News of a current BACSA project: the Residency Cemetery in Hyderabad, Telangana

The winter of 2019-2020 saw the completion of a major project of BACSA in collaboration with the Deccan Heritage Foundation and local conservation architects to conserve the cemetery attached to the old British Residency in Hyderabad.

The Residency housed the representative of East India Company to the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Its most famous occupant is James Achilles Kirkpatrick, the subject of William Dalrymple’s “White Mughals”. It is also being restored with the support of the World Monuments Fund and the Telangana State Government. The Residency is now occupied by the Osmania University Women’s College and is currently out of bounds to visitors, but visits can be made to the cemetery.

Kirkpatrick is not buried in the cemetery, but three of his successors are. The forty five graves in the cemetery are associated with the Residency between 1803 and 1948. The grandest of them is a tholos-like structure over the remains of Frances Sydenham, the 19 year old wife of Thomas Sydenham, Kirkpatrick’s successor. She died in 1810 and her husband left India in the same year. The other tomb shown in the accompanying photographs is of Lt. Col. Sir Alexander Pinhey, a twentieth century Resident, whose funeral was interrupted by a swarm of bees, which scattered people and horses. Other graves cover the remains of officers of the East India Company Army and the British Army, children, officials and the grandson of a servant.

Views of the Pinhey tomb, one of the last to be conserved

Conservation work started in 2016-2017 and was planned in three phases. In Phase 1 overgrown vegetation and precariously situated plants were removed so that the cemetery became accessible and a review of the condition of each grave could be done. A detailed condition report was prepared on each grave. Phase 2 saw the restoration of the boundary wall in order to secure the site. This is one of BACSA’s key primary objectives in any conservation project. During this phase the drains running around the cemetery were uncovered, a detailed survey of the soil levels and slopes was done and a few graves considered to be in danger of collapse were consolidated. In Phase 3 all but one of the 45 graves were conserved, the drains restored, the grounds levelled and the cemetery gate made ready.

During 2020, while work was suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic, BACSA agreed a short term maintenance plan with the Deccan Heritage Foundation to keep the cemetery clean and cleared, so that the very impressive work of the last few years is not obscured by the rampant growth of vegetation after the monsoons. We are delighted that the local authorities will then take over the work of maintenance as part of their commitment to the conservation of the whole Residency complex. Together with the Foundation we are convinced that the cemetery and Residency building will form a significant addition to Hyderabad’s built heritage and become an attractive location for visitors from both India and abroad.

In total BACSA has given some £49,000 towards the cemetery conservation project. This would not have been possible without the generous donations of several of our members, of some descendants of people buried in the cemetery and of others who are keen to promote this development in Hyderabad. The Deccan Heritage Foundation has also devoted its own resources and has masterminded the project on our behalf from the start.

Denise Love, BACSA Projects Co-ordinator, February 2021