The so-called Big School is a Victorian Gothic Revival building by Frederick Pepys Cockerell dating to 1865 which addresses the main school quadrangle in an imposing and impressive manner.

Founded over 450 years ago, Highgate is one of the UK’s leading co-educational independent schools. 

It has retained many original features including its external stone entrance steps, taking visitors to the main entrance at first floor level, and its lead parapet and oriel windows.

Originally, the Big School building was one large school room with a library area on the upper ground level and four separate classrooms, together with a brick vaulted space known as the undercroft, on the lower ground level. More recently the building has been used as an assembly hall and occasional music performance venue.

The Big School and it’s chapel needed a considered upgrade to meet changing needs. Clague, with extensive experience on historic school buildings and settings of this type, worked together with the client and design team to conserve, adapt and optimise the space and fabric. The upgrades to the building have provided Highgate School with flexible additions to it’s premises, including a library and resources area. The designs maintained and embraced the character of the original hall by creating a new mezzanine perimeter gallery to increase capacity and allow building users to appreciate the whole space. The project was shortlisted in the 2017 RICS Awards.

Our designs for the upgrades included a new library, opened in 2014 by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Shortlisted in the 2017 RICS Awards, this innovative conversion of the Grade II* Listed Big School (now the Sir Martin Gilbert Library) offers a stunning new facility to pupils combining a traditional library with a modern ICT/media suite.

The project went hand in hand with specialist conservation repairs to the historic masonry, roofing and joinery. This was very much a team effort with the school project managers and Cluttons, contractors Cuffe, quantity surveyors Gardner & Theobald and M & E consultants Peter Dee and Associates.

Photo Credit to Luke Hughes Custom & Bespoke Furniture.

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