India: The British Residency in Hyderabad- the setting of Love and Betrayal in India

The old building of the British Resident to Hyderabad- colonial splendour meets a thrilling love story.

Why visit?
The Residency plays a central role in William Dalrymple's excellent book 'White Mughals'. Most people who come visit have read the book and want to see the place where it is set. 

The building is outstanding in its own right: a grand mansion, built in the European neo-classical style, reminiscent of the White House in Washington DC. It was intended to signify the power and grandeur of the British, and in this sense, the building outlasted the colonial power who built it. Hyderabad was an independent state but the British East India Company maintained its influence by appointing a Resident to the Hyderabadi court, who would spy, scheme, and protect British interests. 

The building is now much dilapidated- in spite of being one of the best examples of British colonial architecture in india it is slowly falling to pieces. 

In the center of Hyderabad, on the northern bank of the river. The Residency building is now part of the Osmania Women's college. Map. 

THE BRITISH RESIDENT represented the interests of the British East India Company with the independent state of Hyderabad. The Nizam (King) of Hyderabad was trying to maintain his independence versus increasingly aggressive British and French colonial powers and accepted the stationing of a Resident who acted as an advisor and ambassador. The Nizam even ended up paying for the building of the Residency!

The building's grand neo-classical design was intended to signify the power and wealth of the British. It is a near-contemporary of the White House in Washington, DC. It was commissioned by the Hyderabadi Resident, James Kirkpatrick, around 1803. 

The building acted as the seat of British Residents up to Independence. After that, at some point the building became part of a Women's College. 

Because it's still part of a functioning college, access can be a little tricky. When I showed up on a Saturday, there were no students present but I managed to convince the guard let me trough (the magic word being, as usual, 'baksheesh'). 

Eventually somebody showed up who worked for the Principal's Office and took me around and inside this magnificent building.
The front of the building is truly impressive and grand. 
British Resident James Kirkpatrick is the protagonist of William Dalrymple's excellent book 'White Mughals'. It's a bit like Romeo and Juliet, but with Juliet wearing a headscarf and Romeo as an officer in the British army. In a nutshell, Kirkpatrick got involved with and eventually married a local girl from an aristocratic Muslim family, and 'went native'. Especially the latter caused a small crisis in the colonial administration, which didn't see marrying Muslim princesses as part of the White Men's Burden. 

Kirkpatrick and his wife, Khair Um Nissa, had two children, and their tragic story is at the heart of White Mughals. I don't want to give the story away but it's heartbreaking and gives you an idea of the challenges those stationed overseas faced in the days before Skype, WhatsApp, and budget flights. 

Inside the Residency, a replica of a famous painting of the Kirkpatrick children graces one of the walls. 

Mir Ghulam Ali Sahib Allum (aka William) and his sister Noor-un-Nissa Sahib Begum (Kitty).
The building looks impressive from all sides. I'd imagine it would have been very comfortable to live in, and great for the kids to play hide and seek: spacious, with lots of shaded areas to withstand the Indian heat. Although it's often compared to the Washington, DC White House, one obvious difference is the beautiful light ochre colour of the Residency. 
The Residency's backside. 
Side view. 
Massive columns create shaded verandahs. 
Once inside, the grandeur of the building just blows you away. A dramatic double staircase leads up to a magnificent ballroom, replete with massive chandeliers. The ballroom is two stories high and has a balcony so guests could watch the dancing and music downstairs. (A similar set-up can be found in the Salon de Musique of the Jacquemart-AndrĂ© mansion in Paris)
To find this here, in the middle of Muslim India, in an dilapidated building in an empty park is just bizarre. If this building were in Europe, it would be a museum (or an investment banker's private residence). Here, you can enter through a clandestine entrance of the dark basement and be the only visitor that week.  
The double staircase. 
The Ballroom. Notice the balcony around the room. The chandeliers are enormous!
Parts of the building are in really bad condition. Next to the ballroom is a room whose ceiling has collapsed, exposing the floor above! Some of the decoration remains but clearly it can be dangerous to explore this part of the building. Hard hats were not available...
Room with collapsed ceiling. 
However, one of the wings of the building appears to be still in use. We were here on a Saturday, so we didn't see any students, but the wing was set up like a classroom and the principal's office was also signposted. 
The wing that was used as a classroom. Note the small door under the staircase which is how we managed to enter the building- through a large dark underground passage. 
Principal's office. 
The grounds of the Residency are extensive. There are old stables and various other building that date back to the same period. Some of the original gateways still stand. Many of these buildings appeared still to be is use. 

A little further back is a small English cemetery, mostly overgrown. There is also a scale model replica of the building, although this is even more ruined than the building itself and mostly overgrown. 

The ruined scale model. 
Old canon in the garden. 
Getting there:
As is often the case in India, there are multiple versions of the truth. 

First of all the Residency is known under various names. It's located in a neighbourhood called Koti, so that name is often used. It's now part of the Osmania's women's college, so that name is also in use. 

Locating it can be tricky (again, as is often the case in India). 

There are conflicting locations on Google so here is the exact location of the complex. The entrance is on what's labelled below as 'Koti Main Rd'. 
Take a rickshaw and direct the driver to the exact point on the map,   

Useful links:
William Dalrymple's White Mughals
Wikipedia entry on James Achilles Kirkpatrick
Koti residency in shambles


  1. Hi

    Thanks for this article. I have read many here, but this is the only one I've been able to visit so far. Definitely lovely, and worth visiting- adds a lot of variety while visiting Hyderabad for the palaces and museums.

    Couldn't make it inside however, and looking at your photos, I wish I could!

    Anyways, thanks again. Wouldn't have been able to make it without this article. Heck, I hadn't even heard of this place before I read this. Looking forward to see more places you've written on!


  2. Excellent Ansh, I'm really glad this was useful and inspiring. Thanks for letting me know.

    Happy travels!

  3. Impressive. I last came upon this during my drive from London to Colombo in the then Ceylon. But like a large number of heritage buildings the Indians leave them in very sorry state.

    1. wow, that must have been a long time ago given that Ceylon changed its name in 1972 ;-)

      > like a large number of heritage buildings the Indians leave them in very sorry state.
      That is true, but with (by some estimates) 650 million Indians living below the poverty line, it's understandable that the country's priorities don't always match those of developed Western economies...

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for this article,Basically i love history. was searching about Khair Um Nissa and their childrens 'William and Kitty Kirkpatrick', because recently i ordered 'The white mughals' book, i can't wait to read and your great research on this article made me more interesting to read that book soon.Also a little information,the painting of their picture by Anglo-Irish artist George Chinnery, was painted just before they sail for Europe in 1804.
    The most interesting fact is, i never knew before that this is their residency.Am glad i came to know about their residency by reading your article.such a beautiful building and the pictures you have taken. Especially the 7th picture from the last, marvelous ball room and the chandeliers.
    Again..Thank you so much for the article.

    1. Hello Anon, I'm delighted to hear you enjoyed the article. I'm sure you enjoy White Mughals as well- it's a fascinating book. Pls let us know what you thought of it when you're finished.

      Have you been to Hyderabad?

    2. No I haven't.but will be going soon.
      Being in India, hyderabad is in my bucket list as first and next would be jaipur.
      Oh yes. surely will share my thoughts once i finished reading. Thanks

  5. Your article on the Residency was very interesting. My brother has just visited it in a search for our ancesters, William Palmer & family. We are due out again in January of next year I hope and will be trying very hard to find the tomb of my 'grandmother', the Bibi Faiz Baksh. I wonder whether this would be anything that you could help us at all with?

    1. Hello April, glad you enjoyed the article.

      I'm afraid I can't help you with the rest of your quest, but it sounds like your family has some fascinating stories to tell...

      The only thing I can suggest is that you contact William Dalrymple. His books have been my primary source of information and if anybody knows more, it would be him. He's on various social media (Twitter, Instagram) so it shouldn't be too hard to reach out to him. Tell him we sent you :-).

      Good luck!

  6. I will go to Hyderabad in the summer where I have twice been before and have seen the main sights, but this old British residency I hope to see, and I knows of know William Dalrymple, a little, and loved the White Moghuls book. Recently I also discovered my daughters friend also is descended from William Palmer and his Indian princess wife. This article is good and the photos lovely. I do hope I can visit inside too, somehow.

    1. Hi Catharway, I am sure you'll have no problem going inside. just ask around, polite and persistent.

      Please report back what you found. We've read the Residency is under restoration which in may ways is great news. See here:

  7. Thanks a lot for excellent information provided by you, because of that I was able to reach there and enter inside the building. To day is Sunday and students were not around therefore it was convenient to roam around. Well residency is under restoration and work is going on.

    1. Thanks for the update William. Glad it was useful. We've heard the building is being renovated, which is great news. Did you notice any differences versus the pictures shown here?


  8. I have completed my graduation in this college. And we use to love that building a lot... actually it was our meeting spot with friends. Ur pics brought my memories back. Thanks for the article. Enjoyed it.

    1. that's so interesting, thanks for sharing! When did you study there?

  9. Hi
    do you know if any record exist from the English Cemetery. I have a burial record which states that one on my ancestors, who worked there as a writer, was buried there. I would dearly like to find more information on his life/death
    kind regrds

    1. Sorry, no idea. Did you find any information?

    2. No I’ve not got any further with my quest. Do you know if the cemetery still exists?

  10. I’m planning a trip next year

    1. Lucky you! Please let us know how you found it. I believe there has been some restoration work.

  11. The restoration project is an outright farce.

  12. Hi there! I was a student at this college in my teens and beyond. Two decades later I visited the college and was saddened to see the dilapidation and ruins. It was bad enough in my time, nobody knew or cared about the history of the building or the people who once lived in it. Not the staff, nor the students. My friends and I were curious and explored as much as we could. I wondered a lot about how and when it was built but my questions were only answered years later when William Dalrymple's book was published. It's a fascinating story and yes, it should have been preserved for posterity. Thank you for a great article and beautiful photos.

    1. Thanks Syeda! Interesting to hear from an actual student. Have you been back recently to see the restoration?

  13. Hi .. When was he last time you were there.. Its still on my bucket list as i have family that are buried somewhere in the grounds, I have also read Dalrymples' book was a great insight to how my relatives my have lived.

  14. I found your article very informative. Having read White Mughals, I was naturally intrigued like many others. The building is now under restoration and parts of it, including front and back facade, ballroom, chandeliers are well restored. Would be great for you to visit again and do Before and After.


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