La Martinière College is a premiere educational institution located in Lucknow, the capital of the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. The College consists of two schools on different campuses for boys and girls. La Martinière Boys' College was founded in 1845 and La Martinière Girls' College was established in 1869. The Boys' College is the only school in the world to have been awarded royal battle honours for its role in the defence of Lucknow during the mutiny of 1857. The two Lucknow colleges are part of the La Martinière family of schools founded by the French adventurer Major General Claude Martin. There are two La Martinière Colleges in Kolkata and three in Lyon. La Martinière provides a liberal education and the medium of instruction is the English language. The schools cater for pupils from the ages of five through to 17 or 18, and are open to children of all religious denominations. The schools have both day scholars and boarders.
La Martinière Boys' College was founded by an endowment from the wealthy eighteenth-century Frenchman, Major-General Claude Martin (1735-1800), who was an officer in the French and later the British East India Company.Martin acquired his large fortune while serving Asaf-ud-Daula, the nawab wazir of Awadh, and was reputedly the richest Frenchman in India. Constantia, the palatial building which now houses the Boys' College, was built in 1785 as Martin's country residence, but was not completed until 1802, two years after Martin's death on 13 September 1800. Historians believe that the house takes its name from the school motto Labore et Constantia (Work and Constancy) which represents Martin's personal philosophy. There is a more romantic, though unproven, notion that the building was named after Constance, a young French girl who was supposedly Martin’s first love.
At the time of his death Martin's estate was valued at approximately £500,000 (forty lakh of rupees). Martin never married and he had no heirs. In his will, dated 1 January 1800, he left the bulk of his substantial estate to provide for the establishment of three schools to be named La Martinière in his memory. The schools were to be located in Lucknow, Calcutta and at Lyon, his birth place in France. The residue of his estate after certain bequests had been made was to be used for the maintenance of these schools. He directed that the school in Lucknow should be established at Constantia and that the house should be kept as a "school or College for learning young men the English language and Christian religion if they found themselves inclined".
Major-General Claude Martin.
Arrived in India as a common soldier
and died at Lucknow on the 13th of September,
1800, as a Major-General.
He is buried in this tomb.
Pray for his soul."
It is popularly believed that Martin was motivated not just by vanity but by a desire to protect his property after his death and to prevent his friend the nawab from acquiring it. By having himself, a Christian, buried beneath Constantia, he knew that the building would be permanently desecrated in the Muslim nawab's eyes. Chandan Mitra, in his book Constant Glory, thinks otherwise. He writes "Constantia's plans show that the basement mausoleum was part of the original scheme for the building and not included as an afterthought to guard against requisition."
Martin was duly interred in a specially prepared vault in the basement of the house. Thus Constantia became both a school and a mausoleum. It is the largest European funerary monument in India, and the historian William Dalrymple has described it as "the East India Company's answer to the Taj Mahal".
After Martin's death there were protracted disputes in the Calcutta High Court and consequently his will was not proved until 1840. In the interim the Constantia building was used as a guest house for visiting Europeans.
The school finally opened on 1st October 1845 with some seventy boys on roll. The first Principal was John Newmarch.
Initially, the school was only open to Europeans and Eurasians.
Unlike the Calcutta La Martinière, the Lucknow school was technically established outside British territory so right from its inception its interaction with local society was frequent and substantial. There was also a native branch of the school in the Maqbara Umjid Ali Shah at Hazratgunj in the centre of Lucknow. There were plans to move the native school to a different location, although it is not known whether this actually took place.
The first major challenge that visited the La Martinière School as the events of 1857 when it had to leave its premises and was called to assist in the defence of the Lucknow Residency.
The events of 1857 saw the making of the Martinian military legend. For the first time in history, Britain called on schoolboys to assist in the military conflict - namely the defence of the Lucknow Residency. The names of eight staff members, sixty seven boys and one ensign (old boy) are inscribed on the 'Roll of Honour, defence of the Residency 1857' at La Martinière Lucknow. The siege began on the 30 June 1857. Early in June, the Chief Commissioner of Oudh, Sir Henry Lawrence ordered the Martinière be evacuated and for several days the boys travelled from the Residency to the College collecting provisions. The force within the Residency then consisted of British and Indian troops and civilian volunteers including a number of Anglo-Indians. The Martinière contingent was commanded by the Principal, Mr. George Schilling. The Residency was under siege for eighty-six days, until relieved by Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857.
The role of the boys and masters of La Martinière has been well documented in Chandan Mitra's 1987 book titled Constant Glory - La Martinière saga 1836-1986. The Residency fortifications and defended houses were about a mile in circumference, and the Martinière contingent, along with a detachment of the 32nd Regiment of Foot, were garrisoned in a strongly built house containing tykhanas (cellars) and adjoining outhouses. The position became known as The Martinière Post and was a mere thirty feet distant from Johannes House, held by the rebels, and as a consequence, was exposed to heavy shelling.
Apart from actual fighting, the boys performed a number of useful tasks within the Residency compound. Some ran messages to the hospital, watched over the sick and wounded, ground corn and manned the telegraph connecting the Residency to Alam Bagh; others were seconded to domestic duties in place of native servants who had absconded. The boys proved willing helpers and despite the many dangers, their casualties were surprisingly few. Two died of dysentery and two others were wounded in action. Their diet consisted of mutton and buffalo-head soup. On another occasion, a mine blew down the outer room of The Martinière Post, but the boys bravely defended the breach and after several days of bitter fighting managed to drive off the enemy housed opposite their camp.
Major Gorman in his Great Exploits - The Siege of Lucknow wrote that the Martinière boys erected an amateur semaphore on the Residency tower from instructions given in a number of the Penny Encyclopaedia. The semaphore enabled General Outram to advise the commander of the relieving force Sir Colin Campbell ‘to give the city a wide berth’, avoiding the heavy enemy batteries on the direct road to the Residency. The fiercest fighting of the advance that followed was at the Martinière College, strongly defended by the mutineers. Sir Colin dislodged them, occupied the college, setting up another semaphore on its roof to communicate with Outram. The Martinière contingent took part in the secret evacuation of the Residency, and the rambling journey of six weeks across India which followed, until finally arriving by boat at Benares. After the Siege the College was temporarily moved to Benares. Classrooms were established in bungalows and the school routine recommenced.
Public thanksgiving to Almighty God for deliverance from the sepoy revolt should take expression in the form of schools for the children of the Community that had stood so nobly by England in her hour of need and which shed its blood for kinsmen across the seas.
The flag has not been displayed publicly since 1947 as the subject caused some ambivalence. Satish Bhatnagar, author of Bright Renown: La Martinière College Lucknow comments: "I once asked the principal why the school is hiding the honour. He said he didn't know how the Indian government would take it.
The records show that in 1865 over 120 boys qualified for admission to the higher department of the Civil Engineering College at Roorkee.
In the years following the Mutiny the city of Lucknow, now under the British Crown, underwent a tremendous change and the whole city was redesigned. La Martinière emerged as an outpost of the British Empire and it acquired the traditions of English public schools.
In 1869, the La Martinière Girls' School was founded and in 1871 it moved to its present location. Initially the Girls' School was under the management of the Boy's School. The La Martinière College Principal was in overall charge of both the Boys' and Girls' Schools, with the Girls' school headed by a Lady Superintendent.
The late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century saw the emergence of the school as an exclusive school preferred by the landed aristocracy of Awadh.
In 1945, the College celebrated its Centenary.
In wake of threat of invasion by the Japanese during the Second World War the Calcutta Schools was re-located to Lucknow.
Many Anglo-Indians both students and Masters left for Britain and Australia. This trend was to continue till almost the mid seventies
In 1951, Mr. Meredith Doutre was appointed as the first Indian Principal of the College. He was succeeded by Col HRH Daniels in the sixties and then by Mr. DEW Shaw in the mid seventies.
Under these three Principals the school was reinvented as a premier Indian Public School that was more in tune with the changing times. The bulk of the students now were mostly drawn from the upper middle and middle classes .
In 1960, there was extensive flooding of the grounds by the Gomti River resulting in the evacuation of staff and boys to higher ground. The dinghy, manned by National Cadet Corps staff and boys, maintained regular contact with the outside world and the staff still provided classes and meals for the students.
In 1962 and 1971 again major floods occurred which threatened the building. The Government decided to build a bund to prevent these regular floodings. The bund was constructed in 1973-74 which separated the school lake from the main vista thus substantially reducing the earlier picturesque setting.
In 1976 the school was affiliated over the Indian Council for Secondary Education system of education. This entailed the exam for the Certificate of Secondary Education (class X ) and the School Leaving Certificate (class XII).
In 1995 the School celebrated its Sesquicentennial Anniversary and most of the functions were capsuled during the Founders Day Week. Former principals, old Martinians from all over the country and abroad, delegations from Lyon and Calcutta converged to Lucknow for this once in a lifetime event. To commemorate this historic occasion, a short history of the college "Bright Renown" was released, an exhibition on the history of the school was organized, and for several days the Constantia was lit up in the night. And the President of India released a special postage stamp to recognize the contribution of La Martiniere Lucknow.
The pastoral ambience of the La Martiniere was rudely shattered when a tragedy struck the College in 1997 .One of the teachers was murdered in the early hours of the morning on 7 March. Thirty-year-old Anglo-Indian Frederick Gomes, the College's assistant warden and physical training instructor, was murdered in his bungalow on the perimeter of the school grounds. Two people were seen firing shots through a broken window at the back of the building, but the culprits were not identified and the murder remains unsolved. However, the murder created a sensation in India at the time, especially when it was found that the school's students had access to guns. Newspaper columnist Saeed Naqvi, a former pupil at the school commented: "The killing is a metaphor of our times. For such a level of violence to reach the sacred precincts of La Martinière is symbolic of the way that Lucknow, like so much of India, has completely ceased to be what it once was."
La Martinière Boys' College occupies the central portion of the Constantia building and is set in extensive campus of around , part of which is now used by Lucknow Golf Club. The sprawling estate also includes a village called Martin Purwa, named after Claude Martin, and part of the Lucknow Zoo. Constantia stands on a landscaped terrace overlooking what was once a lake, from the centre of which rises a solid fluted column with a Moorish cupola known as 'the Laat'. The monument is about forty metres (~125 feet) high, and is thought either to be a lighthouse or a marker for the grave of Claude Martin's horse. Over the years, the Gomti River has edged closer, necessitating the construction of a river bund between the front terrace and 'the Laat'. In 1960, the grounds were flooded and the 1803 and 1934 earthquakes caused several statues to fall from their pedestals where they crown the architecture. The statues are in modern and older antique styles.
The building is constructed in an unusual mix of styles. The rooms are decorated in bas reliefs, arabesques and other Italian styled ornamentation. The eighteenth-century English potter Josiah Wedgewood was said to be responsible for the plaster of Paris plaques decorating the library and the chapel. However, the plaques which depict classical and mythological subjects are thought to be of local construction. Orders for tons of imported Plaster of Paris were discovered in Martin’s letters, it is believed that they are in fact based on just one or two original models. What was imported was the large mirrors, French carpets, inlaid marble tables and paintings including some by Johann Zoffany who was a friend of Claude Martin. The building has been described as, "part Enlightenment mansion, part Nawabi fantasy, and part Gothic colonial barracks. Its facade mixes Georgian colonnades with the loopholes and turrets of a mediaeval castle; above, Palladian arcades rise to Mughal copulas."
Philip Davies writing on Architecture of the Raj in the illustrated London News of May 1982 has this to say about the Constantia:
" Built in the 1790s it is a bizarre building in a country renowned for extravagant eccentricities. Even more incongrously it now houses an eminent Indian Public school blessed with all the tribal rituals of Eton or Harrow. It is a disturbing building of the most peculiar design. The central tower has bridge links and the entire central range has a strange array of statues dominated by two huge lions whose eyes were supposedly lit by red lanterns."
Khursheed Manzil, or the House of the Sun, is a large double-storeyed mansion marked by towers at the corners. The building was begun by Saadat Ali Khan, and completed by his son, Ghazi-ud-Din Haidar. The property was built in the form of a fortified castle. There is a -wide moat, over which there was formerly a drawbridge. After the annexation of Oudh, in 1856, Khursheed Manzil was used as a mess house by officers of the 32nd Regiment, and it became known as the Mess House.
During the Mutiny it was the scene of some stubborn fighting, in which both Lord Wolseley, then a captain, and Lord Roberts, as a lieutenant bore an active part. The latter planted the flag of the 2nd Punjab Infantry on the west turret as a sign of capture. The building was stormed and taken on the 17th November 1857. In constant reminder of those days, a small pillar stands just inside the gate to the left. It bears the following inscription: "It was here that Havelock, Outram and Sir Colin Campbell met on 17th November 1857".
In 1889 Government raised the school to the High or Final Standard of Education for Europeans. Later the school was recognized for the Overseas Examination Board of Cambridge University.
In 1907, on the recommendation of Mr. S. H. Butler, C.I.E, the Deputy Commissioner, The Government gave the Trustees and Governor of the school a piece of land adjoining the compound on the west of the Bank of Bengal (now the State Bank of India) considerably increasing the size of the estate and greatly improving the playground.
La Martinière Lucknow is discussed in Qurratulain Hyder's magnum opus Aag ka Darya (River of Fire). This book has the same status in Urdu literature as that of One Hundred Years of Solitude in Hispanic literature.
Valerie Fitzgerald's 1981 historical novel Zemindar prominently features the siege of Lucknow in 1857 and uses La Martinière as the backdrop. The novel has an interesting character, a Martinian boy called 'Lou'.
The Indian writer Allan Sealy, a former pupil of the school, set his first novel Trotter-Nama in the old house, which he renamed as Sans Souci (carefree). The school has also featured in several short stories.
On 1 October 1995, on the 150th anniversary of the school's opening, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then President of India, released a two-rupee postage stamp in the school's honour.
More recently (2007), when the girls' school celebrated its 138th anniversary it was given a similar honour. The Chief Postmaster General, Neelam Srivastava, arranged for a first day cover to be issued with a picture of Khursheed Manzil on it.
The College has been widely recognised for its educational and sporting standards. The academic curriculum today includes Mathematics, both English Language and Literature, History and Civics, Geography, Principles of Accounts, Commercial Studies, Science, Art, Craft and Woodwork, Choral Singing, Hindi, Sanskrit (up to Class VIII), and Computer Studies.
The four streams at 10+2 stage are Humanities, Commerce, Life Sciences and Physical Sciences.
The College has a Senior Division National Cadet Corps (Rifles) Troop, and two troops of the junior Division (Naval and Air Wings), representing the three Defence Services. Younger boys belong to the School Scout Troop and Cub Pack. Saturday is the parade day when the NCC and Scout activities are performed with great passion and precision. The Hashman Shield is awarded to the best wing of the NCC and is keely contested.
The College has always given high importance to sports and those who perform well in sports are openly applauded and recognised in the school. The games regimen includes athletics, boxing, gymnastics, cricket, soccer, hockey, lawn tennis and table tennis.
Debating, elocution, declamation, dramatics, creative writing and quizzing activities are conducted regularly for honing the intellectual skills of the students.
La Martinière College is set in extensive grounds of over . There is a large lawn on the west side of Constantia known as the Principal's Lawn which is used for open air parties and special ceremonies. The founder, Claude Martin, is commemorated with a bust in the French-style Floral Garden.
The original Constantia building houses the main library, the fabled Blue Room, the College chapel, the Principal's residence and the Senior Dormitory.
Further buildings have been erected in more recent years to cater for the expansion of the College and to provide modern facilities. There is a large assembly hall, known as Spence Hall, which is used for the traditional school ceremonies. The College also has a theatre-style Art Room, a Music Room and a Computer Centre. There is a separate science block with theatre-style classrooms, and chemistry, physics and biology laboratories for the senior boys. Each house has its own common room or "Housie", and the school has a tuck shop selling snacks, confectionery and soft drinks.
There are three dormitories for the boarders, and they also have their own college kitchen. The boarders have their meals in Sykes Hall. The College has its own hospital and nursing staff, and a visiting college doctor.
The Principal and Vice-Principal both have houses on the campus and there are also a number of campus cottages for the teachers. There is a Teachers' Centre and staff rooms for the faculty. Bachelor teachers have their own mess room.
The College has extensive facilities for sports. There are two sports fields, known as the Polo Ground and the Fairy Dale Ground. The polo ground, as its name suggests, was originally used for polo games. Today it is the setting for cricket and athletics. It is also the venue for the physical training displays on Sports Day. Football and hockey are played at the Fairy Dale Ground. There is a large gym for gymnastics, a skating rink and an indoor swimming pool. The College also has a volleyball court, a basketball court and lawn tennis courts.
The La Martinière coat of arms was designed by the founder Claude Martin. It is supported by seven flags, each bearing the design of a fish, the emblem of Oudh. The devices on the escutcheon appear to epitomise Claude Martin's life. The ship recalls his voyage to India where he established his fortune. The lion with the pennant represents his career as an officer in the East India Company and with the Nawab of Oudh The setting sun behind the castellated building to the right of the shield has been said to point to the sunset of his days and the large part which the building of "Constantia" played in his later years. The coat of arms and the accompanying motto Labore et Constantia are now shared by all the schools founded by Martin.
The La Martinere College flag consists of the coat of arms on a blue and gold background. The flag is generally flown above the buildings, and used for formal events and celebrations, such as the annual Founder's Day.
The House Master of each house is the seniormost master of the particular house. He is aided by House Prefects who are senior boys with leadership qualities.
The above houses apply only to the La Martinière school in Lucknow. The houses at the Calcutta schools have different names though they also have a house named after Martin. The Martinière schools in Lyons do not have a house system.
Annual Prize Day
The annual prize day is held at the end of each academic year, usually in April. There is a formal assembly in the afternoon during which the Principal reads out the school report. There is a speech by a prominent guest or alumnus and the College choir sing the school song and a selection of hymns. Prizes are presented for academic excellence and success in extracurricular activities. The most prestigious awards are: the Sir George Thomas Medal for Example and service; the Governor's Trophy and the Principal's Medal for Leadership; the A. K. Das Memorial Medal for the Best All-Round student; the Sykes Memorial Prize for English; and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Award for Histrionics.
Founder's Day is observed on 13th September every year to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Claude Martin in accordance with the detailed instructions left in his will. Classes are suspended for the day, which is generally followed by a school holiday. Founders' Day traditionally begins with an extended formal assembly in the morning involving a faculty march, a speech by a prominent guest or alumnus, and the playing of bagpipes. The school choir, wearing Eton jackets and broad school ties reserved for such occasions, sing the school song and a collection of hymns. Finally a wreath is laid at Claude Martin's tomb and statue.
In the afternoon the entire senior school and staff are treated to an elaborate sit-down meal known as the Founder's Day dinner. During the feast a toast is raised in memory of the Founder. A Founder's Day Social is held in the evening.
A Founder's Day Play is also organized around this time which is a big event in the cultural calendar of the school. Another tradition that has recently begun is to organise Silver Jubilee Class Reunions during Founder's Day Week.
Sports Day is held on the last Sunday of November on the College's polo ground. The day traditionally includes a military-type march around the school grounds, a performance by the school orchestra, PT displays , athletic competition between the school houses and a cycle race. The event ends with the 'Beating the Retreat' ceremony.
The House that scores the maximum number of points for academic performance and sporting prowess is declared the "Cock House" of the year and receives the prestigious Cock House Trophy. They are also treated to a celebratory party.
Republic Day and Independence Day Parades
The National Cadet Corps wings of the school present a smart march past in front of the Constantia on Indian Republic Day (26th January) and Indian Independence Day (15th August). The national Tricolour is hoisted and the salute is taken by the Chief Guest on the occasion.
Annual Inter-Martinière Meet
La Martinière Lucknow Schools and the La Martinière Schools in Kolkata have an annual competitive tryst with each other. The boys compete with each other in swimming, soccer and debating while the girls compete in swimming and basketball. One year the Lucknow Schools go to Kolkata and the following year the Kolkata Schools travel to Lucknow.
The College publishes a quarterly newsletter The Martinière Post. The newsletter is managed and edited by students with the assistance of a staff co-ordinator. In addition, there is an annual magazine called the Constantia which provides a showcase for the events of the preceding year.
Initially the boys from La Martinière Lucknow left school to take up middle-ranking positions in Government, especially in the railways and the police. In the early decades of the 20th century the Lucknow and Calcutta schools went upmarket, and more recent alumni have risen to prominent positions in the Government and Defence Services. They have also excelled in diverse fields such as journalism and writing, advertising, entertainment, medicine, academia and the corporate sector.
The Bolst Fund
Bolst died in 1947 and in his will left instructions that a sum of Rs. 5,000 be handed over to the OMA as an 'Endowment Fund'. The annual interest accruing from this investment was to be used to provide a scholarship to pay the fees for a needy and deserving Anglo-Indian day scholar boy. Since then, some 50 recipients of the scholarship have reason to be thankful to Hubert Bolst.