Civil Secretariat

The Civil Secretariat, located in the Anarkali area, can be said to be the earliest extant British building in Lahore. Around a core dating to the Sikh Period, the building was extended, incorporating modest classical architectural elements to portray the British aspirations of the time.

Originally built by Jean Baptiste Ventura, a general in Ranjit Singh's army, the building was known as 'Anarkali House', and was built in close proximity to Anarkali's sepulcher situated in a garden known as Anarkali Garden. The house was acquired by the British on payment of Rs. 2,000 against Ventura's demand of Rs. 10,000.

In 1831, the traveler Jacque Mont found Ventura and Jean Francois Allard, the other French adventurer who had been awarded the rank of general by Ranjit Singh, sharing the house. Built on the ruins of a Mughal palace, the "half European and half Persian" house had been magnificently decorated with Persian and Kashmiri rugs "of great beauty" strewn on the floors. Jacque Mont had found the "large Mughal tomb" of Anarkali occupied by Ventura's wife. The traveler Baron Hugel of Travels in Kashmir fame, who visited Lahore in 1836, informed that: "General Ventura's house, built by himself, though of no great size combines the splendor of the east with the comforts of European residence."

Although the Punjab Gazetteer of 1916 dates the erection of this building to 1845, a plaque installed in 1917 records: "Jean Baptiste Ventura, General in the service of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh erected this building in its original form, and lived in it for many years. It became the British Residency in 1847 and was occupied by Henry Lawrence and John Lawrence as Resident at the Court of Lahore, and after the annexation of the Punjab, as Member of the Board of Administration."

The main attraction of this modest linear structure lies in the deep front verandah carried on simple Doric columns, the whole unified by a parapet of cornices. An interesting feature is the central curved portion, accented by the utilization of double Doric columns. Honoria, daughter of Henry Lawrence, confirms that the verandah was built as part of the extended house, when it was also re-named 'Alhenho' after her siblings ALeck, HENry and HOnoria.

As the British resident, Henry had lived in great style, with many outhouses for assistants. There were stables, along with a company and a half of the infantry and scores of sawars, while the enormous grounds were enclosed with a high mud wall to make the estate secure.

From 1871 onwards, it became the Secretariat of the Government of the Punjab. Today, although the front lawn is maintained, subsequent changes have altered the surrounding area. It is fortunate that proposals for shifting and reconstruction did not bear fruit, and the building itself continues to function as the office of the Chief Secretary of the Punjab.

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