UK museum gets GBP 198K grant to mark the legacy of Maharaja Duleep Singh

A museum in the United Kingdom has been awarded just over GBP 198,000 in grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to mark the legacy of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the Sikh empire.

Duleep Singh portrait
Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh, photo by John Mayall, 1861, Royal Collection. Photo courtesy: X/@wikivictorian

Ancient House Museum in Norfolk’s Thetford was awarded the money on its 100th anniversary, BBC reported.

The museum was founded in 1924 by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, the son of Maharaja Duleep Singh.

The GBP 198,059 (USD 2,51,712.99) grant would be used to tell the family’s story through displays, the report said.

Maharaja Duleep Singh was the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who founded the Sikh empire in the Punjab region in 1799.

After the deaths of his father and brother, Duleep Singh became ruler of the kingdom (or empire) at the age of five, but was removed from the throne after Britain annexed Punjab in 1849.

“The Punjab”, as it was called then, was much bigger than the present state of Punjab in India. (A part of the Punjab region fell within Pakistan during the Partition of India in 1947).

In the mid-19th century, the Punjab region consisted of the present-day Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, and some parts of Himachal Pradesh, and also the present-day Pakistani regions of the Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Following the British Raj annexation of his empire, the 15-year-old Duleep Singh arrived in England and later made his home at Elveden Hall in Suffolk. His family remained in the area for the next century.

Prince Frederick, Duleep Singh’s second son, donated Thetford’s Ancient House Museum to the people of the town. He was a part of the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry and served in World War I.

The museum is now starting a two-year project to showcase “the fascinating history of the Duleep Singh family”, said Robyn Llewellyn, Director of England, Midlands and East for the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Norfolk County Council said that the new displays would include “a sumptuous ‘treasury’ of Anglo-Punjab history, a model of Elveden Hall, a loan of a portrait of Duleep Singh, and displays marking the family’s contributions and activism to achieve universal suffrage”.

The museum will exhibit the family’s items, such as Duleep Singh’s walking stick, which was given to him by King Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales.

Margaret Dewsbury, the Conservative cabinet member for communities at Norfolk County Council, said, “Through the foresighted generosity of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, for the past 100 years Ancient House Museum has served the people of Thetford and beyond, preserving the history of the town and surrounding area.” The project has received further funding from the Thetford Town Council community grant, the Friends of Thetford Museum, Norfolk County Council, and Arts Council England.