Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Banqueting Hall

The Banqueting Hall, side view
It is a strangely melancholy building and bears echoes of better times. A beautiful black and white marble fountain still remains where the entrance hall would once have been, majestic staircases leading nowhere, and everywhere there is an almost oppressive silence. It was here, before the siege that the resident had entertained his guests, where balls were held and comfort had prevailed – but in June 1857 it was turned into a hospital, a far less joyous purpose than for what it had been intended. 
Fountain, main entrance

The building, even in its ruinous state, is huge. Two storied and with no tyekhannas below, the ground floor served as a general hospital. The right wing was a factory for the manufacture of fuses and cartridges and one room on the north was set aside for state prisoners. The upper floor suffered a similar fate to that of the Residency – the large windows and doors made tempting targets (even though they had been closed with shutters, and fairly stuffed with tents and boxes), and the apartments were soon reduced to rubble.

Inner rooms

 “Everywhere wounded officers and men were lying on couches, covered with blood, often with vermin. The apothecaries, hospital attendants, and servants, were too few in number, and with all their activity could not attend to everybody; and as for a change of linen, where was that to come from? There were not even bedsteads enough for all.Many of the wounded were lying groaning upon mattresses and cloaks only. Everywhere cries of agony were heard, piteous exclamations for water or assistance. The fumigations to which recourse was had were not sufficient to remove the disagreeable, fetid smell which pervaded the long hall of the sick, and the air in it was pestilential and oppressive. Owing to the unceasing fire of the enemy, the windows had to be barricaded, and it was therefore only by the doors facing the Residency, and those fronting the Bailey Guard wall at the back, that light and air could penetrate the buildings. The upper story was quite untenable; and, indeed, the lower was far from safe.  One poor fellow, in a fair way of recovery, while smoking his pipe, was shot in his bed, and several of our sick had most narrow escapes from the bursting of shells. At a subsequent period, too, a carcase fell into the midst of one of our barricades and set not only the whole of it on fire, but consumed also a great number of hospital appurtenances. Dysentery and diarrhoea swelled the numbers in the hospital almost as much as the balls of the enemy.” 1
Rear Portico

The Banqueting Hall as seen from the Residency, ca. 1814

The Residency building and the Banqueting Hall during the Siege

View from the Residency roof of the Banqueting Hall and Dr. Fayrer's House, after the Siege

1 Personal Narrative of the Siege of Lucknow – L.E. Ruutz Rees (1858)

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