Imperial India: Find your ancestors!

A 14-day tour in India which traces the history of the British Raj from its last capital in Delhi to its original capital in Kolkata. On the way between these two major cities we will visit Meerut, with its large army cantonment: Lucknow and Cawnpore with memories of the Mutiny of 1857; and a short river trip to see the old Danish settlement at Serampore and the one-time French colony at Chandernagore with its little graveyard.

Imperial India: Find your ancestors!

A tour for family historians with relatives buried in northern India and for everyone interested in spectacular old cemeteries.
A BACSA Group Tour
Led by Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones MBE
Wednesday 17 October – Tuesday 30 October 2018

Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

You will be accompanied by Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, an experienced tour leader and an authority on colonial India with a special interest in Lucknow. As a member of both BACSA and FIBIS, Rosie is well attuned to what people really want to see when they visit India. There will be lively evening lectures to prepare visitors for sightseeing the following day.

We know that people on the tour may have specific requests and family graves to visit. We encourage you to let us know about these in advance, so we can research and incorporate them into our visits.

London Delhi Lucknow  Cawnpore & Bithur  Kolkata Serampore & Chandernagore • Kolkata London

(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)

Day 1
Departure from London Heathrow by Emirates Airlines EK30 at 16:55 vai Dubai. Flights from other regional UK airports i.e Gatwick, Manchester, New Castle, Glasgow are available on request.

Day 2
Afternoon Talk and Welcome Dinner. 3 nights at Maidens Hotel

Arrive Delhi 09:05, meet and transfer to Maidens Hotel in the old city.

Afternoon: visit Kashmiri Gate, where the recapture of Delhi by the British began in September 1857. Nearby is St James’s Church (Skinner’s Church) built by Colonel James Skinner (known as Sikander Sahib) in fulfilment of a vow when he was wounded in battle. Son of a Scots Colonel and a Rajput princess, he founded the celebrated Skinner’s Horse. The Skinner family graveyard is here as well as the tomb of William Fraser, British agent at the Delhi Court and one of the five Fraser brothers who came to India to seek their fortunes. Only one brother, James, was to return home to Scotland.

Evening: Welcome dinner at the hotel. (D)

Day 3

Heritage Walk in Old Delhi

Morning: Visit Nicholson’s Cemetery, Flagstaff House, the Ridge and Mutiny Memorial with Dr Swapna Liddle (INTACH representative for the Delhi Chapter).

Afternoon: Imperial Delhi – Planned by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker when the British capital was moved here from Kolkata in 1911. Visit India Gate, which commemorates soldiers who died in the First World War, and the pleasant Prithvi Raj Road Cemetery. Optional shopping at Khan Market/Cottage Industries Emporium in Janpath.

Evening: Dinner at the hotel. (B,D)

Day 4

Full Day Tour to Meerut

After breakfast leave for Meerut where the Indian Mutiny – or Uprising as it called today – began. Explore St. John’s Church, the cemetery and the Parade ground in the Cantonment where some of the British Army officers’ bungalows still exist. Drive past the residence of Lt. Col. Carmichael Smyth. He is considered by many to be responsible for the mutiny of 10 May 1857 by forcing his troopers into accepting the controversial cartridges. Their refusal led to the court martial of 85 sepoys which subsequently triggered the Mutiny.

Return to Delhi, via Badli-ki-Serai, the dilapidated monument to the decisive battle that took place here on 8 June 1857 and marked the start of the siege of Delhi. (B,L,D)

Day 5

By train to Lucknow . 3 nights at the LeBua Hotel

Early morning transfer to New Delhi railway station to board Shatabadi Express Train in 1st class A/C compartment. Breakfast on board train. Transfer to LeBua boutique hotel.

Afternoon: visit the British Residency, scene of the eighteen-week siege endured by Britons, Anglo-Indians and Indian sympathisers in 1857. The survivors were only rescued in November of that year, by the concerted efforts of Generals Havelock, Campbell and Outram. Walk to the newly refurbished Lal Barahdari, the throne-room of the Nawabs of Awadh.

Dinner at the hotel. (B,D)

Day 6
Morning: Visit the Bara Imambara, a place of worship for the Shi’a community, and the adjoining Rumi Darwaza, both built by the wealthy Nawab Asaf-ud-daula, who moved his capital here in 1775. Followed by a visit to the Hussainabad Picture Gallery and the Nishatganj Cemetery, where Walter Burley Griffin, the American architect who designed Canberra, is buried.

Lunch: on the upper terrace of the Golf Club, with its peaceful view of the course and the grave of Augustus Mayne at the 18th hole.

Afternoon: Visit the grave of General Havelock at Alambagh, followed by tea at La Martinière Boys College, by kind permission of the Principal, and a tour of the grounds, including the tomb of Brigadier Hodson, founder of Hodson’s Horse. La Martinière is one of six schools funded by Major General Claude Martin, a Frenchman who joined the English East India Company and who was the richest European in India at the time of his death in 1800. We visit his basement tomb and marvel at this extraordinary palace that he created. (B,L,D)

Day 7
Grave imageDay excursion to Cawnpore and Bithur

Morning: drive to All Soul’s Church, erected to the memory of Britons killed during 1857. Walk round Wheeler’s Entrenchment, where the British held out during the scorching month of June. Visit Sati Chaura Ghat – the Massacre Ghat on the banks of the Ganges, little altered from the dark days of the Mutiny and ponder at the now hidden Bibighar Well site in Nana Rao Sahib park.

Afternoon: drive to nearby Bithur, a deserted town where 130 Britons who had fled down river from Fatehgarh were massacred by Nana Sahib’s men.

Return to Lucknow hotel for dinner. (B,D)

Day 8

Day at leisure (optional trip to Musa Bagh, now in ruins, the ‘last stand’ of Begam Hazrat Mahal during the Mutiny) and/or walk round Hazratganj and Qaisarbagh, the palace of the last king of Awadh.

An evening of Nawabi entertainment. (B,D)

Day 9
Fly Lucknow to Kolkata 6E 857 dep 1150 arr 1315 – 5 nights at the Oberoi Grand, Chowringhee

Afternoon: South Park Street Cemetery. The grandest cemetery in South Asia, South Park Street predates Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris by half a century. Opened in 1767 on what was then the outskirts of the city, it was already full by the early 19th century. The great and the good of old Kolkata are here – Sir William Jones, the Hon. George Monson and his wife Lady Anne, Rose Aylmer, the muse of Walter Savage Landor, Henry de Rozario, the celebrated Anglo-Indian poet, and many more.

Followed by Afternoon Tea at Fleury’s on Park Street

Dinner at the Exclusive Bengal Club. (B,D)

Day 10
Victoria Memorial KolkataMorning: Visit the High Court and walk past Government House (now Raj Bhawan) built by Lord Wellesley, who said in justification of its enormous cost ‘India should be governed from a Palace, not a counting house.’ Visit St John’s Church (built 1784) with its painting of The Last Supper by Johann Zoffany and its beautiful marble memorials. Outside, in the first Kolkata cemetery, are the tombs of Job Charnock, the founder of British Kolkata, and Begum Johnson, who outlived four husbands. Also here is the Black Hole memorial, erected by Lord Curzon. Walk past the Lal Dighi (the Great Tank), the General Post Office (on the site of the first Fort William), Writers’ Buildings and St Andrew’s Kirk.

Afternoon: coach tour to north Kolkata visiting the Marble Palace, (if its open), the Subhas Chandra Bose Museum and Jorosanko, the home of Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal’s famous poet and artist. (B,D)

Day 11

Morning: Visit the Victoria Memorial Hall, Britain’s answer to the Taj Mahal. Two ground floor galleries contain a large collection of ‘Company’ paintings and the story of the birth of Kolkata.

Afternoon: Scottish Cemetery and Lower Circular Road Cemetery, followed by optional visit to the Bengal Crafts Council shop. (B,D)

Day 12
Day at leisure with the option of attending morning service at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. (B,D)

Day 13
Morning: boat trip to Serampore, the former Danish settlement and home to William Carey the missionary. Visit the small museum in the College grounds (if its open) and the little Serampore cemetery where he and his family members are buried.

Afternoon: Chandernagore, a French enclave until 1950. Visit the Dupleix Museum, the Church of the Sacred Heart and the old French cemetery. Return by boat to Kolkata. (B,D)

Day 14
International departure by Emirate airlines EK571 at 09:50 vai Dubai. Arrival London Heathrow at 18:40.

Extension Tours:  If you wish  to visit any part of the country before or after the group tour please contact us and we will be pleased to help.

BACSA logoBACSA ( British Association of Cemeteries in South East Asia) is endorsing the tour for its members. All arrangements for transport, accommodations and services are made on the basis of booking conditions of Indus Tours & Travel Ltd – the tour operator. Your contract is with them. BACSA shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential or incidental damage, injury, loss, accident, delay or irregularity of any kind occasioned by reason of any act or omission arising from this tour.

We will make a contribution of £25.00 per person to BACSA.

Cost Includes:

  • International air fare inclusive all taxes on Emirate Airlines flights in economy class.
  • Internal flights inclusive all taxes in economy class.
  • Train reservation Delhi-Lucknow on Shatabadi Express Train 1st Executive class.
  • Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Meal Plan: Daily breakfast and dinner.  Lunch in Meerut, Lunch at Golf Club Lucknow and High Tea at Martinière Boys College. A traditional Nawabi entertainment and dinner in Lucknow. Tea at Flurry’s Kolkata. Dinner at Palladian Lounge Kolkata.
  • A transfers and sightseeing arrangements by an air-conditioned chauffer driven private coach.
  • Entrance fee to all monuments and places of interest.
  • Services of a local English speaking guide.
  • Lecture on the history of Delhi and heritage walk with Dr Swapna Liddle (INTACH representative for the Delhi Chapter).
  • Services of Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones MBE as trip scholar.
  • Complimentary mineral water while driving and on sightseeing.
  • Full ATOL & ABTA bonding.
  • A contribution of £25 per person will be made to BACSA.

Cost does not include:

  • Visa fee for India. We will send relevant information how obtain an electronic E-Toursit visa.
  • Travel Insurance. You can obtain a comprehensive travel insurance from Travel & General click here
  • Any expense of a personal nature
  • Tips and Gratuities

How to book
To book this tour, please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.

If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.

Click here to download the booking form.

Read our Booking Terms and Conditions

Travel Insurance

It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.

Please ensure:
  • It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
  • It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
  • It covers you for all activities.
  • Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
  • If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.
If you have any question  about your cover,  please check with your insurer.
For a comprehensive travel insurance quote –  please click here





Family History and Sightseeing Tour of India – March 2017

A summary of a family history and sightseeing tour of India by Anne Brookes

On our fifth trip to India in 2015 we had travelled with the ‘Families in British India Society’ and this group tour had been faultlessly organised by Indus Travel. As well as good accommodation we had travelled to many places of interest connected to fellow travellers, plus ones relating to the Brookes clan and several old cemeteries on behalf of British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA). We also spent time on the tourist trail, which included visiting the fabulous Golden Temple at Amritsar, the Taj Mahal at Agra and Shimla. Because many of the places we wished to explore this year were not on the normal tourist route, we contacted Indus travel to request their knowledge and expertise in organising a bespoke tour.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

By Vikramjit Kakati (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

After much discussion we flew from Heathrow to Mumbai on the 7th May, to enjoy a few nights staying at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel—expensive but a lovely pre-55th wedding anniversary treat. With only a first name and photograph, the staff at Indus Travel had located our previous guide Sunita and so, with our trusty driver Santosh, we began another tour of many interesting sites in Mumbai. We were transported in our comfortable Toyota Innova car, with Santosh avoiding numerous scooters and erratic car driver to revisit St Thomas Cathedral, various temples, an interesting museum and several of the other sites, as recommended on the tourist map. I had requested a return trip to the huge dhobi complex and also we were fascinated watching the final part of the ‘lunch-box’ delivery service. Sunita was unavailable on the next day but Santosh was on hand to take us wherever we wanted to go. This included an early morning, through the Sassoon Gate to visit the busy fish market area, where trucks arrive with blocks of ice, ready for the fish and prawns to be transported elsewhere. Along with several tours from the cruise ships, we walked around Crawford Market; the livestock area didn’t appeal but the array of fruit and vegetables was amazing and we did purchase bananas.

On the 11th we left Mumbai for an interesting drive, through hills to Pune, where we checked in to the comfortable Hyatt Regency Hotel, situated on the outskirts of the large modern city and after a relaxing afternoon, next morning we were ready or another sightseeing trip with our guide Daya. Our main reason for visiting Pune was to visit the church and cemetery which had a connection with John’s maternal grandmother, who along with several siblings, during their father’s army posting, had been born here. We were made very welcome at St Mary’s Church and John was shown the original christening and death records pertaining to the Waite family. We then proceeded to the St Sepulchre Cemetery; where not surprisingly, the area dating back to the late 1800’s was very overgrown but photographs were taken to pass on to BACSA. We reverted to being tourist and were shown many interesting places, including the house where, during a period of house arrest, Mahatma Ghandi and his wife had chosen to live simply, in one of the many rooms. We also saw a popular ashram, where celebrities pay to dress in flowing robes and also live the simple life, which appeared to include periods of non-energetic dancing. As one of our interests is the history of WW1 & 11, we appreciated the visit to the beautifully kept Kirkee Commonwealth War Cemetery.

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus Station)

By Shaileshsonare (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On the 14th we had another long journey to Sholapur and I had to smile when we passed the sign ‘ALWAYS OVERTAKE FROM THE RIGHT’ but as the trucks invariably stayed in the right lane, this sign was ignored by all drivers. The purpose of this visit, to what was more of an industrialised town, was to see where John’s father, Archie Brookes, was born in 1906 and where his grandfather Oliver had been posted (probably from Calcutta) to work as a train guard. Oliver’s career with the railways ended in 1937 with him holding a prominent position at Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Station) in Mumbai, before retiring to live in Bangalore. Once again we were booked into another spacious and clean room at the modern Balaji Sarovar Premiere Hotel, located on the edge of the sprawling town and adjacent to the small airport. Next day we were joined by our excellent guide Amit, who did his best to describe how Sholapur would have appeared during the early 1900s but now very little of the old town survives. However we were introduced to the station master of the present Railway Station, which was opened in 1956 and given a brief talk about how the original railway still retain some of the original ideas—including the train engines showing odd or even numbers, to indicate which way they are travelling. We were also shown the area where the railway employees, including John’s grandfather, would have lived and worked during the period Oliver resided in Sholapur and then travelled to the isolated Christ Church, where Archie was christened to meet the caretaker and take photographs. Then after a tour of the town and a promised visit to Bhuikot Fort later, we were taken to First Church and met Pastor Vivas Vinay (who also looks after Christ Church); he and his wife made us very welcome and although no records exist from the early 1900s, we did have a nice chat.

Our Family History Tour was now over and we reverted to tourists with a circular route towards Goa had been arranged; this involved more very long drives but seeing the scenery, people and animals of rural India was fascinating. However, despite roughing it in some places over the years, I was disgusted with the Madhuvan International Hotel in Bijapur; the wording international was a misnomer and my wording would have said Madhuvan Doss House and Flea Pit. To be fair we had been advised that whilst Bijapur had some wonderful old architecture, including Gol Gumbaz Tomb, it was not a tourist area and so we didn’t have high expectations. However, it didn’t help that the place resembled a building site and the receptionist couldn’t find our names in his tatty book. John did try to explain that an executive room should have been reserved but there was a language problem and so we ended up in a tiny room with a dripping A/C system and extremely hard beds. We had decided to move on to our next destination rather than stay a second night but fortunately, after a phone call to Indus Travel who phoned the hotel, an executive room was available. The word executive was also was a misnomer as there were no towels etc, we also had a hole in the ceiling but at least the beds were ‘less firm’ and we had enjoyed the sights. NB—for future tourists wishing to visit Bijapur, the nearby Hotel Pearl did appear to be of a higher standard of accommodation.

Our next two night stay was in the modern EEFA Hotel at Belgaum, where we had a lovely spacious room, comfortable beds, a fridge and a working shower. We had an interesting stay, with a tour of the town, visiting more temples and enjoying a tour and a chat with a volunteer at a non-religious but less commercialised ashram. On the 20th we drove to Hubbli, where we stayed in a comfortable suite at the Clarke’s Inn; again this was perfectly acceptable accommodation, especially when we finally received towels and toilet paper. Once again we had a comprehensive and interesting tour of the town with Santosh, which included many temples but also a view of how the locals lived in their nearby farming community.

The long drive to Goa included many miles through a Nature Reserve with signs advising of the varied wildlife there but all we saw was one monkey as we approached the coastal region. Our third visit to the Cidade De Goa Hotel, located just outside Panjam City was restful but we also chose several areas to visit, including the wonderful churches in Old Goa. On the 27th we were on the road again for our long drive to Chiplun, where we stayed in an isolated spot at The River View Resort; our first room had a dodgy toilet but once we had moved we could enjoy the old world charm of this slightly ‘down at heel’ accommodation. The views of the gardens and the distant river made up for the many steps to the dining room and after the noise from the ‘all-inclusive’ families at Cidade De Goa, it was very peaceful here. Once again Santosh took us on a tour of the area and at our request this included a visit to the railway station in Chiplun; we had rail tickets for next day and wanted to be on the platform when Tuesday’s Mandovi/Mumbai express departed. It was fascinating to watch the hundreds of passengers climbing aboard, what appeared to us to be, an already full train. However, as Santosh had to take the car back to Mumbai on the 29th, we did decide to travel with him rather than wait until late afternoon for our train. Our final long drive was another interesting journey and I watched as we negotiated busy junctions and heavy traffic in the various towns and in one we stopped for a delicious Tali lunch. I also saw many school children going to or from school and drove past fruit sellers, cows, goats and abandoned road widening projects, all on the way back to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. With the hard working and reliable Santosh, Mumbai, was where we enjoyed the last two days of our wonderful return trip to India.

Santosh, who had been at our disposal 24/7 since picking us up at Mumbai airport 24 days previously, was there to take us back to the airport for our return to the UK.

We now have to save our pennies for a possible Indus Experiences tour to Burma but with our anniversary trip to America in September, this holiday will have to wait for another year.


A selection of images that John and Anne have very kindly sent to accompany this article.

Who Are You? Family History Tours

Family History Tours imageBritain has strong historical ties to the Indian Subcontinent: Charles II received the port of Bombay as part of his wife’s wedding dowry in 1661; the British East India Company built Fort William, kickstarting the development of Calcutta, in 1698; and from 1857 Calcutta and then New Delhi were the capital cities of the British Raj, a territory stretching across almost all of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

With so many centuries of ties, economic and political as well as cultural and social, it should come as no surprise that millions of families in the UK trace at least part of their family history back to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Burma, all of which are major Indus Experiences’ destinations. For many, their family’s origins are in the subcontinent, and their parents or grandparents migrated to the UK and settled there. For others, their forefathers went to India to serve with the Indian Army, with the Indian Civil Service, or as traders, missionaries, businessmen, and in numerous other capacities. Whatever your family’s link with India, wherever in the country they lived, our family history tours can help you learn about your past, and to put it in perspective.

Sy John Church Meerut

St John’s Church, Meerut

Each of our family history tours is carefully tailored to you own family, the places your ancestors lived, studied, worked, and, in many cases, were buried. If your father or grandfather served in the Indian military, for example, you might be interested in visiting significant battlefields, such as Kohima Ridge, where 1,500 British and Indian soldiers held out for 14 days against the Japanese Imperial Army, despite being outnumbered 10:1.

Thousands of Scottish engineers came to India to design and build the country’s vast rail network — the pride of India — and the trains were the primary means of transport within the subcontinent for foreigners and Indians alike. You can retrace the journeys of your ancestors, maybe even riding on a railway line they built, when you take one of our fascinating, not to mention photogenic, railway tours.

St John Cemetery Meerut

St John’s Cemetery, Meerut

For many families, then and now, the church played a central role in family life and was a social hub for the entire community. Travel with us to Goa or Pondicherry, and not only can you have a gloriously relaxing beach stay, but you can see the Roman Catholic churches too. Up in the hill stations of Shimla, Darjeeling, and Nainital (the ‘Lake District of India’), in the foothills of the Himalayas, are numerous Anglican churches, some of them near-perfect replicas of the missionaries’ parish churches back home. The cemeteries here, often lovingly tended by the modern congregation, are the final resting places for thousands of colonial Brits who were born and lived in India.

From April 7-9, the Who Do You Think You Are, Live exhibition will take place at Birmingham’s NEC. We will be on Stand 96 in the Society of Genealogists’ area, and will also be giving a talk, entitled Names, Graves and a Letter of introduction from the British High Commission, at 16.15 on Friday 8th in Theatre 3.  We hope to see some of you there.

Upcoming Family History Tours