Robert Pearce House, Bishop's Stortford College\

Delivering a phased masterplan

Sensitive refurbishment and extension of an existing dormitory building at Bishop's Stortford College.

The challenge

Following a devastating fire in September 2015, Hawkins\Brown were asked by Bishop's Stortford College to prepare plans to refurbish and extend the existing building. The brief included accommodation for 66 pupils, three staff tutors and a private house for the Housemaster and Housemistress.

The existing building was built in the 1920’s in the arts and crafts style with overhanging eaves, deep roof space and tall feature chimneys. The challenge for the design team was to successfully achieve planning approval for the project within a sensitive residential setting at the edge of the college campus.

Sir Robert Pearce MP, whose name the building took when it was built in the 1920’s, introduced daylight saving time.

The big idea

Our proposal retains the outline of the original building and uses the geometry of the existing roof to create a modern extension within a secluded garden. The majority of new bedroom accommodation is located in the new extension, this allowed for an efficient reapportionment of overall space.

A covered cloister creates a sheltered welcoming entrance into a generous lobby. A garden cloister runs around two sides of the new courtyard, uniting the existing building and the new extension.

The existing building is reordered in a flexible way to include the larger social and study spaces, changing rooms and tutor accommodation. The feature social space which forms part of the collective memory of Robert Pearce House for staff and alumni is retained at the heart of the existing building, close to the new main entrance.

Site photos

  • Project Details
  • Materials

Project Summary

Project Team

Structural Engineer: Smith & Wallwork
Services Engineer: KJ Tait
Project Manager: Synergy Construction and Property Consultants
Main Contractor: Barnes Construction


The existing building was significantly damaged by the fire. As a result we have stripped the majority of the original structure from the central dormitory building and replaced it with timber posi joists to support the floors and external walls.

The existing building was built with imperial scale bricks laid in an English Garden Wall Bond. We carefully sourced a handmade imperial scale brick to match the existing as closely as possible.

The roof tiles have been replaced throughout using a handmade clay traditional plain tile.

The new extension is built using Cross Laminated Timber. Due to the restricted site access this method reduced disruption to the surrounding college site as the structure was craned into place over a period of 4 weeks.

The brick to the new extension was chosen to complement the existing building but not to match. The same brick has been used for the other recent new building on site and complements the existing red brick whilst at the same time having a distinctive texture.

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