Volume: 10, No: 04 ; April-2016
The European and Anglo-Indian community which established in Lucknow alongside the British Residents at the Court of Awadh, was almost entirely Christian by religion. And, as the community expanded, the need for churches to cater to their beliefs became more pressing. In fact a first approach had been made to Nawab Asaf-ud-Dowlah in 1775, shortly after he shifted his Court from Faizabad – but it was not until 1837 that permission was finally granted, this lead to the establishment of an Anglican church in the cantonment at Mariaon, called Christ Church (not to be confused with the later Christ Church built at Hazratganj). This church was small, with seating for 90 people only, and it was completed in 1842. Later it was destroyed by the mutineers and abandoned when the European soldiers retreated to the Residency compound just before the start of the siege. Reverend Henry Polehampton was the young priest in charge and he lived nearby with his wife and child in a large house. Meanwhile, the community living in Lucknow had to accept an arrangement whereby a room in one of the Residency buildings was adapted for religious services. Only after this building was destroyed by fire in 1844 King Amjad Ali Shah finally gave permission for a church to be erected in the Residency compound.
Thus St. Mary’s Church, a handsome Gothic building, was built shortly afterwards in an area to the west of the Residency, and it became the first Anglican church in Lucknow, with a capacity of a hundred and thirty people.
Meanwhile the Roman Catholic community had fared somewhat better. In 1745 a Capuchin Priest, Father Joseph Bernini, had examined and cured the favourite begum of Nawab Shuja-ud-Dowlah of a carbuncle which had resisted treatment by the native physicians. In gratitude, the Nawab had agreed to grant around three hectares of land in the Golaganj locality for the establishment of a Catholic Christian colony. This land become known as Padrethola and it was here that Father Adeodatus Santuari developed a missionary station on his arrival in 1824, building a small Catholic Chapel and a vicarage. He later set aside a plot of land as burial ground (this still exists, although in much neglected condition, and it is known as the Kaisar Pasand cemetery). Father Adeodatus was undoubtedly the first Catholic chaplain of Lucknow, and his church in Golaganj became the focus of Catholic worship until the mutiny. He took refuge in the Residency during the rebellion and survived the siege. But he was by then an old and sick man, and he died during the subsequent retreat to Allahabad.
However each of these early churches were totally destroyed during the mutiny, so afterwards both the Anglican and the Catholic missions were faced with the task of building new churches to serve their communities.
No photographs of these early churches exist and, moreover, there are very few records. Church registers were sadly left behind when the British retreated from the Residency compound at the end of the siege in November 1857. So the only records that have survived are the copies of the baptism and marriage entries that were forwarded to England. In the case of the Catholic mission, a young Irish priest, Reverend Father William Gleeson, was sent to Lucknow in 1858 to replace Father Adeodatus. Father Gleeson set to work quickly and shortly he had sold the land of the former mission at Golaganj. With the proceeds of the sale and a grant from the Government as well as subscriptions raised from the public, Father Gleeson built two new churches. One of these was dedicated to St. Paul and was built at Dilkusha to provide for Catholic soldiers living in the new cantonment. St. Pauls’ church was completed in 1861 and was in use for following year. It is still in service today and is now the oldest church in Lucknow. The other church however had a more chequered history. St. Joseph’s church was built on a plot of land in Hazratganj and was completed by 1862. However, the following year the building was found to have weak foundations, so it was declared unsafe and thus it was demolished. A new church to replace the unsafe building was only eventually completed in 1868, and it was first used in 1871.
The first few years were a very busy time for St. Paul’s church as the problems with the construction of St. Joseph’s church meant that St. Paul’s had to serve the whole Catholic community of Lucknow, rather than just soldiers from the cantonment. My great-grandparents, although they lived in Kaisarbagh, attended services at St. Paul’s church, where they were married and had their first children baptised, before reverting to the more convenient St. Joseph’s church when it was finally opened for service in 1871. However they were not typical, as it seems that most of the St. Paul’s congregation remained until the mid 1880s before transferring to St. Joseph’s Church. Father Gleeson only remained at Lucknow until 1862, when he left and a Capuchin Priest from Italy, Father Felix, took over his duties.
The Anglican mission had no surviving churches after the rebellion and so initially the Maqbara Amjad Ali Shah (which is located through a large ornamental archway along Hazratganj near the road to Lalbagh) was used as a church. In fact Lord Conning attended divine service there in October 1859 on his triumphal state visit to Lucknow.
Meanwhile work was continuing for the building of a new Anglican church in the Civil Lines, and this was completed the following year. Christ Church, as it was named, was consecrated by Bishop Cotton on November 26th 1860. The church was erected in memory of British who were killed during the rebellion. For this reason it was also known as the Martyrs’ Memorial Church. Many plaques on the internal walls pay lasting tribute to the fallen. Even the pulpit is dedicated to a soldier, who fell on the spot where the church now stands. The church was designed by General Hutchinson and was built by the Royal Engineers at a cost of Rs. 60,000. The cross on the steeple used to face Hazratganj market, but the whole steeple twisted during a storm in 1933, causing it to face the General Post Office.
Another Anglican church, named All Saints’ Church, was also constructed and completed in 1860 at Dilkusha, but this was a temporary structure provided for soldiers and officers in the cantonments. The temporary church was eventually demolished and replaced on the same site by the current All Saints’ Church, which was completed in 1912. In fact the earliest registers of All Saints’ church commence in 1859 and clearly relate to the earlier temporary church.
The Anglican community felt the need for a third church and in 1858 the military authorities allowed the “Zahoor Bakhsh Compound” in Lalbagh to be leased to the Church Mission Society, which spent a sum of Rs. 33,400 on buildings for the compound. The Reverend W.T. Storres was the first priest installed there in 1859 and, although no church had yet been built, services were performed for many years in a large room, or Chapelghar, in the compound. Reverend C.G. Daeuble replaced Reverend Storres in December 1871 and it was during his time as priest there that work finally began on construction of the Church. The foundation stone of the pretty red-brick built Gothic style church which took the name “Epiphany Church” was finally laid in November 1875 by Mrs. Inglis, the wife of the officiating Commissioner of Oudh. The church was completed within two years, and the first service was held there on Christmas day, 1877.
Meanwhile the Methodist Episcopal Church had begun its work in India with the arrival of an American, William Butler, in 1856. He had originally intended to start his missionary work at Lucknow but, being unable to secure accommodation here, he actually started at Bareilly. However his work there was interrupted by the mutiny, so afterwards he returned to Lucknow and opened a branch of the mission at Hussainabad in the winter of 1858. One of the buildings on the land that the mission had purchased at Hussainabad was converted that year into a girls’ orphanage, which was run by Mrs. Pierce, whose husband, Reverend R. Pierce, worked alongside Reverend Butler at Lucknow. They were joined in 1862 by the Reverend J.H. Messmore, and these three missionaries lived in the Asafi and Kala kothis at Hussainabad until 1866. Eventually, though, it was decided to relocate the Mission more centrally in Lalbagh, where a large house in extensive grounds was purchased in 1872. This became the home for the missionaries and a portion of the compound was walled off to form the Lalbagh Girls’ High School. The first church constructed by the Methodist Mission at Lalbagh was the “Indian” Church, completed in 1869 and intended mainly for the native Christian population. Meanwhile the “English” Church was completed and dedicated in 1877 by the Reverend James Mills Thoburn.
Thoburn had earlier invited his sister, Isabella, to join him in his missionary work in India, and she come out in 1869. She received a great fame, after she started a small school for girls in 1870 in the Nazirabad locality. Later, this expanded and was eventually re-sited, becoming known as the Isabella Thoburn College. Isabella was the founder and first Principal of the Lal Bagh High School for girls from 1870 until her death in 1907. She was buried at Nishat Ganj cemetery, where her grave can still be seen.
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