counsel to the East India Company and India’s judge advocate general during this time. He was the brother of Indian civil servant Henry Thoby Prinsep.

The Belvedere Estate complex currently encompasses two housing colonies developed by the government, one for the employees of the central government and one for the National Library’s employees. The main building is under the responsibility of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The portion of the estate used for accommodating the central government employees is called 1, Belvedere Estate, Alipore Road, with 24 units of type-VI homes and 77 units of type-V homes. It is maintained by the CPWD and the campus has leafy walking trails and plenty of trees.

National Library Belvedere Estate Kolkata

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(The National Library at Belvedere Estate, Kolkata. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

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Haunting and sightings at Warren Hastings’ house in Kolkata

Warren Hastings’ house is also known as one of the most haunted places in Kolkata. The house has dominated public conversation for several decades, with numerous stories of supernatural sightings. Legends state that Warren Hastings’ ghost still returns to his former home, seeking valuables that were reportedly misplaced upon his shifting to England. As per local lore, a carriage drawn by four horses has been sighted, approaching the building, on several nights. Some feel the spirit and presence of Hastings while others hear footsteps rushing towards the upper floor before vanishing altogether. This is one out of two prominent legends, the second one revolving around the ghost of a young boy.

The ghost of the young boy often appears in the middle of the grounds, as per several people. Legend has it  that there was a group of boys playing football here and one of them died instantly, when the ball hit him on the chest. His friends ran away, in a state of panic. Many people have admitted hearing voices of children on the grounds, while some have claimed seeing the boy in the garden, waiting for his companions to come back. Another ghost is that of a white horse. The building was once home to a horse owner who especially loved his white horse. It died one night after being shot by someone. It is believed that the spirit of this horse still roams about and can be spotted on some nights before vanishing.


Where is Warren Hastings’ house located?

Warren Hastings’ house is located at Belvedere Estate in Alipore, Kolkata.

What is the name of Warren Hastings’ house?

The name of the property is Belvedere House.

Who gifted Belvedere House to Warren Hastings?

Historical reports indicate that Belvedere House was gifted to Warren Hasting by Mir Jafar Ali Khan, after Hastings reinstated Mir Jafar as the nawab of Bengal.

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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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