Henry Irwin

When you walk through the Heritage Zone of Shimla, you are bound to think of the creator of the beautiful edifices scattered here and there in the town. Every prominent building here has a different design and holds an attraction for the visitors. The presence of Henry Irwin is there almost everywhere. The idea for every building that Henry conceived was different.
Henry Irwin had arrived in India in 1868 as a Civil Engineer and an Architect. He had designed the large sized Catholic Church in Pachhmarhi and then he was asked to move to Simla, the new capital.

Henry Irwin was the first one to adopt the Indo-Saracenic style of Architecture in which he blended the Gothic and Mughal style of rooftops with the English style of the structures. The real mark of his creativity in Shimla is the building of the Viceregal Lodge now Indian Institute of Advances Studies. Apart from that, he designed many other buildings in which he used his skill of designing.

Catholic Church

The Christ Church had already been built in 1844 but there was no Church for the Catholics. When Lord Rippon arrived in Shimla as a Viceroy, he felt the need of a Catholic Church and so Henry Irvin was given the responsibility for this work. The Church still stands and is located just near the Army Head Quarters.

Viceregal Lodge

Viceregal Lodge

This is his masterpiece. When the Government occupied the land on Observatory Hill to build a house that was suitable for the Viceroy and his staff, Henry Irwin accepted it as a challenge. He conceived the idea of its design as a Scottish Castle mixed with many other styles of architecture. The cool climate of Shimla, its forested pathways, its hilly terrain and the dominating location of Observatory hill made him think of Scotland. His mind could not go away from the buildings he had seen there. When he came up with the design of the lodge and discussed it with Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy, both of them came up with various ideas to design the building.

Apart from the lodge, many other buildings in the estate of the Viceregal Lodge, as staff quarters, were also designed under the guidance of Henry Irwin. The best of is skill that he applied in this building was the fire-fighting equipment that he installed. Simple but superb way of fighting the fire was thought of by making some water tanks on top of the building. Inside the building, allover he installed water pipes, which remain fixed with the sprinklers and sealed with wax. In case of fire, the wax melts and instantly water starts flowing.

Army Head Quarters

This is a group of four buildings in total. The builders of this magnificent edifice are the famous company called Richardson & Crudass. In the later decades of nineteenth century, this company arrived in Indian and opened their office in Mumbai, were they are still there. The services of Henry Irwin were taken to design the building. Major part of the frame of this building is made of cast iron. The cross bars and the vertical poles, prepared in Glasgow in Scotland, are attached to each other with nuts & bolts. This was shipped to Mumbai from Glasgow. Delhi already had the railway connection in 1876 with Calcutta and Bombay and so from Bombay the frame was sent to Delhi on train and then it was loaded on mules-carts and bullock-carts to be transported to the hills. Built in Gothic style of architecture the building it decorated with beautiful turrets and chimneys.
This remained the office of Western Command that was moved to Chandigarh in 1984. Since then the Army Training Command has been using it.

Gaiety Theater

Viceregal Lodge

This building is also one of the most important landmark of Shimla. Located at the Mall just next to the Town Hall this Neo-Gothic style structure was built for the Drama companies which came from Britain to entertain the Viceroy and his Aristocrats. Henry Irwin designed its interior in Victorian style. He was worried more about the heating arrangement of this building because burning of log-fire inside the theater is not feasible.

He introduced a very innovative idea by making a ventilation tunnel in the building. This tunnel had a door at one side that opened to the Mall. In the walls of the building thick pipes were installed which had one end connected to the tunnel and the other end opening to the various rooms and the main hall. In the tunnel there was a provision of burning charcoal. When the wind entered the tunnel it got warm and through the pipes it provided warmth to the entire building. The tunnel is still there but not used for this purpose. Tourists can go to see it.

Railway Board Building

Railway Board Building

Another building made of cast iron and steel and built by the company Richardson & Crudass. Henry Irwin designed every building in Shimla in a different style and no building is identical to the other one. This large size building is one of the largest buildings and the most attractive buildings of Shimla. Suddenly it attracts your attention and you are bound to look at its different features of its rooftop, its side stairs, it iron frame and its grand size.

Built in a French Mansard style of architecture this building has very attractive turrets decorated with iron carvings. The frame of this building, made of cast iron and steel, was also prepared in Glasgow in Scotland and was shipped to Bombay. From there it was loaded on train to be transported to Kalka from where it was sent up to the hills on bullock-carts. The idea was to have a fire proof structure and so it was built.

Glen Urquhart

This was his own house where Henry Irwin resided for a long time in Shimla. Located just below the Kennedy Chowk, it is on the way to Annandale Ground. The house is surrounded by thick cedars on the northern slope of the Ridge.

Writer : Sumit Raj Vashisht

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