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A heritage building in focus

D. Radhakrishnan
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The District Court Complex atop the Telegraph Hill, in Udhagamandalam. —Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
The District Court Complex atop the Telegraph Hill, in Udhagamandalam. —Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy

Enriching the skyline of this hill station for well over a century, a quaint building exuding considerable old world charm atop the Telegraph Hill is now in focus.

With various courts including the District and Sessions Court which have for long been housed in the building likely to move in course of time to Kaakathope on the outskirts of the town, the structure with a great deal of heritage value has started engaging the attention of people belonging to various sections of the society.

While the consensus is that it has to be preserved at all costs, views on how best it can serve the present generation and also posterity have started doing the rounds.

While some are for converting it into a suitable museum as its appearance is ideal for such a purpose, many others told The Hindu that its potential in promoting heritage tourism should be exploited to the hilt.

Among other things the court has witnessed a few high profile legal battles.

It is one of the few buildings in the town which has been preserved in its original state and located very close to other heritage buildings like Nilgiri Library, Head Post Office, Collector’s office, Saint Stephen’s Church and State Bank of India.

Commissioner’s Road which connects all of them is one of the most important thoroughfares in the hill station, and the court building can play a lead role in getting the entire area declared as a heritage zone.

Records indicate that the court building was built primarily for the Breeks Memorial School, which moved later to a more spacious premises overlooking Charing Cross.

The building was then allotted to the Judicial Department. The Court Hall was originally the chapel of the Breeks Memorial School.

Fixed over a door of a room of the court building which was for some time used as an office of the Nilgiri Bar Association is a marble tablet on which is inscribed: “The Breeks Memorial School. Erected to honour the memory of James Wilkinson Breeks of the Madras Civil Service. First Commissioner of the Neilgerry Hills”.

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