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The former British Residency, now Osmania Women’s University College, Hyderabad, Restored by Largest Commonwealth Heritage Conservation in History

Osmania Women's University College

20-year restoration project completes at former British Residency, the first of 20 projects under the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme, a £4.5million Commonwealth-wide conservation programme funded by UK charity

Today, the final phase of restorative work has been completed at the Osmania Women’s University College in Hyderabad, formerly the British Residency and one of the most at-risk heritage buildings in the world, in the first project completed in the largest Commonwealth heritage conversation programme in history.

Launched in May 2022 at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and backed by £4.5million in funding from UK charity, the Hamish Ogston Foundation, the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme is the largest Commonwealth conservation programme in history. Managed by the Commonwealth Heritage Forum, over the next 5 years the programme will train over 600 people from disadvantaged communities in a wide range of skills, from stonemasonry and joinery to mud brick and thatch, helping to revive traditional crafts and skills to deliver jobs and life-changing opportunities in places of real need.

The magnificent c.216-year-old building, the second largest palace in Hyderabad, has been undergoing restoration for almost 20 years. Heavy local traffic, poor maintenance and faulty repairs had left the building in acute disrepair. In 2002 it was added to the World Monuments Fund’s Watch list which champions heritage places in critical need of protection. At last, in January 2023, the former British Residency has been restored to its original splendour thanks to years of painstaking conservation work by the World Monuments Fund and a partnership of international and local charities and private donors.

The latest group of experts to work on the historic building were trainees provided under the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme. 16 young people from the UK and Hyderabad trained side by side learning both practical and conceptual conservation skills. Learning to slake lime in the classroom, for example, was subsequently practiced in re-plastering the South Porch. Sessions on jack-arch roof construction were followed by practical reconstruction work on the Lansdowne Gate – one of the three, monumental historic gateways at the entrance to the Residency’s grounds. The trainees, the majority of them women, received instruction from world-leading architects and heritage professionals, developing important new skills in heritage conservation and management while working on a live conservation project.

The restored building will add to the University facilities, which educates more than 2,500 women every year at undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma and certificate levels across Science, Commerce and Arts, with Engineering courses planned for the future.

Hamish Ogston, Founder and Chair of the Hamish Ogston Foundation said:

“The completion of restoration works at the former British Residency in Hyderabad is a major milestone in our Commonwealth heritage conservation programme, which is the largest of its kind in history. As the first of 20 projects to be completed, I hope this beautiful building in Hyderabad will bring joy to those local to it, and indeed the women who come from far and wide to be educated in it, for generations to come.

“Our first Hyderabad project shows what Commonwealth citizens can achieve together, and what the benefit to local communities can be, in this case literally, carved out of our shared Commonwealth heritage.

“This programme is securing the heritage champions of the future by building local skills capacity and creating jobs for life. I look forward to the next phase of our programme starting in Barbados, so we can continue to make a meaningful difference to more people around the Commonwealth.”

Speaking at the completion ceremony in Hyderabad, Philip Davies, Founder and Consultant Executive Director of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum said:

“The former British Residency is one of the most spectacular European historic buildings in India; an outstanding example of what is a truly shared heritage – designed by a British military engineer but constructed by local craftsmen.

“For over 50 years it has been slowly decaying. To see it finally restored to its former glory and used as test bed for heritage skills training for both local and international trainees is exactly in line with the mission of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum and our Commonwealth Heritage Skills programme.

“This is just the first of many similar projects we envisage across the globe working in conjunction with international and local partners to conserve and adapt the heritage that local people value.”

Completion of the work in Hyderabad marks the first of 20 projects to be undertaken under the Commonwealth Heritage Skills Programme. By repairing historic buildings and places around the Commonwealth, it will equip the next generation of heritage conservation craftsmen and provide significant social, economic and educational benefits to local people.

The next heritage conservation project under the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Training Programme has just begun in Barbados. 6 UK-based trainees have joined with a dozen participants from Tulane University and trainees from the University of the West Indies to develop a conservation management plan for Roebuck Street at the heart of the Bridgetown World Heritage Site. Using drones, LiDAR, and 3D scanning, trainees will map the 650-metre historic street whilst developing partnerships with local stakeholders and heritage groups.

In India, the next heritage conservation project will be the Roxburgh House Herbarium and Botanic Garden in Kolkata, where funds, provided by the Hamish Ogston Foundation have just arrived for the first stage of the project.

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