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Heritage tag for 100-yr-old church
- hope for others

Jalpaiguri, Dec. 24: The more-than-a-century old Baptist Church here has been granted the heritage building tag by the West Bengal Heritage Commission, a decision that has brought much Yuletide cheer to the people of the town.

The nodal officer of the commission for north Bengal, Ananda Gopal Ghosh, said a team would also visit the district early next year to carry out a survey of the old churches. The Presbyterian Church on Collectorate Road would also get the tag soon, he said.

The Baptist Church is the oldest among the Christian edifices in Jalpaiguri district as it was constructed some 127 years ago in the Nayabusti area in 1883. The Church of St Michael’s and All Angels, in front of the district collectorate, is even more ancient and was established in 1864, making it 146 years old.

Reverend Biplab Sarkar of the Baptist Church pointed out that the walls of the building were made of bamboo poles that were covered with lime and ground bricks. “The church is in bad shape with the walls crumbling and the wooden windows falling off. The church is also located on low land and we have problems during the rainy season, I have to conduct prayers standing in knee-deep water,” the priest said.

He said with the granting of the heritage status, he was happy that some funds would be available to restore the building. “We are a poor church and do not have enough funds to carry out the repairs ourselves,” he said.

Father David Hansda of the All Angels Church said they had not yet sent any formal request to the heritage commission for the status although it is the oldest church in the district. “Our church is built like the ones in Europe and the windows are tinted Belgian glass. The bell in the steeple is also a very old one,” Father Hansda said.

He also said the church was linked to the history of the tea industry in the Dooars as the names of many British planters are linked to it. “Richard Haughton, the manager of Sinagachhi Tea Estate, who died on May 29, 1895, is buried on our grounds,” he said. He also pointed out at a plaque to commemorate the manager of Bagrakote Tea Estate, Charles Reginald Trevor-Denne, who contributed largely to the church.

Explaining the criteria governing the conferring of the heritage status, Ghosh said the edifice had to be at least a century old. “We also look at whether the original structure exists… Once they get recognition, they will get funds for the upkeep. We are going to inspect two more century-old churches in Kumargram in Alipurduar in January,” Ghosh said.

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