A British couple with Indian roots, were in Jaipur last week to revive their ties and hand over a piece of history to Jaipur’s iconic monument Jantar Mantar. Rajasthan Post meets the jolly duo and gets them talking
Jaipur’s iconic landmark Jantar Mantar, built in 1730s has an English connect. Apart from Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II building it, very few have inkling about its British touch during its refurbishment done almost 128 years later.
Much of what Jantar Mantar looks like today has been due to the efforts of Englishman engineer Arthur Garrett Ffolliott, who practically rebuilt it between 1901 and 1902.
And to revive that special English connection, Garrett’s great-great nephew, Iain Shore was in Jaipur last week, to hand over his drawing tools, which he used to refurbish the observatory.
The 115-year-old drawing tool box, replete with history will now feature as one of Pink City’s antique treasures at Jantar Mantar along with Garrett’s rare photographs.
Garrett, who became the assistant state engineer of Jaipur state from 1901 to 1902, was a Pollock Medal winner. It was given to the best cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1844, the British inhabitants of Calcutta raised a subscription of Rs 11,000 to commemorate General George Pollock’s victories in Afghanistan after the disastrous retreat of the British army of occupation from Kabul in January 1842. This was to consist of a medal to be presented twice a year “to the most distinguished cadet at the East India Company’s Military Seminary, at Addiscombe, near Croydon in England, on passing the biennial examination for a commission.
While rummaging through six boxes left behind, Iain found this useful drawing tool box and researched that Garrett had carried out the rebuilding of the Jantar Mantar observatory with this very box.
Iain, a retired British Army officer, says this unique drawing tool box may have been manufactured in Kolkata or Mumbai.
Shore along with his Indian origin wife, Kshama and his sister Sue came to Jaipur last week to revive their links with India.Sue was, in fact, born in India in Conoor in Tamil Nadu but had never come back to India after she left when she was four.
Iain’s father was also born in India in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Garrett, however, was born on 28 April 1875 in Dorset, to William Raymond Garrett of Kilgarron, County Carlow, a solicitor. He went to boarding school at Clifton College, Bristol, then to The Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers.
Nearly all his Army service was in India, in the service of the then British Empire. His first posting was in Roorkee from where he was called to Jaipur.
During his life, Garrett wrote several books on culverts and dams, some of which are still in reference use today.
Garrett had interest in astronomy as well. Jaipur’s chief state consulting engineer Samuel Swinton Jacob, who is credited with building the Albert Hall, had heard about Garrett and his expertise and called for him to plan the rebuilding of Jantar Mantar. That was in 1901.
Jantar Mantar, a collection of 19 architectural astronomical instruments, also featuring the world’s largest stone sundial, was built by Sawai Jai Singh and completed in 1734.
Jai Singh, a keen astronomer had Pandit Jagannatha Samrat as his guru, who was a major influence in the designing of Jantar Mantar.
The monument features masonry, stone and brass instruments that were built using astronomy and instrument design principles of ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts. The Jantar Mantar incorporates multiple buildings of unique form, each with a specialized function for astronomical measurement. These instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye.
But Jantar Mantar became dilapidated and was in a ruinous state around 1900. It had to be practically rebuilt during the time of Maharaja Madho Singh in 1901. The project was completed in a record time by 1902, mainly due to the labour of Garrett. Garrett, a keen amateur astronomer project-managed the work to restore Jantar Mantar to its former glory, entirely with help from local craftsmen and materials.
Later Garrett was involved in the abortive Gallipoli campaign, and was wounded in the neck. After this, he was sent back to North Western India as an acting Lieutenant Colonel, taking part in yet another foray into Afghanistan, being awarded the India Service Medal with Afghanistan clasp, and the Order of British Empire in 1919. During this time, he contracted a fever, presumably malaria or a variant, from which he never recovered.
He died in a military hospital in Marseilles on his way back to Britain.
Unfortunately, as Major Garrett was a casualty of the First World War, his wish to spend more time “star-gazing” never materialised. His military grave is in the Mazargues British Military Cemetery in the south of France.
Iain says : “He was my great-great-uncle, married to my great-grandmother’s younger sister, whom I remember well. She died in 1964, 44 years after his death.”
In a tribute to Garrett in the Royal Engineer’s Journal of Sept 1920, Major-General Sir G. K. Scott-Moncrieff had written: “Later on, in India, he used to correspond with me about his remarkable researches into the theory of arched masonry dams, which he carried into practical effect with so much economy and success in Rajputana.”
Apart from books on masonry dams, Garrett also wrote a book on Jantar Mantar naming it as ‘Jaipur Observatory and its Builder’ in 1902.
Shore says : “The Jantar Mantar or Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur seemed a more fitting repository for the tools in the tool box, and to be with the structures with which they are associated, than to languish in a drawer at home in England.”
Iain wants to retrace his roots in India as both his parents had Indian connections. He says: “But it has been very difficult as most officials seem disinterested, except some common people, who are always ready to help.”
They are now in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, where they will be commemorating 100 years of the death of his grandfather Walter Francis Shore.
His grave lay in ruins at the British Military graveyard in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh till Iain found it after a painstaking search through the numerous cemeteries of the town two years back. They laid a new stone slab and cleared up the grave.
This year would mark a century since his grandfather’s death. The ceremony this December would be attended by representatives of Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who had earlier tried but failed to locate the grave. The Commission has now promised to upkeep the grave.
Iain’s grandfather Walter Francis Shore born in St Boswells, Roxburghshire in 1869, developed a Iove for horses, and became a keen and successful amateur jockey, winning many prizes, often as far afield as Ireland. He came to India in 1895 as a veterinary surgeon in Army. His main posting was at the Army Remount Depot in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
At the outset of World War in August 1914, demands on the Depot accelerated and the need for resupply of horses increased significantly.
In April 1915 Frank married Constance Louisa Watling, the daughter of Lt Col Gordon Watling, 13th Rajputs, the Military Censor in India.
The wedding was solemnised in St Thomas’s church in Saharanpur, close to the Remount Depot. Frank was, at this time, almost the same age as his father-in-law. Constance (Conte) was 21. My aunt, Barbara, was born in November that same year and Frank was also promoted Lieutenant Colonel and appointed Commandant of the Depot, thus performing three jobs
Iain says : “My father was born on 4 December 1916. Two days later, Frank died.”
“Almost straight away, Conte and her two babies had to leave their official accommodation, travelling all the way across India to Darjeeling, to the “Happy Valley” tea plantation, and family. She remarried in 1918, another, much older, man, Lt Col Keith Hungerford Jackson, of Probyn’s Horse. As far as I know, nobody from our family had visited the grave, or even that area, in the 98 years since. So two years back when we were in Allahabad, we decided to find our grandfather’s grave.”
Kshama, Iain’s wife, adds : “While wandering round the town looking for cemeteries, a chemist while opening his shop, noticed us looking lost and asked if he could help. Kshama, explained our predicament. The shopowner then called his brother Praveen, who took us in his car first to one cemetery, then to the other, near St Thomas’s Church. After the caretaker unlocked it, we found a large, walled and overgrown cemetery with a central pathway and small, open chapel. Various trees were dotted around. A peaceful place, despite the proximity of the railway to the end wall. But there were hundred other graves and at first it seemed impossible to find our grandfather’s. Luckily, a group of young boys had followed us in out of curiosity and were watching our every move. The brainwave was to use the boys. In true Sherlock Holmes style, “Rs 100 to the boy who finds this grave!”, and off they ran. It took no more than 10 minutes with the increased manpower, when the caretaker’s son found it. The slab cracked across and a peepul tree growing through it. The cross had fallen from the stepped base, and someone had laid it carefully on the slab, albeit in three pieces. The inscription was obscured by the foliage of the rather stunted peepul. But it was there “Lt Col Walter Francis Shore, AVC.” So we cleaned it up, and photographed it with the cross balanced on top. The next question, with the caretaker and Praveen both prompting us, was “what next? Will you leave it like that? But frankly we had not thought beyond finding the grave. But nonetheless, we almost renovated the grave. And now we will commemorate it on Dec 6 this year.”