The Residency – A Surprise Find at Lucknow

I quite enjoy cycle rickshaw rides as opposed to my friend and travel companion, who thinks it’s not right to let a frail man (most of the rickshaw pullers are frail) lug our combined weight. We’re contributing to his livelihood, is what I think. The slow pace of a cycle rickshaw is a great way to get a feel of the busy streets of any Indian City.

We were in Lucknow and just strolling around in the Hazratganj Market area, with no particular agenda in mind. A random conversation with a shopkeeper when he mentioned some park by Gomti River that we should visit. He meant Gomti Riverfront Park, which we realized much later. But, at that time we misunderstood and conveyed something to our rickshaw puller, who dropped us at Shaheed Smarak Park.

Pic 1: The Shaheed Smarak, built as a tribute to soldiers who lost their lives in the First War of Independence against the East India Company in 1857.

When we made the payment, the rickshaw puller told us that instead of this place, we might want to walk a few meters in the road opposite and go to another park. He claimed we would really like it. And that’s how we landed up at The Residency. Maintained by ASI (Archeological Survey of India), it is also known as the British Residency and constitutes a cluster of ruined buildings in one enclosure.

Pic 2: A brief about The Residency at the entrance.

The Residency is associated with Seige of Lucknow that had happened in the 1857 rebellion, The Sepoy Mutiny or The First War of Independence against the British Empire. It’s ironical though that the Residency was built by Nawab Asaf Ud-Daulah in the 1700s to house the British Resident General, who was a representative in his court. Spread across an area of 33 acre, it was the largest inhabited British colony in the Awadh region and several British officials lived here.

Pic 3: The Baillie Guard Gate, which still serves as the main entry gate to the complex.
Pic 4: The Main Building, used to be three-storeyed, was the residence of Sir Henry Lawrence. Atop now flutters the Tricolour. Notice the marks of canon balls that is clearer in the featured photo.

The shattered walls bearing gaping holes of cannon shots inside this residential complex are tell-tale signs of the siege. There are detailed descriptions outside most of the structures that give a sneak peek into what had happened during that time. One of the buildings is converted into museum that includes items like, inscriptions, old photographs, paintings, actual letters, guns, swords, cannons, and a model of the Residency.

Pic 5: The Memorial Museum with two large cannons in front.

Apart from the museum, here are some of the other ruined structures that we saw:

Baillie Guard Gate: Constructed by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan to give the First Resident, Colonel John Baillie a special Guard of Honour.

The Treasury: Severely damaged two-storyed structure that was used to manufacture and store cartridges.

Pic 6: The Treasury

Bhojshala or Banquet Hall: Built by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan to welcome British expatriates and distinguished guests, its grandeur with high ceilings, elaborate hallways, and intricate carvings will draw your attention instantly. At the entrance stood a fountain on a grand marble floor, a clear indication of the opulent gatherings of those times.

Pic 7: The Bhojshala or Banquet Hall. I have no idea why I didn’t click pictures of the inside, including the fountain and the kitchen!

Doctor Fayrer’s House: Dr. Fayrer was the chief surgeon of The Residency. This structure was used as a hospital to treat the injured and also a safe house to shield the women and children during the siege. (I couldn’t find a picture of this one, looks like I didn’t click one.)

The Main Building: A three-storeyed structure that served as the residence of Sir Henry Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of Awadh. On top of this building now flutters the tricolor Indian flag. In front of this building is the huge memorial cross, dedicated to Sir Henry Lawrence.

Pic 8: The huge memorial cross, dedicated to Sir Henry Lawrence.

Beyond the above, there are several other structures in the complex that we could not visit due to lack of time. The complex closes at 5 PM and we were asked to leave. The place can easily take up half a day if you want to explore it well.

Back at the hotel that night, we did a little more research to learn about the structures we had missed. Among them, three of them stood out. Begum Kothi, Mosque and Imambara, and the Church and Cemetery. Begum Kothi belonged to Vilayati Begum, a foreigner married to Nawab Naseeruddin Haider. After the death of Vilayati Begum, the Mosque and Imambara were built by her sister as a memory. The ruined church was used as a food-storage house during the siege. The surrounding graveyard is said to have graves of 2000 men, women and children, including that of Sir Henry Lawrence.

Thankful to our rickshaw puller. Had it not been for him, we wouldn’t have known about The Residency.

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

11 thoughts on “The Residency – A Surprise Find at Lucknow”

  1. Very interesting post. I have been to Lucknow long before I got interested in the built heritage. Work trips. I have seen the riverfront in the passing. It was newly built and much talked about; most people think it was a waste of resources. Somehow, the biryani tends to occupy more attention than the built heritage in the mind of people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! Lucknow is mostly associated with food when there’s so much more. We really loved this place and could have spent a lot more time. I landed up in Lucknow quite unplanned and wasn’t much looking forward to it. But it turned out to be quite a nice trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite an interesting find there, Neelanjana; and thanks for the elaborate description – wanted to keep on reading. It is a welcome diversion from the inevitable “foodalogues” that you get to read everytime someone writes about Lucknow. Now there’s something to look forward to besides the galauti kabab in case of a future visit. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s absolutely true. Lucknow is mostly about the kebabs and the biryanis. Hence, I wasn’t all that interested as opposed to my foodie friend and travel partner. I am glad to have stumbled upon this place as we simply loved it. And, I’m not sure if it’s well known among visitors from other places as none of the people I enquired about things-to-do at Lucknow mentioned this.
      Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you found it. It is after all one of the big historical places there. Histories of the first war of independence have at least a chapter on it. One of the biggest defeats of the British, and a very brutal reprisal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is an example of how ‘mistakes’ when traveling can actually take us to interesting places we were not aware of before. Had you not conveyed the wrong message to the rickshaw puller, he wouldn’t have taken you to Shaheed Smarak Park. And had he not told you about the Residency, you would have missed this fascinating place altogether. Lovely story, Neel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right, Bama. So, while travelling the best thing to do is just go with the flow. I was surprised that I couldn’t find a mention of this place when I looked up a couple of posts on what to do in Lucknow. Most places only mentioned the great food available there.

      Liked by 1 person

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