For the sake of completeness, our Grand Tour of Agra also takes in the city’s lesser-known colonial history and heritage.
In 1803, the British invaded Delhi, and shortly after, Agra, commencing 150 years of colonial rule. Earlier on, there had been the odd European mercenary in the region – the likes of Walter Reinhardt, or Samru and John Hessing, who worked for local royalty and whose tombs still stand today in the local Roman Catholic cemetery.
The British built there city around the Old City, roughly stretching from Civil Lines to the north to the Cantonment (known colloquially as Agra Cantt) to the south. And so this final tour of Agra takes in these two key districts.
Civil Lines is far older. Here’s where the city’s earliest Christian settlement was when the Jesuits arrived in the 1500s, during the reign of Akbar the Great. Their legacy – the so-called “Akbar’s Church” and the aforementioned Roman Catholic cemetery (which dates to the 1550s) – still remain.
The Cantonment is a more recent, and structured along the same lines as British Cantonments in other Indian cities. The heart of the Cantonment is The Mall, a major thoroughfare stretching from Agra Cantt Station to the West to the road that leads to the Taj Mahal in the East. Along the road sit many examples of colonial bungalows, military buildings and educational institutions.
In the Cantonment sit two of the city’s historic grand hotels. The first, Laurie’s Hotel, was the equivalent of the Imperial Hotel in Delhi, and at the turn of the 20th century, it played host to royalty, heads of state and celebrities in its time. The second, the Grand Imperial Hotel (formerly known as the Metropole) – where I stayed – is of a similar pedigree. Unfortunately, both no longer hold quite the same stature as in their heyday.
This post barely touches the tip of the colonial Agra “iceberg”. A far better overview can be found here: https://sarsonkekhet.in/2014/02/26/a-peek-into-colonial-agra-mostly-along-mg-road/
And naturally, in the course of my wanderings through colonial Agra, I have depended on Lucy Peck’s excellent INTACH ROLI Guide, Agra – The Architectural Heritage.
Laurie’s Hotel and the Grand Imperial Hotel
Unfortunately, I did not get any good shots of the Grand Imperial Hotel, and so the photographs here are taken from the Hotel’s official website: http://hotelgrandimperial.com/.
Next stop on our Grand Tour: Jaipur, Pink City.