|Restored Barrackpore House.telegraphindia.com|
|Summer House of Barrackpore, thefridaytimes.com|
|Summer House of Barrackpore 1807, puronokolkata.com|
|The Southern Facade of Government House before restoration.thehindu.com|
Fascinated by the quiet and serene ambiance, Lord Wellesley took over the Commander-in-chief's residence and landscaped the garden with an aviary. He was the first one to find Barrackpore more desirable for the race-conscious British people to live a peaceful life in style in the middle of greenery. The vast green space reminded him of undulating meadows of the English countryside. On his visit to the Barrackpore park in 1798, the cool breeze from the Hoogley river brushed his face and impressed him. Now, he was keen to have a government house built in the middle of a large garden and a government palace amidst an English park.
On 31st December, 1800, Wellesley advised Sir Alured Clark, the Commander-in-Chief, that his official residence was to be used by succeeding Governor Generals. He acquired 900 bighas to build a summer resort, much grandeur than the one in Calcutta (Kolkata) for the Governor general and Wellesley moved into the house temporary built when the construction was on. The estimated cost was whooping four lakhs of rupees. While the construction was going on, Wellesley's relationship with the company's board members was on the lowest ebb and in July 1805, when its structure had come up to the plinth level, Wellesley returned to England after resigning his post. The board thought the outlay of the project being under way was very large and found this project and others such as his Mysore campaign, Ft. William college project, etc were extravagant. Though his tenure in India was a scandalous one, Wellesley remained upright and untouched.
As for the big summer resort project and its design and plan, no details are available as time and vagaries of weather have taken away and buried them. The credit goes to warren Hastings who took upon himself the task of completing the small but simple house, built by Wellesley with fine relevant decorations such as those in front of the South entrance - the impressive lotus basin and the marble fountain specially from Agra. Besides, he converted the house into a cosy and comfortable residence for the Governor, his family members and some guests as well. Knowing that additions would spoil the beauty of this building no other major structural changes had been made except for some minor modifications and additions of certain features. Subsequent Governor Generals right from Hastings and others respected Wellesley's love for Barrackpore and the park and made minor additions to enhance it beauty and style. The balcony on the Western side; iron staircase on the South front, a wooden porch and electrification of the building were carried out respectively by Lord Auckland (1835 – 1842), Lord Lytton (1876-1880), Lord Ripon (1886-1884) and Lord Minto (1905-1910).
The central hall was once a venue for week-end balls and entertainments.. The main central drawing room served for prayer and services before Barrackpore Church was built in 1847. Here, famous preacher Bishop Heber (who unfortunately died in Tiruchirapalli town, TN while on a visit) preached in 1823. Famous evangelists Carey, Marshman and Ward frequently visited Barrackpore House as guests of the Governor General.
So many historians are of the view that there was nothing remarkable about the Government House which is a plain one-story structure with large rooms and very ordinary furniture. Had Wellesley completed this building long before his final departure for England, the Barrackpore House in the park would have been one of the finest and stylish colonial buildings in Bengal. An interesting fact is Lady Canning 's passion for the park was so overwhelming that she loved this place very much. She designed an informal sitting place under the Grand Banyan Tree, which is estimated to be 350 years old, older than the Indian Botanical Garden. Besides, She even designed a balustraded terrace in the Barrackpore Park around the Lotus Fountain called the Lady Canning Terrace. She, after her demise, was buried in a part of the park. There is a museum in the Govt. House and here on display are British era arms and ammunition, old paintings of Barraackpore house, etc.