The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to identify, locate and restore British-era milestones that were installed in the 18th century to mark distances. Road-widening work had damaged these milestones, and they had gone into oblivion. However, now, slowly and steadily, these milestones will be restored to their former glory.
The BMC has taken up the initiative on different organisational levels, following approvals from the heritage committee, and have already started restoring two milestones at Cumbala Hills in South Mumbai.
These milestones are about five feet in height and were discovered at Kemp’s Corner and near Bhatia Hospital. They were buried four feet in the ground.
The Kemp Corner milestone is engraved with ‘3 miles’ and is the only milestone in the city with an English number, while the one near Bhatia Hospital has ‘III Miles’ inscribed on it.
Mittal Deshpande, the conservation architect, told the Times of India, “These two milestones which are being restored were almost four feet below the ground with hardly one foot visible. The milestones were helpful for Victorian horse carriageways which passed through the area. Currently, some road work is going on and we are waiting for it to be completed after which we plan to reinstate them.”
BMC plans to clean and restore them to their original colour before installing railings, and an information plaque around them.
“According to old maps with the BMC, there are supposed to be 16 milestones, but only 11 have been discovered. Only one of the 11 milestones has been restored,” Umesh Nagarkar, a civic official from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee told Hindustan Times.
Most of the discovered milestones carry Roman numerals on them. They marked the distance to St Thomas Cathedral, which used to be the city centre in those times.
Vishwas Mote, the assistant commissioner of D-ward, initiated this process of restoration as he had stumbled upon a milestone with the engraving “V Miles” near KEM hospital in Parel.
According to him, the two restored milestones were built between 1812 and 1835. “It is regrettable that we have put such an important part of urban Mumbai’s history in such a state. Now the restoration process is being done at the ward’s cost, with no extra funds allotted to it,” he told HT.
Some other places in Mumbai where such milestones were discovered are Kalbadevi road, August Kranti Marg, Dr Ambedkar Marg, NM Joshi Marg and Veer Nariman Road.