During the British rule, the Insurance sector in India was naturally dominated by the British Insurance Companies. However, initially even the British insurance companies were reluctant to allow their policyholders to travel, let alone to live in the colonies, due to the very high mortality rate resulting from unhygienic living condition, untreated water, and attack from tropical diseases. In fact, this was true in case of India also, since the British and the Europeans could not cope with the heat, humidity and dust of the tropical weather and succumbed untimely to deceases like malaria, cholera & black fever at a very early age. However, Standard Life Assurance took this as an opportunity and aggressively built up the business in Calcutta. Soon after, The Oriental Assurance Company followed suit, and after those two pioneers, the Royal Insurance Company made its presence in the scene.
Royal Insurance was founded in1845, and the foundation stone of their graceful building in Calcutta was laid by Lord Carmichael in1916.The architects were Edward Thornton and William Banks Gwyther and the building was raised by JC Banerjee, who had built the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation building, situated in the south-west corner of Tank Square. PWD architect William Banks Gwyther, one of the two architects, was behind the construction of many other massive buildings of Calcutta, like the clock tower of Calcutta Port, the Military Secretariat Building on Esplanade Row (East), and the headquarters of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. It took Rs. 50000 to construct the building, which was completed in 1918.
Located on the Western side of the Tank Square (Dalhousie Square), at the corner of Charnock Place (N.S. Road) and Koilaghat Street and opposite to the GPO building, the Royal Insurance Building was constructed in Edwardian style. It is crowned with a dignified dome on its North East corner which, though far more modest than the gigantic dome of the GPO, is elegant all the same. The intricate designs on the outer wall, especially at the top of the main entrance, opposite of GPO, is simply praiseworthy.
From the very beginning, apart from Royal Insurance, the building also accommodated other offices, like Sandersons &. Morgans (Solicitors), and the Manufacturers’ Life Assurance Company of Canada (1887) and till today, this well maintained, graceful building houses multiple offices, as the need and trend of the day.
Location of Royal Insurance Building