Flagstaff Tower, Old Delhi, India
Flagstaff Tower, Old Delhi

Flagstaff Tower, Old Delhi. Probably dating from about 1828, and one of the earliest buildings to be erected here, this red sandstone signal- and look-out tower is at the highest point of North (or Kamla Nehru) Ridge, about a mile and a half north of the city gates. During the mutiny/freedom struggle of 1857, it became "the general rendezvous for the non-combatants, and for those of the sick and wounded who were able to move about, as they could assemble there and hear the news from the front without much risk of injury from the enemy's fire" (Roberts 86-87). Photograph, caption, and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or credit the Victorian Web in a print one.]

The sturdy castellated tower, with its canopied look-out rising above castellated parapets, looks like an ideal refuge. However, when the British women and children who had survived thus far gathered at the tower to await reinforcements in early May 1857, they found the interior suffocatingly confined. With no help in sight, they moved on as best they could, making for Karnal. At this point, six of the "mutinous regiments [were] masters of the imperial city" (Featherstone 108), and it was only after bitter and prolonged fighting that the city was finally brought under control again in the autumn. The effects of all this were far-reaching. Jan Morris cites the very fact that Delhi's "purlieus were thick with the bones of British soldiers and the legends of British arms" as one of the reasons for the selection of Delhi as the new capital (217).

Related Material


Featherstone, Donald. Victorian Colonial Warfare: India. London: Cassell, 1992. Print.

Morris, Jan, with Simon Winchester. Stones of Empire: The Buildings of the Raj. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Roberts, Frederick. Forty-One Years in India. Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2000. Print.

Last modified 5 March 2012