It is believed that London’s Kew Gardens were the inspiration for the Lawrence Gardens and records suggest that that a leading gardener from London was brought to Lahore to oversee the work of local malis and create a unique setting that has indeed retained its appeal over time. The Lawrence Gardens were meant to refresh in the minds of sahibs and memsahibs the memory of the subliminal Kew atmosphere. In later years, the Kew Gardens have retained their importance: they were added to the list of World Heritage sites in 2003, in recognition of the historical landscapes and outstanding buildings as well as the research carried out there.
Lahoris owe a debt of gratitude to Majid Sheikh, the brilliant chronicler of Lahore, who keeps reminding us of Lahore’s links to the bygone eras. I have always been amazed at his ability to research and regularly present fresh perspectives on the city in a leading daily newspaper. According to Mr Sheikh, the daughter of Lahore’s Commissioner, Miss Forsyth, planted the first tree in 1860. She lived and died in Lahore.
The Lahore Gymkhana originated in the Lawrence Gardens, where a hall designed by chief engineer Mr G Stone was built. Clubs became integral to the lifestyle of the British as private retreats; over the decades, these clubs acquired a subculture of their own. Exclusion and selectivity prevailed even in the nineteenth century, when the soldiers and non-commissioned officers were not allowed access. Natives, of course, were excluded until the twentieth century and in some cases, until all the sahibs left for their humble lives ‘back home.’
“While the British forces were camped on the grounds of the Lawrence Gardens, the memsahibs and their staff invented the famous ‘club sandwich.’ Memsahibs ordered the minions to layer ingredients between slices of bread.”