Historic Secunderabad Club gutted in fire

The Club was established on April 26, 1878

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

Speaking to The Hindu, a senior officer of the Disaster Response and Fire Services said that at 3.15 a.m., they got a ‘fire call’ from the Club and four fire tenders from two stations in the Secunderabad area were rushed to the spot to douse off the fire. After assessing the ground situation, three more fire tenders from Secretariat, Gandhi Hospital and Moula Ali were sent to the spot.

“As many as seven fire tenders took more than four hours to control the flames. More details, including the exact cause for the major accident, are yet to be ascertained,” the officer said. Administration office, colonnade bar, and library, at the Club have been destroyed in the fire.

History of the club

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

The earliest records state that this Club was formed by the British Army Garrisons that 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 civilian 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 set up the electrical, waterworks and various revenue reforms in the State. During the late 19th century, the name of the Garrison Club was changed to United Services Club, representing the membership from all parts of the services. The Club was no longer an army club and served all the services represented by the British.

As time went by, the officers later changed the name to Secunderabad Club since it was situated in Secunderabad. This name change coincided with the presentation by Salar Jung I, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad State to the Resident at that point of time, of his hunting lodge. The Club came to its current location in March 1903.

The story goes that the Club was situated in a small run-down building and when the Resident desired to come to the Club, Salar Jung got to know of it and offered his hunting lodge as a fitting building to house the Club where the Resident could come in and spend his evening.

Accordingly, the rules of the Secunderabad Club mention that the Salar Jungs lineal descendants will be made members of Secunderabad Club without ballot or admission fee which is followed to this day. The Club is situated in the Tokatta village, which was Salar Jung’s Jagir.

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

Under Indian administration

The First Indian president was Major General El Edross who was in the Hyderabad Army. After the Indian Armed Forces overran Hyderabad in September 1948, General Choudary, commander of the Indian Armed Forces, became the president of the Club for a few months. Immediately thereafter the Club went into the Indian hands and Mirza Najaf Alikhan, an ICS officer, was elected as the president of the Club in 1948 and then became the receiver of the Salar Jung estate when Salar Jung III died in 1950.

The Club used to have Bollarum Golf Course and a Sailing Club as Annexes to the Main Club which was nearly 21 acres (85,000 m2) in area. The Golf Club was eventually taken over by the army in 1983 after the expiry of the lease period. The Hyderabad Sailing Week organised every July throws the Club into sharp focus for supporting the city’s tryst with sailing.

Membership to the Club is extremely difficult to get these days. 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.

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

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