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Tollinton Market at the turn of the century (Postcard courtesy History of Pakistan’s Flickr Stream)

Located on Lahore’s famed Mall Road, Tollinton Market was one of the first buildings to be built during the British Raj and remains one of Lahore’s most well-known landmarks. It was of designed by one of the Punjab’s foremost architects, Bhai Ram Singh.

From a museum to a market… The building was constructed in 1864 to host the Punjab Exhibition which was inaugurated by Lt Governor Sir Robert Montgomery and showcased manufactured goods, antiques and paintings. Later that year, one wing of the building served as the Lahore Museum while the remainder was used as a hall for public meetings. A few decades later, probably in the late 1910s, the building was converted into a market where one could buy fresh fruit and vegetables, groceries and poultry.

A market evolves… Over the years, the number of shops in the Market increased and included ones that sold ornaments, spices, tea, books and even birds, much like Empress Market in Karachi. All this in addition to several dhaabas and restaurants. Unfortunately, although during the Raj it was known to be “spanking clean” it fell prey to neglect and disrepair and ceased to be a shopping venue for the city’s elite.

Tollinton Market in 2012 (Photo: Arif Ali/White Star)

Coming full circle… In 2006, the Market was closed down. The interior was renovated and the exterior restored, after which it was converted into a museum once again – the Lahore Heritage Museum. It comprises three halls, and so far the Museum has only been open to the public on a few occasions such as when seminars, photography and art exhibitions have been held there. Plans are underway to set up a ‘Hall of Fame’ in the Museum, where photographs of well-known residents of Lahore (ranging from  Sir Ganga Ram, Rudyard Kipling to Noor Jehan and Ustad Alah Baksh) will be displayed.

Books, clothes and more… The famous Anarkali Bazaar is located nearby which is always worth a trip thanks to the presence of a multitude of stores that deal in art supplies, electronic appliances, fabrics, handicrafts, shoes and stationery. Mall Road, for its part, attracts its fair share of visitors, mainly due to well-known bookshops including Siddique Books, Vanguard Books and Co-Opera within its periphery.

In a nutshell… Although it is a once again a Museum, this colonial structure continues to be referred to as Tollinton Market. And while much has changed since it was built, it continues to serve as a reminder of the days of the Raj.
– Syed Wajeeh-ul-Hassan Naqvi

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 23, 2012.