British Residency, Hyderabad, India - an early early colonial splendor, now renovated back to glory

Like New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mysore, and Mumbai, the city of Hyderabad in Telangana is dotted with many monuments of grandeur and beauty. Among the numerous colonial structures, the residency where the British Resident used to live stands out as a heritage structure. This structure was heavily damaged and neglected until a few years ago, but it has since been repaired and restored to its former glory.

Hyderabad British Residency

James Achilles Kirkpatrick, a British Resident in the princely state of Hyderabad between 1798 and 1805, was not a typical British officer. He possessed certain passions that set him apart from his colleagues. To suit his lifestyle as a representative of the East India Company, he built a luxurious mansion in the style of a Palladian villa, called Koti or British Residency (also known as Hyderabad Residency), in a quiet suburb of Hyderabad. It is an important tourist spot in this bustling city, reminiscent of the early colonial rule and its impact on Hyderabad, which was the capital of the affluent Nizam of Hyderabad. The successor of this dynasty was known as the richest man in the world in the 1930s.

Hyderabad British

Hyderabad British residency, Durbar

Above image:  The total plinth area of Darbar Hall block is 9500 sq. mtr and the entire complex spans 50,000 sq. mtr.  constructed between 1803 and 1805, the building is made of lime, brick, Madras Terrace, stone etc. Because of poor up keep there was water leakage from the roof and wood work had developed cracks

The building served as an embassy of the East India Company in the state of Hyderabad, with ample space for living quarters for the employees and a zenana (women's quarter) within the compound walls. Closely resembling the White House in the USA with an impressive classical portico—a common feature in many important European buildings—its architect was Lt. Samuel Russell of the Madras Engineers. Construction of this building began in 1803 as a permanent seat of British influence in this part of the subcontinent. The rulers of the Nizam dynasty had a close alliance with the English company, which later continued under the administration of the British Crown.

James Kirkpatrick, often referred to as the White Mogul, built the spacious residency to his specifications for himself and his Indian wife, Khair un Nissa. Within the premises, there is a small building, a sort of replica on a smaller scale, from where Nissa, in purdah, could observe the surroundings. Successive British Residents and their families also stayed there. Only a few years ago, the zenana and other parts of this old colonial structure were repaired and restored. In 1857, during the Indian Rebellion that started in Meerut cantonment by Indian soldiers against the English company's misrule, the residency at Hyderabad did not escape the fury of the rebels. The building was attacked and damaged by a mob led by Maulvi Allauddin and Turrebaz Khan. To safeguard the building and increase its security, the British added Martello towers in later years, but they were damaged in 1954 for unknown reasons. The arched gateway of the Residency faced environmental threats due to flooding during the Great Musi Flood of 1908. William Dalrymple, in his book "White Mughals" (2002), mentioned its salient features, highlighting it as a well-designed colonial building of that period.

After India's independence in 1947, the building remained vacant until 1949, when it was converted into Osmania University College for Women. It is now under the management of the Archaeological Survey of India and is classified as a protected monument of historical value.

The good news is that this stunning and iconic residency was restored in September 2017. In the years following 2000, this grandiose building had fallen into a dilapidated state, reduced to total neglect for various reasons. This building, once a symbol of power, wealth, and the supremacy of the early colonial proxy government for the Crown, was almost ready to collapse. After restoration, it now looks impressive and well-maintained, standing proudly in the busy area of this old city.

The building features massive tall columns that cast shade on the veranda, a grand double stairway leading to a spacious ballroom with a high ceiling from which hang large chandeliers, and a balcony for guests to watch the dancing couples and the grand music stand where the band would play classical music, waltzes, and more. Rooms next to the ballroom were in ruins, with part of the roof caved in due to neglect, lack of repair work, and aging.

Though some parts of the building were not damaged, including the entrance gateway, they had lost their sheen due to the vagaries of weather. On the ground floor, the small rooms where they used to conduct classes were not well-lit and remained dark inside. Built amidst greenery on roughly 60 acres of land, the residency includes many buildings and stables for horses, which were apparently constructed around the same time as the main structure. Far removed from the buildings, within the confines of the residency boundaries, there is surprisingly a small English cemetery overgrown with wild plants, bushes, and vegetation. A small-scale model depicting the English residency is equally damaged and in need of immediate repair work. The grave of Kirkpatrick, who built the Residency, is at St. John's Church, Kolkata, West Bengal.

The restoration of the British Residency in Hyderabad has brought back to life a significant piece of colonial history. Its towering columns, grand ballroom, and extensive grounds now stand as a testament to the architectural prowess of the era and the historical significance of the building. The efforts to preserve such structures ensure that future generations can appreciate the rich cultural and historical heritage of Hyderabad.

Renovation on British residency,

The 200-year-old Residency,  is now open for the first time to the public in and is on the premises of the Osmania University College for Women, also popular as the Koti Women’s College. Plans are afoot to rename it as  the Telangana Women’s University. In 2002 it was one among the most dilapidated structures across the globe and it took 10 years to conserve it, Cost of renovation was around Rs. 17 crore. Osmania University took up the conservation work in collaboration with World Monuments Fund (WMF), National Culture Fund of Union Ministry of Culture and the State Department of Archaeology and Museums