WHEN MRS BRONSON OPENED her 10 bed boarding house in Bangalore in 1887, it became the city’s first hotel. Her establishment became The West End Hotel. It was, and is still, the best hotel in Bangalore. Set in beautiful grounds, the West End is home to Bangalore’s supposedly oldest letter box.
The cast-iron cylindrical pillar box is surmounted by a royal crown, below which are the words “post office”. The word “letter” is below the crown and above the slot for inserting mail. Below this slot, there is a large plate with mail collection times engraved on it. The plate seems to be newer than the rest of the pillar box.
Beneath the plate, there is a circular cartouche with lettering that has become difficult to read because it has been painted over so many times. However, I could make out the word “Greenock” and other wwords including “suttie”, “tho”, “street”, and “??thga??”. These indistinct words allowed me to direct my search of the Internet.
I discovered that Thomas Suttie of Greenock manufactured pillar boxes identical to the one at The West End in 1858. Only one of these has survived in the UK, but 7 or 8 of them can still be found in India. They are at The West End, in Vire, in Darjeeling, in Shimla, and two in Kasauli. There are also a few in Pakistan. One example, dated 1856, stands in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
The year 1858 is of interest. It was when the Indian Uprising, which commenced in 1857, was coming to an end. It was also when the British Government decided to take over the governig of India from the East India Company.
The Suttie pillar box at The West End is still in use. Mail is collected from it three times a day. Given its date of manufacture, it is much older than The West End Hotel. Why it stands there is a mystery to me. Maybe the hotel acquired it as an antique curio. This is the third functioning historic post box I have seen in Bangalore. The other two are at the Bangalore Club and its near neighbour, The Bowring Institute.