Historic Secunderabad club ravaged by fire

A major fire broke out at the 143-year-old Secunderabad Club in the early hours of Sunday. In no time, the main heritage building was completely destroyed by the flames, resulting in the loss of at least ₹25 crore. No casualties were reported.

Talk to The Hindu, a senior fire and disaster response officer said that at 3:15 a.m. they received a “fire call” from the club and four firefighters from two stations in the Secunderabad area were dispatched to the scene to put out the fire. After assessing the situation on the ground, three other firefighters from the Secretariat, Gandhi Hospital and Moula Ali were sent to the scene.

“No less than seven firefighters took more than four hours to control the flames. Further details, including the exact cause of the major accident, are yet to be determined,” the officer said. The Club’s administrative office, colonnaded bar and library were destroyed in the fire.

Club history

Known as the ‘Elite Clubs’ in the Twin Cities, it is one of the five oldest clubs in India with the oldest club being the Bengal Club of Calcutta. The club underwent two name changes before the current name of Secunderabad Club was finally chosen. The club was established on April 26, 1878 and was originally known as Secunderabad Public Rooms. It was renamed Secunderabad Garrison Club, Secunderabad Gymkhana Club and United Services Club.

Early records indicate that this club was formed by the British Army garrisons who were stationed in Secunderabad under an agreement with the 3rd Nizam – Sikandar Jah. The club was then known as the Garrison Club.

Over a period of 15 to 20 years, the British presence in Hyderabad increased and they brought in their civil officers to look after the Nizam’s railways, as well as the judicial system to administer the cantonment area.

The Nizam also requisitioned the British officers to help him implement the various electrical, water and fiscal reforms in the state. In the late 19th century, the Garrison Club’s name was changed to the United Services Club, representing members of all parts of the services. The Club was no longer a military club and served all services represented by the British.

Over time, the officers later changed the name to Secunderabad Club as it was located in Secunderabad. This name change coincided with the presentation by Salar Jung I, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad State to the resident at that time, of his hunting lodge. The Club arrived at its current location in March 1903.

The story goes that the club was located in a small dilapidated building and when the resident wished to come to the club, Salar Jung took notice and offered his hunting lodge as a suitable building to house the club where the resident could enter and spend his evening.

As a result, Secunderabad club rules mention that lineal descendants of Salar Jungs will become members of Secunderabad club without ballot paper or admission fee which is tracked till date. The Club is located in the village of Tokatta, which was the Jagir of Salar Jung.

Until 1947, there were only British presidents of the Club and a few high ranking nobles were offered membership and were members of the Secunderabad Club.

under Indian administration

India’s first president was Major General El Edross who was in the army of Hyderabad. After the Indian Armed Forces invaded Hyderabad in September 1948, General Choudary, Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, became the President of the Club for a few months. Immediately after, the club passed into Indian hands and Mirza Najaf Alikhan, an ICS officer, was elected club president in 1948 and later became receiver of Salar Jung’s estate when Salar Jung III died in 1950.

The club formerly had the Bollarum golf course and a sailing club as annexes to the main club which was nearly 21 acres (85,000 m2). The Golf Club was eventually taken over by the military in 1983 after the lease period expired. The Hyderabad Sailing Week organized every July puts the Club at the center of its concerns to support the city’s tryst with sailing.

Club membership is extremely difficult to obtain these days. The Club has slowed the granting of new memberships due to a large number of members. Memberships are passed down through generations by members, as are family heirlooms.

And for new applicants, the current waiting list is at least 15 years, a source said.

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