Sunday, April 3, 2016

St. Peter's the Railwaymen's Church, Charbagh, Lucknow

My first visit to St. Peter's in 1997 or 98 was for a rather very naive reason. I came to know of a woman priest Rev. Pearl Prashad leading St. Peter's congregation. So I wondered how it would be like to hear a lady preach from the pulpit. It was this curiosity that took me there. It wasn't any different I must add. Since then I have come to know the Rev. Prashad very well. Here's a piece that I wrote in 2012, which appeared in the eNewsletter of CNI Synod: http://www.cnisynod.org/1212/left6.htm

(Picture Courtesy: Mr. Uttam Singh)

Now part of the Church Of North India churches, St. Peter's was built as the railwaymen's church of the Protestant Anglican communities of Charbagh and Alambagh in Lucknow. The Bishop of Lucknow, George Herbert laid the foundation stone for this Church on March 21st 1914 and the construction commenced in December of the same year. It was dedicated for divine services on October 8th, 1915.

Stone commemorating the laying of the Church foundation - its right next to the main entrance door

Entrance to the Church compound

Picture of the main Church building taken on a bright Sunday morning. Extensive restoration work has happened in the last few years.

View of the entrance gate and the Sunday school on right

Church as it appears from the lawns.

Frank Lishman (1869 - 1938) designed the Church and the preliminary design was also published in the Annual Report on Architectural Work in India for the Year 1912 - 13. As per Mr. Uttam Singh (the Church organist and a long time member of the Church) tells me that "the congregation of St. Peter's was already formed before the church building was constructed and it is said that they used to assemble somewhere in present day's Loco Workshop but no record is available in the Church".

Picture taken in 1984 (Picture Courtesy: Mr. Uttam Singh). Notice the small white cross over the arcade (as seen in recent pictures) is not there - its clearly a recent addition.

10/04/2016 update - Ms. Maureen Young (who came across this post) has shared the following pictures, it is the cover page of the Church magazine dated January 1938 and the page from inside the magazine.



Here's quoting from Ms. Young's recent email to me: 
"My Mother kept this as my brother and myself were both baptized here whilst we were living in Lucknow in the 1930’s. I note the Chaplain at the time was The Revd.R.S. Waterson, other names mentioned are F.M. Bowder Esq., Sidesman. A Mrs. Fox, Miss S. Paine, and Miss L. Sear are mentioned as being Organists."

Thank you Ms. Young for sharing this.

View from the Church Lawns. On either side of the entrance to the arcade are the Ten commandments in Hindi.

Earlier the Church compound  was not limited to the current area. It was a large area covering the Church Road which starts from Opposite Railway hospital and its second end was near Fateh Ali Ka Talab crossing. (Information courtesy: Mr. Uttam Singh)

Ten Commandments on the side of the entrance to the Church - 1

Ten Commandments on the side of the entrance to the Church - 2

The ten commandments were inserted in 1989 at the time of platinum jubilee of the Church.

The Parsonage as it appears from the Church lawns

The old parsonage was a huge bungalow no. C1. It was acquired by Railways and in lieu of the parsonage they built the current rather humble parsonage which is like a type IV railway quarter. Its no. is IV/12, Church Road. (Information courtesy: Mr. Uttam Singh)

Side view

Here's an excerpt from Rosie Llewellyn-Jones' Lucknow Then and Now "The east wall has deep overhanging eaves, simple sleek buttress forms, and tall thin lancet windows, which allow light to penetrate the nave of the Church during morning services. Collectively these plain finishes contribute to the handsome styling of the Church".

View of the Transept and the Chancel

View of the Apse as it appears from outside

View of the Transept from the side of the parsonage

Here's another excerpt from Rosie Llewellyn-Jones' Lucknow Then and Now "The brick building varies its northwest and southwest exposures to protect the south side with a full arcade on the ground floor, whereas its northwestern aspect pushes the side chapel out two floors in height".

The first question I had post reading the above was: where is the side chapel? I haven't seen one inside. For that we need to head inside the building.

The main entrance door to the Church

Calling out the repairs to the Church wall. Please note that due to repairs and restoration over the years the look and feel of the building both outside and inside has changed. I'll share examples further in the post.

Another commemoration stone calling out the platinum jubilee year of the church building

View of the nave from the entrance door.

The ornate baptismal font - 1

The ornate baptismal font - 2

On the left to the main entrance door are the memorial stones of the faithful departed. This was not their original place on the church walls. During recent restorations these were placed in this common location in the Church.

Memorial - 1

Memorial - 2 (pre-independence memorial)

Memorial - 3 (another pre-independence memorial)

Memorial - 4 (Williamson and others of the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway)

The aisle on the right (perhaps ending in the side chapel, there are no signs of it now)

The aisle on the left (door at the end leads into the current vestry). Notice the charts put up on the walls and pillars prepared by the Sunday school children.

The Chancel and the Apse with the Holy Altar.

The choir pews in the Chancel on the left

The choir pews and the pulpit on the right

Close up of the Holy Altar (Picture Courtesy: Rev. Henry Johnson's FB Page)

View of the Chancel from the pews (during the Sunday service led by the current Presbyter Rev. Virendra Singh)

The congregation as it lines up to receive the Holy Communion.

The stained glass window above the Altar (apology for the poor resolution picture).

Windows on the left overlooking the parsonage. Notice the tiles on the wall and the marble stones for the floor. Part of the recent restorations - not in lines with how it originally would have appeared. But at least its well kept.

Below are the pictures of the faithful servants of God that served here in the recent decades.

Late Rev. Cecil Singh (originally a British Methodist minister, later Presbyter in the united Church of North India). Picture Courtesy: Mr. Uttam Singh

Rev. Pearl Prashad (Retired) took the charge of St. Peter's from Rev. Cecil Singh

Rev. Henry Johnson (Picture courtesy: Rev. Johnson's FB page)

Rev. Virendra Singh, the current Presbyter in charge (Picture Courtesy: Rev. V. Singh's FB page)

If any of you have some old pictures or more information on the Church, then please do share it with me on my email address: nikhil.katyal@gmail.com. Please do leave your valuable comments on the post.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mark Twain in Lucknow and his impressions of 1857

Mark Twain the famous American author and humorist embarked on a year-long, around-the-world lecture tour in July 1895. His itinerary included countries like North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, Mauritius, South Africa, and England among others. Twain’s three months spent in India became the center piece of his 712 -page book ‘Following the Equator’ published in 1897.

Mark Twain - the man himself

"The voyage would furnish a three weeks’ holiday, with hardly a break in it. We had the whole Pacific Ocean in front of us, with nothing to do but do nothing and be comfortable." (Chapter I)

Twain's 'Following the Equator' is a social commentary in which he is critical of racism towards Blacks, Asians, and Indigenous groups. Twain also writes about the oppressive imperialism in the British Empire.

The cover page 'Following the Equator'

Even before Twain reached India he had got a flavor of the Indian life and people through his discussions with different people he met en-route like ‘a gentleman who had served on the staff of the Viceroy of India’ or ‘a missionary from India’. The later introduced him to the miracles of the Indian god Hanuman who “strode fifteen hundred miles, to the Himalayas, and took upon his shoulder a range of those lofty mountains two hundred miles long, and started with it toward Ceylon.” (Chapter XII) The stage was being set for him.

An illustration showing Hanuman with "divine strength into his muscles"

Once in India, Twain making his way through Bombay ("a bewitching city"), Allahabad, Benares, and Calcutta, finally reached Lucknow which he described as "a city... most conspicuous of the many monuments of British fortitude and valor that are scattered about the earth." The first experience he has of Lucknow is that of the "pitiless" heat of the plains which "were destitute of grass, and baked dry by the sun".

Of the two chapters in the travelogue in which Twain writes collectively about his visit to Lucknow, Cawnpore and Agra, he has barely spoken about the events in Lucknow upon his own visit. Instead he goes into details of the events of the 1857 Mutiny. The events of 1857 had clearly left a great impression on him. Later in the chapter he does finally pauses stating "the details of this tremendous episode are too familiar to the reader to need repeating here". 

The only two places he mentions to have visited while at Lucknow were the Residency and a "Club's Indian Palace". At the later he dined with a survivor of the 1857 events, who for him was a "link to connect the present with so ancient an episode as the Great Mutiny".

The Residency - picture from Twain's 1897's ‘Following the Equator

“The Residency ruins are draped with flowering vines, and are impressive and beautiful. They and the grounds are sacred now, and will suffer no neglect nor be profaned by any sordid or commercial use while the British remain masters of India. Within the grounds are buried the dead who gave up their lives there in the long siege.” (Chapter LIX)

The Residency - picture from Twain's 1897's ‘Following the Equator

Twain had been reading before his visit to the Residency gardens, "I knew by Lady Inglis' diary...". He found the ruins all too familiar: "at the Residency I was so familiar with the road that I could have led a retreat over it myself".

Bailie Guard - picture from Twain's 1897's ‘Following the Equator

"as soon as I was within the battered Bailie Guard and turned about to review the march and imagine the relieving forces storming their way along it..." (Chapter LIX)

The hundred years rule prophecy made the native soldiers firmly believe that the end of the British power was imminent. He wittily observes that the "Indian is open to prophecy at all times: argument fail to convince him, but not prophecy". He felt that the "old men" in the high Army positions were too obstinate to listen to the rumblings of the native soldiers. But in the long military history of England, the "crushing" of this revolt is the greatest episode. Even with countless odds the English had fought this "most unpromising fight" with a great resolution.

Twain quotes extensively of the Sir G. O. Trevelyan's "incidents of the massacre" and speaks of the hardships that women and children had to go through. From all that happened "there is not a dull place anywhere in the great story".

The Mosque alongside Begum Kothi - picture from Twain's 1897's ‘Following the Equator

The Residency - picture from Twain's 1897's ‘Following the Equator

Also have found this interesting write up on Twain's Mutiny narrative in 'The Routledge Encyclopedia of Mark Twain'


The events of 1857 and specially those in Lucknow have always captured the curiosity of many - Mark Twain was also not left behind. Even the gap of almost 40 years had not dulled the events for him.