The Maharajah's Well

Mrs Catspaw and I have both long been fascinated by the story of the Maharajah's Well, and the way in which it forces us to rethink the whole 20th - early 21st Century idea of British charities assisting 'the poor' in the 'woefully underdeveloped' countries of the Global South.

The story began in 1857 as Edward Anderton Reade, 5th son of the Squire of Ipsden, Oxfordshire, an officer in the East India Company, was talking with the Maharaja of Benares (now Varanasi, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh). Reade told the Maharajah how Benares reminded him of the landscape of the Chiltern Hills - but also how those hills brought their own challenges as the people of Stoke Row struggled to access clean water, relying mainly on water retained in dirty ponds and deserted clay pits. This was to resonate deeply for the Maharaja and he decided to provide a well for the village.

The full story is set out here.

Today's 'Extra' shows a close up of the well machinery under the Chattri, topped by a gilded Elephant.

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