Lawrence and Montgomery Halls

Bagh-e-Jinnah's enormous grounds provide a befitting setting for the neo-classical Lawrence and Montgomery Halls, now refurbished and being utilized as the Quaid-e-Azam Library.

The halls were built in memory of John Laird Mair Lawrence, first Chief Commissioner and Lt. Governor of the Punjab (1853-59) and subsequently Viceroy and Governor General of India, and Robert Montgomery, second Lt. Governor of the Punjab (1859-65).Lawrence and Montgomery Halls

Lawrence Hall, the first building fronting the Mall, was built in 1861-62 as a tribute to Lawrence's critical role in ensuring a regular supply of troops from the Punjab to Delhi during the First War of Independence in 1857. The design, prepared by G. Stone, was referred to as 'frigidly classical' by Kipling. That neo-classical expression was chosen at this time was not surprising. The First War of Independence, had shaken the very foundations of the British East India Company, and it was imperative to re-establish a position of power and authority through the use of classical orders, an architectural vocabulary which had earlier been successfully employed elsewhere in the subcontinent by the Kumpany Bahadur to portray its might.

The second building at the rear of Lawrence Hall is Montgomery Hall, facing the central avenue of the sprawling Lawrence Gardens (now Bagh-e-Jinnah). It was built in 1866 at the initial cost of Rs. 108,000, contributed by the Punjab Chiefs and leading Lahore citizens. The conformity of style with the earlier building was ensured by G. Stone who, in order to present a single unified whole, linked the space between the two halls by a covered corridor.

The ensemble sits as an elegant edifice set off by the sprawling green of its grounds. Its classically detailed pediment porticoes are supported on simple Doric columns, and window openings are surmounted by triangular or semi-circular pediments.

Lawrence Hall, with a hall size of 65' x 32.5', cost Rs. 34,000. It was used for public meetings and theatrical entertainment, and to all intents and purposes was Lahore's town hall until the construction of Jubilee Town Hall; while Montgomery Hall, 106' x 46', originally constructed at a cost of 108,000, had to be refurbished at a cost of Rs. 66,000. It was re-roofed and a 'splendid teak floor for drinking and dancing' was laid in time for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876.

These halls became the centre of festivities for the rulers, particularly during the Christmas and winter months. Christy Minstrels and Professor Williams' endeavors in music, songs and dances made for a 'brighter Lahore', while the group of dwarfs of General and Mrs. Tomb Thumb, Minnie Warren and Commodore Nutt, along with the Star company performed all kinds of conjuring feats. The two-storey edifice, which had been used as Lahore Institute and Lahore Gymkhana Club during the late 1980s, was adapted for re-use as a splendid libraryŚnow the Quaid-e-Azam Library. This grand building is worth a visit to enjoy its well kept interiors and the grand collection of books that it houses.

*Photo courtesy of Syed Yasir Usman.

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