Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Visions of the Past

Old buildings, ruins especially, are visually difficult to deal with. Unless you are very lucky and have plans or photographs, much of the viewing is left up to the imagination. Our mind has to fill in the blanks, the doors and windows, so to speak, and decorations, all those things that make a building a home, a residence or an office, instead of an odd collection of bricks.

The Lucknow Residency offers a unique set of challanges.

Visitors can get a pretty good idea of what the buildings looked like, more or less, from the ruins which still remain, there are walls, windows, and even a roof or two. The model in the museum is intriguing as it gives a good idea of what the buildings looked like before they were destroyed, but without being able to take any photographs inside the museum, it would take a rather strong mind to remember all the buildings in detail. I have not come across any photographs of the residency pre-Mutiny and those after are not dissimilar to the images I myself have photographed a few years ago. So we have to step into a different medium: that of drawing.

There are some buildings which today, make little sense. Take for example, Ommanney's House:

Front View

View facing out of the house to the front

Side view
Fireplace inside

Round room
The house was double storied, that much is known, but what would it have looked like before it was reduced to ruins?

This is where drawings come in useful:


From "Lucknow and Oude in the Mutiny" - Innes Mcleod (1895)

"Lucknow and Oude in the Mutiny" - Innes Mcleod (1895)


Ommanney's House takes on a whole new perspective when seen from this view and ceases to be no more than broken walls.

From the drawings we can start to envision not just the residency as a place of siege, but as a vibrant community with it's myriad of grand and less-than-grand, buildings, the open spaces and the sheer amount of structures in the compound. Today, the grounds are eerily empty.

Where Mr. Gubbins lived and dined, today there is nothing but dry ground, with not even the slightest hint of a house left. It is sadly disappointing to see absolutely nothing. I did find the remains of a well...

Well, close the Grant's Bastion marker

...a piece of masonry, probably a wall...
Wall remains, Grant's Bastion marker is in the background





...some more masonry, hidden in the grass...

Unidentified masonry work

...and a stone of some description, most likely worked by human hands, under a tree....



In his book, Gubbins writes about a magnificiant forest tree that stood in his compound which became so battered by the incessant firing that by the end of the siege, it stood stripped of it's leaves, with hardly a branch still on and only its trunk intact. He wondered if the tree would bloom again in the spring time, though he would not be there to see it.
Tree in the area where Gubbin's post should be

No matter how much I would like it to be, I doubt if the tree in the picture above is the same one Gubbins wrote about, or if in fact it was even there during the siege. Yet its prodigious size and curiously stunted trunk with the long, tapering branches certainly makes it a contender, perhaps a distant relative of the original? 

There are drawings available of Gubbins' house, both before and after the siege. However, without Grant's Bastion marked on any of the drawings, it is difficult to say where in the empty grounds Gubbins' house actually stood. 



Gubbins Angle 
Gubbins' House before the siege
Gubbins' House after the Siege, note the tree in the front

As is the case of Gubbins' House so is it the same with some of the other posts in the compound of which nothing remains. However, with the exception of the drawings in the book by Innes Mcleod, I have not found many other images which give a detailed view.


Starting from the back left at the end of the road, Sikh Square, Brigade Mess, Martiniere, Anderson's Post and Germon's Post