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Government House

Calcutta, India

This house, better described as a palace, was built between 1799 and 1803 by Marquess Wellesley. While former governor generals had been accommodated in a variety of houses, on taking up his post Wellesley was determined to occupy a house worthy of the position. As his architect he engaged an officer in the Bengal Engineers, Charles Wyatt (1759-1819); Wyatt based his design on James Paineís and Robert Adamís Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire. The original plan of Kedleston Hall, with its central block and four detached wings linked to the centre by curving corridors, allowed for good circulation of air so was an excellent choice for a tropical climate. Government House was built of brick covered in white plaster that was rewashed every year, giving it a luminous appearance that is striking in early paintings.

The house proved ideal for lavish entertaining and was popular with all but the East India Company directors in London, who were dismayed at the increasing cost of a building that had been undertaken without their consent and who were given no sight of any building plans until 1804. Perhaps in retribution, Wellesley was recalled from office the following year.

The drawing below is by the daughter of Lord Amherst, a later Governor General. In 1824 Sarah Amherst made drawings of her new home to send to her brother back in England. Of this sketch she notes:

The wing no 1 [South East] contains Papaís sitting rooms and a dressing room, which saves him the trouble of going upstairs at dinner time. Above are spare rooms for visitors. The breakfast and tiffin room is in the gallery under the circular veranda, and the same gallery upstairs serves as a ballroom when there are private parties. We dine in the large Marble Hall.

When the capital of India was moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911, the house became the residence of the Governor of Bengal.



James Baillie Fraser, A View of Government House from the Eastward, 1819. 
Coloured aquatint, engraved by R Havell Junr, plate 3 from Fraser's Views of Calcutta and its Environs (London, 1824-26). 28 x 42.5 cm
James Baillie Fraser, A View of Government House from the Eastward, 1819. Coloured aquatint, engraved by R Havell Junr, plate 3 from Fraser's Views of Calcutta and its Environs (London, 1824-26). 28 x 42.5 cm
Lady Sarah Elizabeth Amherst, South Front of Government House, 1824, after Maria Graham, 1810. 
Pen-and-sepia ink; 18 x 24.5 cm. OIOC WD 4129
Lady Sarah Elizabeth Amherst, South Front of Government House, 1824, after Maria Graham, 1810. Pen-and-sepia ink; 18 x 24.5 cm. OIOC WD 4129
Posted: 10/22/2012 (10:59:45 AM)


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