Refurbishment and extension of historic Royal Liberty School in Romford
- Construction of new sports hall
- Temporary teaching facilities created to minimise disruption
- Preservation of historic features for future generations
The Royal Liberty School is unique in its incredibly rich history and physical heritage, with the project undertaken by Willmott Dixon requiring the simultaneous preservation of this history for future generations and the provision of new, fit-for-purpose facilities. Essential to the successful rejuvenation and development of the institution is the integration of new buildings and the modification of satellite structures, taking into consideration the existing buildings, their styles and the customer’s expectations.
The £20.4 million project, secured through the Southern Construction Framework and which saw Willmott Dixon return to Romford following the successful completion of the town’s Sapphire Ice Rink & Swimming Pool, entailed the detailed refurbishment of a Grade II* listed building, the demolition of three buildings, the construction of new facilities and site-wide service upgrades, including power, water and gas. To minimise disruption to the students’ studies and enable the school to continue operating throughout the works, we erected a temporary four-storey teaching block, consisting of 86 prefabricated modules.
The Royal Liberty School in Romford, Essex, counts among its buildings Hare Hall, the listed building requiring intricate refurbishment. A Palladian Georgian Manor built in 1769 for cork and stone merchant John Wallinger, during World War I, it was requisitioned and used for training soldiers, most notably among whom were wartime poet Wilfred Owen and the Artists Rifles. The school, extended after the Great War in 1921, would go on to be the first school in Europe to have a computer in a classroom.
Work began in July 2019 and was completed by the end of 2021, coinciding with the 100-year anniversary of the school’s opening. Due to the school being a Grade II* listed building and protected by Historic England, a focused, detail-oriented approach was required due to the associated complexities. The works were carried out via the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP 2), and it is one of the first projects to use this vehicle to refurbish a listed building.
A new standalone sports hall, two storeys high, provides a multi-purpose space for students to enjoy physical education, while a new food technology room and expanded canteen enables the school to deliver an enhanced student experience. Upgrades and modifications were also made to various rooms and corridors throughout the existing structures to ensure long-term viability and the preservation of the historic feel of the school.
Of great importance throughout the project was the close collaboration of Willmott Dixon and our partners: Vincent & Gorbing, the architects for the project; Alan Baxter Associates, the civil and structural engineers; RPA, the selected MEP consultants; and Aracadis, the project management and cost team for our customer.
Now completed, the school’s expansion and refurbished facilities will see capacity increase by 150 pupils and ensure the long-term future of this unique site.