About Fairlawn

Most of the guests who stay at Fairlawn are intrigued with it's past. The building has been shaped by the hands and minds of generations of families whose memories and influences have contributed to the unique character of the old place.

Since 1783 Fairlawn has stood on the junction of Madge Lane and Sudder Street, the heart of the most cosmopolitan and vibrant area of the city and within two minutes walk from the famous New Market area. ("New" meaning over 100 years old, compared to Fairlawn, a whippersnapper of a building) About the same distance away, past the Indian Museum, is the Park St Metro station, Park St itself is just beyond.

The Hotel is defined by its idiosyncrasies. Should you need the impersonal semi perfection of a large chain, it exists elsewhere in the city. However, for a stay that you will cherish as much as your trip to India, this is the only place for you. Colonial charm and décor and a potpourri of styles ranging from it's past, combined with modern facilities and home comforts mark; the place as unique. Sitting in the lush greenery of the garden or on the terraces, one can easily drift off to any period in the last 200 years, the props are all around you, and they are the real thing too.

Jennifer Fowler is the third generation of her family to own the hotel. She inherited it on the death of her vibrant mother Vi Smith and she in-turn inherited it from her hardworking Mother Rosie Sarkies. Each one of these ladies has put a personal stamp on the Hotel itself and their personal touch is very noticeable in the running of the place. Many of the staff have been here for decades and have introduced their sons into the system. This gives Fairlawn a feeling of family comfort, and charm.

Violet Smith:

Deceased aged 94, 20th September 2014


Book Us On Yatra Award 2016

Fairlawn Hotel has been chosen for Yatra 'Book Us On Yatra' Award 2016!

Sixth National Award for excellence in Tourism.

The only unit in Eastern India to receive such an award. 2001-2002

Green Hoteliers Award

American Express TRS / the International Hotels Association, with International Hotels Environment Initiative, for its efforts to improve environmental performance.

Our History

The building has existed on this site Since 1783, and was built by an European Mr William Ford who purchased the land from Sheikh Ramjan and Bhonay on the 27th May 1781. The street was originally named after Ford, however, the current name was adopted many years later when a Sadar Court (pronounced Sudder) was built. A sadar court is a local court of appeal.

The building was constructed shortly after the land was purchased and this we know from the deeds which state that a "Pukka" building had been built by Mr Ford, when the property passed into the hands of Mr George Chisholm. The word Pukka (proper) denotes that it was built of brick, Bengalis were only allowed, by the ruling Nawabs, to build from coconut palm and mud, with his specific and costly permission.

Since then, the possession of the building has followed the following succession;

  • 1801 - 1812 Mr George Chisholm (died in residence)
  • 1812 - 1840 Captain Sir James Mount and Sir George Mount.  
  • 1840 - 1873 The Chisholm family.
  • 1873 - 1900 Sir David Ezra.
  • 1900 - 1936 Miss Clarke and Miss Barrett.
  • 1936 - 1962 Mrs Rosie Sarkies.
  • 1962 - Mr Ted and Mrs Violet Smith (nee Sarkies & Mrs Jennifer Fowler). 
  • 1969 - Mr Ted and Violet Smith (nee Sarkies)
  • 1997 - Mrs Violet Smith & Mrs Jennifer Fowler.
  • 2005 - Mrs. Jennifer Ann Fowler

Not much is known about the Chisholms, however, the Mounts were a sea faring family, allegedly involved in smuggling opium and textiles into and from China. Many of Britain's earls and viscounts can trace their beginnings to these types of people of the empire. Job (pronounced Jobe) Charnock once said that "it will always be possible for a man to make his fortune in Calcutta" and many did. During the Second World War it was requisitioned for Canadian airforce personnel and for two years was known as "Canada House". Melvyn Douglas, then an airforce major, occupied the family quarters during this time.

Amongst our longest staying guests were the Kendal (Bragg) family, (mother and father of the famous British actress Felicity) who stayed here of and on for nearly 30 years. (Felicity left when she was 18) They were a traditional theatrical family and earned their living by touring Shakespeare around Indian schools. They would sometimes actually put on plays upstairs in the lounge here at Fairlawn. Their eldest daughter Jennifer married one of India's most famous and outrageously handsome actors, Shashi Kapoor. They had their honeymoon here at the hotel.

A big (in every way) star who stayed here during the 1950's was the then famous professional wrestler, "King Kong" this giant of a man, broke beds and chairs all over the hotel and consumed enough food for a small army. Amongst the many literary figures who return to the Fairlawn often is one of the worlds most respected travel writers, the late Eric Newby and his wife Wanda. Other famous guests and visitors include 

  • Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory
  • Tom Stoppard
  • Patrick Swayze and the cast of The City of Joy, the Fairlawn is featured in the film.
  • Tirtio Terzani and family. (His son has his wedding here in 1997)
  • Julie Christie
  •  Sting
  • Dominique Lapierre and his wife Dominique.
  • Clive Anderson
  • The late Norman Hutchinson (Royal Artist) and Gloria his wife.
  • Julian Barrow (Landscape artist)
  • Dan Cruikshank
  • Ian Hislop
  • Gunthur Grass
  • Felicity Kendal
  • Michael Palin

Many others have also stayed with us, however, they treat the place as an escape and therefore we do not compromise their privacy. Our Hotel has received Six National Awards for outstanding performance from the Ministry of Tourism, of which we are justifiably proud.

 In 1994, the sole proprietary concern was converted into a private limited company with Ted and Violet as directors. Sadly, Ted died at the age of 83 years in November 2002. Vi Smith also died in September 2014 at the age of 93. She is much Missed by her many friends and "toyboys" Now the Smiths' daughter Mrs. Jennifer Fowler is the M.D. and she and her husband John come to Kolkata for several months of the year to see the smooth running of the hotel. Their family also visit regularly. So the show goes on......