Guwahati, Monday, August 13, 2012
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Northbrook Gate needs immediate restoration
Staff Reporter

Exterior of the Gateway (left), Cracks in the interior (right)
 GUWAHATI, Aug 12 – What has been described as the lone surviving brick architecture from colonial times now faces serious threats to its existence. Less than a kilometre from the city centre, the Lord Northbrook Gate is battling against odds, with no competent authority stepping in to save the historic structure. Without urgent restoration work, it may soon meet the fate of other historic architecture that disappeared largely due to public apathy.

The only edifice of its kind in this part of Assam, built in the later part of the 19th century, it now shows considerable wear and tear, particularly on its river facing façade. A part of the wall, more than ten feet in height, reveals red bricks with the plaster surface no longer in place. In time – without proper refurbishment – more bricks are likely to be exposed and come under the assault of sun and rain. Steep changes in temperature, coupled with high rainfall will eventually lessen its lifespan.

In some parts of the structure, vegetation has taken over. Their roots too will help form cracks and fissures in the days ahead.

Worrying signs of damage are also visible in its interior. At several places cracks have developed in the walls, enough indication that the structure is getting weak with the passage of time.

Ironically, even though the spot where it stands receives a steady footfall of visitors, only a few are aware of the history surrounding the site. The creation had emerged to mark a visit by Lord Northbrook, the then Viceroy of India. Its accepted date of construction is 1874. He had come to visit the province when Lt Col RH Keating was the Chief Commissioner of Assam.

Thomas George Baring, better known as Lord Northbrook was the Viceroy of India from 1872 to 1876. Described as a ‘liberal politician and statesman’ he was also the First Lord of the Admiralty. He passed away in November 15, 1904.

Among those who recognise the heritage value of Northbrook Gate, Dr Pradip Sarmah, an archaeologist and author, said that the walls of the structure need to be scrutinised in detail before attempts are made at restoration. “Any restoration work should take into account high rainfall and humidity,” he remarked.

Dr Sarma also favoured the involvement of engineers, with sufficient expertise in carrying out repair work of old buildings, to strengthen the foundation of the Northbrook Gate. Its proximity to a huge river could have weakened the ground where the gateway stands.

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