Fairy-tale building Gorton Castle, Shimla

Gorton Castle, Shimla The Victorian Web

Among the many colonial building of Shimla,capital city of HM, Gorton Castle, originally designed by  Col. Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob  at the request of the then Viceroy, Lord Curzon  Gorton Castle is an interesting structure that measures  some 400 ft in length and 100ft wide. Located next to Vidhan Sabha on the road leading to the famous and historical Vice regal lodge (yet another heritage structure) it is 110 ft at its highest point. Certain changes in design  were later amended by Major HF Chesney Resident Engineer  to suit the size of the plot. Built of solid grey Sanjauli stone, its original red tile roof had been replaced by galvanized red iron; Precaution was made to safeguard the roof as roof tiles were too easily removed by Simla's  gang of wild monkeys! Major H. F. Chesney's modification made it an impressive building. Since Jacob was an outstanding architect,  Lord Curzon chose him to design  what was then intended to be the new government four-story Secretariat in Simla on a plot that had a commanding view of the places around it from the hill-top. It invokes fairy-tale appearance of castles when seen from a distance  and the  red towers  and  the surrounding deodar trees leave the visitors wonder-struck. 

The site belonged to one Mr. Gorton, ICS in 1840. After changing hands thrice, it was bought by a banker, Sir James Walker for Rs. 80,000. 00. He wanted a Hospital  to be built on the plot. After much  persuasion, the building was acquired for its officers and Sir Walker was given alternate site where Walker Hospital was constructed. Despite the modification, this colonial edifice looked very Jacob and Curzon had  desired  before.

Gorton Castle, Shimla.hiqcdn.com

 The chalet-like appearance with a large portico  and  a decorative frieze. highly visible bay windows on the sides, the solid grey stone walls surmounted by square as well as high-pitched pointed towers and the surroundings make it look like a typical English building set in  an English village. This  building where the work  started in 1901 and completed in 1904, does have Indian design elements in the form of  Rajasthani-style balconies and pointed towers.

Fire mishap. Feb. 2014. Gorton Castle, Shimla.  himachalwatcher.com

After major expensive restoration work in 2001-3, the building became  the office of the Accountant General of Himachal Pradesh. A careful re- restoration plan was afoot after a major fire mishap in the third week of January 2014. Cause : short - circuiting or use of electrical heating


01. The unfortunate fact is more than 100 heritage structures were damaged in the winter fire around  Shimla, according to the media report.

02. It is high time the state government came  up with special building codes, besides compulsory installation of fire-warning system to save not only our historical structures but also the lives of lakhs of families.

03. In this part, wood is widely used for construction work. So, extra precaution to avoid fire is a necessity.

 04. The architect  Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob who designed Gorton Castle  was a consulting engineer based in  Jaipur, where he had produced many fine structures imparting  Indo-Saracenic style.