Lucknow is a city of Nawabs and Kebabs, of culture and literature, of history and architecture. The British Residency at Lucknow is a preserved artifact of the 1857 Struggle for Indian Independence. This was the site that saw many clashes during the siege of Lucknow between the British residents and the Indian Independence forces. The cannon-marks on the walls and bullet holes remain to this day as a reminder of the war that shook the city. The complex contains many buildings that have been excavated and preserved; these were used to sustain the British army for five whole months. One can find the Treasury, Banquet Hall, Church, Cemetery, Post Office, Slaughter House, Mess, Jail and Battery.
The British residency has an important part to play in India’s colonial past. It was one of the sites that acted as a refuge for over 3000 British citizens during the uprising in 1857. It also has a gravesite of over 2000 British soldiers who died during the revolt.
The gate at the Residency Lucknow was called the Balille Guard gate, named after its first resident- Col. John Balille. This gate in its glory days, use to have a guard of Honor- a practice started by the then Nawab.
The storehouse at The Residency became the hub to manufacture and store the wretched cartridges during the 1857 revolt.
In front of the Treasury is the Banquet Hall, one of the most interesting buildings of the Residency. It still bears signs of the tall arches and the intricate carvings used by the Nawabs along with the high ceilings and elaborate hallways that picture the British evenings and ballroom dances.
Along the Banquet Hall, was the house of Dr. Fayrer, that acted as a shield to the British families during the 1857 shooting. Apparently, the house had a basement that was used to shelter the women and children. Besides being the safe house, it was also, used a hospital. The house belonged to Dr. Fayrer who did an extensive research in snake bites in India and use to be the resident surgeon of The Residency Lucknow.
The main resident building use to be a tall three-storied building that had a game room for billiards, a library, and offices for a meeting. It also had an underground room, which again served as the shelter for the British during the Siege. The Residency Building was attacked with cannons and hence, was completely destroyed.
In front of the main building is this huge memorial cross that is dedicated to Major General Sir John Inglis and his wife Julia. He was injured during the revolt and later died with an illness that he contracted to post his injury.
The Begum’s Kothi was sold to some Europeans by the Nawab but was later occupied by the Begum Makhdarah Aliya. The lady was a Vilayati Begum- essentially a foreigner married to Nasir – ud- din Haider. She stayed here with her sister. What was left of it, were ordinary rooms but with the décor in those days, it must have been grand.
There is also a mosque inside the Residency complex which is possibly the only standing structure. The mosque was used by the Begum’s step-sister Ashrafunissa, who inherited the Begum’s Kothi after the death of the Vilayati Begum. The mosque with its intricate minarets is the classic Persian architecture with carvings on the doors and windows.
The Residency Lucknow in itself is a separate chapter of the British Era in Lucknow. It may be in ruins but it is the story that is trapped within these that brings the place alive. Somehow, there are emotions that are trapped within these walls, and all we have to do is reach out and understand those. It might be different for different people but for me, it included rage, wonder, sadness, and honor. I wonder what it sets off for you. Do let me know what you feel about it in the comments below.
Till then- KEEP TRAVELING. KEEP WANDERING.