The Residency Lucknow: A Reminiscence of British India

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Uttar Pradesh | 80

With the heritage trot through Old Lucknow, you might have got a glimpse of its history that extends beyond the Nawabs. The Hussainabad Ghanta Ghar to be precise, is what might have given it off. In case you have missed what this is about, take a peek at my last post on the Heritage Lucknow.You will realize that it is the British Era of Lucknow that I am talking about. A chapter of history that is best experienced at The Residency Lucknow.

The Residency Lucknow - A chapter on Independence
The Residency Lucknow – A chapter on Independence

The Residency Lucknow is best described as the living quarters of the British General – a representative of the British East India Company in the courts of the Nawabs. Where the grand heritage sites of the Nawabs left me awestruck, visiting The Residency Lucknow, left me with mixed feelings. While on one hand, I could imagine the grand life that the British led, on the other, I could also, see the freedom struggle and the siege that this place witnessed.There is no denying that The Residency Lucknow is an integral part of the city and a definite must-visit when here.

History of The Residency Lucknow

Built by Nawab Asaf Ud-Daulah completed by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan in late 1700s for the British General, The Residency Lucknow soon became a hub for all British personnel. Initially, they were just representatives of the East India company. Later, as their reign grew, Lucknow became the administrative hub for the British. The Residency Lucknow thus, became the home of the British commissioner of Awadh.

The Residency Lucknow made for the British General
The Residency Lucknow made for the British General

The biggest and the most symbolic event that The Residency is known for was the First War of Independence in 1857. The trigger for this began with the Indian Sepoys employed by the British. The new ammunition that they were forced to use was coated with Beef and Pork fat. This went against their religion and despite several protests they were forced to use the cartridges. Thus, began the rebellion. One of the main centers for this Siege of 1857 was Lucknow and it was The Residency that was the Target.

Bullets and Cannons razed the place down. And what is left today, still bears the marks of that Freedom movement. This pretty much explains my mixed feelings when I visited.

The Treasury of The Residency Lucknow

The Baillie Gate of The Residency Lucknow
The Baillie Gate of The Residency Lucknow

The gate at The Residency Lucknow was called the Baillie guard gate. This was a part of the original construction and in its glory days, used to have a Guard of Honor – a practice started by the then Nawab. The name of the gate was after its first resident – Col. John Baillie.

The Treasury at The Residency Lucknow
The Treasury at The Residency Lucknow

As soon as you pass that, the first thing that you come across on your right are the ruins of The Treasury. Besides, of course, being the storehouse, during the 1857 war, this became a hub to manufacture and store the wretched cartridges. Naturally, it was completely shelled and destroyed.

The marble plaque in memory of the sepoys at the treasury of The Residency Lucknow
The marble plaque in memory of the sepoys at the treasury of The Residency Lucknow

On one of the walls, there is a marble plaque that honors soldiers from a section of the army that stood tall against the revolutionaries. The memorial seemed to be a later one for that was the only thing in this building that was not destroyed.

The Banquet Hall at The Residency Lucknow

The Banquet Hall of The Residency Lucknow
The Banquet Hall of The Residency Lucknow

Facing the treasury, came the most interesting building of all in The Residency.  The Banquet hall built by the Nawab, still bore signs of the tall arches and the intricate carvings used by the Nawabs. The high ceilings and the elaborate hallways got me picturing those British evenings and ballroom dances.

The arched doorways of the Banquet hall at The Residency Lucknow
The arched doorways of the Banquet hall at The Residency Lucknow
Inside the Banquet Hall of The Residency Lucknow
Inside the Banquet Hall of The Residency Lucknow

As you walk through to the back, you can identify what used to be the kitchen. There were stairs that led somewhere but owing to the crumbling structures were barred for the visitors.

Within the Kitchen area of the Banquet Hall
Within the Kitchen area of the Banquet Hall
Fountain at the main entrance of the Banquet Hall of The Residency Lucknow
Fountain at the main entrance of the Banquet Hall of The Residency Lucknow

Then came the gorgeous entrance. A fountain stood in the center while at both ends were stairs that led upstairs. My mind raced to the balls described by Jane Austen in her novels and I could well imagine how the evenings were spent here. During the 1857 rebellion, this hall became a make-shift hospital and eventually, fell to ruins.

The stairs at the far end leading to another floor of the Banquet Hall
The stairs at the far end leading to another floor of the Banquet Hall

Dr. Fayrer’s house

Dr Fayrer's house at The Residency Lucknow
Dr Fayrer’s house at The Residency Lucknow

Across the Banquet Hall, was the house of Dr. Fayrer, that became another haven to shield 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 as a hospital. The house belonged to Dr. Fayrer who did an extensive research on snake bites in India and he used to be the resident surgeon of The Residency Lucknow.

The Residency Lucknow

The Residency Lucknow - main building
The Residency Lucknow – main building

One of the key buildings that I could not explore was the main Residency building. It was under restoration and hence, I had to give it a miss. However, what I did understand from the various signs and local guards was that it used to be a tall three-storied building that had a games room for billiards, a library and offices for meetings. It also, had an underground room that helped shield the British during the Siege. The Residency building was attacked with cannons and hence, was destroyed completely.

 Memorial for Major-general Sir John Inglis at The Residency Lucknow
Memorial for Major-general Sir John Inglis at The Residency Lucknow

In front of the main building was this huge memorial cross that was dedicated to Major-general Sir John Inglis and his wife Julia. He was injured during the revolution and later died with an illness that he contracted post his injury. Behind the Residency building, was a cemetery that I missed owing to shortage of time. The Cemetry has graves of all the soldiers who died in the 1857 revolution at The Residency Lucknow.

Begum Kothi at The Residency Lucknow

Begum's Kothi at The Residency Lucknow
Begum’s Kothi at The Residency Lucknow

I saw this mapped at the entrance of The Residency Lucknow and wondered why would a Begum (wife of the Nawab) have a house in British quarters. What I discovered later with the help of the meager signboards was that this house was sold to some Europeans by the Nawab and later occupied by the Begum Makhdarah Aliya. The lady was a Vilayati Begum – essentially a foreigner married to Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider. She stayed here with her sister.  What was left of it, showcased ordinary rooms but am sure with the decor in those days, it must have been grand.

Inside Begum's Kothi at The Residency Lucknow
Inside Begum’s Kothi at The Residency Lucknow

The Mosque & Imambara

The Mosque and the Imambara at The Residency Lucknow
The Mosque and the Imambara at The Residency Lucknow

It was a bit uncomfortable with couples hiding in the corners of the Begum’s Kothi to actually see the place. Naturally, I just rushed out to the adjacent space that was occupied by a gorgeous Mosque. This was possibly the only standing structure within The Residency Lucknow. The mosque was used by the Begum’s step-sister Ashrafunissa, who inherited the Begum’s Kothi after the death of the Vilayati Begum.

Close up of one of the windows of the mosque
Close up of one of the windows of the mosque

The mosque with its intact minarets is the classic Persian architecture and even, today you can see the intricate carvings on the doors and windows as you pass by.  I would have liked to examine these closely but with my race against time, there was only that much that I could have captured. Definitely one interesting structure within the historic Residency complex.

The Brigade Mess

Gate to the Brigade Mess
Gate to the Brigade Mess
The old well outside Brigade Mess
The old well outside Brigade Mess

A quick leap across the Mosque took me to another arched entrance that had an ancient well outside. A step through the door led me to discover the fallen structure of what was labeled as the Brigade mess. Most of it has fallen for this was another point of attack during the 1857 Siege. The mess had one intact building which I avoided for I saw some young couples busy in the corner.

The Brigade Mess at The Residency Lucknow
The Brigade Mess at The Residency Lucknow
The building at Brigade Mess
The building at Brigade Mess

While here, I also, managed to glimpse at a few more structures that looked like foundations of homes. However, before I could hop there – TRING!  – went my phone. A call from my fellow travelers indicating the end of my time here and reluctantly, I turned back to the gate.

The Other structures at The Residency Lucknow

The scorching heat of May did not really bother me for I could have gone on to explore the other structures at The Residency Lucknow that were still there to see. Ommaney’s house, Anderson’s Post, Judicial post, Sago’s house – were just few that I would have liked to capture. Ah well, like I have been saying – Lucknow was incomplete and it still needs me to return back and continue what I missed. Maybe next year, maybe later, but I sure hope to do this.

One of the other structures at The Residency Lucknow
One of the other structures at The Residency Lucknow

The Residency Lucknow may be in ruins but it is the story that is trapped within these that bring the place alive. It is what made it interesting for me. This is what triggered my imagination. Somehow, there were emotions that were trapped within those 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. Let me know what you feel after this virtual tour.

The Residency Lucknow

Getting here

  • Click this link to get the location of The Residency Lucknow on your phone. You can get here with the help of a bus, autorickshaw or a taxi in Lucknow.
  • For Lucknow city, you can just book a bus, train or even a flight for it is well connected to all the major cities of India.

Travel Tips

  • The tickets for The Residency Lucknow are priced at INR 5 per person. You can visit it any day between 10 am to 5 pm.
  • Given the nominal price, you will find all kinds of people visiting it. Beware of romantic couples who find themselves entwined in the corners of these ruins. Though there are guards around who try and chase them away, they are still there.
  • There is a lot of walking to be done here. Comfortable clothes and shoes are recommended. Summers can be quite scorching and an umbrella or a cap is recommended. Sunscreens are a must. Winters are a better time to visit here. Light woolens are recommended.
  • There are very few signages around the place. If you can hire a guide, it would make the visit more interesting.
  • The place is not well maintained and hence, when visiting, beware of crumbling structures.


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80 Responses

  1. Sandy N Vyjay

    Another legacy or remains of the British Raj, the Residency looks grand even to this day. Just like you whenever I see these kind or monuments I see on one side the grand extravagance of the British Raj and on the other the sufferings of the common people. The walls of the Residency must hold untold and unsung stories in its womb. A place that surely needs to be visited.

    • Ami

      I am glad that you can identify with those mixed feelings. It definitely is a very intense visit but a very interesting one too. Cheers

  2. Rita Venkat

    Such beautiful photographs!!! You sure know how to capture the best angles Ami. Some of the best historical buildings hold such sad memories. Keep up the good work.

    • Ami

      Thank you Rita for that lovely compliment. I know what you mean about the sad memories, we did have quite a past. 🙂

  3. Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Ami,

    Seeing these images and following your reporting, I genuinely feel the strong emotions of the history here. Reminds me a little bit of places I visited in Cambodia. You feel the energy there, the lower energies, the higher energies but most of all, a strong presence. A sad presence. These places stick with you, especially when it is your country and you delve into the sometimes checkered past of these spots. Excellent post. Thanks so much for sharing with us.


    • Ami

      Thank you Ryan and I understand what you mean about the places that stick to you. I have come across some that have such strong emotions attached to them. It disturbs but it sure is interesting.

  4. Martha

    I love the architecture in Residency Lucknow! I definitely could spend at least a full day here exploring all the buildings. I definitely think the banquet hall and Mosque would be two of the highlights for me. Also, thanks for the tips about couple lurking in corners, ha!

    • Ami

      Those couples make you quite uncomfortable but well, on the whole this place is one amazing one for heritage lovers. Thanks for stopping by Martha.

  5. Hendrik

    Oh how much I would love to see impressions like paintings from back in those times. And even more to experience this past time just for one single day in real. Pity that the main building was under restoration I guess it would have been definitely worth a short visit too of course.
    What I love the most about such places is to be able to discover curiously all the corners and places by yourself – what hides behind the next corner, what will wait in this ruin over there… ? And residency Lucknow seems to be a perfect place for that.

    • Ami

      The Do-it-yourself definitely is a huge plus but some signage can help understand it better. I hope to uncover more when I can again. Cheers

  6. Dada

    This is my first time hearing about Recidency Lucknow and your post really brought me there! I can’t imagine how it must have felt to walk through these historical buildings! Even though they are just ruins now but one just need to imagine how it must have look like before. The mosque is very beautiful even now. Sorry to about the couples in corners, I guess it must be a very romantic place to show their love to each other.

    • Ami

      More than the romantic bit, I think it is the seclusion that they use. Makes it a little uncomfortable for you if you are keen on figuring out the heritage bit 😉 Thanks for stopping by

  7. Lisa

    I’m sorry, but I had a good giggle when I think about you interrupting the romantic couples at the site! How random! This is another stunning building, or should I say ruin now? I could just picture all the stories and history you mentioned during the time of the British rule. Very strange about using pork and beef fat for the ammo, I’ve never heard that before!

    • Ami

      Thanks Lisa. Funny in hindsight but embarrassing when you first come across those couples. I remember stepping into a building with enthusiasm to see one busy in their own love nest. Trust me, not a great feeling. Nonetheless, no denying that the REsidency is one place to explore.

  8. Solmaz

    Wow those archways are stunning! Also — great tip re: guide. I find so many places to be short of signage — which makes such a difference in the experience. I want to know what I’m looking at!!

    • Ami

      Yes, it always makes more sense if you know what you are looking at. Definitely signages are needed. Thanks for stopping by .

  9. Alexander Popkov

    I love visiting ruins 🙂 They have very different, a little creepy atmosphere. It starts to feel a bit like ghost land when you imagine how many people were busy there before.

  10. Bhushavali

    Loving this Lucknow series on your blog, Ami. You’re tempting me more & more to book my tickets to Lucknow. Hope I’ll get to visit soon. Wow! First war of Indian Independence began here? I should visit the place. Btw, it does remind me much of Hampi!

    • Ami

      I think it is the ruins bit that could remind you of Hampi. Though Hampi is a lot more intricate. Lucknow is full of surprises. You should definitely go

  11. SherianneKay

    Looks like a great place to explore, love the detail around the arched doorways!

  12. Crystal

    Beautiful heritage site, plan to visit India soon check out my blog too please

  13. Ilana

    I’ve already heard about this place and the more I read the more I want to plan a trip there as soon as possible!

  14. Anuradha Goyal

    Have you noticed how many recent Hindi films have been shot in Residency – it is becoming a popular location. Nice description of the history & lovely images as always.

    • Ami

      Interesting, I never noticed Anuradha. I must keep an eye out for those. Thanks for the lovely comment Anuradha.

  15. Parnashree Devi

    The fascinating history behind The Resdency in Lucknow makes it one of the most interesting places to visit in the City Of Nawab. Among all the quarters , I am very fascinated by the Begum’s Kothi. The going through these ruins must have been quite an experience for you.I am glad that you have covered it well in the torching heat as well.

    • Ami

      I did not frankly mind the heat so much. Wish I had some more time – need to explore some more here. Thanks for stopping by, Parnashree

  16. Ha

    The architecture of this place is so stunning! I’m always interested in visiting ruins and this place looks awesome. The Brigade Mess really catches my eyes with the wells. I love that you include the travel tips at the end of the blog too. Love your photos as well. They are really beautiful 🙂

    • Ami

      Your comment made my day. Thank you so much for the appreciation. This place is indeed, an interesting one and I hope you can visit it. Cheers

  17. Samah (@godandwandrlust)

    I love reading about the British colonies that existed all over the world, with India being no exception. Olden day architecture is so beautiful, especially the banquet hall and mosque. Great tips on the pricing and what to look out for. The residency Lucknow seems like a must visit.

    • Ami

      For the story and the secrets it holds, the Residency is definitely an interesting visit. It symbolizes a very tough aspect of the Indian history. I hope you get to visit it some time. cheers

  18. SkyeClass

    I don’t know why I was so surprised to see the bullet holes in the buildings here. Somehow I didn’t realize India went through it’s own war periods. The buildings there look really beautiful, and there’s so much history which I was happy to learn from you. I haven’t actually read the Jane Austen novels, and I’m wondering if she actually wrote about this location, or if you just thought of balls in general. I think the mosque there most interests me.

    • Ami

      India has a torrid history and this place is just one of the many reminders of the same. I found it reminded me of the Jane Austen novels for just her description of the balls. She definitely did not get to India. 🙂 Thanks for the read and your comment. Cheers

  19. Suruchi

    What a detailed post Ami! I havent read anything on the Residency Lucknow before this. It is really grand and might be an architecture marvel in those times. The Begums Kothi and mosque is really fascinating. Great pictures and post, loved it.

  20. yaswtanu

    Very nice article, I am a Lucknowite and I love this place. The cannon-marks on the walls can only make one imagine the horrifying battle.
    It is saddening to see such a historical place being disrespected by couples.

  21. Meg Jerrard

    The residency has a very interesting history indeed – I think I would probably also have mixed feelings in being there – one the one hand in awe of such a grand place which was a symbol of the height of the British reign, but on the other, knowing that that symbol also means British colonialism. It’s an incredible structure though so I’m glad that it wasn’t completely destroyed in the war, and that we can still appreciate the grandness of the Nawab reign. I think the mosque would be the structure I would be most interested in. It looks beautiful.

    • Ami

      You got that right Meg. It was one intense and conflicting visit. But one that was equally interesting. Wish I could have seen more of the mosque. Next time I hope

  22. Carolina Colborn

    I can glean the majesty of The Residency Lucknow during its days having been the administrative center of the British. Its history evoked my own feelings as an American with our own history with the East India Company and its role in the Americans’ own war for independence

  23. Christopher

    Just when you think you might be getting a handle of what is out in the world up comes another place I have never heard of. I can’t believe this structure has been around since the 1700’s. It still looks pretty good. I love the archways and the gate. A very beautiful design

  24. 100cobbledroads

    I must say that the Residency looks so much grander and impressive than I remember it. But that was many years ago. It looks like the maintenance squad is working much harder now too. Calls for a revisit 🙂

  25. Abhinav Singh

    Being a Lucknowite I have been to Residency so many times. The place has riveting history. The fountain at the banquet hall must have been the highlight when it was still functional. I loved reading this blog about my city. Keep up the good work Ami!

  26. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    So much history here! And architecture is absolutely stunning! I just love learning about cultures of the past and their history. Thank you for this fabulous account.

  27. Juliette S

    Have you seen the movie Viceroy’s House? Reading your post reminded me of this movie – about the last Viceroy and end of British reign in India, very interesting to learn about the history. I think it’s fabulous you can visit somewhere like this to learn more. India has such a fascinating history and I love the architecture too.

    • Ami

      Thanks Juliette. I have not seen the movie but now that you mention it, will look it up. Glad you have seen it though as I bet you could relate to all this that The residency has to offer to that . Cheers

  28. Lydia Smith

    Theres so much history going on here and unlike my history class, it’s captivating that I never wanted it to end. Giving life to your pictures from your post, I can imagine what precolonial India looked liked. While it’s fascinating, it’s more more deep.

    • Ami

      I agree with you on history being best learnt with a visit. It’s far more interesting than a textbook. Thanks for stopping by, Lydia.

  29. Taiss

    I love the details on the archways! I can imagine this place being a grand living quarters. Amazing the history of this place! It looks like a wonderful place to explore and learn! I like the tips you have at the end to help anyone venturing there! I would not have known of this place so thanks for sharing!

    • Ami

      Thank you Taiss for the lovely comment. The Residency surprised me too and I loved it for its history.

  30. Adrenaline Romance

    Look at all those details! I definitely would feel like Indiana Jones walking in these ruins. It’s pretty interesting to know how this structure served a lot of purposes, from a palace of royalty to a hospital.

  31. gilian

    So beautiful! The photos took me there. The details are very well seen. It makes me want to visit the place. =) To take photos. haha

    • Ami

      And why not, even if to take pics. They are your memories after all. Thanks Gillian and I hope you get here soon 🙂

  32. Priya

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing this post. Realy i am excited this post because you mentioned all residency of British with images in this post.This post is very nice.

    • Ami

      Glad you liked it Priya. The Residency was fun to visit and I personally loved it.

  33. Medha

    Although clearly, the site doesn’t date very far back, considering it was being used by the British, it looks like it could be a really old one as it is in ruins! I didn’t even know about the existence of The Residency Lucknow, I have been to the city only once to attend a wedding and didn’t really have much time to explore. I understand the mixed emotion of awe on one hand with the glamorous lifestyle of the British people in India and the sadness you feel that comes along instantly, about the struggle of freedom and the loss of all the lives that went with it. I’d love to visit this place, looks awesome!

    • Ami

      Trust me, it feels as if the walls are waiting to tell you a story. The next time you are there, don’t miss it. Thanks for the lovely comment, Medha

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