Langley Hall Academy
Berkshire, 2011-16

The redevelopment and extension of a 17th century manor house to create a new academy school with a creative arts specialism.

Originally built as a home for one of Charles I courtiers, the Grade II listed Langley Hall has been rebuilt, extended and adapted to accommodate a diverse range of uses in the last century. In the early 20th century it provided a home and school for the Actors' Orphanage; during the Second World War it housed Bomber Command's HQ.

We were invited to work with local educationalist Sally Eaton to convert the building from administrative offices for the adjacent East Berks college into a new two-form entry primary, in the first wave of new free schools in 2011.

The school provides new energy in the centre of Langley. The new playground, converted from an overgrown car park, creates a significant civic space at the heart of the village. Extended hours and weekend opening allow the community to use the school's hall, studio and library. This generosity is reciprocated by the village. The school uses the local park as playing fields, the adjacent college for all-weather pitches and a previously closed mock-tudor pub as its kitchen and dining room.

The interior was entirely rebuilt after a fire in 1974 and a series of fit-outs had resulted in a motley assortment of rooms inappropriately sized for the proposed school. We undertook creative archaeology, removing redundant services and flimsy office partitions, stripping the fabric back to the original masonry to reveal generously proportioned rooms. The geometries of the stripped back fabric encouraged a range of varied teaching environments that matched the specific requirements of different year groups.

Minor demolitions and careful interventions created new, efficient circulation routes and maximised the size and quality of the teaching rooms.

Our discovery of the old attic’s potential for a teaching space created a new art studio, an appropriate highlight for the school’s creative arts specialism. Insulating and lining the pragmatic 1970s structure with ply created a warmly scented, chunky Gothic garret, a new woolly hat for the leaky listed hall.

Throughout the project, modifications to meet statutory requirements were embraced as opportunities to add value and reinforce the school’s character. On the non-compliant main stair, new diagonal steels were fitted by a local blacksmith to reduce the clear width between balustrades. An application of much contested, now-loved, pink paint synthesised the new metal with the existing building and re-energised the principal staircase.

The primary school was delivered over a three year period. The outgoing tenants required ongoing use of certain areas over the course of an extended handover so the development of the buildings was phased whilst maintaining a fully operational public institution throughout.

Following the successful delivery of the primary school we were commissioned to design a new build, 4 form entry secondary school on the site to create an all-through school from 5-16 years. This all-through academy has a creative arts specialism, with a high quality theatre as the main hall space and links to the local Pinewood film studios.

A new 4 storey building connects to the existing 3 storey building. Built entirely within the confines of the historic site boundary wall it does not encroach on any existing play area and provides significant new external facilities on its terraces.

The new building houses a diverse range of rooms for specialist teaching, including science labs, art, music and drama studios and a theatre hall with attached dance studio. Minor alterations to the existing building efficiently provide a number of general teaching spaces. The new build is connected to the existing with a new entrance and generous hall. Controlled access allows the local community out-of-hours use of the theatre.

Langley Hall Academy

1 Station Rd, Langley, Berkshire SL3 8BU

Client adviser
Capita Symonds


Landscape architect

Structural engineer
AKS Ward Consultants

Services engineer