Little is known about EC Henriques, the architect who designed the Chattri memorial and redesigned Bandra’s St Peter’s Church.
Elias Cosmas Henriques, was an architect. In colonial India, against sizable odds, he crafted several successes through sheer hard work, but his biggest legacies were two: the St Peter’s Church in Bandra, and a memorial in Brighton and Hove that immortalised the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.
EC Henriques died in 1940 at the age of 51. Details of his life are sparse – as his oldest son says, his father was never a fan of the limelight. However, there are enough surviving fragments to recreate a potted history of his career and get a glimpse into his era.
EC Henriques was sent in 1915 to Europe to study architecture on a three-year State Technical Scholarship, according to the archives of The Bombay Chronicle. He passed his final exam at the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1916 – he later went on to become a Fellow of the institute – and worked with James Ransome, the consulting architect to the Government of India from 1902 to 1908.
Among the illustrious architects he met in Europe was Sir Swinton Jacob, who had served in India for years and is credited as a pioneer of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. It was Jacob who enlisted EC Henriques to the task of designing the Brighton monument, commonly known as the Chattri memorial.
According to historical accounts, the monument was conceptualised by Lieutenant Das Gupta, a military doctor, who approached Brighton Mayor Sir John Otter with a proposal in 1915. A project was commissioned to build a memorial in the Patcham suburb, at the spot where 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers, who had succumbed to war wounds at nearby hospitals, were cremated (the Muslim soldiers were buried at a mosque in Surrey). Jacob was designated as the project architect, but he recommended EC Henriques in his place.
“At 75, Jacob had only two years to live, and rather than take on [the] commission, recommended a young Indian architect undertaking architectural study in England,” wroteTim Barringer in an essay on the Chattri memorial in The Great War and the British Empire. “The design was completed by 1917. Henriques created a monument in a powerful and austere style far less ornate than that of Swinton Jacob.”