Henry Irwin (1841-1922), architect
Henry Irwin was born in 1841 in Tarbett, County Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland. He entered into the Office Survey of Coastguard Buildings, Department of Public Works, went to Ceylon and later to India.
While in Pachmari, Henry designed Christ Church of which he was a parishioner. Vikram Bhatt quotes from "The Church Records" and an interview with Father Benjamin Lal. He describes the church as a "small, but beautifully crafted edifice. Its red and gold sandstone (native to the region) and a stunning set of stained glass windows give a unique glow to the interior."
The Indian Engineering, a Calcutta periodical of the times, carried the following note in its issue of October, 1888: "...Mr. Henry Irwin, C.I.E., is transferred to Allahabad ... It is now seven and a half years since Mr. Irwin came to Simla, to build the public offices. Since then he has designed and superintended the building of the Army Headquarters; the P.W.D. Secretariat; the Post and Telegraph Offices; the Foreign Office and the Rippon Hospital ... His crowning work in Simla is the Viceregal Lodge, a handsome stone building of the Elizabethan style, which he saw completed during the summer of the present year. Worth mentioning are also Railway Board Building and Town Hall.”
In 1888 he was appointed Consulting Architect to the Madras Government and designed the Bank of Madras Headquarters, now occupied by the State Bank of India.
His most famous design remains the Maharaja’s palace in Mysore. The original palace in Mysore was of wooden construction and was burnt down by a disastrous fire in February 1897, probably started at the closing function of the marriage of Princess Jayalakshmammanniyavaru. The Maharani, then Regent, decided to build a new palace on the model and on the foundations of the old one. This was to reflect the grandeur of the old Mysore Palace. Henry Irwin, who had by that point recently retired as Consulting Architect of the Government of Madras received the contract and his plans were approved. The speed with which he drew them up can be appreciated by the fact that construction was inaugurated in October 1897 by Her Highness, the Maharani - only eight months after the fire, though not completed until 1912.
Horses were an important part of the Irwin family life. Henry was an inveterate punter at the horse races.