British Cemetery Kota

The layout and plan of the graves in the British Cemetery at Kota
Plan of the British Cemetery in Kota

The main Kota Heritage Society project is the maintenance of the British Cemetery in Kota. This historic site suffers from being old, Christian and British and is therefore an embarrassment to most local people and the administration prefers not to be associated with it.

 

It is, however, a small but significant site being a concrete reminder of a period in Kota’s history when Kotah was an independent Rajput state but linked to events in the wider world through the controlling influences of the British in India.

 

There were very few British living in Kotah State and the Kotah Contingent (raised and run by the British but funded by Kotah for its defence) was forced to live on the periphery of the State at Deoli, on the road north.

 

Occasionally Political Agents, engineers, soldiers, surgeons and their wives and children would die while living and working in the area and they were buried in a plot of land, given for this purpose by the Maharao. Graves date from 1826 with the last known burial being in 1891. Soon after, the British Residency was moved to Bharatpur but the graves remained and are still there to this day. The most historically significant are of the officers and men who died in the Uprising of 1857/58. The most poignant are of the many young children.

 

Major Burton tomb at British Cemetery Kota prior to renovation
Before the society took over maintenance

The Cemetery was an overgrown tangle used by stray animals and drinkers as a haven. The British Association of Cemeteries in South East Asia came to know of it and gave money to INTACH for the conservation of the main graves. Later, the Urban Improvement Trust gave money for raising the boundary wall and some raised paths on condition that a system was put in place to maintain it. (They even tried to make a garden but this idea was never practical.)

Friends and supporters of the British Cemetery Kota
Society members and friends shrub planting

The Kota Heritage Society is that system: a few local people with other friends and supporters who share the responsibility of paying for the upkeep of a small Heritage area in Kota for the benefit of future generations. We have produced a brochure so please download one or ask for one at your hotel.

Abid, who works as a motor mechanic near the gate, serves as chaukidar and keeps the key and supervises cleaning. He will show visitors around and present the Visitors Book or ‘Diary’ for them to write their names in.

 

Please do write in the book as it is proof for the authorities that visitors are coming from around the world and appreciating our efforts. Since Independence the Cemetery has been owned by the Rajasthan Government.

 

We welcome inquiries from descendants of those buried in the Cemetery and try to help them but many of the graves no longer have their inscriptions. There are no surviving records of burials.

 

Frank Hancock visiting the cemetery on April 10th, 2011. His great great grandfather's brother was buried here in April 1858. Lt. Charles Hancock, a 21 year old sapper with the Bombay Engineers, died of wounds received while dismantling one of the rebels' guns during the battle to retake Kotah.

 

On Friday 21st March, 2014, the South African Titch Tours group were able to witness the transformation over the last three years. A large part of the cemetery has been paved, the monuments have been restored and re-painted, the path has been repaired and a pebble bed laid on geo-textile as a weed suppressant

Peter Hewitt is the great great grandson of Dr. Murray Salder who was killed in Kotah in 1857 and who is probably buried in this cemetery. Peter's niece, Shireen Griffiths, is Salder's great great great granddaughter and was also in the group.

Financial support and new members are always welcome.

Hancock Project

Frank Hancock, who has been working in India for the last fifteen years, has embarked on a journey to find out about the many Hancocks who lived and worked in India before him over the last two hundred years. Through the services of a professional researcher, Smriti Bhargava, he has discovered that his great great grandfather's 21 year old brother, Lieutenant Charles Hancock, died in Kotah on April 14th 1858 from wounds sustained while trying to dismantle a gun during the recapture of the city from rebel forces.

 

Frank was very moved to be re-united in spirit with his long lost ancestor and had offered to help with the development and maintenance of the cemetery. Frank kept his word, and work in the cemetery in accordance with his wishes has been carried out. Also a handsome commemorative stone bench gifted by Frank on behalf of the Hancock family to honour Lt. Charles Hancock and all those who died in the 1857-58 upheavals has been installed in the cemetery.

This project, due to be finished in July 2012, was finally completed in January 2014.

 

Here specialist workers from Jaipur are giving a grave a final clean before applying a waterproof sealant.

After the graves were painted the four boundary walls were painted in the next phase of the Frank Hancock Project. As the labourers were afraid of snakes, the undergrowth had to be cleared to give access, so we waited until April 2016 when it had died down. Here Narendra and his assistant are starting on the top coat. They did a thorough job filling in the cracks with Birla putty, two coats of primer and then two coats of anti-fungal exterior paint.

Members can monitor the progress of this project by logging in and re-visiting this page.