MURREE: The resort city of Murree has a number of historical buildings constructed by British rulers of the subcontinent.
These include churches and chapels located at various places in Murree such as the Holy Trinty Church on the Mall Road.
After defeating the Sikh dynasty, when the British took control of Punjab and adjoining areas of Hazara and Kashmir, they laid the foundation of modern Murree by constructing the grand Holy Trinity Church in the middle of the city.
Before the advent of British rulers, this place was known as Mussiarri, owned by the local Dhoondh (Abbasi) tribe.
Historians believe that the grave of Mary was located at Pindi point which is one of the reasons the British chose Murree as their place of residence, although this notion has never been backed by facts.
Another reason was because the climate of Murree is similar to that of Britain’s. Initially, it was established as a residential colony for the British military and civilian officials.
Military cantonments were established at Gharrial, 12 Division Headquarters at Kuldanna, Barrian, Upper and Lower Topa and Clifton Camp. After the creation of Pakistan, these cantonments were taken over by Pakistan Army while Lower Topa Cantonment is under Pakistan Air Force today.
The British also established churches and schools for the children of their officers but in 1880 due to the outbreak of diarrhoea most of these offices were shifted to Shimla as it was near the capital Delhi and a vast hill station.
The construction of Holy Trinity Church began in 1850 and after its completion in 1857, the first religious service was performed in the city.
The church, even after more than 150 years is in superb condition and bears testament to the impressive standard of British architecture.
Various British viceroys to India, including Lord Mountbatten, used to offer prayers in this church.
In 1997 when Queen Elizabeth came to Pakistan she also visited this church and took part in the prayer service. Presently, diplomats of various countries based in Islamabad offer prayers in the church whenever they visit Murree.
The church has a seating capacity of 400 people. Now the church is under the Bishop of Lahore who runs its administration and appoints the priest.
In the past, a large number of people used to offer prayers in the church but now only 60 to 70 people belonging to the Christian community of Murree visit, the in charge priest Shakir Naeem told Dawn.
He said regular Sunday prayers are held at the church and dozens of local Christians and tourists participate.
Kenaan Park adjacent to the church was developed on modern style and televisions were installed in the park on the direction of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after he met the local Christian community.
The church administration gave the land of Kenaan Park to the Town Municipal Administration (TMA) for its development but due to negligence, vendors encroached the land.
Three British era graveyards are also located at Motor Agency, Ahatta Noor Khan and Gharrial.
The administration of Holy Trinity Church also looks after the graveyards. Many British soldiers who died during clashes with the local Dhoondh tribe in the War of Independence 1857 were buried here.
The Old Garrison Church and School is located at Gharrial camp on Bhurbhan Road about seven kilometres from Murree city.
This was established in the 1860s for military officers posted to the suburbs of Murree.
In 1958, this church was converted into a residential school and now children of diplomats from various countries are studying here. A playground was also constructed outside the church for the British army men.
Saint Margaret Church is located near 12 Military Divisional Headquarters which is affiliated with the Church of England.
A catholic church established in 1924 is also located at Kashmir Point.
Two other chapels were also established in Murree, one on the premises of Lawrence College, Ghorra Gali and another was founded at Saint Danny’s school at Kashmir Point.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020