Nestled much of his early life in India (he

Nestled in the
gardens of Bealings House, of Great Bealings in Suffolk, stands a four-sided
stone pyramid, ten feet high by ten feet wide, surmounted by a three-faced
sculptural head of the Indian god Siva. Embedded in one of its sides is another
sculpture, this time of the god Brahma. This unique monument was erected in the
1820s by the soldier, antiquarian, scholar, collector and traveller Major
Edward Moor (1770-1848). Moor, who spent much of his early life in India (he
first travelled there aged twelve years old as a cadet and by the age of
seventeen was a lieutenant in the Bombay army, a proficient linguist and an
expert in Indian law) was fascinated by the Hindu faith and the religious
culture of the sub-continent. From 1796 to 1806, under the patronage of Sir
Charles Malet, the British resident to the Peshwa’s court at Poona, and Jonathan
Duncan, Governor of Bombay, Moor acquired over 1000 objects including just
under 400 small bronze and brass figures of Hindu gods, as well as manuscripts,
weapons, coins, and paintings, mostly from western India and the Deccan. Moor’s
books frequently reference his collecting activities and visits to
archaeological sites. He was particularly fascinated by the island of
Elephanta, near Bombay, which had a great cave temple that was dominated by a
rock cut stone sculpture of the three faces of Siva as Mahesamurti. The
Bealings pyramid could thus be seen as a fitting miniature version of
Elephanta’s most important sculpture. Moor justified much of his collecting
through the language of ‘preservation’, for example, he details how he came
across the two sculptures that ended up as part of his ‘rural pyramid’.