Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Residency Building

The Residency, front view

It is difficult to imagine that this had once been “an imposing edifice, along the west front of which extended a wide and lofty collonaded verandah. The main entrance was on the east side, under a handsome portico.”1  This beautiful brick building, besides having a ground floor, two upper stories the tyekhanna had “splendid apartments, as lofty and as well arranged as any in the house. Skylights gave excellent light to them…There were little turrets leading up to a fine terrace whence a view of the whole city could be obtained…”2  On top of the building the semaphore had been built and a flagstaff. A look out was posted on the roof through out the siege. The gardens surrounding the building were carefully planned and abounded with flowers and trees but fairly soon, the railings around the flowerbeds were used as firewood, the flowers trampled, the trees destroyed and everywhere lay piles of shot and shell. To protect the front of the building large stacks of firewood had been stored and arranged into a semi-circle. This formed an embankment, about 6 feet high, with embrasures cut through it for four 9-pounders. Dirt had been thrown on the rampart giving the illusion it was made of solid earth.  

Undoubtedly, the tyekhannas were the buildings’ best feature –where the museum is located today.  These had been built to afford the Resident some respite from the gruelling heat of a Lucknow summer, but without any punkahs in place, and lacking any “conveniences”, these rooms turned from an abode of luxury to rather terrible places. The women of the 32nd, their children and many of the families of the Uncovenanted services found shelter in these dark and damp chambers, and when cholera and small pox made their unwanted appearances, the living conditions down there must have been grim indeed.

It didn’t take long for the upper parts of the residency to become uninhabitable. It was simply not constructed to withstand a siege - the large windows proved impossible to barricade and the roof, with its open balustrade, was all but indefensible. Sir Henry Lawrence was mortally wounded in a room on the second floor on the 2nd of July, and shortly after the women and children who had found shelter in the upper stories, moved to the ground floor – not that they there stayed long. Some were lucky, they had friends with room to spare in other houses, or influential husbands who secured them quarters in the Brigade Mess – the rest of them fled to the tyekhanna.

By August, as if to prove how precarious it was to stay in the Residency at all, a gust of wind blew down a large part of the left ground floor wing. In one of the ruined rooms, six men of the 32nd were sleeping at the time; only two were brought out alive. The others were left under the rubble.

On the 24th of August yet another part of the building fell in, this time, the verandahs on the west side, their entire length came down burying yet another seven men. The arches of the lower story were found to be cracked and could no longer withstand a heavy cannonade– it was estimated that nearly one half of the building had fallen in due to round shot, the rest was now in imminent danger of following suite. 
Cannonball damage

The Residency

The Museum and tyekhannas

The tower

Inner room

The Residency building, before the Siege
1 Mutiny Records Awadh and Lucknow, (1857-1859) –Edward Hilton (1913)
2 Personal Narrative of the Siege of Lucknow – L.E. Ruutz Rees (1858)

No comments: