232-year-old Denmark Tavern opens doors again in Serampore

Across the ages: The Denmark Tavern in a painting by Peter Anker, dated 1790   | Photo Credit: Historical Museum of Oslo/Special Arrangement

Mr Parr, who formerly kept the London Tavern, has taken the new upper-roomed house near the flag-staff in Serampore, directly facing the Barrackpore Cantonments and fitted up the same in an elegant and convenient manner, both as a Hotel and Tavern.

This was one of the advertisements published in the Calcutta Gazette on March 16, 1786, announcing the opening of a tavern by James Parr on the banks of river Hooghly.

Another advertisement, two years later on April 3, 1788, makes a mention of the establishment.

Noting a change of hands from James Parr to John Nichols, who formerly kept the Harmonick Tavern in Calcutta, the advertisement goes on to say: The gentlemen of cantonments, or parties going up and down the river, and all others who may honour Mr. Nichols with their countenance, may depend on the utmost civility and every endeavour to give satisfaction and very moderate charges. Bed, Lodging, and Board, by the week or month.

In 2010 - 11, more than 200 years after the tavern’s heyday, a group of restoration experts studied a building that stood in complete ruins, surrounded by debris.

“Nobody remembered the original name and function of the ruined building. It was like detective work to search the archives for information, and it felt great when I realised that it must be the well-known Denmark Tavern and Hotel, which was located at the Nishan Ghat where the Danes kept their flagstaff and salutation cannons,” said Simon Rastén, historian, National Museum of Denmark. It was decided that the building would be restored and reused.

Grand unveiling

Across the ages: The Denmark Tavern in ruins in 2009.

Across the ages: The Denmark Tavern in ruins in 2009.  


After two years of painstaking restoration work, the Denmark Tavern was reopened on Wednesday. Ambassadors of a number of Scandinavian countries, including Denmark, were present on the occasion.

The renovation cost of ₹5 crore has been borne by Realdania, a private association in Denmark which supports philanthropic projects in the realms of architecture and planning, and the Department of Tourism, Government of West Bengal.

The State Tourism Department is in talks with an agency that will maintain the restored building, which will serve both as a café and a lodge.

The coffee house is inspired by the double height central atrium of the Indian Coffee House in Kolkata and five rooms have been opened for boarders. Officials are hopeful that within a few weeks the tavern would be buzzing with visitors as it was in the late 18th century.

Across the ages: The Denmark Tavern after restoration in 2018.

Across the ages: The Denmark Tavern after restoration in 2018.  


Experts from the National Museum of Denmark, officials from the West Bengal government and conservation architect Manish Chakraborti have tirelessly worked on the restoration of the building since October 2015.

Bente Wolff, project head of the Serampore Initiative, National Museum of Denmark, said that Serampore was administered by Denmark under the name of Frederiksnagore till 1845, when Denmark sold its Indian possessions to Britain.

Stressing on the importance of maintaining the identity of old trading towns like Serampore, Ms. Wolff said that The Denmark Tavern was located on a peaceful stretch of the river, only a two-minute walk from Serampore’s main street. “This would be an be an attractive space for citizens and tourists where you go for shopping, restaurants and cafés, and a morning or evening stroll along the river front.”

Meticulous work

Across the ages: The Denmark Tavern after restoration in 2018.

Across the ages: The Denmark Tavern after restoration in 2018.  


Mr. Chakraborti, whose work on the St. Ola Church in Serampore won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award in 2016, said the conservation of the tavern was a more difficult job.

He said that archival research in terms of topographical maps, paintings and photographs were supplemented by building archaeology and sample excavations of foundations and plinth by clearing all the debris.

Along with the tavern, the experts have also restored an old registration building built by the British that will serve as a heritage canteen on the Court complex of Serampore.

Ms. Wolff said that the former Danish Government House built in 1776 and predating the tavern was being restored. “By the end of this year, we hope to put together an exhibition on Serampore’s history at the former Danish Government House,” she said.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 5:11:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/232-year-old-denmark-tavern-opens-doors-again/article22891066.ece

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