‘British Simla’ vs ‘Modern Shimla’ in 18 incredible before and after pictures

Going through this wonderful collection of pictures of British era Simla and modern Shimla city, you are likely see the place more than just a hill station to chill with your folks. Photographer Nishant Gupta collected some old images of Shimla and spent lot of time capturing images of modern Shimla from exactly the same perspectives and angles with which the old photographs were captured. The results were incredible.

Shimla has very rich history, reminiscent of which still stands as historical creations that came into existence during British colonial rule. Shimla, the imperial summer capital, was once the centre of power from where one-fifth of humanity was ruled.

Shimla was also called ‘Chotti Vilaayat’ or ‘Little England’ owing to the fact that Britain and Shimla shared same climatic conditions.

Shimla was a paradise where most of the British officers and guests spent their summers, away from scorching sun in plains. Shimla was officially founded in 1864 and was built on top of seven hills namely: Inverarm Hill, Observatory Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Bantony Hill, Elysium Hill and Jakhoo Hill.

It didn’t take much time before Shimla or Simla was declared centre of British colonial rule. A number of historical decisions were made in Shimla including disastrous Anglo-Afghan wars.

In 1906, to make Shimla easily accessible, British built what is known as an engineering marvel in the world- Kalka-Shimla Railway track, which consist of 102 tunnels (originally 107) and 806 bridges. It was also called the “British Jewel of the Orient”. The track was declared UNESCO world heritage site in 2008.

The British were so charmed that they planned and built Shimla meticulously and adored it with historic buildings made in British architecture, like Town Hall, Christ Church, Gorton Castel, Viceregal Lodge (now Indian Institute of Advance Studies), the Willow Bank and so on.

Also Read: Minto Court (Deepak Project) fire – another Shimla heritage building lost – Pictures

Present day administration of Shimla is still scavenging on the infrastructure British had built. The government could not add much as marvelous as these structures, railway track or water supply system. Instead, one by one these structures are either being damaged due to carelessness or are being gutted by fire, like the Gorton Castle, the Railway Board Building, Mito Court etc.

Also Read : Fire engulfs heritage Shimla Gorton Castle (AG Office) : In Pictures

Now, Shimla is a congested and crowded place like other cities. Leaking sewerage and water supply pipes, garbage either spread all over Shimla city or being burnt in open, wrecked roads and blocked, stinking drains, deforestation for over-construction of luxury apartments, resorts or commercial buildings etc. have become trademarks of it.

But, you can seek some relief by time traveling into imperial Shimla through comparison of some of the images compiled for you. Also, in last few photographs you can see old pictures of Dagshai and Kumarhatti railway stations.

We are very thankful to Nishant Gupta, who provided us with the images and information.

Christ Church, Shimla

Christ Church, Shimla

The old one is from the coronation day service of King Edward VII in 1902, which was celebrated here by Lord Duffrin, the Governor General of India. The Church building still remains intact but the picture reflects on the lifestyle during that era, especially clothing and dressing styles.  People in white clothing used to be official coolies of the British and those in black were the non-employees.

Bank Buildings, Mall Road, Shimla

The picture shows the Town Hall building, upper floors of which were demolished later due to some architectural fault.

The Ridge, Shimla

The Town Hall building in the old  picture was constructed in 1860 by British to carry out various administrative tasks. Initially, the Gaiety Theater was also a part of the Town Hall, but upper floors of Town Hall were later damaged due to some architectural fault, therefore,  the upper floors had to be reconstructed in 1910. Clearly visible in the pictures, present structure is just faded shadow of the actual one.

Christ Church, Shimla

One of the rare pics of British Shimla, this picture shows a market in front of the church that was called the ‘Upper Bazaar’ and area below it was called the ‘Lower Bazaar’. All the shops were later gutted by a fire breakout. British authorities did not allow reconstruction, hence, now there is a wide empty space in front of the Church. That also explains why the church was constructed behind this wide space and not in the middle.

Scandal Point Shimla

The mystery behind the true story of Scandal Point continues. The most common story told about the Scandal Point was that of the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, eloping with the British Viceroy’s daughter in 1892. He was banned by the British from entering Shimla. So, he constructed a summer capital for himself at a small village called Chail. And the place of intersection of the Ridge and the Mall, where he eloped with her, came to be called as Scandal Point. However, there are no solid evidences to support this story.

Scandal Point, Shimla

The resemblance in structures shown in the old and the new picture are clearly visible and nothing much has changed. These shops either belonged to the Britishers or the wealthy personalities, who also owned shops in Connaught place, Delhi, perhaps.

The Mall, Shimla

Picture on the left belongs to late 1880s and shows the Lawries Hotel building at the end of the road. The building was gutted by a fire and the space was converted into the Rani Jhansi Park in 1937. The Lawries was one of the prime hotels of the city at that time.While, some of the shops on the left of the picture remains similar in built, some others were erected later.

Hotel Willow Bank, Shimla

Established in 1871, the Willows Banks was originally owned by Arthur James Craddock, ” the Architect and Builder of Shimla”. As a tribute to him the building was redesigned into a famous Hotel, equipped with all modern amenities and comforts.

The old hotel building now stands almost abandoned and a newer one was built adjacent to it. The road visibile on the left connected Kelvin Grove, Formerly Head Quarter of the Royal Air Force situated on the lower slope of Jakhu Hill with the main road. Kelvin Grove was built by Mr. Campbell in 1850. Initially, it used to serve as general store, and later in 1865 it housed the ‘United Bank of India’.

Town Hall, Shimla

The building, constructed in 1908 in the half-timbered Tudor style-all-wooden frames and shingled eaves, currently houses the Shimla Municipal Corporation.

Bank Building, Mall Road, Shimla

Post Office and Bank Buildings, the Mall Road, Shimla

The pictures show the post office & bank buildings. The Shimla GPO building which finds place in the first set of postal heritage buildings was established in the year 1883 and is located on the famous Mall Road here. The site was initially known as “Conny Lodge” and was purchased from one Mr Peterson in early 1880s. Mr F. Dalton was the first Postmaster of Shimla (then Simla) GPO and Mr A.K. Hazari was the first Postmaster of Indian origin after independence. The clock on the left has disappeared but conical shape of the Bank Buildings has been maintained.

Scandal Point Shimla

The place looks almost unrecognisable.

Dagshai Cemetery

Mary Delanty, daughter of Patrick Delanty, was born in 1873 and was married to George Oswald Weston on April 20, 1892 in Rawalpindi. She died on December 10, 1909.

It’s one the saddest photographs in this collection. Mary was pregnant at the time of her death, so her husband built this statue made from pure white marble. The statue was intact and was in good condition until some locals spread a rumor claiming that keeping a piece of the statue at home will help ladies conceive. As a result of it, this memorial appears nothing more than ruins. It’s really disheartening to witness such waste.

Kumarhatti-Dagshai Railway Station

There is railway station on the Kalka-Simla line at Kumar Hatti, from where Dagshai is about 1.5 kilometers uphill.

Dharampur Railway Station

The picture on the left is taken in 1910s, a few years after its construction in 1900. Amazingly, not much has changed except the buildings in the background.

Army Officer’s Quarters, Dagshai

The person in this picture is Major Sir Broderick Hartwell, at the sports day at Dagshai in 1917. Behind is the Army Officer’s Quarter Building during the times when Dagshai used to be a British cantonment. Dagshai, one of the oldest cantonment towns in the Solan district, was founded in 1847 by the East India Company by securing free of cost five villages namely, Dabbi, Badhtiala, Chunawad, Jawag and Dagshai, from Maharaja of Patiala aka Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. Now, Dagshai serves as a cantonment for Indian Army and the building hosts the Dagshai Army Public School.

Army Officer’s Quarters, Dagshai -II

The Andaman Islands may house the most popular cellular jail in India but there is a second lesser-known cellular jail in North India – Dagshai. The old picture shows the Army Officer’s Quarters Building in 1930. The soldier in this picture belonged to 5th Northumberland Fusiliers. While the architecture remains intact, the left most window can bee seen closed with bricks in the picture on the right.

All credits to the various British photographers like Samual Bourne, Underwood & Underwood Company and various other unknown photographers for black & white photographs.

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