Napier Road and General Sir Charles Napier
Today (17th February) in 1843, General Sir Charles Napier led a British force at the Battle of Meeanee. His victory there, and at the Battle of Hyderabad on the 24th March 1843, enabled him to annex the province of Sindh or Scinde in India (now part of Pakistan). In 1855-6, wooden hutted infantry barracks were constructed in Colchester, on Army land between Mersea Road and Military Road. The Army bought St John’s farm and the Abbey gardens in 1860 and, in 1862-1864, brick-built cavalry barracks were constructed on some of that land, off Butt Road. The road within the old Colchester garrison between the crossroads of Circular Road North/Flagstaff Road/Circular Road East and Mersea Road was probably constructed in 1862-4. It is shown on a map of 1875-6: it is shown as ‘Napier Road’ on a map of 1923. In 1866, Colchester garrison became the headquarters of the Army’s Eastern District. Between 1896 and 1904, the wooden hutted infantry barracks were replaced by brick-built barracks buildings: the first set was completed in 1898 and named the ‘Meeanee Barracks’ and the second set was completed in 1904 and named the ‘Hyderabad Barracks’. We think that Napier Road was named after General Sir Charles Napier, who was a national hero in the 19th century. The old Colchester garrison was decommissioned after 2000 and it has been redeveloped as a residential area, but Napier Road is still there.
General Sir Charles Napier of the British Army (1782-1853) was the eldest son of Colonel George Napier. He had three notable brothers, ie Lieut.-General Sir George Napier, Lieut.-General Sir William Napier (both of the British Army), and Captain Henry Napier (Royal Navy). General Sir Charles Napier served in the Peninsular War and in the 1812 war against the United States. From 1822 to 1830 he was based on the Greek island of Cephalonia. He was commander of the Northern Command in Britain from 1838 to 1841 when he was based at the Fenham Barracks in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1842, he was given command of the British Army in India. In 1843-1847, he was the governor of Sindh as part of British India. He died at home in Portsmouth in 1853 and was buried there, and he is commemorated by a bronze statue in Trafalgar Square in London.
General Sir Charles Napier was commemorated around the world, ie there is the city of Napier in New Zealand, which also includes a suburb called Meeanee; the Napier Gardens on Cephalonia; the Napier Lines, which is a residential area of Quetta in Pakistan; and there is a Napier Road at Ambala in India… The Meeanee and Hyderabad Barracks in Colchester were, of course, named after his two famous battles. His tomb in Portsmouth is inscribed with the names of ‘Meeanee’ and ‘Hyderabad’. There are also several pub.s in Britain which are still named after him – there is a General Napier pub. at Forest Hill in London, one at Pimlico in London, and another at Brockley in London; one at Salfords in Surrey; and Sir Charles Napier pub.s at Warrington, Blackburn, Chinnor, and Langley Mill near Nottingham. Other Napier Roads in Britain are at Gillingham and Gravesend in Kent, London, Reading, Luton, Maidenhead, Bath, Bristol, and Portsmouth. General Sir Charles Napier is also still commemorated here in Colchester, within the old garrison, in the name of Napier Road.
There were other commemorative names of battles within the old Colchester garrison, such as Ypres Road, the Sobraon Barracks, the Goojerat Barracks, the Le Cateau Barracks and Le Cateau Road. The Trust is based in a former Army building within the old Colchester garrison (in the former Le Cateau Barracks), and not far from Napier Road. We are also currently conducting an archaeological watching brief at the former Flagstaff House complex on Napier Road. Three of the buildings of the complex were originally the garrison commanding officers’ quarters and administrative offices (now converted or being converted for residential use).
The images show a view of Napier Road in Colchester in February 2017 (looking west towards the crossroads) and a portrait of General Napier from a print (the print was based on a daguerrotype taken in 1849). You can see some of the buildings of the former Flagstaff House complex on the right-hand side of the road.