HISTORY OF RAJ BHAVAN BUILDING (BARNES COURT)EMERGENCE OF AN EDIFICE
Located on the Southern most point of notified Heritage Zone, Barnes Court has a commanding and sunny sitting, over-looking the hills and forested area towards south from here. It abuts thick forest towards the east and Civil Secretariat Complex on the West. It is a historical and architectural masterpiece.
Though it is not traceable from any official or Municipal record that which Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, first lived in “ Barnes Court”, yet the list of Commanders- in – Chief indicates that it was occupied by Sir Edward Barnes in 1832. After a break, from 1849 to 1864, it was again the residence of various British Commanders-in- Chief, General Napier, General Gomm, General Anson, General Campbell and General Rose. It was here that the news of the Great Uprising of 1857 was given to General Anson.
The permission to construct earliest portion of the estate, measuring 200 square yards, was granted by Captain C.J. Kennedy, Principal Assistant to the Political Agent at Delhi to Dr. J. Ludlow on the 1st January, 1830, subject to a ground tax of Rs.40/- per annum.
On the 1st May, 1832, an adjoining piece of land measuring 50 square yards was granted by the Principal Assistant to Mr. McDermott of the Adjutant- General’s office, subject to a ground tax of Rs.10/- per annum and sanction for felling of trees was also accorded.
The right and title of this plot of land seems to have been also secured by Sir Edward Barnes, who in the same year was permitted to take up at an annual rent of Rs. 40/-. The whole estate, subsequently fell into the hands of the late Major S.B. Goad, who, on the 15th of May,1875, sold it to Major- General Sir Peter Lumsden late Quartermaster-General in India, for Rs.23,000/- only.
The Punjab Government on 11th April,1878, asked for permission to purchase “Barnes Court”, as an official residence for the Lieutenant- Governor, Sir Robert Egerton, who first went regularly into residence at Barnes Court in 1879. Earlier it was a single storey structure with slate roofing on the top. The new structure was built during 1879-1886 at a cost of Rs. 3,02,257/- only.
The official description of the property when this purchase was effected by the Punjab Government was – “ Barnes Court is a partly single and partly double-storeyed building, facing west and south , the principal entrance being on the latter side. The building is so arranged as to have a good view on three sides, viz., on the west, south and east. The front of the house being raised on a masonry terrace flanked at both end with a masonry sentry box. There is a level lawn to the west of the house between it and the hill. The ground is of very considerable extent running out in a kind of arm for about half a mile on the south-east of Jakhu, and a good distance up the hill side.” This description practically holds good to the present day.
Extensive improvements have been made from time to time to the property. The principal addition is a double-storeyed building erected during the Lieutenant -Governorship of Sir C.U. Aitchison, the lower storey being a ball room, and the upper rooms, the offices of the Lieutenant-Governor and his Private Secretary. The ball room is charmingly decorated and painted in eastern ‘ Moorish’ style, this work having been supervised by Mr. Lockwood Kipling, for many years, the Principal of the Mayo School of Art, Lahore.
Lady Ibbeston, Lady Dane and Lady O’ Dwyer assisted by their daughters, in years gone by, were all popular hostesses at Barnes Court and Lady Maclagan also worthily upheld the traditions of the house. The Governor Sir Malcolm Hailey and Lady Hailey have effected several further garden improvements.
The grounds and gardens are particularly charming and today the house is more like an old English country house than any other in Shimla. Considerable improvements too were made at Barnes Court during the residence of Sir Louis Dane including the construction of a new wing and the cutting away of the hill side opposite one of the entrances.
It acted as summer Raj Bhawan of Punjab upto 1966. After reorganization, when Simla was allotted to Himachal Pradesh, it was converted into a State Guest. In the late seventies, it was converted into a State Guest House-cum-Tourist Bungalow for some time.
In August,1972, after the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, Shimla Agreement was signed by Smt. Indira Gandhi and Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then Prime Ministers of two countries. The main drawing room alongwith its table and chairs on which ‘Simla Agreement’ was signed have been preserved.
As Peter Hoff was gutted in fire in 1981, Raj Bhavan housed therein was shifted to this building. On reconstruction of Peter Hoff, Raj Bhavan was shifted back to its new building in 1993. However, as it was too spacious for Raj Bhavan, it was again shifted back to Barnes Court building.
MAGNIFICENT SITE PLANNING
The Barnes Court Complex has an area of 9647 Square Meters as per Tatima-2007 and Jambandi for the year 2002-2003.
This complex consists of main two storeyed building housing office and residence of H.E. the Governor of Himachal Pradesh. Besides offices of the Secretary and ADC to the Governor of Himachal Pradesh, library, guest rooms, dressing room, servant rooms, store, VVIPs bed rooms with attached sitting and dressing rooms and personal sitting room, pantry, dinning room and billiards rooms are also existing in it .
The Summit Hall at ground floor named as ‘Kirtikaksh’ has historic significance as the famous Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan was signed here on 3rd July,1972 by the then Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. The Darbar Hall at ground floor, earlier used as dancing hall, is now used for oath taking ceremonies of the Governor/Chief Minister/Chief Justice & Judges of the High Court/Chairmen/Members of various boards/Corpns..
The two storeyed building conforming to the hill architecture with panoramic view on all sides is an unique example of site planning of British era.
AN ARCHITECTURAL SAGA
The Barnes Court building has been constructed in ‘ Tudor’ style of architecture. The doors and windows are made of teak wood. The bay windows projected outside are covered with CGI sheet roofing and the same give a pleasant look. There is central heating system. The ground and first floors are well connected with internal staircase. There is also a lift inside which can be used in the event of fire. The walls have been plastered in mud mortar and painted in white. The paint on the walls of Ball Room at ground floor is of eastern ‘Moorish’ style.
The office of H.E. the Governor is at first floor towards west and that of Secretary to Governor is at ground floor below the Governor’s office.
AN ENGINEERING FEAT
This two storeyed building has stone masonry foundation. The load bearing walls in super-structure are made of Dhaji. They are built in traditional mud and wooden posts. The slab on ground floor is made of wooden planks supported with wooden rafters. The wooden slab over Durbar Hall in ground floor is supported with wooden bracings. The walls have wooden paneling inside.
The Governor’s office is made of Brick masonry at first floor with wooden flooring supported by steel joists. The C.G.I. sheet roofing is laid on the building. There is false wooden ceiling which has beautifully been carved.