Aitchison College

Adjoining the grounds of Administrative Staff College and a little further south on the Upper Mall Road is the entrance to a most remarkable cluster of buildings—the grand estate of Aitchison College. The premier school of the province, it is a veritable treasure trove of historic buildings, housing some of the finest Anglo-Mughal buildings that Lahore has to offer.

Aitchison College was established by the British as an elite institution with the objective of educating "the relatives of the Ruling Chiefs of the Punjab, youths of good family, and the minors under the guardianship of the Court of Wards." Also known as Punjab Chiefs College, its nucleus consisted of the students of Wards' School at Umballa (now in the Indian Punjab).

The site was selected with great care within a prestigious district located east of Government House (now the Punjab Governor's House). Being positioned midway between "Civil [Anarkali] and Military Stations [Mian Mir Cantonment]" the placement permitted the students to attend with ease all government functions, whether the garden parties of the Lieut. Governor or the military functions in the Cantonment.

The foundation stone of the residential college, named after Lieut. Governor Charles Aitchison, was laid on 3rd November 1886, "in the presence of a very large and representative assemblage, European and Native, including the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, the Countess of Dufferin, Sir Charles Aitchison, the Lieut. Governor of the Province and many of the Ruling Chiefs of the Province."

The campus, set up in 150 acres, was irrigated by an abundant supply of canal water. The earliest buildings consisted of the main college building, three boarding houses for 100 boys, and a house for the principal, and completed at a cost of Rs. 550,000. There appeared no lack of funds for construction activities due to liberal contributions by "Native Chiefs of the Province, supplemented by grants from Provincial Funds, and a contribution from the Imperial revenues."

Some of the boarding quarters were completed in 1888, as was the residence of the principal (then titled governor), General Black, while the college building, consisting of class rooms, library, reading room, laboratory, play room, theatre or speech room and office rooms, was completed a year later. Subsequently, a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Sikh gurdwara were also constructed.

Outdoor games, such as cricket, football, hockey, tennis, riding and tent pegging and athletic sports have been compulsory for students at the college, and before partition of the subcontinent, considerable excitement was created by the annual competition held with students of Mayo College, Ajmer, a sister institution established on parallel lines.

The college prided itself on its exclusivity and even thirty years later (in 1915) the average student numbers (including day students) was just a little over 100.

Without doubt the pride of the campus is the original college building—now referred to as the principal's office. It was designed in Anglo-Mughal style by integrating a ground plan developed by Colonel Swinton Jacob and architectural expression devised by Lockwood Kipling and Bhai Ram Singh, all three being strong proponents of this style—Swinton Jacob of Jaipur Museum fame having recently designed Sandeman Hall in Quetta, while Kipling had designed Mayo School of Art and would later design the Lahore Museum.

The building with its facing of mellowed brickwork presents an extraordinary and exciting ensemble: its cluster of brick domes and cupolas, corner chattris (kiosks) and deep chajjas over openings its refined air achieved through intricate and fine detailing, and terracotta tracery. The selective employment of carved marble elements and tracery allow you to marvel at the superb skill of the local craftsmen. Buildings of the same vintage—the principal's bungalow, the similarly treated structures of Leslie Jones House, Kelly House & Godley House, and also Bahawalpur House, the science laboratory and the three places of worship, a mosque, a mandir, and a Sikh gurdwara—are generously spread out in sprawling grounds shaded by mature banyan trees. The campus exudes a magic entirely of its own, transporting the visitor to another, by gone era. Since Independence, several additions have been made to its architectural repertoire as contributions from old students, belonging to the most prosperous and influential section of the city. Although still largely consisting of the elite, the student body today is much diversified, since doors have been opened to other not so fortunate, but bright students.

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