Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Residency, Lucknow

“If we succeed in sweeping them all away, or absorbing them, we shall be at the mercy of our native army, and they will see it; and accidents may possibly occur to unite them, or a great portion of them, in some desperate act…the best provision against it seems to me to be the maintenance of native rulers, whose confidence and affection can be engaged, and administrations improved under judicious management” - Major-general Sir William Henry Sleeman to Lord Dalhousie from Jhansi, 24th September, 1848

Sleeman’s eerie prediction was to come true less than a decade later when dissatisfaction exploded into open rebellion. While Governor General Dalhousie’s Doctrine of Lapse had been used by the company to gobble up states where the king lacked a biological son, such as Satara in 1848, Jhansi in 1853 and Nagpur in 1854, “Awadh was an acquisition on a far different scale”, writes William Dalrymple, “and was practiced on a ‘faithful and unresisting ally’ without even the nominal justification of the absence of a recognized heir”. The annexation of Awadh or Oudh happened purely because the King, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, had run into vast debts with the Company, and seemed unable to, or disinterested in paying them. With this annexation, centuries of established tradition, when it came to land, revenue collection, and even governance, was trampled under the Englishman’s boot. It is no coincidence that the largest number of recruits in the Bengal Army, which rebelled against its masters in 1857, was from the Awadh area. The igniting spark for the mutiny was supplied by the infamous Enfield rifle and its greased cartridges, which Hindu and Muslim sepoys feared contained the fat of cows and pigs. While in Meerut and Cawnpore (Kanpur), the massacre of Europeans was near total, Lucknow, the capital of Awadh, presents a different picture. Here, thanks to the foresight and preparation of Sir Henry Lawrence, 1700 Europeans were able to hold out for 87 days, against overwhelming odds. The place where they chose to make their stand was a compound of roughly 33 acres, containing a number of buildings inhabited by Company servants, European traders, and their families. Chief among the buildings was that of the British “Resident”, Chief Commissioner Sir Henry Lawrence, and the compound thus came to be known as “The Residency”.

The East India Company had had its eye on the rich province of Awadh for quite a while. The opportunity for them finally came when the triple alliance of Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal, Shuja-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Awadh, and Shah Alam II, the Mughal Emperor were routed by the Company’s army, under Hector Munro. Shuja-ud-Daula was forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Allahabad, agreeing to a British “Resident” in his court, who would control all his decisions, alongside maintaining a British force in his state, and forfeiting his right to conduct independent foreign affairs. For his Resident, Shuja-ud-Daula built a residency in Faizabad, which was then the capital city. When his son, Asaf-ud-Daula moved the capital to Lucknow, the Resident moved with him, and a new residency was built on high ground to the South of the Gomti river. Construction of the Residency was begun by Asaf-ud-Daula in 1800. A number of buildings in the compound were also built by the French Major-general, Claude Martin, who is remembered for La Martiniere. When the mutiny broke out, European residents from areas all around Lucknow, who feared for their safety, flocked to it, and it became home to some 1700 of them, including women and children. The compound was surrounded by the sepoys, and witnessed heavy shelling during a siege lasting 87 days. It was finally relieved by General Henry Havelock, but the relieving force found itself besieged yet again. Field Marshall Colin Campbell’s second relief of Lucknow was ultimately successful, and Lucknow passed into British hands.

The ruins of the Residency remain standing even today, and are a must see for anyone interested in the mutiny of 1857. Most of the buildings were ravaged by shelling, but a few remain in good condition, and their ornate stucco walls and columns, pockmarked by canon and musketry provide a surreal setting. The Archaelogical Survey of India maintains and operates the Residency today, and modestly priced tickets grant you entry into the compound.



This is first structure you encounter as you enter the Residency. The huge arched gateway has two guardrooms on either side, and its walls bear the marks of canon and musket balls. Colonel John Baillie was born in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands on 10 May 1772 and entered the service of the East India Company in 1790. An accomplished linguist, he taught at Fort William College in Calcutta until 1807, when he took up the position of Resident in Lucknow, which he held till 1815. Nawab Saadat Ali Khan II had arranged for a special guard of honour for Colonel John Baillie and it is from this that the Baillie Guard Gate (sometimes spelt Bailley) got its name.


As you enter through the Baillie Guard Gate, the first structure that you find on your right, is the Treasury. The building was finished in 1851, and contains Rajput and Awadh style arches. Surprisingly, inspite of the heavy shelling, in some sections of the building, the beautiful and delicate stucco work has survived. During the mutiny, a section of the treasury was used for the manufacture of Enfield rifle cartridges. On the wall of the treasury is a beautiful marble plaque, commemorating 52 men of the 13th Bengal Native Infantry, Garuda Pultun. Contrary to what many believe, not every native sepoy mutinied. Many remained loyal to their colonial masters, often at the cost of their lives.

In front of the treasury building, is a memorial pillar to Robert Hope Moncrieff Aitken. A lieutenant (later Colonel) in the 13th Bengal Native Infantry, Aitken was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy for his outstanding service during the siege of Lucknow. His Victoria Cross, which was awarded to him where many of his heroic actions took place, may be seen today in the National Army Museum in Chelsea, England.


As you proceed further in, this is the next building in line, on the same side as the Treasury. The Banquet Hall was probably the most imposing building in the entire Residency complex. Nawab Saadat Ali Khan II had this “Daawat Khana” built and furnished. As the name suggests, this was meant as a place to entertain guests. Expensive chandeliers once adorned it’s high ceilings. Even today, a fireplace may be seen on the first floor, with a marble-like finish. The floor however, has long since collapsed, and what you enter will be the basement level, and hence the fireplace will appear strangely high up on the wall. The remnants of a shattered fountain may still be seen, with inlaid marble work in black and white. All around the first floor were wide verandas, and their columns still remain. The building suffered extensive shelling during the mutiny, and was in use as a field hospital at the time.


Across the road from the Banquet Hall stands the house of Sir Joseph Fayrer, political assistant and Residency surgeon. Among his lasting contributions to medicine were his writings on the treatment of snakebite in India. In 1857, during the mutiny, his house became both a fortress and a hospital. It was in this house that Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, Chief Commissioner of Oudh, died, on the 4th of July, 1857. Lawrence had been injured by a shell exploding in his bedroom as he was resting, and on the day of his death, Captain Thomas Wilson notes in his diary, “To the great grief of our garrison, Sir Henry Lawrence died this morning, about 8’o’clock, from the effects of his wound”. Dr Fayrer’s house also contained an underground chamber, called Tehkhana, which was used to shelter the ladies and children from the terrible shelling during the siege.


Diagonally across from Dr. Faryer’s house is the main Residency building. In the lawn to the South East of the building is a cross, a little over 15 feet high, designed by C.B. Thornhill as a memorial to Sir Henry Lawrence. Further North is the memorial pillar to honour the memory of Major-general Sir John Inglis and his wife Julia. Inglis had taken over command after Lawrence’s fatal injury, and the plaque says that even though he survived the mutiny, illness he contracted during the siege ultimately caused his death in Hamburg, Germany, in 1862.

Behind it lie the shattered remains of the Residency. The original building was constructed by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan II and consisted of three storeys. The upper floor contained a billiards room and a library. The ground floor consisted a large hall, probably used for gatherings and the like, and several smaller rooms. Entrance was from a portico on the East. The Residency was constructed on the highest spot in Lucknow, and as such, its watchtower located on the North, commanded and excellent view of the entire city. From here, officers on bi-hourly watch kept track of the goings on in the city during the siege. Later an attempt was made to erect a semaphore, an early system of communication through flag signals, on top of the tower to permit the force at the Residency to stay in touch with commanders in Alambagh. Like Dr. Fayrer’s house, the Residency too contained a “tehkhana” or underground chamber, which was used to shelter women and children.

Unfortunately, the Residency was extensively shelled by the sepoys during the mutiny. On the ground floor, the daughter of Colonel Palmer died after having being hit by a canon shot. It was here that Sir Henry Lawrence sustained his ultimately fatal wound while resting.

On the lawns to the North West of the Residency is yet another memorial pillar. This plain monument was erected by the men of the 32nd Light Infantry, better known as 32nd Regiment of Foot or simply the 32nd Foot, in memory of their comrades who served and died during the siege. The 32nd foot, later a part of The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, was commanded by Sir John Inglis.


The South Western annex of the Residency building, which survived the mutiny relatively intact, has been converted by the Archaeological Survey of India into a model room and museum. Displayed here is a most remarkable scale model of the entire residency complex, lithographs, photographs and many original articles from the mutiny. There are two levels to the museum, the ground floor, and the basement. A trip inside is well worth it. Infront of the entrance to the museum are two of the heavy guns used in the defence of the complex.


This building, located South of the main Residency building, was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula and subsequently sold to Sacville Marcus Taylor, Assistant Resident, who again sold it to George Prendergast in 1802. Prendergast set up a European shop here, and later on sold the house and the business to John Culloden. Culloden’s granddaughter happen to be Malika Mukhdarah Aliya or Vilayati Begum, the English wife of Nawab Nasir-ud-Din Haider. Nasiruddin Haider was poisoned and died in 1837. On his death, Mukhdarah Aliya with her mother and her stepsister, Ashrafunnisa, came to live here. Mukhdarah Aliya and her mother died and were buried in the compound of the Begum Kothi.


The mosque and Imambara in the Residency are the only two structures that are in the traditional Awadhi architectural style. They were built by Ashrafunnisa, stepsister of Nawab Nasir-ud-Din Haider’s European wife, Mukhdarah Aliya. The mosque is in good shape, and has three domes. Its two minars seem to have some sort of peculiar pulley like contraption hanging from both sides. The Imambara is in a ruined state. Both buildings contain some excellent stucco work, much of which has survived. The mosque is still in use and regular prayers are conducted there.


In the North West corner of the Residency once stood St. Mary’s Church. The structure was built in 1810, and had a gothic design. In the early days of the siege, the Church was used to store vast amounts of grain. It was repeatedly targeted by the rebels and all that is left of the Church today are its foundations and walls up to the height of about two or three feet. Since the Church had become unsafe for conducting service fairly early on, services used to be conducted in Dr. Fayrer’s House.


Around the Church grew up the Residency cemetery. A very large number of people died in the residency every day from shelling, musket fire, mine explosions and diseases such as cholera, dysentery and heat stroke. Many among the dead were children. Under the cover of darkness graves were dug and the dead hastily buried, although the numbers soon became so overwhelming that burials had to be made near the residential areas. Among the noteworthy graves in the cemetery is that of Sir Henry Lawrence. His gravestone bears the simple sentence, “Here lies Henry Lawrence, who tried to do his duty”.


Judicial Commissioner Mr. Ommanney was wounded at the Redan battery on the 3rd of July and subsequently died. He had a wife and two daughters present with him in the Residency at the time of the siege. His house, West of the Begum Kothee, survives although it has been almost reduced to it’s foundations. There are a couple of very curious round structures at the Northern end of the house, and I wonder what they could have been. A map I found on the internet says one of them was a well. Could the other have been a bath? Who can tell?


A marble plaque confusingly refers to what should be the Residency’s Brigade Mess as “Inglis’s Quarters”. That may be because Julia Inglis and her children were staying here, along with a number of other women and children. The Briagde Mess was a large and solid two storeyed structure under the command of Colonel Master of 17th light Cavalry. Many of the officers had their own hunting rifles and were expert marksmen and kept up a constant withering fire on the enemy through the length of the siege. This was the era when rifles, muskets and canons often fired solid balls, which could easily be reused. On September 24th, when the officers and men went around the Residency collecting shots for reuse, 280 round shot of various calibres was collected from the roof of the brigade mess alone, which gives us a good idea about how heavy the firing was in this part of the compound. The building sadly, has been almost reduced to its foundations, but part of its ornate gate still remains. I walked into a room that survives at one corner of the structure. Its beautiful domed roof still bears the scars of fires that burned here more than 150 years ago!


Near the Southern end of the compound is the the Martiniere Post. The building derives its name from the fact that apart from men of the 32nd foot, it was defended by students and teachers of Lucknow’s La Martiniere school. The building suffered very heavy damage thanks to a mine sprung by the rebels, but the foundations still remain. Excavations in the area have shown that a very advanced sewerage system existed in the Residency, with brick lined sewers with manholes at regular intervals. Various other structures and ruins are spread all over the compound, but many of them have been taken over by vegetation. The Archaeological Survey of India has recently begun work on the compound and is clearing a lot of it away. In India, where heritage buildings are routinely bulldozed out of apathy, ignorance, and callousness, I am happy to say that the Residency in Lucknow is an exception, and from what I saw, I am confident, it will survive well into the future.

Some advice for photographers. Carry an ultrawide lens, and be careful what you shoot. The Residency is a lovers’ nest, and sex starved Indians, who lack privacy can be found in every corner, making out. Ensure that you don’t disturb them, and don’t take photos of people without asking them first. The ASI kiosk near the entrance is an excellent place for picking up their publications, and they have a handsome edition on the Residency, which is a must read.

- by Deepanjan Ghosh


Explore more photographs from my Lucknow trip. Check out my Flickr album


I am grateful to my friend, Devankan Chakraborty for being my guide around Lucknow, to Kalpajeet Bhattacharya for his hospitality, and to my father Debashish Ghosh, and sister Deepshikha Ghosh for accompanying me, and providing valuable inputs while shooting the monuments. Check out my father’s flickr page here.


A Journey through the Kingdom of Oude in 1849-1850 – Major-general Sir W.H. Sleeman
A Hand-book for Visitors to Lucknow - Henry George Keene
The Defence of Lucknow – T.F. Wilson
Monuments of Lucknow – R.S. Fonia
The Last Mughal – William Dalrymple
The Residency – Archaeological Survey of India

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very useful information, nicely composed, good photos etc. We came from Vadodara and your posts are very useful for us to explore this wonderful city. Thank you. Prof. Ashutosh Bedekar, Vadodara