Nestled on the banks of the eternal Ganga, Kanpur stands as one of North India’s major industrial centres with its own historical, religious and commercial importance. Believed to be founded by king Hindu Singh of the erstwhile state of Sachendi, Kanpur was originally known as `Kanhpur’. Historically, Jajmau on the eastern outskirts of present day Kanpur is regarded as one of the most archaic tounships of Kanpur district. Upto the 1st half of the 18th century Kanpur continued to survive as an insignificant village. Its fate, however, took a new turn soon after. In May 1765, Shuja-ud-daula, the Nawab Wazir of Awadh, was defeated by the British near Jajmau. It was probably at this time that strategic importance of the site of Kanpur was realised by the British. European businessmen had by this time gradually started establishing themselves in Kanpur. In order to ensure protection to their lives and property the `Awadh local forces’ were shifted here in 1778. Kanpur passed into British hands under the treaty of 1801 with Nawab Saadat Ali Khan of Awadh. This forms a turning point in the history of Kanpur. Soon Kanpur became one of the most important military station of British India. It was declared a district on 24th March 1803.
Kanpur was soon to become the epicentre of the outbreak of 1857, as some of the leading luminaries of the War of Independence hailed from her, namely – Nana Sahib, Tantiya Tope, Azimoolah Khan and Brigadier Jwala Prasad. The three strategic events of the 1857 war at Kanpur were the fight at `wheeler’s entrenchment’, the `massacre at Sati Chaura Ghat’ and the `Bibighar massacre’. Nana Sahib had declared independence on th 7th of June 1857 at Kanpur. The British under Commander Hugh Wheeler retreated into a shallow earch entrenchment in the cantonment area, later known in history as `wheeler’s entrenchment’. The English garrison surrendered in the last week of June 1857 on terms of safe passage to Allahabad. But when on the morning of 27th June, the soldiers along with the women and children were about to embark into the boats at Sati Chaura Ghat, fighting broke out and most of the men were killed. The survivors, women and children were rescued who were imprisoned into the Savada Kothi and later shifted to Bibighar in the `cantonment magistrates’ compound. But when it became clear the relieving forces under General Havelock were nearing the city and defeat was inevitable, the captives-all women and children, were massacred and their dismembered bodies buried in the well of the compound on 15th July 1857. The Bibighar was dismantled by the British and reoccupation of Kanpur and a `memorial railing and a cross’ raised at the site of the well. The well is now bricked over. Only remains of a circular ridge survive, which can be still seen at the Nana Rao Park. The Kanpur Memorial Church – `The all soul cathedral’ was raised in honour of the fallen at the north-east corner of Wheeler’s entrenchment in 1862 by the British. The marble gothic screen with famous `mournful scarf’ was transferred to the churchyard of All Souls after independence in 1947, and in its place a bust of Tantiya Tope installed as Nana Rao Park’.