The Brits Who Built The Modern World

Victoria Terminus

Type

Transport

Built

1888

Location

Elevations, Indian Peninsular Railway Terminal Victoria Terminus and adminstrative offices, Bombay (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus)

Part of Britain’s legacy in Mumbai, Victoria Terminus was a ten-year construction project completed in 1888 that gave the British Empire’s second-largest city a grand station on an expanding network of railways that reached out to distant corners of the Raj.

This building designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens is still in use and largely intact, but has been expanded to handle additional traffic with new buildings in keeping with the original design. Today it is used by over three million people, serving both long-distance and local suburban passenger services into the city centre and is located at the intersection of several major roads.

Iconic in character, for many people the station has become a visual symbol synonymous with Bombay itself

Beneath the principal dome, the original station’s main feature, surmounted by a statue representing progress, are pointed arches, turrets, rose windows and columns with lavish displays of Neo-Gothic ornamentation and surfaces decorated with sculptures, coloured glass, glazed tiles and ironwork. Under British supervision, carvings were crafted by Indian craftsmen and plants and animal models were made from flowers. Peacocks, cobras, lions and tigers are among the many creatures decorating the building and its grounds. The plan of Stevens’s station is C-shaped with the dome at the centre and two wings around a garden. Its north wing is attached to the 1,200ft-long train shed. Originally the north wing held all the waiting rooms (divided by gender and class), toilet facilities and spaces for refreshments, while the south wing held rooms for station administration, police, a post office and a library. 

View of south west carriage porch, Indian Peninsular Railway Terminal buildings, Bombay (Victoria Terminus/Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus)

The total cost in 1888 came to over £250,000 and it was one of Mumbai’s many distinctive Gothic-style buildings erected in the 19th century under British rule. Despite various battles in the architectural world between supporters of different styles, the Gothic revival remained popular in Mumbai until the 20th century and the buildings that it influenced are still visible in the city and part of its visual identity. 

One of the largest and most important modern buildings erected under European influence in the Indian Empire

Left: View under entrance of principal carriage porch, Indian Peninsular Railway Terminal buildings, Bombay (Victoria Terminus/Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus); Right: Principal domeLeft: Waiting Hall, Great Indian Peninsular Railway Terminus, Bombay (Victoria Terminus/Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus); Right: View of central featureElevations, Indian Peninsular Railway Terminal Victoria Terminus and adminstrative offices, Bombay (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus)

QUOTES ABOUT Victoria Terminus 

‘Iconic in character, for many people the station has become a visual symbol synonymous with Bombay itself.’
Christopher W. London in Bombay Gothic, 2002, p.79 
‘One of the largest and most important modern buildings erected under European influence in the Indian Empire.’
Builder, 13 October 1888, p.270

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