Upcoming Events

Keep informed about heritage issues and projects across the Commonwealth by joining us online at our next online talk.
We do not charge a fee to host these talks but if you would like to make a donation it would be greatly appreciated.

Catch up Talks

In case you missed our heritage talks, you can watch them here.
We do not charge a fee to host these talks but if you would like to make a donation it would be greatly appreciated.

2021 2022
Government Houses of the Commonwealth by Jeffrey Hyland
4th February 2021

This talk looks at the unique histories of some of over fifty Vice-Regal Residences of the Crown across the Commonwealth.

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The Temperate House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Francis Maude
18th February 2021

The Temperate House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew forms part of the World Heritage Site and was recently magnificently restored.

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The slave fort of Bunce Island, Sierra Leone by Isatu Smith
4th March 2021

This talk, by Isatu Smith, will address Bunce Island's history including its phases of construction, uses and life on the island, and preservation efforts.

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Character Assessment in Historic Towns and Cities By Karin Taylor
18th March 2021

Character comprises myriad different elements that combine to make a place or building distinctive. Karin Taylor explains how in Fiji she worked with local volunteers using techniques of character assessment to understand the qualities that make it special.

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Antarctica: Heritage at the Extreme By Camilla Nichol, CEO UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
27th October 2021

The last two centuries of human activity in Antarctica has seen a rapid evolution from discovery to exploitation; heroic exploration and a geopolitical arms race for sovereignty and today through international scientific programmes and questions of global sustainability.

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Leveraging Digital Technology: Impacting Buildings Research & Management By Brent R. Fortenberry, Tulane University
2nd November 2021

Digital technology such as laser scanning, photogrammetry, and aerial survey, are becoming increasingly common in the fields of architecture and allied fields of the built environment. Digital technology promises faster, more accurate ways to capture and represent historic building information.

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Kolkata’s heritage and the Alipore Green City Project By Nilina Deb Lal, PhD
10th November 2021

Calcutta / Kolkata – erstwhile capital of British India, is considered to be a city worthy of world heritage status. With an abundance of nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings, an ambience, lifestyle and culture unique unto itself, Calcutta’s heritage consciousness is of relatively recent provenance, having found a voice only in the 1990s.

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Steering Change: 3 Maharajas of Courtly Jaipur By Dr Vibhuti Sachdev, PhD
24th November 2021

Since its inception in 1727, the court of Jaipur with its every reign, has taken on challenges of new growth and development. Adopting new mindsets and modern technologies has meant that the courtly culture of Jaipur has been at the forefront of innovations. But it has done so with careful negotiations with its age old traditions, making each change albeit radical appear seamlessly aligned with its past.

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Historic European Cemeteries in India: Tapping the Potential By Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, MBE and Charles Greig
8th December 2021

For more than 300 years Britons and other Europeans came to India seeking fame and fortune. Some achieved success and reward and returned ‘home’, others including family members found their last resting place in the subcontinent. Life for many was just two monsoons.

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The Conference of the Islands By Philip Davies
9th & 10th February 2022

The Forum is working in partnership with the Hamish Ogston Foundation on a £4.5 million programme to train young people in heritage and craft skills and develop up to 20 practical conservation projects across the Commonwealth. It is the largest Commonwealth heritage project ever undertaken and will be launched in mid-May to mark H.M.The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The purpose of the conference was to listen to local people, so we could understand better the needs and priorities of the Caribbean region, our first priority, and also identify potential conservation projects as well as the local skills gaps which exist.

The conference covered key current issues including managing change in historic areas, tourism and climate change. To listen to the conference proceedings and the presentations, please follow the links.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

The Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew By Dr Kate Teltscher
23rd March 2022

The Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is perhaps the finest surviving Victorian glass and iron building in the world. One of the earliest prefabricated buildings, the Palm House was the first structure to be commissioned when Kew transferred from royal to public ownership. Situated at the heart of the gardens, it early became the emblem of Kew: at once technological triumph, botanical spectacle and space for the imagination.

Kate Teltscher will tell the story of the creation of the Palm House and its function in the establishment of Kew as a national – and imperial – botanic garden. Through the history of the Palm House, Kate will address the links between Kew and other botanic gardens located in the Commonwealth, in particular the botanic gardens in Kolkata and Adelaide.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

South Africa’s public botanic gardens heritage By Donal McCracken
6th April 2022

This illustrated lecture will look at the history and heritage of South Africa’s old botanic gardens, those which survived and those now gone. It will include the old Dutch East India garden in Cape Town, which dates from the 1650s; the network of British colonial botanic gardens in the Cape and Natal (KwaZulu-Natal) and the birth of modern South African botanical nationalism with the founding of Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden and the South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI) network of indigenous gardens. The talk will discuss the functions and features of these gardens, the people who worked in them and the buildings which they contained.

Donal McCracken was born and educated in Ireland and has spent 40 years working in Africa. Currently he is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was the first chair of Durban Botanic Gardens Trust. His books on botanical history include Gardens of Empire, The way to Kirstenbosch, A new history of Durban Botanic Gardens, Saving the Zululand wilderness and Natal the garden colony. His latest book, Napoleon’s garden island: Lost and old gardens of St Helena Island, South Atlantic Ocean is being published by Kew Gardens in May 2022.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

The Calcutta Botanic Garden: Past and Present, the Roxburgh Project
by Marine Bellégo and Nilina Deb Lal
27th April 2022

This event features two short talks about the AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden – Past and Present, Marine Bellégo; the Roxburgh Project, Nilina Deb Lal.

The Calcutta Botanic Garden: Past and Present - Marine Bellégo, PhD.

This paper focuses on the intermingling of past and present in the Calcutta garden and the ways in which traces of the past can be used historically. One can of course find information in the curated documents contained in the Library of the Central National Herbarium, but the space of the garden itself is full of telling elements from the past.

The Roxburgh Project, AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah - Nilina Deb Lal, PhD.

The AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden, the flagship garden of the Botanical Survey of India, is the oldest and largest Botanic Garden in India. Today, the 273 acre site is threatened by boundary encroachment and riverbank erosion, dilapidation of heritage buildings, choking of water bodies, and myriad problems associated with maintenance and upkeep.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

Nature’s Colony: Singapore and the Network of Imperial Botanic Gardens
by Timothy P. Barnard
11th May 2022

The Singapore Botanic Gardens was an exemplary site for colonial botany. Scientists sent from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew worked in the institution – founded in 1859 – to identify Southeast Asian flora while also acclimatizing foreign species to support efforts to promote plantation agriculture in the region. The work undertaken in the Gardens ultimately influenced the economic and social development of the colony, and transformed the ecology of the region, particularly after H.N. Ridley led efforts to identify and popularize a variety of techniques related to the cultivation of rubber (Hevea brasiliensis). Although it was founded relatively late in the colonial period, the role it played in imperial botany continues to have a legacy in the 21st century.

Timothy P. Barnard is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore, where his research and teaching focus on the environmental and cultural history of island Southeast Asia. He is the author of several monographs and edited books on the environmental history of Singapore, including Nature’s Colony: Empire, Nation, and Environment in the Singapore Botanic Gardens (2016) and Imperial Creatures: Humans and Others Animals in Colonial Singapore, 1819-1942 (2019).

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

Every flower must grow through dirt: Jamaica’s Botanical Gardens By Dr Thera Edwards
18th May 2022

Exploring the establishment, spatial diversity and plants of Jamaica’s four extant botanical gardens in Jamaica. Every flower must grow through dirt: The Making of Jamaica’s Botanical Gardens - a Commonwealth Heritage Forum Talk by Thera Edwards. Department of Geography & Geology, The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.

This presentation explores the establishment, spatial diversity and plants of Jamaica’s four extant botanical gardens; Castleton in St. Mary, Bath and Cinchona in St. Thomas and Hope in St. Andrew. The talk will be illustrated with plans and pictures from the historical and contemporary periods. The future of these green spaces will be briefly explored.

Dr. Edwards is Map Curator and Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Geology at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica. Her interdisciplinary research includes landscape change and history, geomorphology, climate change responses, vegetation ecology and archaeology. Historical maps, aerial photographs, satellite imagery and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are key components of her research and analyses.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

An historical overview of Australian botanic gardens By Richard Aitken
25th May 2022

Exploring Australia’s fine network of botanic gardens had its genesis in the late 18 C, with a government garden on Sydney Cove.

Australia’s fine network of botanic gardens had its genesis in the late eighteenth century, with a government garden on Sydney Cove. Since then, and especially in the mid-nineteenth century, this modest beginning has dramatically expanded to include sites and institutions across the country. Having widely differing climates and geographical features, this network is today a thriving cultural and scientific resource. This lecture will touch on diverse aspects of this legacy, including growing and exporting Australian plants, acclimatisation of exotic plants, models and systems of administrative organisation, links with Kew and other international networks, ancillary facilities such as herbaria and libraries, regional botanic gardens, landscape design influences, changing political fortunes and circumstances, and shifting perceptions and foci.

Richard Aitken is a Melbourne-based writer, historian, and curator specialising in the history of gardens and designed landscapes. He has been in private practice since 1978 and has prepared conservation plans for many of Australia’s most significant historic places and has curated exhibitions for many of Australia’s leading cultural institutions including state libraries, botanic gardens, and the National Trust. He was a founding member of the Australian Garden History Society and for many years co-edited the Society’s journal. Richard’s work is recognised nationally and internationally and his books have become essential reading for anyone with an interest in Australian history and domestic design. These include The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens (2002), Gardenesque (2004), Botanical Riches (2006), Seeds of Change (2006), The Garden of Ideas (2010), Cultivating Modernism (2013), and Planting Dreams (2016). In recent years his research has focused on Portuguese garden history and its international contexts.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand’s first and those that followed By Alan Matchett
8th June 2022

This discussion look at the establishment of Botanic Gardens in New Zealand,focusing on Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand’s first and its development over the last 159 years.

With plans being designed in England and Scotland to establish settlements in New Zealand the importance of including green space for recreation and the enjoyment of beautiful plants and researching of crops and plantations that would grow in the ‘new country’ was well recognised and areas for these purposes were laid out in all of New Zealand’s major settlements.

Dunedin City was no different and from its establishment it has fulfilled many of the ambitions of planners and its earliest settlers through to residents of the present day. Alan looks at some of the significant garden developments over the years, the infrastructure and historical features that evolved and shaped Dunedin Botanic Garden to make it unique amongst New Zealand public gardens.

Alan Matchett began his career with Dunedin City Council Parks Department in 1980. After completing horticultural apprenticeship, Alan took on a succession of roles and increasing responsibilities and between 2000 and 2011 also managed the City’s Cemeteries and Crematorium. His current title is Botanic Garden Manager and is responsible for the management of the Botanic Garden. Alan has been involved in or overseen many notable achievements: seed collecting trips overseas including China, re-establishing horticulture trade training and youth engagement programmes; presenting papers at various Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand (BGANZ) congress’s and overseeing Dunedin Botanic Gardens’ 150th anniversary in 2013. In this same year work began on the construction of the new plant production and nursery facility and also of special importance to Alan and his ambition for Dunedin Botanic Garden was the hosting of the 5th BGCI Global Botanic Garden Congress and 6th BGANZ Congress.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

Barbados - gardens of paradise, past and present By Sir Henry Fraser
15th June 2022

This lecture begins with an overview of the historic gardens of Barbados mentioned by Sir Robert Schomburgk in The History of Barbados (1848).

These were the gardens of Codrington College (the first university in the British West Indies), Welchman Hall Gully (an extensive tropical orchard) and Government House. The most famous was that of Farley Hill, whose owner was host to several Royal visitors.

In the early 20th century a group of ladies known as the Civic Circle, led by the wife of the governor, Lady Carter, landscaped several public spaces – Fountain Gardens in the city of Bridgetown, an esplanade on the sea front and the King George the Fifth Park in the country. Lady Carter herself designed the Queen’s Park on the 14 acre site of the residence of the Commander of the British army, which withdrew from Barbados in 1905. It was not until 1954 that our first botanical garden was created. Andromeda Botanical Gardens were the brainchild of Iris Bayley, later Iris Bannochie, pioneer of our outstanding gold medal showing at Chelsea. The gardens were developed on eight hillside acres around a natural stream, and were bequeathed to the Barbados National Trust when Iris died in 1988.

Sir Henry Fraser is the retired founding Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences and founding Director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. He is the author of more than 100 peer reviewed medical and scientific papers, several hundred other papers, 700 newspaper Sunday columns and many books and articles on Barbadian heritage and architecture.

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Botanical gardens of the Commonwealth and their built heritage

Post colonial landscapes of Africa and Asia By Anthony Wain
22nd June 2022

Searching for Common Ground in the Gardens of the Past: Transition and Transfiguration in the Post-Colonial Landscapes of Africa and Asia.

In this finale talk of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum botanic gardens series Anthony Wain will provide an overview of the historical development of botanic gardens throughout the Commonwealth.

In this talk Anthony will focus on buildings of the Commonwealth, interwoven with the development history of the landscapes of which they form a part.

Anthony Wain is a horticultural scientist and professional landscape architect based in Cape Town, South Africa. His work encompasses World Heritage sites, city parks, major urban mixed-use development projects, conservation landscapes, historic gardens, and the landscapes of wineries, race courses, marinas, and destination resorts.

Currently, Anthony is Landscape Director of Planning Partners International in Cape Town, South Africa, and a Senior Landscape Consultant to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (Historic Cities Programme). He has been an examiner in the MLA programs at the Universities of Pretoria and Cape Town, and has also lectured at the University of Cape Town.

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Our International Launch

Australia House in London provided the venue for our hugely successful international launch on the evening of the 11th March 2020.


The evening attracted a full house, including High Commissioners from many Commonwealth countries, members of both houses of parliament, and leading architects and conservationists.

After warmly welcoming everyone, His Excellency George Brandis QC, the High Commissioner for Australia, spoke eloquently about the importance of working together across the Commonwealth to preserve our past and define our future. He stressed that ‘our family of nations share not only an architectural past, but a common future for the built environment’.

Our founding patron, Sir Rodney Williams, the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda, a passionate believer in Commonwealth values, then gave the inaugural address: ‘we are the guardians of a unique heritage for those that come after us,’ he said. ‘Much is vulnerable, and we need to pass it on to future generations in a better state than we found it. Understanding this legacy, and the buildings and places that bear witness to it, is a crucial part of our individual identity and collective sense of belonging’.

Sir Rodney highlighted the challenges faced by small island states – climate change, hurricanes, fire, neglect, dereliction and inadequate resources. He welcomed the access to specialist expertise that the CHF could offer.

We were fortunate to have Yasmeen Lari, one of our most eminent International Advisory Committee members at the launch. Yasmeen was in London to collect the prestigious Jane Drew Prize for Women in Architecture. She told the audience about the pioneering work the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan had been doing in Karachi to promote the co-ordinated restoration and repair of shared heritage buildings where there is keen interest in setting up a local chapter of the CHF.

Chair of the CHF, Philip Davies explained that our shared built heritage had been crafted by local people over many generations. It is a key aspect of the national identity of many Commonwealth nations and the links that bind us together. ‘Each’, he said, is part of an extended family of nations whose lives, histories and futures are all deeply intertwined.’

Philip took the opportunity to announce a partnership with Oxford Brookes University and Texas A&M University to help countries prepare registers of heritage at risk starting with a pilot project in Barbados. This will involve working with local heritage bodies to train young people and volunteers in specialist techniques, which in turn will build local skills, employment opportunities and resilience.

The CHF can make a real difference.

Photos by David Madden @ www.dmphoto.co.uk