Chapslee is a slice of Shimla history, furnished with family heirlooms and curtains from the Doge’s Palace in Venice…
Welcome to Chapslee, my historic Shimla home that dates back to the British raj era. Set on a hill in the heart of town, the house was originally built by a doctor from the East India Company in 1838. The property went through many more owners including General Innes who named it Chapslee; no-one knows exactly why but it could have been after his house in Scotland – the name stuck. In 1938, when it was all the rage for royals to own homes in Shimla, my husband’s grandfather, the Raja Charanjit Singh, bought Chapslee and it’s been in our family ever since.
Chapslee is a slice of Shimla history, furnished with family heirlooms and curtains from the Doge’s Palace in Venice, original Burmese teak ceilings and antique furniture, Flemish tapestries and a display of armoury from Punjab that’s over 300 years old. My husband Reggie passed away several years ago but Chapslee was his baby, he opened it to guests because he wanted to showcase the era he grew up in. We kept the building exactly as it was, preserving the typical hajji architectural style of the region. The walls are three feet thick with wooden beams packed with pine needles and mud – all our modern plumbing and electricity had to be built externally.
There are just five guest rooms and each has a story to tell. In the drawing room, the declaration of the war against Afghanistan was signed on 1st October 1838 and later, the peace treaty in 1842. Then there’s the deluxe suite, which once belonged to Naina Devi, a famous singer and icon of women’s empowerment in independent India. The luxury suite was Charanjit Singh’s room, who hosted gourmet meals at Chapslee with dignitaries and viceroys. We still serve those traditional royal Indian recipes today, combined with British colonial-era favourites like bread and butter pudding.
Chapslee stands out as a heritage property not just in Shimla but the whole of India because it’s been preserved in its original state, from the architecture to the family heirlooms – you could never recreate Chapslee. Guests need to appreciate our old-world charm; the property is nearly 200 years old and definitely has its quirks! However, you’ll get a warm welcome, I love hosting guests and keeping our family history alive.