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Trainees help restore two-centuries-old building in Hyderabad

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.

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.



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