The Viceregal Lodge (now the Institute of Advanced Studies), Obervatory Hill, Shimla, India, by Henry Irwin. Completed 1888; tower height increased later by Lord Curzon. Local grey sandstone and light blue limestone, with iron girders, beams, and trusses. Photograph and caption 2008 by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link to this site.]

Built on a high 331-acre site, levelled for the purpose, this mock-Tudor or baronial-style building is visible from far down the hillside, and was intended as a proud symbol of Empire. Over the portico at the main entrance is a coat of arms with inscriptions above it naming the architect (Irwin), the executive and assistant engineers (F. B. Hebbert and others) and the Earl of Dufferin as the current Viceroy. Dufferin was the first to occupy the new Lodge. The columned arches along the façade are echoed in the arches of alternating widths supporting the verandas. Just visible to the left of the main entrance, on the first floor, is one of the unobtrusive external iron spiral staircases provided for the lowliest menial staff, the bathroom sweepers.

Inside, the main hall is panelled in teak. The unicorn originally carved over the impressive main fireplace has since been replaced by the Indian wheel of progress. The double-galleried corridor off to the left is lit by mullioned windows and a glass ceiling, and leads to the ballroom, now the library of the Institute of Advanced Studies. On the ground floor were also the dining hall, lounge and drawing room. On the upper floors were the Viceroy's office and rooms. To the right of the main hall is a splendid three-storey high teak staircase, the kind of feature, no doubt, that earned Irwin his eulogy in the Madras Mail, to the effect that his genius was displayed in his interiors (see Kanwar 305). In the morning room and visitors' lounge on this side, finishing touches like a walnut ceiling with a Kashmiri design, lavish wall-coverings (some of which remain more or less intact), an original chandelier and so on, can still be seen. Maple & Co, London, were the western suppliers. A large picture of one of the Vicereines, Lady Elgin, hangs over the fireplace of the visitors' lounge.

For its day, the Lodge had state-of-the-art technology. It had its own steam generator, and was the first building in Shimla to employ electric lighting. Indeed, Lady Dufferin, the first Vicereine in residence, is said to have first used an electric light switch here. The original light panel is still in place (with an added fusebox). The Lodge also had running hot and cold water, together with a sophisticated system for collecting and storing bath and rainwater, including two tanks under the front lawn.

Speaking generally of Irwin's work, Pamela Kanwar finds that his "lively imagination revelled in utilizing a variety of styles," and appreciates the way he "pampered his buildings with exuberant embellishment and ornamental detailing" — whilst, as an engineer, "incorporated the emergent technology with skill." As for the Lodge itself, she records Irwin's own description of it as "English Renaissance (Elizabethan)" but adds perceptively, "It was perhaps Victorian par excellence" (304-5).

Outside in the landscaped grounds stands a tall tulip tree, a rarity in an area dominated by pines and deodars. It was planted during the stay of the Marquis of Lansdowne, the Viceroy who replaced Dufferin in 1888.

Sources

Kanwar, Pamela. Imperial Simla: The Political Culture of the Raj. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed. 2003. See especially the useful "Afterword" on "Imperial Simla's Built Heritage" added to this edition (294-317).

Guided tour of a limited portion of the interior.

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Last modified 22 March 2008

Last modified 22 March 2008