Serampore, now a subdivisional town under Hooghly district was earlier a Danish settlement. The town was also very famous because of the three missionaries – William Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward – the Serampore trio.
Serampore was previously known by the name of Frederiknagore, when it was part of Danish rule from 1755 to 1845. Among the many places of interest in Serampore, The Denmark Tavern deserves special mention. This tavern was opened in 1786 and it was situated by the side of Hooghly river.
“The Denmark Tavern and Hotel” was opened not by any Danish but by a British innkeeper, James Parr, who previously operated The London Tavern. It showed that Parr had experience in this field. This tavern became a popular place for the European travellers and during the evenings they enjoyed not only the natural scenery but also peaceful ambience here. An advertisement in the Calcutta Gazettee dated 16th March, 1786 said that “Gentlemen passing up and down the river may be accommodated with breakfast, dinner, supper, lodging, and may depend on the charges being reasonable… Dinners dressed and sent out at short notice; also liquors sold by the single dozen, for ready cash. A good billiard table and a coffee room with the newspaper, etc.” clearly depicted that the amenities being offered to the guests at the tavern.
During the second half of the eighteenth century Frederiknagore (as Serampore was known by that name during those days) had a flourishing and profitable trade which attracted many merchants, mostly Europeans, and later it transformed into an industrial town in the early years of the nineteenth century. It is not known for sure when exactly this tavern was shut down; but it can be some time in the early nineteenth century; though there is no definite date. Later after the closing of The Denmark Tavern, the building was used as a police barrack for a long time. Later the police agreed to vacate this buidling when it was decided that this building will be restored to its earlier shape and glory.
Just three years back in 2015, when the restoration work began, this place was in ruins. It was rather difficult to give shape to this old and dilapidated building as there was no specefic photograph of this tavern. But thanks to the team who made it possible to preserve and revive this heritage building. Restoriation work was initiated by the National Museum of Denmark in association with Realdania and in cooperation with Government of West Bengal.
A team of trained craftsmen undertook this restoration work maintaining as much as they can to keep the original materials as possible. Shri Manish Chakraborty also deserves special mention in this restoration work as he has stick to original materials, wherever possible, for example, the use of chun (lime) and surki in place of traditional cement. The central part of the Cafeteria was modelled like the Coffee House of College Street. The Denmark Tavern was opened on 28th February, 2018 in the presence of dignitaries including the Ambassadors from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweeden and Iceland.
When I visited this tavern recently, I was amazed to see that the floors have been prepared keeping the old charm intact. Not only that I was taken to the back side of the tavern where, to my utter surprise, found an old circular staircase made of thin brick. The attendants in the tavern were very friendly and helpful and they took me to the well-furnished rooms which were created keeping in mind the heritage homestay. I enjoyed the lunch which was not only delicious but mouth-watering too. The dessert which was served was a chocolate cake from The Flurys made my lunch a memorable experience.
Shri Deepanjan Ghosh and the staffs of The Denmark Tavern.
Date of posting: 22nd September, 2018.