To begin with, I think, I must first give an introduction of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. No matter how stupid it sounds to most Bengalis, I wont be doing the same mistake I did while writing a post on Iswarchandra Vidyasagar. We must admit not everyone in the World would know him. So, if you have not already clicked the Wikipedia link about Ram Mohan, and know now who he was, please please do so. Atleast skim through the article to know what he did for Indians before I say, for me, he is the person who started making the lives of Hindu widows in India, atleast longer.
Bristol was high in my travel list, because this was the place where he breathed his last. The city where his resting place is and where he is remembered till today. Whatever information I could gather, the following are the sites related to Ram Mohan Roy –
1. Beech House, Stapleton, where he died
2. A pedestrian path in Stapleton named after him as Rajah Rammohun Walk
3. His tomb at Arnos Vale cemetery
4. A full size bronze statue of him in front of the Cathedral
5. A bust inside the main foyer of Bristol’s City Hall
6. His huge 1831 portrait by Henry Perronet Briggs inside Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery
The last four are all within the main city and could be easily found, apart from the tomb, which needs some time, though not much. The first two are outside the main city in Stapleton, which used to be a small village then. After Googling a bit we found the location of the house in map. It is called the Beech House and is situated in Stapleton Grove.
Our train from London Paddington was not a direct one to Bristol Temple Meads station as the customer care advised us to go via Bristol Parkaway Station, for which the ticket would be cheaper (Always look out for alternate routes or split your train journeys in the UK. Saves lots of pounds). But it turned out to save much more for us. The Stapleton station is between Parkway and Temple Meads. Which meant we can travel till Stapleton without paying extra as our tickets wont terminate before we reach Temple Meads.
The journey to Parkway was about one and a half hours long, and from there we took a train towards Temple Meads which would stop at Stapleton. The map showed the house would be 2.2 kms from the station which we planned to walk. The only challenge, we thought, would be to locate the pedestrian path named after Ram Mohan, as we couldn’t find the exact location of it online. But, there were more surprises waiting for us.
Stapleton Road is a small station, but as soon as we got off from the train we realised it is one of those which have no ticket counter or any other in-station facilities. When in Scotland our train crossed few similar stations, but this is the first time we are using one. The two main concerns were, one, we wont get a toilet before we reach Temple Meads, and two, how to find the time of the train for our onward journey. The second problem got resolved soon though, as we located a Help Point from were we can call for railway information.
Turning the GPS on we came out of the station. The area around the station looked a bit run-down. Though there were beautiful houses, they were clearly not maintained properly. With Bristol being a graffiti hub, the walls of Stapleton was also covered with colourful patterns. We didnt notice anything huge or exceptional, but there were numerous small but interesting ones throughout the walk. We also noticed the area experiences religious tensions as there were quite a few Islamophobic graffiti.
After crossing the river Frome the surroundings started to change. The number of houses around started to decrease until we took left and the road entered the fields. Just about 50 feet into this road we saw a pedestrian path on our right with a signboard reading “Raja Rammohun Roy Walk”. Voila! We have found it!! It is not mentioned in any of the maps and the best direction we found was – it’s in Stapleton. So we were really really thrilled to find it.
Checking off the second item from the list, we continued towards Beech House. It is around 350 meters from the pedestrian path on the right of the main road. Now a residential apartment, it has a plaque on the western wall (the wall visible from the main road) which reads –
Rajah Ram Mohun Roy
Founder of the Brahmo Somaj and pioneer of
many-sided reforms in India. A man of deep religious
experience. A friend of all the religions of the spirit
A great linguist who cast a permanent light on the
chief religions of the World. Born at Radhanagore Bengal
in 1774. Visited England in 1831 and 1833 to advance the
social and political interests of his country
He lived in this house in the summer of 1833 and
died here on September 27th in the same year
This tablet is erected as a token of their deepest reverence
by his fellow countrymen on the occasion of the first
centenary of the Brahmo Somaj“
On the other side of the road, just opposite to Beech House is the interesting building of Linden House. Now converted to apartments, this used to be Purdown mental health hospital, which closed in the 1990s. The tower, dating back to mid 18th century, is a Grade II listed building and is thought to be a folly built as the part of landscape park for Stoke Park House.
We decided to walk around the area a bit and noticed the high spire of a church. As it seemed close by, we decided to visit it. But after few minutes we realised all the roads around the Beech House are actually closes and the only way out is to take the road we came through.
We also noticed two more “Raja Rammohun Roy Walk” signboards, one in front of Beech House and the other to its east. These two marks the other end of the path which comes through the fields. We decided to take this path back.
… to be continued