Colonial Agra – Civil Lines, the Cantonment… and Laurie’s Hotel

1 - Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception 1848 Civil Lines

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 1848. Civil Lines.

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:

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.

Civil Lines

2 - Akbars Church 1772 Civil Lines

Church of the Pieta, also known as “Akbar’s Church” dates from 1772, though a Church has stood here since the 1500s.

3 - St Paul's Church 1855

St Paul’s Church, 1855.

4 - HEssings Tomb 1803

Hessing’s Tomb, in the Roman Catholic Cemetery, dates from 1803. The early Europeans were fascinated by Mughal culture, and “assimilated” so to speak.

5 - Samru's Tomb 1782

Samru’s Tomb, in the Roman Catholic Cemtery, dates from 1782.

Agra Cantt

6 - St Georges Cathedral 1826

St George’s Cathedral, 1826.

8 - St Mary's Church

St Mary’s Church.

9 - Baptist Church 1845

Baptist Church, 1845.

10 - PWO OFfice 1908

PWO Office, 1908.

11 - Agra Cantt Station

Agra Cantt Train Station. Unfortunately the contemporary facade masks the historic Indo-Saracenic building. 

12 - Post Office

The Post Office, in Art Deco style.

13 - Indosaracenic Bilding Mall Road

Indo-Saracenic style bungalow on The Mall.

14 - Asha School

Bungalow on The Mall, in Indo-Saracenic Style.

15 - 22 The Mall

No. 22 The Mall.

16 - Residence

Bungalow, just off The Mall.

17 - Queen Empress Mary Library

Queen Empress Mary Library, The Mall.

18 - NCC OFficers MEss

NCC Officers’ Mess, The Mall.

19 - British Higher Sec Sch

British Higher Secondary School, MG Road.

20 - Agra Hotel

Agra Hotel.

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:

21 - Laurie's Hotel Luggage Label

Laurie’s Hotel Luggage Label, early 1900s.

22 - LAuries today

Perimeter wall, Laurie’s Hotel.

23 - LAuries Today

Front facade of Laurie’s Hotel.

24 - Lauries Today

Colonnades, Laurie’s Hotel.

25 - GI_views_005-1

Courtyard and facade, Grand Imperial Hotel.

26 - GI_views_011-1 (2)

27 - GI_swpool_004-1

Swimming pool, Grand Imperial Hotel.

28 - Hessing's Tomb

And finally, a backward glance at Hessing’s Tomb.

Goodbye Agra!

Next stop on our Grand Tour: Jaipur, Pink City. 

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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