Sunday, 30 July 2017

Woodville palace - a reminder of colonial style and Indian grandeur

Woodville palace, Simla. India www.shimlaonline.in/
Simla (altitude 2130 meters), the "Queen of the Hills" had been  the summer capital of British India since  1864 till they left the Indian shores. Simla provided a refuge for the white settlers and gave them respite from the summer heat and hot air  prevailing in the plains. Later, they built  a sanatorium for convalescing British soldiers and civilians and the cool mountain air and the  wooded areas gave them solace and relaxation. Over a period of time, lots of European settlers came here to try their luck in apple orchards, business, etc and consequently countless European style buildings came up in and around Simla, now the capital of Himachal Pradesh.

Woodville palace, Simla. India www.shimlaonline.in/
The historical Woodville Palace, located 7000 feet above sea level and half a mile away from the Simla mall, is a fine English-style building that has fine grace and grandeur set in a quiet place. A visit to this old building  will reveal how the Indian Maharajahs  lived in grand style during the British rule worth their names and opulence. It showcases the British colonial style of living and the grandeur of rich Indian ruler's style in the by-gone days..


 Carefully built in the midst of  the deoder pine forest and with the majestic Himalayas forming the backdrop, Woodville Palace, with its gabled roofs and turrets, offers  an awe-inspiring view that lingers  for a long time after the visit to his place.

 As per  land records, General Sir William Rose Mansfield, Commander-in-chief of the Imperial British Army, was the first owner of Woodville. He apparently purchased the property  from one Major-General Sir Arthur Milford Beecher on February 2, 1866, for a sum of Rs. 22,000.00, a whooping sum in those days.  Since then Woodville  had become  the official summer residence of the Commander-in-Chiefs of India.

In 1876, the ownership of Woodville  changed and one
Mrs Henrietta Ruth Maria Alexander was the owner.  The tradition of leasing out the property continued and in the next six years the place was occupied by  the Commanders-in-Chief of India . Later, it was occupied by the top military brass including General Sir Frederick Paul Haines  and later  General Sir Donald Martin Stewart, who stayed for a brief period in 1882.  There after it became the official Commander -in-Chief's residence in Simla, until India's independence in August 1947. In the late 19th century and later in the early 20th century , the estate changed several hands.

Mrs Alexander sold her woodville property to  Memsahib, Mrs Eliza Maria Walker, wife of Sir James Lewis Walker, the first Manager and later Chairman of the Alliance Bank of Simla, the hill station's leading financial institution.after Eliza's demise, later James Walker sold it to the Alliance Bank of Simla for Rupees 125,000 -- a  decent sale amount in those days. Unfortunately, Alliance bank with main office in Kolkata, faced financial crisis and, as part of liquidation procedure,  put up the Woodville estate for sale in 1923.

 His Highness Maharajah Sir Bhagvat Singh (Grand Commander of the Indian Empire and Great Commander of the Star of India) of Gondal State, Gujarat, Western India in 1926 became the owner and he paid Rs. 125,000.00 to Alliance Bank. The Woodville palace was a gift to his daughter, Rani Leila Ba of Jubbal, in 1930. For two decades, this property was not useg for residential purpose. In 1938, the old building was pulled down and a fine majestic palace was built by Raja Rana of the Jubbal state. The Royal family spent Rs. 500,000.00 on the new building.


The Jubbal Royal Family used the palace as a residence until  1977, when Raj Kumar Uday Singh , the grandson of Raja Rana Sir Bhagat Chand, converted part of Woodville into a Heritage Hotel

Tit-Bits:

01. The Jubbal Royal Family belonging to the Rathore clan of Suryavanshi Rajputs  can trace their origins up to two thousand years. 

02. They were courageous and charitable.

03. Among the royal members Raja Bhagat Chand, K.C.S.I., was an important  ruler and   represented the Simla Hill States in the Council of Princes from 1921-1924. He was made a K.C.S.I. ( Knight Commander of the Star of India) in 1936 for meritorious services. 

04. Jubbal State, 100 km from Simla,  was a small one and had an area of 288 square miles ; quite renowned for  for its dense forests of 'deodar' trees. and also for its apple orchards. People earn money from the apple orchards, etc.

 http://www.woodvillepalacehotel.com/history.html


 
Woodville palace, Simla. India www.shimlaonline.in/