St. Andrew’s Church
Not many people can claim an entire town as part of their legacy, but Lt. Gen. George W. Aylmer Lloyd is an exception. This is the man credited with having ‘found’, or let us say ‘discovered’, the town of Darjeeling, Bengal’s queen of the hills, in the 19th century. Having arrived in Ghoom near Darjeeling in 1828 as part of an East India Company mission to wrest administrative control over the region, Lloyd fell so deeply in love with the area that he never went back home. When he died in 1865 he was, appropriately enough, buried in Darjeeling, where his tombstone, declared a heritage structure by the Archaeological Survey of India, stands to this day.
And his is the name displayed most prominently within the beautiful St. Andrews Church, one of the principal attractions that draw your attention as you walk along Darjeeling’s celebrated Mall Road. Alongside Lloyd are other names engraved on marble and brass plaques, reminding us of some of the area’s oldest residents.
Named after the patron saint of Scotland, the foundation stone of St. Andrews Church was laid in November 1843, though it was substantially rebuilt in 1873 following the extensive damage sustained by a lightning strike in 1867. Among the first members of the congregation at St. Andrews were the Scottish soldiers and tea planters stationed in Darjeeling.
Yet another well-known name on display inside the church is that of Charlotte, Countess Canning, wife of India’s last governor general and first viceroy Charles, Earl of Canning. Having arrived in Darjeeling in 1861 to recover from persistent ill health, Charlotte put her prodigious artistic skills to good use, sketching the mountains to her heart’s content. Sadly, on her way back, she contracted malaria near Siliguri, and died in Calcutta in November, 1861.
But to return to more cheering thoughts, St. Andrews with its magnificent clock tower is more than just an excellent example of British church architecture. It is also a monument to the development and evolution of Darjeeling Itself.
he church held its first holy service in October 1844. Following the devastating lightning strike of 1867, all services were suspended, since the severely damaged steeple had rendered the building unsafe. After an elaborate restoration exercise, regular services recommenced in 1877. The clock tower with its bell was set up in 1883, and its chimes could reportedly be heard all across Darjeeling Town.
Built to accommodate about 200 people, the interior of St. Andrews remains much as it was nearly 170 years ago. Having withstood multiple earthquakes over the years, the church is perhaps not in picture perfect condition today, but its overall charm remains wholly intact.
How to Reach:
Bagdogra, 90 K.M. (via NH 110) away from Darjeeling, is the nearest airport connected by flights from major cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati.
Apart from Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Station (88 K.M. from New Jalpaiguri Railway Station) the two closest railway stations are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri. These railway stations have direct railway connections with Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, and other major cities of India.
The major access to Darjeeling by road is via Siliguri, 77 K.M. (via NH 55), which is connected to all the major cities of India. Bus service is available from Tenzing Norgay Bus Stand, Siliguri. Smaller vehicles are also available on seat-sharing/ hire from airport, railway station, motor syndicates / police motor stand. Facility of Pre-paid taxi stand from NJP Railway station & Bagdogra airport can also be availed. The four routes that one can opt from Siliguri to reach Darjeeling are: i) Tindharia – Kurseong route ii) Dudhiya – Mirik route iii) Rohini route iv) Pankhabari