Conservation of Fort High School by INTACH Bengaluru

Written by Sonali Dhanpal, Architect & Built Heritage Conservationist; Conservation Studies alumni (2016-17)



Built in 1907, Fort High School (Figure 1) is an unprotected historic building that stands two storeys high next to one of Bengaluru’s prized monuments, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace on one side and a large open ground on the other. Despite its idyllic location, this courtyard building has withstood the test of time and stands as was intended over 110 years ago. At present it is used as a high school and pre-university college run by the government, catering to over 500 students annually. Its present use makes it a unique conservation project that will involve introducing much needed modern amenities to the school, accommodating the public grounds that surround the building while retaining the historicity of a heritage building.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Front elevation  (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)



The site on which Fort High School stands is where the Mysore gate of the Bangalore fort once stood. It was the southern gate of the fort and it was here that in 1791 that the British martyred the soldiers of Tipu Sultan in the infamous Third Anglo-Mysore War. The building itself is equally important, as it was the first established government high school in the Mysore Province and was built at a time when the princely state of Mysore, under the administration of Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar, began to develop the state. Opened as the English Vernacular school in 1905 and renamed as Fort High School 1907, the school boasts of associations with many prominent personalities of the Karnataka state.

Figure 2.jpg
Figure 2. Gable ends and octagonal bays (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


The building

The building fits the description of an Anglo-Vernacular style with elements of European architecture such as the scale and symmetry of the octagonal projecting bays (Figure 2) seen in the front elevation. The vernacular style is seen from the central courtyard (Figure 3) with rooms on all sides, the Madras terrace and sloping roof with Mangalore tiles (Figure 4). The ornamental features, such as the use of Roman arches with key stones above openings (Figure 5), gable ends with gable windows, and detailing such as cornices and wooden fascia, all give a colonial expression to the building.

Figure 3. Central Courtyard (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Figure 4. Sloping roofs with Mangalore Tiles (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Figure 5. Roman arches above openings (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Another interesting result of the detailed survey conducted was that more than adequate evidence was found to determine that the school was built in two phases. This evidence ranged from differences in structural treatment, surface treatment, closing of gable windows, addition of new joinery details between the original structure and the later intervention. A few of the other interesting elements are:

i.) A unique timber-steel composite truss is seen supporting 8 primary angular rafters and a series of secondary rafters running along 4 ridges and 4 valleys from a single intersection point (Figure 6). This type of truss is seen in three prominent rooms on the first floor.

ii.) Half-timbered walls with a brick infill are seen in three gable walls of the front elevation (Figure 7). While this is a common element in English Tudor architecture, it is a very unique feature in South India.

Figure 6. Composite truss with 8-planed roof (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Figure.7 Half-timbered brick wall (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)
Figure 7. Half-timbered brick wall (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Contextual backdrop to conservation policy

Monumental imperial structures that demonstrate grandeur and affluence remain prized by conservationists and politicians alike. However, buildings at the other end of the spectrum, technical and institutional infrastructure that were built to accommodate daily operations of locals, remain yet to be recognized as worthy of conservation. While the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the State Authorities protect prominent heritage structures in Bangalore, Fort High School, despite its 117-year history, remains unprotected under either authority. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) listing of heritage precincts in the city includes Fort High School. Nevertheless, it remains a non-governmental organisation, which cannot pass legislation and plays the role of an advisory body to the ASI unless state legislation says differently, or private funding is donated to or raised by the organization to facilitate any conservation process.


Challenges of conserving an unprotected heritage building

The unprotected nature of the heritage building poses many challenges in the conservation of the structure. Does the school require restoration even though it functions as it was intended? What should be the extent of interventions? Do you limit the project to structural restoration? What principles will guide the work?  Navigating these questions and finding justifiable solutions has been the crux of the intervention plans. Other challenges are also presented, such as difficulty in retrieving primary literature sources that describe the original plan or offer the name of any architect involved. While this is the case for many buildings of this period, it leaves many proposals to rely only on scientific testing and visually available evidence. Another issue is that a public playground surrounds the Fort High School building. Hence it is often under threat of vandalism, forcing the recommended interventions to be ones that can withstand public use. The school also remains underfunded as it is run by the government, and upkeep and maintenance of the structure after restoration will be limited, hence any recommendations must be done with minimum required maintenance.



The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Bengaluru chapter is set to execute the project. The most important step before conservation has been to involve diverse stakeholders in the process. This has included the teachers, alumni, the Horological Society that has adopted the school, and other experts in the field of conservation. The study and assessment of this building began with the documentation and preparation of measured base drawings, followed by assessment of the condition of the structure in detail and mapping of defects on the base drawings. Appropriate interventions and proposals have been recommended for the building after consulting users and experts. The aim of the project is to restore this purpose-built building to its original glory and provide the impetus for further recognition of Fort High School as an integral historical landmark in the city of Bengaluru.


Studley Royal Park Student & Alumni Trip, September 2017

Written by Jenna Tinning, Conservation Studies postgraduate (2017-18).

At the end of a busy first week for the new 2017/18 Conservation Studies cohort, the students and alumni gathered together on Saturday 30 September 2017 for a study to trip to the World Heritage Site of Studley Royal Park, known by many as home to the ruins of Fountains Abbey. We were very lucky to be led through the day by the extremely knowledgeable Dr Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, who has been involved in the conservation management of the site for many years.

As one of National Trust’s flagship sites (though interestingly managed by English Heritage!) the visit was a brilliant example of sustainable management of a cultural heritage asset as a visitor attraction. Keith picked up on a number of interesting points about the challenges that are faced in making this a reality. We started the day with a bit of background to the site, where we discovered just how many partners are involved in its running and what it means to be a world heritage site – including the fact that ‘fountains’ must have a management plan for every six years, which in turn forms the guidelines for the conservation work on site.

Current students and alumni listening to Dr Keith Emerick’s (unseen) outlining of Fountains Abbey’s conservation challenges


Moving down to the Abbey we learnt more about issues with water drainage at the site and how efforts are being made to manage the impact of flooding, including the installation of some new porous floor tiling to help combat localised flooding. One of many highlights of the day was that we were given behind the scenes access to a large open space that used to be the dormitory of the lay-brothers above the cellarium, an area that is not currently accessible to the public due to the fact that there are large exposed archways on either side that are not cordoned off, meaning that visitors could be exposed to rather big drops off the edge! We discussed how the National Trust and Historic England are therefore working to open this space up to the public and the challenges they face in doing so – particularly to maintaining the aesthetic value of the site.

Standing in the area where the lay-brothers’ dormitory used to be, with the abbey’s nave and Huby’s tower seen beyond.


Another highlight of the trip was taking in the views from some of the many Georgian follies and features located within the grounds of the site, including the spectacular ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat.’ Each had been carefully designed to provide a new and contrasting vista and experience for guests. Considering that every day the Fountains Abbey and Study Royal site now attracts so many visitors – an average of 350,000 a year – an important and interesting observation to note was that there is still always a quiet place within the landscape where you can go and take in the surroundings in peace, without seeing any others visitors if you so wish.

The “surprise view” from Anne Boleyn’s Seat, looking over the half-moon pond to Tent Hill and the abbey ruins beyond.


Unfortunately, because of the sheer size of Studley Royal Park with an area of about 800 acres, there was no way we could explore all the fascinating features of the landscape in one day, and therefore some aspects, such as St Mary’s Church, were left for us to explore in our own time. Overall, as can be seen by the feedback we have received, the day was a fantastic experience that gave us some really interesting insights into the management of such a diverse World Heritage Site, and it also proved a great opportunity to mix with our new course friends and alumni.


Student Feedback:

Just wanted to say that for me the Fountains trip was a really great opportunity to meet people. What with being in the first week…and just generally mixing us all together, it worked really well as a kind of induction event


I would like to thank the York Conservation Alumni Association (YCAA) for organising a visit to such an amazing place of historical significance and world heritage status. I believe that such visits on a regular basis will expose us to the practical world of conservation and create an interactive environment between the students, professors and professionals from the field. Looking forward to more such opportunities!!


The visit to Fountains was a wonderful experience…as for the ideas for other events, I recommend Saltaire, another world heritage site in Yorkshire.


The importance of field trips for studies like our own is very important, I think that they can be the equivalent of “a photo is worth a thousand words”: a well-organised field trip can worth a lot of hours reading and lecturing… so, similar trips as the one to Fountains Abbey will be more than welcome, although visits within the city of York are welcome as well!


The place chosen for the site visit was wonderful and we were able to understand many aspects that are concerned with heritage conservation – finer details of landscape planning, psychological planning in landscape, architectural details, colour palette of the place and of the trees, historical anecdotes gave an enriching experience.

Study day 2017 Part IV: Church of St Michael, Mytholmroyd

Written by Sean Rawling

Our final visit of the day took us to the Grade II-listed St. Michael’s Church in Mytholmroyd (1847-1848), which was majorly affected by the Boxing Day floods of 2015. The rivers Elphin and Calder reached record heights, leaving 1.2m of water in the church and its adjacent hall, as well as causing devastation throughout the homes and businesses of Mytholmroyd. The Church still holds a relatively large congregation of between 60 and 80 people. It is difficult to imagine the heartache for those who not only lost their homes, but also their community building as a result of the flooding!

Continue reading

Study day 2017 Part III: Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Heptonstall

Written by Dan Edmunds

Following on from the visit to Heptonstall’s Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and Sunday school, the group made its way up to the village’s twin churches of St. Thomas. Upon arriving at the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle (1850-1854), the Churchwarden, Graham Kidd, gave us a brief context of the building.

The church is a good example of reflective and progressive approaches to architectural development. Continue reading

Study day 2017 Part II: Heptonstall Methodist Chapel and Sunday School

Written by Eric Carter

The first site visit on the study tour was Hepstonstall Methodist Church (grade II*) and its neighbouring Sunday school building (unlisted but in the setting of a listed building). The church dates from 1764 and is said to be the oldest Methodist chapel in continual use (although apparently Yarm Chapel also makes this claim!). Originally the building was an interesting octagonal shape as approved by John Wesley, and used in a number of other Methodist chapels, but was extended in 1802. The Sunday school was built in 1891. Both buildings have significant condition problems. Continue reading