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Young learners help restore crumbling colonial-era mansion in Hyderabad

Images courtesy of Commonwealth Heritage Forum/Icon/Hamish Ogston Foundation
Sixteen young people learning heritage restoration skills have finished the latest stage of restoring the two-centuries-old main building of Osmania Women’s University College in Hyderabad, India.

Commissioned in 1803, the Palladian-style mansion was originally the official British Residency in the city. It has been the university’s home since 1949.

For over 50 years it has been slowly decaying

Philip Davies, Commonwealth Heritage Forum’s founder

It had fallen into acute disrepair owing to heavy local traffic, poor maintenance, and faulty repairs. In 2002 it was added to the watch list of the World Monuments Fund and has been undergoing restoration works since then.

The latest restoration, undertaken by the Commonwealth Heritage Forum, saw six British and 10 Indian learners, mostly women, learning practical and conceptual conservation skills from architects and heritage professionals.

Before and after images for the south portico

Over two weeks they learned how to slake lime and build jack-arch roofs, among other things, to re-plaster interiors and repair gates.

Osmania Women’s University College traces its roots to 1924; it gained state university status in 2022, and currently educates 2,500 women each year at undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma and certificate levels.

The project is the first of 20 planned restoration schemes to be undertaken under the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme, launched in May 2022 with £4.5m in funding provided by UK charity, the Hamish Ogston Foundation.

Work was managed by the Commonwealth Heritage Forum.

Before and of the Roberts gate

Philip Davies, Commonwealth Heritage Forum’s founder, 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.

“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.”

Hamish Ogston, Hamish Ogston Foundation’s founder, said: “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.”

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