All Souls, Cawnpore

All Souls Memorial Church, Cawnpore (now Kanpur). Walter L. B. Granville. 1862-75. Red brick with polychrome dressings. The church is located at one of the most notorious sites of the great uprising of 1857, near the entrenchment where General Wheeler and his men tried unsuccessfully to hold out against the rebellious sepoys under the command of local potentate Nana Sahib. It was said to have cost £18,000 to build (Keene 40).

Cawnpore was "the second largest European community on the entire subcontinent" (Ward 4), and a chaplain who had served in India wrote to the Times in 1859 saying that a church here needed to be able to accommodate "at least 1,500 persons" (Poynder). This Romanesque edifice was certainly planned with a large congregation in mind. A late Victorian guidebook was quite critical of the vast exterior: "the walls and sky-line are painfully monotonous and unrelieved; and the belfry at one end, with its sharp-pointed finial, gives the whole outline the appearance of the head of a rhinoceros." However, the architect got nearly full marks for a west front with "some pleasing details," some attractive moulding over the doorways, and especially "a wheel-window that is grand in its dimensions and truly fine in proportion and in ornament." The "interior decorations" were all found to be in good taste (Keene 39-40). Considering the kind of support the church got, that might be expected: the font was given by Queen Victoria herself (Ward 551).

Jan Morris calls the church "rather sombre" (192), and so it should be, considering that it is full of memorials to those who died in the savage massacres here in 1857. According to an item of "Ecclesiastical Intelligence" in the Times, it was, in fact, "the only church built in India as a thankoffering for the quelling of the Mutiny." It is quite unlike Granville's neo-classical edifices in Calcutta, or his Indo-Saracenic High Court there, and must have been one of the last buildings he designed, since he returned to England in 1870, long before the church was finally consecrated by the Bishop of Calcutta (after much agonising over who should administer it) in 1875. Within the church's grounds is now located the Cawnpore Memorial, or at least the centrepiece angel and part of the screen, a monument to the many women and children who were victims of the last massacre here, and whose remains were thrown down a nearby well.

The postcard of the church reproduced above is owned by Beverley Hallam and was uploaded to Fibiwiki (an encyclopaedia about life in British India). It is available for reuse, with this attribution, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported License. Image capture, caption and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee.

Related Material


"Ecclesiastical Intelligence." The Times. 13 October 1903: 8. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 March 2015.

Keene, Henry George. A Handbook for Visitors to Lucknow. 1875. Reprinted edition. Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2000.

Morris, Jan, with Simon Winchester. Stones of Empire: The Buildings of the Raj. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Poynder, L. "Cawnpore Memorial Church." The Times. 22 April 1859: 8. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 March 2015.

Ward, Andrew. Our Bones are Scattered: The Cawnpore Massacres and the Indian Mutiny of 1857. London: John Murray, 1996.

Created 19 March 2015