Sir Thomas Metcalfe, 4th Baronet

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Sir Thomas Metcalfe, Bt
Delhi Book (detail Thomas Metcalfe).jpg
Sir Thomas Metcalfe, Bt, on a picture from the Delhi Book
Born (1795-01-02)2 January 1795
Portland Place, London
Died 3 November 1853(1853-11-03) (aged 58) [1]
Metcalfe House, Delhi, British India
Resting place St. James' Church near Kashmiri Gate, Delhi
28°39′56.2″N 77°13′53.5″E / 28.665611°N 77.231528°E / 28.665611; 77.231528
Occupation Governor-General's Agent at the Imperial court of the Mughal Emperor
Employer East India Company
Title Baronet
Successor Sir Theophilus Metcalfe, 5th Baronet

Grace Clark (1815-);

Fe'licite Anne Browne (1826 - her death, 1842)
Children Sir Theophilus John Metcalfe, 5th Baronet
Emily Ann Theophila Metcalfe
Charles Theophilus Metcalfe
Georgiana Charlotte Theophila Metcalfe
Eliza Theophila Debonnaire Metcalfe
Sophia Selena Theophila Metcalfe

Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, 4th Baronet, KCB (2 January 1795 – 3 November 1853) was an East India Company civil servant and agent of the Governor General of India at the imperial court of the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.[2][3]


Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe was born on 2 January 1795 at 49 Portland Place, London, and christened on 27 March 1795 in St Marylebone Parish Church, Saint Marylebone, London, England. He arrived in Delhi in 1813 and lived there for forty years.[4] His elder brother, Charles Metcalfe (1785–1846), was Resident to the Mughal Emperor's court, and briefly the provisional Governor General of Bengal (1835–36). He married Fe'licite Anne Browne on 13 July 1826.

In 1830, Metcalfe began to build the "Metcalfe House" on the outskirts of Delhi, taking land belonging to Gurjar villagers. He filled it with his collections of art, books and relics of Napoleon.[5] The Metcalfe House was called Matka Kothi by the bearers and khansamahs (chefs) serving Sir Thomas, as they found it difficult to pronounce the name Metcalfe.[6]

Dilkhusa (Delight of the Heart) the country house of Metcalfe, in Mehrauli, Metcalfe album, 1843
Dilkusha with Qutb Minar in the background, Mehrauli

In 1835, Metcalfe became the agent at Delhi after the murder of William Fraser and ran the "Delhi Territory", the area around the old capital under British control since 1803.[6] He succeeded his brother as Baronet in 1844, and became an important figure in the cultural climate of Delhi.[4]

While working in India as the Governor-General's Agent at the Imperial court of the Mughal Emperor, between 1842 and 1844, Metcalfe ordered a series of images of the monuments, ruins, palaces and shrines from Delhi artist named Mazhar Ali Khan, and later an album termed as Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi (also Dehlie Book or Delhi Album) was compiled by Metcalfe in 1844, containing 89 folios around 130 paintings by Indian artists,[7] and including descriptive text and touching words and was sent to his daughter Emily as she headed from an English schooling to join him in Delhi. The album has now been acquired by the British Library.[8][9]

During the rainy season he used to stay at 'Dilkusha' (Delight of the Heart), which was built on the first floor of the tomb of Mohammed Quli Khan, brother of Adham Khan, general of Mughal Emperor, Akbar, situated south east of the Qutb complex in Mehrauli, an area which was also the traditional retreat of the Mughals for the season.[10] While his main house was a colonial bungalow, built in 1844, its library contained over 20,000 books including Napoleon memorabilia, however during the Uprising of 1857 the library was destroyed and looted.[11] He was invested with the Order of the Bath, and became a Knight Commander in the same order.[12]

Metcalfe was allegedly poisoned by one of Bahadur Shah's queens in 1853.[4][13] He was buried in a grave to the east of the Skinner Family's cemetery, at the St. James' Church near Kashmiri Gate, Delhi.[14]

The tomb of Sir Thomas Metcalfe at St. James' Church near Kashmiri Gate, Delhi

During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Metcalfe House was sacked by the Gurjar villagers from whom the land was taken to erect the building.[15]


His father was Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, 1st Baronet and his mother was Susannah Sophia Selina Debonnaire. His father first went to India in 1767 as a cadet in the King’s Army, eventually becoming a Director of the British East India Company.[16][17]

He married, firstly, Grace Clarke, daughter of Alexander Clarke, on 7 June 1815, by whom he had one daughter. He married, secondly, Felicite Anne Browne on 13 July 1826, by whom he had one son and two daughters. He was succeeded in his title by his eldest son, Sir Theophilus John Metcalfe, 5th Baronet, who was also in the Indian Civil Service.


In 1853 Metcalfe suffered a digestive disorder which led to his slow death. His doctors believed that the ailment was caused by poison. Metcalfe's family, and Metcalfe himself, suspected that he was being administered poison on the instructions of Zinat Mahal, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar's favorite wife.[18]

Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi[edit]

Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi, also called the Delhi Book, is an album consisting of 89 folios with approximately 130 paintings by Indian artists. The paintings depict Mughal and pre-Mughal monuments of Delhi, the lives of native Indians as well as other contemporary material. Metcalfe added extensive descriptions to almost all paintings. He had assembled the album to be a gift for his daughters in England, and he sent it to them in 1844. The most important feature of the album is that it shows buildings as they were before the siege of Delhi during the Indian Mutiny. Many of these structures were razed, vandalized or suffered neglect in the years following the Mutiny.

Architectural legacy[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • The Golden Calm: an English lady's life in Moghul Delhi : reminiscences by Emily, Lady Clive Bayley, and by her father Sir Thomas Metcalfe, by Emily Bayley, Thomas Metcalfe, edited by M. M. Kaye. Published by Webb & Bower.
  • Thomas Metcalf. Imperial Connections: India in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1860–1920 Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-520-24946-2.
  • Metcalfe History


  1. ^ Biography and Genealogy
  2. ^ "Metcalfe, Sir Thomas Theophilus (1795-1853)". National Register of Archives. The National Archives. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  3. ^ "Oxford Biography Index: Thomas Metcalfe". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  4. ^ a b c "Images Of A Lost Empire". Redhotcurry Limited. 2003-08-18. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  5. ^ "Reminiscences of Imperial Dehlie". September 2003. Archived from the original on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  6. ^ a b "This time, that age". Metro Plus Delhi. The Hindu. 2003-12-29. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  7. ^ "'The Delhi Book' of Thomas Metcalfe". Prints, Drawings and Photographs Section. The British Library. Archived from the original on 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  8. ^ 'Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi’, British Library.
  9. ^ About the Delhi Book The Guardian, August 16, 2003
  10. ^ The tomb of Muhammad Quli Khan, brother of Adham Khan, converted to a residence by Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe British Library.
  11. ^ Sir Theophilus Metcalfe's House, Delhi. British Library.
  12. ^ Kenneth G Metcalf. "Metcalf Family History and Genealogy". Metcalf History. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  13. ^ A case of Delhi poisoning? Hindu, April 5, 2004.
  14. ^ The tomb of Sir Thomas Metcalfe in Delhi British Library.
  15. ^ Sen, Geeti; Ashis Banerjee (2001). The Human Landscape. Orient Longman. p. 236. ISBN 81-250-2045-4. 
  16. ^ Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, 1st Baronet (1745-1813). British Library.
  17. ^ Prints & Drawings full record display for shelfmark P2204 British Library.
  18. ^ A case of Delhi poisoning?

External links[edit]

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Theophilus Metcalfe
(of Chilton)
Succeeded by
Theophilus John Metcalfe