Hyderabad's 216-year-old British Residency to reopen for public in May
British Residency, the 216-year-old heritage monument which served as a seat of power for the British in Hyderabad, has been restored to its past glory and is all set to be thrown open to the public from May, Telangana tourism and archaeology minister V Srinivas Goud said.
Considered the second biggest palace in Hyderabad after the historic Falaknuma palace in the old city, the magnificent building complex of British Residency located on a sprawling 42-acre campus at Koti in the heart of Hyderabad had been in a dilapidated condition.
“It was in 2013 that the building was taken up for restoration by the World Monuments Fund (WMF), a New York-based international organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world, at a cost of ₹17 crore. The entire cost was born by WMF,” said heritage conservation activist Anuradha Reddy, who is also the convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Hyderabad chapter.
The renovated British Residency, which was formally inaugurated by minister Goud on April 7, was handed over to the Osmania University College for Women, located on the same premises. The college management signed an agreement with the WMF authorities for maintenance of the heritage structure.
“We shall promote the British Residency as a must-visit tourism destination, as the monument reflects the culture and heritage of Hyderabad. The state government would extend all possible assistance to the college authorities for maintaining this beautiful edifice,” Goud said.
A SYMBOL OF NIZAM-BRITISH AGREEMENT
The British Residency was constructed as part of the Subsidiary Alliance Treaty between the Second Nizam of Hyderabad (1762-1803) and the British, who were represented by James Achilles Kirkpatrick in 1798. Under the treaty, the British were supposed to extend their protection to the Nizam against any power in India in the event of a war.
Until 1947, when the British left India, the British Residency was the seat of authority of the British officers (called Residents) in Hyderabad. Later, the building was taken over by the Seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan and after the latter annexed the Hyderabad state to the Indian Union in September 1948, it was handed over to the Osmania University, which had been operating its women’s college on the campus.
Over a period of time since then, the British Residency, an architectural marvel designed by Lieutenant Samuel Russell of the Madras Engineers, was reduced to a dilapidated structure.
“It suffered massive structural damages due to lack of proper maintenance for want of funds. While the women’s college was being run on the eastern side of the campus, the main structure was in use only till 2003-04 and was subsequently abandoned due to dilapidation. In 2001, the roof of the Durbar Hall caved in. Gradually, other parts of the building turned into ruins due to seepage of water,” said B Sarath Chandra, conservation architect who supervised the restoration works of the British Residency.
Anuradha Reddy, who was a student of the Koti Women’s College located in the palace between 1964 and 1968, remembers its glory. “It was a majestic building surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains on the banks of River Musi. It has massive pillars of 40 feet in height and the marble stairs to reach up to the main hall,” she recalled.
The building had galleried halls, drawing rooms, a massive Durbar Hall, painted ceilings, and parquet floors of inlaid wood, flanked by giant mirrors. There were wonderful chandeliers believed to have been procured from London and the furniture was classic, she said.
Anuradha Reddy said Kirkpatrick had married a Hyderabadi noblewoman Khairunnisa Begum and had constructed a palace called Rangmahal within the British Residency premises. “Over the years, the area of the British Residency was reduced, partly due to road widening and a major portion was given for the construction of Osmania Medical College,” she said.
Thanks to the initiative taken by the heritage conservation activists of Hyderabad, WMF came forward to restore this magnificent palace by raising funds from donors with the support of Pleach India Foundation.
“We started the work in different phases in 2013. In the first phase, which took two years, we managed to restore the collapsed parts and in the subsequent phases, we restored the entire structure,” Sarath Chandra said.
In the next phase, he said, all the three main entrances of the British Residency would be restored, besides development of landscape and fountains. “We will also take up restoration of Rangmahal and other structures inside with the support of Deccan Heritage Foundation,” he added.
The Women’s College management has set up a committee to maintain the building now and see that the edifice remains intact for many more years to come. “There is a proposal to fix a certain amount as entrance fee for tourists, so that the money could be utilised for its maintenance,” Anuradha Reddy said.