Mark Womersley, historic buildings specialist, assists students and tutors from the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology (SJPI) to finish off the building of a small trial lime kiln, at Lears Quarry, Barbados. They used rubble coral stone and bedded it on a mortar made from hydrated lime and cement at a 1:1:6 mix. The aggregate consisted of the quarry’s crushed coral stone sands, their ¼” down and fine dust free grades. Quicklime production stopped on the Island in the early 1960’s; this training programme aims to develop appropriate conservation mixes for the Island’s historic buildings. The lime burn will provide the quicklime to slake, so that later on different mixes for building, plastering, and render repair can be trialed. 

In response to the Prime Minister’s commitment to capitalise on Barbados' rich history, exciting new opportunities are underway to help protect Bajan heritage. Support has come under our Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training programme.

A hands-on training programme delivered by historic buildings specialist Mark Womersley is underway with the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology (SJPI). A series of ‘Train the Trainers’ workshops for recent SJPIT graduates and trainees are developing specialist skills and equipping young people to find jobs in building conservation.

Prior to this programme, over two weeks in January 2023, 40 young people from the Caribbean, UK, and US worked on a comprehensive management plan for the historic architecture of Roebuck Street, Bridgetown, Barbados, for the Roebuck Street Redevelopment Trust. It gave young people the opportunity to learn practical conservation skills and train the next generation of heritage professionals, whilst contributing towards the preservation of the heritage that local people value.

The ongoing 'Train the Trainers' workshops include field work in masonry and plastering, pointing and mortar analysis, and a lime burn exercise for staff and students (see images below). Lectures complement the practical work, highlighting the importance of using lime and traditional building practices in the conservation and repair of historic buildings. Training sessions are taking place at The Barbados Museum and Historical Society and Barbados National Trust along with practical training days for 15–17 year olds at the Grantley Adams Memorial School.

Trainees develop their pointing skills with Mark's guidance at the Barbados Museum.

Meet some of the participants on the 'Train the Trainers' Programme:

Mark was presented with a beautiful piece of batik fabric produced by children at the Grantley Adams Memorial School. This art uses wax to create patterns and designs on the material, before using a variety of dyes to colour the full image. Once the dye has set, the material is boiled to release the wax and return the fabric to its 'natural state'. The image is of a traditional Chattel house, which are found throughout the Island, although over the years many have been lost. Mark is conducting practical training for 15–17 year olds from the School, focussing on traditional timber arched formwork and on how to build and point using lime (incorporating an arched opening). 

Classroom based teaching at The Barbados Museum.

Trainees learn new skills to record the structure of a former early nineteenth century slave hospital in St Josephs, Barbados. They drew out the basket handle arches found in the building and on the Island throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using chalk line geometry, to understand how the craftsmen would have originally laid out the formwork and cut the voussoirs of the arches.

Mark pictured with members of the influential group on Barbados who are seeking to refurbish the former slave hospital to create viable exhibition space to promote art produced within the Grantley Adams Memorial school, the local community, and across the Caribbean. 



Training in coral stone cutting was provided by experienced stone carver and mason Colin Alleyne.

Trainees begin to take apart a weighted sash window to enable new sashes to be made for other mid nineteenth century openings at The Garrison House, now part of the Barbados Museum. Plastering work will start to repair a lath and plaster window head.

Towards the end of their training, the group observed the vertical sliding sashes, made from Guyana Purple Heart wood, go back into their frames at Garrison House, Bridgetown. Earlier in the programme the trainees had dismantled some of these windows in advance of their replacement. These practices can now be replicated for the other windows that need replacing.

Brilliant to see the 'Train the Trainers' Heritage Skills Training Programme gathering momentum and capturing the interest of media on Barbados.

The core training with SJPI will take place between Monday 29 May and Thursday 8 June, though some workshops will be held before this.
Follow us on Instagram and Twitter for regular updates on our progress.
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