Papers of Arthur Anderson, Clement, Edward William, Henry, and Walter West

Scope and Content

This collection consists of seven leather bound portfolios containing topographical drawings, maps, floor plans, notes and papers that the West brothers had created when working in the Maharashtra region of India in the mid to late 1800's. The main focus of the collection is the Kanheri Caves; a group of over 109 rock cut temples located in what is today the Sanjay Gandhi National Park on the western outskirts of Mumbai. The brothers studied these caves over the course of several decades, returning to the site many times to check and amend measurements, locations, and expand open their interpretation of the site. The remainder of the collection covers several other sites such as: Ajanta, Ellora and Daulatabad.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward William West was the eldest of twelve siblings born in 1824 to William West, owner of West's Patent Press Company Ltd, and Margaret Anderson. In May 1844 at the age of 20, he travelled to Mumbai as a superintendent of the machinery and buildings of the family-owned cotton packing company. Following a short visit to England, he returned to India in 1851 as an executive engineer of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company (GIPR), where the following year he became Chief Engineer.

The railway projects in British India fall within the vast colonial surveying project which saw territories mapped and documented in vast detail. Included in such surveys were the documentation of architectural and archaeological sites. Before the formation of the Archaeological Survey of India, which codified and centralised this practice within the government, the work of engineers such as the West brothers, for whom work facilitated and necessitated travel and armed them with the technical expertise, forms a meticulous bank of knowledge of historical sites across British India.

Edward was one of five brothers who took part in this documentation project of rock-cut caves and temples in the Maharashtra region of India. Arthur Anderson West joined his brother in November 1849 as a railway surveyor for the GIPR. Henry Anderson travelled to India in 1851 with Edward William to work as a surveyor with the GIPR. Following the completion of the line between Mumbai to Janna, in 1853, Henry spent a total of almost seven months (between April and October 1853) systematically documenting the Kanheri Caves. Walter West joined the project later, in 1870, travelling to the Kanheri Caves to clarify information left unresolved from Edward and Arthur's last visit in 1866 prior to their return to England.

The material was gifted to the Royal Asiatic Society in December 1917 by Mrs. Burgess, the wife of the then late James Burgess, architectural historian and once General-Director of the Archaeological Survey of India. The material came into Burgess' possession following the death of Edward in 1905, sent to him in 1906 by his surviving brother Arthur under the guise of exploring the prospect of publishing the portfolios of drawings, plans, and notes. Nothing however appears to have come of this project and the material remained in Burgess's possession until his death in October 1916.


The material is arranged following the order in which it arrived at the Royal Asiatic Society. It is divided into seven leather bound portfolios, each containing sub-folders, pertaining to different sites or regions, or different themes of the same site. This includes:

  • WST/1 Portfolio One
  • WST/2 Portfolio Two
  • WST/3 Portfolio Three
  • WST/4 Portfolio Four
  • WST/5 Portfolio Five
  • WST/6 Portfolio Six
  • WST/7 Additional Material

Access Information

Open. Please contact the archivist using the email address given here . The archive is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10-5, and Thursdays 2-5. Access is to any researcher without appointment but it will help if an appointment is made via phone or email. Please bring photo ID.

Acquisition Information

These papers were gifted to the Royal Asiatic Society by Mrs. Burgess in late 1916, following the death of her husband, James Burgess, on the 3rd of October of the same year.

Archivist's Note

These papers were catalogued by Lily Colgan, Archive Volunteer, under the supervision of Nancy Charley, RAS Archivist, in 2019.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital photography (without flash) for research purposes may be permitted upon completion of a copyright declaration form, and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Custodial History

The papers were created by the five brothers between 1845 and 1866, with annotations added up until 1888. As a complete collection they appear to have been been in the custody of Edward William West until his death in 1905. Following his death the the papers were organised and catalogued by Arthur Anderson.
Correspondence between Arthur Anderson West and James Burgess dated February 26th 1906 suggest that Burgess had contacted Arthur regarding their Indian cave papers, which Arthur sent by registered post to Burgess's Edinburgh address the same date. The paper's remained in Burgess's custody, with the addition of some of his own material, until his death in 1916.

Related Material

The Royal Asiatic Society hold the personal paper's of Edward William West (GB 891 EWW). Reflecting his interest in Pahlavi language and Zoroastrianism, the majority are handwritten notebooks and manuscripts, with some loose handwritten notes, correspondence, and other printed material.

Our Library Collections also holds several books written by E.W. West, as well as articles published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Details can be found on our Catalogue.

Photo.23/(008) is of E.W. West aged 71 years.