Robert Fellowes Chisholm : Great Minds

Robert Fellowes Chisholm (1840 – 1915) was a British architect who pioneered the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture (a welcome mix of the Western and Eastern styles) mainly  in the Madras Presidency.

Chisholm was born in London  on 11 January 1840  and had his early education in the UK practicing as a talented landscape painter in London during his youth. He arrived at Calcutta and moved to Madras in 1865 when he was selected to design the Presidency Collage building. He was also appointed head of the school of industrial art. He went on to design the revenue buildings in the Chepauk Place, the University of Madras, especially the  Senate building and many others.

In later years, Chisholm also designed the Napier Museum in Trivandram,  the Lakshmi Vilas Palace  in Baroda and the Municipal Offices in Mumbai.

Chisholm designed the Nilgiri Library in 1865-67 and the Lawrence School main building in 1865-69. Together with engineer Morant, he also built the Ooty Post office, the adjacent Court complex and the Breeks Memorial school. The Oriental Buildings opposite the Collector’s office was also influenced by his designs.

Chisholm’s earliest works were basically European buildings, using as its sources classical western architecture, with minor modifications for climate and materials. His design for the Nilgiri Library was gothic style. A domed entrance pavilion is a common feature of Indo-Islamic mosques and was innovatively used by Chisholm in the Nilgiri Library. The post cum telegraph office complex was built on Gothic Revival style. The Lawrence school building was done in  ‘Italianate style with a tall campanile similar to the Osborne House of Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight’. Chisholm was appointed Consulting Architect to the Government of Madras in 1872 and served from 1872 to 1886. 

He returned to London in 1902 and designed many famous buildings. Chisholm died on 28 May 1915  at the age of 75

Nilgiri Documentation Centre

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