decorated initial 'S'

cottish-born George Wittet (1878-1926) was a late but very important addition to the architects of the Raj who gave Mumbai some of its greatest buildings. He was articled in Perth in 1894 and in 1898 became an assistant to John More Dick Peddie and George Washington Browne in Edinburgh, later working with Walter Henry Brierley of York until he was appointed assistant to John Begg, Consulting Architect to the Government of Bombay in 1904.

After a study tour of the historic buildings of Bijapur in Karnataka, Wittet agreed to adopt an Indo-Saracenic design for his first major work, the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay, although later he "reverted to his own preferred classical and Renaissance manner as at the Institute of Science (completed 1916), The Custom House, The Small Causes Court, The Edward VII Memorial Hospital, all in Bombay and the Central Government Offices at Poona, the last in collaboration with Begg who had prepared the original scheme" ("George Wittet").

After a spell as architect to the Tata Company, Wittet resumed his previous position and completed the Gateway of India archway at Apollo Bunder, Bombay. In all, he was responsible for "ninety-five major projects for the government of Bombay, including the design and planning of the Ballard Estate [the important business district of south Mumbai], as well as forty-four projects for Messrs. Tata and Company" (Chopra 56).

Even so, he did not achieve all that he had wanted. Samuel T. Sheppard writes:

Of the Government architects, it can scarcely be disputed, the greatest has been the late George Wittet. A study of the many works of that admirable genius should warn the critic against hasty judgments. His work is unfairly judged by the Gateway of India since the scheme, which was to include a great processional way leading into the town, is incomplete: if that is not understood the angle at which the Gateway has been set, on specially reclaimed land, must be a mystery. His Museum is only the central block of three that were intended. His addition to the University is but two wings without the front and gateway. Those are the chances to which any architect is exposed. Wittet may have had more than his share of them just as he had a great share of opportunities; but the traveller landing on the Ballard Pier cannot fail — if he is alive to aesthetic impressions — to recognise there, and on the neighbouring Ballard Estate, the greatness of his conceptions. But the new Custom House is a pale shadow of the magnificent building, with steps down to the water, which Wittet originally planned. [117]

Wittet was only 48 when he died in Bombay on 11 September 1926, of dysentery. — Jacqueline Banerjee



Chopra, Preeti. A Joint Enterprise: Indian Elites and the Making of British Bombay. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Davies, Philip. Splendours of the Raj: British Architecture in India, 1660-1947. London: Penguin, 1987.

"George Wittet." Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Web. 14 March 2018.

John Begg. Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Web. 14 March 2018.

Kamath, M. V. Tides of Time (History of Bombay Port). Mumbiai: Mumbai Port Trust, 2000. Available as a pdf from Mumbai Port Trust website. Web. 14 March 2018.

London, Christopher W. Bombay Gothic. Mumbai: India Book House, 2002.

Morris, Jan. Stones of Empire: The Buildings of the Raj. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Sheppard, Samuel T. Bombay. Bombay: Times of India Press, 1932. Internet Archive. Digital Library of India. Web. 14 March 2018.

Tindall, Gillian. City of Gold: The City of Bombay. New Delhi: Penguin, 1992.

"George Wittet." Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Web. 14 March 2018.

Created 13 March 2018