Durbar Hall ceiling after conservation. Photo by Maniyarasan R.
Blog Post

Celebrating the Completion of Work at Osmania University College for Women in Hyderabad, India

Durbar Hall ceiling after conservation. Photo by Maniyarasan R.

Osmania University College for Women (formerly known as Osmania Women’s College) was originally built as a home—known as the Residency Bazaar—for a representative from the East India Trading Company. This representative, known as the Resident, liaised on behalf of the East India Trading Company with the Nazam, or the ruler of Hyderabad. Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick commissioned the building during his time as Resident from 1797-1805, though construction was not complete until after his death. The Residency Bazaar quickly became the financial center of Hyderabad in the mid-nineteenth century. Following India’s independence in 1947, the building was converted into the first institute of higher education for women in the then state of Andhra Pradesh (today the state of Telengana). 

WMF first included Osmania University College for Women on the World Monuments Watch in 2002 in response to the collapse of one of the building’s signature spaces, the Durbar Hall, caused by water damage to the timber support structures. It was listed again on the 2004 Watch due to the extensive conservation needs. In the following years, WMF first developed a Conservation Management Plan that focused on enhancing structural stability, mitigating water damage, and improving maintenance plans, which ultimately led to the start of the restoration phase in 2015.

The first priority was to improve the stability of the building by replacing corroded metal beams and joists as well as decayed timber. By removing cement and plaster that had been used in previous repairs, conservationists revealed the original wall structures made of mud mortar. This discovery illuminated the fact that the Residency, though European in architectural style, was constructed using traditional techniques known to local Hyderabad craftsman. Thus, the Residency offers a unique blend of classical European design with construction methodologies native to India.

Upon the completion of the structural repairs, efforts then turned to restoring the building’s walls, floors, ceilings, and facades. The northern portico features a bas-relief carved out of lime-stucco, a common regional substitution for soft stones. Restorers used traditional techniques and materials to mend cracks and fill in missing elements of the designs around the complex. In 2017, conservation began on the Durbar Hall ceiling, which features ornate geometric patterns made of painted papier-mâché combining Islamic and Hindu motifs with European design elements. The ceiling comprises 651 papier-mâché panels, each of which was individually cleaned, mended, and given additional backing to prevent tears.

After two decades of extensive conservation efforts, WMF celebrated the completion of work at Osmania University College for Women in 2023 with a special ceremony attended by local dignitaries, and members of WMF’s Board of Trustees and International Council. Today, the college serves over 2,500 students annually, and members of the faculty and student body regularly conduct tours of the complex through the university’s heritage club.

As a member of World Monuments Fund, you have supported this important work that not only restores an historically significant example of Neoclassical architecture in South India, but that also provides a place for students to continue their studies within a space that reflects their own history.

The conservation of the Former British Residency, Osmania University College for Women by World Monuments Fund has been made possible through a partnership with Osmania University College of Women, Hyderabad, and the Department of Heritage, Government of Telangana, with the generous support of The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, Mr. Richard Broyd, American Express, American Express India, Dr. Tejaswini Yarlagadda, and the Pleach India Foundation.