Heritage Times

Exploring lesser known History


The Maharajah’s well at Stoke Row (United Kingdom).

Stoke Row is a village close to Reading, in Oxfordshire. The village is noted for ‘The Maharaja’s Well’. There is a rather Interesting story behind the sinking of this famous victorian well.

After the unsuccessful first organised fight for independence of India from the British, a new ‘India act 1858’ was passed by Parliament. This led the British crown to control India directly as ‘The British Raj’. By the 1860s India was under the full control of the British Empire. The Maharajas, Nawabs and princes learned how to survive during this turbulent time. An important way to please the British was to share the financial burden of the British Empire. However, the story behind the well’s construction was not due to compulsion but it was a charitable cause.

Around the early 1860s, England suffered severe drought and famine. One story which was narrated by Edward Anderton Reade who held the position of Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces (Utter Pradesh now) to the Maharaja of Benares ‘Isree Prasad Narayan Singh’ lead to the sinking of this historic well. Mr. Reade was on invitation to the Maharaja when he told him that ‘a mother in the village punished her child who drank the last left water at home’. Moved by the story of human suffering, the Maharaja offered Mr. Reade to pay for the cost of sinking a well in the village. Mr. Reade accepted the offer and it took 14 consecutive months to dig the (368 ft. deep and 4 ft. in diameter) well. It cost the Maharaja a significant sum of £353 at that time.

After completion, on the 24th of May 1864 the well was inaugurated. The Maharaja sponsored a cherry orchard close to it and built the ‘Well cottage’ very close to it for a person to live there and look after the well and the orchard. Constant access to water and the orchard lead other people to come and live in this village. Within few years the population of village grew and factories were established.

In 1964 a function was organised to celebrate the centenary of the well. This Indo-Saracenic structure stands out prominently in comparison to neighbouring buildings of the village and it reminds the locals of the generosity of a Maharaja.


Below are few a photographs from my recent visit to the village and a few books I collected on this topic, one arrived just today. I have made a few small videos, will upload soon after editing it.

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M S Siddiqui

Dr. Mohammad Siddiqui is a UK based Medical doctor. Apart from Medicine he is interested in history, culture, art and architecture. He is an avid collector of rare photographs, postcards, maps, artefacts, rare books and magazines on different themes like ‘Hajj pilgrimage’, ‘Delhi’, ‘Islam in Britain’ and ‘The role of Indian soldiers in WWI.’

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