Living spaces Society

A naalukettu with a difference

Stanhurst is the home of Dr Mathew Iype and Dr. Elizabeth Iype   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At first glance Stanhurst appears to be a double-storey bungalow; a well-preserved specimen of one of those graceful old colonial homes that used to dot the city’s landscape. On closer inspection, though, it’s actually a single-storey naalukettu that’s built on a split-level plot of land [31 cents], on the Nanthencode-Nalanda road.

Stanhurst is home to doctor-couple Mathew and Elizabeth Iype, who have lovingly restored the bungalow to its original charm. “The bungalow is around 130 years old and is supposedly named after the Sandhurst Military Academy in England. It’s been in our possession for around 48 years now,” says Dr. Elizabeth, a former professor of gynaecology. The youngest of the couple’s three children, also named Mathew Iype, a cardiologist, and his family, live with them.

The elderly couple is holding court in the bungalow’s spacious and airy drawing room, with its polished-to-a-shine wooden floors and vaulted wooden ceiling, constructed on top of the car porch. The enclosed veranda/consultation room off the car porch has an original wooden staircase that leads up to the drawing room. There are two sets of stone steps outside that also lead to the upper level – one to the senior Dr.Mathew’s clinic and the other to the kitchen area.

“The drawing room used to have bay windows on three sides that were later enclosed with grills. During the previous owners, Mr. and Mrs. Ure’s time, this was a ballroom. The couple used to teach and host balls for members of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore and dignitaries such as Dewan C.P. Ramaswamy. All other visitors were entertained in the room downstairs,” says Dr. Elizabeth. If you look closely at the drawing room’s ceiling, you can still make out the hooks from which pankas (hand-pulled fans) used to hang. In the room’s walls are small holes, through which the ropes for the fans were thread. “Servants used to stand outside in the garden and pull the panka ropes,” she explains.

The drawing room leads into the living quarters – two large bedrooms, with attached dressing rooms and bathrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen. It opens out into a small, beautifully landscaped nadumuttam (inner courtyard), to the side of which is a small pomegranate tree bursting with fruit. “There used to be a pond in the courtyard but we had to fill it up for the safety of our (then) small grandchildren. The only thing that remains from the Ures’ garden is a bachelor’s tears shrub in the corner,” says Dr. Mathew. There are other, newly constructed rooms on the other side of the courtyard. “That section of the house, accessible via the stone steps, was once an outbuilding of sorts. Architect Laurie Baker and family rented the space for about a year. In fact, he designed some jalis for the reception area (now, part of the diagnostic clinic), which also we had to enclose,” says Dr. Mathew.

Down the years…

Stanhurst was built by a well-known contractor Govindan who also constructed several public buildings such as Napier Musuem, VJT Hall and Fine Arts College. The senior Dr. Mathew, a professor of microbiology, explains the history of the house: “Govindan contractor constructed the house for his son. However, the son married his cousin and they settled in the family home in Kunnukuzhy. The house was sold to a Mrs. Enoch, a midwife at the Women and Children’s hospital, who in turn gifted it to her daughter. The daughter, who was married to a professor in the Madras Medical College, sold it to a British gentleman, Mr. Ure, who was, I believe, the curator of the Napier Museum and a tutor to the Elaya Raja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma. Mrs. Ure, meanwhile, was an Anglo Indian and was a tutor to Karthika Tirunal. She also used to run a stitching and embroidery unit for disadvantaged women in the locality out of the house.

“Mr.Ure passed away on a trip to England. When we bought the house from Mrs. Ure, in 1967, she was in dire straits. I had treated her when she was ill and she insisted that I buy the house from her, saying that she could envision my family living here. The only caveat was that we should allow her to live here in the house until she breathed her last. Mrs. Ure died in 1972.” For a decade or so after that Dr. Elizabeth’s sister, Susan Joseph, lived in the house until the couple moved back home following their retirement from government service.

(A column on houses in and around the city that are more than 50 years old)

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 10:02:04 PM |

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