Planning & Construction

Manchester Guardian, Sept 28 1916
It is months since the Indians left Brighton, but their sojourn there is not to go without memorial. The lonely piece of land high on the downs, where the bodies of Sikhs and Hindu soldiers who died in hospital were buried with ceremonious rites, was bought recently by the Brighton town council. Their intention was to put up a memorial there.

The initial idea of a memorial at the location of the cremation of Sikh and Hindu soldiers at the Downs can be credited to Lieutenant Das Gupta of the Indian Medical Service who approached the mayor of Brighton, Sir John Otter in August 1915 with the idea. From that time till its eventual completion in 1921, Sir John Otter would remain the relentless champion and major proponent of the project even after ending his term as mayor of Brighton in 1916. Without his persistence, the Chattri Memorial would only have remained an idea and never become a reality.


Brighton Mayor John Otter, ca. 1915
The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove.

Approval for the idea came from the highest levels of government in a early reference by the King’s commissioner in charge of the welfare of Indian troops, Sir Walter Lawrence who wrote to the India Office in December 1915, "that where cremation has been resorted to, a simple monument of an oriental character should be erected on the site of the crematorium."

Years of delay would result over the city of Brighton and the India Office of the British government negotiating over the funding and details of the memorial and a construction halt from the Ministry of Munitions due to the priorities of the war, even though the cremation ground land had been transferred to the County Borough of Brighton in July 1916.

The architect Colonel Sir Jacob Swinton who was an expert on Indian architecture originally conceived the idea of a chattri, a traditional Indian styled structure for the memorial and recommended a young Indian architect completing his studies in England, E.C. Henriques to design the monument, which he did by December 1916.

Construction was carried out by the firm of Messrs. William Kirkpatrick Ltd. Of Trafford Park, Manchester with the Sicilian marble from Italy arriving in May 1920 and construction commencing in August of that year. By the end of 1920 the memorial was completed and landscaping of the monument grounds were undertaken for the eventual official opening and unveiling ceremony by the Prince of Wales on February 1st, 1921.

References

Tom Donovan, The Chattri, Durbar, Journal of the Indian Military Historical Society (Summer 2009, Volume 26, No. 2, UK) 53-65