Woodville palace, erstwhile Maharajah's summer resort, Shimla, HP, India - now a heritage hotel!

Woodville palace, near Shimla, HM. blogger.com

Shimla, India, location map. traveldealsfinder.com

During the colonial Period, the British official of the EIC were unable to bear the hot Indian summer and the scorching sun bothered them a lot.  Consequently, necessity arose for them to look for hill stations with mild climate where they could take  refuge during the summer;  places to relax  and  be free from unbearable hot wind and dust.  Thus their exploration of hilly places  made them discover many popular hill stations  across India like Ooty and Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, Darjeeling in West Bengal, Shimla, Mussoourie, Dalhousie, etc.,  in the sub Himalayan mountains in the northern regions. The hill resorts severed as  sanatorium for the sick British soldiers as well as army training centers. Soon many tea coffee planters and orchard owners moved in to focus on their business. Among the hill stations in northern India, Darjeeling, Shimla  and others are even more popular today. 

Woodville palace, near Shimla, HP, tripadvisor.co.uk

As far as Shimla is concerned, small villages  were on record up to  1815 when the British forces took control of the area. The climatic conditions   suited the British administrators  and they established a town amidst  the dense forests  in the mid 1800s. It was Viceroy John Lawrence in 1864 shifted the capital from Calcutta ( Kolkata; now in West Bengal) though proper access road was  not laid to the hill station. Soon, more departments moved into Shimla during the summer season.  His successor Robert Bulwer-Lytton (Viceroy of India 1876–1880)  was constructing many buildings including Vice Regal lodge in 1888. With the arrival of more European families, Shimla began to grow at a rapid clip. 

Woodville palace, Shimla, HP, India. stayoutadventure.com

Woodville palace, Shimla, HP, India.Pinrest.com

During his tenure  Lord Curzon  (1899-1905) who took keen interest in the development of Shimla and other surrounding places was the first one to have started a golf course in Naldhera 22 km  from  Shimla, then one of the highest golf courses in the world. Following the Europeans, the Maharajahs, Indian business community, rich Englishmenand retired army officers built big bungalows and residences here for their comfortable stay. Shimla and the near-by places gained more popularity with the introduction of the Kalka-Shimla railway line in 1903. Shimla hosted many important political meetings including the Shimla Accord of 1914 and the Shimla Conference of 1945. After independence, the state of Himachal Pradesh  was formed  in 1948 as a result of the integration of 28 princely states. After 1947, India's freedom  many of the colonial residences   became either ruined or reduced to rubble and now only a few of them are left behind fairly preserved.

Surroundings of Woodville palace, near Shimla, HP swantour.com

The Woodville palace, once the summer resort of the Jubbal rulers, is converted into  a heritage hotel with unbroken old glory and legacy. Raja Rana Sir Bhagat Singh Chand, a descendant of Rathore Clan was responsible for its conversion and the purpose, it is quite apparent, is two fold - to get  reasonable income and to keep the old palace in good shape by way of periodic maintenance from the income generated from the hotel. The palaces like this one showcase the glorious days of the affluent Indian  rulers and the colonial past.  The royal heritage is brought to light with the display of photographs of the royal lineage of the palace in the long corridor including the  picture of Queen Victoria, Sultan of Johore, and King of Italy Umberto II et al and  their autographs and in the hotel lounge  taxidermied  tiger and bison heads  shot by the predecessors while on hunting trips. The palace also has a rich collection of stamps and coins.  Its  fa├žade looks as if it is  straight out of an  English countryside; picture perfect  building typical of  imposing towers with  gabled roof and turrets -pointed roofs and stone walls with well-maintained lawns all around. Set in a nice  place, the added advantage is its serene ambiance with tall Cedar and Pine trees, trails for casual stroll  in the areas, free from city din.

Shimla in the winter season. namasteindiatrip.com

Sir William Rose Mansfield, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army at that time, was the first ever resident and he bought it for an amount equal to INR 22,000  from Gen. Sir Arthur Milford Beecher in 1866. Mrs. Henrietta Ruth Maria Alexander in 1876 became the next owner and followed the tradition of leasing out the residence to  successive  Commanders-in-Chief of  India like Gen. Sir Frederick Paul Haines (spent five summers at Woodville) and  Gen. Sir Donald Martin Stewart,  who stayed  here for a short period. Woodville became the official  residence of the Commander -in-Chief’ in Shimla until the the end of  British Raj  in 1947.  Mrs Eliza Maria Walker, wife of Sir James Lewis Walker, Chairman of the Alliance bank became the  next owner. Upon her death in London, her husband  Sir James Walker,  took control of the property.  When the bank was in a financial mess,  the then king of Jubbal  ruler  Raja Sir Bhagat Singh bought it to be used as a summer resort. 

Raja Bhagat Chand,  was bestowed with  C.S.I (Companion of the Star of India) in 1928 and later ( K.C.S.I ( Knight Commander of the Star of India) in 1936  was a well-reputed ruler among the regions close to Shimla and he  represented the Shimla Hill States in the Council of Princes from 1921-1924.  Jubbal, being a small state comprising  an area of 288 square miles of   densely wooded area with lots of  deodar’ trees,  has many  apple orchards and the  income takes care of  the livelihood of people  here.  The town of Jubbal is roughly 100 km  from the capital town of Shimla.

Later in 1930 Sir Bhagat Singh  gave  Woodville palace   as  a gift to his daughter. For 12 years it remained vacant. When rebuilt  in 1938, no compromise was made by the legal heir Rana Bhagat Singh on the heritage value of the structure, including the  original decoration, floorings, bathroom fittings, lights and other artifacts in the building. Most of the light fittings imported from Murano, an island near the  Italian coast, popular for various types of glass works. Equally attractive are the exterior decors of the palace that complement with the nice art works of interiors.  

Located on the Raj Bhavan Road, Woodville Palace, one of the important heritage buildings of Shimla, can be easily accessed by the visitors.  It is a legacy of the conial era as well as the great rulers of Jabbal.