The former British colonial precinct in the city of Lucknow
, which during the Rebellion of 1857 became one of the main centres of the fighting. The Residency was laid under siege for several months, and countless British lives were lost. The complex has been preserved in its ruined and cannonball pockmarked state, making it one of the visually most stunning dark-tourism sights in the whole of India
More background info:
So-called residencies were seats of a representative (Resident) of the British colonial “indirect” rule within the capitals of the Princely States of the British Raj era. The one at Lucknow
was built from 1780.
In the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (aka “Mutiny” in the then British terminology, and “First War of Independence” in contemporary Indian parlance), the Residency became a focal point of the fighting, in the “Siege of Lucknow”, which in total lasted from 30 June to 27 November.
The background to all this is complex. Here are just the main points:
The year before the Nawab of the Awadh/Oudh state, which had been annexed by the East India Company, was exiled to Calcutta (today's Kolkata), which was a highly unpopular move locally and across India
Moreover, an increasingly disgruntled mood had been brewing amongst the Indian soldiers that the rulers relied on, but who felt that their religions were not respected properly. This came to a head when a new type of rifle was introduced whose cartridges were allegedly greased by means of pork and beef fat. This was felt to be unacceptable by both Muslims (who shun pork) and Hindus (for whom cows are sacred). This led to initial smaller rebellions in early May 1857.
On 10 May, open revolt
broke out in Meerut
with a mutiny of Indian soldiers, who proceeded to start their march on Delhi
leading to the siege and battles there (see also Nicholson cemetery
In Lucknow, the resident British Commissioner/Governor Sir Henry Lawrence became increasingly worried about these developments and fearing that conflict was imminent decided to fortify the Residency from 23 May onwards. His premonitions proved right on 30 May when tensions escalated into open rebellion also in Lucknow and the surrounding area.
A month later, the Residency, into which the British troops and their loyal Indian soldiers had retreated following an ill exercised reconnaissance mission, became a target of the rebels itself. Over a thousand British civilians, including many women and children had also sought refuge within the fortified Residency.
The rebels launched their assault on 30 June, but were unable to breach the walls, so they started a first siege during which they repeatedly shelled the Residency with artillery. Henry Lawrence was one of the first to be killed in these barrages.
In the following nearly 90 days, the population inside the besieged Residency kept on dwindling, some dying as a result of the ongoing fighting and others succumbing to disease and the increasingly poor living conditions.
The British made an unsuccessful early relief attempt
in mid July after nearby Cawnpore (Kanpur
) had been recaptured from the rebels, but had to abandon their plans before reaching Lucknow
(partly in order to hold Cawnpore). In mid September a somewhat more successful first relief
was achieved by another force from Cawnpore, which managed to battle their way through to the Residency, although they incurred heavy losses and many casualties.
Given this situation, and also the fact that more secret supplies (laid down by Lawrence in underground stores) the forces decided to dig in and reinforce the Residency, which soon faced a second siege, which lasted another two months.
However, the British were meanwhile upping the ante with fresh troops and materiel and managed to recapture Delhi and gain control of the Grand Trunk Road leading east. In late October a military contingent under the command of General Henry Havelock
headed for Lucknow. This second relief
was eventually successful in mid November in so far as the British managed to evacuate
the remaining residents from the besieged enclave (who were then taken to Cawnpore), but withdrew their forces afterwards. It wasn't until March the following year that the Residency and Lucknow
were finally retaken by the British.
of the Residency were left as they were and have been turned into a large memorial
complex. This is these days under the auspices of the Archaeological Survey of India
What there is to see:
The main thing here are the wonderfully atmospheric ruins
. And for those, pictures say more than words could – so please check the photo gallery
But of course there is also the dark history of this place to bear in mind. And to facilitate this there are not only various historical plaques dotted around the sprawling complex, but there is also the 1857 Memorial Museum at the Residency.
Inside is a fairly old-fashioned exhibition with text panels telling the story of the 1857 Rebellion and the Residency. There's a diorama model of the Residency as it was before its destruction. Several pictures, lithographs, early photographs, etc. illustrate the events and there are large reliefs including one that shows the dead Sir Henry Lawrence complete with the shrapnel wound that killed him.
Back outside it's more ruins, plus various cannons and memorials ... and just the rather tranquil park-like atmosphere. Despite the dark history of the place and all the visible remnants of battles and destruction, the Residency these days is rather an oasis of calm within the city.
Perhaps the most dramatic of all the structures within the compound is the tall brick tower adjacent to the main administration building, just north of the museum. Here you can see the clearest pockmarks from cannonballs within the complex.
North-west from this is the cemetery – which includes the grave of Sir Henry Lawrence, as well as those of many of the women and children who died here during the siege.
All in all, I found the Residency a fabulous place to explore. The photogenic nature of the ruins was at times quite a distraction from the history of the place. Now and again you have to stop and remind yourself why the place looks the way it does. Yet there isn't anything so wrong with also enjoying just the park-like calm that this compound exudes these days.
pretty much in the heart of Lucknow
, Uttar pradesh, northern India
Google maps locators:
Access and costs: fairly easy; prices vary widely.
Given that the Residency is one of Lucknow
's premier tourist sights, and thanks to its central location, it is quite easy to get transport here, either by taxi of tuk-tuk.
Opening times: daily, except Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (some sources say even from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, but I wouldn't rely on that).
a mere 15 rupees for locals/Indians, but 200 for foreigners (in December 2016). Expert-led guided tours
naturally come in more expensive; I've seen prices advertised that exceeded 100 USD for a 4-hour private tour including pick-up/drop-off. For me it was part of a longer all-day tour of Lucknow
, so I couldn't say how much the Residency proportion would have been.
Time required: about two to three hours, possibly even more if you are a keen photographer of ruined buildings ...
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
see under Lucknow
- The Residency 01 - entrance
- The Residency 02 - plan
- The Residency 03 - grand ruin
- The Residency 04 - scarred
- The Residency 05 - empty
- The Residency 06 - tranquil now
- The Residency 07 - atmospheric
- The Residency 08 - arch
- The Residency 09 - chipmunk
- The Residency 10 - memorial cross and palm trees
- The Residency 11 - cannon
- The Residency 12 - inside the museum
- The Residency 13 - model
- The Residency 14 - death relief
- The Residency 15 - dead colonialist with bullet hole
- The Residency 16 - rusty cannons
- The Residency 17 - yet another cannon
- The Residency 18 - cannonball-scarred tower
- The Residency 19 - cemetery
- The Residency 20 - gothic
- The Residency 21 - column
- The Residency 22 - arches
- The Residency 23 - ornamentation
- The Residency 24 - rounded steps