Col. Sir S. Swinton Jacob, outstanding Indo-British Architect - colonial India

Colonel Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob KCIE, CVO (14 January 1841 - 4 December 1917), son of Colonel William Jacob of the Bombay Artillery, was an engineer and architect of great repute in the Colonial India. Educated at Cheam School and Addiscombe College,  he was commissioned into the Bombay Artillery as a Lieutenant in 1858. Later he became a captain in 1870 and  finally Colonel in 1888.  His service was confined mainly to PWD (Public Works Department) from 1862-96, and was promoted to  Superintending Engineer in 1893. 

Architect  Samuel Jacob. Colonial

While working in Jaipur, now in Rajasthan,  he did mainly consulting work and developed a workable irrigation system as this region was a dry and semi-arid region. Besides, he designed and produced fine buildings  by blending Indo-Saracenic style, defined as a combination of "Hindu, Muslim and Western traditions" (Ellinwood 187):  One Jan Morris calls him "a virtuoso of the hybrid styles". He was instrumental in designing a variety of public  buildings such as  the Lalghar Palace in Bikanir (1881) and the Albert Hall in Jaipur itself (opened as a museum in 1887),  red sandstone buildings of St Stephen's College at Kashmir Gate in Delhi (1891). No doubt, he had the reputation of being "the best professional architect in India" ( vide: Lord Curzon's words, quoted  in Kanwar 308). In appreciation of his unique, novel designs and exemplary contribution to the development of Indo-European style of structures in India, he received many honors and  among them the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal for Public Service on 9 November 1901 is worth mentioning. On 26 June 1902  Jacob was made a Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (KCIE).

Architect Swinton Jacob. YouTube

Yet another note-worthy contribution is the Gorton Castle in Simla. Some changes were made to his design.  although his plans for it underwent modifications. Built in 1904 it was  a new Government Secretariat in Shimla. Now, it is restored after the devastating fire accident in February in 2014.  Anybody visiting Agra would know about the famous college St John's College, Agra (1914). It is yet another beautiful creation of Jacob.

 He was a pioneer in  Indo-Saracenic style of architecture along with a galaxy of other experts like Charles Mant, Henry Irwin, William Emerson, George Wittet and Frederick Stevens F. S. Growse, Robert Fellowes Chisholm.

As for his personal life, Jacob was married in 1874. remained childless. He considered India his home land and led  most of his  retirement life here. After forty-five years, Colonel Jacob retired from  his advisory role in the New Delhi project in August 1913 . At last he returned to England. It is mentioned in the Times  that he died in Weybridge, Surrey, on 4 December 1917 and was buried at Brookwood Cemetery. 

Once he wrote: "I am rather radical in my views and aversion to England is one of them...." (qtd. in "Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob"). He certainly devoted all his energies to the country. 

 Works (vide Wikipedia):
 The former Albert Hall, Jaipur
  Gorton Castle, Shimla (the former Government Secretariat),HP.
  Front at St James's Church, Delhi (scroll down to see)
  Chattri or canopy for Queen Victoria's statue in Lucknow,UP
  War Memorial Chattri on the South Downs near Brighton (supervising architect)


 01. It is quite interesting to note certain anecdotes in his personal life. One being  that of his presence  in 1902  at the Coronation of the late Emperor Edward VII "as Political Officer with H.H. the Maharajah of Jaipur" (203). 

02. As for the Maharajah's palaces  and large buildings, he was responsible for several canopies for statues like the one at Lucknow, and a variety of marble church fittings, such as fonts, altars and pulpits.(vide: C. Hayavando Rao's Indian Biographical Dictionary)

03.  He carefully devised a water supply for the city and studded the ways with stand-pipes which was quite beneficial to the public.

04. Jacob's mother was Jane Swinton, granddaughter of Captain Samuel Swinton RN, who was the inspiration for the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Readers may find the following works useful:

 "Death Of Sir Swinton Jacob." The Times. 7 December 1917: 7.

Ellinwood, Dewitt C. Between Two Worlds: A Rajput Officer in the Indian Army, 1905-21. Lanham, MD.: University Press of America, 2005
Kanwar, Pamela. Imperial Simla: The Political Culture of the Raj. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed. 2003.

Metcalf, Thomas. An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain's Raj. Pbk ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002. (This is an excellent source for studying Jacob's works, outlook and reception.)

Rao, C. Hayavando. Indian Biographical Dictionary. Madras: Pillar, 1915. Internet Archive. Contributed by University of California Libraries. Web. 19 April 2016.