The British originally came to India to trade. Gradually they worked themselves into power, and India became one of the countries of the British Empire. In Pune [Poonah, Poona] and its suburb Khadki [Kirkee] they had a large military set-up. It was therefore only natural that the British felt the need to have a church for their military personnel. Thus garrison churches came into existence. This is the oldest established Church in Poona or its neighbourhood. The Church was built by Lieut. Nash of the East India Company’s Engineers. The tower at the west end of the church is surmounted by a mixture of lath and plaster.
On the north and south of the tower are respectively vestry and lamp room on the ground floor, with a staircase on the south leading up to the gallery. The interior of the church is 97 feet long from the west door of the church step, and transept 88 feet long from north to south. The width of the naïve is 15 feet and transept 35 feet. The top of the spire is 103 feet from the ground. The eight round pillars, four on each side of the nave, are remarkable for the excellency of the chuna plastering with which they are covered having a surface almost like marble.
The church accommodates over 1000 worshippers. The bell in the tower at present replaced the original one and was brought from Kaira Church. The Church foundation were laid by Bishop Reginald Heber (Image above) in 1825. The Bishop has left an excellent account of his journey up to Poona from Bombay. He describes the Church as spacious, convenient building but in bad architectural taste. The seating arrangements appear to have been altered by successive chaplains with a view to accommodate increased demands, as a military Church and to supply the needs of an increasing civilian population.
St. Mary’s Church (CNI) Camp, Pune
The organ seems to have quiet a history of its own. It reached Poona in1869 when an organ chamber had to be built for its reception. Unfortunately in a few years time it became quite dilapidated, and was sent to England for repairs and its place was a harmonium. It was only in the year 1905 the organ, thoroughly repaired and renovated, was re-established and re-opened.
Sir Robert GrantBeing the oldest and the most represented Church of Poona St. Mary’s naturally contains a great many memorials of “sages who wrote and warriors who bled”. The stone and brass plaques commemorate many noble names. One such person who was buried in the Church itself has placed over him the following inscription:” Beneath this stone are the mortal remains of Sir Robert Grant (Image on the left) , Knight Grand Cross of the Guelphs of Hanover, one of Her Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Councilors and the Governor of Bombay. He died at Daporee on the 9th July 1838, in the sixtieth year of his age”.
The stained glass window over the communion table was erected by Colonel Nasmyth, a superintendent of Trigonometrical Survey. The late Mr.R.G.Oxenham, Director of Public Construction, designed the window. The north side depicts the Annunciation of the Virgin and Moses at the Burning Bush . The south side represents the Ascension and above ,the translation of Elisha. The middle window potrays Our Lord in Majesty whilst beneath is Moses in prayer for victory over Amalek. The Baptistery window, to the memory of Brigadier-General Sewell represents Noah’s sacrifice, the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and the Circumcision and Baptism. The Lectern, which dates back to 1870, was executed by a native boy under the superintendence of Colonel Finch, from designs by a London firm. The Altar Cross was presented by a lady in memory of her brother.
Beside these there are many monuments to the officers who died in action, and some who died here from other causes. This church was part of the Church of England, which later became an independent Province of the Anglican Communion with the name ‘Church of India, Pakistan, Burma & Ceylon’. The word ‘Burma’ was dropped after that country became independent. A major change occurred in 1970 when the Church of North India came into existence as a result of the union of six different church denominations, and this church became a part of the Church of North India.