Highlights from 2023

Upwards of 40 participants on the Barbados 'Train the Trainer' programme in May 2023 learned practical skills in masonry and plastering and working with lime.

Highlights from 2023

We have had an incredibly busy and successful 2023, managing and delivering heritage skills training programmes in Barbados, Antigua, Singapore, Scotland, and Kolkata, along with funding students on The King's Foundation MA in Traditional Arts. In July, our Commonwealth Coronation Agreement secured £12.26m in funding towards our future projects and programmes.

This January, we are working in Kolkata on behalf of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. This work highlights the importance of Kolkata's historic architecture and the urgent economic, social, and cultural need for its conservation. Our work in Kolkata with the FCDO is just the beginning, we are also scoping projects across other sites in the city, including at the internationally significant Roxburgh House and Botanic Gardens, and at important non-colonial sites too. Our work is all aimed at supporting the development of lasting heritage and craft skills in the local community, whilst conserving important historic fabric. We have already run two exciting preliminary training projects at Roxburgh.


The conservation of Roxburgh House will attract tourists to Kolkata and contribute to the city's economy. Nilina Deb Lal photographed in front of Roxburgh House is the programme director and architect. Photo by Philip Davies. Roxburgh House and other sites across Kolkata such as the 18th century South Park Street Cemetery are  receiving support from our Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme.


We are also delighted for Philip Davies, our Consultant CEO and founder, whose work in heritage and planning across the UK and Commonwealth was recognised with the award of an OBE in the New Year Honours List.

Philip has said ‘It is a measure of the impact that the CHF has achieved across the Commonwealth in such a short space of time that the award was made in the diplomatic section of the list. It is welcome recognition of the hard work and dedication of our Trustees, our International Advisory Committee and all our supporters who have offered their time, experience and expertise in our mission to help people across the Commonwealth save the heritage that they value.’

In response to our growing portfolio of projects and training programmes, our team has gained a new Training and Skills Consultant, Victoria Hellewell. Victoria's background is in applied craft practices and skills and training in the heritage sector, and she replaces Ashley Taylor Bochman, who will be continuing her invaluable work with us, but as Finance and Operations Consultant.

We were pleased to travel to York this January to welcome Victoria to the team, where we combined a day of forward-planning with a site visit of the York Minster Centre of Excellence for Heritage and Crafts Skills, expected to complete in summer 2024, under the careful supervision of Alex McCallion (Director of Works and Precinct). The Centre of Excellence, framed by the ancient Minster, will deliver training in crafts skills, adopting a combined approach of traditional practice and 21st century technology, covering vital skills such as, gilding, carving, joinery, drawing, and masonry work. We collaborated with York Minster's Works and Fundraising Departments in April 2023, supporting two of their staff members to deliver practical training sessions in lime in Singapore. We will continue to work closely with the team at York as they develop their crafts programmes.

The Consultant team met in York at the beginning of January to welcome Victoria to the team and to meet with Alex McCallion who is overseeing the build and future programme for the York Minster Centre of Excellence. Pictured here: the team with Alex at the joinery workshop and the stone yard, both under construction.

Our lecture series Railways across the Commonwealth which spanned 6 weeks in November and December last year was highly successful, drawing in a global audience and sparking interesting debate in the Q&A's. You can watch recordings of these lectures here. We will continue to convene and host lecture series on all aspects of heritage from case studies to our training programmes and technical solutions to common problems. Details for the 2024 programme will be released in April.



Highlights from our programmes in 2023


Roebuck Street Research Studio, Barbados 

The programme at Roebuck Street, Barbados, has been a huge success, drawing in over 40 young participants from across the UK, the US, and the Caribbean. Trainees learned skills in sketching, building investigation, documentation, condition assessment, preservation mapping, and recommendations and interpretation of adaptive re-use. The tasks completed by the trainees have contributed towards a plan for Roebuck Street, a UNESCO WHS, due to be published soon. Find out more. 

Roxburgh House and Herbarium 

8 young professionals working in architecture, conservation, and education participated in a Condition Mapping Training Workshop at the Old Herbarium, AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Kolkata. The training was delivered by Sue Whittle of S&B Architects, Edinburgh, and Ashish Sharan Lal, Alleya and Associates, Kolkata, and incorporated both theoretical and practical teaching on condition mapping.

Our Queen Elizabeth II Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme also commissioned a Vision Statement for the Roxburgh International Hub Project. The project led by Simpson and Brown Architects and Alleya and Associates envisages repurposing Roxburgh House, the Old Herbarium and the Old Seed Store, to create a visitor destination within the Garden. Read more.


St John's Research Studio, Antigua

In May we awarded 11 Commonwealth Traineeships to fund the attendance of early career heritage conservation professionals from across the Caribbean to attend the Antigua Research Studio. Training spanned three weeks and trainees learned skills in digital conservation management and undertook practical work in downtown St John's and the Historic Dockyard. Read more.

The King's Foundation MA in Traditional Arts 

Our Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme has funded two full scholarships for Commonwealth students, Yusef Hourani (an artist from Perth, Western Australia) and Nur Fathiah (a calligrapher, born and raised in Singapore) to undertake the MA in Traditional Arts at The King’s Foundation School. Read their updates.

Singapore heritage skills training 

With the support of our Queen Elizabeth II Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme between 6–12 April 2023 the National University of Singapore (NUS) hosted heritage skills workshops with teaching from Lee Godfrey and Laura Cotter. Lee is Senior Mason Conservator at the York Minster Works Department and Laura is Research and Partnerships Manager for the York Minster Fund.

In one of the practical workshops, 17 participants learned how to replace and apply traditional lime plaster: mixing, applying, and letting the lime mortar dry. Marking a breakthrough in NUS’s outreach activities, for the first-time building owners from neighbouring houses also joined in to understand why traditional materials and approaches are important. Read more.


'Train the Trainers', Barbados 

The hands-on ‘Train the Trainers’ programme on Barbados in May managed by our Queen Elizabeth II Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training 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.

The trainees 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. Read more.


The King's Foundation Summer School, Dumfries House 

We funded four students from Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, and Jamaica to participate in The King's Foundation Summer School at Dumfries House near Glasgow, Scotland. Alongside 25 other students they developed knowledge of traditional architecture, design, and building techniques and how these can be applied in the 21st century. The teaching included craft workshops ranging from drawing classes and geometry, to plaster work, stone masonry, and working with lime. Read more.


The forward programme

We have projects in 17 countries currently completed, running, or in development. They are:

Antigua (3 projects), Barbados (2 projects), Guyana, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, India (5 projects), Pakistan (2 projects), Fiji, Samoa, St Helena, New Zealand, Singapore, Malta, Somaliland and Jordan. The latter two are not Commonwealth, but Anglosphere, and such countries are eligible for support at our discretion, together with British overseas territories if they meet our criteria, for example St Helena.

Thank you for your continued interest and support. Please keep up to date with our news via our social media and website. If you would like to sign up to our Mailing list please email admin@commonwealthheritage.org. You can support our work by joining us as a Member

Our online bi-monthly newsletters are an excellent source of information on related topics, covering all aspects of heritage from case studies to our training programmes.


The four Commonwealth bursary students, Daniel Guenther, Su Lin Teh, Shavon Campbell, and Muhd Syahid Tan, join Noel Henry, the Commonwealth tutor, and members of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum consultant team, outside the earth-building workshop at the Dumfries House estate. 

Scroll to top