Metcalfe House is a name given to two residential Mansions with one situated on the left of the main Dr. K. B. Hedgewar Marg or Road below the Ridge near Civil Lines in Old Delhi with Kashmiri Gate Metro Station as the nearest Metro Link and the other is situated in Mehrauli Complex in South Delhi accessible via local taxis and auto rickshaws. They were built in the 19th Century by Sir Thomas Metcalfe who was the 4th Baronet, a Civil Servant and the last British resident and Agent of the British Governor General at the Court of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar II.
The first Metcalfe House located near Civil Lines was built in 1835 and called as the ‘Town house’ initially where Sir Metcalfe lived up till his mysterious demise in 1853, known to have maybe been poisoned by Zeenat Mahal, wife of Emperor Zafar II. It was constructed in the Old traditional British colonial style but got damaged during the 1857 Uprising but was later repaired and inherited by his son, Sir Theophilus Metcalfe. It lies very close to the Yamuna River on Metcalfe Road now renamed as the Mahatma Gandhi Marg or Road.
Metcalfe also named his Mansion as ‘Jahan Numa’ which means ‘Showing to the World’ and took great pride in his inheritance built as a massive double storied palatial Indo-European Style Mansion encircled with wide verandas supported by beautiful stone columns, High Ceilings, small windows imitating the Red Fort Palace ventilators or Khirki and exquisite architecture of the front of the House surrounded with beautifully manicured gardens and walkways fringed with Cypress Trees, Orange orchards and Flowers including a Swimming Pool. It had an underground Billiards Room and other tykhanas or rooms used mainly during summers for resting and seeking respite from the hot weather. His Library hosted over 25,000 books and the relics of Napoleon were proudly displayed in the Napoleon gallery along with exquisite Georgian furniture made of rosewood and beautiful canvas oil paintings.
The labourers who built the Metcalfe Mansion often called this House the ‘Matka Kothi’ where ‘Matka’ was short for ‘Metcalfe’ and ‘Kothi’ means ‘House’ as they could not pronounce the name. During the eve of Christmas in 1895, an Englishman was murdered under mysterious circumstances in the anteroom and immediately after; a fire broke out and destroyed most of the testimonials, books and paintings of Metcalfe. In 1913, the house was renovated with arches built in the Gothic style. Even, today this mysterious incident still attracts curious minds and is still unknown and probably buried with Sir Metcalfe or the Culprit himself.
After several inheritances, the Government of India acquired the Metcalfe Mansion and converted it into a highly secured residence and official complex of the Defence establishments. It is close for public visits and photography is strictly prohibited, however, you can get an exterior view of the Mansion.
The other or second Metcalfe House located within the Mehrauli Complex in South Delhi was named by Sir Metcalfe as ‘Dil-khush’ where ‘Dil’ means ‘Heart’ and ‘Khush’ means ‘Delight’ and hence meaning ‘Delight of the Heart’ and also called as ‘The Retreat’ in English. It was initially the 16th Century Tomb of Muhammed Quli Khan who was Adam Khan’s brother, a General and foster brother of Mughal Emperor Akbar and later acquired and remodelled by Sir Metcalfe as a country house retreat in the Colonial and English style surrounded with manicured gardens and numerous rest houses designed extravagantly and other Staff quarters and Stables. It had many water streams that led to a Tank dated back to the Lodhi dynasty and later renovated by Metcalfe for Swimming and boating purposes. The Boathouse has steps leading directly to the Mansion.
The Metcalfe Mansion was also leased to many couples on Honeymoon vacations as it provided a panoramic view of the Qutub Minar and the other historical structures surrounding it. Today, this mansion is seen partially in ruins and is enclosed within the recently developed Archaeological Park maintained by ASI within the Qutub Complex and deemed as a protected Heritage site and welcomed for all tourists to visit at a decent entry fee. Recent restoration work on this Site also revealed remains of several Hindu Temples probably dating centuries ago and may have been demolished by the Mughals to build the initial Tomb of Muhammed Quli Khan.