HYDERABAD: The fire mishap which gutted a major portion of the historic Secunderabad Club in the wee hours of Sunday also engulfed the priceless artefacts which were the pride and heritage of the club.
What used to catch the attention of visitors entering the club house were the wooden panels on the Colonnade wall. Decorating the panel was the largest Regimental Coat-of-Arms in the country. Those were the regimental shields representing the troops associated with the Secunderabad Cantonment over the decades. All that power and pride went up in flames along with the wooden panels built on the walls and also around the pillars of the Colonnade.
A snooker table dating back to 1892 and two other sister tables, which were added later, were considered the ‘gems’ of the snooker and billiards room. The century-old billiard balls were still in good shape, though somewhat faded.
There was a wooden staircase which led to the ballroom situated above the billiards room. The wooden staircase was supported by an 18.6-foot-long single wooden pillar, which used to hold a 28-foot-long wooden support beam which used to run across the entire stairway leading to the ballroom. Both the pillar and the support beam were made of a single piece of wood. The entire staircase, along with the iconic pillar and the support beam were destroyed in the mishap.
Antique furniture, wooden floor, wall panels and ceilings which used to give a hill station like look to the club were also burnt down. Fortunately though, due to open spaces left between various sections of the club, the fire couldn’t spread to a wider area. Though much of the heritage structure was damaged, the stone bricks used to construct the building were still intact, leaving a scope for its restoration.
The club which was established in 1878 during the British Raj, used to have the highest flag pole in the city. Mir Turab Ali Khan, Salar Jung I, who served as the prime minister of the Nizam, used to stay here during his hunting trips.
Restore building, demand members
Dr P Anuradha Reddy, chairperson of INTACH Hyderabad Chapter, who has been a member of the club, expressed shock over the incident and stated that INTACH would fully support in any restoration effort taken up to bring the heritage building to its past glory.
M Vedakumar, chairman of Deccan Heritage Trust, requested the management committee of the club to restore the heritage building and to immediately save the trees which were affected by the fire.
Arvind Kumar, Special Chief Secretary, MAUD Department, has asked the Director-General of Fire Services to ascertain whether there were appropriate fire protection measures in place and whether a fire no-objection certificate was obtained from authority concerned and if a fire safety audit was in place.
Got ‘heritage’ tag in 2017
INTACH and HUDA had jointly awarded Secunderabad Club the ‘Heritage Award’ in 1999 because of its antique collections, heritage structures and well-preserved artefacts on the club’s premises. The club was given the ‘heritage-protected’ status by the HUDA in 2017.
Waiting time of 19 years to be a member
Securing the membership of Secunderabad Club has not come easy for many of its privileged members. Though anybody can apply for a membership if they meet the criteria, the present waiting period stands at 19 years. The club has slowed down on granting new memberships due to a large member base. Memberships are bequeathed across generations by the members, much like family heirlooms. The club remains closed for members till further notice
‘Much favoured’ bar also gutted
The fire damaged offices and other facilities in three floors and it also gutted down the bar located in the ground floor of the building. The staircase connecting the ground and first floors, reportedly carved out of a single piece of wood, also reduced to ashes. The billiards area and other indoor sports areas in the first floor were also burnt down. Imported furniture made of teakwood were also destroyed in the fire
Difficult to find origin of fire
Since it is a wooden structure, the origin and the exact cause of fire at the historic club is difficult to ascertain, said fire officials. Usually, the origin of fire can be found immediately and the cause can also be found during the probe. Officials say seven fire tenders, two each from two fire stations at Paradise, Secunderabad, one each from Gandhi Hospital, Moula Ali and Secretariat were rushed to the spot
Many amenities for the members
The club has several popular sports facilities, including a cricket ground and a swimming pool functioning around the year. It has five-star accommodation that includes heritage suites. It has well-laid out and air-conditioned bars, dining halls, banquet halls as well as several lawns for large gatherings and parties. The club also has several sports facilities for members including a gymnasium, tennis, basketball and squash courts and swimming pool