Mark Womersley with students from the Grantley Adams Memorial School and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute (SJPI), technical college. The students learned to record the structure and map out the evolution of the former slave hospital at Blackman’s plantation, which now sits in the grounds of the school. It is the last former hospital on the island and the school and local community are keen to conserve but repurpose their heritage for a dynamic future.

The hands-on ‘Train the Trainers’ programme on Barbados managed by our Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme has recently finished. The programme was a great success, providing training in heritage skills for 40 tutors and students over 12 days. The training was led by Historic Buildings Specialist Mark Womersley on our behalf.

We were very grateful to Kooyman Hardware Stores and the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers for their kind donation of masonry chisels and other tools. These were invaluable when one of the Barbados top stone carvers, Colin Alleyne (Top Cat), worked with the trainees for three days of heritage craft training at Grantley Adams Memorial School. Vanessa Jones from the company and Basil Small (SJPI masonry instructor) are shown in the picture with tutors, students, and Mark.

The close of the training was celebrated at an evening event at the former slave hospital associated with Blackman’s Plantation (the last remaining former slave hospital on Barbados). A local volunteer group is sourcing funding so that the building can be restored as an art gallery and exhibition space to promote art produced within the Grantley Adams Memorial School, the local community, the island, and across the Caribbean. The training delivered by Mark has generated further enthusiasm for its restoration and the skills needed to carry out the necessary works. The event demonstrated the site’s potential by showcasing local artwork and among those attending were Attorney General Hon. Dale Marshall, the Government’s Special Advisor on Culture and Heritage Senator John King, the Senior Education Officer at the Ministry of Education Henderson Wiltshire, SJPI Principal Ian Drakes, and the Grantley Adams Memorial School Principal Major Andrew Skeete. All who attended had the chance to appreciate some of the stonework the trainees had been working on with Mark, earlier on in the programme, demonstrating what had been learned and how that could be applied at the former slave hospital. Visitors enjoyed food catered by the older school children from the Grantley Adams Memorial School and rum donated by Chef Gregory from the Arlington Museum, along with singing, all making for an exciting atmosphere.

Event at the former slave hospital, clockwise: school pupils from the Grantley Adams Memorial School deliver a beautiful singing performance; Government's Special Advisor on Culture and Heritage, Senator John King; attendees enjoying the various talks and artwork on display; Principal Major of the Grantley Adams Memorial School, Andrew Skeete. 

Attorney General Hon. Dale Marshall (left) and Historian Professor Sir Henry Fraser (right) explain why the former slave hospital is so important to the wider community and why preserving historic buildings on the island should be prioritised.

The ‘Train the Trainers’ programme on Barbados delivered a series of intensive workshops for graduates and tutors primarily from SJPI, although Mark was able to involve school pupils from the Grantley Adams Memorial School and the Barbados Vocational Training Board too. They developed practical skills in masonry and plastering, timber repair, and working with lime. The Barbados Museum and Historical Society and Barbados National Trust collaborated and provided spaces for classroom based teaching and practical works. This also enabled two members of the Museum’s maintenance team to get involved in the practical training.

Trainees used lime that they had previously burnt and slaked for some repointing work at the former Garrison in Bridgetown. After sieving the lime, they added 1 part Guyana silica sand, and ½ parts ¼” down and fine but clean coral stone sand. After chiselling out previous cement mortars that were damaging the brick, and removing cracked and damaged bricks, they inserted old matching ones, that they found on the wider site, before pointing up with their lime rich mortar.

Before the training began and in his own time Mark did extensive background research and held preparatory meetings with local experts to ensure he was as well informed on local materials and expertise as he possibly could be. When he arrived on the island, Mark visited traditionally constructed buildings and lime kilns and met with local heritage specialists Anne Bancroft and Kevin Farmer at The Barbados Museum and Geoff Ramsey of the National Trust, along with Miguel Pena, to ensure the training he provided was context specific and relevant. Following this, he delivered a series of classroom based and practical workshops, further details of which can be found here.

As part of Mark’s research before the training began, he visited local lime kilns.

The programme and CHF’s work have generated significant local interest, with excellent press coverage throughout the training, especially of the evening event at the former slave hospital.

Left to right: Principal SJPI, Ian Drakes; Senior Education Officer Ministry of Education, Technology, and Vocational Training with responsibility for CVQ and NVQ, Henderson Wiltshire.

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