Gorton castle, Shimla, an impressive legacy of British architect Col. Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob

Gorton Castle, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. victorianweb.org

Gorton Castle, located in Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, India, is a prominent colonial-era structure with a fascinating architectural history. Originally designed by Colonel Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob at the request of Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, the castle spans approximately 400 feet in length and 100 feet in width, with its highest point reaching 110 feet. Jacob, known for his exceptional work in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, was chosen for this project due to his distinguished expertise.

British architect Samuel Swinton Jacob

Above image: Col. Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, KCIE,  (Jan 1841 - Dec. 1917),  was a British Army engineer, architect and writer, best known for the numerous Indian public buildings he designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, like the other British  architect Robert Chisholm. He received several awards including the  Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal for Public Service on 9 November 1901.......

Built next to the Vidhan Sabha on the road leading to the historic Viceregal Lodge, Gorton Castle was envisioned as the new government Secretariat building in Shimla. Constructed from solid grey Sanjauli stone, its original red tile roof was later replaced with galvanized red iron to protect against the local monkeys, which often removed the tiles. The construction commenced in 1901 and concluded in 1904, incorporating design modifications by Major H.F. Chesney to fit the plot's size, making the building even more impressive and formidable. Despite modifications by Resident Engineer Major Chesney, the four-story structure retained Jacob and Curzon's intended design.

Location map, Shimla, HP. mapsof.net

The castle's aesthetic is reminiscent of fairy-tale castles, with red towers and surrounding deodar trees that leave visitors in awe. It merges European and Indian architectural elements, featuring Rajasthani-style balconies and pointed towers, which add to its distinctive charm. Initially, the site belonged to Mr. Gorton of the Indian Civil Service in 1840 and changed ownership several times before being purchased by Sir James Walker, who intended to build a hospital there. However, after persuasion, the site was acquired for government use, and Walker was given an alternative site for his hospital.

 Gorton Castle, Shimla, 2014 fire mishap. himachalwatcher.com

Despite significant restoration efforts between 2001 and 2003, a major fire in February 2014 caused extensive damage to Gorton Castle, likely due to short-circuiting or the use of electrical heating. This incident highlighted the vulnerability of Shimla's heritage structures to fire, especially given the widespread use of wood in construction. Consequently, there have been calls for the state government to implement stringent building codes and compulsory fire-warning systems to protect both historical buildings and residents' lives. Gorton Castle, the British government's summer secretariat, was originally fireproof as it was made of steel and stones. But, massive woodwork during renovations made it fire-prone.

Pamela Kanwar, historian  describes Gorton Castle as a "picturesque, multi-faceted building," with a chalet-like entrance, a large portico with a decorative frieze, prominent bay windows, and solid grey stone walls topped with square and pointed towers. The red galvanized iron roofing highlights  a fairytale charm, making the red towers stand out amid the deodar trees; a significant landmark, reflecting the colonial heritage and the fusion of British and Indian architectural elements.

Though the coast of restoration project of Rs. 56 crore was approved by the the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2015 itself until 2021, the progress of work was slow. If restored back to old splendor by conservation experts,  Gorton castle  along with restored town Hall,  Bantony castle and Gaiety theater  will resonate with the history and colonial era fervor of Shimla, once the summer capital of colonial India. 

Source: https://www.navrangindia.in/2017/08/fairy-tale-building-gorden-caastle-simla.html