Homes and gardens

This building once overlooked Cubbon Park

The bay window, projecting window, ventilator and rose window.

The bay window, projecting window, ventilator and rose window.   | Photo Credit: Apoorva Bhargava & Meera Iyer

‘Beaulieu’ built in the 1860s by George Lancelot William Ricketts was nestled in nature. By Meera Iyer

The Bard had said ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’Likewise, the building named ‘Beaulieu,’ meaning ‘beautiful place’, would be as nice were it named something else.

‘Beaulieu’ was built by George Lancelot William Ricketts in the late 1860s. Lancelot Ricketts (as he was known) was born in Bengaluru in 1831 to an army captain who traced his ancestry to Hampshire in England. A man of many parts, he served in the government of the Maharaja as judge in the Court of Small Causes, Deputy Commissioner, the first Inspector General of Police in Mysore State, Inspector General of Forests and Plantations, and founder-editor of the Mysore Gazette, to name a few.

Did Ricketts name his house after the grand 13th century pile in Hampshire called the Beaulieu Palace House? Perhaps, but the fact that successive owners of the house have retained that name underscores the fact that it is entirely apt for this heritage building.

When Ricketts built ‘Beaulieu’, it was on a plot of more than 24 acres, which included wells, stables, a pond, and outhouses. Ricketts’s passion for plants and trees meant that the grounds served as an experimental farm where he grew rice, potatoes and cotton, reared sheep, and of course planted trees. His passion for trees seems to have rubbed off on his second son, George, who also served as a Conservator of Forests in Mysore State.

Striking presence

Today, the vast grounds have shrunk, the pond and wells are gone and we enter the premises from Palace Road rather than from the original entrance on the east which once overlooked Cubbon Park. But the building itself has retained much of its old grandeur. The combination of sloping roofs and flat roofs with decorative parapets at different levels is quite striking.

The most distinctive features are the two bay windows on the ground floor. Directly above them on the first floor are projecting windows with small embellished brackets and slender cast iron colonettes. Just for variety, projecting windows along the building’s side have pediments instead of flat hoods. The verandah along the front, defined by flat arches springing from twin-columns, has at some point been covered into a closed corridor.

An entrance porch reminds us of how carriages once clattered up the sweeping driveway. Inside is a corridor-like room leading into two large halls on either side of it, both with high ceilings that we typically associate with old bungalows.

If the building looks somewhat plain, it is because some of its more ornate features have been lost. Photographs from the 1990s show barge boards with some incredibly ornamental, unusual fretwork instead of the monkey tops that became popular a few decades after ‘Beaulieu’ was built. Also missing are the decorative ridge tiles along the roof tops. But other little details emerge when you linger, such as the dentilled cornices, the circular windows in the gables, and the mouldings above the rectangular ventilators.

In 1900, Lancelot Ricketts sold ‘Beaulieu’ (much against his wife’s wishes) to the Mysore royal family who bought it for Princess Jayalakshmammanni, eldest daughter of Chamaraja Wodeyar X. In the throes of World War II, ‘Beaulieu’ was even briefly occupied by the army, as Leelavathi, daughter of Jayalakshmammanni, gave the house rent-free for the use of the military. In later years, portions of the grounds were sold to government and other entities and the house itself changed hands. Today, ‘Beaulieu’ is the office of the Chief Postmaster General, Karnataka Circle. INTACH is currently working on the conservation and restoration of a portion of this heritage building.

(The author is Convenor, INTACH-Bangalore Chapter, and a researcher)

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 6:01:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/this-building-once-overlooked-cubbon-park/article28099183.ece

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