The Kashmiri Gate heritage walk ‘brings alive’ many famous British characters associated with the First War of Independence or the Revolt of 1857. The first is Brigadier General John Nicholson, who is buried in a quiet corner of the Nicholson Cemetery. He is best known for being merciless while meting out punishment to the revolting sepoys. Another important grave in the cemetery is that of Master Ramchandra or Yasudas Ramchandra, a brilliant mathematician and Urdu journalist, who converted to Christianity in 1852 and lived to see the rebellion in Delhi. The next stop is the Kashmiri Gate, a mute witness to the explosion that ripped apart its wooden doors and allowed the British army an entry point to the rebellious city of Delhi on 14th September 1857. The Kashmiri Gate area, once a fashionable promenade and commercial centre for the British, lost its glory to New Delhi when the latter was built in the 1930s. However, it still retains its old-world charm, in its architecture and old buildings. One monument that has withstood the test of times is St. James Church, built by Colonel James Skinner in 1836. Skinner himself is buried near the altar in the church. His best friend, William Fraser, a ‘White Mughal’ and owner of the mansion that is now the Hindu Rao Hospital, is buried in front of the church. Another important grave in the campus is that of Sir Thomas Metcalfe, agent of the Governor General of India in the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar and the original owner of Metcalfe House, which now houses the DRDO offices. Close to St. James Church is Dara Shukoh Library or the British Residency. The building is a mixture of remains of Mughal architecture and the British style, originally built in 1637 and further modified in 1803 when the British started settling in Delhi. The next stop is the Telegraph Memorial on Lothian Road which marks the area where the Delhi Telegraph Office was located in the 1850s. It was from here that two young telegraph assistants – Brendish and Pilkington – tapped out the message to Ambala on 11th May 1857 – “We must leave office. All the bungalows are being burned down by the sepoys of Meerut…” Next to the Telegraph Memorial are the ruins of the British Magazine, the largest storage of arms and ammunition in North India. It was blown up by the British soldiers themselves to prevent it from falling into the hands of the sepoys. The blast was so loud that it was heard 20 miles away and caused many plaster ceilings in the Red Fort to collapse. The last stop is the Lothian Cemetery, the oldest known British cemetery in Delhi. The oldest grave here dates back to 1808. The place is also supposed to be ‘haunted’ and the last ghost ‘sighting’ was in the 1960s, over 50 years ago.
(posted by Hemant Arya & Pushpa, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)