Conserving contested heritage in South India: the British Cemetery, Lovedale, Ootacamund, & Garrison Cemetery, Srirangapatna

Written by Duncan Marks, Conservation Studies alumni (2015-17)

 

Following recent restoration work by YCAA alumnus Ravindra Gundu Rao at two cemeteries in South India that hold close-association with the British Empire, and the wider work of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA), this article uses such conservation work to reflect upon the overlap between memory, place and commemoration.

As similar built heritage with imperial connotations has recently been seen by some as ‘contested heritage’, the parameters of such conservation are explored here in relation to time and space.  Parallels are drawn with other cemetery conservation and community initiatives, such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the British Government’s First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, and Israel’s Youth Delegations to Poland programme.  Ultimately, we need to ask for whom should this built heritage be conserved, what purpose might it serve, and how might knowledge of it be better promoted?

 

British Cemetery, Lovedale, Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu

The British Cemetery at Lovedale, Ootacamund, in the Tamil Nadu state of South India, was opened in 1832.  The site of the cemetery is in the high hills of an extensive 750-acre campus of The Lawrence School.

Jpeg
Some of the repair, environmental and landscaping challenges at the British Cemetery.  Source: Ravindra Gundu Rao.

The School was founded in 1858 in memory of Major General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, KCB, who died in the First War of Indian Independence against British Rule in 1857 (more commonly known in Britain as the ‘Indian Mutiny’).  It was created to provide vocational education to the orphans and the other children of European soldiers in India, and operated on a strictly Protestant Christian basis.  Despite the end of British rule in India in 1947, the connection of the school, and hence the cemetery, with the military continues today as a public school with a 40% pupil allocation reserved, and a 20% fee subsidy, for children of Indian Defence Personnel.

The cemetery has 124 tombs of which approximately 110 are of the British Christians who lived and passed away in India in the C19.  The work is currently in progress and soon to be complete.

The cemetery has suffered from exposure to monsoons, foliage growth on the stones, and other encroachments by nature; a common problem for cemeteries in India.  The scope of this project is to conserve the graves, statues and landscaping through repairs using traditional stone restoration works, structural repairs, restoration using traditional brick lime mortar, paving, stucco and lime plaster works.  As in many urban areas of India, a shortage of available local stone meant the British designed structures that were made of brick covered by plaster.  This only makes them more prone to deterioration from the effects of water ingress during monsoons.

Jpeg
Conditional surveys conducted at the British Cemetery.  Source: Ravindra Gundu Rao.

The conservation project is being done in conjunction with the BACSA and funded by the school’s alumni Old Lawrence Association.  Indeed, the alumni association petitioned the school in 2016 for the restoration and maintenance of the school cemetery.  A sense of continued connection between alumni and the cemetery is evident in their petition comments, with ‘integral to the school’s heritage’ being a frequent remark made.  The comments made are on a personal and emotive level, with fond memories of the cemetery on the campus from their school days and a reverence to honour former pupils buried there.  There is little, however, offered to suggest the cemetery holds value in a wider national or political narrative. Continue reading

Advertisements

Conservation of Fort High School by INTACH Bengaluru

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

 

Introduction

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)

 

Significance

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

 

Figure.4.png
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. Continue reading

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.

22154157_1699935996704722_3048581369247559833_n
Current students and alumni listening to Dr Keith Emerick’s (unseen) outlining of Fountains Abbey’s conservation challenges

 

Continue reading

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