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News Article: Guardian Newspaper
By ReshmaRagoonath

Friday, 13 April 2012

Facelift for Caroni’s Sevilla House

Workmen repair the roof at Sevilla House at Brechin Castle, California, to convert the building into the Sugar Heritage Village and Museum Project.

Sevilla House is under repair as part of the Government's Sugar Heritage Village and Museum Project. Repair work began three weeks ago on the sprawling colonial-style house, which stands on the grounds of the now defunct Brechin Castle sugar factory, near the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. Arjoon Singh, a member of the Sugar Heritage Village and Museum committee and a former Caroni (1975) Ltd factory manager, said roof repairs were being done in preparation for the restoration of the 68-year-old house. The roof, once red-tiled, is being replaced with a metal structure. "We had to do a structural test and dilapidation survey. One of the main concerns was the leaking roof. The water was damaging the internal walls," he said.

Singh said the committee was unable to source tiles identical to the ones on the original roof. However, he said the new metal roof would look very similar, since metal sheeting with the same pattern as the tiles will be used. "The woodwork frame of the original roof was damaged beyond repair as a result of the number of leaks. Because of this, we had to replace the wooden frame with a steel frame." This is expected to be completed by the end of the month."We have plans to restore it to its original look and integrity. It is considered a heritage building. The internal (structure) will go with the original fixtures and maintain the original look," Singh declared. "Structurally, it is sound. There are no cracks in the building and no water damage."

The restoration, he said, is the first phase of the Sugar Heritage Village and Museum Project. The project will utilise 500 acres of land at Brechin Castle. The buildings will be used as a research centre and house archives, a conference centre, cultural centre and guest house. The completion date for the entire project is still unclear as the project is expected to take at least four years. Sevilla House was constructed in the 1950s by the Tate and Lyle Sugar Company, an English firm. It was used by the manager at the time, Capt Watson. Sevilla House was later used as Caroni (1975) Ltd's human resource and administrative building. The house has five bedrooms, a major and minor dining room and a large living room overlooking the golf course on the eastern side of the factory.

Singh said the preservation of T&T's sugar history was important. "This industry started in slavery. It moved into indentureship when East Indians and Chinese came for labour and the country's economic and social development took place from then until now. "In earlier times it was named 'King Sugar' because it was very profitable to work in the sugar industry. In that lies a great part of our history," Singh said.