Colonel Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob was a well-known engineer and architect working in India. The son of Colonel William Jacob of the Bombay Artillery, he was educated at Cheam School and Addiscombe College, and commissioned into the Bombay Artillery as a Lieutenant in 1858. Having joined the Indian Staff Corps in 1862, he survived his spell as Field Engineer with the Aden Force in 1865-66, and became a Captain in 1870, a Major in 1878, a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1884, and a Colonel in 1888: in all, he served in the Public Works Department from 1862-96, becoming Superintending Engineer in 1893. As chief/consulting engineer of Jaipur state, he developed an irrigation system and also produced some fine work in the Indo-Sarcanic style, defined as a combination of "Hindu, Muslim and Western traditions" (Ellinwood 187): indeed, Jan Morris calls him "a virtuoso of the hybrid styles" (24). Among his many other public works were the Lalghar Palace in Bikanir (1881) and the Albert Hall in Jaipur itself (opened as a museum in 1887). He was also responsible for the original red sandstone buildings of St Stephen's College at Kashmere Gate in Delhi (1891), and had the reputation of being "the best professional architect in India" (Lord Curzon's words, qtd. in Kanwar 308). He was knighted in 1902. Notable among his works was Gorton Castle, although his plans for it underwent modifications. Built in 1904 as the new Government Secretariat in Simla, it is now being restored after a disastrous fire in 2014. Another of his masterpieces was St John's College, Agra (1914).
C. Hayavando Rao's Indian Biographical Dictionary, with its useful chronology for Jacob, records several expressions of gratitude to the architect from the authorities, including thanks from the Indian government "for exertions during famine in Rajputana"; we also learn that in 1902 Jacob attended the Coronation of the late Emperor Edward VII "as Political Officer with H.H. the Maharajah of Jaipur" (203). As well as his palaces and large buildings, he was responsible for several canopies for statues like the one at Lucknow, and a variety of marble church fittings, such as fonts, altars and pulpits. Elsewhere, we find him described as "an ardent enthusiast of the decorative arts and crafts" (Prakash 118). He also assembled the influential Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details, with which he hoped to guide young craftsmen in India, training the draugtsmen who prepared it as well as the artisans who carried out his designs (see Metcalf 159). His other writings included The Water Supply of Jeypore, Rajputana, a collaboration on a work about Jaipur enamels, and so on.
Jacob was married in 1874. He and his wife remained childless. He clearly saw India as his homeland, staying on after retirement and once writing, "I am rather radical in my views and aversion to England is one of them...." (qtd. in "Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob"). He certainly devoted all his energies to the country. Kipling, who visited Jaipur and left an account of what he saw — and failed to see — there, wrote of him and his work in that city:
He laid down sumptuous trottoirs of hewn stone, and central carriage drives, also of hewn stone, in the main street; he ... devised a water supply for the city and studded the ways with stand-pipes. He built gas works, set a-foot a School of Art, a Museum, all the things in fact which are necessary to Western municipal welfare and comfort, and saw that they were the best of their kind. How much Colonel Jacob has done, not only for the good of Jeypore city but for the good of the State at large, will never be known, because the officer in question is one of the not small class who resolutely refuse to talk about their own work. [16-17]
Kipling wrote humorously about these Western-style improvements, feeling that the changes Jacob wrought here produced a "strange medley" of old and new (17); but this "medley" has contributed much to the city's attractions today.
After forty-five years, Colonel Jacob did finally resign, quitting his advisory role in the New Delhi project in August 1913 (see Metcalf 234). On his belated return to England, he was approached for a design for the Horsell Common Muslim burial ground in Woking, but was not well enough to work on it (see Halsted). According to a notice of his death in the Times, he died in Weybridge, Surrey, on 4 December 1917 and was buried at Brookwood Cemetery.
- The former Albert Hall, Jaipur
- Gorton Castle, Shimla (the former Government Secretariat)
- Font at St James's Church, Delhi (scroll down to see)
- Chattri or canopy for Queen Victoria's statue in Lucknow
- War Memorial Chattri on the South Downs near Brighton (supervising architect)
"Death Of Sir Swinton Jacob." The Times. 7 December 1917: 7.
Ellinwood, Dewitt C. Between Two Worlds: A Rajput Officer in the Indian Army, 1905-21. Lanham, MD.: University Press of America, 2005.
Ferguson, Niall. Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World. Pbk. New York: Basic Books, 2004.
Hasted, Rachel. "Design for the Muslim Burial Ground, Woking." Untold Lives Blog (British Library). Web. 19 April 2016.
Jacob, Kenneth. "Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob KCIE CVO." My Jacob family (an informative webpage on a family website). Web. 19 April 2016.
Jacob, S. S. (Sir Samuel Swinton), and Thomas Holbein Hendley. Jeypore Enamels. London: Griggs, 1886.
Kanwar, Pamela. Imperial Simla: The Political Culture of the Raj. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed. 2003.
Kipling, Rudyard. Out of India: things I saw, and failed to see, in certain days and nights at Jeypore and elsewhere. New York: G. W. Dillingham, 1896. Internet Archive. Contributed by the Chandler Kipling Collection, Library of Congress. Web. 19 April 2016.
Metcalf, Thomas. An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain's Raj. Pbk ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002. (This is an excellent source for studying Jacob's works, outlook and reception.)
Prakash, Vikramaditya. "Between Copying and Creation: The Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details." In Colonial Modernities: Building, Dwelling and Architecture in British India and Ceylon. Eds. Peter Scriver and Prakash. London: Routledge, 2007. 115-126. (This has an interesting discussion of Ruskin's views on the relation of Indian artistic vision — divorced, he felt, from truth to nature — to the events of 1857 [see 122-23]).
Rao, C. Hayavando. Indian Biographical Dictionary. Madras: Pillar, 1915. Internet Archive. Contributed by University of California Libraries. Web. 19 April 2016.
"St Stephen's College, Delhi, India." Web. 19 April 2016.
Created 13 November 2016